My Life in Posts

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If you were ever on Google+ you got an email recently announcing they are shutting down their platform. Back when it was implemented both Twitter and Facebook had been around for a number of years. Google wanted to be all things to all people and jumped into the social media market. They had a snazzy app that I loved but a small community. It stalled and never grew up to be the force that Twitter and Facebook is today.

I went to my profile today and perused my timeline. The last time I posted to Google+ was August 1, 2016. The first time was July 29, 2011.
It was interesting to see the progression of my life during that time. I posted about workouts, diets, movies, and vacations. I also posted links to my writings that no longer exist in the blogshpere.

I found it fascinating to see the subjects that I wrote about and what interested me. Many of my first posts involve apologetics with titles like, “My Gut Feeling: God is Out There,” and “The Euthyprho Dialog.” Later I wrote about the ministries that I was involved in like Abide, a 20s and 30s group I was pastoring in my church. Also, First Mission, a mission organization that I had started in 2012, one that I recently retired.

Around about 2014 I started to write more about peace and mercy ministries. I started to search out how a follower of Jesus seeks out to live his life according to his teachings. The titles of some were, “What About Self-defense?” and “The Dogs on the Border.”

Looking at my life in these posts I see a progression regarding my thoughts and beliefs through these years. People change, they grow up, and my posts attest to my maturing in life and theology. My 38 year old self is not the same person as the 28 year old I was.

Now, add to this the diverse individuals that are around you in your community. Many of whom you’ve known for years. Are they the same people when you first met? Or did they also grow, mature, and change. It makes you rethink keeping grudges and holding on to resentment.

Knowing people change, knowing we are diverse, and knowing we all are different in many ways, we can approach people with a little more grace, and little more mercy, a little more forgiveness.

Schisms in the Church

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Schisms are nothing new to the church. There have been many throughout history. Most Protestants know of the Reformation where Luther posted his 95 thesis to the doors of the local church. But, what most people don’t know is most schisms throughout history have largely been a political schism and not a doctrinal schism.

The Great Schism of 1054 is often sited to be about the filioque, a Latin term that was added to the Nicene Creed. It describes the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father AND the Son, instead of just the Father. The church in the East disagreed with the church in

the West. Though this is one issue among many. The real issue was authority and control.

In 1054 Pope Leo IX declared that all spiritual authority and rightful head of the church is the pope in Rome. The Eastern church did not take to kindly to such decrees. The pope died shortly there after, but, he had sent his emissary Humbert of Silva Candida to negotiate with the Eastern church. But in the end the Patriarch Michael Caerularius was excommunicated by the pope’s emissary to the East. In turn the Patriarch excommunicated the pope’s associates! He rejected the claim of the papal primacy. This is when the church split between East and West.

It also didn’t help the West sacked Constantinople, the center of the Eastern church, in 1204. The Eastern church became known as the Orthodox Church and the Western the Catholic Church.

Fast forward to today and we see the same issue of politics disrupting church unity. On January 5, 2019 the Ukraine Orthodox Church gained its independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. Issues of politics, nationalism, power, and control, all played out and eventually led to the split of this great church.

I don’t know enough to say this is good or bad on the part of the Ukrainians or the Russians. I do know this is not the church that Jesus had called us to be.

The politics of this world are not the politics of Jesus Christ. The more we blur the two, the more we will be divided. The more we allow the politics to determine our practices, the less we will love our neighbor. We are to be IN the world, influencing it like leaven in bread. We are not to be OF the world having it influencing our practices and faith.

The church in the US will do well to learn this lesson.

New Translation of the Old Testament – How to Read the OT

I highlight some of my favorite passages of  John Goldingay’s new translation of the Old Testament called The First Testament.

Also, I discus a recent article in Relevant Magazine where Andy Stanley says,

“Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Article: https://relevantmagazine.com/god/why-do-christians-want-to-post-the-10-commandments-and-not-the-sermon-on-the-mount/

Prepare for Persecution?

By Artist unknown

“ Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” Jn 15:20. (ESV)

Is the American Church ready for persecution? Some people scoff at the idea Christians will see persecution. Some say persecution will never come. We have the Constitution to protect us. There is no way our rights can be violated.

Recent history has shown us the gap that is between this world’s religion and our own faith, Christianity. Several cases have come up that have pitted Christian faith against the laws of this land. And many times the cases have gone through the courts siding on the side of the law and special interest groups against the religious freedom of the defenders. It wasn’t until the case went to the Supreme Court did we see some respite.

The Gospel Coalition has an article that comes out of Australia. The events there are not dissimilar to our own. Campbell Markham argues, in light of certain people losing their jobs over their faith and their beliefs regarding marriage, the church needs to prepare itself for more persecution. He is calling all churches in Australia to prepare their people for persecution. I’d suggest you read the whole article. It paints a picture not only of the grim reality we live in but also of the glory of keeping the faith even during trials and persecution.

I expect, within the remainder of my lifetime, that Christians will be legally restricted in their ability to speak out and live out their faith in the public sphere. ~ Campbell Markham pastors Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Hobart.

Even though Markham is speaking to Australia specifically, I think he speaks to all the Church in the West. We’ve not seen the persecution that the Church has endured in its history. The promise of Jesus is we will see persecution. We in the West have been blessed not to see what our forefathers witnessed and endured.

Will this blessing turn into a curse? Will we bend to the will of our state, our tormentors, when they demand we turn away from our faith, the teaching of our Lord? Will we endure losing our jobs for our faith? Our homes? Our church buildings?

The Second Greatest Commandment

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Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29–31 (ESV)

Every follower of Jesus knows these two commandments. They are the foundation of the whole life in Jesus. But what happens when the second commandment gets in the way of the first?

What I mean is what do you do when loving your neighbor would mean not loving God?

In this world we are told to tell someone their sins will keep them out of the kingdom of God is unloving and uncaring. Especially when they love their sin or even identify themselves with their sin. We are branded as hateful and bigots. Therefore, they say we should accept them for who they are, what they do, and that only God can judge them.

But our love for God must come first. Being the “greatest” commandment supersedes all other commands. We must love God first before we can begin to love our neighbors.

In loving God we come to find we are called to warn our neighbors of the coming judgment fo God. He will judge the living and the dead by Jesus Christ who was sinless. Those that continue to practice sin with unrepentance will not be part of the kingdom of God. They will find themselves outside the city walls separated from God and his protection.

Really the most loving thing we can do is warn people of their sin and its consequences. The most hateful thing we can do to our neighbors is not warning them of sin and judgment. To keep quiet is hateful, bigoted, and selfish.

We cannot truly begin to love our neighbors until we have come to love God and his Word.