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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Thinking Right [Orthodox]

Apparently, there is some advantage to calling Jesus a heretic or unorthodox which I have yet to discover. I tried discussing this idea with such a person on his own blog. However, I couldn't figure out if I was being condescended, missing the person's attempt at humor, or if the person just writes on a wavelength entirely higher than mine. So, instead of clogging his comment section, I decided to post a view thoughts here.

The idea of orthodoxy is greatly missed by many today. Observing some general definitions, we see one states: having the right opinion.

Now, some will get downright giddy over this definition. It seems, from the Greek, that orthodoxy is merely an issue of opinion. Conspiracy theorists will immediately wonder if "the establishment" isn't beating the little man down. The double-minded will simply sit back, waiting for the majority decision on orthodoxy to shift. The opportunist will quickly look for a small group they can influence, pursuade and conform to their view...thus producing the orthodox view for that fellowship. If orthodoxy is simply opinion, then it is simply defined by who we ask.

But orthodoxy does not just mean "opinion." It means "right opinion," or "true opinion," or "straight opinion." We are not left to gather a caucus to determine orthodoxy. We are to search out that which is true, straight, right. But how can one do this?

It may behoove us to consider the approaching Reformation Day. Were the reformers the majority opinion of that day? Certainly not, for even today the Catholic church would boast more participants than the protestant church. So what makes there perspective (on issues concerning the gospel) orthodox? Their influence? Their philosophic genius? The fact that their opinon matches mine?

Or could it be that the genuine authority speaks on their behalf? It should not be considered coincidental that the reformation came at a time that the Word of God became more available. Men came to the true opinion when they understood the truth revealed in the text. They did not take a revote, finding they developed the majority opinion. They read the text and conformed their understanding to the text...the right/straight/true opinion.

So, could Jesus ever have uttered a word that would be deemed unorthodox? This would require one to state that Jesus spoke words that were not right and true. Thus leading one to C.S. Lewis' axiom: If Jesus spoke false words, He would have to be a liar or a lunatic...but He could not be Lord. A statement some may be willing to making, ironically leading them into heresy.[This is not to be confused with the question: Did Jesus ever speak words that some considered unorthodox? On several occasions, heretics {for they did not hold to the truth} picked up stones to kill Him. Some may have thought Him a heretic...but this did not make Him a heretic.]

Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3). That can't be done if the faith can't be known.

For me, it seems to make much more sense to label Jesus as orthodox and seek to conform my life to the standards of the Word, thus allowing the Holy Spirit to purge me of any unorthodoxy. [But if you want to wait and see what the majority position is...just remember, the Eternal Life always holds the majority opinion.]

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Name That Author

"Another form which this thinking takes is to emphasize that modern sophisticated man has a particular dislike of dogmatic assertions, and that he will not tolerate the old dogmatic pulpit pronouncements. He is a learned man and is not to be 'talked down to;' he is equal of the man in the pulpit, possibly his superior. He believes in examining things carefully and rationally and scientifically and putting up the different possible points of view. Indeed I read in a magazine belonging to an evangelical students' organization recently a plea to the effect that what the pulpit should be doing now is to read out the portions of Scripture, particularly the newer translations, make a few comments, and then invite questions and have a discussion. So you would have an 'intelligent service' instead of one man standing up and laying down the law as it were, and telling other people 'all about it.' Participation by the people in the pew is essential. So the man in the pulpit is really just there to read the Scriptures in an intelligent slow manner, according to these different translations, and then the discussion takes place. Exchange views, confrontation, dialogue are the order of the day."

[Hint: The author was not in favor of this "trend."]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ohio Gourd Show...

is happening this weekend.

Why does that matter?

Because the Ohio Gourd Show means it is "pumpkin roll season." (And there is a rumor it may make an appearance at a certain workshop I know about.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why Has Evangelism Declined?

Mark Dever offers:
Let me be clear. If you don't think membership [in a local church] is very important, I think you are typical of why the world is not being well evangelized. I want to be that clear about it. I think churches that think membership is just so-and-so--it doesn't really matter much, it's just a matter of names on a list--I think they're missing something very important in the New Testament. And I think it hurts world evangelization greatly.

I'm out speaking to missionaries all the time. I was in Greece this month, speaking to 300 missionaries in Eastern and Central Europe and the most important thing I talked to them about was membership. And that's what they would tell you. In the churches they are establishing, if they cannot distinguish between what it means to be a Christian and not a Christian, and have that visible in a community of people set up for the world, then the Christianity they are speading is just one more track to another person and a mental game they are playing. It's not being lived out socially in the community in a way that can be seen. And that means commitment and being public about it and that means membership--which is not just a later idea--it's in the New Testament.

* from The Source of a Healthy Church, empasis added.

