Friday, December 23, 2011

TKJG Chapter 7: Jesus and the Gospel

Did Jesus preach the gospel? Did Jesus preach himself as the completion of Israel’s story? Jesus declares himself to be at the centre of the kingdom of God, Luke 7:22-23. Jesus was totally into preaching himself as the centre of God’s plan for Israel. Jesus unequivocally and without embarrassment nominated himself as Israel’s president.  Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount understood his teachings to be the consummation and completion and resolution and telos point of the Old Testament Law and the Prophets. Jesus selects 12 disciples and sees the 12 as embodying the fullness of the people of God but himself over the 12. Jesus explained his fate – his death and resurrection – in light of scripture, Daniel 7. Jesus explains himself his story, on the road to Emmaus by beginning with Moses and all the Prophets and explaining all the things the scriptures have said concerning himself, Luke 24:27. Jesus preached himself as the gospel, he was the good news and had good news as the fulfilment of Israel’s story and the inauguration of a whole new chapter of possibility and potential.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

TKJG Chapter 6: The Gospel in the Gospels

The early Christians called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the ‘gospel’ because they are the gospel! The story of Jesus. To call these books the gospel is precisely to express that Jesus himself, the entirety of his acting, teaching, living, rising, and remaining with us is the ‘gospel.’ The four gospels and the gospel are one. The story told in Mark calls hearers to belief in the person who is described in it, Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God, and thus to eternal life; in other words it seeks to be wholly and completely a message of salvation. Luke’s purpose is not merely to narrate the deeds and words of Jesus but to show how these did in fact lead to the experience of salvation and to the formation of the community of the saved. John shows how the principle institutions and feasts of Israel, those annual celebrations that told Israel’s Story and that shaped both memory and identity for every observant Jew, fin their own completion in Jesus. These Gospels do not arrange the story into our way of framing the plan of salvation, and neither do they format the story into our favourite method of persuasion. Instead they declare the Story of Jesus, and that story is the saving, redeeming, liberating story.

TKJG Chapter 5: How Did Salvation Take Over the Gospel?

The creeds articulate what is both implicit and explicit in Paul’s grand statement of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. Thus, the gospel is the Story of Jesus as the completion of the Story of Israel as found in the Scriptures, and that gospel story formed and framed the earliest Christians. During the much needed and God ordained Reformation, salvation was clarified in regards to its personal application and necessity. What then happened overtime is that the apostolic gospel was reframed in such as way and so successfully (largely as a result of the powerful evangelistic culture of evangelicalism in American revivalism and then later in America’s culture war between fundamentalists and modernists), that today we are losing contact with the gospel culture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TKJG Chapter 4: The Apostolic Gospel of Paul

1 Corinthians 15 is the best place to begin mapping an understanding of the gospel. Here Paul comes pretty close to defining the word gospel. The gospel is to announce good news about the key events in the life of Jesus and to shout aloud the Story of Jesus Christ as the saving news of God. The gospel though is intimately tied to Israel’s Story as found in the scriptures of the Old Testament. Salvation – the robust salvation of God – is the intended result of the gospel story about Jesus Christ that completes the story of Israel in the Old Testament.

1 Corinthians 15 (TNIV)

PART A
1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (15:1-2)

PART B

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.(15:3-5)

PART C
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But in this order: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (15:20-28)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent 4

Advent is a four week season that provides is with the opportunity to celebrate the excitement, anticipation and sense of expectation that comes with Christmas.

Not excitement and anticipation because of all the trappings of Christmas that most of us are largely familiar with – Santa sacks, presents, sweet treats, family fun, festivities, fine food, indulgence, holidays, summer, BBQ’s and all those things we associate with a Kiwi Christmas. As good as what they all might be (and obviously this things can all be distorted to actually take away from Christmas rather than add to it), this isn’t what we get excited about during Advent and at Christmas.

The excitement, celebration and anticipations centres on the coming of Jesus...

·         Jesus’ coming 2000 years ago
·         Jesus’ desire to come and work in our lives today
·         Jesus’ coming to restore and to put all things right

Often in our 21st Century context we wait until the New Year to turn over a new leaf, to enter a new chapter in life. Today isn’t they day for that, no way. LOL. But somehow the transition from the 31/12 to 01/01 is the time! Now we’ll lose weight, get fit, take up a hobby, give up a vice, read the bible every day, make church attendance a weekly habit, quit smoking or whatever it might be.  Now is the moment to summon our will power, our mental reserves, to get committed, to find an accountability partner, to psyche oneself up, to turn a new page, starts a new chapter and begin a new life!

It’s a bit crazy that we wait to the 31st December to do this, but it kind of makes sense.

The Christian New Year isn’t January 1 though. The Christian New Year, the Christian Liturgical Calendar, kick starts the New Year at the end of November, the fourth Sunday before Christmas. That’s when we say happy New Year.

Here though we don’t hope that the New Year will bring a new chapter and a different story into reality in our life; we celebrate with excitement and anticipation that a new chapter has begun and will continue to be!

