Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Would Not Have Been Possible Without A Father

Every year around Christmas time I always like to think about the story of Joseph. He was the father and husband of integrity and godliness. The Scripture in Matthew chapter 1 says that Joseph was a "just" man and that's why he didn't want to put Mary to public disgrace after she was found to be pregnant outside of marriage. The very interesting thing about the Mosaic law is that when a woman is found to be guilty of adultery she should be stoned. However, the Bible says he was a "just" man. That is interesting that they call him a just man when the law of Moses clearly stated that a woman found in adultery should be stoned. It seems like the scripture should have called him an unjust man for going against the Mosaic law, however it's quite the contrary, the Bible calls him just for going against the law.
And why does the Bible call him a just man for taking such an action. I'm sure it's because he saw people instead of law. Jesus said later, "I desire mercy not sacrifice." He saw the law of Moses in a godly and just way. It says further that he did not want to put her to public disgrace. Everyone would eventually understand she had been unfaithful to him. Her being unfaithful to him warranted some kind of action.

However his action was a just action. What was the justice in his action? It was not bringing her out into the public as an adulterer. His hope was to keep the situation quiet so that she would not ultimately die under the judgment of the community by Stoning. Here's what the Bible says about how Joseph handled the situation...

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
So then Joseph had a dream. He dreamt and had a vision. The Lord told him what to do in this situation. But before he dreamed, Matthew said he was "considering these things." A righteous and just man must consider and pray, and consider and pray, and be open to what the Lord is saying to him. And often as the Lord does when you consider and pray, and consider and pray, he appears to you. He speaks to you. He shows you what you're supposed to do. And God appeared through the angel in his dream and showed him what to do. The first thing the Angel of the Lord says is not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Now why would he be afraid to take Mary as his wife? The shame, being culturally ostracized, and of course having a son in your life that is forever called the "son of Mary." Which was saying in effect this boy of yours, who you've claimed as your son, is a bastard. The angel said to him, "do not be afraid" of this life that you will take up. Do not be afraid to call this child your own. Do not be afraid of what man will say to you. Fear God alone. God was saying, "this is my plan you can do this." But then the rubber met the road, and Joseph woke up from the dream what would he do?

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
Matthew 1:19-21, 24-25

It says when he woke up he did is the angel of the Lord commanded him. Righteous men do what God commands them to do. Righteous men obey, not because they're seeking the approval of God, but because they already have His approval. Jesus needed a righteous earthly father so that he could learn what it means to, as the Scripture says, "he learned obedience." Does that mean Jesus didn't obey at some point? No, he had to see example, he had to learn it through another living human, another man who also obeyed God consistently. Joseph was that man. Another opportunity we see Joseph is taking his family to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover. This was also an act of obedience to worship God through the Passover. 

We don't know much more about Joseph. The Scriptures is kind of silent after this point besides a few other mentions of him. Joseph consistently led his family in the way God asked him to lead his family. He obeyed God, and he was a just man who consistently did that. The Scriptures are relatively silent other than these few passages on Joseph the man and father. This is all we have about him and it is enough. If anyone ever wrote about me anywhere, and would describe me as a just and obedient man, father, friend, husband, colleague, son, and brother then that would be enough. It is enough for God to decide to make Joseph Jesus earthly father, and its more than enough for us as fathers and leaders of our families. So this Christmas ask God to make you a JUST and OBEDIENT Man! He will do it just He did for Joseph. Below is a song about Joseph written and performed by Michael Card. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 4, 2015

"Here I Stand I Can Do No Other, So Help Me God!"

Luther by most historical accounts said these famous words "Here I stand I can do no other, so help me God!" at his inquisition at the council of Worms. I am certainly no Martin Luther, however I would like to throw my hat in the ring in making a stand and stating a set of beliefs. I am even willing to stand and put my name to everything so here we go...

My name is Richard Moore and I believe in…

The Scriptures as the full, final, and authoritative word of God completely inerrant in the original transcription of them by faithful scribes from the original author’s, and the transcripts that we have in comparative analysis are proven to be inerrant.

I believe that God through Jesus Christ commanded the creation of the world in six literal days as described in detail throughout the Bible, but especially in the Genesis account. I believe that Jesus continues to sustain and hold all creation together by the power of His word (Col. 3).

I believe in a worldwide catastrophic Noahic flood in which God in his wrath destroyed the world.

I believe that the Law was given to Moses, by God on Mt. Sinai, after the Exodus of a Physical and Historic Israel from Egypt. They crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, also as described in the historic account of Exodus.

I believe that Israel occupied the Promised Land through the triumphs and conquests of Joshua. Through wonders and miracles God led His people from the wilderness into his land of Promise which He covenanted unto Abraham from long before.

I believe in the Historicity of the Old Testament from the time of the Judges on through the time of the Kings. I believe where Archeology, and other historical accounts do not confirm the Biblical account already, in time they will confirm, and with time literally unearth corroboration of the biblical accounts. Not that God’s word needs manmade systems of corroboration, but they in time will corroborate.

