Alan Hirsch on being a missionary incarnational church

Here’s Alan Hirsch explaining why he thinks that the church has to be both missional and incarnational.

.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flRRjOvtPhE&feature=player_embedded#!

No King, No Kingdom (When He Comes 2)

I grew up on stories about King Arthur. Great stories. Every time you turn the page Arthur and his knights are feasting, celebrating, jousting, slaying monsters, and just having an all-around good time. It sounds like a great place to be, with peace, justice, and plenty for everyone (except the monsters, of course). And, at the center of it all, the king—leading, ruling, judging, and partying. It all works because the king is there ruling over his kingdom, making sure that everything is as it should be, striking out at anything that threatens the  peace.

But, what’s a kingdom without a king? The depressing part about the Arthur stories is that you know it won’t last. By the end of the story, Arthur will be dead and his kingdom will lie in ruins. (If you didn’t know how the story ended, I’m terribly sorry for giving it away. And, by the way, the Titanic sinks.) Without Arthur, everything falls apart.

It’s quite a simple principle really: no king, no kingdom. Until he comes back, nothing is going to be the way that it should be.

The same idea shapes the story of Robin Hood and his merry men. From one perspective, this is a story about a bunch of men who spend all their time camping, drinking, wrestling, singing, and annoying rich people. To me, it always sounded like Peter Pan for adults.

At the heart of the Robin Hood story, however, rests something much more significant. The kingdom is broken. Richard the Lionhearted, England’s king, has been gone for many years. In his absence, Prince John, the king’s brother, and all of John’s cronies have taken over the kingdom, oppressing the people and pillaging the land. The land is now ruled by greed, power, violence, and hatred.

Robin Hood and his merry men have a very different vision of how things should be. They see a kingdom ruled by grace and peace, a kingdom where the rich help the poor, the strong serve the weak, and everything is as it should be. They see a kingdom where the king rules again.

In many ways, these are stories about faith and hope. Despite all of the problems the kingdom faces, all the enemies they encounter, and all the evil they see, Robin Hood and his men press on toward their vision of the kingdom. The king has been gone for so long, many begin to wonder if he will ever return. But, Robin Hood’s men continue to long for what could be, what should be.

However, it all rests on the coming of the king. Robin Hood and his men can trick Prince John day long, and it won’t change anything. They can steal from the rich, give to the poor, and have all the forest parties their hearts desire. But, without the king, the kingdom will still be broken, evil powers will still control the way things go, people will still be oppressed, the vision will remain unrealized.

When the king comes, however, it will all be different. That’s the hope at the center of the story. That’s what makes Robin and his men work so hard toward this future vision. That’s what makes them “merry”. In the face of all the injustice and oppression, they have their vision of the kingdom and they live out that vision to the best of their ability in the forest – their little outpost of how things should be. And they have hope.

When he comes, it will all be better. When he comes, the kingdom will be restored and things will be as they should be.

When he comes….

[This is the second part of a chapter on OT promises for the future of God’s people. Read the first part here.]

Flotsam and jetsam (1/21)

 

Stark Trek Enterprise pizza cutter

 

 

The Story Continues (When He Comes 1)

Mark Twain has a fabulous short story about a young woman raised as a boy since birth. Her name is Conrad and her father is a wealthy duke, who decided to keep her true gender a secret so that she could inherit his duchy when he died. The one thing she must never do is sit on the duke’s throne, which is forbidden to any woman. Otherwise, she will be killed. (Can you see where this is going?)

I won’t go into the details, but of course Conrad ends up sitting on the ducal throne and gets caught in a seemingly impossible situation. Her only options are to reveal that she’s a woman and be executed for sitting on the ducal throne, or keep that secret, admit instead that she fathered an illegitimate child, and be executed as an adulterer. So, she gets to pick: execution or execution. Touch choice.

And, that’s where the story ends.

As Mark Twain himself explains,

The remainder of this thrilling and eventful story will NOT be found in this or any other publication, either now or at any future time.

The truth is, I have got my hero (or heroine) into such a particular close place, that I do not see how I am ever going to get him (or her) out of it again—and therefore I will wash my hands of the whole business and leave that person to get out the best way that offers-or else stay there. I thought it was going to be easy enough to straighten out that little difficulty, but it looks different now.

So, the author has gotten stuck. And, thus the story ends.

I always feel the same way when I reach this part of the Gospel story. Surely it has to end here. God’s people have rebelled and rejected him, pursuing idolatry and immorality. They are dead. Despite God’s continued faithfulness to them through it all, they are still lost. Kings, prophets, priests, judges— nothing seems to help. Finally, God himself leaves. His glory departs from the temple, from the land, from his people.

If I’m the one writing this story, now I’m stuck. How in the world do you find a satisfying conclusion to all of this? Like Twain, I’d wash my hands of the whole business.

But, the story continues.

That statement all by itself is an expression of grace. The sheer fact that the story does not end here, but continues on into the future of God’s perfect plan, demonstrates the incomprehensible mercy, patience, and faithfulness of a God who will not allow us to mess up his amazing purposes for his people and his creation.

This Author knows exactly how his story is going to end. It’s rather hard to see at this point, but he still assures us that he’s in control and that he has not given up.

So, against all logic and all expectation, the story continues…because God promised that it would.

Should you make people pay for a book about the Gospel?

I have some great news for you about the free gift of God’s amazing grace. And, I’ll tell you about it for only $19.95.

Is it just me, or does something seem very wrong about the idea of making people pay to learn about the Gospel?

