Tag Archives: Scripture

Ephesians: A Gospel Mystery

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. –Ephesians 3:6

ephesians

I was reading this morning in the book of Ephesians, and something stood out to me that I’ve never noticed before.

Paul was a single man, and Paul really, really appreciates marriage. And our churches need to notice constantly both of these things.

For the longest time we’ve mis-read Paul. We’ve thought that Paul was trying to get all the churches that he planted to think that the Jewish law was a bad thing. We got this idea from Martin Luther, that the Law was a burden that was given to break the Israelites into realizing that they can’t keep all of those rules.

But that’s not true at all.

Remember that God gave the Israelites the Torah after He gave them Himself. They had just come out of centuries of slavery in Egypt, and they don’t know how to live. You don’t want to just drop off a bunch of slaves into a foreign country and let them figure out how to live on their own. That’s how we got Australia.

See Paul is a good Jewish Rabbi who knows that the law was a gift from God, so why does Paul talk so much about Jewish regulations in his letters? Because Paul is trying to create communities that transcend Jewish and Gentile labels.

He’s trying to create church.

See back in the day, one of the main indicators of a ruler’s power was His ability to create unity in diverse places. This was one of the ways that Caesar “proved” he was Lord. By being able to bring peace, or the Pax Ramona (Peace of Rome) to the world. But the way Rome brought peace was not by forcing unity at the end of a sword.

And Paul is trying to create unity at the foot of the cross.

A Unity Movement

This is what Paul’s ultimate ministry is about. Creating communities of people who have different backgrounds, genders, races, and perspectives but who all can come together to worship the God of Jesus.

And it’s interesting that Paul uses the word “Mystery” to describe this.

Go back and look at Ephesians 1:9, and then go read Paul unpack this idea in Ephesians 2:11-17. The whole goal is to reconcile very different people groups in the name of Jesus for the glory of God. And the way Paul has to do this, is by stripping these different clichés of their ways they used to separate and justify themselves.

See back in that day, people used to try to one-up each other. So people would come to church thinking that there was the “enlightened” and the “primitive-minded” or the “rich” and the “lazy” or the “poor” and the “greedy” or the “religious” and the “Spirit-Filled” or the “intelligent, thoughtful person” and the “charismatic” The single, the single again, and the married…the Jew and the Gentile.

I know it’s hard to imagine, but that was the kind of church Paul was addressing.

That’s the mystery. That somehow people could get over defining themselves over and against another group, and how they were better than someone else, and just define themselves as people who were united and loved by God.

So over and over again in Ephesians, Paul refers to this as a Mystery.

And then He gets to marriage.

And we love to focus on the part of Ephesians 5 that talks about power and submission. We’ve even created camps about who takes what position and how wrong “they” are and how right “we” are.

But that goes against the very spirit of the marriages that Paul is talking about, because it goes against the mystery of the Gospel.

Mega-Mysterion

In Ephesians 5, Paul actually calls marriage a profound mystery. In the Greek, he says this is a Mega-Mysterion. It’s something that is hard to explain, even harder to live, but easy to understand when you see it. the-sacrament-of-marriage

Because when a Christian marriage is on, when he’s giving himself fully to her, and she’s giving herself fully to him…they aren’t trying to define themselves as better than the other, or justify their own behavior, they are trying to, in spite all of their differences, reconcile together for the sake of the Gospel.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this time and time again. I’ve preached so many funerals where the husband or wife was saying goodbye to their spouse, and the whole church was moved. I’ve seen what can only be described as a tangible change in the atmosphere when the church gathers to mourn a spouse losing another spouse, and celebrate their faithfulness to one another. There is a holiness that is hard to put into words. It’s is a mystery.

Because there is something so powerful about a marriage that has gone the distance. But it’s more than some kind of Nicolas Sparks romance, according to Paul it is a glimpse of the Gospel.

In a marriage, we are forced to reconcile what previously had been separated.

And this is why I believe marriages in the American church matter for the single person, and the divorced person. Because marriages are a way God reminds his people of the kind of community He is creating. And in this community, you aren’t better than someone else because you aren’t divorced, and you aren’t better than someone else because you happened to get married. You are all being reconciled to the same God, and so we each have to make room for one another.

This is why Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians by saying this:

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.

What Paul is doing in his chains, he thinks Christian couples are doing in their marriages.

Paul, a single man, appreciates marriage as a symbol of the way to unify everyone. 