I believe that the prophets prophesied the word of God to Israel pre-exile and post-exile. Through the prophets God called his people back to the worship of YHWH.

I believe that Jesus the Messiah is revealed in the Gospels (but not limited to them). He was validated by miracles and wonders that God allowed Him to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. He died physically on a cross under Pontius Pilate, and was raised physically from the dead and ascended into Heaven from whence he will come to Judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the New Testament Church as described throughout the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles. I believe that John the Revelator had a true revelation of the end times, and the rider on the white horse who is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


I believe that Christians should act as with a Faith that was described in the New Testament. With passion, and Holiness. With power and authority we can, will and are able to bear witness to the Resurrected Christ. The Normal Christian life is a person who will know Him and make Him Known. The Normal Christian life is a wholehearted dedication to making the glory of God in the gospel known in the nations. Every other posture than a focus on the nations is wholly unbiblical and an attitude that needs to be repented of.

I believe that sin in every form will be punished in eternity apart from repentance and faith in Jesus. The deeds of wickedness will be punished in ‘Lake of Fire’ for all eternity, and faith in Christ will be forgiven in that Christ took on himself the wrath of God on the cross for all who have placed their faith in Jesus’ atoning.

I believe that Marriage was created by God in the Garden of Eden, where he made them “Male and Female.” Jesus confirms creation and marriage between one man and one woman until death separates them.  When Jesus speaks of marriage as from the beginning, He is referring to the physical, and historical Adam and Eve united by God in marriage in the Garden. From His exegesis of the Creation account in scriptures we can be sure that God has from Adam and Eve sanctioned marriage between one man and one woman until death separates them.

I believe that all perversions of sex outside of that Created order of marriage are sin (Homosexuality, Bi-sexuality, fornication, adultery, pornography, etc.). God calls us to repent of these sins as he does all other sins, and find faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of these and all other sins as the Bible clearly describes (Hebrews 13:1-5; John 8:7-11; Romans 1:26-28; Jude 1:5-8; 1Timothy 1:8-11; Mark 10:6-9; 1Cor 7:2; Romans 13:8-10; 1Cor 6:9-11; Levitcus 18:22; 1 Cor 6:17-20 Leviticus 20:13; Genesis 19).

Thus I believe that man is no more born a homosexual than he is born a fornicator, or adulterer, or idolater. So in that sense we are all born into sin and we chose to disobey God’s law and thus have chosen to turn our backs away from Him and decided to walk in sin. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 describes a time yet to come when the Lord Jesus will take all our sin not because we deserved it, but the LORD in His mercy “laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.”

I believe in Miracles. We see them throughout scripture, I believe in scientific miracles (Sun standing still, ax head floating, turning five loaves of bread and two fish into food for 5,000 people, the dead rising, etc.). I believe in spiritual miracles (Darkened hearts turning to Christ, salvation as an act of God). I believe in the supernatural wherein the heavenly forces are embattled for the glory of God, and the salvation of souls.

I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform hearts from darkness to light. I believe that God has the power to save, to heal, to break every chain of bondage to sin, and free hearts to worship and obey Christ.

I believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. I believe that an eternal soul begins at conception. "The only newly originating life in the universe that comes in the image of God is man. The only newly originating life in the universe that lasts forever is man." (John Piper)

I believe therefore that Abortion is the taking of innocent life, and should be opposed in every form. Not just should it be opposed, but also Jesus loving people should offer justice ministries that help women make the just decision to keep, adopt, or in any other way deliver their babies to term. Christians should fight for life in all stages, because all men are made in the Image of God, and are therefore image bearers. I believe any manmade interruption of life in any stage would be the destroying of “God’s fearful and reverent needlework (Psalm 139:13).”

I adhere to and believe in the Apostles Creed which reads...

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

I also believe in the Nicene Creed…

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the begotten of God the Father, the Only-begotten, that is of the essence of the Father.
God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten and not made; of the very same nature of the Father, by Whom all things came into being, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.
Who for us humanity and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate, was made human, was born perfectly of the holy virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.
By whom He took body, soul, and mind, and everything that is in man, truly and not in semblance.
He suffered, was crucified, was buried, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven with the same body, [and] sat at the right hand of the Father.
He is to come with the same body and with the glory of the Father, to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there is no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, in the uncreated and the perfect; Who spoke through the Law, prophets, and Gospels; Who came down upon the Jordan, preached through the apostles, and lived in the saints.
We believe also in only One, Universal, Apostolic, and [Holy] Church; in one baptism in repentance, for the remission, and forgiveness of sins; and in the resurrection of the dead, in the everlasting judgement of souls and bodies, and the Kingdom of Heaven and in the everlasting life.

