Ancient Faith & Present Conflicts

I need to confess something: I sometimes listen in on other peoples conversations. I know its wrong, but I’m just curious when I hear certain private conversations taking place in public.
Right now I’m listen to two people speaking about faith and Christianity at a coffee shop in Pittsburgh. It is a guy who knows everything about Christianity and walked away talking with a woman who sounds like she is defending her faith to this guy.
Right now this young woman seems to be doing a really nice job defending her faith, against this guys straw-man-objections to legalistic Christianity.

3 Reasons why I’m encouraged in overhearing this conversation:

  1. God is already doing stuff is Lawrenceville.
  2. There are countless other Christians out there struggling and fighting for their faith.
  3. Nothing this guy is saying new (It’s the same stuff that Christians have wrestled against since Jesus ascended).

Contextualization and Ancestor Worship

Dr. Ed Stetzer put a great little video up on his blog and I wanted to share it as well. In this video Robert Young discusses the challenges of contextualization in the context of ancestor worship.

It’s funny that he points out that his Christian family has chosen to clean the graves and instead of offering  incense simply pray at the grave site, but notice that people misunderstood what they were doing.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t do anything until we know how people will respond to what we are doing?

Was The Apostle Paul A Sellout?


Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 says that when he was with Jews he acts more like them, and when he was around greeks he acted as if he was a Greek. The texts begs the question how should we interpret Paul’s actions in the chapter, and what motivation might we attribute to this very peculiar activity.

Some might ask was Paul simply going with the flow? Was he just giving into peer pressure? Furthermore, Did he leave an example of conformity for Christians after him.
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The Apostles and Technology (Part 2 of Tech & the PCA)

Building on what I wrote in my last post. I’ve decided to spend sometime looking at how the Apostles and the early church utilized technology. I will focus on three technologies: Roman ships. Roads that invention of the codex (book).

1. Roman Ships. With a simply glance at a bible map it is obvious that the expansion of the Gospel in the first few years of the church took place by means of sea transportation. The thing that is striking about the use of this technology is that it must have been apparent to the disciples that Christianity was being transported in a similar manor to other religious sects of the Roman world. In the Roman world, religions and philosophies of the day in large part moved around the empire from port to port, carried by passengers or crew on trading vessels. What this points to is the fact that the early church utilized methods that were very similar to the rest of the empire. It seems that when given the choice between appearing to be similar to other religious/philosophical movements OR the most effective expansion of the their message, the disciples choose the latter.

2. Roman Roads. Like the use of the employing ships for transportation, Roman roads allowed the Christians to quickly travel from city to city in the empire. While most people in the Presbyterian Church in America would agree that God expanded his church, “in the fullness of time” I wonder how many of them have realized that the Roman roads are not entirely unlike many modern technologies which folks in the PCA are not anxious to utilize. I can think of things such as email lists, the internet, and even social networking, which might be seen as similar to in their usefulness.

3. Letters & Books. Finally stepping a century in the future. The church was in fact a strong adopter of the earliest form the of book. Christians were able to transport, and therefore share larger amounts of information because of the more compact nature of books compared to the more clunky scroll. What this reveals is that the church decided to implement and even become an early adopter of a new technology for the advancement of Christianity.

Though I’ve included a few modern comparisons, I am not trying to argue that the PCA must use specific technologies. I am arguing that we should be considering how we can follow the example set before us in using every means possible to minster to as many people as possible.

Early Christians realize that the same roads and ships that they used, were used at other times, for sinful purposes. How could Paul not understand that the roads which he walked to share the gospel, were built to quickly move violent military units through out the empire, and yet he choose to redeem what was available to him.

Did they just say that in the New York Times?

Ok so though Ive known about the article for about a week, I just getting around to reading the article about the driscoll in the NYT. Im not sure
Here is one very interesting quote from the article:
Human beings are totally corrupted by original sin and predestined for heaven or hell, no matter their earthly conduct. We all deserve eternal damnation, but God, in his inscrutable mercy, has granted the grace of salvation to an elect few.

But I thought to myself–did they just say that in the New York Times?!?

The article makes me proud and a bit sad.

What conference should I go to?

The session at the City Reformed decided to give Matt and I each an opportunity to go to one conference this year.
Up until about a month ago I was planning on going to the Gospel Coalition conference.

Its held once every two years, and features pretty much every church guy that I would want to listen to speak.
I was planning on going with some other guys from the area.

Last week I got an email about the Multisite09 conference. Its a smaller and more focused conference, but I’ve heard that it is a great experience and place to network.