Divorced people, single people, married people, rich people, poor people, tall people and smart people. Now all people can come together because of the Gospel.

That’s the mystery

God at Work: Mission Work

Jesus at the officeA few months ago I had a friend ask me when I was going to be going on a mission trip again.  She had gone with us on several international mission trips, and had really come alive while serving in different parts in the world. And now years later she and her husband owned a restaurant in another state, and they missed missions. Their business was successful and thriving. She loved her job, but she felt guilty about serving chicken fried steak to customers but not orphans in another country.

Sometimes I hear people say something along the lines of “No one ever thinks on their death bed, I wish I would have spent more time at the office.” And I get what I think they’re trying to say with that. I think they are trying to say that there are unhealthy work-a-holic like patterns that we need to veer away from.

But I know a lot of people who are glad that they are doing what they do with their lives, and feel like their work is one very important reason why God put them on this earth. And they’re right.

 

The Myths of Retirement

 

In the world that the Bible was written it was extremely countercultural. Specifically, it’s view of work.

Most of the Creation stories of the ancient world involved this idea that the world was created from warfare and violence, and the body of a dead god decayed into the creation. So the Greeks viewed work as a curse, they thought that what it meant to be really alive was to be uninvolved in this world.

The Greek view of work was that it was a necessary evil. They believed that in the beginning, the gods and people lived together in “a golden age” and that in that age there was no work. Work was something to be suffered through. It was a means to an end.

But Genesis, starts off radically differently. It involves a God who intentionally works and creates the world with care. In fact, the word that Genesis uses for God’s creative word is just the Hebrew word for everyday work.

The Bible starts off with God working. And then he creates Adam and Eve and immediately puts them to work And that’s important, because before the fall, there was work. God didn’t finish creation, he started it and then joins in a partnership with them as they create culture, name animals and pioneer…well basically everything.

God works with them.

And in the Christian story, this all happens before sin entered the world.

It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t have this idea of retirement. Instead the Bible has the idea of Sabbath. That is you don’t just work yourself to death until you turn 65. You work with the pace of someone who knows they aren’t the Savior and creator of the world. You rest for a season and then work for a season. But you never just decide to not work again.

In fact, the closest thing in the Bible that would resemble what we call retirement is death.

Which tends to stop most people from working.

Tim Keller points out in his book, “Every Good Endeavor” that if you ask most people in nursing homes how they are doing, they will report that they miss having someway of feeling useful to others. They miss work.

Work as Mission

I like the way that Dorothy Sayers says this:

“The Christian understanding of work…is that work is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties…the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

I think this is extremely important. Because the majority of time we tell ourselves a story that has a subtext that our work doesn’t matter. But our work can be the very way we partner with God the most in our lives.

And that brings me back to my friend who owns the restaurant. She had brought up the idea of going on another mission trip because I was telling her about how we had just gotten back from Nepal. I was telling her about the great ministry of the Red Thread Movement and rescuing girls from sex slavery. And she immediately felt guilty for not doing enough good in the world.

And then, 5 minutes later in the conversation, her husband started talking about a girl that they had recently hired from Africa. She was a refugee who had to come to America for asylum after being rescued from a brothel. They had taken her in, trained her to cook and serve food, and now she was a full time employee at a place that gave her dignity at a job that she enjoyed and flourished in.

And they didn’t see the irony. Because they had the wrong definition of mission.

We’ve carved up the world into mission (something that happens out there) and work (something we have to do to survive). And that misses the heart of the story the Bible is telling. God made this world and he made us to work and contribute to the good of it. That’s a part of the mission of God.

So don’t feel guilty about enjoying your job. God made you for serving Him and serving others. And sometimes that’s breading chicken breast to feed your neighbor, And sometimes that involves working to deliver someone from a sex-trafficking ring in Africa. And sometimes it’s giving that girl a job.

It’s mission work.

God At Work #1: God is at Work

Jesus at the officeFirst a confession: Whenever someone hands me their business card with a Jesus fish on it, it doesn’t make me want to work with them. Actually it makes me more skeptical about the quality of their work.

And maybe I’m just being cynical but in my experience there is a correlation between those kinds of cards and less than ideal work.

But I don’t think that’s just a problem with Christian business people. It’s been a problem for churches for over a thousand years.

And it is a problem.

We’ve developed a system where a persons faith has nothing to say about where they will spend the majority of their lives. We’ve begun to believe that God is at church, but not really at work.

I’d like to start a blog series for the next few months about how our God views our work. And how God works through our work.

