Friday, May 25, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
That is why you are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You, too, are being built in him along with the others into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 ISV)
In my previous post I made it clear that I believe God is exercising His prerogative as Lord of the Church by seeking to wake us up. There is a truth that must be kept in mind as we seek what He is saying to us: Every thought, understanding, conclusion, etc., must, with Berean like (Acts 17:11) tenacity, hold to the Scriptures as God’s infallible word to us, and as such our only rule for faith and practice.
If we fail in this, we leave ourselves open to varieties of questionable doctrine, (which Paul knew so well, Eph.4 :14 ), or the philosophies of men (Colossians 2:8) who misuse the Scriptures to support positions which come from their own minds, or others, which like ours still carry the taint of our Adamic nature, and who are prone to follow what is convenient, financially profitable, self-indulgent, comfortable, etc.
We can be confident that this was the case with the Church at Corinth ( 1 Corinthians 13-15 ), and we can be confident that the very same has happened when we consider ourselves to be followers of men whose names adorn particular doctrinal positions, Calithumpian or Armbandian, and many others until the present time .
More recent history repeated this in the Jesus People, and later in the charismatic/Pentecostal movements. God’s people were divided by unthinking zeal.
The newer phenomena are creating the very same divides as we find so-called “Emergents” and “Emergings” using a very broad brush to paint those who belong to the I.C. (institutional church). The so-called I.C. are using the very same broad brush to paint the “E’s”. Amazingly, both claim the high ground of wanting to, in the first case, protect “the Church” from the death throes of the “I.C.ers”, and the other wants to protect themselves from the self indulgent excesses of the “E’s” . To complicate the matter even further, anyone who calls for a re-examination of the compromised position the I.C. finds itself in is thrown into the “E” basket.
Are either really interested, and committed, to the Scriptures as God’s word to mankind, and thence to what God says His Church is, and the foundations on which it is to be built, and the task for which He founded it ?
It seems, from most of what we read, that there is far more interest on both sides of the debate, to protect their own investment, their own philosophies, and at any cost!
One question which needs answering by both: Is the “church” to which either is committed the one which Paul speaks about in 1 Timothy 3:15, when he says , “……. I'm writing this to you in case I am delayed so that you may know how one is to behave in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. ”, or a perversion of it ?
I thank God for the Great Reformation. I thank God for the spiritual giants, of the day, whom God used to restore to the Church, the great doctrines of grace to which I’m committed. Thank God for Huss , Luther, Calvin, Wesley , Whitfield, and the many others who God used so mightily, especially in the recovery of the Biblical doctrines of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but where are the great men of God of today?
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Can a person have a mind which is so set in the concrete of man-made tradition, that they are totally insensitive to the fact that God, by His Spirit is shaking that which we have come to know as the "orthodox" Protestant church of today?
It's not comfortable, as the Pharisees found, having one's traditions challenged. As has always been the case through history, there are those who are moved by the Spirit , such as Luther and the other Reformers, and stay firmly fixed to the Scriptural light that they have. There are others who run off at tangents, as we see today, but as is historically the case. There are those who self appoint themselves as "orthodox", who, with their "orthodoxy" build a fortress around their hearts and minds. The fortress keepers are adept at using an extremely broad brush to paint anyone who is motivated, through their study of the Scriptures, to step outside the safety of the fortress to follow the Holy Spirit's leading along a path which has become overgrown through misuse, labeling such as misguided, apostate, backslidden, or even, never Christians.
This happened during the rise of the charismatic/Pentecostal movement thirty or so years ago. I was one of those who used that broad brush, and am now very ashamed of the fact. It is a fact that there were many ugly aberrations, some of which grew into the prominent ,so called, "ministries" which are poked under our noses on a regular basis, especially on public access TV.
But there were, and are many, who though accepting some of what they learned, still adhered to the great doctrines of orthodox Protestantism, and went on to serve God and bring glory to His Name, but, who were, and are, shunned by those who are so proud of their "orthodoxy", that they refuse to see legitimacy in anyone else. Those who do this refuse to intelligently acquaint themselves with the beliefs of those who are being shunned, remaining ignorant in the belief that the differences they imagine, are enough reason to not accept them as brethren in Christ, or to charge them with apostasy.
To illustrate what this ignorance does I'll tell you about something which happened in a church I was pastoring: The local community was being turned upside down by the development of the charismatic movement. Much of what was happening I disapproved of, and still do, on Scriptural grounds. The church I was leading wasn't left untouched by what was happening, as long standing members went to charismatic meetings and were influenced in one way or another. Those so touched were treated by their pastors and peers, in a manner which left a lot to be desired. Some were counseled that they had been invaded by demons, all, without exception were shunned and had no option but to leave the church. Some were long standing, valued members.
I decided to teach about the Holy Spirit and His workings, and took pains to be thoroughly "orthodox" , and, as well as the Scriptures, deliberately used well recognized orthodox men of God as reference. After the second such message, one deacon, in a fury, attacked me for preaching "charismatic" sermons. It was the first time I had ever seen someone actually frothing at the mouth. I learned later that he had never considered the place of the Holy Spirit in God's order of things, much less heard a sermon on His ministry.
That ignorance wasn't only amongst untrained men!
Those who claim "orthodoxy" must accept a large part of the blame for the schism between different groups of Christians today, and the further development of the aberrant "ministries". Obviously I can only conjecture at this point, but it is my contention that if we had handled ourselves as men of God instead of petulant school children, we may not have seen the furthering of the schisms we see today, by the aberrant ones or those who still use a broad brush to paint anyone, who differs to their "orthodoxy".
When will we ever learn to take the time and trouble to be informed, and acquaint our selves with the truth, about others before making our "orthodoxy" the standard by which our acceptance of them as brethren stands or falls.
"Was Jesus serious when he said, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you"? Could it apply to those of us who are religious today? Or does it only apply to the chief priests and elders to whom Jesus originally spoke the parable?
Before we dismiss how applicable this may be to us, remember that the chief priests and elders thought that they were orthodox as well. They had all the right answers."
Monday, May 14, 2007
I’m not the most diligent blogger, yet, but the latest comment by Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church has hit an appreciative nerve, so I suggest it is worth following up.
Thanks Alan for enabling, via your comments, the connection with the Phil Wyman article. I followed up by finding his web site as well as the Randy Seiver site.
We had a lot of contact with the hippy culture here in Australia and found that an attitude of respect for where they were at, both spiritually and in life, opened doors to further conversation. It would not be stretching the point too far to say that most in the alternate life styles were alienated from “normal” society in general, and especially Christians, by the elitist attitudes displayed by those who despised their "difference" in very vocal and public ways. I know that much of this was because “normal” Christians didn’t know how to accept them as members of the same society in which they lived.
These, mostly young, people had seen through the stupidity of many of the material values held by most Christians. They questioned the value of a society which held some people as of more worth than others, many of them knew about an historic Jesus who went about doing good and serving others, who valued all people equally, and who put no value on material things apart from the good use they could serve. They wondered why a people, who invoked His name as precious, spent hundreds of dollars on finery to be displayed on Sunday, why most of the money they gave went to building ostentatious buildings, or paying speakers huge amounts of money, to travel long distances, to speak about the very same things as the local preachers spoke about.
On the other hand, these “alternates”, or “ferals”, as most “normal” people knew them, had such a high understanding of community , that the idea of community demonstrated by the Christians actually paled into insignificance. It might sound a little far fetched, but I learned that many had higher moral and ethical standards than any Christian would concede.
Christians, in our great brown land, have lost sight of the one thing which places all society on one level, that we are all sinners, and that the “good works” with which we try to prove our Christianity to God and men, are still foul, stinking rags in the eyes of our holy God. It is generally forgotten that every one of us was in the same spiritually unwashed state as those who are deemed irredeemable.
Until we clearly see ourselves as being of the same needy, Adamic stock as unbelievers, and still, with Paul, doing the things we ought not, and not doing the things we ought, we will be miserable disciple makers. We will not do that until leaders get off their thrones, and set the pace for those they lead by demonstrating leadership rather than lordship. How do I know? I've been there and mixed with others who were, and still are, there!
Sunday, May 6, 2007
This morning I was reading Dave Black ( http://www.daveblackonline.com), and these words stood out, On this Cinco de Mayo I'm sitting here thinking about my Sunday message and saying to myself, Where in the New Testament is there the "well-crafted homily"? Where is the excellency of speech that is so highly sought-after in preachers today? Does not the beauty of New Testament preaching lie in a completely different direction? Should not our preaching be like that of our Lord and His great apostle? Jesus spoke in the very simplest language with mundane illustrations. Paul eschewed the excellence of human oratory. I want my public speaking to be powerful (in the Spirit) and passionate (in the spirit) but I also want to be understood by the commonest man from the workaday world. May God forgive me for the times I've sought to dress up the simple Word in the gaudy garments of worldly wisdom.
These few words reminded me of two instances of change, in my life and thinking, which were almost explosive. Amongst the many changes in my life these were two of the most important.
I was blessed to be able to go to the USA to attend a conference in a large, very conservative, church. Apart from it being an amazingly educational time, and being enormously blessed amongst my host family, there was nothing to get excited about. There was so much to take in at the conference that I required several weeks to digest and examine much of what was taught and demonstrated. Nothing really changed in me, except there were some doubts in the back of my mind which I couldn't satisfy.
Two years later I had the privilege of going to the same conference, and almost from the first day, my doubts began to gel. Without going into detail, Dave Black's words spell out one of the issues which lay heavily on my heart when I returned home. I may write further about the burdens from those conferences another time. It's enough that I came home convinced that the people whom God had entrusted to me were worth far more than objects on which I could polish my ego!
In the providence of God the second lesson was also at a conference, this time at home. This time it was a family camp for several churches of like mind. A, so-called, "special" speaker was invited, who expounded some great messages, the Holy Spirit was at work, my adult second son was convicted (it was a miracle that we got him to attend), and as a result has a changed life. Praise God!
There were about 120 or so other adult Christians attending, and as I talked with some of them, I realized that an enormous opportunity to hear God speak through His people had been ignored. It is once a year, if that, that many of these people come together. What an opportunity for a group of God's people to exercise the gifting that God chose to mobilize at that time, and some of that which their pastors ought to have been preparing them for.
It's good to hear invited speakers whom we're not used to , but what of the authenticity which can come from people we know, and who sit silently in their seats while the "professionals" do their stuff.
Far too many of us, who are called to lead others, come as the experts, teachers who teach but never learn, with a spiritual myopia which causes us to never see beyond our own assessment of how important we are.
Thanks Brother Dave for reminding me!