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Archive for the ‘doctrine’ Category

A Sign Of Truth

In this age of turmoil, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a sign that let us know we were encountering truth. Something so distinct that it just has to be from the divine side of things. And I’m wondering (out loud) if perhaps there is.

I was walking my dog the other night and just sharing my heart with Papa.  And I kept thinking about all the times I’ve come to a realization about the Kingdom of God. The more I follow Jesus the more I realize that His kingdom is one that is entirely bent towards freedom and love in the context of responsibility.  The more that I choose to participate in what He’s doing the more I sense a tremendous freedom in my heart.  Things are aligned.

What struck me was how often these realizations seem like “common sense” the moment I encounter them.  The kingdom just seems to make sense once I’ve experienced it.  I’m getting use to the word “brilliant” as a adjective to describe it.  But I am also struck by the notion that these realizations didn’t appear common the moment before I encountered them.  They were hidden to me.

And on that walk I began to realize that truth resonates at a very deep level of the soul.  It feels right in a global kind of way.  And it’s fruit is release from oppression.  The Spirit seems to move in a way that frees me from some kind of blindness that keeps me locked in a form of self-perpetuated brokenness.  But the moment I encounter truth, I am freed from that oppression.

Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

So I’m wondering if the sign of truth is not that we have all of our belief systems in order, or that our logic passes muster with the intellectual elite, or that our doctrine is perfect, but that truth releases us to freedom. Truth releases us to be whole people.  It has a distinct feeling of lifting, of a weight being taken off, of permission to be.  Freedom releases us from the past to be real people in the present.  It restores our dignity so we can restore those around us.  That was the feeling I encountered on my walk.  And it was good.

FYI: This post was inspired by a post from Monachus Bellator.  Check him out.

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People slam the emerging church for not holding to objective truth (which is simply not true by the way), but is this even possible?  Is it possible as limited human beings to discover the entirety of objective truth?

I ask because this article is interesting regarding the state of the church (ht). But a line in the article caught my attention.

“The survey, widely promoted as an authoritative overview of religious values in the U.S., found that Americans believe deeply in God. But when it comes to doctrine, Americans are strikingly flexible.

Authoritative? Ed Stetzer questioned that assessment.

But it was really the second part that caught my attention.  It seems no matter how much we want to proclaim a single Gospel, which I would hold there is, people just don’t seem to be able to find it.  It appears that the basis for “doctrine” is not as easy to find as we think. People just keep getting in the way. ;-P

This is why I tend to sigh when someone says, “We just need to preach a Biblical Gospel.”  And the inevitable question that follows, join with me now, “Whose interpretation of the Gospel?”

The reality is that as human beings we insert ourselves into the Gospel because we have to interpret the Gospel.  And this means no two people can understand it the same way.  Two people may be similar, but with time there is always going to be disagreement.

And I’m not saying that the Gospel isn’t knowable or that human beings aren’t able to come to conclusions.  God calls us to know Him.  In God we find our own image.  But the basis for doctrine in a human world eventually leads to a subjective understanding of it because as limited human beings we apply a subjective understanding to an objective truth.  And this is why there are thousands of denominations, belief sets, interpretations and eventually arguments.

And this situation is likely to increase rather than decline.  With a wired world, chances are people are Googling what their pastor says…during the service.  And the lens with which they see the evidence will shape the conclusion they make.  Disagreement is the norm.

The author of the article states,

Also, is it even possible, in the age of Google, to clamp a lid on spiritual exploration? Americans are accustomed to second-guessing their doctors, their financial advisers and their daily newspaper by researching topics online. “So why should they trust their eternal existence to the clergy?”

Do we really want to clamp down on spiritual exploration?  Or is the real concern we don’t want people to think differently than us, which is the inevitable.  Truth was only possible through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  And what this means is that I am called to constantly shed (dare I say deconstruct) my interpretation of the Gospel in favor of what the Holy Spirit is leading me to.

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This week I had the opportunity to listen to the Apostles Creed and I ran square into something that doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe you can help.

Here is the full text of the Apostles Creed.

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth; I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of Father. He will come again 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.”

This is a good site on the history of the Apostles Creed. It was likely started by Irenaeus in 200 and finalized by Augustine or Pirminius.

The stuff that doesn’t make sense to me is the line: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

John 5:22 – Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.

John 5:27 – And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

Scripture is clear from the verses above that God give Jesus the power to judge. But then Jesus seems to throw a crazy twist into the whole thing.

John 12:47 – “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.

And what is really interesting is that he doesn’t pick Christians to say He does not judge. He says, “the person who hears my words but does not keep them.”

So you tell me. Is the apostles creed wrong? Love to hear your thoughts on this.

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John 3:16 – “For God so judged the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Oh wait…it doesn’t say that does it. Maybe it really is about love.

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One of my favorite stories in Scripture is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Some call it the parable of the Loving Father. And easily missed is the story of other son.

I don’t think the story is complete without the other son. He provides so much emotion and context for how people can feel when God exhibits profound mercy. The other son is the good son, the son that did it right, the son that did what he was supposed to do. The other son has truth on his side.

And I realized while reading this that grace and mercy are an offense to religion. They are offensive to my carefully constructed attempts to please God on my own. Mercy doesn’t make sense. It requires me to think outside of what I assume is justice.