It is also really cool Auf Deutsch…

Wir glauben an den einen Gott,
den Vater,
den Allmächtigen,
der alles geschaffen hat,
Himmel und Erde,
die sichtbare und die unsichtbare Welt.
Und an den einen Herrn Jesus Christus,
Gottes eingeborenen Sohn,
aus dem Vater geboren vor aller Zeit:
Gott von Gott,
Licht vom Licht,
wahrer Gott vom wahren Gott,
gezeugt, nicht geschaffen,
eines Wesens mit dem Vater;
durch ihn ist alles geschaffen.
Für uns Menschen und zu unserm Heil ist er vom Himmel gekommen,
hat Fleisch angenommen durch den Heiligen Geist
von der Jungfrau Maria und ist Mensch geworden.
Er wurde für uns gekreuzigt unter Pontius Pilatus,
hat gelitten und ist begraben worden,
ist am dritten Tage auferstanden nach der Schrift
und aufgefahren in den Himmel.
Er sitzt zur Rechten des Vaters
und wird wiederkommen in Herrlichkeit,
zu richten die Lebenden und die Toten;
seiner Herrschaft wird kein Ende sein.
Wir glauben an den Heiligen Geist,
der Herr ist und lebendig macht,
der aus dem Vater und dem Sohn hervorgeht,
der mit dem Vater und dem Sohn angebetet und verherrlicht wird,
der gesprochen hat durch die Propheten,
und die eine, heilige, christliche und apostolische Kirche.
Wir bekennen die eine Taufe zur Vergebung der Sünden.
Wir erwarten die Auferstehung der Toten
und das Leben der kommenden Welt.

I believe these statements are not just mental ascent, but rather a deeply held heart acknowledgement. I believe that these statements as I have explained, develop and clarify a high view of a sovereign and holy God. I also further believe that any other more liberal or truth denying statements diminish the power of God and if said views exist in a person they should seek the Holy Spirit to change their hearts to believe in a high, sovereign, powerfully creative, and sustaining God. For instance what kind of God is not even able to create a world without the need for an evolutionary process to “get it right”. As the great Dutch reformer Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

I do also believe in the Moravian Creed in which I will seek “Unity in Essentials, Liberty in Non-essentials, and in all things seek Charity.” These things as I have stated them are not what I would call “essentials”, however I do believe that a growing view of God will end up in many of these beliefs.

I believe that you don’t have to be a non-intellectual to adhere to these views as I have explained them. One can hold to a high level of scholarship, and hold these views. There is plenty of evidence, historical, scientific, literary, archeological, theological, biblical and many other fields of study to support these views. Many of these views have been long held Christian positions until recently. For instance views on six-day creationism, and emerging “generous” theology. Views on sexuality have also mutated into dangerous places as seen in the rise of Neo-Orthodoxy. One of the main reasons that these theologies giving generous ground is dangerous is when we say that people are born “gay”. If people are born gay, then we will excuse the sin of Homosexuality. In the message of the gospel God calls man to repent of sin to receive forgiveness. If there is no repentance, then there will be no forgiveness. So when we give too much ground in our seeking a generous orthodoxy we could actually be excusing people’s sin into a Christ-less eternity. So if you are drawn to any of these views as I have explained them, please know three things. First, they are not un-scholarly. Secondly, they will grow your high view of God, and thirdly, they will see people delivered from sin, and salvation will be a result. Do not take the cowardly route in excusing sin, take the route of Jesus, and the Apostles, who said, “repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” God bless you as you seek to work through your own beliefs.

As an addendum to this statement of belief I have been working on a Theoligical Statement for the mission organization that I work for. Here is what I have come up with. I am proud of it, and we are continuing to refine it to reflect the broad Evangelical spectrum of our mission community. I hope this puts words to your faith and belief.

Scriptural Authority (added to above: “1. Authority”): We believe that the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, are the fully inspired Word of God and is the only perfect authority and guide for Christian faith, doctrine and practice. We believe that the Scriptures in its entirety originated with God, was inerrant in its original form, and that it was delivered through God's inspiration by chosen men. The Scriptures are the unique, full and final authority on all matters of faith and practice, and there are no other writings similarly inspired by God.  Hermeneutics and Exegesis are the methodologies we employ to interpret the Scriptural texts. In so doing we hope to be faithful to the original authors intended meaning, and find applications for our everyday lives. Furthermore, we hope to engage differing Hermeneutical processes with humility and reverence.

Jesus Christ (added to above: “6. Christocentric”): We believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Second Person of the Trinity who was united forever with a true human nature by miraculous conception and virgin birth. He lived a life of perfect obedience to His Father. He voluntarily atoned for the sins of those who would believe and receive Him, by dying on the cross as our substitute. Thus He accomplished salvation for all who trust in Him alone. He rose from the dead in the same body, although in a glorified state.  He ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, where He, the only Mediator between God and man, continually makes intercession for His own. He shall come again to earth, personally and visibly, to consummate history and the eternal plan of God. We believe in the everlasting, authoritative, and sovereign reign of Christ over all creation as Lord. We echo the cry of the Missional Movement which is, “Jesus is Lord.”

