Friday, April 13, 2018

Church History - The Big Split of 1054

There is much we can learn from the Great Schism of 1054. “The church was split along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political and geographical lines” ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­(Lumen). The Roman empire was in decline; there were invasions by the barbarians, from Islam and from the Scandinavians. By 410, Rome was conquered, and its emperor deposed. The period resulting was characterized by Tony Lane (88) as “a period of turmoil and anarchy, with the near collapse of civilization”. By 800, Charlemagne (King of the Franks) was declared the new Roman emperor. This move was strategic for the Christian church. As with all events, there are opportunities and challenges, depending on if you see the glass as half empty or half full.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Fasting - About Food?

Don’t Think “Food”, Think “Discipline”

There’s more to fasting than just abstaining from food. It is so easy to associate this spiritual discipline to the obvious. But I want to encourage you to think bigger – Fasting is more than just giving up a breakfast, a lunch or dinner; it is an opportunity to train oneself to become more like Christ. Last night, I told my sister I’d join her in a period of fasting today. It’s 6:30 am and already, my brain is thinking “Do you really want to do this?”  Why am I thinking about all the things I can eat today? Why am I thinking about the goodies I am missing if I skip breakfast, not to mention lunch? I have some finger licking KFC in the fridge...will it spoil if I don't eat it today? What if a co-worker offers me something to eat today?  I have a long day today...must start the day right (with food)!

Coupled with praying and study of the scriptures, fasting is an opportunity for spiritual transformation. The question is “Do I want to achieve real spiritual transformation?” Every time I fast, it is one more training moment that propels me closer to the goal of transformation/spiritual maturity.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Living For God Or Serving Self?

 The City Of God

In which city will you find me on any given day? I am speaking of my spiritual state as described by the great church father Aurelius Augustine (A.D. 354- 430). He was considered the Father of the Western Church. I found a moving passage from one of his greatest works called “The City of God” (written A.D. 413-427). Consider your spiritual residence as you read this portion of his writing:

“Two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly city by the love of self, leading to contempt of God and the heavenly city by the love of God, leading to contempt of self. The former glories in itself, the latter in the Lord… In the one city, the rulers and the nations that it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other city, rulers and subjects serve one another in love – the subjects by obeying, the rulers by caring for all… These two cities are two communities of men. One is predestined to reign eternally with God, the other to suffer eternal punishment with the devil…Citizens are born into the earthly city by a nature spoiled by sin, but they are born into the heavenly city by grace freeing nature from sin".

Oh, that I will dwell in the city of God every day of my life!

Lane, T. "A Concise History of Christian Thought". Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic (2006, p. 53)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Why Jesus Came

The Incarnation 

We are the cause of His becoming flesh. For our salvation He loved us so much as to appear and be born in a human body… No one else but the Savior Himself, who in the beginning made everything out of nothing, could bring the corrupted into incorruption; no one else but the image of the Father could recreate men in God’s image; no one else but the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Life itself, could make the mortal immortal; no one else the Word, who orders everything and is alone the true and only-begotten Son of the Father, could teach men about the Father and destroy idolatry.

Since the debt owed by all men had to be paid (for all men had to die), He came among us. After He had demonstrated His deity by His works, He offered His sacrifice on behalf of all and surrendered His temple (i.e. body) to death in the place of all men. He did this to free men from the guilt of the first sin and to prove Himself more powerful than death, showing His own body incorruptible, as the first-fruit of the resurrection of all…

Two miracles happened at once: the death of all men was accomplished in the Lord’s body, and death and corruption were destroyed because of the Word who was united with it. By death immortality has reached all and by the Word becoming man the universal providence and its creator and leader, the very Word of God, has been made known. For He became human that we might become divine; He revealed Himself in a body that we might understand the unseen Father; He endured men’s insults that we might inherit immortality.

Written by Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria (A.D. 293 – 373). Referenced in “A Concise History of Christian Thought”. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Publishing (2006, p.33)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Scenes From Jesus' Last Days - The Evidence Requires Action

Time Spent With Jesus Demands A Response 

If you lived during the period of Jesus ministry (approx. A.D. 30-33), many of the events you’d encounter would be nothing short of incredible. In fact, they were miraculous. They were life changing, for those who’d only believe. Jesus' presence (evidence)demands a response. I find that we usually respond in any of three ways: (1) Suppress the evidence, (2) Reject the evidence or (3) Accept the evidence. Regardless of the choice, our life will be affected in a BIG way. Rather than make a choice, many choose to remain on the outskirts, in the land of indecision or we decide not to decide. What of this Jesus? Why does He have such an effect upon people and things?
As we celebrate this Resurrection Sunday, let’s consider the lives of a few people who were changed in the process of His death.
                                               Scenes from Jesus’ last days

The Criminal: While Jesus was on the cross, this man could not help himself. I believe he knew of Jesus due to his words “This man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41b). But in the presence of the Savior, while hanging on a cross for his own actions (a just punishment according to him…he was sorry for his deeds) the criminal took a leap of faith. He aligned himself with the Savior thinking “What can I lose? I’m about to die anyway”. His request of Jesus bares his heart – “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 2:42). We should pay attention to this moment as this man came to faith in his last moments. It is never too late to ask mercy of God. At this point it was not about his past; it was about a future based upon a single decision – “Remember me”. To his request Jesus replied “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 2:43). While all of Jesus followers were scattered, hiding and doubting Him and His kingdom, this man believed and placed his faith in the God of that Kingdom. Imagine that! A man claiming to be King, hanging on a cross, bleeding to death, being mocked for His claims of kingship, with no one to help Him (seemingly).. This man was rewarded for seeing beyond the obvious. I need to look beyond the facts of my situation too. How strong is my faith? If I am breathing, then there’s hope!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Communion Hymn

A Shocking Thing (Communion Hymn)
Lyrics by DA Carson

A shocking thing, this, that we should forget
The Savior who gave up his life—
To turn from the cross, indifferent, and let
Our minds veer toward self-love and strife.
This Table, this rite, is habit—and yet
Christ’s words pierce our shame like a knife:

While breaking the bread, the Lord Jesus said,
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Enamored with power, surrounded by praise,
We set out ecclesial plans.
Efficiency hums, and we spend our days
Defending, promoting our stands.
Techniques multiply, our structures amaze—
The gospel slips out of our hands.

While breaking the bread, the Lord Jesus said,
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Restoration History: The Sand Creek Address - Church In-fights

         Evaluation of The Sand Creek Address (1889)

W. Carl Ketcherside considered the Sand Creek document “divisive”, labeling it a tool that was as “unscriptural as ever, conceived by the minds of partisan men”. It was a “death knell for the autonomy of the local congregation”.  One of the pillars of the Restoration Movement was Unity; therefore, according to Ketcherside, the Sand Creek Address failed to achieve this. This was certainly a far cry from the methods used in the past at unification. Around 1827, John Wright encouraged both the Stone followers in Indiana and the “New Lights” to “unite and face their problems together; and to call themselves Christians” (North, 189). The Sand Creek document served the opposite purpose. In their attempt to unify on ideas, the writers of the document were promoting separation. Congregations were encouraged to “disfellowship from one another” (Ketch.) and elders were encouraged to “pronounce the sentence of spiritual death upon another congregation over which they held no jurisdiction” (Ketch.).