I’m wrestling with that as I try to decide what to do with my Gospel book. I would guess that it’s now about 60% complete and I need to start making some decisions about what to do with it. I started this project primarily for my own benefit and for my church. So, I don’t have a lot invested in actually publishing it. But, I would like to make it available to people when it’s done.

A very large part of me just wants to put it up on the internet for free and let anyone download and use it as they will. It’s the Gospel! Use it well; spread it widely. I’ve also considered self-publishing so I could charge a low price for a hard copy and still make it available for free on the internet. But I’ve heard some stories about how much work self-publishing actually entails. And, I also understand the benefits of having a publisher who will work with me to ensure that the book is done well and who can make sure that people actually hear about the book. Free (or cheap) isn’t very helpful if people don’t know it’s there.

Thus, my quandary. What do you think? I don’t do a lot of polls on this site (actually, none). But, I thought I’d give it a shot on this one. So, please cast your vote below. And, feel free to offer some comments below if you’d like to engage this question a bit more.

Also, please  spread the word about this poll. I’d like to get as much feedback on this as I can.

.

A whole chapter of my Gospel book

I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done on my Gospel book over the holidays, despite the fact that this was supposed to be one of my higher priorities during the time off. So, I’m trying to get that ball rolling again. To that end, I’m going to try something a little different over the next few days. In the past, I’ve posted excerpts of the book – usually sections where I was trying something a little different and wanted to get some feedback. This week, I’m going to post a whole chapter. Hopefully this will help keep me focused on actually making progress. And, it also opens the door for more feedback from anyone who’s actually interested enough to read it.

If you want to get a feel for the project as a whole, check out the Gospel book page. This particular chapter focuses on summarizing some of the key OT promises associated with God redeeming his people (e.g. new king, holiness, spirit, life, new creation, etc.). The previous chapter ended on a pretty down note, discussing God’s glory leaving the temple and his apparent rejection of his people and his plan. So, this chapter serves to explain the promises that provide hope despite failure and apparent rejection. Thus, it’s the final chapter before I finally move into the NT.

Instead of posting the chapter all at once, I’ll post one section each day (hopefully). That’s partly because it’s too long for one blog post, but mostly because it’s not actually done yet! I’ll post the first section later today.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/20)

  • Peter Wallace comments on the future of preaching, as he observed it at the second annual National Festival of Young Preachers.

I have seen the future of preaching, and it’s a beautiful thing.

When Mark Noll declared that the scandal of the evangelical mind was that there was no mind, he meant to criticize the lack of cultural and theological engagement among evangelicals. I agree there is a scandal involving the evangelical mind, though I understand the problem in the exact opposite way. It is not that there is no mind, but rather that there is no evangelical.

The kingdom of God, then, is the good news that the right rule of God, and the right rule of man—a rule our ancestors Adam and Eve lost—have come together in the right rule of one right God-man: Jesus of Nazareth. In his sin-resisting life, his wisdom-saturated teaching, his demon-exorcising power, his substitutionary, conquering death, and his justifying, victorious resurrection, Christ is king.

As Wittgenstein demonstrated, we cannot live, even at the level of everyday life, without trusting. And yet trust is a theologically ambivalent starting point for a theory of knowledge because of the persistent untrustworthiness of human beings after the Fall. Not only have the noetic effects of sin crippled our perceptions, they have given us reason to doubt the motives of others.

From a grammatical point, it seems clear that this is the right interpretation of vs. 38 which simply says in the Greek “he said to them ‘Enough’!”  It does not read “Two swords are enough”. What we have here is an idiomatic expression used to close off a discussion.

The Ehrman project – critically engaging the work of Bart Ehrman

Thanks to Michael Gorman for pointing out The Ehrman Project, a website dedicated to exploring and engaging the work of Bart Ehrman. As the website explains:

 

Dr. Bart Ehrman is raising significant questions about the reliability of the Bible. In an engaging way, he is questioning the credibility of Christianity. His arguments are not new, which he readily admits. Numerous Biblical scholars profoundly disagree with his findings. This site provides responses to Dr. Ehrman’s provocative conclusions.

With resources from Alvin Plantinga, Ben Witherington, D.A. Carson, Darrell Bock, Craig Evans, Dan Wallace, and Larry Hurtado, among others, it looks like a great resource for understanding and engaging Ehrman’s writings and arguments.

And, no blog post on Bart Ehrman would be complete without referencing Stephen Colbert’s interview with Ehrman, in which Colbert drills Ehrman on why “the Bible is a big fat lie” and Stephen’s an idiot for believing it. Journalism at its finest.

 

Why theology matters – a great video explanation

Here’s an excellent, short video explanation of why theology matters. It’s very well executed and would make a great discussion starter on the subject.

.

http://vimeo.com/8788549

HT Matthew Montonini

The Heidelberg Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism was written and approved by the Synod of Heidelberg on January 19, 1563.  The catalyst for the writing of this document was Frederick III, the sovereign of the Palatinate from 1559 to 1576.  He wanted to combine the best of Lutheran and Reformed teaching in a manner that would be easily accessible to the people of his territory.  He also wanted to counteract the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and so the Heidelberg Catechism based each of its statements on Scripture.  It consists of fifty-two sections (one section to be read on each Lord’s day) and has 129 questions and answers dealing with the fall of man, his redemption, and proper response to the Lord.  It became one of the most popular Reformed Catechism’s and was used extensively by Reformed churches in several different countries.  Its influence reached the Westminster Assembly who used it in the formation of the Shorter Catechism.

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.