Friday, September 14, 2007

2 Timothy 4:2

PREACH the Word

preach THE Word

preach the WORD

You know, when you look at it, that really says it all, doesn't it?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Great Family Adventure

As our church prepares to enter I John, we've developed our children's curriculum to follow through the text with us. Therefore, during Children's Church, our kids will be learning from the same passage as the adults. Hopefully, this will make the "What did you learn in church today?" discussion a little easier.

Along with the curriculum, we also developed a page, called "Table Talk" for fathers to take home and use with their children. The concept is that during four occasions of the week (typically meals) a family can discuss the text from the sermon (and their children's church). A time of worship with the family is a beautiful thing, but it can take an unusual shape, so I thought I'd give a Wright family status report.

Table Talk: Day One

To be honest, I have not been good at teaching my family. On an Ephesians 6:4 scale, I tend to dish out a lot of discipline but have often neglected the instruction. I'm not sure what to expect, but I head toward our lunch table, Bible in one hand and "Table Talk" in the other.

We start with me explaining what we are going to do (which God graciously allowed my children to be excited about), and tell them that anytime we open the Bible we should first ask God to help the Bible make sense for us. Rachel prays first; a very sweet prayer to God, thanking Him for giving us the Bible and asking Him to open our eyes. Zeke followed with a very staccato-style prayer to God. He basically reiterates everything I said about prayer...almost verbatim (I guess he is listening). Karis closes our time in prayer...honestly, quite a bit of babbling that doesn't really make sense, but it is so sweet to hear her say "Jesus."

I'm feeling good. I open my Bible to John 15:12-17 (the text for the first day) and begin reading. The kids are paying attention and seem to understand the concept of Christ calling us to love. Then, somewhere in the middle of the reading, Zeke notices that he does not have his sippy-cup of choice. Our sweet time of fellowship around the word is interrupted with a high decibel screech for the purple cup (for the dinosaur cup just wouldn't do).

Fortunately, I am not accustomed to such distractions while preaching on Sunday morning, so it took me a while to recover. But, we settled him down, reminded him the proper way to ask for the purple cup, and then proceded into the text. We finished with them grasping some good concepts:

Jesus says we should love each other.
Jesus showed us His love by dying for us.
Because Jesus died for us, we can be His friend.
If we are His friend, we will obey Jesus. (Which means we will obey mommy and daddy...we always have to sneak that one in.)

Table Talk: Day Two

We skipped a day, due to schedule conflicts, and picked up again at dinner last night. I briefly quizzed the kids about our last "Table Talk" and they remembered most of the concepts. We opened again in prayer, and I got the sense the kids tried to duplicate the last time of prayer (since they could tell mommy and I found it special, and probably heard us telling others about it) rather than actually talking to God--proabably a typical issue with children this age.

We continue into John 15, this time covering verses 18-21. At the time I wrote the curriculum, it made perfect sense to me. At the end of John 21 (the text we discussed last Sunday, as introduction to I John), Peter is concerned with John's destiny. Jesus calls him to not worry about John but to follow Jesus instead. It seemed in my preparation that John 15:18-21 was the perfect follow-up from the day before.

Jesus calls us to be His friends and to keep our focus on Him.
There are those in the world who will not be Jesus' friend, and they will tell us not to follow Him.
We should not listen to those people but listen to Jesus instead.

But as I'm reading the text to the kids, I can tell the concept of persecution is a tough one for our five year old, an inconceivable concept for our three year old, and at this point, our two year old is just rubbing the rice and chicken in her hair. This is going to be hard. How do I explain to my children that someone as lovely as Christ is rejected by some? How do I teach them that Christ is precious and explain that most of the world does not see Him that way?

I stumble, stutter, fumble and bumble our way through the text and the questions. We get to the end and I try to regroup.

How can we be Jesus' friend? (They answer, "By loving Him.")

How did Jesus show us He loves us? (They answer, "By dying to take away our sins.")

Does everybody love Jesus? (They answer, "No.")

Should you listen to those people? (They answer, "No," but I can tell they are a bit confused. To be honest, so am I. Deeper questions flood my mind like, "Will they now think they don't need to obey their teacher or a police man if that person is not a Christian? By not listening to them, will they think I'm saying to ignore those who don't love Jesus, rather than evangelizing them? And perhaps the most pressing question: Good grief, the oldest one is five, are the kids even remotely thinking the things I'm worried about?

The kids look about as confused as I am. 1 Peter 4:16 comes to my mind (yes, I actually like the NIV rendering better in this verse...shocker!)
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
I try to adjust using their shirts as examples. Both of the older kids are wearing red shirts in preparation for "Patriotic Day" at Awana that evening. I ask them how I can tell they like the color red. Since they are wearing red, I can tell they like red. But if I don't like red, I won't like their shirts. (It appears that they are getting this concept.) So, I try to tie it all together.

How can people tell you love Jesus? (By obeying Him.)