External to our efforts, to our striving, to our will power, to our best intentions, and New Year’s resolutions we celebrate that a new chapter has begin in Jesus Christ. All we have to do is get lost and found in the story of Jesus.

ADVENT – A new chapter is coming, let’s get ready, let’s celebrate.
CHRISTMAS – A new chapter has begun.  

That’s the excitement and anticipation of Advent and of Christmas, there is a new chapter in the story, a new chapter in the story of humanity and there can be a new chapter in the story of my life as well. And that new chapter is here today!

Lost – found
Brokenness and strife – something beautiful
Despair, anxiety, hopelessness – peace, confidence and hope
Pain and heartache – healing and restoration

We sing about this in some of our Christmas carols...

O Holy Night

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

In all our trials born to be our friends
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease
.


Joy to the World

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.


ADVENT – A new chapter is coming, let’s get ready, let’s celebrate.
CHRISTMAS – A new chapter has begun.  

BAPTISM – we’ve entered into a new story.

We’ve put our faith and trust in Jesus, we’ve turned from living life our own way and we’ve chosen to live in the light of God’s big story, to get lost and found in God’s big story. We die with Christ and we are raised to new life with Christ!

That’s what a Christian is, that’s what a Christ follower is someone who’s whole life is caught up and shaped by God’s big story and the life changing work of Jesus Christ in coming and making a new chapter possible for all humanity.

Look forward to the possibility of a new chapter in your life this Advent.

Celebrate the dawning of a new day, of a new chapter, because of Jesus this Christmas.

Put your faith and trust in Jesus, turn to follow him as King, enter a new chapter in Baptism.

Monday, December 19, 2011

TKHG Chapter 3: From Story to Salvation

The gospel only makes sense in the context of the full narrative of Christian scripture; if we ignore this larger story the gospel gets distorted. But that full narrative is not the gospel. The gospel is the story of Jesus as the resolution of Israel’s (humanities) story. This story includes how someone is ‘saved’ but any personal plan for or of salvation in itself is not the gospel and becomes a distortion of the gospel. God’s righteousness and holiness, our sin, Christ’s atoning death, and our response of repentance and faith in Jesus is not the gospel. A salvation plan leads to justification. The gospel though includes salvation but leads to discipleship, justice, goodness and loving kindness.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

TKJG – Chapter 2: Gospel Culture or Salvation Culture

Personal faith is both necessary and nonnegotiable; the gospel doesn’t work for spectators you have to participate. Evangelicals though are not really ‘evangelical’ in the sense of the apostolic gospel but instead are soterians. The word gospel is mistakenly equated with the word salvation, but these two words don’t mean the same thing. In thinking salvation as identical to gospel we betray a profound lack of awareness as to what the gospel means and what the gospel might mean for our world today.

Friday, December 16, 2011

TKJG - Chapter 1: The Big Question

In the following series of posts I'll attempt in 100 words or less to summarize each chapter of The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight.

Here we go...

The big question in Christian circles that needs addressing is ‘what is the gospel?’ We need to go back to the bible and ask ourselves this question all over again, as if we were in Galilee listening to Jesus ourselves or as if we were the first listeners of the apostles preaching in some small house church in the middle of the Roman Empire. The word ‘gospel’ has been hijacked by what we believe about ‘personal salvation.’ The result being that the word gospel no longer means in our world what it originally meant to Jesus or the apostles.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The King Jesus Gospel

I've just started reading The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight. The forewords are from N.T. Wright and Dallas Willard.



Here are snippets of what they have to say...

N.T. Wright

God wants every single Christian to grow up in understanding as well as trust, the Christian faith has never been something that one generation can sort out in such as way as to leave their successors with no work to do.

We shouldn't be alarmed if someone sketches a third, fourth, or even fifth dimension that we had overlooked. (This is in regards to our understanding of Christianity and Christian faith).

The movement that has long called itself "evangelical" is in fact better labelled "soterian."

"The gospel" is the story of Jesus of Nazareth told as the climax of the long story of Israel, which in turn is the story of how the one true God is rescuing the world.

For many people, "the gospel" has shrunk right down to a statement about Jesus' death and its meaning, and a prayer with which people accept it. That matters, the way the rotor blades of a helicopter matter. You won't get of the ground without them. But rotor blades alone make a helicopter.

This book could be one of God's ways of reminding the new generation of Christians that it has to grow up to take responsibility for thinking things through afresh, to look back to the large world of the full first-century gospel in order then to look out on the equally large world of twenty-first-century gospel opportunity.

Dallas Willard

Scot McKnight here presents, with great force and clarity, the one gospel of the bible and of Jesus the King and Savior. He works from the basis of profound biblical understanding and of insight into history and into the contemporary misunderstandings that produce gospels that do not normally produce disciples, but only consumers of religious goods and services. In the course of this he deals with the primary barrier to the power of Jesus' gospel today - that is, a view of salvation and of grace that has no connection with discipleship and spiritual transformation. It is a view of grace and salvation that, supposedly, gets one ready to die, but leaves them unprepared to live now in the grace and power of resurrection life.