Did you know the first person the Bible talks about as filled with the Spirit was a guy named Bezalel, he’s not a priest or prophet. He was a skilled craftsman, the Bob Vila of the Bible.

We’ve had this idea for the past hundred years or so that the really Spiritual people are the ones who work at church (which I can see why we’d think that).

But the best way to tell whether or not we are doing our work for the Lord well, is by seeing if you are doing you’re work for the Lord well.

Somewhere along the way we bought into the idea that really Spiritual people work at the church, or at non-profits.  But the majority of Stories in Scripture aren’t about God working through the Levites, or priests. They’re about God working in accountants, or trumpet players, or carpenters.

For Example…

There’s a guy named Nehemiah in the Old Testament, and when we first meet Nehemiah he is in Exile.  But he’s doing okay, He’s the cupbearer for the King, which sounds like the easiest job ever.

But in reality he drinks the wine before the King does to make sure no one is gunning for the King’s job. And in the beginning of Nehemiah he is asking the King of Persia to let him go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.

And the King, who seems like a nice guy, but has way too many x’s in his name says yes. So the rest of the book of Nehemiah is about men building a wall. It’s some of the more boring chapters in the Bible, they’re just filled with these random names of guys who were just stacking bricks.

In fact, look at what the text actually says:

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

They worked with the help of God.

Now this work doesn’t seem that spiritual does it? It’s just ordinary guys, stacking ordinary bricks.

And if the Scriptures didn’t come out and say it, we might never know that God was in this story. Working behind the scenes in making ordinary jobs into extraordinary vocations.

Or what about Genesis 24?

It’s a story about Abraham’s kid Isaac, Abraham wants to find his kid a wife, and since they didn’t have Eharmony yet, he does the next best thing.  He sends his servant to find a bride for his son. Continue reading God At Work #1: God is at Work

Names #6: Changing Names

CT PreachingThis is the last post in this short series about names in the book of Genesis. I know that whole idea might sound strange, but it’s something I’ve been rolling around in my mind for a while, because I’m convinced that our names matter more than we think they do. I think our language to describe the world and ourselves matter a lot to God.

That why Genesis talks a lot about names. Because a name is a story, and if we don’t name well, we might not tell the story we are wanting to tell.

For example…

Did you ever wonder why God changes people’s names?  Does this strike anybody else as bizarre? And it happens all the time in the Bible, especially in Genesis. Like when God comes to Abram and Sarai, these people who’ve had their names for 70 years, and he’s like “Let’s add an H” in there.

Or what about Jacob? God comes to this guy who is one of the worst heroes in ancient literature (He’s kind of a jerk, he’s selfish and he’s always trying to get ahead) and God tells him that he’s going to change his name to Israel.

To which I would say, can’t we go with something that sounds more normal like…Gary or Robert?

But I’ll come back to this.

One of my very good preaching friends is a guy named Charlton. Charlton is a young preacher and one of the best ministers I know. He and his family are some dear friends of ours, and I trust him implicitly. A year and a half ago, Charlton was serving at a large church that we both care about, when he had a moral failure that hurt him, his family, and the church that he was serving.

It’s something that we all know we are very capable of, but Charlton had the misfortune of being a very public figure when his life imploded. Meet my friend Charlton:

My name is Charlton. I spent most of my life investing in, upgrading, and polishing my name. In high school, my efforts were awarded with the title, “Mr. Integrity.” I continued to build on my reputation in college with the “Mr. LCU” crown. A few years later, my alma mater invited me back for the cherry on top: the “Young Alumni Award.” The constant attention I paid to my name was paying off, so no one was surprised when I devoted my life to full-time ministry. I was the “type” of person you would expect to do ministry. I could hear them in my head, “Charlton is perfect for ministry!” I had worked hard to be.

As my years in ministry increased, people became more aware of the cracks in my name, so I worked harder to seal them – an exhausting and futile exercise. Eventually I gave up and let all the secret dark places of my heart rise to the surface. I made a series of sinful choices with a blast radius that affected hundreds of good people. The explosion left those closest to me emotionally dismembered. In that moment the “Charlton brand” went bankrupt.  All the effort, energy, time…meaningless. This launched me on a three-month journey to utter brokenness. I had shattered my life and was helpless to put the pieces back together. Continue reading Names #6: Changing Names

Names #5: The Towers We Build

In the 18th century, there was a Spanish philosopher named Miguel de Unamuno who came up with one of the best questions to illustrate the human condition. This was the question: If you had to choose between creating amazing works of art that would last forever and would make the world a better place, but you would remain anonymous; or you could become a famous, world renown artist and painter but your works would be totally forgotten. Which would you choose?

