Saturday, December 26, 2009
The current holiday season is always one of mixed emotions for us. It’s such a joyous time as we think about the most important part, the Incarnation and what that means for the brethren in Christ. Then there is the hugs and kisses with family who gravitate to our home, and the special once-every-twelve-months hours spent with children, their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Then the emotions of the experience swings the other way; they begin to leave for their several homes, 2000, 1400 kilometres away, then 250, and thankfully, one only 80 kilometres. All but the latter, a single daughter, whom we see regularly, we hug and kiss on an annual basis, because we are now not able to travel to them. How precious those hugs and kisses are, they have to last twelve months!
This time was extra special, because they very carefully sprang a belated, surprise 70th birthday celebration, something which I had sternly told them not to do. Of course, like children everywhere, they had a well-reasoned excuse for their disobedience, “You didn’t forbid it for four months later!”
Two sons and their wives, who are unable to be with us for Christmas, made the effort to join in this forbidden celebration.
I thank God for such earthly exhibition of love and gratitude.
Even more so, I thank God for His majestic exhibition of love towards this most undeserving creature, and that my wife and children, with me above, have also received of that heavenly love, “by grace through faith”, and celebrate with us. I pray that will be true for our grandchildren, as well as our great-grandchildren with Valerie and I in the photo above.
Friday, December 4, 2009
We celebrated! We couldn’t help ourselves when our poinciana tree bloomed in such an amazingly magnificent manner, as the picture shows. Forgive the superlatives, but it was stupendously beautiful. We both said we had never seen a poinciana flower so magnificently before. We are biased! It is OUR tree, which we planted six years ago. And look at it now.
We who are followers of Christ get excited every Christmas season, and we celebrate with all kinds of traditional and non-traditional ways. Some of us seem to forget that, here in Queensland, we live in a hot climate. Consequently our traditions rule our behavior and we celebrate the same way our brethren do in the colder parts of the world, with many eating sumptuous hot meals in celebration!
I’d rather cold meats and salads any day! Everyone to his/her own liking!
We also give gifts, which I trust,help to remind us of the greatest Gift of all, the Almighty Creator, God incarnate (becoming man) as the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
What an amazingly stupendous and magnificent act of love and grace. There are no superlative sufficient to describe the wonder of it! Mind boggling in both its complexity and its simplicity, especially when we understand God's intent.
As with every Christmas, this year I cannot help but wonder why those claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ,don’t celebrate the fact that Christmas has far greater implications: This incarnation event had far more purpose than simply a stunningly amazing entrance into the world. It's powerful purpose was for Jesus Christ to live the life we cannot live, AND to shed His life blood until death overtook Him, to satisfy His own justice,revealing the indescribable love and mercy that our God has towards all who would receive Him in repentance and faith,.
But death could not hold Him. On the first day of the week He defeated death and hell. It was on this day that His earthly work was finished. He had sealed His place as our New Covenant Savior, brother and friend. His resurrection was the guarantee of resurrection to all who are His, and for whom death has no fear.
Why don't those claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, celebrate every first day of the week, Resurrection Day? It was on this day that His earthly work was finished. He had hung on a cross to pay for my sin and all who would receive Him in repentance and faith.
Let’s think beyond the tradition, the emotion and warm feelings about a baby in a manger, and think about whom this baby is, and why He came to this earth in the miraculous way He did, and why EVERY day of the week is a day for reflection, rejoicing, and celebration.
Is our relationship with the King of Kings, which He paid for, worth only Christmas and Easter, two days a year of happiness and joyous celebration? Why do we separate the two as if there is no connection between them?
I give thanks to our heavenly Father for His provision and blessings during this past year, and, with you celebrate!
Have a happy, and reflective Christmas!
Monday, November 16, 2009
One church representative said, There are definitely a significant number of our churches that use modern, contemporary music. This is one of the reasons we are growing through attracting young people
So the appeal of the church is to be to the senses, not to the heart and mind? Another gospel?
Reading this brings to mind the words of another leader who said, Much of the gospel being proclaimed today has become a caricature of the biblical message, exaggerating certain parts and greatly diminishing (or eliminating) others. There has been a tragic shift from a God-centered message of grace to make the gospel a man-centered human endeavor. God is often made to be an anemic old grandfather begging his children to come back to himself with no ability on his own to gather them. Or he is presented as the great Santa Clause with a bag of goodies to get people to acknowledge him. The truth of the mighty power of the Word of God with the effectual working of the Holy Spirit to raise the dead is lost in a quagmire of humanistic methods and enticements.
Jesus plainly says, No one can come to me, except the Father who has sent me draw him. The ‘outer’ work of the gospel is the proclamation - the preaching of Christ and his saving grace, but the inner work must be the enlightening enlivening power of the Holy Spirit through which the Father draws men to his son.
Seems as though there is a growing tendency to believe that there are many roads to our eternal Father, with those paved with ease and that which excites, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions , being the most travelled.
There seems to be a common blindness today which causes folk to not be able to read the large road sign which says the alternate routes are NOT FROM THE FATHER BUT IS OF THE WORLD.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Naive? Yes! I wouldn't have thought so then.
Idealistic? Yes! Still so!
Realistic? No! Long way off!
My first pastors conference started to sort out my naïveté and my view of reality!
I can't help but commend Dave Black on his honesty about himself,and his awareness of his own weakness and struggles, a very rare quality, indeed!
Then I came across this quote by J.C. Philpot from a sermon preached at North Street Chapel, Stamford, on March 6,1859:
I have ever found myself to be my greatest enemy. I never had a foe that troubled me so much as my own heart; nor has any one ever wrought me half the mischief or given me half the plague that I have felt and known within. And it is a daily sense of this which makes me dread myself more than anybody that walks upon the face of the earth!
Keep a watchful eye upon every inward foe; and if you fight, fight against the enemy that lurks and works in your own breast!
I wonder what gives me the impression that not too many in leadership today would agree with Mr. Philpot?
Why do I get the feeling that Pogo was right when he said,
“I've found the enemy and he is us.”
Monday, October 19, 2009
You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of man(Mark 8:33).
We can conjecture, and come to some logical conclusions, but are we right, or, more to the point: What do we learn from that moment in time?
Peter’s reasons are reflected in the other disciples’ actions in the ensuing couple of chapters. In Mark 9:33-34, we find the disciples had been disputing about who was the greatest,
Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was at home, he asked the disciples, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept silent, for on the road they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
Then, in 10: 35-37 we see the heart of the matter, which is displayed so eloquently in much of the traditional church scene today; with ignorant temerity, induced by an over inflated opinion of their own importance, James and John asked Jesus to place them in a position of great honour.
Again, illustrating what we see commonly happening across the churches today, the other ten disciples get themselves involved in these ugly proceedings. We find them showing great concern that Zebedee’s two sons may be placed in a position which will have negative impact on their own selfish aspirations.
Notice the way the ten, after hearing Jesus initial response, try to squirm out of their implication in this farce, as they turn His attention to James and John ( v.41 ), but, Jesus continues in a way that must have been a solid blow to their regal ambitions for prominence amongst followers of Christ.
Their cherished desire , and strong drive, to be recognized as successful and influential, is rebuffed by Jesus, who compared their behaviour with the way the Roman political overlords functioned. He likened them to the very people who oppressed the Jews, who took advantage of them, and who would put Jesus to death in the very near future,
You know that those who are recognized as rulers among the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors act like tyrants over them.The sinful nature of man was made very evident amongst the Roman political traders in power and oppression, and here were the disciples actually imitating them!
Can you tell me that the same attitude isn’t common amongst Christians today, amongst leaders who clamour for recognition, who love titles, and bask in the supposed glory of being seen as the top dog in the pack, often reminding congregations of their “authority”?