The Gospel (added to above: “2. Gospel”): We believe in the gospel as God’s Good News extended to man in His grace. We believe that all men are in need of the saving grace of God as extended in the gospel, and thus we seek to plant the gospel in every context in which we plant Missional communities. The gospel is not limited to penal substitutionary atonement (Imputed guilt laid on Christ for all sinners who repent), but that is the beginning and foundation for expressing the plenary good news of the gospel. We will build Good News cultures that are searching to find and apply the truly good that stems from the gospel, and extend it to all peoples and cultures.

The Church (added to above: “5. Church”): We believe in one true universal Church (Ekklesia), comprised of all those who follow and have believed in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. The Bible shows us that believers should regularly unite for worship, prayer, fellowship, encouragement from the Scriptures, the observance of baptism and communion, mutual ministry through the development of spiritual gifts, and living incarnationally with each other in the world. When God's people meet regularly, there where they meet, the local expression of the Church exists. We will seek to plant the church through Missional work in all its various forms, and new expressions that the Lord, and Scripture will allow.

The Trinity: We believe that God is a triune, holy, eternally existent God. He has revealed Himself in three co-equal and co-eternal Persons the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The trinity consists of three distinct persons, yet are one in substance, essence, or nature. We believe that the Trinitarian relationship is essential to the Missional way, in that God is a relational being, and thus the message of the gospel should also be relational in nature.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Theology Established in Genesis 1-11 Gives Us Confidence in its Authenticity

Biblical themes established in Genesis 1-11

Have you ever felt like you could not trust the accuracy of the Bible? Have people said to you that the Bible is a book of "fables", or not historically accurate? Have even some of your Christian friends made you doubt more specifically the authenticity of Genesis 1-11? I want to help you in your ability to trust the Theological roots of the Genesis 1-11 account. There are far smarter people than I who can debate the scientific stuff, but what I want you to know is that you do not have to check your theological brain at the door either if you hold to a historically accurate Genesis 1-11.

What I will aim to do in this post is give you plenty of good theological foundations in which we can beleive the historical authenticity of Genesis 1-11 because of their linkage to almost every theological and biblical theme that I can think of, and of course many of those that I cannot think of. First I would like to point out one of those maybe more obvious ones. Marriage is a Biblical theme that is established in Genesis 1-11. Jesus also reiterates that theme, "Have you not heard, He made them male and female." Sabbath is another theme that is established in the Creation account and repeated by Jesus. Jesus is also called our sabbath rest. Other themes that are established are, Original sin, Christ's sustaining creative power (Repeated in Colossians 3 and Hebrews 1), Coming redemption (as seen in the curse after Adam's sin). Also seen in the curse with pain through childbirth, Family order (paternal spiritual leadership), and that the woman sinned first, Which is repeated in Timothy. Jesus in Hebrews is established as our sabbath rest, and if Gen 1-11 is poetic, and not with a literal seventh day of rest from Creation, then there is no O.T. or N.T. basis for a literal sabbath either. However there must be a literal sabbath in which we were meant to rest, so that Jesus could fulfill that rest in which we need not work anymore to please a Holy God.

There is a new and rising field of study called Theology of Work. This Theology of Work is also established when Adam is given the task pre-fall of naming animals, and post-fall we will work "by the sweat of our brow." On a sadder note, sin digs its roots deep into the heart of the first brothers as seen in Cain and Abel directly followed by the first murder. Other more scientific things are established in which God establishes seasons as first seen in the aftermath of the Noahic flood. on those same lines The Noahic Covenant is established in which God promises to never again send another worldwide flood. Right after the flood we have the Noahic genealogies, which are the basis of all other genealogies. If we don't have those genealogies as authentic living people, then we do not have a flesh and blood Messiah in Jesus either.
In other areas of Genesis 1-11 we have languages and cultures emerging (Anthropology). We see clearly the establishing of language and culture at the Tower of Babel and the confusion and origin of languages. These things cannot be just overlooked as unimportant insignificant "fables". They are the establishing of Anthropological grounds and why we have confused languages to this day. Either they happened or we cannot trust the historical accuracy of the whole of Scripture. I chose to trust the Authenticity of these "fables" or "Mythologies" as some have labeled them.

Here is a short list of some of the many theologies that are established in Genesis 1-11...

