Dave Black on Matt 6:33

Dave Black reflected on his blog about what Jesus might have meant when he said “seek first the kingdom of God.”  I thought it was really good and wanted to share with you here:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

7:15 AM Jesus repeatedly emphasized that following Him meant radically changing our priorities. What did He mean when He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God”? Here are some ideas:

1) Seek first the kingdom of God vocationally. Ask tough questions about your employment. Are you where God wants you to be? If so, are you using your occupation to advance God’s kingdom?

2) Seek first the kingdom of God maritally. Have a Great Commission Marriage. Put the kingdom first in your married and family life.

3) Seek first the kingdom of God geographically. The issue of where we live has everything to do with the kingdom. Let’s be open to God’s guidance. Unlike our secular counterparts, we can no longer select a place to live based merely on comfort, affordability, good schools, etc.

4) Seek first the kingdom of God ecclesiologically. I strongly urge you to find a church home that shares your urgency for the kingdom and global missions. Traditional wisdom dictates that we are to seek a church on the basis of buildings, programs, convenience, and, regrettably, personalities. As a result, church life becomes inwardly-focused, and we fail to become the presence of the kingdom in society. When Becky and I joined our church in Roxboro, NC, we did so largely because of its clear and consistent vision to be a part of the kingdom initiative of God. It seeks to manifest the values of Jesus’ upside-kingdom. It gives high priority to missions. Our goal is to strive as authentically as  possible to incarnate the life and teachings of Jesus in our corporate and individual lives.

5) Seek first the kingdom of God financially. Jesus calls us to avoid the rat race of consumerism and materialism. Let’s reexamine our lifestyles to see how we can free up dollars for the kingdom.

6) Seek first the kingdom of God physically. Obesity and self-indulgence characterize many American evangelicals. It never occurs to us that avoiding overeating is a way to serve the kingdom. As disciples we are called to set aside physical comfort and devote our bodies to God as living sacrifices. I struggle constantly to keep my weight under control. But I must maintain good physical condition if I am to be able to walk long distances in Ethiopia.

7) Seek first the kingdom of God ministerially. Every believer is a fulltime “minister.” Churches can do much more to utilize qualified volunteers who essentially pay themselves to serve. We must change the emphasis in our churches from hiring professional staff to equipping “laypeople” to be the church.

8) Seek first the kingdom of God institutionally. Let’s ask, “How can we use our corporate resources most effectively and sacrificially for the kingdom?” Take our church buildings. Surely we can do a better job in constructing and utilizing church properties so as to channel more resources into missions and service to the needy. I once read of a congregation of 4,000 in Oregon that, instead of building a new sanctuary, established a separate corporation to build a self-supporting convention hall that the church uses free of charge. Another example: Missionary organizations can separate overhead costs from money raised for missionaries. In other words, money contributed to missionary causes would go entirely to these causes, while all overhead costs (including salaries for executives) would be raised separately.

9) Seek first the kingdom of God intellectually. Has Christ’s lordship had any effect on your thought life? What you read? Your attitudes? Sometimes it is easier to read books about the Scriptures than to read the Scriptures themselves. What makes us think that commentaries or websites are more important than the Word of God? We neglect the Bible to our own peril. I often remind my students that 99 percent of what I know about God and the Christian life I learned from reading my Bible rather than books about the Bible. God does not ask us to forego reading books by human authors (goodness, I’ve written my share of them), but His lordship is not visible in our lives until we prioritize His Word.

These are some practical ways by which we can seek first the kingdom of God. I’m sure many others could be mentioned. Seeking first the kingdom of God means that our time, our money, our very selves are available to God, to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to the world. It’s not a matter of simply attending church or participating in endless rounds of programs. It’s about changing the world by becoming what Jesus intended the church to be: a servant to the world. “The church is only the church when it exists for others,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Christ calls us to pour our lives into the needy world that surrounds us. He promises us that as we do this, we will find that His yoke of service is easy and His burden is light. If you live this way, you will find His promise — as Becky and I have — to be true.

I’ll tell ya, I really like how Dave thinks!  To be sure, he is such a blessing to those who know him, are in his classes and or read his blog.

Blessings,

Moltmann on the Mission of the Church

What do you think?

moltmannIn many Christian churches, similar polarization have come into being between those who see the essence of the church in evangelization and the salvation of souls, and those who see it in social action for the salvation and liberation of real life.  But in Christian terms evangelization and humanization are not alternatives.  Nor are the ‘vertical dimension’ of faith and the ‘horizontal dimension’ of love for one’s neighbor and political change.  Nor are “Jesuology’ and christology, the humanity and the divinity of Jesus.  Both coincide in his death on the cross.  Anyone who makes a distinction here, enforces alternatives and calls for a parting of the ways, in dividing the unity of God and man in the person, the imitation of and the future of Christ.

These alternatives are equally absurd from the point of view of practice.  Evangelization would lead either to a crisis of relevance or to an inevitable involvement in the social and political problems of society.  Beginning with preaching, one is then faced with questions of community organization, the education of children and the work for the sick and poor.  The humanization of social circumstances leads either to a crisis of identity, or inevitably to evangelization or pastoral care.  Beginning with the improvement of social conditions in the poverty-stricken areas and liberation from political oppression, one is then faced with the question how the wretched and oppressed can be removed from their inner apathy and given new self-confidence, that is, with the question of how to arouse faith and conquer the structure of servility in their minds.  Of course one cannot do everything, but at least everyone must recognized the other charismata in the body of Christ and the necessity for other work by other people to relieve misery.