Jesus repudiated and reversed this Adamic human behaviour. To be a leader amongst the people of God is to eschew the enterprising, dominant spirit of religious political power. To be a leader in the family of God is to shun the obnoxious control and subjugation of people for narcissistic glory, the manipulation of congregations for ones own career ambitions. To be a discipler of disciples is to be a truly sacrificial servant and lover of others, who puts the interests of others before ones own.
This is what Jesus modeled, as the mark of greatness! He did so by His own life, teaching, death and resurrection.
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many(10:45).
Surely that must make those who have a penchant for regularly reminding congregations of their “authority” and “office” to think ?
Maybe I’m living on another planet!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
For those who don't know me, I have been in that part of the institutional church, which is proud to call itself evangelical, for most of my adult life which has now reached its Biblically allotted span. During those many years, more than fifty, apart from John 3:16, Matthew 28:19-20 would be the most quoted Scripture in the sermons I have listened to.
Sadly, most of the sermons, in which that passage was quoted, were designed to press members of the congregation to “evangelize” unbelievers, by inducing in them a sense of guilt for not doing so.
That verse of Scripture was also prominent during my college days.
In both church and college, we were never told explicitly, but implicitly left with the impression, that maybe, we were not even Christians if we didn’t evangelise, or, at the very least, we were bad Christians who were letting our Master down.
How on earth did we get that idea from Matthew 28: 19-20?
Jesus explicitly charged his followers to make disciples of all nations . He also exhorted them to teach those who became disciples under their ministry,and to observe all that I have commanded you”.
The church has managed to twist make disciples , into preaching a message, or using a gospel centered program coupled with some good, persuasive rhetoric (salesmanship) about what “Christians believe” and the horrible consequences for those not believing, hopefully finishing up with the dubious privilege of helping a, now guilt laden, person admitting to being “sinner” who must be penitent and pray a special prayer, which God must take notice of.
Did this Great Commission of Jesus mean that those who were His disciples were to do something He never did?
Disciple-making most certainly includes the precious message of the Gospel, without doubt, but if we look at the disciple making methods of Jesus we can see that it is about more about gaining the trust of the disciple, about demonstration of what it means to be a disciple, in which teaching the Good News of the Gospel, and its practical outworking, or the fruit, in the life of the disciple-maker is a major part; and, over a long period of time.
There can be no doubt that, as Jesus demonstrated, disciple making it is not about filling the disciples head with information, but much more to do with life transformation, beginning on the inside. It was about leaving of the old life governed by a heart of stone, and emerging into new life with a soft, malleable heart open to the shaping power of the Holy Spirit. That is what Paul was talking about in Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Its a metamorphosis.
The making of a disciple is a long term process which can only come to fruition within a relationship between two people, the disciple and the disciple-maker. The disciple-maker will exhibit to the disciple, a strong commitment of spending one-to-one quality time, however long it takes, maybe three to four years, to bring the disciple to such a level of spiritual maturity in Christ, that the disciple will begin to make disciples.
Being obedient to the command of Christ to make disciples, IS NOT DONE by what we popularly call “evangelism”, which actually, in many cases, militates AGAINST making disciples!
Now you might respond by saying, “What about the Holy Spirit in all of this?”
My response to that is: We have effectively, and methodically programmed the Holy Spirit out of the equation by using schemes and programs to get instant results. Our egos require us to present a record of achievement, which we call “souls won for Christ”, but which are no more than the proud notches on the gun of the gunfighters in popular Western fiction.
What we have achieved through this is only an apparent success, a hollow victory measured by numbers, but history proves the lie of these numbers by the rate of attrition, which, by all accounts, has dramatically increased.
All we have succeeded in doing is compromise and undermine the true God honoring, Holy Spirit motivated ministry of making disciples of ordinary Christian brethren whom we denigrate by calling them "laity".
I will repeat what I wrote earlier, making disciples is about two people walking together, the one demonstrating the love of Christ, by expending their life on the other in word and deed. It’s about one member of God's special family of adoptees, who desires to share the love of that family and their Father, with another human being.
Making disciples is NOT about one of the most sickening concepts I know, when it is applied to the spiritual life, programs which teach that successful evangelism is available to all who will use “replicable,transferable methods”!
To do what? To get a “prospect” to become a "believer" by giving intellectual assent to some potted speil presented by a well trained salesman. What a miserably low view of true disciple making!
James tells us very clearly that the devil is a believer (James 2:9). So, what does that tell us about simply making converts, "believers" who intellectually assent to some information we give them? Are we telling them that they have joined the illustrious company of demons?
Such an intellectually persuaded convert becomes dependent on the person who offered them the Bible flavored bill of goods they accepted, which dependence is then transferred to the leadership (pastor) of the group to whom the persuader belongs. The convert also has a sense of “owing” the person for throwing them, what they have been told is, their lifeline.
On the other hand the true disciple, is powerfully moved in heart and mind, by the Holy Spirit, NOT by the disciple-maker, to follow the One revealed in the life of the disciple-maker, by the love they see demonstrated (John 13:35). The disciple maker, in their every-day contact, gives testimony, to the disciple about the life changing work of Christ who has made him who he is. Taught and moved by the Holy Spirit, the disciple understands the characteristics displayed in the disciple-maker, which are a reflection of his Master, as such characteristics are revealed as genuine in the disciple-makers life. The disciple-maker is living proof of the reality of his/her words.
Spending much quality time with the disciple-maker, the disciple sees that the disciple-maker’s life is not ruled by legal requirements, but that some inner power has caused him/her, whilst remaining completely, feet firmly planted on earth, human, to be honest about their inadequacies and faults and struggles, yet without fear of reprisal from the One in whom they have implicit trust. The disciple clearly sees that the disciple-maker has complete confidence in his/her adoptive Father who will never leave or forsake His child. In the very likely event of the disciple-maker failing, the disciple will see that the disciple-maker has such confidence in the Father that he/she will get up, deal with the failure and run back home to the Father.
The Holy Spirit applies that evidence in the life of the disciple.
To cut a long story short, I became an elder (pastor) in a denomination well known for its emphasis on evangelising. As a young man I believed the spiels and pep talks which came from the denominational leaders and pulpits, and was willingly, and enthusiastically trained in program after program, each one supposedly better than the other. I became proficient in using these programmes, as I had when a successful secular salesman for a brief period.
I was so pleased, and even proud, that many I spoke with became convinced converts, and took part in classes about baptism and membership, just like the many who sat, like silent zombies, in the pews, closing their eyes when appropriate, standing and opening their mouths likewise, and dutifully and patiently doing what they had been taught that good Christians do, injecting their money into the church offering and quietly allowing the preacher to assuage his conscience by doing what he is paid to do.
Which brings me to who is commanded to “Make disciples”.
Does Jesus command only apply to those in leadership positions, and, so-called special “office”? If so: How can that command be obeyed according to the description I have given of spending much quality time with a disciple over, what can amount to several years?
The answer is quite simple! It cannot, and is not done!
Church leaders, pastors, if you like, are able to easily disciple one or two disciples.
What about the huge numbers of people who have not heard the Gospel?
Most genuine followers of Christ would be very comfortable being labeled as a disciple of Christ, one who sits at the feet of their Master, an apprentice, if you like.
Jesus’ command to “make disciples” was given to such disciples.
According to Paul, when speaking to the church at Ephesus, the elders’ (pastors’) proper task is to, “…equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…”.
In other words, the elders’ task is to teach disciples of Christ, followers of Christ, to be disciple-makers, NOT to be faithful followers of an elder, a pastor, a pope, a bishop, any other title holder, nor the of denominational propaganda, or even the systematic theology they favor.