And this is the journey within the kingdom. Which son do we connect with? Which son do we most feel like?

The other son makes me ask a question. Will we be surprised IF God chooses to restore all of His kingdom in the latter days? Will we be disappointed or even angry if His grace extends beyond our measure, the one that we have constructed? Will we respond, “How could you forgive so and so? How could you let HIM enter?”

And will we have any leg to stand on if He doesn’t do it our way?

BTW: After I wrote this I found this from Tracy.

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Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Lost Son

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “

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There are some things about being a follower of Jesus that are really hard to deal with. They don’t provide easy answers, even when we want them to be easy. The following passage below of “The Sheep and The Goats” is one of those. This is the one people typically point to in regards to hell.

Honestly I’ve avoided this post for a long time. Why I’m writing it today is a mystery to me. Maybe it’s the hard week I’ve had. Maybe its the reflective music I’m listening to. Maybe its the quiet corner in Starbucks on my personal day.

It’s obvious which side we want to be on. We want to be the sheep. We want to be ushered in wondering what we possibly did that God would accept us.

One of the things that strikes me about this passage is that Jesus doesn’t use typical terms. He uses the metaphor of the sheep and the goats. In some respects this seems like an invitation to try and figure it out, only to find out this is the trick. Those who keep trying are the ones tricked. We like to control don’t we?

The second thing that strikes me about this passage is that it says NOTHING about belief. It’s not wrapped in a pretty little disposable package that we can endlessly design, manufacture and sell. The goats haven’t said the wrong thing in their sinner’s prayer, or even avoided it all together. There’s no long diatribe of incorrect theology or even heresy. There’s no Buddhist, or Universalist, or even a token homosexual for good measure. Jesus refuses to make it easy for us.

Their sin? They forgot to engage love.

It’s likely that we all get this passage wrong. And we don’t like that do we? We don’t like it when we can’t figure out the complete measure of God, as if we really could. But do we really want the mystery of God to cease? Do we really want him to fit into our box?

All He gives us is Jesus, who says “Come follow me.”

And this is the journey of faith. To let go of the judgment process and to trust that we will be the sheep. It’s hard putting our future into the hands of God, as though it weren’t there in the first place. And the only way he’s given us a clue as to which side we are on is to love.

Listening: The Cure For Pain by Jon Foreman

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The Sheep and the Goats

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

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In the spirit of the new book, Why We’re Not Emergent, the accompanying website, and this post, I thought I’d present the Top 50 Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Emergent.

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50. They’re all a bunch of false prophets. Really, that’s what they told me

49. My mother will disown me.

48. I just don’t like Doug Pagitt. He scares me.

47. I heard from a famous pastor that Emergent is from the debil.

46. I don’t like Rob Bell’s hair.

45. The word Emergent is not in the Bible.

44. It’s just not allowed in the Vanderhoeven family.

43. I heard Calvin would simply not approve

42. Mark Driscoll told me I couldn’t.

41. I’m just not “certain” yet it’s the right way to go.

40. I heard from this guy who knew this lady who had a brother who was Emergent and he went blind doing it.

39. I enjoy being a skeptic.

38. I didn’t learn about Emergent in seminary so I’m not going to start now.

37. I like being on the bigger team.

36. I heard you had to take yoga.

35. I’ve heard from a famous prison ministry guy they don’t believe in the Bible.

34. Where would I be without absolute truth.

33. Tony Jones went to Princeton Theological Seminary…that liberal.

32. They didn’t teach this in Alpha.

31. I’m not white.

30. I’m over 40.

29. I don’t have any cool, black eyeglasses.

28. I don’t like coffee or Guinness.

27. It’s immoral to smoke pipes or cigars.

26. They haven’t yet come up with my denomination of Presbymergent

25. Emergents read unapproved books.

24. I’m allergic to candles.

23. I like Jesus but not Emergent.

22. Brian McLaren’s books are not theologically correct. I’m not sure why, I just know they are.

21. I like my Christianity strong and hot.

20. The orthodoxy police will bust me.

19. I’m not uber-cool. In fact, I don’t even know what “uber” means.

18. I don’t understand it and I don’t want to.

17. If it doesn’t have the letters SBC in it, I’m not interested.

16. All they want to do is love. Where’s the truth in that?

15. I’m a bullhorn type of guy.

14. I prefer Joel Osteen.

13. I just finally bought into fundamentalism and you want me to shift?

12. I don’t really want a generous orthodoxy.

11. I refuse to switch to Apple

10. I can’t. I go to John MacArthur’s church.

9. My friends will think I’m a heretic.

8. I already was a New (Kind of) Christian.

7. I refuse to grow a soul patch

6. Hell fire and brimstone works just fine, thank you.

5. I don’t like loud, rock music at church. It’s a sin.

4. Their hermeneutic of ecclesiology is unorthodox, fundamentally esoteric and meandering. It borders on epistemological ambiguity that is really troublesome. I’m afraid it will lead to heretical uncertainty of the most pernicious kind.

3. But then I might have to really have faith.

2. Brian McLaren is the debil.

And the number one possible reason Why You’re Not Emergent is:

1. The emerging church is so yesterday.

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Just in case you were wondering. The answer is yes, this is humor.

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