  • The Trinity: ("let us make man in our own image")
  • Theology (proper): in the character of God (as creative, loving, and just God)
  • Christology: Pre-existent Christ creator of all things (Colossians 3, Hebrews 1) as seen in the prophecy concerning the serpent and how Christ would die
  • Pneumatology: (study of the Holy Spirit) as seen in the Spirit of God hovering over the waters, and his part within the Godhead. 
  • Soteriology: (study of salvation) as seen in God enacting and beginning the salvific history in which the serpent would "strike his heel and he will crush your head", or more easily put, Why did Jesus need to die on a cross?
  • Harmartiology: (study of sin) as seen in what is called "original sin". If there is no Adam or original sin there is no Harmartiology. Why is there sin in the world?
  • Prolegomena: has God revealed himself in creation and the signs in the universe or not? If he did not create, then how does he have the power to reveal himself in nature?
  • Anthropology: does man have a fallen sinful nature as described in Gen 1-11 or not? And was man created in the image of a holy eternal perfect uncreated God?
  • Missiology: let us make man in our own image, this is God's way of making himself known and it is the beginnings of the Misseo Dei!
  • Ecclesiology: *
  • Eschatology: *
  • Angelology: *

*except for these three fields of theology, every other systematic is either established, began or addressed in a foundational way in Gen 1-11. I am not aware of if these other three might be hinted at in places, established, or otherwise in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. All these areas of theology are addressed, or at least begin to be addressed through foreshadowing. So be confident you stand on steady, unshakable, and historical Theological ground. You also stand on practical ground in believing in the historical accuracy of the beginning of Genesis.

Here are a few practical questions that can be answered from the first 11 chapters of Genesis too...
  • Why do we have a seven day week?
  • Why is there death?
  • Why do we need a new heaven and a new earth if this old earth is not fallen?
  • Why do we wear clothes?
  • What is the foundational history of the whole rest of the Bible and theology?
Here is a good way to look at the historicity of the whole bible in seven different movements.

  1. Creation (Genesis 1-11)
  2. Corruption (Genesis 1-11)
  3. Catastrophe (Genesis 1-11)
  4. Confusion (Genesis 1-11)
  5. Christ (N.T.)
  6. Cross (N.T.)
  7. Consumption (N.T.)
Can the gospel be true if the historical foundations of it in Genesis are not or cannot be trusted as historically accurate? Or for that matter, can we trust any other miraculous thing in the entire Bible also as historically accurate? If we cannot trust the miraculous, then we cannot and don't believe the core elements of the gospel (i.e. The resurrection of Christ from the dead, and our resurrection from the dead). My question is why do we want to explain away Genesis as not authentic, but not the rest of the supernatural elements of the Bible? Because we cannot explain the "cataclysmic supernatural" events in their pages? It is true that you do have to believe in the miraculous to believe that the Bible is accurate? There are supernatural events in almost every chapter of the Bible. Most are smaller than the "cataclysmic supernatural" events in Genesis, But supernatural nonetheless. We can and must trust them, because the gospel, and everything Jesus taught is in their pages. With these few thoughts I hope and pray you can trust at least in the theological and historical authenticity of Genesis 1-11. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Is Pastoral Restoration Biblical? The Ashley Madison Controversy Exposes Deeper Issues

Pastoral restoration? 
With all the moral failures in ministry lately what's a path to restoration? To my knowledge, The Bible doesn't lay out a path for "pastoral restoration" per se. I could be corrected, but all the things I have read on pastoral restoration use biblical passages on general Christian restoration. Let me propose that is because we have made the pastoral ministry something it was not meant to be. Have you ever heard the phrase "called to the pastoral ministry". That is kind of a misnomer because the role of pastor/overseer/elder are filled by particular spiritual gifts, not this huge hierarchical position that we have turned it into. That is why the the scripture only lays out qualifications for those who practice their pastoral gifts. If a man falls into a "sexual sin" he is just no longer qualified because he is not "above reproach" anymore. 

Let me ask you a question to clarify. If a person with the gift of evangelism is caught in an adulterous relationship, does that disqualify them from the spiritual gift of evangelism? No, of course not they have just fallen into sin and need to be restored, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
(Galatians 6:1-2 ESV)

Or put another way. What if another with the spiritual gift of helps and hospitality has been found to have abused their hospitality, and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a guest? Are they disqualified from the spiritual gift of hospitality? No they still have the spiritual gift they just need to be restored in a "spirit of gentleness."
I believe that the problem is that we have elevated the "ministry" to a place where I believe the New Testament did not mean it to be elevated to. The New Testament writers talk about the pastoral giftings as "one among many" gifts that are equal to any other gift in the body. So, in our current structure, when a pastor falls into sin it is more egregious than a when a person with the gift of hospitality falls into an inappropriate sexual relationship. 

Also the modern pastor has more visibility than in the past. With the rise of the of the Internet with sermons online, and other organizations like the Gospel Coalition, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Acts 29, and pastoral conferences with thousands in attendance, and other such church planting and ministry training organizations, there has been this unbiblical and unhealthy move toward superstar attractional ministry leaders. You can probably name your favorite pastor. Where do you know them from? Probably online. I am as guilty in supporting this as any other. How often have I watched a sermon from a talking head superstar pastor? How often have I read their books? How often have I visited their church or personal websites? This feeds the system. However, the New Testament had a completely different style of pastoral leadership. It was a bottom up, one of many, servant leadership type of shepherding ministry that was happy to be unknown outside of the congregation of which they were shepherds. 