So this is my dilemma which conference should I go to? Anyone have any other suggestions?

A Philosophy Of Where To Live

Over the last month, my wife and I have been traveling between NY, West Virginia, and Indiana. Over these weeks we have been able to examine why people choose to live where they live.
As many of you know I am firmly committed to living in the city of Pittsburgh, and am always encouraging others to love the robo-city. As I have had to be away from the place I love I have had to ask myself why do I care so much about living in Pittsburgh? Why do I live in Pittsburgh, and why do people live anywhere?

At one point the idea of living in the city was seen by most people as a foolish thing to do. After all cities are dangerous, they are polluted and its harder to be a Christian. In recent years, this has begun to change. Gentrification has made it socially acceptable to dwell in cities. While men like Tim Keller, and others, have also encouraged Christians to see the strategic importance of Christians living in and loving cities.

To those who live in the suburbs this might come as a shock, but I have to admit when Christians who live in cities get together, they tend to bad mouth anyone who doesn’t share their passion of the urban context. There is perceived mutual enlightenment among those who live in the city. After all, we have the culture and the community that others wish they had, or should wish they had if they knew what was good for them. Folks in the suburbs might hear this and chuckle, while folks from the country might laugh at both groups and offer up their simple, one with nature life style, as a rebuttal.

Though I think Dr. Keller has many good reasons, why Christians should live in the city, I think the question that all Christians need to be asking themselves is why should I live anywhere? If you have realized your brokenness and sought redemption and reconciliation with God, than you will respond. All Christians are called to live differently, their are called to see their lives as more than simply the pursuit of comfort or safety. More than simply the accumulation of family and happiness. Too often Christians do not examine their own lifestyle choices. It is not enough to send money to missionaries who have been called to a far of place. Though not all people are called to live in some far off place, God calls all Christians to become missionaries, in a broader sense of the word.
All Christians must ask themselves where is God calling me to live?
Is God calling you to live near work so you can be home more often? Is he calling you to live in a smaller home rather than a larger one? Is he calling you to an at-risk neighborhood? Or to one of great affluence?
Let me offer up some simple principles that I have come to accept:
God wants you to love people. Pick a place where you can get to know people. Or find local ways to interact with people that you would not meet otherwise.

You should care more about God and people than about your house. Jack Miller rightly points out that most of us are too worried about scuffed furniture and wear and tear, and not worried enough about caring for people who live around them.

Your trust should be in God not in your choice of neighborhood. Christians need to go beyond buying the smallest house in the best neighborhood. People need to realize that every place is safe when you trust that Christ is on his throne, just consider the Chinese church. If you are worried about living in an “unsafe” place I would challenge you to consider how much you are truly trusting God.

Figure out how to live where God is calling you to live. People need to be loved and they need to learn of the love that died for their sake. People need this in places that are very expensive and, they need this in places that are very poor. This means that folks should choose to live in high priced neighborhoods, and others should chose to live in lower cost neighborhoods. Each brings risks and rewards.

Live where God is calling you not necessarily where you want to live. “Not my will but your will” ring a bell?

Some might look at where Jo and I live and say: you are less safe, or making less money on your investment. You could get more home for your money, in different area. Our answer is that as far as we can tell God has called us to live in Lawrenceville, and we plan to be their for better or worse until he calls us to move somewhere else.
I hope that all Christians will continue to ask themselves why did we move here? or where is God calling us to live?

He Has Risen Indeed?

I was talking to one of the elders at my church after our Easter service, and we were discussing the historic Easter greeting: He has risen. He has risen, indeed!
This elder and I were talking about how we use a phrase once a year, that many people might really understand. This elder said that he was talking to a middle-aged man in our congregation and greeted him by saying “He has risen.” The man responded by saying “Yes, he has!”, rather than the traditional “He is risen indeed!”

So here is my question is there ever a time when we have to drop “historic” phrases because they no longer are understandable within out current use of language? This has been something that I have been thinking about for a while, and “He has risen indeed” is just one example.

This is something that presbyterians have to worry about more than other traditions. Most Presbyterians hold to, or at least interact with, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and at its Shorter Catechism.

The clearest example of using a phrase that is simply catechism Question: “What is sin?” Answer: “Sin is any want of conformity, or transgression of the law of God.”

The catechism is not saying that it is a sin to desire to conform to the law of God, but that it is a sin lack of conformity to the law of God.

Getting back to my original point. Would there be a greeting that would communicate the resurrection of Christ, in a way that is more understandable to modern America people?

Do the Men of the Church look up to John Tesh or Mark Driscoll?