‘Change yourself,’ some say, ‘and then your circumstances will also change.’  The kingdom of God and of freedom is suppose to have to do only with persons.  Unfortunately the circumstances will not oblige.  Capitalism, racism and inhuman technocracy quietly develop in their own way.  The causes of misery are no longer to be found in the inner attitudes of men, but have long been institutionalized.
‘Change the circumstances,’ other say, ‘and men will change with them.’  The kingdom of God and of freedom is suppose to be a matter only of circumstances and structures.  Unfortunately, however, men will not oblige.  Breakdowns in marriage, drug addiction, suicide and alcoholism continue undisturbed.  Structures which make people unhappy can be broken down, but no guarantee is attached that men will be happy.

Thus both must be done at the same time.  Personal, inner change without a change in circumstances and structures is an idealist illusion, as though man were only a soul and not a body as well.  But a change in external circumstances without inner renewal is a materialists illusion, as though man were only a product of his social circumstance and nothing else. (22-23)

From his book: The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology.

Credit for finding the quote goes to Joel Willitts – where he posted about it here.

on the local church

Dave Black presents some challenging convictions we all need to think about: 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

5:05 AM At the risk of repeating myself …  

  • I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

  • I am convinced of the normalcy of tent-making leadership.

  • I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

  • I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

  • I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient. Efficient in doing almost everything other than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

  • I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

  • I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

  • I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

  • I am convinced that the church is a multi-generational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

  • I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

  • I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

  • I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

  • I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands (a candidate for ordination) in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

  • I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

  • I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

  • I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.

  • I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

  • I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

  • I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

  • I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

  • I am convinced that everyone needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

Think about it.

It’s a lot to think about and to be honest, over the last couple years I have been becoming convinced of many of the same points as well.

What about you?

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.

what kind of church?

doing a flurry of post from the past when I was still at AGTS.  This was one was posted Dec 6, 2005:

Okay, so I was with some friends Sunday night and they talked about their vision for family ministry (they are recent aGts grads)  I was connecting with them and understanding everything fine, then the word “postmodern” came up.  They would like to be in a postmodern church.  I thought to myself hmmm…because another friend I have also wants to minister in a so-called “postmodern” church as well.

That’s cool. So, just what is a “postmodern” church?  Since nobody can even really define what “postmodern” is, which may be fitting with some of the values of the concept, how do we know what “it” is?  What would it look like?  How would it function in a given setting, say, rural areas?

Also, since the new wave seems to be a so-called “hyper-modernism” why would anyone want to be postmodern anymore (whatever that is)?

Why can’t we just be the church, the people of God as he has called us to be?  Willing and able to function in any setting in which he places us?  Why label it?  Whatever “it” is?

Shalom,

Quote of the Day: Donald G. Bloesch

I believe in one church – the holy catholic and apostolic church, but this church must never be confined to any single historical institution.  The holy catholic church is the invisible church of true believers that crosses all denominational lines and even includes some who may not be formal members of any ecclesiastical body.  It excludes all, however, who are not truly committed to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, even of some of these might be active church participants.  While not identical with any particular faith body, the holy catholic church is more manifest in some communions than others.  It may indeed be only dimly reflected in churches that elevate their own programs [and doctrinal emphasis?] over the gospel, that seek glory for themselves rather than glory to God alone (soli Deo gloria).  The holy catholic church is the kingdom of God, which is hidden in both church and world but is actively at work in history, seeking to bring all things to completion in Jesus Christ.

Donald G. Bloesch, Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration & Interpretation (Christian Foundations) (IVP, 1994), 15.

on maintaining relationships in the body

of Christ.  this photo has been going around Facebook:

It made me wonder, could you imagine the level of UNITY we could have in the greater Body of Christ we could have if we were to follow this simple principle, or even just the idea of seeking to save a relationship over and against having to be right (or more right than another) all the time??

Now, please know, for all intents purposes, I am referring to general situations within the bounds of Historic Orthodox Christianity.  BUT… I wonder too to what level of effectiveness could we reach as the Body of Christ if we sought relationships with one another over worrying about being right, and even how might this impact our ability to impact the world as witnesses to the Risen Christ by the unity we display?

Just imagine that.   What do you think?

Alan Hirsch on being a missionary incarnational church

Check out this amazing video with Alan Hirsch on the missional and incarnational DNA of the church! He says a lot in this video and its like every statement was a loaded one that needs unpacking – this is the kind of stuff that gets me fired up! lol!

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#! … Read More

via scientia et sapientia

this is why I have a goal to do a ThM in Bible (to get as much Bible as I can) and then do a PhD in Intercultural Studies. All in good time I suppose. All in good time. 🙂

The theme of Ephesisans

the eternal purpose of God in Christ is that through the church God’s glorious grace might be known in all the earth; that all things would be gathered up into Christ.

I like this summation of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians!  I got it from David Flowers’ blog where he has a post talking about the eternal purpose of God.  It’s good stuff.  Go check out the rest of the post!   The sad thing is, and this is my biggest concern right now, is that with all the bantering currently going on among Evangelicals about what constitutes “the gospel” and in that regard, who is “in” and who is “out” is directly impeding the larger, and more important, ability of the Church universal (but especially the USAmerican Church) from fulfilling or allowing God to fulfill in and though us, his Church, his eternal purposes, which is that grace might be known in all the earth!

Well, anyways I found it an interesting read.  Flower concludes:

Out of Adam… God brought forth Eve.  Out of Jesus… he called out a Bride.  The Trinitarian God, who is heavenly community, looks for a dwelling in his children upon the earth.  By the power of his Spirit and the fullness of his grace we are included in his plan.  Are you participating in the eternal purpose of God in Christ?

That’s the key question isn’t it?  What say you?