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,

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Neufeld thoughts on the Revelation

Henry Neufeld taught recently on the book of Revelation and shared some of his reflections about that experience:

  1. I’m more convinced than ever that we need to read Revelation more for theology and spiritual growth and less for trying to lay out timelines for the end of the world. I find good theology and good principles in many of these passages even if we continue to disagree on the specific referents.

  2. I have a great deal of sympathy for the preterist position, even though that is not precisely what I believe. Symbols generally do find credible referents in the immediate time and place. The problem with the preterist position, in my view, is that it is easy to leave all the book’s other lessons in the past as well. Revelation spoke to its own time, but it also speaks to the future.

  3. Revelation is possibly the most violent book in the New Testament. But it’s not about the violence. It’s about God’s faithfulness.

  4. Revelation is an unfolding of the gospel. It begins with Jesus with his church/people, and it ends with Jesus with his people. The rest assures God’s people that God is paying attention and is with them even when he doesn’t appear to be.

  5. In teaching Revelation we need to emphasize the persecuted church more. When you get to the fifth seal, for example, and the souls under the altar are asking “How long oh Lord?” it helps if we understand what persecution was and is like. I have always discussed persecution as an historical phenomenon. This time I spent more time discussing the present and what some of these passage might mean viewed from the perspective of people suffering persecution right now. Like Hebrews, Revelation speaks to people suffering or soon-to-suffer great hardship. We American Christians, in our ease, are likely to have a hard time hearing the message.

  6. The most important thing a Bible teacher can so, I believe, is teach people how to study for themselves. It’s not about getting across all of my beliefs or particular interpretations. What people need is to find a way to experience God for themselves—to hear God’s voice—through the pages of scripture.

I think these are some good thoughts!  I have never taught on the book of Revelation before, but I really like Henry’s reflections here.  Additionally, I agree with David Alan Black that Henry’s last point is his most important point.  🙂

Quote of the Day: Jesus Feminist

Debbie is reading Sarah Bessey’s recently published book: Jesus Feminist.

Jesus-Feminist-Cover-copyHere is one of the many good portions:

Mutuality is a beautiful picture of trust and a sign of the Kingdom of God. Sometimes the questions people ask or the judgments they imply make us chuckle.

Well, who is in charge here?

“We are.”

Yes, but if push comes to shove who is the leader?

“We are.”

But then, who is the spiritual head of your home?

Only Jesus. Only ever our Jesus.

When we were pastoring at the Grand Canyon National Park – we had this exact conversation so many times… and that to the head scratching and consternation of many. Why? Because we were “co-pastors.”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve shared with people my position on all this (what you see in the quote above is how I would say it) only to have people seem to change how they view me – not as a good man or even a strong man, but weak – submissive, letting my wife “wear the pants in the family” so to speak, not taking my proper place in the marriage, not being a good leader.  So, really, this little quote is a good encouragement to know I was not the only one who thought this way or even lived this way.

Here is the deal  – healthy relationships are built on and sustained by mutuality and trust – they work in tandem with each other.  If one is missing the relationship(s) will falter.  Without trust – mutuality will be hard to sustain; and mutuality can’t function without trust.  They have to work together.  Even further, mutuality is something that involves a strong sense of equality – a sort of even balanced give and take or rather receiving.  Both are giving, both are receiving and back and forth in a dynamic inter-relationship between the two that is centered in, on and around Jesus Christ – so Jesus is the head of the relationship – the center; both the centripital and centrifugal force that pushes out and draws in, again, in a dynamic exchange of inter-relationship between one another, one with the other.  Obviously, Jesus is the one who is over and above it all – he is the Lord of all, yet in relationship with the couple (here we speak of marriage) he is the source and energy and drive behind the mutuality and trust.  He is the center and spiritual head of our lives, our marriage, our home, our family, and our church.

QOTD: Carson on Philippians

basicsThe Kindle edition of Don Carson’s book, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Baker Academic), is on a temporary $4 sale.