I think Paul understood one of the more important principles which is missing from almost all of the institutional church scene, and that is the understanding that IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO TEACH A DISCIPLE-MAKER THAN TO MAKE A DISCIPLE.
That’s why he told the Ephesians that those He appointed as leaders were to equip the saints for the work of ministry NOT jealously protect, what they regard, as THEIR ministry, as is commonly done.
Indeed, they were to multiply themselves, releasing as many as possible into ministry.
Before you jump up and down and yell, “Heresy!”, think about it.
Making disciple-makers is about multiplying ones own ministry. Every disciple of Christ, after two or three years spent with a mature disciple-maker, ought to now be as mature as their teacher, they ought to be a disciple-maker.
Now do the math and see what would happen if, led by the Holy Spirit, that was repeated by these two, and the next four, the next eight, the next sixteen, etc.
There may be individuals who have the gifting and ability to expend their lives on more than two or three. Jesus expended His life with the twelve, and He never preached guilt inducing messages, nor did He stand on a box in the street preaching fire and brimstone, nor did He stand in a pulpit reminding His congregation of His authority over them, but He did spend quality time with the twelve, demonstrating what it means to glorify God with ones life and even ones death. When He did speak about the law it was not to assert its authority but to show that there can be no perfect keeping of the law this side of the grave, no matter how religious a person may be, and that true right standing before God can only be found in Him and His finished work, and to ensure that His followers understood that love is the fulfillment of the law.
Conversion is about accepting some information given over a short period of time. It’s about good salesmen bagging their prospect.
Making disciples is about commitment to Jesus’ command to “make disciples” by long term commitment to individuals, who, in turn obey the command,” make disciples”, who, also, in turn obey the command, “make disciples.
No! As a maker of disciples you’ll never be recognized as one who climbed the ladder of, so-called, “success”, or as a well known evangelist, or as an erudite speaker, or proudly wear the title of “Pastor” of a large church or denomination, but, you will receive the commendation of the only One entitled to say,”Well done good and faithful servant,. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Sunday, September 27, 2009
But I wonder whether the inclusion of the word “mature” is always appropriate when we see the way many of we “older” folk express our thoughts on matters about which we differ.
Maybe the rudeness and arrogance of many of the younger ones can be put down to the behavior of their elders? The lack of practical example, the failure to nurture because of "busy-ness"?
There are so many points we could throw into a discussion about this, but I think my blogging friend Paul at VTBottomline has brought a very important one to the fore in his article entitled “FACTS ABOUT CIVILITY”.
Reading Paul’s definition of civility raises some very obvious questions when applied to, possibly a majority of, what has become known as “Christianity”.
A courteous act...
CIVILITY is connected to-----Civilization.
An advanced development of society.
Having advanced in cultural or social
Courteous behavior, politeness ? An ADVANCED development of society? Civilized, respectful, gracious?
Now, we could easily dismiss what he says as the rambling of another old feller, like me, but, Paul’s right, and if claims to be a follower of Christ are genuine, as we read what he goes on to write, we would ask ourselves some very hard questions about how we respond to people who disagree with us, or have a different point of view, or………Well you read what he says:
UNFORTUNATELY----Lack of civility can be seen as....
RACISM...A belief that race is
the primary determinant of human capacities and traits.
MISOGYNY...Hatred of women.
MISANTHROPY...Hatred of men.
Paul certainly puts his finger on a few of the appropriated character traits, of many who claim the name of Christian, and as he rightly points out:
All this depends on the heart of the one who is being rude [And we can't know that always.] and on the race or gender of the one who is the object of the rudeness or incivility.
Incivility is NOT appropriate or proper for our society and is certainly out of bounds for a true Christian.
INCIVILITY---in our culture is rampant but not surprisingly so since group or accepted guidelines for personal behavior are boundaries that people who see others to be of value and worth are willing to impose on themselves for the good of all. Our society is now emphasizing the individual to the exclusion of others with little respect for the sacredness of life that should begin before the birth experience. That disrespect for the sacredness of life is slowly permeating the entire fabric of our society.
How I like Paul’s next words as he comes to the crux of the matter, for those claiming to be Christian:
CHRISTIAN CIVILITY---is because of the rule of Christ in our lives, however, and is NOT to be taken from or borrowed from our culture.
Our civility comes from truly loving others as we are loved "in Christ" and that includes loving even our enemies. (my emphasis)
Surely, if you and I really are what we claim we would have no negative comment about Paul’s
THREE FINAL FACTS ABOUT CIVILITY
One--It is not optional for the believer.
Two--It is not our goal. Loving Him in return is our goal and that is what is mirrored in our love for others for good or bad.
Three--It would make for a better society any time we're willing to embrace it.
Remember! Paul’s not speaking about religion, or doctrine, or theology, but simple, plain, indwelling Holy Spirit induced relational behavior expected of followers of Christ.
Of course, as Christians we have no trouble claiming 1 John 4:14 as applicable to ourselves, So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Can we honestly claim these words to be true of us if our LACK of civility towards others indicates otherwise?
Monday, September 21, 2009
During such times reading some of the really good blogs becomes a much anticipated part of the process.
Brother Dave Black’s pages are perfect for such times because they often remind me of the struggles we experienced as a family, and I as the bread winner, regarding the abandoning of the life we knew and entering into a lifetime committed to the preaching and teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One such entry on Dave’s blog on Sunday September 20, he comments regarding some for whom “Christianity is a faith to be admired or else merely a subject to be studied objectively and historically -- nothing more.”
Writing in the context of some theology students our brother says, “For them the New Testament was nothing more than an analyzable datum of linguistic and historical investigation. For all their audacious ideas, they had no courage to follow the teachings of the One they claimed to have studied so thoroughly. What is true of university students is no less true of the modern church-goer. It really boils down to courage. Do we have the guts to give ourselves to something as costly as genuine Christianity?”
Note that sentence,” What is true of university students is no less true of the modern church-goer.”
How sad! How true!
But I’m drawn back to the comment made the day before the above-mentioned contribution on Dave’s blog, when he draws attention to an article on Henry Neufeld’s blog regarding our propensity to have “concept idols”.
Dave quotes Henry thus: “What's even more dangerous is that once we have made that "concept idol" we become less and less capable of hearing the very proper challenges to our idol and the pedestal on which we have placed it. We hear the challenges to the idols of others. Egalitarians, such as myself, can quite clearly see the dangers of patriarchy and hear clearly when its place on the pedestal is challenged. "Tear down that idol!" we shout!”
How right Dave is when he says, “.. it is sometimes necessary to remove the laurel wreaths around our heads and replace them with paper bags. Our convictions on rightness and wrongness are often ridiculously absurd.”
Just as absurd as are the “concept idols” which stand tall in most groups of Christians, where the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, despite protestations, is at least secondary.
Read these men , and others such as Alan Knox, and have your “concept idols” challenged, if you dare..
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Apparently, to quote Mr. North, “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has begun the most revolutionary experiment in the history of education, stretching all the way back to the pharaohs. It now gives away its curriculum to anyone smart enough to learn it. It has posted its curriculum on-line for free.”
As the article proceeds the author, under the heading, “The Nature of this Revolutionary Experiment”, goes on to say, “For as long as there have been priesthoods, there has been formal classroom education.
The Egyptian priests had classrooms, lectures, and students taking notes.
The Jews had schools where bright young men came to learn the Hebrew texts and memorize the oral tradition, which began being written down in the second century A.D. This oral tradition was written down centuries later: the Mishnah and the Talmud.
The Classical Greeks had academies. Plato and Aristotle taught young men the rudiments of philosophy.
The Greeks also had medical schools.
These programs were closed to most outsiders. A student had to be accepted. He also had to pay. In most cases, the information was secret.
