Sunday, December 2, 2012

God With Us!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. His name was called Immanuel: God With Us!

 Our celebration of the birth of Christ is our celebration of God with us and we with God! God did not simply dress Himself in our “flesh” to come and simply dwell in our midst. He is “with us” because is He is one of us, sharing in our very humanity! Praise be to God! He is “with us” because He has partaken of our very nature, sharing in all that we are as human beings (except for sin): our relationships, our joys, our accomplishments, our surprises; our sorrows, our aches and pains, our failures, our darkness and yes, even our alienation and estrangement. He is not simply in our midst—He is with us! He is one with us!

 And praise God we are with Him! By the Spirit we have been joined to Him in Christ. We are now partakers of the divine nature, sharing in the very life of God. In uniting us to Himself, Christ has brought us to participate with Him through the Spirit in His relationship with the Father. “Our lives are hidden with Christ in God.”

 A great theologian put it this way: “What we have in Christ in none other than Immanuel, God with us, but because that is God with us, in our being, our very bones and flesh and blood, it also means we with God. If we with God is not true, then God with us is not true. God with us means that God almighty insists on sharing his divine life with us, on binding himself up with us in the same bundle of existence and being and life, so that we may share with him his divine life. That has been once and for all consummated in Jesus Christ, so that God has for ever and ever committed himself to us and will no more abandon us than he will abandon himself in Jesus Christ.”

Blessed be the Babe in the manger: God with us! Amen!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Headship and the Cause of the Gospel-1Cor. 11:3

What role should women have in the church? Should they be allowed to teach? If so, should it only be to other women? Are they allowed to pray publically within the context of the worship service? Can they be Pastors / Elders? Questions such as these have been a source of division and rancor for much of the last century and still causes confusion today. Many people go to Paul's letters to answer these questions (whether or not these are the questions Paul is even addressing). Specifically, 1Corinthians 11:2-16 (along with a few other passages) has been used (misused?) to justify a number of positions on how women are to minister within a local church. How does Paul address these concerns, if at all?

1 Corinthians 11:3 gives us a clue as to how Paul thinks about these things: the principle of "headship". And this principle of headship must be understood in a very specific way: as defined by God in the inter-Trinitarian relationship within the Godhead. The relationship between God and Christ is the key. The relationship between the Father and the Son is emphasized as the model for all human-to-human relationships; in this case, specifically between male and female. There are four main points about the relationship between the Father and the Son that are relevant (taken from the outline of the sermon found here):

1. Complete and Absolute Equality

2. Relational and Functional Distinction

3. Exhaustive Intimacy

4. Mutual Submission

While this sermon is not specifically a treatise on the Trinity, it does provide us with one of the most succintly presented explanations of the inter-Trinitarian relationship that defines God in His Person and His Purpose. If we can apprehend who God is in Himself as Father, Son and Spirit in relationship, then we can begin to live into the freedom of the "sons of God" who have been taken up in Him through Christ by the Spirit. Only in this way are we going to be able to authentically live out the life of Christ in us in all of our relationships; in other words, to live and relate to others as an authentic Human Being.

This sermon is not just about the role of women in the church or even male-femal relationships. It is about the inter-Trinitarian relationship between Father and Son (specifically) and Spirit and how this must inform our understanding of every human relationship. Check it out.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kingdom and quotes

Yes, it’s been a long time. I was hoping to be more regular here but life, as it tends to, keeps getting in the way. Since my last post on Peter Enns and some random quotes I have been busy: preparing and then “preaching” my very first sermon, working at my new job, helping Mrs. Moogly prepare and then recover from surgery, and trying to get caught up on some much neglected reading. Writing on my blog (and playing my bass) has had to take a back seat for a while. My goal is to post at least once a month (and no, I won’t be posting a review of Enns’ book since it’s been so long and I would have to practically re-read it). So, here goes….

 Even though the focus of my sermon, “What is the Meaning of Life?”, was not specifically on the Kingdom of God, the idea of the Kingdom was not far from my mind. And of course this should be the case because as the meaning of life revolves around Jesus, so does the Kingdom. In the next few posts I will be considering the Kingdom of God: what it is, where it is, and what it looks like. I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this before, but I believe our understanding of the Kingdom is a major factor in how we think and act as Christians in this world. To the extent that our understanding of the Kingdom is flawed our testimony of the Gospel will be flawed.

 Have you considered, for example, how your conception of the Kingdom of God affects how you think about and deal with the issue of homosexuality—both as this issue pertains specifically to the church and also to society in general? How about the issues of poverty, homelessness and social justice? Politics, greed, and marriage/divorce? In other words, how does our understanding of the Kingdom affect how we think about and deal with life in this world?