Here is a good quote from chapter one (worth the price of the $4 Kindle edition alone).

I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much— just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races— especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. …

Carson, D. A. (1996-04-01). Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Kindle Locations 44-50). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I preached through a large part of Philippians when we were at the Grand Canyon and it sure was a challenging book to say the least!  I think its one that every church needs to go through verse by verse.  It so integral to the life and health of the congregation – what can be more important that building one another up in the faith and promoting unity for the sake of the gospel??  But and However, in order to get to that place, most congregations have a lot of work to do – you know – work out their salvation with fear and trembling.  No, silly, not trying to earn one’s salvation but learn to work out personal differences and setting aside personal agendas and following the model of Christ himself, the humble obedient servant, the one who’s attitude we must emulate if the gospel is going to impact not just our communities and the world, but also our own community of faith and our own hearts.  

That bears repeating – the ONLY WAY the gospel will go forth in our own hearts and in our own communities, really and truly, is for each person and for the whole congregation to take on the attitude of Christ, becoming humble obedient servants – to Christ, to one another, and to the gospel – SO THAT the gospel may go forth.  

St Paul was a man of singular passion – Christ and the gospel – that was it, nothing else mattered.  NOTHING.  

I wonder, is it the same for us?  Don’t tell, show me!  🙂  

Blessings. 

on the household codes

I know Rachel Held Evans drives a lot of folks batty but I thought this particular post was really really good.

She talks about the household codes in the letters of Paul and Peter.

It steps on a lot of toes.

Here are a couple pretty key points I though were worth consideration:

Jesus changes everything.

and

Paul is not simply talking about equal access to salvation here; he is talking about the creation of a new family where the social and religious lines that once separated men from women, slaves from the free, Jews and Gentiles vanish in the Household of God. 

also,

So when Peter and Paul introduce Jesus to the household, everything changes. Rather than placing the male head-of-house at the sovereign center, Peter and Paul place Jesus Christ at the center. And with Jesus Christ at the center, all the old boundaries break down and the hierarchies begin to blur.

It is hard for us to recognize it now, but Peter and Paul were introducing the first Christian family to an entirely new community, a community that transcends the rigid hierarchy of human institutions, a community in which submission is mutual and all are free.

finally…

Given the context, it seems clear that the ultimate purpose of the Christ/Church metaphor is intended to point men and women toward more mutuality, not more hierarchy,

Suffice it to say, there is some good stuff here.

 

On John 20:19-23 and Acts 2

One of my NT professors from AGTS, Ben Aker has written what I would say is a tremendous article on the Biblical distinction between Regeneration and Spirit Baptism in reference to John 20:19-23 and Acts 2. Trust me, its really good!

Dr. Aker writes:

There are two Biblical texts that scholars often discuss, frequently misinterpret, and thus confuse regarding regeneration and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They are John 20:19-23 and Acts 2. In the first of these references the word “breathed” occurs. This study then will focus on the meaning and use of the word in John 20:22. I propose that “breathed” refers to regeneration and concerns an actual, supernatural event in which Jesus imparts eternal life to the first disciples through the Spirit. This paper will discuss“ breathed” under two main headings: its lexical and conceptual meanings and uses and the contribution of John’s theology to its meaning and use.

Well, it blessed me and I hope it will bless you too!

Pope Francis I on ‘the Cross of Christ’

via Pastor Dan’s blog:

From Pope Francis I’s first homily:

Pope Francis praying at Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore basilica“We must always walk in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, always trying to live in an irreprehensible way,” he said in a heartfelt homily of a parish priest, loaded with biblical references and simple imagery.

“When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly,” he said.

“We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord,” he said.

He said those who build on worldly values instead of spiritual values were like children building sand castles on a beach. “Then everything comes crashing down,” he said.

More HERE.

Sounds like things are already off to a GREAT start!