Is Mark Driscoll right?
Do men care about church?
Should men care about church?
Do we, as the church, target the audience before us which statistically is more female( I’ve heard 60%)?
Do we find ways to make sure that men know that Jesus was a man, the ultimate man, a man, that every girl should want to marry, and every guy should want to be?
Are Driscoll and his buddies right when they say that the church has preached an effeminate Jesus?
Is Mark right when he says: “Jesus did not have Elton John or the Spice girls on his iPod, The View on his Tivo, or a lemon-yellow Volkswagen beetle in his garage. No Jesus was not the kind of person, who, if walking by you on the street, would require you to look for an Adam’s apple to determine the gender.”
Is Anthony Bradley correct in stating the church’s inability to fulfill the mission of God when he says: “Pastor Teletubby, offering a pink-dressed Jesus, is not capable of leading a church into the gloriously dangerous sufferings of Gospel-driven local mission advancing the Kingdom of God ‘wherever the curse is found.’”?
A few years ago, Driscoll had some trouble on the Out of Ur blog over at christianitytoday.com. So I decided to see if the blog was still running. When I loaded the site it apeared to be fully operational, and guess who I saw at the top of the site? None other than John Tesh. Yes, your heard me right John Tesh. At the top of the site was a banner add for John Tesh’s Blog. No Joke. Here is the actual banner that was on the site?
Teshblog

As guy I have to say that just seeing John Tesh at the top of the site made me think: “These guys have nothing to say to me.” And I’m a Christian! I would bet that most people would be much more comfortable with John Tesh running their church than they would be with Mark Driscoll.

Mark is offensive, he is sometimes a bit imprecise but he is right when it comes to men. As a man I can confirm that men need to be told to step up; to stop pounding six packs of IC Light and playing Halo 3, while they surf for porn, and starting living like all of life is under the good reign of King Jesus, and that one day he is going to return and check our time cards.

“The Key to church growth is kick a guy in the middle as hard as you can.” – Mark Driscoll, from Preaching the Mission.

The Battery Life of Christian Cultural Influence Cont.

After about a month of not finishing this article I finally took some time to sit down and complete my thoughts on this issue.

The percentage of “churched” Americans has continued to rise over the last 100 years. Yet at the same time there is a sense that especially since the 1960′s there has been a dramatic change in the cultural influence the church has in American society. How are we to take these two seemingly contradictory notions.

Here is what I think might be happening in the last 50 or more years.
the evangelical church in general came into existence of of the fighting over modernism vs fundamentalism. The American Evangelical church can be seen as a fighting church, it fought to maintain the infallibility of Scripture, what some would call the battle for the Bible. Christians no matter what their denomination, theology, or church practices, were in agreement when it came to defending the authority of the Scripture. In reality, American Evangelicals, had won the biggest fight in their time, they had defended the reliability of the Bible. Once that battle had been fought, the church maintain a mentality of fighting. I think it is fair to say that the church lost its focus. This proper ecumenicism among different branches of the vine began to fade.

Many churches turned their focus from defending the core of their faith, to lamenting the changing face of American Spirituality. Rather than prophetically speaking into a culture that was rejecting even the notion of a knowable God, many churches decided circled the wagons and began to attack certain cultural trends that bothered their established membership. So the church lamented–over Longer hair and beards, guitars in worship, the lost of Hymns for choruses, the use of technology, and many other issues that should not have taken up their focus. Churches that forbid their members from dancing, were more faithful than those who didn’t. Churches that introduced guitars were more obedient to the great commission than those who still used the piano. The churches that I grew up observing were divided along style choices, that claimed to be based on major doctrinal significance. We have splintered, we have spent our energy fighting each other and fighting against every minor cultural taste.

The church has spent much of its resources on peripheral issues. We now find ourselves running on the cultural fumes of yester-year. Put another way, we have been yelling about secondary issues for so long, that we are finding it difficult to speak to more crucial issues because our prophetic voice has become hoarse.

Christians need to reorient their ways of thinking. We must repent of any, and all cultural corruptions, either from the modern or post-modern, the right or the left, the red or the blue. We must shake off all the cultural baggage that has hindered our fulfillment of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Most Christians have accepted that their flavor of Christianity is the one true faithful flavor left, and we must call on the Spirit to remove out pride.

We must use the resources that the Lord has entrusted to us with, to Love the Lord Our God with all our heart soul mind and strength, to Love our neighbor as ourselves, and to help every other brother and sister do the same. All with confidence that Grace will extend to more and more people, with the result being more thanksgiving all to the Glory God.