Sadly, I do not think the church today appreciates the crucial connection between the Kingdom and our lives in this world; or if we do understand there is a connection, we tend to see it in terms of Israel’s life under the Old Covenant rather than our life in the New Covenant. Obviously I will not be able to engage in a full and in-depth treatment of these things, but I hope that through the next few posts we will allow the Spirit space to shape our thoughts and understandings such that, if necessary, we will re-evaluate how we are living our lives in this world even as we are citizens of another—the Kingdom of God.

 In the meantime, chew on these for a while:

 “Membership in a local church is nothing more, but also nothing less, than the practical expression, the living out of the truth of the individual believer’s participation in the life of the Triune God—unto the Father, in the Son and by, through and with the Spirit.”

 “Whether it is life in the church or life as individuals, our relationship with God—all of the Christian life—is simply the living out practically the truth of who we are.”

 “The Scripture does not think about the notion of individual believers, of being a Christian, except as viewed as a community, so that Peter can say: Christ is the Living Stone; and having come to Him you, individually as living stones, are built into a spiritual house so that you will offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.”

 “Hey, how you doing? I’m Kansas and this is my little man, Toto.”

 “So many American evangelicals are just infatuated with Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple and what a marvelous thing that is. God says, “I am building My Temple in My Church!” The Church is the dwelling of the Living God!”

 “Frankly, we’re a little mimed out.”

 “Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘mono theists’. We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.”

“As election is a decision in which God determines His own being, so too is human being enacted in obedient response to this decision. Through His life of obedience for humanity, Jesus Christ objectively establishes the being and identity of humanity. Analogously, subjective participation in Christ occurs in the event of obedience, in which human beings embrace and enact their being as Jesus Christ has objectively defined it for them. God shares Himself with human beings by becoming their gracious Lord. Human beings participate in God by becoming His grateful disciples. Thus, participation in Christ takes both an objective and a subjective form, the former being teleologically directed to the latter and thereby guaranteeing its genuine occurrence. Jesus Christ’s life history, grounded in election, constitutes the covenant of grace, and therefore participation in Christ is participation in the covenant.”

 “So when you say psychosomatic, you mean like he could start a fire with his thoughts?”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Book and Quotes

I just finished reading “The Evolution of Adam: What The Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins”, by Peter Enns. I was expecting to learn how a Christian can genuinely hold to evolution and still believe in Christ (His Person and Work) as expressed in the Bible. Not, of course, because I am entertaining Darwinian Evolution as an alternative to the question of origins—I believe in the historical Adam as asserted in the Hebrew and Christian Scripture. Not, of course, that my confession means anything—the very fact that I even read such a “heretical” book is proof enough for some people that I’ve denied the faith altogether along with Dr. Enns (but that’s a soapbox I will refrain from thumping at this time). My purpose in reading the book was to discover how a true believer in Christ and His Gospel, which I believe Enns is, can accept evolutionary theory since, as Enns plainly states, “The biblical authors tell a very different story of human origins than does science” (Introduction, ix).

The question of whether or not evolution and Christianity is compatible is an important one that I think can (and should) be discussed in love and with grace by proponents and opponents. In this age of rapid scientific discovery, this discussion must take place for the intellectual credibility (and defendability) of Christianity—and it must take place in the spirit of love and grace with the goal of exalting our (and the creation’s) Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. For his part, I believe, Enns seeks to do just this and he enters this conversation with a commendable irenic spirit that I find sorely lacking from most fundamentalists that I know whose theology and doctrine are challenged.

So, what do I think of the book? Meh.

I will attempt to expand on this “review” in the coming weeks (months?) as I gather my thoughts. However, I will say this: In my mind Enns did not adequately challenge the prevailing understanding of Adam as the first man and progenitor of the whole human race (though to be fair, I don’t believe this book was intended to provide a specific apologetic for evolution), but neither did he write anything that gave me cause to seek to burn the book (though to be fair, since it is a library book I would have no inclination to burn it anyway). In the meantime, here are some random quotes to chew on.

Random Quotes

“…our prayers are frustrated whenever we compromise between our praying and our living. Prayer should determine the spirit in which we live our lives. Too often we turn this upside down, turning the agenda of our everyday needs into shopping lists for prayer.”

“Being in Christ is not only the fundamental fact of the individual Christian’s existence, it is a new reality within life itself. It is not a phrase that captures an incidental, side issue of Christian life, alongside of which man’s real life is lived. It exposes the very root of life, the new life as it is created by and experienced in Jesus Christ.”

“Believers are first joined to Christ by His Spirit: and this is what the church is. And then that reality manifests itself in the way this community of people thus joined to Christ by His Spirit, thus taken up in the life of God in Christ by the Spirit, all of whom are partaking in that reality now, live out that union with one another.”

“There is nothing Christian that is not at the same time Trinitarian.”

“To dwell in shalom is to enjoy living before God, to enjoy living in one’s physical surroundings, to enjoy living with one’s fellows, to enjoy life with one’s self.”