Insignificant fame or Anonymous blessing?

So this is a series on a small theme in the book of Genesis. Namely, that Genesis cares a lot about names. Apparently the Bible cares a lot about the language we use to describe the world and each other.

Last week I talked about how after the fall in Genesis, Adam and Eve try to find their own names, independent of God. But what happens when that stops just being a problem for a couple of people and starts to be the way the whole world operates?

Just eight chapters later, Genesis tells us about how the how the whole world was speaking the same language. And they all got together because they wanted to build a tower. Which actually sounds like a pretty good idea. I mean we build towers all the time. But Genesis is telling us something here. They are trying to exceed the limitations of being human. They are trying to be gods.

The real reason they wanted to build a tower was because they wanted to “make a name for themselves.” (The actual Hebrew here is Donald Trump).

Now think about this for a second. They aren’t actually concerned about the project they are building. Their real goal is to be important. Their real goal isn’t the tower, but to justify their existence.

And God doesn’t like that goal at all.

So God comes down, and confuses their language, in a little project called “Let’s Stop Talking” God takes back their ability to name each other…Not because God is cruel but because only God can make a name great.

But what’s fascinating about this story to me, is that just a few verses later, God is going to approach an elderly, barren couple and ask them to leave their home and family and scatter (the very thing that people of Babel were afraid of). And then God tells them this:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

The very thing that the people of Babel wanted, God was going to give Abraham and Sarah as an act of grace.

Most of the time when I hear people talking about the Tower of Babel, they are talking about whether it really happened or not. The truth is, the Tower of Babel is a story that happens all the time. Continue reading Names #5: The Towers We Build

Names #4: Curses and Poetry

So this is a short series about names in Genesis, and more specifically about why the Bible seems to make such a big deal about names and the language we use. It’s why names matter more than we think they do.

The other day I was talking with another preacher friend of mine, who is a minster in another state, and we were talking about church work and about the different ways that church volunteers serve.  And ultimately the conversation turned to how bad preachers are at getting people to volunteer. Not that we can’t get people to volunteer, that part is easy, but that preachers aren’t that good at getting people to volunteer in ways that help the volunteers just as much as the people they are serving.

The temptation of preachers, or bosses, or anyone who cares about a certain project is to use people. 

I’m going to let you in on a dirty little church leadership secret.  If you have pride…I can get you do almost anything. But it will almost never turn out well.

Let me explain:

One of the more interesting things about the book of Genesis is how it starts. If you’re familiar with the Bible at all, then you probably know that Genesis chapter 1 is the story of God creating the world. But what you might not know is that Genesis 1 is written as a poem. It’s got a rhythm, it’s got beat and a cadence.

Genesis 1 is about God doing the work of creation, but he does it with a song.

He makes the universe like he’s writing a poem.

And then the crescendo, the climax of this song is when he makes Adam and Eve. God passes on to them things that he doesn’t give the other parts of his creation, he asks them to name and create with him. In other words, he let’s them sing along.

Now if you are familiar with this story, you know that this doesn’t last long. Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden and they are given permission to do anything they want, the only prohibition God gives them is that they can’t eat from one tree. They can do anything, and remember they’re naked at this point, it’s like God is making it easy on them to think about other stuff. But they do the one thing we probably all would do, they disobey, they fail to trust God.

And this is the story that we’ve been living out ever since.

But what’s really interesting about this chapter, is that after Adam and Eve disobey God comes to them and curses them. But some of the Rabbi’s don’t refer to this section as curses, they say that God is now observing the way that reality has now changed. If you haven’t read this chapter recently go back and take a look. Because it’s pretty fascinating what God actually tells Eve and Adam.

To Eve, he tells her that her desire will be for her husband.  A few years ago, I had someone point out to me that this word desire is the same word we might translate as “lust.” Which changes that sentence I think. Because to lust is to want something out of someone that they can’t give you. And now Eve will want something from Adam that he isn’t able to give her.

This is the Rabbi’s point. Adam and Eve used to know who they were. They were, after all, actually named by God in just the previous chapter. In other words, He used to tell them who they were. They used to get their identity from the one who made them. But now that the relationship has been broken, they’re just naturally going to look somewhere else. And Eve is going to look to her relationships.