He then goes on to say that the student was bound by an oath of secrecy. In the case of the above medical students, the Hippocratic Oath, which, apart from being sworn in the name of pagan entities, included the following words,
“To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art -- if they desire to learn it -- without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.”
I couldn't help but think how familiar it sounds as North rightly asserts that “the training created a medical guild”, which, “functioned as an oligopoly. It kept prices high by restricting access to the training.
This is what the college diploma has always done. It has created a guild that restricts entry by non-certified people. This keeps wages high.
To obtain the diploma, a person must pay money to the trainers. The trainers are located at one center or special regional centers. Journeying to the center adds costs. Quitting a full-time job back home also adds to the expense. Forcing students to attend pre-requisites adds to the cost. Everything is done to screen access to the knowledge.
So, the knowledge does not spread. This is the crucial function of the academic screening system, especially for practical knowledge: healing people and building things.
“For the first time in the history of man, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has opened the gates to all comers. It has said, "You won't get certified by us, but you can get the classroom knowledge. If you are smart enough to teach yourself, you will have the knowledge."
MIT has now removed the most important layers of bureaucracy: the layers associated with classroom instruction.
1. The fee to obtain the training
2. The cost of journeying to a training center
3. The pre-requisite system
4. The cost of quitting your job
This has de-mystified the entire guild procedure. It says this: "If you are smart enough, you can master the initial content."
This opens the door for the revival of the local apprenticeship system. Here is where a student masters the non-textbook basics of a field, which are at least as important as the textbook content.
Think about it! Isn't the "guild system" what we have in the traditional church
scene today, with a few holding the "secrets" and passing on just enough information to keep people dependent on them?
The local church is the theological college of Scripture, the elders the academic staff, those they disciple, their apprentices. With the tutelage of the elders (who ought not be elders unless demonstrating, wisdom , knowledge of the Scriptures and character, all of which has grown from long experience as a follower of Christ), both the text book and the non-text book aspects can be taught, without the top heavy, expensive bureaucracies we have inherited from secularism.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Today, as I read the comments on this blog, a word kept making itself obvious to me, and as I thought about why this was so it became clear that there are some who seem to have such a high opinion of themselves that no one could possibly teach them anything of worth. To define such a person one would have to use the word “fool”.
Actually, the wisest man who ever lived had something to say about such people in Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, hut he who listens to advice is wise.” , and then again in 18:2, he said, “A fool has no delight in understanding, but only that his heart may lay itself bare.”
Of course being the wise man he was, King Solomon was entitled to say much more, because he understood that fools not only don’t understand what they are doing, their ignorance towards wisdom compounds the matter, so he advised, “Do not speak in the ears of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words” (23:9).
It’s not the matter of ignorance which is the problem because the attaining of knowledge can cure simple ignorance. A fool cannot be cured because he not only has a problem with matters of truth, but, although he thinks he has a good grasp of, what he would call more important matters of truth, he simply cannot understand the simple, elementary matters of truth.
There is one other thing which really marks such a one as a fool. He will always use words which indicate hostility, or even anger. Ridicule is another mark.
Such a person has, what I call a columnar mind: Everyone is categorized by column, far left, left, centre, or mainstream, right, and far right, or some such system. The interesting thing is that the fool is the only one who knows which column he fits in, but, at least he thinks it is the right one.
One thing is certain, no one else is in the same column as the one he fits in, because he simply has to act emotionally to what everyone else says.
Must be lonely in that column. Maybe that’s why he makes such a fool of himself, he wants to get out!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
As a young man I worked on a farm where hormone sprays were used to control weeds. A day or two after the spray was applied the weeds would begin to take on a deformed appearance. Unless one was informed about what was happening, the behavior of the plants would be extremely puzzling.
To a person who had never previously seen the plant, it would not draw a second glance.
A similar thing is happening in the church. One would have to have no knowledge of what the church is supposed to be, be very naive, have a vested interest, or an agenda, to not see what is happening.
At this point I'm reminded of the old saying, "There are none so blind as those who will not see", because, one thing, which is very obvious to those who will see is that:
1. God's people are being manipulated from the pulpit from which they swallow whatever is spoken as if it came from the very mouth of God. Now that's all very well if one has no brain, or recognition that the one making the pronouncements is a member of the very fallible human race.
Thankfully we do have a brain, which our Designer expects us to use, wisely and logically, to check out for ourselves whether these things are so. That's why the Bereans were commended (in Acts 17:11) for what they did.
One of the things that caused me great concern when attending conferences, both overseas and at home, was the very apparent lack of personal views of Scripture based on personal Bible Study. When overseas, I asked many people, in a very large church, what they believed about certain things; the answer was ALWAYS the same, "The pastor says....".
2. A practice which is rapidly being more and more used against fellow believers who may have ,even small, differences of opinion, is what is erroneously being called "church discipline". There is an insidious side to this which is becoming more evident as time goes by; this so-called discipline is being expedited behind closed doors, often without the church members knowing what is happening, and often, without the one being disciplined being able to defend themselves, or express their side of the matter.
There is another aspect of this, so-called, church discipline, where the leader (I cannot bring myself to call him pastor) simply ignores the person being disciplined, avoiding eye contact with, refusing to speak to, communicate with the one who has raised his ire.
All of this could be expected in a non-Christian environment, but NEVER in a congregation of God's people.
As well as these most important matters there is the matter of church leaders using the offerings of the congregation for their own benefit, purportedly to further their "education", but more often than not to massage their ego, excuse going on junkets, the main purpose of which is to make contacts and get opportunities for the furtherance of their "careers" (such as invitations to bigger and better pastures), and as a consequence, their incomes.
Now, if they have ambitious agendas, and aspirations of notoriety, that's between them and God, but to use congregational resources to further those agendas and aspirations, is downright immoral and dishonest.
3. Connected to the above No.1 is the naive assumption that, because a man receives a "call" from a church, he is to be trusted implicitly in regard to everything, and that everything he says and does is God's explicit will and plan for that church.
Of course, like the next point, the "called man" will make sure he, quite often, makes mention of this so-called, "fact".
4. He will also preach fairly regularly, or often mention, that he is the one who has "authority" in the church, with the implication that to question him is to question God.
He is well practiced in showing his displeasure if challenged, or questioned, on any matter, whether Biblical or not, and always with the inference that to question him is the near equivalent to questioning God.
5. Closely related to No.4 is the indignant proposal that anyone else who throws doubts on his pronouncements about Scripture is also questioning God; thus an Arminian, or Calvinist, whatever the case may be, cannot be a faithful believer and must be carefully avoided.
6. The threat of church discipline (interpreted: pastor discipline) is carefully made clear to any who want answers to questions.
7. There is the adamant assertion that the leadership (because they have the "call") are never the problem in a church, because deacons and elders are of such spiritual calibre that they have the mind of God and always have the church's best interests at heart. It is a forgone conclusion that they can never make mistakes about such things.
8. There will be the careful cultivation of the thought that leaders cannot be more concerned about their career, aspirations for fame as preachers, or other personal issues than they are for the cause of Christ and His Church. After all church leaders are unselfish creatures who are immunized against "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life", and proud to be such!
The more I think about it, the more I think about hormone spray affected plants! Or should I say "weeds"?
Monday, August 10, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Well! She's not here and I'm going to have one of those "if only moments".
If only we could start life from the other end, especially those of us who believe we are called of God to lead His people. The zeal and ambition, the worldly approach to "succeeding" which fills the hearts of most younger leaders, and accompanies every conference I've ever attended, even though they are well camouflaged with "spirituality", would be redundant, and the lessons we WILL learn with age, could be passed on.
At seventy years of age, I realise that I have lived the normal allotted life span, and that every second, minute, or year afterwards is a bonus, so, before it's too late, I sometimes feel like shaking the young church leaders I know to see if I could wake them up out of the idealized, almost zombie-like, religious state they seem to have been hypnotized into.