“Love is the only soil in which faith can put down roots and thrive.”

“The body of Christ is the community of Christ in which His new creation has begun to take effect.”

“The entirety of God’s original creation, from the highest human to the lowest larva, enjoyed Shalom—the universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight that only comes when every creature is playing its part in the interconnectedness of creation. When sin spoiled this shalom, Jesus Christ, the creator of this once-perfect world, responded by returning to the world he had made in order to remove the curse of sin and save the planet. His kingdom brings the recovery of Shalom. People animals and the earth, formerly at odds with one another, find that once again they are connected by fruitful bonds that enable them and every corner of creation to thrive and prosper.”

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

“This pretentious ponderous collection of religious rock psalms is enough to prompt the question, ‘What day did the Lord create Spinal Tap, and couldn’t He have rested on that day too?’” (just checking to see if you’re paying attention!)

“In Christ who is true man and true God we have the mediator and reconciler in whom God and man are not simply brought near each other but in whom God and man become one for all eternity. It is in him the Lord Jesus, born of the virgin Mary and risen from the dead, that we are born again through the Holy Spirit, given to share as members of his body, and we frail human beings are thus enfolded with him in the life of God.”

“If you can think about your own faith, your own life as a Christian without seeing yourself as inseparable from and organically woven into this thing that is the dwelling of God, the church of God, then you don’t have a right view of Christianity or the Christian faith or your own life.”

“God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be.
God is for shalom and therefore against sin. In fact, we may safely describe evil as any spoiling of shalom, whether physically (e.g., by disease), morally, spiritually, or otherwise…in short, sin is culpable shalom-breaking.”

“In Jesus God takes the sin, the hatred and violence of the world into God’s own being and extinguishes them there.”

“What happens in the incarnation is the union of God and man. At last in the midst of our fallen humanity, within and in spite of our estrangement from him, God comes in his love and binds us to himself forever. God and man meet in Jesus Christ and a new covenant is eternally established and fulfilled.”

“Christian worship is…our participation through the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father, in his vicarious life of worship and intercession.”

“The triune God is in the business of creating community, in such a way that we are never more truly human, never more truly persons, than when we find our true being-in-communion.”

“The body on which we feed is the body which He assumed for our sakes, that in our worship we might be sanctified by the once and for all self-offering of Christ. In the communion of the Spirit, in virtue of this exchange, we know that His humanity is our humanity so graciously assumed, his death our death which we show forth, His life our life till He comes, His self-offering our offering, His communion with the Father our communion into which He lifts us up by His Spirit. The Lord’s Supper, as an evangelical ordinance, enshrines very vividly the inner meaning of the Gospel.”
“This sticker is dangerous and inconvenient, but I do love Fig Newtons.”

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Gospel of the Kingdom

As I once again work my way through our God With Us (Recovery of Sacred Space) series, I continue to be overwhelmed by God’s design and purpose for His creation. The idea that God’s goal from eternity is simply the “salvation” of (some) human beings through the forgiveness of sins in Christ in order to spend eternity with Him in “mansions in heaven” is such an impoverished understanding of the Gospel that it is utterly unworthy of the majesty of Christ as set forth in the Scripture. God’s purpose for creation is so much more than this. God’s goal is nothing short of the redemption and restoration of the entire cosmos! This world is awaiting its own renewal and restoration when Christ returns…here! Then the Shalom that characterized Eden will finally be established upon the entire earth—the earth that will welcome its King and be the “seat” of His rule over all creation. And we will rule right here with Him. Sorry Hal, no “Late Great Planet Earth” in God’s plans!
Contrary to what dispensationalist’s believe, the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants have been fulfilled in principle already with the first coming of Christ and will be consummated upon His return. We do not need to wait through what DeMar calls the “End Times Fiction” rhetoric propagated by proponents of dispensationalism to experience—and manifest—the Kingdom of God: the King has come and has established His Kingdom upon the earth and is even now reigning over His Kingdom through His Body, the Church, from the Father’s right hand—where we are seated (and reigning) with Him. When the King returns, His unimpeded reign will encompass the entire earth (not just the land of Canaan) for eternity (not just a thousand years) and we will finally fulfill our destiny as His “image-sons” by reigning with Him over all the works of His hand as He originally intended from the beginning. We will finally and consummately live into the reality of God’s intended design and purpose for Man, the world will be free of the curse, and Shalom will once again (and consummately) permeate the cosmos as creation enters into the Shabbat of God’s Seventh Day Rest.

This is the Gospel: God With Us! He has recovered Sacred Space and established His Kingdom on earth in and through the Church, the Body of Christ the King. And this is our hope; a hope that we share with the entire created order. And as Christians, this hope has tremendous relevance for our lives in the here and now because the Kingdom has come and this is our “home” for now and forever!