It would probably be worth your while getting a copy of the book and having a read don't you think?

Advent 3

Thanks Giving

Fourth Thursday in November, a holiday celebrated in the states. First celebrated by in 1621 by the first pilgrims arriving in New England (America) from England. It was a meal to thank God for their save arrival. Traditionally meals like that held to thank God for harvests or deliverance etc. Became a national annual practice in 1863, instituted by Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War. Beautiful. Wonderful. Let’s have a meal and thank God for his blessings, favour and protection, for family and loved ones and freedom and hope.

Black Friday

Black Friday is the Friday that follows on from the Thursday of Thanks Giving. Traditionally it is the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and there are normally massive sales to get people into the shopping ‘spirit.’ Not a traditional holiday but many no-retail employees give their staff the day off. Black Friday because shops are in the ‘black,’ in the profit zone.

Shops used to open early, 6:00am on Black Friday. This has been evolving over the last few years though with many starting to open first at 5:00am but now at 4:00am. In 2011 though stores such as Target, Massey’s and Best Buy decided to open at midnight. Walmart though opened on Thanks Giving at 10:00pm and Toys’R’Us at 9:00pm.

Reports regarding Black Friday shopping include...


· Police taser a shopper in an Alabama Wal-Mart amidst a scramble for bargains

· Bomb scare, police evacuate an Arizona Wal-Mart after finding an explosive.

· 55 year old woman shot by robbers outside Wal-Mart in North Carolina.

· Girls got into a punching fight at a Pennsylvania Victoria’s Secret

· Grandfather knocked unconscious in another mal

· Man charged with disorderly conduct after brawl in electronics section of another store which left two woman injured

· In 2008 a security guard was crushed to death as 200 shoppers stormed a store for bargins
SURELY THAT’S NOT THE WAY IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE EVER!
Surely not the way things are meant to be at Christmas time.


How do we flick from Thanks Giving to Black Friday just like that?

As we approach the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of rejoicing, we engage in re-telling the Christmas story. To ourselves and each other.



Christmas isn’t about over indulgence. Christmas isn’t about pressure to give and buy things you can’t afford. Christmas isn’t about the cultural expectations of the Western world’s obsession with consumerism and materialism. Christmas isn’t about credit card debt that lasts for months the other side of Christmas.

Christmas is a celebration of the coming of the one who sets us free from debt, the one who brings grace, forgiveness, freedom and peace on earth!
As Christ followers we are challenged to re-tell the story.

Jesus says...


Matthew 6:3131 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Yet at Christmas we so often find ourselves asking ‘what shall we eat and drink and wear and get and have?’

This year remember to seek first the kingdom of God.

The manger was a surprising place to find a king. Always at Christmas I am surprised that God shows up in unexpected places, like the doco we watched at church on Sunday “What Would Jesus Buy?

Look for Jesus to speak and to challenge and to encourage and love in unexpected ways this Christmas season as you focus an align yourself with the ‘reason for the season.”

Don’t make your entry point to Christmas the craziness of shopping malls and bargain hunting and unfettered consuming.

Make your entry point the one who came to ‘make his blessings flow, far as the curse was found, as far as the curse was found’!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent 2

During Advent we reflect with anticipation, excitement and hope on the coming of the Messiah. We contemplate the birth narratives of the gospels and the expectation of the Jewish people longing for Messiah. What must life have been like for them? What did the coming of Messiah mean for them? What does the coming of Jesus mean for me and for my family and community (local and global)? We look at areas in our own lives where we are in need of Jesus to presence himself and bring light and hope. We look at the world we live in and its brokenness and need of the Divine Saviour. We smile confidently rather than despair. There is hope. There is a new chapter that had begun, is beginning and will take place.

However we wait.

We wait.

Still waiting.

Yep even now, still waiting.

Waiting isn’t something we are always good at. Advent is about pregnant expectancy. As glamorous as that might sound and as exciting as it might be to have a new baby on the way (we’re counting down to the arrival of our third), pregnancy is full on. Ask any mum!



Morning sickness, aches and pains, hard to breath, hard to get around, hard to carry on with life, tired, exhausted, emotional and so on. Yet a mum pushes on with a smile on her face.

Often that’s what our waiting in life is like, we’re confident, we’re smiling, we have hope, but... When’s this going to end? How much longer do I have to wait? I feel terrible, Jesus where are you? I need you now! This world needs you now!

Advent though encourages us not to shy away from this waiting but rather to be still, to be at peace, to trust God in the midst of our waiting. We don’t wait hopelessly though. We wait knowing that Christmas is coming.

-          Waiting slows us down

-          Waiting gives us time and space to gain perspective

-          Waiting helps us to discriminate between the good, the better and the best

-          Too easy to go through live without pausing. To caught up in life that without realising it we’re all of a sudden following the wrong star.

-          Christmas becomes about consumables, candy canes, stocking fillers, over indulgence, a fat man in a red suit – all those things we love and we lose sight of ‘Christ with us.’