They (i.e. The Apostles) didn't train for years and years in seminaries separated from the local body they had come from. Only to return later to another Church that they had no previous contact to. Being devoid of any real practical experience besides a one year practicum/internship, in which they got to preach one time on a Sunday where almost the whole church was away on vacation. See my point? We have to radically rethink the pastoral ministry. 

Besides all this. If the spiritual gifts are spread out in the congregation relatively equally, how many with the pastoral gifting would there be in a typical church. Probably in a church of 200 there might be up to 10% that's about 20 or so. What are those men doing with their pastoral gifting? Probably sitting on their hands because the lead pastor has his "Kung-Fu grip" on the reigns of leadership. They probably aren't even aware they have a pastoral gifting. I bring this up because if there were 20 pastors of a church it would protect the church when one of the pastors fell. The church could carry on and the church would be able to "restore such a one with gentleness" without everything collapsing. But as is the current leadership structure, there is one pastor who has full and final authority. Elder and Deacon boards do nothing in practicality. Actually they do something, everything the pastor tells them to do. This must change!

Let me be clear, I do not believe that a pastor caught in a extra-marital affair should just be kept in ministry after forgiving him. Or worse yet, one week later hired somewhere else. What I am saying is that the whole system is unbalanced, and lends to a unbalanced pastoral ministry. We need a practical pastoral reformation, kind of like the great theologies that were was won for us in the first reformation (i.e. "the priesthood of all believers."). That Priesthood of all believers needs not just to be believed, but practiced in our current congregations. In other words "every member a minister." 

The current Ashley Madison controversy exposes many problems and we are all going to talk about the sexual aspects and what is wrong with pastors. We definitely need to bring those secrets out so that the Church can deal with it, and seek to be a righteous and pure bride once again. But I want to challenge us to think in Biblical paradigms, and not to leave the current hierarchical pastoral position untouched. 

Pastor, please do not continue to usurp authority, but rather give it away. What I mean is in areas that the Bible does not prescribe for you to have authority over, please give your authority to other gifted men who are there already in your congregations. Train others to take your job and take your place. Its kind of like working yourself out of a job. In the end you and your church will be stronger and more protected as a result. Ultimately God is in control of His Church, and He will see that it is transformed from the top to bottom. Let us with renewed vigour make Jesus Lord, and ask our congregations to practice the priesthood of all believers along with us who are spiritually gifted as pastors, so that the body can be whole from the bottom on up. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Death of the Church; Moving out of the Comfortable Cathedral


Whether you realize it or not the Church, and by that I mean the traditional, established, religious institution of the Church is dying a slow and unusual death. By almost every statistical analysis of the European, and by some measures the American Church context, the Church is in a state of slow painful deteriorating death. We (The LEAP Network) have received new statistics recently from the Church of England that by the year 2067[1] there will essentially be no Anglican Church anymore, meaning zero, nill, nada. In other words, let the last one out the door turns off the lights, kind of situation. Now it is hard to imagine the Anglican Church in a state of atrophy, disintegration, and degeneration. It is maybe even harder for the Church in England and greater Europe to think of itself as completely nonexistent. The Church in Germany the Lutheran Evangelical Church stands in the same situation. By the year 2025 the Landeskirche will not be able to pay the pensions of their current pastors[2]. I paint a grim and somber picture because most of you need to wake up or be shaken out of your indifference to the reality that we are in trouble! The first step is to admit that we have a problem.  But from that first step, I want to take a little different approach, and ask a different more long lasting question of the future.
Is it a bad thing that the (traditional) Church as it exists today dies? Let me be clear before you start throwing stones, or light the fire of heresy underneath me. I BELIEVE IN THE CHURCH!!! I have a high and conservative Ecclesiology, probably more conservative than most. Even among my colleagues, and many of the cohort my age think I am too conservative theologically. But let me suggest something that actually comes from a strong and high view of Christ and the Church. I want to suggest to you that it is not a bad thing that the Church as it exists today, by that I mean the hierarchical, institutional, structural church that we currently have would die. If we understand Ecclesiology correctly, we understand that the Church is a living organism. We get that from all the references to the Church as a body and living organism in the NT, and as a living organism goes through life cycles, so also the Church. As we look at Historical Ecclesiology we can gather that this has happened to The Church through the ages. A Church dies in one place to be birthed in another place, and so on and so forth until our current time.
Let’s take the very first Church for instance in Jerusalem.  They were in danger of not obeying the last command that the Lord had given them. He told them “And you will be my witnesses starting in Jerusalem, in Judea, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” And what did they do? They stayed in Jerusalem, and so Acts 8:1 happened I believe from God to gently pushed them out of the nest. If we look at current church planting and church growth models, we could surmise that the Church in Jerusalem was a complete failure[3].  In Acts 8:1 we read that a great persecution arose after Paul started persecuting the Church in Jerusalem. The people were scattered into Judea, and Samaria, and further as we read in the rest of the book of Acts. Was this God’s will? Absolutely. As they went into these regions, and the rest of the known world at the time, they took the seeds of the gospel, and the Church was planted “as they went”. As the Great Commission commands, they went. The Church was spread, died, spread, died, and spread, and still spreads unto the uttermost to this day in that same vein.


