Monday, July 28, 2014

How the Gospel Changes our Relationships

I'm leading a Breakout Session at a Student Conference this evening and wanted to make the outline available here:

How the Gospel Changes Relationships - Handout
  1. Relationships
    1. What is a relationship?

    1. What influences do we allow to shape/inform/instruct how we handle relationships?

    1. So, what does the Gospel do to our relationships?
  1. What is the Gospel

  1. How/Why does the Gospel change anything?

  1. What does the Gospel change about our relationships?
    1. Other people are always more important than you are
      1. Philippians 2:3-4
      2. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
    2. Church Relationships become a Priority
      1. Hebrews 10:24-25, Galatians 6:10 (Eph 2:19, 1 Tim. 3:15),
      2. 1 Corinthians 13
    3. Neighbor Redefined
      1. Luke 10:25-37
    4. With whom do you pursue friendship?
      1. Luke 14:12-14
    5. Submission to Authority
      1. Pastors: Hebrews 13:17, Parents: Eph. 6:1, School and Work: Colossians 3:22-24
    6. Genuine Happiness for the Joy of Others
      1. Romans 12:15
    7. Position of Forgiveness
      1. Ephesians 4:32
      2. Matthew 18:21-22
    8. Position of Service
      1. Mark 10:43-45
    9. Pursue Purity and Devotion in Relationships
      1. 1 Peter 4:1-5
      2. 1 Corinthians 7:7-8; 32-35

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Far Is the East From the West?

Psalm 103:12, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” This is a glorious statement of God’s grace toward us; beautifully summarizing the gospel. God placed our sins on Christ so that, in our place, he could bear the wrath we deserved. Psalm 103:12 paints a word picture to help us understand what that means. But, what exactly is Psalm 103 saying? What’s the word picture being painted? Pastors explain this imagery most often by contrasting east/west to north/south. The north/south distance limits the distance sin could be from us. If you travel far enough north, you will eventually end up going south when you make the turn at the north pole and start heading back down the other side of the globe. We can measure that. On the other hand, if you travel west then you just keep going to the west and you’ll never start traveling east. Eastward travel and Westward travel continue without end. So, they make their point: there is an infinite distance between east and west. God chose east/west instead of north/south, they say, to show that he put the greatest distance possible between you and your sin. Of course, technically speaking, if you go far enough east you actually end up where you started. Which could also mean our sins eventually come back to bite us. In other words, if we’re going to make our point based on the spherical shape of the earth giving an advantage to east/west over north/south for the distance of our sins - then we also have to accept the “what goes around, comes around” reality as well. Therefore, the fact that moving around the globe eastward is an infinite distance compared to moving north, probably isn't the point of the text. So, then why east/west and not north/south? What is the point? The Old Testament, and the Pentateuch in particular, often uses movement eastward to symbolize movement away from God’s presence and/or people. When Adam and Eve sin in the Garden, God sends them eastward (Gen. 3). After Cain kills Abel he “went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16). When the people decide to rebel against God and make a tower to show how great they are, they migrated to the east (Genesis 11:2). When Lot separates from Abraham, the blessed one, he chooses the land of the east - away from God’s chosen man (Gen. 13:11). Finally, when Abraham sends the sons of his concubines away from his promised son, Isaac, he sends them to the east country (Gen. 25:6). So, if movement east represents movement away from God and separation from his people, then perhaps that’s the imagery of Psalm 103:12. Maybe the point is not the infinite distance between them, but the biblical imagery of being removed from God’s people and the land of promise. He removes our sin from us, just as he removed sinners from his promised land, to purify us. The illustration is not as convenient and takes a little more work, but it uses biblical imagery that seems more fitting.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On Baptizing Aliens


Earlier this week Pope Francis argued the church should display grace and be more open to baptizing all who come seeking after it, regardless of their parents' practices, for example.  While I disagree with the way the Catholic church practices baptism (and a lot of other things!), I would certainly applaud the driving point the Pope is making - the church should be open to receiving all who come desiring to place their faith in Christ.