-          Same can happen in life, we go so fast, move so quickly from one thing to the next that we forget that this life is about so much more than this life.

-          If we do not learn to wait, we can allow ourselves to assume that one thing really is as good as another. Just not the case.
Advent, when we engage in the season, relieves us of our commitment to the frenetic fast-paced norms of our world.

It slows us down. It makes us think. It makes us look beyond today to the great ‘tomorrow’ of life, where Jesus restores all things and there are no more tears, pain, or heartache.  

And while we wait we remember we are invited to work towards that end!

We’re not to get caught up in the pursuit of chocolate Santa’s, socks, undies, candy canes and i-presents, but rather the pursuit of justice and peace.

We’re to get caught up in the story of Jesus and the mission of Jesus in the world. Allowing that story to reframe the story of our lives.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent 1

The Liturgical Year

The Liturgical Year or the Christian Calendar is a way of ordering one’s year that has evolved within Christian tradition over the centuries. Different Christian traditions follow slightly different forms of the calendar with different readings from the bible on different days etc, but in general they all follow the same rhythm.

The way the Liturgical Year works is that it is ordered around the story of Jesus, his life and ministry and longed for return. Its beauty is that it takes us places in prayer, contemplation, study, and celebration that often we might more naturally shy away from. Christmas is a wonderful celebration. Resurrection Sunday is a day of new life and possibility. Pentecost reminds us of the life giving empowerment of the Holy Spirit. They are pretty easy to celebrate.
Lent though reminds us of the trials and struggles of life; the difficulties and the heartaches. Easter Friday takes us to place of what seems to be abandonment and hopelessness. Ordinary time confronts us with the mundane reality of life but that Christ is present.

The real power of the liturgical year is not the feasts, celebrations, seasons and rituals, the real power is its capacity to touch and plumb the depths of the human experience, to stir the human heart. By walking the way of the life of Jesus, by moving into the experience of Jesus, we discover the meaning of our own experiences, the undercurrent of our own emotions, the struggle and the joy, the victories and the heartache of the Christian life. By taking us into the depths of what it means to be a human on the way to God – to suffer and to wonder, to know abandonment and false support, to believe and to doubt – the liturgical year breaks us open to the divine.
Advent
Advent isn’t Christmas. Advent is the four week period leading into Christmas which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Advent looks forward to the arrival of Christ, the arrival of Emmanuel, God with Us, the hope of the world.
Advent looks forward to the arrival of the Christ child whose birth brings joy to the world. With Mary we magnify God’s name at the announcement that the long promised one is coming soon. Our waiting is full of pregnant expectancy, waiting in anticipation for the full coming of God’s reign of peace. The liturgical colour is blue, signifying hope and the dawning of a new day.
Advent is also an opportunity to re-tell the Christmas story, away from of consumerism and materialism, and back towards anticipation, expectation and the wonder of the incarnation, of God with us, of the long waited arrival of the Messiah in very unspectacular circumstances. Advent is the celebration that there is going to be a new chapter in the story; hope, life, promise, redemption, grace, forgiveness.
Advent from Latin essentially means ‘coming’ but Advent is not about one coming but rather three.
-          Coming of Jesus, 2000 years ago, the Messiah, Emmanuel, the Saviour.

-          Coming of Jesus, as present in our everyday lives today, working in all sorts of beautiful and wonderful ways.

-          Coming of Jesus again to put all things right, to restore all things and to bring justice and shalom.
Jesus – past, present, future

Spiritual Disciplines or Not

Don Carson at the Gospel Coalition offers a pretty narrow view of what constitute as and what don't constitute as spiritual disciplines. Essentially he narrows them to bible reading and prayer. I'm more broad in my appreciation of what could be considered a 'spiritual discipline.'

You can read his thoughts and rationale here = D.A Carson 'Spiritual Disciplines'

The point of this post is not to get into a debate or argument with Carson on the issue but rather to offer a different opinion and give you something to think on in regards to what may or may not work as a spiritual discipline in your life i.e. a practice that leads to spiritual growth and development as a Christ follower in areas of right believing, right affections and right living.


My comments on Carson's article...

I think Carson presents a very narrow few of how God can and does work in the lives of His people and of the practices which His people can engage in that as spiritual disciplines, lead to spiritual growth.

Yes spirit, spiritual, spirituality are notoriously fuzzy words. There has been massive debate about Christian Spirituality and how that can possible be defined for many years.

I don’t think 1 Cor 2:14 or 1 Cor 3:1 are references to intrinsic reality of humanities make up as created in the image of God, but rather to the regenerate state of certain individuals/communities. There is a big difference.

I love the gospel and I’m not nervous about the language of ‘spiritual disciplines’ extending itself into all sorts of arenas, such as Bible reading, meditation, worship, giving away money, fasting, solitude, fellowship, deeds of service, evangelism, almsgiving, creation care, journaling, missionary work, and more. Popular use may divorce them from specific doctrine Christian or otherwise, but Christian use should always anchor them in the grand narrative of scripture. Indeed I concur with Carson that in general they will only increase one’s ‘spirituality’ with the presence of the Holy Spirit, all being that they are likely still good practices in character development even apart from a recognised knowledge of God.

I think plenty can be listed as a spiritual discipline without being particularly mentioned in Scripture, i.e. despite the bible saying precious little (debatable!) about creation care and chanting mantras.

Yes of course the disciplines can be done for disciplines sake and do not necessarily make one holier than another. When done with an openness to the Spirit they certainly create space to hear from God though, to re-orientate one’s life around the Way of Jesus and to help one grow healthy.

One of my main points of contention is that I would disagree with Carson and 100% assert that Christian responsibilities can and should be labelled as spiritual disciplines. The very running of one's Christian race 1 Cor 9:24-27 (towards orthodoxy, orthopathy and orthopraxy) is exercise in itself. Any movement towards right(eous) living, towards clothing oneself or taking off the old self and putting on the new self Eph 4:22-24, is exercise, discipline, a pressing on, which leads to what can only be described as ‘spiritual growth.’ This does not mean there is nothing special about prayer and the reading of God’s Word, indeed not all disciplines are equal, though all can be healthy. In some seasons people need to lean more into some disciplines than others. Likewise, this does not mean that one is sucked into thinking that growth in spirituality is but conformity to rules. The very acts of creation care, giving away money and fellowship (when truly engaged in, in a disciplined and committed manner) demand growth in love, trust, understanding of the ways of God and the work of the Spirit in filling and empowering us. All practices which can help us in our journey of sanctification, conformity to Jesus Christ and spiritual maturation.

What would you class or not class as a spiritual discipline? What disciplines do you practice that have lead to life in the Spirit and growth in the things of God?

Further reading try...

Bradley Holt - Thirsty for God
Gary Thomas - Sacred Pathways


Grace and peace

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Love Wins: Chapter Two

Chapter 2: Here is the New There

Rob’s main point in this chapter is to do with heaven. Basically eternity won’t be spent in a giant city with mansions and golden streets that exists somewhere out there somewhere in a galaxy far far away...

Rest of post is across at http://twopintslater.blogspot.com

Jump across and have a look at our new collaborative blog. Contributions from other bloggers coming soon...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Love Wins Hoopla

If you haven’t heard all about the hoopla surrounding Rob Bell’s latest contribution, Love Wins, then you’ve obviously just returned from a pilgrimage to the South Pole. Did it go well for you?



Personally I’ve lost count of how many times someone has asked me what I thought of the book, and funnily enough, how many times that question has been asked in a nervous whisper. What the heck!?! Since when could we not...

To read the rest of the post please click over to Two Pints Later. This is a new collaborative blog I am contributing to and is where I'll be blogging from here on in. 


Thomas & Hannah's Wedding

There are some awesome photo's of Thomas and Hannah's wedding on the blog Magnolia Rouge. Claire is an amazing photographer!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Where are Your Affections?

A central theme of Jonathan Edwards’ writing is the importance of religious ‘affections’; passions that move the will to act.


He writes that the kind of religion that God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless ‘wouldings’ – those weak inclinations that lack convictions – that raise us but a little above indifference. That in nothing is the state of the heart so crucial as in religion and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious. That worldly affections are the spring of worldly actions, covertness leads a person to seek worldly profits, ambition to pursue glory, lust to the pursuit of sensual delights. Religious affections are the spring of religious actions. And that there is never any great achievement by the things of religion without a heart deeply affected. We should be consumed with affections of holy fear, hope, love, holy desire for God, joy, gratitude, compassion and zeal.

What is your heart set on? Wealth, fame, fortune, security, popularity, success, comfort, ease. None are necessarily wrong but neither are they that which should consumer our affections.

Is your day, week, life shaped in the pursuit of God, holy fear, hope, love, joy, compassion and zeal? It’s a great challenge from a father in the faith who was born and lived over 300 years ago.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Scot McKnight - What Difference does Easter Make?

If you have not heard of or read anything by Scot McKnight he is a brilliant New Testament theologian who's material is well worth reading. He has written a stack of books, of which I've read, The Blue Parakeet, Fasting, and One.Life. All were outstanding. I know that his A Community Called Atonement is brilliant as well.


Scot's blog is called Jesus Creed - Exploring the Significance of Jesus and the Orthodox Faith for the 21st Century and is well worth following.

His latest post is on our need to not just have a Good Friday gospel and be Good Friday Christians but rather to have an Easter gospel and be Easter Christians. Have a read here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Resurrection story of Jesus Christ, Twitter Style

Cool Twitter rendition of the Easter story. #firstcenturygospeltwentyfirstcentury

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rowan Williams and Narnia

If you are a Rowan Williams fan or a Narnia fan, or a fan of both like I am, you'll probably enjoy his three part lecture series Narnia which he completed for his Holy Week Lectures.



Here is the link, right... here.

Bad photo here...


Better photos here.

He's written a number of books. Token of Trust was awesome.

PS: For the unenlightened, he is the Archbishop of Canterbury and will be one of the officiants at a reasonably big wedding coming up this weekend.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Shelfari Widget Issues...

FYI - I'm not actually reading the books on my shelf on the left LOL. Just having issues with my Shelfari widget. Will sort soon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Top Eight for 2011

Just putting it out there before the season even starts. My top eight come the end of the regular season looks like this.



1. Dragons – they’re the new Melbourne Storm. Professional. They’ll be there but I don’t think they’ll make the grand final this year.

2. Tigers – provided Benji isn’t in jail for bringing eschatological judgment from the not yet into the now, they’ll switch it up another notch again.

3. Storm – they’ll be back, it’s just the way they roll!

4. Roosters – I can’t see them failing to stand out after last year’s showing. They are again looking solid.

5. Raiders – seem to be on the up for the last 3 years and I’m picking that will continue in 2011. Got some great players, some great journeymen, and some rising stars!


6. Rabbits – on paper they have everyone they need to deliver they just haven’t been showing up on the field. This is the year of the rabbit though. Look out!

7. Warriors – we seem to be able to continually scrap our way into the eight. Again I think it will be a roller coaster ride for Warriors fans, especially in the last few weeks of the regular season. If we can come out firing and win 4 or 5 of our first 6 though, things could shape up really well... or just go back to same old. It is the Warriors after all!

8. Sea Eagles – their roster is looking good and it’s exciting to have Stewart back in jersey number 1. One of my favourite full backs in the comp.

It’s going to be as tight as ever and I can’t wait.

Who do you think will make the eight? Comment below and we’ll come back late in the season to review.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rob Bell - Love Wins - Some More Thoughtful Responses

I join the plethora of bloggers and tweeters who are discussing Rob Bell and his soon to be released book Love Wins in order to point people towards some more thoughtful responses to this soon to be released book.

The stir that the book's video blurb, publishers comments and fiery twitter attacks have caused is nothing short of sensational. The book now sits at number 18 on Amazon's bestseller list. What's most incredible is that the book hasn't even been released yet. Basically no one has read it and yet everyone has an opinion on it and is not afraid to share it.

Sadly I'm reminded of an article that appeared on the satirical website Lark News in 2008 about Christians preparing to be offended by a soon to be released Eminem album.



Here are some links to some more thoughtful responses to Rob's book. You'll easily find the other opinions. After the links I'll make a few comments myself.

From Tom on Being the Body who has actually read the book, but doesn't want to give too much away.

From Scot McKnight on Jesus Creed, as fine a New Testament scholar as you could hope to find. Author of some of my favourite books, Fasting, The Blue Parakeet and most recently One.Life.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey on Christianity Today. Also covers the hilarious tweet responses from @robbell who is a web designer in England rather than @realrobbell author or Love Wins.


Jason Boyett of O Me of Little Faith who pushes back at John Piper and some of the neo-Calvinists. And also David Sessions of Patrol who does the same.

From This Side of Sunday.
Finally Jarrod McKenna at Religion and Ethics has some good thoughts.


Here are my thoughts...

1. I am familiar with some of the commentators linked to above but not all. Read with discretion. Which should be common sense to all of us as we endeavour to walk the Way of Wisdom.

2. I've nothing but appreciation and admiration for Rob Bell and have enjoyed and been blessed by his writing and teaching for the last 4 years or so. That's not to say I've agreed with everything he has ever said, but essentially I find he's on the mark.

3. When it comes to hell, it is not a topic that has been discussed and signed off on in any of the church creeds, the Athanasian Creed does mention perishing. It is a topic full of mystery that every generation has questions about which needs to be looked at again and again. There is room within Christianity to differ in your opinion in regards to what hell is or isn't, much like there is room to differ over the time frame and means in which God created the universe, the time of Jesus return and other such issues. This doesn't mean any old opinion is valid. We still need to do due diligence with the text. Still though scholars have reached different conclusions for centuries.

4. We can't simply dismiss questions in regards to hell has having been sorted and throw a scripture or two at our young people to back an opinion up. As Scot McKnight says, the approach to this generation is not to denounce their questions, which often enough are rooted in a heightened sensitivity to divine justice and compassion, but to probe their questions from the inside and to probe thoughtful and biblically-response resolutions. We need to show that their questions about justice and God’s gracious love are not bad questions but good questions that deserve to be explored.


5. Hell is a big deal and we need to understand the options (not in order to simply pick one) but so we can all, once again, go back to the Bible, to our church traditions, and study all over again – as if for the first time – what to believe. (Paraphrase of Scot McKnight).

6. Better to read the book first, then study some more, then come to come conclusions.

7. Let's not be afraid to have to ask big questions, wrestle with big questions, and explore big questions.

Peace

Friday, February 25, 2011

Beyond the Flatlands of Religiosity

What is a Christian?

Reading Scot McKnight’s One.Life at the moment and loving it. In Scot’s introduction he tracked a bit of his journey and his understanding of what it means to be a Christian and how that has evolved over the years. His story almost completely parallels mine (and likely many others).


Having grown up in a Christian home Scot got saved at the age of six, I was four but our story is essentially the same. At the conclusion of an evening service at church an opportunity was given to get saved, to accept Jesus into your heart so you could be forgiven of your sins. God so loved me that he sent his Son to give his life for me. Forgiveness was available if I accepted Jesus into my heart. I did this and became a Christian. Thus...

Definition One = A Christian was someone who has personally accepted Jesus Christ, who has found forgiveness through his death, and who is now on their way to heaven when they die.

From the age of 10 through until about 17 or 18 (both Scot and I) were very involved in our local church Children’s Church and Youth Group, (and loved every minute of it, I ended up staying in Youth till I was about 26 as a Youth Leader and Youth Pastor). Here I learnt all about bible reading (morning and night / Bible in a Year), memory verses, praying (even if only for 5 minutes and then stretching it to 6 minutes and then 10, 15, 20, and so on. I think an hour was the goal), witnessing and evangelizing, church attendance and service (we were at church or church meetings between 3 and 7 times a week). Being a Christian was doing all of these things. And of course being a Christian was also not doing a whole lot of other things. Drinking, smoking, having sex, playing sport on Sunday etc. (for Scot, a different generation, he also includes not dancing and not going to the movies). Thus...

Definition Two = A Christian is someone who reads their bible, prays, witnesses, attends church lot’s and doesn’t drink, smoke, have sex, play sport on Sunday (dance or go to the movies). You could call these personal private practices of piety.

A Christian was defined by a single moment of acceptance or repentance and then a whole lot of do’s and do not’s.

I won’t go on to steal all of Scot’s material but wanted to wet your appetite in regards to One.Life; perhaps being a book you should read. I will keep going a bit longer though.

Next Scot writes...

Every time the single-moment act of accepting Christ becomes the goal instead of the portal, we get superficial Christians. And every time personal practices of piety wiggle away from the big picture Jesus sketches for his followers it becomes legalism. And I became a legalist.

He then goes on to talk about a revolutionary process and journey of transformation he went through in regards to his thinking and understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Which he outlines in this book One.Life; Jesus Calls, We Follow. My journey doesn’t quite track the same as Scot’s here but via the leading of the Holy Spirit in a different way my understanding of what it is to follow Jesus has been radically re-calibrated over the last 8 years or so. I just didn’t get it before.

What I understood about being a Christian was right; it just wasn’t right enough.

Definition Three = Read One.Life it will help you understand more clearly what it is to be a follower of Jesus.

In One.Life Scot (to quote the back page) calls you beyond the flatlands of religiosity toward a kingdom vision that will shape everything you do.

“After reading One.Life I made a silent covenant with God to read everything Scot writes from this day forward.” – Bill Hybels

I’m looking forward to using this book and many of its thoughts and concepts as a part of our discipleship process at St Luke’s.

Thanks Scot!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quotes

Four quotes that are ringing around in my head at the moment...

"It's not about disembodied escapism but rather participatory physicality." - Rob Bell

"Rather than admiring you, a good sermon leaves people examining themselves." - Moyer Hubbard (my edit)

"If you want to build a ship, don't summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs and organise the work; teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean." - Antoine de Saint-Exuprey

"Ubuntu - a person is a person through other persons." - African wisdom proverb

For different reasons each quote has me doing somersaults on the inside!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Christchurch / Earthquake / Fasting

The disaster that has recently befallen Christchurch is a genuine tragedy with so many lives lost and so many lives turned upside down. Literally, but also metaphorically, people are shaken, upset, anxious and worried, with any sense of peace they may have had in life evaporated. As a Christ follower my firm conviction is that God is there and can be found in the midst of the storm. Many (I know I have, and perhaps you have) will have experienced something of the divine stirring their hearts in the last 24 hours. We have all been reminded of the gift as well as the frailty of life, the importance and significance of others, both loved ones and complete strangers. What really matters in life is rearranged and realigned as we watch images of the grieving, the broken, and the displaced, and discover that so much of what we do is in pursuit of the temporal and the insignificant. We are reminded of how blessed we are to live in a nation where aid, support, encouragement, rescue and concern is so freely given and available. For those of us who have not lost a loved one, our home, our livelihood, or access to the everyday necessities of life we are thankful. For those that have our hearts and prayers are extended to you.




One of the ways that Christians for centuries have responded to the stirring of God in their hearts is to fast. When we sense his knocking, sometimes the most appropriate way to open ones heart to God and to allow the Holy Spirit to speak and work in our lives is to fast. By choosing to go without we acknowledge that we do not simply depend on food for life, but rather our dependence is on our Creator. By choosing to go without when we do not have to, in some small way we identify with and stand in solidarity with those who at the moment do not have a choice.

If you have felt God stirring your heart in some way or another as a result of the travesty in Christchurch in the last 24 hours my encouragement would be to join me in fasting tomorrow. As we fast our thoughts and prayers will be with those whose lives were yesterday changed forever. As we go hungry we are reminded of the hungry. That which we would normally have spent on food could be donated to Redcross or some other aid agency or organisation working in Christchurch. In a small way, even though we cannot be in Christchurch we can be with Christchurch. God is in Christchurch. God’s heart is for the hurting, the lost, and the broken in Christchurch.