God isn’t cursing them…he’s just telling them where they are going to try and get their names. Continue reading Names #4: Curses and Poetry

Names #3: People of a Name

Have you ever noticed how ugly names can be? I’m not talking about bad names like Hubert or Lance, but more about the ugly ways that we use them. Names can unite people, but they can also divide us. So I belong to group of Christians who traditionally didn’t want to be named anything, we started off as non-denominational (non-named) Christians. The only problem with that is that we named it “Churches of Christ” and then pretended like it wasn’t a name at all.

Which is the theological equivalent of saying something like “Oh that’s my friend Steve, he doesn’t have a name.”

But “Churches of Christ” has been moving along as a non-denominational denomination for well over a hundred years. And we really like our name. If you ever doubt that, just go up to one of us and ask us to change the church sign.

But having a name isn’t a bad thing. Everything depends on what you do with it.

I have a friend who’s a few years older than me, and until a couple of years ago he and his wife led what most of us would consider a pretty normal American life. But that was before they met Heather. Heather was a teenage girl who had come from a very broken home, she had been coming to the church they attended for the past few months, and they started to get to know her…then she started staying with them…then she wanted to be their daughter.

Now my friends hadn’t planned on adopting, but they loved Heather, and so they gave her a ton of options other than full adoption. They told her she could keep staying with them until she went to college, they would be willing to become her legal guardians, and if she really wanted they would legally adopt her, but she could keep her last name, and she could still make a lot of her own decisions and remain relatively independent.

But, my friends made clear to her, if you want us to fully adopt you and give you our name, then it’s going to be an entirely different situation. We are going to expect a lot more of you than we would just some resident.  If we give you our name we are going to ask you to live a certain way. So no more abusing alcohol or drugs or dating boys we don’t approve of. Because if we give you our name it comes at a price.

And Heather said yes.

Even though she knew changing her life this much would be painful, she wanted more than a roof over her head. She wanted a name that meant something to her.

So this is a short series on why names matter. But more specifically it’s a series on why the book of Genesis talks so much about names. For the longest time I’ve wondered about why Genesis is so preoccupied with the idea of naming and names.

One of the things that is interesting about Genesis is that when Noah names his three sons, one of them is named Shem. Which is the Hebrew word for name. I have a friend named Jonathan who teaches Hebrew at a seminary in town, and since both of our parents really nailed it in the name department, I was asking Jonathan what he thought. Here’s what he said:

Family trees in the Bible are pretty boring. Kind of like graduation pictures—just a lot of faces, all in the same monochrome robes. Or like those names on the Vietnam Memorial. You know, boring.

Obviously, I’m writing this tongue in cheek. Graduation pictures are riveting—when we are in them. If we can seek out a name we know on the Vietnam Memorial, it can be the most meaningful experience ever. And even family trees fascinate us—as long as it’s my own family tree. Continue reading Names #3: People of a Name

Names #2: Don’t Think of an Elephant

So this is a short series on why names matter. but more specifically it’s a series on why the book of Genesis talks so much about names. Because one of the greatest gifts that God gives to humans is create with Him, and to name that creation.

I’ve noticed that it’s trendy among younger Christians to use language that older generations find offensive. And I get that. After all, every generation stretches the boundaries of language. Otherwise we would never hear the word pregnant on television, and “sucks” would still mean what my mom thinks it does. But I think it’s important to not forget that the Scripture is telling a story in which the language we use, the names we choose matter very much.

And here’s why:

I have a friend who had been married to his wife for a decade when he found out that she had cheated on him…a lot. He remembers the night that he found out that she had really never been faithful to him, in fact, he discovered there was a very good chance that their kids weren’t even his. And so my friend had a choice. He knew that the marriage was over, in a sense, it had never really existed. But he had to decide what to do with the children. He could probably walk away from any responsibility at all, or he could get DNA testing to find out which ones belonged to him biologically.

But he didn’t. Instead my friend went to court and fought for everyone of his kids without qualifiers. It cost him a small savings, but he did it. And later, when his kids found out that there was a chance that he wasn’t their biological father, they asked him why he fought so tirelessly for them. He told them, “Because I named you.”

Which is an interesting answer isn’t it?

It implies that there’s more to creating a kid than a sperm fertilizing an egg.

Naming a child has something to do with what kind of child you have created.

A couple of years ago, I heard a story on NPR about how the Social Services had noticed the most popular names for children right now are Jacob or Isabella or Edward. Which sound like great names, until you realize that they are all from the movie Twilight. So it’s a bit like the naming version of getting a Justin Bieber tattoo.

