The red words of the Sermon on the Mount pose an incredible challenge, don’t they? Platitudes or a way of life for followers of Jesus? Read the article here. With the high regard for scripture that exists in the missional church, the Sermon on the Mount demands that we be counter cultural since nearly every verse runs in opposition to the modern world into which we’ve been sent. Though we use many cultural accoutrements to reach our community, eventually we are confronted by the One that we follow with demands that cannot be softened by candles, video, or louder praise music.
The river/stream/creek/rivulet has provided writers with a grand source of metaphor for centuries. It flows from the mystery of its source, passing out of our sight to vanish into the sands or to empty itself anonymously into a larger body of life. When hymnists borrowed the phrase from Isaiah they brought to the celebration a beautiful metaphor for the peace that humanity can enjoy through the Spirit. Peace does not inhabit a man or woman in whole all at once, but it flows from its divine source to wash over day to day life, constantly refreshing the soul with a never ending supply of tranquility. Our mission is to remember that we were not meant to be the basin into which the river of peace empties; it is meant to flow through and over us into the larger basin of the world carrying our contribution to others in desperate need of peace. Can your peace nourish someone today?
Peace is most often thought of as the absence of conflict and the Bible includes this definition. When peace is referred to as a fruit of the spirit though, it has a different connotation. Here it references a lack of internal axiety which is replaced by a state of tranquility amidst the external chaos of the world. The red letters say it best in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” As we live in the middle of madness (to steal an old Earthquake song) the source of our calm is our connection to the Peacemaker. Can you help another know this same peace today?
My sermon today was on Peace, as we talk in our celebration gatherings about the fruit of the spirit. My text was from Philippians 4 but it dawned on me at about 22 minutes in that what I should have been talking about was the Beatitude in Matthew 5:9 where the red letters say Blessed are the peacemakers. I wondered on the way home what I had done this past week to contribute to someone else’s peace. Had my fruit been ready for harvest? Was I willing to give someone else the benefit of my fruit in order for them to gain a measure of tranquility or did I hoard it all for myself? My prayer for this week will be for my eyes to be opened to opportunities in peacemaking. How about you?
C. Peter Wagner has a rather controversial proposal for ridding the world of the unscriptural office of theologian in the Jan/Feb issue of Ministry Today (excerpt here). His argument is twofold: one, the office is not listed in the Ephesians 4:11 leadership list and two, declaring the position of theologian risks the further division of laity and leadership. While the article uses vignettes mainly drawn from his experience in academia, Wagner is not shy about calling for the Church as a whole to do away with this unecessary oracle/interpreter.
This would be fine if all members of the body were to devote themselves fully to the division of the Word, having a full understanding of the development and backgrounds of competing schools of interpretation and doctrine, but it seems unlikely. The pastor and teacher office are the most likely to take up the theologian mantle when the first stone flies but then, doesn’t this make them theologians? I’m not quite ready to give up the wisdom and research of those who have devoted themselves to the study of the intricacies of God’s Word as I would prefer to convert their work into application which can serve my congregation and our community.
I wonder if the monergism/synergism debate even needs to occur. In the long run, who really cares except those who engage for fun or profit in the theological underpinnings of the Christian faith? Pastors, professors, and prognosticators have a vested interest in taking a position on one theological system or the other but the effect on the young man who will sit in the front row this Sunday morning is what I’m most concerned about. Does he care? Should he care?
Paul writes twice in his letter to the Philippians on the profitability of putting aside theological debate for the good of the Church. In 1:15 – 18 he muses about his imprisoned state and the free ability of others to preach Christ for their own personal gain. With sincerity in view, Paul raises his shackled arms wide and says, who cares who preaches the gospel, so long as it gets preached. The motivation behind the act is dismissed as long as Christ gets the glory.
In 3:15 – 16 Paul moves the debate from the terrestrial to the heavenly by saying that theological discourse will eventually be resolved by God himself. Can we, in our ‘free will’, release the grace debate to God to be sorted out? If we place Christ and His Church above our need to self-identify the result might be an additional skip in our step as we labor in our portion of the Missio Dei. Just thinking…
Today concludes the week of prayer for unity in the church. Few state the need for an undivided body more eloquently than Paul who writes “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism: one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:1-6)
Our prayers should reflect on the One we reflect and the image that want to display as His church.
Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are putting their energies, not into strife torn state of the world, but into organizing Baptists against the enemy at home, the evil, judgmental fundamentalist. Mark Tooley posts over at FrontPage magazine (here) about the upcoming congress of the ‘New Baptist Covenant’. The ex-presidents hope to bifurcate the Southern Baptist Convention, organizing members whose politics lean left away from the fundamentalist doctrines into a new body with a Social Gospel agenda.
Curtis Laws first put the word fundamentalist into the lexicon as an appelation describing someone who stood in support of the historic doctrines of the church while arrows were being shot at these beliefs by more liberal movements within the Church. In other words, the fundamentalist stood tall against the erosion of doctrine by the creeping encroachment of secularism and one who did not believe in an ‘evolving’ gospel. Today, this steadfast honoring of God’s inerrant word is known as judgementalism.
Historic fundamentalists will take literally the word of the Lord in Matthew 25:31-46 and the mission that it informs. They will not need political committees or lobbying efforts to simply bring water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the unclothed, and companionship to those imprisoned. The ‘judgmental’ fundamentalist will do this for those people that they might find it difficult to love but they will do it because the inerrant word of God tells them to do so. Dividing the church further will do nothing but start a new round of judgmental name calling that further tarnishes the image of the Savior and the Church He loves.
The church at Corinth was reminded that the worship celebration was not just a forum for the Elder or Pastor to hold court, but it was to be a time in which all in the community were to bring their gifts to share for the benefit of all members. The writer says “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” (1 Cor 14:26) Offering people community in which their gifts are recognized, valued, and utilized is a far more authentic incarnation of ‘The Church’ than inviting them to a performance in which there is an orchestra pit between the performers and the audience.
How does the Pastor of this community then view their role as the Equipper?