“May Your Kingdom Come”

Imagine a sermon that begins:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

(Matthew 5:3-5)

Blessed are those who are unemployed, blessed are those suffering terminal illness, blessed are those who are going through marital distress.

The Congregation does a doubletake.  Blessed?  Fortunate? Lucky? What kind of world is this?  In America, if you are unemployed, people treat you as if you had some sort of disease [or consider you lazy or irresponsible if it goes on too long for them].  They don’t want to catch what you have.  If your marriage is a failure, you are a failure.  That doesn’t sound very blessed.

The preacher says, “Wait.  I should have been more clear.  I wasn’t talking about your kingdoms, the kingdoms built upon success and achievement and earnest striving.  I was talking about the kingdom of God.”  In this topsy-turvy place, our values are stood on their head.  Little in this kingdom comes naturally.  It comes because God is in charge and because we are invited to be part of God’s rule.

-From, Lord Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer & the Christian Life (Abingdon), 56.

photo of the day: go on a mission trip

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

–Mark Twain

If I may, I would say this is one of the biggest reasons why every Christian possible should go on regularly scheduled “short-term” missions trips… it helps us stay sane.  🙂

One reason I went to seminary was to get into cross cultural missions. I wanted to be able to do stuff like go teach in a Bible school overseas, but that is all still in process.

The simple fact of the matter is, if one has gone overseas at all, be it to study, or do a missions trip, one has gone further than nearly 90% of most Americans… a vast significant majority of Americans are like Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings, they have never left the Shire…

Heaven Quote of the Day

is given here.  which is:

But we DO need to ask some very tough questions of ourselves. Maybe if we weren’t so consumed with the question of who is “in” and who is “out” we might find a tougher question to ask, but one that is more relevant. Maybe we need to ask how God is going to redeem and renew his creation through us? Maybe if we ask THAT question, we’ll find we have something to actually do in our lives. The destination may not be the point. God transforming life may be the point. This seems to be what “____”  is aiming us at in this discussion.

Well, sometimes the problem one can encounter in writings one can tend to disagree alot more than one agrees with, is instances where the obvious is so well stated that it is a hidden strawman.   Who, among those who are looking forward to being “in heaven” with our Triune God,[1] would disagree with the fact that in our journey to eternity, “God transforming life” takes place along the way?

It is not that the point isn’t well taken, it is just that it seems maybe it is a bit overstating the obvious?  I mean, I know there are groups of Christians who tend to be “so heavenly minded they ain’t no earthly good,” such that they seem to be ignorant of or just not thinking about the fact that the journey to “heaven” involves a rare practice called “discipleship” and “tranformation” or “spiritual formation.”   I understand that and I suppose perhaps the scholar in reference is just working to that end, to remind folks of the transformative process of the Christian life….

well, anways, my offer in the comments over there still stands!  🙂


[1] note that in many instances the word Heaven in the Bible are often euphemisms for God so that “Heaven” and God are basically the same thing.  To “go to heaven” is to be with God, etc.

my weirdest post ever

could be this one…  sorry if it weirded people out…. 🙂

I mean have you heard of anything weirder than that?

what is wrong with a Christ-centered focus??!!

Is not nearly the whole of Scripture Christ centered?!

As one person (a fellow AG pastor and Pentecostal) objected on Facebook:

Christo-monistic? Does that mean “Jesus only”? The entirety of the NT is Christ-centered. Jesus’ promises of the Paraclete in Jn 14-16 describe the Spirit as pointing to Christ and his will. Over & over, the NT talks in terms of the world being made by and for Christ.  That is not at all Monistic. The Holy Spirit points to Christ, and Christ points to the Father. The Father puts “all things” into Christ’s hands and under his feet. All are “one.”