I think most of us name our kids after stories we like, stories that have affected us, that inspire us, but be careful how you name. Because some stories can’t bear the weight of the names. Some stories are just too trivial to become names. Continue reading Names #2: Don’t Think of an Elephant

The Grace of Truth

So I’ve been writing the past few weeks about the need that we have for Christians to be able to speak the hard words into each other’s lives. Next week will be my last post about this, but I’ve been thinking about this because I have a hunch that we’ve reacted so much to the idea of not judging each other, that we’ve used it as an excuse to really living in community with one another. We live in social circles and call it church.

So there’s a time in the book of James where he talks about how anyone who knows the truth and doesn’t act on it is like someone who looks in a mirror and sees what’s there and immediately forgets it. I like that idea.

Because just about everybody I know looks in the mirror everyday. And for some of us it’s more painful than others, but we do it, and we stand in front of that mirror as long as we have to before we go out into the world. And we do that, no matter how disturbing what we see in the reflection is, because what we are looking at is reality.

And reality, whether we like it or not, is our friend.

A few years ago, a young woman came into my office who I had known in passing. We talked for a few minutes, and then she just kind of blurted out that she had an eating disorder. She was anorexic, and was paranoid about gaining weight, to the point where she was slowly starving herself. And I was shocked. On the outside, this young woman seemed to be emotionally healthy and happy, she was very thin and pretty, had a great job and a healthy dating life. And so I asked her why this was such a concern for her. And she told me that she had always struggled with her weight.

I don’t know what led me to ask this question, but the next thing I found myself saying was, “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” And without a second of hesitation she replied, “I see a very fat person.” She couldn’t have weighed over 120 pounds soaking wet.

Sometimes mirrors lie.

And so I spent the next few minutes just talking to her about the lie that her mirror was telling her. I talked about having an identity in Jesus versus identifying with our appearances. And then I asked her about her friendships. I wanted to know if she had anybody in her life who she was very close enough with to share what she was struggling with, and who could speak some truth into her life.  She couldn’t imagine that, and then she went on to tell me that she didn’t plan on radically changing her behavior, or even the way she viewed herself, she just wanted to get it off her chest with her minister. And I think most of us know why she didn’t want to take this further.

Because some mirrors are more painful than others.

The book of James is probably the most practical book in the New Testament. James is trying to create a certain kind of church. And so James talks about judging each other with mercy, he talks about the power of the tongue, and how we should not use our mouth to put people down or gossip, he talks about how faith is something that leads to action, and how we shouldn’t treat people better or worst based on things like how much money is in their bank account. And then here’s how James’ ends his letter:

 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

That’s it. That’s how he ends it. He says that and then drops the mic and walks away.  Continue reading The Grace of Truth

A People of Maybe

Have you ever seen that show Intervention? It’s an incredibly heartbreaking show about people who have gotten caught up with an addiction that has completely taken over their lives. And so their friends and family all gather together and surprise them with an intervention asking them to get help. It’s gut-wrenching. These people who love this person beg and cry and plead for them to turn their lives around.

And the person almost always says no.

So there is this one time in 1st Corinthians, where Paul is writing a church that he had helped to plant, and Paul is having to address one of the earliest church scandals. The Corinthian church is situated right in the middle of the ancient world’s version of Las Vegas or Amsterdam. Which by the way, I think is really cool. Not even 30 years after Jesus Resurrection, there are churches sprouting up in some of the darkest parts of the world.

Now God wasn’t calling His people out of Sodom and Gomorrah, He was sending them into it.

But the problem that Paul is addressing isn’t the sin around the Corinthian Church, it was the sin inside of it. Specifically, there was this one guy who had recently started sleeping with his step-mother.  I know it all sounds so Jerry Springerish, but this is one of the earliest examples of a pastoral church case study we have. The Corinthians have this gnostic idea of Spirituality, and so they think that the flesh doesn’t matter, and that because they are so “spiritual” they are acting like nothing is wrong with whole incredibly dysfunctional situation. But Paul thinks otherwise. Look at what Paul says:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourningand have put out of your fellowship  the man who has been doing this?  For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.

 I’ve already passed judgment in the name of Jesus. 

Obviously Paul didn’t read Jesus. We like it when Paul talks about Love being patient and kind, but this just sounds so judgmental. And I think Paul would say to us,”Yeah, it kind of is being judgmental.” Continue reading A People of Maybe