What we have done is broken down the Church to the institution, the place, the building, the Pastors, the historic building in one place or in this or that city.  The New Testament believers had no such concepts. The Church was to them the people of the master, underway with Him in His great commission to make disciples of all nations.  They were tempted early on to stay in their
“Comfortable Cathedrals” in Jerusalem, but God allowed a persecution to disperse them so that the gospel could cross over the first cultural threshold (Acts 8:1). I was involved in a church somehow a little like the model I am describing. We were a young and impetuous church. We were so impetuous that we believed that God wanted to work in the then very young postmodern person. We even called ourselves Tommy’s Interactive Church after the great Apostle Thomas who was so well known for His doubts. It is funny how Thomas so negatively known for His doubts, Foxes Book of Martyrs attributes Him with making His way all the way to India as its first Missionary,
Thomas called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.”[4]
We believed at Tommy’s that doubts were good if expressed to Christ, because as Jesus did with Thomas, He will reveal himself to, us in our doubts, and dispel them quickly with His resurrection power. Tommy’s was a great success in my eyes, and for the time that I was there and involved, very exciting. However, it lasted only a short time. I would say that all in all, it lasted from first meeting to last meeting, only 20 years. I am however ok with that, because Tommy’s didn’t die. It served its purpose, the purpose that Jesus had for that time and place, and Jesus spread the people out into other movements, and Church plants. As the people went underway with God, they spawned new work on their way. For example, I went away from Tommy’s to California for 8 years to be a youth pastor. When I came back for one year to Columbia, and got involved in a church plant, there where many people from Tommy’s who had been involved in this new Church from day one.  This is how God continues to move, and will continue to move in History in an organic, biological, living way. The New Testament describes the Ekklesia of God as a living, familial, corporeal, body. We have however described it as,

"The business corporation. (Where) The pastor is the CEO, the clergy and/or staff is upper management. Evangelism is sales and marketing. The congregation is the clientele. And there is competition with other corporations ("churches") in the same town."[5]

Mars Hill In Seattle is also a prominent example of how the Lord uses difficult circumstances to advance and multiply through scattering the church through seemingly negative circumstances. Mars Hill was a church of multiple campuses, through hierarchical leadership structures, they almost overnight through the resignation of Mark Driscol, became eleven autonomous Churches with a local leadership structure, not a centralized business model.  God allowed things by his gracious hand to end in one way, so that the prevailing model of “Lording it over them”, which the Lord strictly forbade, was changed. This I do not see as a tragedy, or failure in Church growth, but rather a success story of the church. As the church grows larger it must also get smaller, and multiply. I imagine Jesus in his goodness allowed Mars Hill to play out like it did, so that their own credo “It’s all about Jesus” could shine through. I will say something prophetic that might upset some, but I do believe that these new church growth strategies that we are seeing especially those built around multiple campuses will crumble in the coming years, just as we are seeing the Anglican Church crumble. With that I do not see a negative outcome, but that of a church rising up that will be what Christ had in his heart from the beginning. It will be a decentralized, bottom up leadership, and pastors that do not need to be seen or heard, but rather those men Jesus has empowered to take up once again “The Basin and the Towel” as our Lord did so many years ago to love and serve His disciples from His knees.
So lets be ahead of the curve of the dying Church, and seek to plant the Church where we are. Jesus said it, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name there I am in their midst”. Let us get out ahead of things, open our eyes, and see what Jesus sees. He sees churches everywhere, in Bars, in the workplace, in abandoned warehouses, in coffee shops, in old church buildings that are reshaped for the new liturgy, in our homes, and in the places where we most frequently are. In seeing Jesus true Ekklesia He will also show us where he is “calling” people out unto Himself.
So let us ask a new set of questions, not “How can we employ the newest Church growth strategies?” Or, “How can we protect what we have?” Or, “How do we stop the hemorrhaging of the current state of the Church?” Let us instead ask, “How can we obey the Misseo Dei for the next 50, 100, or 200 hundred years?” Because Jesus will not abandon His Church, We have to ask a new set of questions. “What will His church look like in the years to come when the traditional model of Church crumbles?” “What are the new wineskins that will hold that new wine that He will surely pour out onto His Church?” And, “How can we be obedient to His call to extend and multiply the work that He is going to do in our midst, in the heart of the New Ekklesia?” “How can the Missional Movement address these new realities of the dying Church?” “What will the Church look like in 2060?” “How can we seek growth of His true Ekklesia?”  That Ekklesia that Christ died for? For this New Ecclesiology we need it to intersect early and often with Missiology. Actually if every form of Systematic Theology (Eschatology, Ecclesiology, Christology, Soteriology, etc.) does not intersect early and often with Missiology, then that Systematic has failed. In other words every solid systematic theology should be Missiological in its nature.  And so when we re-study these systematics, we must seek the missiology in and out of them, so that the Missio Dei can come forth we should be seeking this Missiology so that Church will advance undergirded by a renewed focus on Christ Great Commission (Matthew 18:28-30, Mark 13:10, Acts 1:8, Malachi 1:11, Psalms 46:10)
Jesus will not abandon his Church. He will not let His global Church die before he returns; He does however push us out of our “Comfortable Cathedrals” to arrive at the people whom he has called us to. I would encourage you to let this news of the Church’s death empower, encourage, and embolden you to move with, and how God is moving in this world to reach the people who have not yet heard of Christ. Or to arrive at people who have, “Forgotten that they have forgotten God”. Let us with fresh boldness seek the Lord of the Church for His new move, and new wineskins, that He is preparing. These new wineskins will certainly hold the fresh wine that he his is pouring out into His Church of the future (Acts 2:16-21)!
[4] Foxe, John, and William Byron Forbush. Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978. Print.
[5] Viola, Frank. Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008. Print. Chapter on CORPORATE CHRISTIANITY VS. FAMILIAL ECCLESIOLOGY