Yeah… so uh, how about we all just move on?  🙂

Dave Black on Philippians 2:12-13

Aug 5th 2012, 9:11 AM I always enjoy and benefit from reading Roger Olson’s blog posts. Since we’re studying Philippians in our Greek 3 class this summer, I was especially glad to see his recent sermon called “Grace Works” Philippians 2:12-13. I partly agree, and partly disagree, with his exegesis. I agree that the term “salvation” (soteria) in 2:12 is not referring to forensic, juridical justification but rather to what Olson calls “life after conversion.” Where I might diverge a bit from Olson is in his definition of “life after conversion”: “maintaining a healthy relationship with God as a converted believer.” This interpretation, in my view, is short-sighted since it begs the question of context and the macrostructure of the book (see my Novum Testamentum essay, The Discourse Structure of Philippians).
What does Paul mean by “work out your own salvation”? As Olson correctly notes, there are too many contextual clues to conclude that Paul is referring to initial justification. The emphasis is on the life of a Christian. But let us take that thought one step further. There are two main imperatives in 2:12-16: “work out your salvation” and “do all things without grumbling and complaining.” Hence 2:12-16 may be analyzed as a continuation of the plea to unity begun in 2:1-4. The theme of 2:12-16 may be stated thus: “I plead for you to obey me and to work at bringing healing to your community. For God is already at work among you to foster mutual good will instead of ill will. Do this in order that one one will be able to find fault in you as you share with others the message of life.” As F. F. Bruce writes (Philippians, 56-57), “In this context Paul is not urging each member of the church to keep working at his or her personal salvation; he is thinking of the health and well-being of the church as a whole. Each of them, and all of them together, must pay attention to this.”
In other words, what many commentators fail to consider is the corporate dimension of Paul’s exhortation in Phil. 2:12-13. Apparently his concern is that the Christians in Philippi, torn apart by dissension and strife, will work to complete the sanctification of the church (and each individual within it) lest the work of the Gospel be hindered. Believers are “co-souled” (2:2), inextricably linked together by the Spirit of God on the basis of their common faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, who is in the process of creating a visible community of faith — a living, breathing organism that knows that its most credible form of witness to the world is its own unity and love. In this light, verse 14 now makes perfect sense: the Philippians must “do all things without grumbling and complaining.” To be saved is to enter into a faith community that grants all of its member the opportunity to experience the depth of Christ’s love. Thus Paul is addressing the matter of unity where it matters most — in the area of interpersonal relationships. Perhaps this explains why his love ethic is so thoroughly eschatological. It is an ethics bound up with the purpose of the church as the New People of God whose citizenship is in heaven and whose ethics are best seen in the virtues of self-abnegation and humility of mind (2:3-4).
From this point of view, “salvation” in 2:12 is not simply a matter of one’s relationship with God. The role of the saints is much broader and deeper. Salvation helps us to structure our congregational life in such a way that we have the greatest potential to be influential witnesses within our families and communities, among whom we shine as stars in the world as we offer them the life-giving message. Hence we must always be praying that our love for one another (and, of course, for God) “might abound yet more and more in knowledge and full discernment” (1:9), simply because lovelessness is one of the main reasons people say they do not want to accept the Christ of Christianity.

World Christian?

Are you one?  Dave Black quotes Dan Clendenin, who, in an election year, confronts our more or less, would you call it “geo-centrism”?  Here is what is says in this blog post (in part):

           Two radical corollaries follow from the global character of God’s kingdom — the decentralization of your geography and the reorientation of your politics.

 Christians are geographic, cultural, national and ethnic egalitarians. For Christians there is no geographic center of the world, but only a constellation of points equidistant from the heart of God. Proclaiming that God lavishly loves all the world, each person, and every place, the gospel does not privilege any country as exceptional. A Bosnian Muslim is no further away from God’s love than an American Christian. A Honduran Pentecostal is no closer to God’s love than an Oxford atheist.

Much has been written lately about American exceptionalism and our global dominance. In terms of economic, political, military, scientific and cultural influence, America is unrivaled. In that sense, it’s accurate to say that America is “exceptional” (although there’s no reason to think this will last forever, or that all our influence is good). But from a theological or Christian point of view, America is no more or less “exceptional” in God’s eyes than Iceland, India, or Iraq. While allowing for a natural and wholesome love, even pride, in your own country (“there’s no place like home”), in the long run, Christian egalitarianism subverts every form of geo-political nationalism. Our ultimate citizenship, said Paul, is a spiritual one (Philippians 3:20).

Christian global vision also asks me to care as much about every country and its people as I do my own. Christians grieve the deaths of 90,000 Iraqi civilians as much as the 4,124 American soldiers killed in Iraq, or the 560 soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Christians lament the human tragedy of cyclone Nargis that killed 140,000 people in Burma, or the earthquake in the Sichuan province of China that killed 70,000 people, as much as they do that of Hurricane Katrina.

Christian globalism implies that your politics become reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons. In the gospels Jesus never proposed any political program. There’s no such thing as a “Christian” politics, and efforts by both Democrats and Republicans to co-opt Jesus for their side badly distort his message. Rather, Jesus calls us to something far more radical and demanding. He asks us to do what God Himself does, as expressed in two of the most famous verses in all the Bible. He calls us to “love the whole world” (John 3:16) and “your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

Dave Black finishes out asking:

So … has your geography been de-centralized? That is, are you a world Christian? And … have your politics been reoriented? That is, does your heavenly citizenship trump your earthly?

Good questions, if you ask me.

Yes, good questions and a proper challenge.  One thing I might like to add is that perhaps one way to ensure this globalization of your faith life and practice would be to go on missions trips!  Go overseas as often as you can and for a long as you can (more than just a week – the typical “missions” trip).  Regular excursions across the boarders of your home country as often as possible will, more likely than not, easily ensure you maintain a decentralized geography when it comes to “being a Christian”!