Join me in responding to God’s stirring of our hearts in the midst of tragedy and fast tomorrow; 24/02/2011.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

St Luke's Website

Posts have been in short supply in the last week or so. Mainly that is because I've been working exclusively on our church website and getting all the content sorted for that. Check it out. www.stlukeschurch.org.nz

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cricket World Cup 2011

2011 will an exciting year of sport. Along with the NRL which is outstanding every year, we've also got both the cricket and the rugby world cups. I'm really looking forward to both.

In regards to the cricket world cup my New Zealand 11 would line up as follows...

Martin Guptil
Jessie Ryder
Ross Taylor
Kane Williamson
Scott Styris
James Franklin
Brendon McCullum
Daniel Vettori (c)
Nathan McCullum
Kyle Mills
Tim Southee

Forget statistics for selecting the team. New Zealand cricket will never amount to anything based on statistics. Team is based on passion / power / potential. With this line up we bat through to 8 but even 9, 10 and 11 know how to hit the ball. Bowling lacks the quick and really Adam Milne should be there instead of Mills. Forget experience here; it’s worth having one player who can hit the 140km plus mark. Oh well. The reality is as Twenty20 cricket proves; pace isn’t everything in limited over cricket. In fact taking all the pace off the ball seems to be the way to go. No place for How or Oram in this line up. How’s just not quite there. Oram is past it, sorry to say.



Keys in the world cup...

Fielding - will be to field with 100% commitment 100% of the time. Stop as many boundaries as possible with full commitment in the outfield, restrict the quick singles in close, pouncing on everything and threatening with run outs by hitting the stumps again and again. Catching is going to need to be sublime. See Sinclair for sublime!

Bowling – our slow bowlers are going to be key in building pressure. Vettori will and obviously has to lead the way. N McCullum, Styris and Guptill/Williamson at times need to be on fire and need to bowl smart. It would be nice to see Ryder roll the arm over every now and then as well. We’re going to need to mix things up. Open with McCullum on occasion. Don’t let batters get settled and bowl smart. No the opposition and set fields accordingly. Smart slow bowling will be the key though. Of course Franklin, Southee, Mills need to back up as well.

Batting – There is a lot of potential here. All our batters have fired before we just need a few of them to fire all at once. The key will be to read what’s happening in the game and ignore at times the proposed line up. Bring B McCullum in early if required. Hold Taylor back if the openers have set a solid platform and let Williamson or Styris craft it around. Over all the batters are going to have to bat aggressively. This is risky but I think it’s where we could find an edge. Ryder, Taylor, B McCullum and even Guptill have the ability to really go for it; go for it is what they are going to have to do.

My prediction - We’ll make the quarter finals as we always do. Then, as long as we don’t get India we’ll make it through to the semis, this will be a big upset! Here though we’ll go down. Most likely to India.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Contemporary

Taking contemporary to mean relevant, meaningful, and in tune with the rhythms, pace and heartbeat of today’s postmodern culture, then contemporary would be another great word to describe that which we are looking to do at St Luke’s. We see the process of re-embracing aspects of the churches ancient traditions and fusing them more modern practices as ultimately something that will resonate afresh in today’s cultural melee.   We’re all for podcasts and prayer candles, data projectors and the didache, iPads as well as 'I pray', forwards thinking as well as ancient remembering. We’ve not allocated this idea particular space as a value or expression to be documented but rather take the need to be contemporary as common sense. Perhaps in a postmodern world though, common sense just doesn’t look like it might always have looked.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Traditional

Traditional is another term that we have chosen to describe an aspect of the style of church we feel God is leading us to develop at St Luke’s. By traditional we mean the intentional embracing of various elements of a more traditional church’s liturgy (form or arrangement of public worship). At times this will mean an awareness and celebration of the Christian Calendar or Christian Seasons, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter etc, allowing these seasons to influence aspects of our own church gatherings and the communal life of our church. On occasion we will use set readings and prayers in our Sunday gatherings such as found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. In no way do we feel bound to any of these traditions but rather think there is something beautiful expressed and experienced in them and look forward to fusing the ancient with the contemporary. Our gatherings will always be full of life and the passionate celebration of the resurrected Jesus. We look forward to this passionate celebration being both, boisterous and noisy, as well as reflective and peaceful.      


Pictured is an Advent Wreath. It is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles and often, a fifth, white candle in the centre. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Some Advent wreaths include a fifth, "Christ" candle which can be lit at Christmas. The custom is observed both in family settings and at public church services and of course can either be meaningless or full of meaning depending on how practiced in the home or in a public service. Ancient practices such as an Advent Wreath leading into Christmas have the potential though to help reshape one's thinking and attitude towards Christmas, highlighting the true reason for the season when accompanied by the set readings and reflections. A potentially wonderful practice for those both old and young!