If someone doesn't like Jesus and they see you obey Jesus, they may not like you...but you should keep loving Jesus and be glad someone can tell you do.

Not sure it stuck.

Table Talk Recap

As Charity drives the kids off to Awana and I prepare our house for LIFE Group, I'm left to assess the damage. If the dinner table had been a Sunday morning sermon, it would probably be a good idea to polish my resume. The reading would get interrupted (sometimes by our having to remind our kids to keep eating), some questions received no answer but a blank stare, I started some illustrations only to stop half-way through and redirect. Was this time a success or a failure?

Then I consider what my children have seen. Mommy and Daddy love them. Jesus loves them. Mommy and Daddy love Jesus. Mommy and Daddy love God's Word. These are good things...and I'll count it a success.

And I'll pray the other father's in our church are finding the same reward in their homes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gentle Wounds

Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.

Why is it that we question a person's credentials when they critique us

but consider them an expert when they compliment us?

We're really not that different from King Ahab. So how do we determine if we're hearing from Zedekiah or Micaiah?

This week, I had a brother confront me in an area he'd observed. He laid out his argument and presented his concern. As I listened, I was convinced he was well-meaning but dead-wrong. He didn't know me that well. He doesn't see the situation closely enough. He's not aware of the relationship dynamics. While I appreciated his concern for me, I was confident he really had no authority in this situation.

Then he did something unfair...

He quoted Scripture. Not just a "pithy prooftext" here and there. But he quoted Scripture in regard to the issue we were discussing with the original intent of the Biblical author.

And that's when I realized the wound was good. A double-edged sword was being used to extract dead tissue. It may be painful but was beneficial. Yet the compliment without any biblical merit may have no "medicinal value."

[UPDATE: I'm not the only one who feels this way.]

Sunday, September 09, 2007

IBM Pastor's Conference

So I'm on ESPN.com to see if the Browns and the Wolverines are actually the same team, and an IBM video plays. Picture two men sitting by each other:

How was the Innovation Workshop?


Funny. What'd they talk about?

It was an Innovation Workshop. They talked about innovation.

Did they talk about execution?


Too bad.

It then flashes two texts up:

Of course, there is a conference for those who want to do.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Preaching Ambiguity

In an era that craves ambiguity and avoids answers, this quote from RC Sproul, describing Luther's work in The Bondage of the Will is especially timely:
...when Luther was responding to the attacks of Erasmus, he quoted Erasmus where Erasmus said that on matters of difficult doctrines like predestination, election, and issues of freedom of th will and so on, he (Erasmus) preferred to "suspend judgment," and that the proper academic posture of the scholar, when investigating issues like this, is to be very cautious, to reserve judgment, and to hesitate from coming to firm conclusions. Erasmus said that he would prefer not to make assertions. When Erasmus said to Luther, "I would prefer not to make assertions," Luther became apoplectic. He said, "You would prefer what? You don't want to make assertions? Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity. The very mark of the Christian is that the Christian bodly makes assertions before the world." Then, in his passion, Luther said, "The Holy Spirit is not a skeptic. And the things that He revealed are more certain than life itself. Away with the skeptics! Away with teh academics!" Luther would have none of the spirit of those who are always learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth. The early truth was built on the blood of martyrs, and the reason why it was so bloody was because the apostles didn't go into the market place saying, "Well, maybe Jesus rose from the dead and maybe He didn't. You need to examine this, and suspend judgment."--Feed My Sheep, p139-140 (emphasis added)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Cross: My Worth or His

I once heard a preacher explain Jesus' payment on the cross with this statement:

For Jesus, the idea of living without you was more painful than enduring the cross.

Sorry, should have introduced that with a "barf bag alert." When stated that bluntly, we realize the perspective cannot be accurate. Was I the "joy set before Him" (Hebrews 12:2)? Consider this quote, from The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper [p35-36]
It horribly skews the meaning of the cross when contemporary prophets of self-esteem say that the cross is a witness to my infinite worth, since God was willing to pay such a high price to get me. The biblical perspective is that the cross is a witness to the infinite worth of God's glory and a witness to the immensity of the sin of my pride. What should shock us is that we have brought such contempt upon the worth of God that the very death of His Son is required to vindicate that worth. The cross witnesses to the infinite worth of God and the infinite outrage of sin.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Preaching, the impossible

From Feed My Sheep, Chapter Preaching to Suffering People by John Piper:
This is why preaching is not mere communication and why "communication theory" and getting scholarly degrees in "communication" are so far from the essence of what preaching is about. Preaching is about doing the impossible: making the rich young ruler fall out of love with his comfortable lifestyle and into love with the King of kings so that he "joyfully" sells all that he has to gain that treasure (Matt 13:44). Jesus said very simply, "With man this is impossible" (Matt 19:26). The aim of preaching is impossible. No techniques will make it succeed. "But with God all things are possible."