But, I would certainly want to limit what I mean by all to all . . . humans.  To illustrate his openness, the Pope said he would reach beyond humanity and extend baptism to green martians, "green men, with a long nose and big ears, like children draw,"  and "If tomorrow, for example, an expedition of Martians arrives and some of them come to us ... and if one of them says: 'Me, I want to be baptised!', what would happen? . . . Who are we to close doors?”

I understand the Pope was simply illustrating his point and not laying down church doctrine for ET.  I can only imagine a Green Lantern or Jedi style meeting of cardinals from a plethora of human-like species.  After all, Yoda would look ridiculous in a mitre.

An illustration though it may have been, it misses the whole point of what God did when he sent Jesus to become a man and take on human flesh. Hebrews 2:14-18 makes clear that he "had to be made like his brothers in every respect."  Jesus didn't take on humanoid flesh - which could potentially include anything with two legs, two arms, opposable thumbs, and the ability to fly a spacecraft.  No, he took on human flesh.  The same humanity that Genesis 1:27 tells us was created in the image of God.

So, to answer the Pope's question, "Who are we to close the doors?"  We're Christians, who have been given the truth of God's Word and have an obligation to order our practices by it.  We don't get to make it up as we go long so that we sound more compassionate.

So, just to be clear, aliens can visit our church anytime.  They can come to potluck and we'll fellowship with them if they want to hang out.  But, the Bible doesn't allow us to offer them salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  And, therefore, we can't baptize them either.  Plus, remember what happened when they spilled water on Gizmo - I mean, you never know!

Praise God that Jesus took on human flesh that we might have life.  That's more precious than you or I can ever imagine!

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:13-17 ESV)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Apology from Beeke About Rap Panel

I really had no intention of continuing to post about this issue, but because I have, I thought it appropriate to include the recent apology from one of the panelists:

Monday, December 02, 2013

Al Mohler Reflects on the Question of Reformed Rap

Yesterday I posted some thoughts on the recent panel discussion concerning reformed rap.

Al Mohler provides his excellent insights here.  The last paragraph is golden:

Bach’s English Suite No. 3 in G Minor is playing as I write this. It makes me happy to hear it. But knowing that the Gospel is being taken to the ears and hearts of new generation by a cadre of gifted young Gospel rappers makes me far happier.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Can Christian Rap Honor God?

And we wonder why our churches are as segregated as they are on Sundays . . . This video literally made me feel like I had been punched in the gut.  It made me angry (and I don't even listen to Reformed Rap).

The Worship of God Q&A: Holy Hip-Hop from NCFIC on Vimeo.

This reminds me of the missions movement when they thought making a tribe "christian" meant making them dress like Europeans.  The reasoning of this panel basically sounds like this to me, "We don't like Christian reformed rap because everyone who raps is egotistical, we can't understand the words, and it doesn't sound like our Christian tradition."

Though I know it is a serious charge, these men sound a lot like the Pharisees to me; holding up their tradition as the only way to approach God.  While I'm certain these men genuinely want God to be glorified in the church, I have to wonder what they would do on the mission field.  How would they handle music among brand new believers in a previously unreached tribe.  Would they force Western styles on that tribe, or would they find ways for that tribe to express praise to God in their own ancient musical styles?  I'm not sure how they would answer that question, but my guess is that they would glory in that tribe's particular cultural expression and not force another style on them.  So, why treat this particular American cultural expression any differently?

I'm struggling to find an answer to that question? The only answer I can come up with is that they are guilty of some form of American cultural elitism where they believe their expression is the only legitimate American Christian expression.  Now, I don't think they wear that reasoning on their sleeves, but it must be hidden somewhere in their heart for these arguments to find such expression.

The church will remain a place of segregation until we agree that God loves and embraces cultural diversity and, therefore, diversity of musical expression also.

Justin Taylor has a great round up of some other responses on his blog.