The certainty revealed as they tell the congregations that the answer is in having the right theology, or "we must preach doctrine,doctrine, doctrine". Others will disagree: "the answer is in preaching right through every book, verse by verse" (one young fellow I know is in his third year preaching through Marks Gospel), and the list of formulas and recipes for "success" is endless, as is the conferences.
Dave Black, is revealing , not only that that the years are creeping by, but the truth of what I've just written. He says:
"I must confess that in my own life, I have not been immune to failures as a man, a husband, and a father. What a terribly negative thing to say on a blog that is supposed to encourage its readers! But I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not consider myself to have arrived when it comes to the task of living the Christian life. While it may sound odd to you, I spent the great majority of my adult life being a good church-goer and pursuing all the advantages and comforts of evangelical scholarship in an atmosphere of shortcuts, easy formulas, and rules that simply could not hold up for the long haul. Today I have no "easy answers" that will clear up the issues either in your life or mine. I do know one thing, however. If you want to sort out the priority issues in your life, do not wait for a severe mercy from the hand of God, as I did. The central secret that determines the outcome is the choice to yield one's life to Jesus and to His humble service. With regret I look back on the wasted years of my life as a "good evangelical." I am always quite sympathetic to young people who visit me and reveal a similar sense of futility. My message to them is, "Do not wait as long as I did to become available for sacrificial service in the kingdom. The life that I've discovered to be far more important than my career is the beauty that reflects the humble Christ and His power to make people into whole human beings." I've learned the lesson of Helen Keller: "Life is an exciting business and most exciting when lived for others."
I started out my ministry as a scholar. I'm finishing it as a servant. With the passage of years, I've learned to own up to my failings as a "good evangelical." I would never have sought out any of those failures, those sins of omission, but having failed, I consider the resulting lessons priceless.
As for me and my house, the buck stops "here," not with Becky or anyone else. Jesus is not calling me to the "good life" of American churchianity. The smallest acts of humility and beneficence are to be imitations of the condescension that brought Christ from highest heaven to the obedience of the cross. That is what will always attract to the life of the apostle Paul the longing eyes of Christians -- the power of the Holy Spirit energizing his every thought and action, the love and light of God spilling out into the hearts of others, the willingness to do for other people with genuine unselfishness. Above all, there was his divine mission to preach Christ despite the bitter hatred of his enemies. He lived -- and died -- with the knowledge that he would have to give an account at the judgment seat of Christ, and his heart was renewed through every discouragement and shortcoming by the vision of the crown of life that the Lord would place on his head, if he proved faithful to the end."
OH! Dave! How familiar that sounds!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Ephesians 4:11ff became an intrusion into my thinking, because it constantly raised the real consideration of questions, which for a large part of those years, the busy-ness of “ministry” in the traditions of my development and training, didn’t allow.
I had no doubt in my heart and mind that I had a strong calling as a “pastor and teacher’. How could I, when my pastor and the membership of the congregation to which I belonged affirmed that inner persuasion.
But had I actually equipped “ the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”?
Were they “ no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” , as a result of the Holy Spirit taking the theology, doctrine and example in which I had been trained, and to which I had faithfully adhered, and causing it to become life and function in the congregation?
Do they really “ walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”?
If the evidence, which is clearly available for us all to see, especially as we read the writings of cyberspace, then the answers to those questions in the majority of situations is rather dismal. As a result, if my years have produced the same kind of evidence, which we see in that of most “ministries”, then it has been a dismal failure.
Can we really say that, apart from the individual exceptions, the confessing members of congregations have, " in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. "?
Isn’t what Paul is speaking about not, even remotely, connected with any denomination, theological “ism”, or elite group of Christians, but is, in reality, a ministry to all believers?
Why can we not see the dangers inherent in the, almost universal, tradition based, party line approach to Christianity, can we not see that much of such teaching has evolved into the sort of false teaching Paul writes about to the Christians of Colossae in 2:6-20?
And we continue to develop new party thinking, which is developing new traditions, which are becoming central to the existence of such groups. When will we ever learn?
Paul identifies four major problems touching the life of the Christians in Colossae, each of which have a large bearing on the Christianism of today.
The false teaching infiltrating the Colossian believers was tradition based philosophy. The traditions were identified by Paul as having their source in that which was merely human, but even worse, the powers of evil.
Such teaching actually undermines the central position of Christ to the Christian faith by consistently drawing God’s people to focus on something other than Christ, such as a particular adherence to anything other than Christ, denomination, doctrinal position, confession, church covenant, and the list goes on.
It is NOT in some such distinctive that we find our development as a believer, but IN Christ, “For IN Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and IN Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority”( 2:9,10).
Attached to these philosophies is the monstrous ogre inherent in all false teaching about which Paul wants the Colossians to be aware, legalism. For the follower of Christ, who has their reality in Christ (2:16,17), legalism has NO place but a dim dark memory of past horror, struggle and hard effort.
Hidden amongst the mire of the forgoing is often found the obscure and irrational forms of mysticism, where visions and angels etc., etc. (2:18,19) , are put forward as a means by which to know God, which shifts the focus from the ONLY way to know God, relationship with the ONLY HEAD of the family of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. .
As if the believing recipients of his letter were those of this century, Paul shows that accompanying all of this false teaching was the doctrine of rigorous self-denial and active self-restraint through full renunciation of worldly pleasures which was purported to lead one to achieve a high spiritual state. This is the doctrine of asceticism, which Paul says, even though having “the appearance of wisdom”, Paul maintains are of “no value against fleshly indulgence. “
Look at what is being emphasised in sermons,in cyberspace, books etc! Will we ever learn?
Maybe someone has as the more recent entry in Paul Burlensons blog seems to show.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I don’t know when it was written, but the date of the case suggests that it was sometime about 1949-50.
The will of a prominent Methodist layman, who died in 1939, directed that the income from $75,000 of his estate should be distributed "to persons who believe in the fundamental principles of the Christian religion and in the Bible and who are endeavouring to promulgate same." His wife died in 1949, ten nephews and nieces sued to break the will. Their argument: "There is no common agreement as to what constitutes the fundamental principles of Christianity."
As I read the article I was forced to think of the antagonism displayed between those who call themselves evangelical Christians, who comment on a SBC pastor’s very thoughtful, and carefully written blog.
Some commenters have the amazing ability to turn the subject of an article into a chase after a red herring.
The ascerbic nature of some of the comments of others, the insults and acid sarcasm, towards the pastor and other commenters, are a wonder to behold and cause me to unfavourably compare them with the courteous debates and comments I read and hear from those who vehemently declare they are not Christians.
Many of those commenting on the SBC pastor’s blog seem to have received, or developed a gospel with so many add-ons, it bears no resemblance to the genuine Gospel.
They don’t seem to believe Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast”.
Some appear to believe that their particular add-ons must be included for one to be a genuine Christian: Grace plus;a declaration of Arminianism, Calvinism, egalitarianism, complimentarianism, legalism, liberalism, perfectionism and any other ism which strikes their fancy, but which turns the results of God’s work in the heart and mind of a human being into nothing more than another belief system or philosophy, religionism. With some there is a strong implication that if you don’t believe, exactly, what “I believe I don’t accept you, and I’ll have your guts for garters if you disagree with me!”
Many equate a personal ism, or opinion, whether derived from the teaching they have received, or from their own assumptions, or those of others, into words equivalent to Holy writ, and have not the slightest respect for those who trust in the same person and finished work of Jesus Christ, but think differently about a non-salvation issue.
Thankfully there are those who exhibit grace and the humility of accepting the possibility that they could be mistaken and will consider other opinions.
Fifty years ago, when I began to teach and preach, I was one of those, so sure of myself and the historical and traditional position in which I still stand. During the intervening years, as I read the Scriptures, I began to understand some things differently, nuances which I had missed, and which some great men of God had also missed, and others hadn’t. The historical gurus from which much of my information came had to be tested by the Scriptures.
At seventy years of age I’m finding that there are still adjustments being made to my understanding, and I’m surprised that some long held assumptions must be changed.
There are Galatians and Galatians, just different laws, circumcision and the ones mentioned above.
One thing I do know, I am still a sinner saved by the grace of God, through His gift of faith in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ, who is my Advocate with the Father. I know that no ism changes that position for me or any brother or sister who stands on that same blood bought ground.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
I don't want to nullify the grace of God anymore, for if righteousness comes through the addition of isms, then Christ died needlessly.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I've just read a testimony which tugs at my heart because of the profound message it declares, and yet expresses the certainty of a man who KNOWS our Father God,and, as a result has no need to guild the lily.
You ought to go there and read it: http://mightyfowl.blogspot.com/
His words have inspired me to share something along similar lines.
My wife and I had five very young children when we decided we couldn't delay attending college any longer. I was ministering quite extensively and felt the need to leave secular work and study more. We sold all but the bare essentials of our belongings to afford the fees incurred for accomodation and tuition, which swallowed all of which we received. We had no income, very small savings, but were confident that God would supply our needs. That He did!
A small example of the Father's interest in His people:
Semester break was coming soon when I had promised to work at a non-denominational overseas mission headquarters, building a large room to hold their literature.
Two days before we were due to drive south we had two twenty cent coins in our pocket. We needed money for petrol (three hundred miles worth), to contribute to the food supply, as well as the incidentals that come with children ranging in age from 6 to 13. We had calculated that we needed $200 for the three weeks (it WAS a long time ago).
The next day we still had two twenty cent pieces to last us three weeks. I decided to phone the mission and tell them we couldn't come. That call cost exactly half of our worldly wealth. The disappointment at the mission was palpable.
After hanging up, with a heavy heart, I started to walk back to our quarters when I came under the strongest of compulsions to reverse my decision. I simply could not resist, and went back to the phone using our last twenty cents for the call.
I told my wife what I had done, and, being the woman she is, she said,"Oh! I knew you would!"
Lunch time came and went. It was time to get the mail. We received a letter from my sister, who with her husband and children were on a mission station on Mornington Island 4000 miles away. The letter contained a cheque for $60 : "We felt you could use this."
A little later one of the college staff came to us and said, "Our daughter asked us to give this money to whom ever we believe ought to have it." Another $120!
To cut a long story short; we left college the next morning with $205 in our pocket. Zero to 205 in a little over 24 hours!
The smallest need doesn't escape our Father's attention, as we found when we went into our first full time pastorate. Shake as you might, we still didn't jingle from what we had in our pocket. We were poor, in earthly terms, but we have a wealthy Father who does care.
As most families do, we needed to go to the supermarket. Mum wanted a pumpkin, but we simply could not afford it. As we arrived at our house, there sitting on the back step, resplendent in all its green glory, was beautiful pumpkin.
Thanks Bob, for reminding me that it is often in the simple things in which God reveals Himself and not necessarily in theological profundity.
To Him belongs the glory!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Suddenly, the host gently squeezed the piece of timber, which crumbled in his hand, falling in pieces onto the floor. The only thing holding to the original form of the timber was the thick coat of paint, which was easily crushed.
I was reminded of what we generally understand as “church”. Something quite different from the Church which Jesus promised He will build which would be a living breathing entity with an eternal warranty.
It would be a very brave, foolish, or ignorant person who would state that the entity we understand as the institution called “church” was any more substantial than the piece of wood held in the hand of the T.V. host; shiny and brash, believing it is strong, when, in fact, it is riddled with termites!
During the last fifty years or so, I have heard most of the reasons (read excuses) why the “church” doesn’t reflect the Church which Jesus is building (apart from what is going on in the “church”), and I’ve heard some very creative ones, such as infiltration by spies from other denominations, fifth columnist liberals who sneak in, etc., etc.. Of course we must not forget the secularism revealed on T.V. is also a strong force to contend with, as well as many other of these myriad “enemies” who are damaging the “church”.
Then there are the “clergy” who say the downturn is God’s chastisement upon the “church”.
More recently, of course, modernism and post modernism also join some of the more recent “enemies”, along with charismaticism, the emerging church, the home church movement, and those of which no one has yet heard.
For goodness sake! Someone has to carry the can!
Well! My own observations cause me to join with Pogo, who once said,”… we have met the enemy, and he is us!” The enemy isn’t coming from outside!
The most dangerous enemy of the Church today is the “church”!
I remember hearing a Christian leader from the USA, when speaking about one of the major hurdles to personal evangelism, say, “The problem is that many unbelievers DO know a Christian!”. I would say it a little differently, “The problem is that many unbelievers DO know someone who claims to be a Christian!”
The “church” commonly recognized in any given community is the biggest threat to Christianity today because of what they have become, simply one of a number of the religions, whose most urgent interest is representing their own agendas, maintaining the status quo, self assured of their importance!
Astronomical amounts of money are tied up in property, as well as investments, ownership of insurance companies, etc.
Yet each one claims to represent Jesus Christ, who had nothing but the clothes on His back.
There can be no doubt that the “church” is declining at an accelerating rate, despite the increasing efforts to stem the decline.
Is it possible that Jesus was a little ambitious when He said, ”I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”?
In a time when gigantic failures are common: Is it possible that the Son of God is the biggest failure ever known? NO!!
Have we ever faced the possibility that since Constantine we have been wrong about the Church which Jesus promised to build, and that He was not speaking about the “church” of Constantines and our sinful, proud imaginings?
Can we even begin to think that maybe He IS building His Church, a Church which the religionist cannot recognize, and is steadily being built all over the world, and that the gates of Hell, indeed, will not, cannot, prevail against it?
Will it ever occur to the religionists that the true Church is not the result of human endeavour, of great programmes, of good secular management skills, of mere resolutions made at annual conventions and assemblies, joined to carefully planned cosmetics of princely buildings, and great orators, of backsides on seats listening to guilt inducing words, who practice token benevolence, and attending meetings, and obeying laws, rules and impositions?
When will we learn that the Church is about a people of Gods own choosing , every one of them “A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY (1 Peter 2:9-10), and that all have a living, real relationship with God, who revealed Himself in the life and work of Lord Jesus Christ, a relationship which all genuine followers of Christ share; a relationship which is a gift from God who, “…being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
At this time I can think of no better way of saying what I want to say than (with some editing) to quote Søren Kierkegaard from the compilation of his writings by Charles E. Moore entitled “Provocations”. Whilst no supporter of Kierkegaards existentialism, I have often found his view of reality very close to the truth, which is why I quote him here:
In a short comment entitled “Undercover Clergy” Kierkegaard tells the story of a conversation occurring from the visit of a pastor to member of the community in which he lives, whom we’ll name “Bill”.
Lest readers mistake my intent: THIS IS NOT ABOUT DRINKING ALCOHOL!
Bill is quite surprised by the pastors appearance, and exclaims, “Pastor! What in the world are you doing in our neighborhood?”
The pastor’s response is to require some refreshment, “How about a glass of schnapps to open the meal and the heart. (Drinks a schnapps.) Well, to be brief, I am here on behalf of the Temperance Society.
Bill is not a slow thinker, “I see why you had to have a glass of schnapps, for if you had not asked for one, I certainly would not have offered it”.
Of course the pastor needs to explain, “I have by no means joined the Temperance Society. Anything but! I will drink a second glass in honor of the Temperance Society. I always drink a second glass in honor of the Temperance Society. (They clink their glasses, both drink and say: Long live the Temperance Society!)
Now to the business at hand. You see, it is well known that I have an extraordinary speaking ability. The Temperance Society became aware of my talents and in the interest of the Society it decided not to let them go to waste. To put it briefly, I have been called and installed as “Pastor” to the Temperance Society. That I do not fully subscribe to the Temperance Society’s explicit aims is understood. Yet, the Temperance Society Board is of the opinion, 'What does it matter if the pastor drinks a schnapps or two? What does it matter as long as by using his gifts he is able to win scores of members for the Society?'”
Bill is very understanding, “Even the strictest teetotaller knows that every such glass of schnapps for the pastor is well utilized, presupposing that you do get members for the Society".
The pastor is quite pleased, “I, of course, am completely convinced it is right, and if I had not already done it I would drink another schnapps in honor of the Temperance Society. To go on with my story, I have made an agreement with the Society, whose activity involves diet, that I have my diet: four schnapps every day, two glasses of punch, and an extra glass for every one who signs up as a member. It all goes on the expense account. Just as I believe they are satisfied with me, so I am also satisfied with it. I really don’t want to make any alteration or to leave. I even grieve to think of leaving a congregation which I love and esteem and which loves and esteems me in return”.
The rejoinder from Bill comes quickly,“You have become a “pastor” and somebody of influence in this world. Maybe you can tell me one more thing. I have often imaged myself as a pastor. It must be easy to stand and preach the very opposite of what you are doing – after all, you certainly cannot feel what you are saying”.
The pastor asks, “Why do you say that? I can assure you – and every one of my many listeners is able to testify – that I sometimes am so moved that I can scarcely talk. In the first place, I think of the four schnapps, the two glasses of punch, an extra glass, and also the fact that I am successful in the world and have a good living – isn’t that moving! Next I think of my useful and beneficial activity. While I stand there speaking I look at the people I am talking to and can read their eyes: there sits one who as sure as my name is Pastor H. will go right out of this meeting and sign up as a member. I can get so emotional over this that I sometimes start to cry, and this has such a powerful effect that I can see on his neighbor’s face that he is going to do the same. Now,if that isn’t moving then I don’t know what is. If I were a saint do you think I would be able to produce such an effect? The people would quickly lose interest. Am I right?”
Bill is a little puzzled, “Perhaps. But isn’t it untrue to call yourself a pastor?”
The pastor is well able to defend himself, “Not at all. If a person can proclaim the teaching that we should not aspire after earthly honor, esteem, wealth – if a person can proclaim this in such a way that he convinces people to live their lives accordingly, does it make any difference if he himself does just the opposite? Or isn’t this the best proof of his extraordinary talent for speaking, of his being truly a great orator, the fact that although he doesn’t exactly do what he preaches he still has such an enormous influence?”
This answer doesn’t satisfy Bill, “But doesn’t it ever happen that people complain that you are not a member? Don’t you get reproached for it?”
The pastor’s confidence in himself elicits a quick response, “Yes, of course, but I dismiss it. I explain it as a conflict of personalities, of style. Anyway, it is my job to preach, and one should stick to the subject of what I am teaching. That slays them.”
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The quote from the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne in my last blog were prompted because his words reminded me to some degree of my own situation, and to why I began to blog. As I’ve explained previously, retirement was necessary because of ill health.
The truth is that, many times, I have felt much as he did as he expressed himself, "Today missed some fine opportunities of speaking a word for Christ.”
Half a lifetime ago I also realised the truth of what he says next, also applied to me, even though, prior to this time, I would have vigorously denied the fact, “The Lord saw I would have spoken as much for my own honour as His, and therefore shut my mouth.”
At about the same time as gatherings with preachers in the denominational scene became more frequent, I began to see that many have contracted that same sickness, and had, through educating their congregations, literally become gurus. Travelling to the USA, and perusing the internet, raised the same awareness.
M’Cheynes words became more relevant,” I see a man cannot be a faithful minister, until he preaches Christ for Christ’s sake – until he gives up striving to attract people to himself, and seeks only to attract them to Christ. Lord, give me this!”
When one comes to this part of life’s journey, especially when the health issues create a place of few options for further activity, retirement leaves plenty of time for quiet introspection, revue, and some regret.
As I thought, and prayed, and talked with my wife, I began to see that the “for a season” part of M’Cheynes words also applied to me, hence the blog name Caesura (a pause prior to an emphasis). I’m not too sure about the length of the pause, and maybe, at my age, when the emphasis comes it will be the fanfare accompanying the returning Lord. He knows!
The latter ten years of full time ministry was a new church plant, which began with one man asking for Bible study, which we had in our home, and it grew to be too large for our home. That’s when we made a big mistake (that’s another story).
When it became necessary to retire I became interested to see more of what was happening around the world, and found that, like myself, there were some who had serious thoughts about the shape of what we have traditionally understood as “church”. I began to comment on a couple of sites where my itch was truly scratched.
Much as Alan commented, my first inclination was that maybe I could learn. As I have previously mentioned, age had brought home the reality that even after a lifetime in the church scene, as a novice pastor, and even later, after passing, so-called, middle age and on into the last straight to three score years and ten, the knowledge I had accumulated was infinitesimal in God’s scheme of things. That is true in every Christian life, whatever station in life we occupy.
Joel’s comment also touched on something relevant to my blogging that has come about through reading the blog sites of Christians, and is encompassed in M’Cheynes words, something which brings much grief to my heart and mind; the insistence on legalism, rules/performance oriented forms of Christianity being displayed by some blogs, sermons, and comments. So many Christians, preachers included, are inflicted with “prisoner syndrome”; they don’t know how to live free of bondage.
It’s that very issue which tweaked my interest to delve more into the thoughts of Paul, who commented on my previous article. He, also, obviously understood what grace means. Interestingly, his thoughts concur with my own .
Preaching and teaching from the age of seventeen amongst younger people, then as an elder, then full time pastor, was not something I chose. That course of life came about because of intense inner compulsion to which I had no real choice but to succumb. Only then did I have true peace of mind.
I am still thrilled to have, so long ago, entered this journey in life in the way I would have chosen, if I could have done so. After fifteen years, or so, in the local Body of Christ, it was they who recognised the gifting of God, the pastor affirmed their judgment, and my wife and I both had a strong sense of call.
I believed then, and do so now, that the gifts of God are given to every member of His Family, for the benefit of the whole not the individual. No leader can claim to be any more important than any other member of His people.
Because of my health, I find it difficult to attack the keyboard some times, and, as a result am not a consistent blogger, but maybe I am still able to be used. After all, He hasn’t sacked me.
How should I write? What ought I say? They are questions I have tried to answer. At this time I will continue to just respond to the promptings I have, without any particular agenda other than to be used, I trust, for the glory of my Pastor, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I meet up with him, I hope M’Cheyne will not be too cross with me for tampering with his words in the context of this blog, “I see a man cannot be a faithful blogger, until he blogs for Christ’s sake – until he gives up striving to attract people to himself, and his opinions, and seeks only to attract them to Christ. Lord, give me this!”
Friday, May 8, 2009
I've asked myself these questions many times, and almost ceased the small amount of blogging I do achieve.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne, on the 8th July,1836, wrote in his diary, "Since Tuesday have been laid up with illness. Set by once more for a season to feel my unprofitableness and cure my pride. When shall this self-choosing temper be healed? ‘Lord, I will preach, run, visit, wrestle,’ said I.
‘No, thou shalt lie in thy bed and suffer,’ said the Lord.
"Today missed some fine opportunities of speaking a word for Christ. The Lord saw I would have spoken as much for my own honor as His, and therefore shut my mouth. I see a man cannot be a faithful minister, until he preaches Christ for Christ’s sake – until he gives up striving to attract people to himself, and seeks only to attract them to Christ. Lord, give me this!”
Why am I blogging? Why are you? Are my opinions and yours so important or profound?
Monday, May 4, 2009
As I read the discussions on many of the blog sites of Christians (??) I have to wonder what they will say to Abraham when they meet up with him.
On the basis of the evidence I read, I would think they will say something like this:
“Abraham, I cannot accept you as a brother in God’s Family, as I can clearly see a reason to refuse to fellowship with you.
You have not come into membership of our branch of Christianism. You haven’t added your signature to our Confession. You haven’t made it clear which Five Points you agree with, nor your end time beliefs. What about communion? Do you use one cup or thimbles, wafers or bread? Is it only for the congregation you belong to, or for all believers, or just for the brand you belong to? Most importantly, in regard to this matter, who administers communion?
And, Abraham, we don’t know your position on tongues and other gifts, the authority of one who baptizes and so on.
Somehow, I think Abraham would join Paul in the questions he asked of the Galatians, “…did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
I wonder, if addressing the situation today, whether the Holy Spirit would inspire Paul to use a different word for that which we translate as “foolish”(Gal.3:1) Maybe the word moros (from which we get our word moron, indicating a heart and character deficiency) instead of anoetos ( a senseless, lack of understanding), could be more appropriate.
Well? Can you blame me for wondering?
Friday, April 17, 2009
One thing is becoming abundantly clear, even apart from the miserable testimony embedded in the comments made to the author of that blog: Neither that individual brand name, or any other denominational group of human beings have the mind of God for today, no matter how "churchy" they claim or appear to be.
It has been my privilege, over many years, to know some who showd every evidence that they were extraordinary disciples of Christ, who, believing that the brand name "church" to which they belonged was open to the mind of God, had risked everything, earthly security, reputation, and relationships. They guarded and prayed for the denomination, only to see it changing into an organisation of men who were more concerned for their own religious political agenda and preferences.
Some of those dear saints, now shake their heads and wonder what they have been doing because they can see that the denominational brand, which they identified with, has become a picture of Old Testament Israel. What may have had a glimmer of the light of truth in it, a sense of heart beating with life, has now become a rigid institutional structure growing out of fleshly minds. A strange thing, a creature which secretes a fast-setting rock-hard protective substance around itself, and calls itself "church" exists, but is not even aware that it is now so rigidly human that it does not represent the mind of God, and, indeed, cannot!
I don't know in what shape or form it will happen, but, I do know something new is happening. Sadly, as has always been the case historically, the fleshly mind is again declaring its sovereignty, within orthodox evangelicalism as well as movements outside of it. Without doubt many are being deceived into following new gurus and self styled leaders, who lead new movements which claim to be the genuine article and have God's hand upon them.
Most of the movements will follow the same course as they have always done and quietly die, some will, because of their leaders fanciful ideas, noisily flop about like a fish out of water, exhibiting much activity, but going no where.
Amongst it all, a new reformation is taking place, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Wise followers of Christ will patiently watch and pray, and not be deceived if, as we observe present events, we read the mind of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and the Apostles doctrine, which leads away from the institutionalized worldliness of paganized, ritualistic religion and into a new and fresh life energized by the truth which can only be found by those who truly are disciples of Christ, rather than members of an organization with religious leanings.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Dave Black has recently authored another book which is now being published. It's title is "The Jesus Paradigm".
Alan Knox of "The Assembling of the Church" reports the publisher, Henry Neufeld: " The fact is that this book hit the spot for me. Now “hit the spot” is an expression we use to refer to comfort. After a good meal, we might say, “That really hit the spot.” But there’s another kind of spot-the one you find in the center of a target. You know, that big red circle surround by all those concentric rings. The arrow of conviction hit the spot."
Well, the small quote from the first chapter "hit the spot", or more accurately "scratched the itch" for me. So satisfying was that "scratch", that I must buy the book.
Whilst reading that quote I couldn't help but have, at least fifty years of comments, which were either directed towards me, or made in my hearing, come flooding into my memory. So much in such a small quote!
I know that it is claimed that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I couldn't help but apply the memories to the sentences and phrases in thatquote.
If any of the reality based, imagined comments, which I've placed in parentheses, negatively prods a nerve, remember, I don't know you, so it's not directed at you.
I couldn't help myself (maybe I'm just a grumpy old man):)
Dave said, "I write in my first chapter:
"What might this kingdom-focused church of the twenty-first century look like? (Dave, you can't mean that it won't be backsides-on-seats focussed. What about the budget, the building fund ?) It will be a serving church. (Don't you know that the church is there to serve ME! "I'm no man's servant!") Its organizational structure will be simple, unencumbered by bureaucrats and bureaucracies. (No pyramid of "authority"? Someone has to tell them what to do. "After all they are only sheep") Its financial priorities will reflect a commitment to missions, local and global. (I'm suspicious of that statement. I think you mean much more than sending money; something like personal involvement! Oh! Come off it! I don't have the time!) Capital expenditures will be reduced and the savings earmarked for discipleship. (Owning real estate proves we are succesful. The community takes notice.) Most jobs that are currently salaried positions will be filled by volunteer help or eliminated. (Dave, you can't mean that you expect us to trust, and have faith, in a faithful God instead of the ability of leadership to get the congregation to put more in the plate) Denominations will make drastic reductions in funds spent on publications that are a waste of the church's money (bulletins, glossy magazines, and Sunday School quarterlies – the Bible will be used instead). (What a joke; using the Bible instead of official denominational/theological system publications? How will we teach them what they must believe?) Church buildings will be used for primary and secondary Christian education. ( Dave. Don't you know the high status a large edifice bestows on us? It's the holy place!) Believers will gladly work transdenominationally and cooperatively, especially at the local level. (What? Work with our competitors? They might even steal our sheep) The church will proclaim the Good News of the Gospel as its first priority while not neglecting the cultural mandate. (You're joking. There's no financial return in that. We might have to let one of the staff go!) A full-fledged lay ministry will replace clericalism. (Now you're going too far. The pastor is the one who knows the truth. Who knows what lay people would do/teach?) Individual believers will be expected to assume specialized ministries according to their giftedness. (Dave. I thought you were a teacher.Didn't you know there is no such thing? Giftedness only belongs to the leadership! ) Churches will provide regular lay training and build voluntary programs of education into their structures. (That's terrible! Are you saying that we would need to think for ourselves?) Worship will no longer be confined to a single time or place. (Heresy!!) Preoccupation with church buildings will be seen for what it is – idolatry. (We have to have the nicest building, the most comfortable seats, otherwise people won't come and get saved) The church will no longer cling to its prerogatives but take the form of a servant. (You mean that we need to have a similar attitude as Jesus? Never! We might get dirty feet like Him, and reap the displeasure of some.) It will refuse any longer to shun the secular. (But, our fortress is so secure. We need to remain apart from the secular world so we can be pure and holy and unstained.) Trained pastors will become humble asistants to the "ministers" - every member. ( Now, Dave, that is going too far. Didn't you know that pastors are the "boss", the CEO? They're not menials!) Disciples will take the going forth as seriously as they do gathering (Surely you can't mean that we would minister to our neigbors, and the other unsavoury people around us. I mean, they're so worldly!) New believers will be asked to specify a regular community involvement (neighborhood council, PTA, volunteer library staff, nursing home visitation, etc.) in addition to their commitment to a ministry in the church." (You can't mean that the religious act we produce at church meetings ought to have practical outcomes).
If that small excerpt is any sign of what the rest of the book contains, it will be hated by the religious, and move the hearts of those who are truly what they claim to be, followers of Christ!