Friday, May 4, 2012

GGM is back...

...well almost. Now that Mrs. Moogly and I have settled back in here in beautiful Denver, Colorado, I plan on getting back to writing soon. I've been reading through the book of Colossians for the past few weeks and plan on sharing some of my thoughts, but while meditating on this letter my mind kept coming back to my one of my favorite themes: Shalom.

Here is a re-post, with minor revisions, of one of my posts concerning Shalom.

When we think of Shalom, we usually think of Peace; and when we think of Peace, we usually think of the absence of conflict, both within our own mind (“peace of mind”) and between two parties. While Shalom is certainly the "absence of conflict", the Peace that Shalom speaks of, at least Biblically, is so much more. Biblically, Shalom speaks of completeness or fullness, or as Cornelius Plantinga says, "The webbing together of God, humans and all creation in equity, fulfillment and delight". Shalom is "universal flourishing" within the entire created order! Shalom speaks of an experiential reality not only for human beings, but for the entire Cosmos! The whole of Creation is in view when we consider the Biblical concept of Shalom.

One of my all-time favorite series of sermons at SGCC was called "God With Us". I always refer to this series as the Sacred Space sermons, or more specifically, the Recovery of Sacred Space in Jesus Christ. We defined Sacred Space in this way:

Sacred Space is the habitation or dwelling place of God. It’s the realm in which God is present in relation to His creation. It’s not where God is, as if “heaven” were a geographical location; but it’s how God is with respect to His creation. We can say that it’s the “place” of relationship, of intimacy between God and His creation, focused primarily in Man as Image-Bearer, but flowing out from Man to the entire created order.

In this series, we saw that the Bible focuses on a singular, grand purpose of God: the “summing up of all things in Christ”, as Paul says in Ephesians. This “summing up…” is the restoration of the entire created order in what I think of as a Shalomic Paradise--which is to say, more specifically, the Kingdom of God! This is the Kingdom of the New Creation that Eden only typified. God’s purpose in redemptive history is the consummation of all things in His Son, the lord Jesus Christ! The Bible, from beginning to end, is the record of the progress of the purpose of God to fulfill His promise in the Garden; that the Seed of the Woman would crush the serpent’s head, overthrow the curse and restore Creation (all of creation) back to God. I’m not talking about a universal redemption for mankind; I’m saying that the Bible speaks of a universal, or Cosmic Redemption in Christ that has the entire Created Order in view. The Bible speaks of a return to Eden, so-to-speak, only in the fullness of what Eden typified—a Cosmic renewal with the New Heavens and New Earth in a perpetual state of Shalom!

I mention our series on Sacred Space to give some foundation for how we have defined the Biblical principle of Shalom throughout the study. Taking our cue from  Cornelius Plantinga, this is how we defined Shalom:

That state of harmony within the created order in which every created thing finds itself in perfect conformity to itself and its created function, and therefore relates with integrity, in truth to every other created thing and to God Himself.

This is the goal of redemptive history: The recovery of Sacred Space consummating with the restoration of the state of Shalom in the perpetual Shabbat of God’s rest—all accomplished in the Person and Work of Christ!

We must remember that the purpose and goal of God in redemptive history is not simply the “salvation” of (some) men through the forgiveness of sins; this is too small a goal! The purpose of God is nothing less than the Recovery of Sacred Space—the “redemption” of the Cosmos. The goal of God, to borrow again from Plantinga, is Shalom—“The Way Things Ought to Be”.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Love and Grace

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." So proclaims Jesus.

"Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves." So pleads Paul.

And Paul again, "Lay aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."

And again, "As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity."

Peter tells us, "...all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit" and also, "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins."

And what about John? "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another."

And again, "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer."

One more: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loes is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love...Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

I could go on and on with more from Jesus, Paul and John, but we know what our calling is: LOVE! We are called to love and serve one another; and in this way the world will see Christ. When we slander one another, gossip about one another, outright LIE about one another, we are not being imitators of God, we are not manifesting "the attitude of Christ" (the mind of Christ) in us; rather, we are behaving as the "world" behaves, as though we have not been delivered from the kingdom of darkness. When we tear one another down (in order to exalt ourselves), we are denying the power of the Gospel and the life of Christ in us. When we speak against our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ we lie against the truth and give evidence to the world (and the Church) that we don't have the love of God in us: we give the world occassion to blaspheme our great God and Savior!

Stop this nonsense! Quit being so ungracious. Quit being so rude. Quit being so hateful. We are called to love our enemies; but we can't even love our brothers and sisters!

Oh, that the world would see our love for one another; our patience toward one another; our graciousness and compassion; our unity in the bond of love and the Spirit! If we can't love one another and serve one another for our maturity in the faith, how in the world can we ever expect to love the world and share the love of God to a lost and dying generation?

For the love of God...can we love one another?