Thursday, July 2, 2015

LeBron James is Changing the Nature of Truth

LeBron James is changing the nature of truth. During the NBA Finals this year LeBron James a Professional Basketball player made the statement "I feel confident because I am the best player in the world."


 If he says I am the best basketball player in the world does that make it true? By what standard does he measure that? By his own standard? By Commentators Standards? Has he played against every basketball player in the world? On which day is he the best? What about when he has an "off" day is he still the best? Has he ever lost a one on one with anyone? And when did he become the best player in the world? Did it just happen? You see where I am going with this? Statements like this I believe are changing the nature of truth. The way something is verified as truth is if someone that our community values says it, then it becomes true. And if other people who our community values as important also verify it like color commentators or ESPN Analyzers, then it stands as a true statement. Pontius pilot actually asked Jesus the same question, "what is truth?" Right before he nailed Jesus to the cross for claiming to be the truth. Truth is a hard thing to nail down in our culture. LeBron James is right about one thing, One person is the best player in the world and HE is the truth. Jesus said of himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me." This one verifiable truth stands the test of time. Jesus is the best player in the world, he has given his life to prove it, he has more followers in human history that anyone ever, and His word has stood the test of time. We can't say that for LeBron James. He can't even win a Championship in his last two tries. Maybe if he were the best player in the world he might be able to win a championship, but oh basketball is a team sport, but I digress. I think I'll stick with Jesus, his track record is a little better. I am pretty sure that I can trust him. His truth stands the test of time a little bit better than LeBron's truth.

This is a cultural phenomenon that we as the Christian community should resist with everything that we are. As Jesus people we resist...


On the other hand we are countercultural with values such as... 

all Sufficiency of Christ (Jesus is Lord)

When we live these values we will be a city on a hill, a sweet fragrance that the world will notice. The nature of truth is changing in our culture, but for the Jesus follower the nature of truth NEVER changes. We are a people that give ourselves wholly and fully for the one who gave Himself fully for us. If we could boil Christianity down to a single thing it would be Jesus telling us what it takes to be a disciple of His. In Mark 8:34 Jesus says, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the sake of the Gospel will save it." That is the truth of being a Disciple of Jesus. I am so glad that I serve a great savior not just great, but sorry LeBron He is the greatest player in the universe!!! Here is an old video, but a great one that explains further the greatness of Christ.

Monday, May 25, 2015

American Memorial Day is also Pentecost Monday

 Memorial day is a long tradition in America. It is one of remembrance of those who have fallen in American wars. I find it a good tradition to remember the freedoms we have as Americans as a result of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Germany also celebrates today a very good Church tradition. It is Pentecost. Germany has a long tradition of church holidays. Some are better than others. This one I find incredible. Pentecost is the celebration of when the Holy Spirit descended on the first believers in Jerusalem after Jesus ascension. What followed was one of the most powerful sermons ever preached. Peter preached powerfully in the name of Jesus, and explained to those standing there what was happening. Here's a bit of the passage.

"When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came
from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.
And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel...

“...Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it...

...he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing...

...Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:1-16, 22-24, 31-33, 37-39 ESV)

This whole story is pretty amazing and incredible that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the early Church like this, and even until this day when we believe in Jesus we receive that same Spirit at a guarantee of the gift of salvation. 

What I also understand about Memorial Day in remembering people that have given their lives to secure American freedoms, I find also in Pentecost. These holidays are one in the same in so much as Jesus has given His life to secure our Freedom, and the Holy Spirit is the promise of that Freedom in Christ. 

So today as you celebrate Christian freedom in Germany and American freedom in America, take a minute and seek the filling of the Holy Spirit as as a sign of the promise. "How am I filled with Holy Spirit"? you ask. I'm glad you asked, here is a passage that describes how we can be filled...

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV)