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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Human Jesus video: a comment



My video comment is quite brief. My article is a bit more detailed, but it was not my purpose to delve into an exhaustive commentary on the documentary.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Gospel of Jesus



The message of the love of God


Our daily lives are filled with doing and acquiring. We have a clear date in mind when we got the job, when we got married and most everything which is special and significant to us. We are able to recount and retell specifics concerning those events and special moments years after their occurrence. Why then, are so many disciples of Jesus troubled and at a loss to recount and retell the moment of their commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior?

Recently, I found myself telling the old story of the gospel to a neighbor and to a dear sibling. That is a story which has remained as much a fire in my bones as ever since thirty three years ago. I rejoice in the telling of the story. It stirs in me a keen and wonderfully discomforting awareness for the lively and enlightening ancient story of the gospel. There is nothing like standing in the warmth of the fire with the one hearing the message of the love of God.

A lack of confidence

I feel for brothers and sisters in the faith who do not know and often are frightened by the intimacy and intensity of sharing the gospel. I can only wonder what they were taught at the time of their conversion. What I learn is often what they were taught is so scrambled and vague. It produced no confidence for them in the sharing of their own story. Some were told to repeat a prayer. Others were told to simply let themselves go and feel the spirit. Still, others may have great zeal and confidence, but they find themselves at a loss to find an example like their experience in the scriptures.

The first gospel sermon

The gospel is the good news. It occurs to me the good news of the gospel does not begin with the birth of Jesus in a manger. It begins with his death. The gospel is the message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. When Peter preached the first gospel message on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 he was clear and specific about the things he proclaimed to his audience. He proclaimed the death, burial of Jesus to his audience and made it clear to them they had crucified this Lord and Christ whom God had raised up.

him, being delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by the hand of lawless men, crucified and killed; 2:24 whom God raised up,

The apostle Peter through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit clarifies for his listeners the interpretation of Psalm 16. He makes it clear the burial (Hades) in the Psalm was not about David, but about Jesus.

The conversion of Saul

When the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul, who was a persecutor of the church, he was struck blind and waited until Ananias was sent to him. Saul arose and was baptized as he was instructed by Ananias.

The teaching of Paul

The apostle Paul wrote many letters to the churches throughout Asia and Europe. It remained clear in his memory what he had been taught by Ananias. He was as specific when he recounted to the Romans his conversion.

Or don’t you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 6:4 We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.

Note how Paul includes himself (we, us) with the Christians in Rome in what he referred to as a form of teaching later in verse 17.

Furthermore, the apostle Paul defined the gospel in First Corinthians 15:1-4.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

The confidence of our first century brothers and sisters was not in the wonders and signs performed by the apostles and those upon whom the apostles had laid hands. Their confidence was rooted in the keen knowledge and awareness of what the gospel they had been taught and how and when they obeyed it. Search the scriptures for that form of teaching you were taught and obeyed. There is confidence in knowing that what we teach others is what we ourselves obeyed ,and most importantly, according to the scriptures.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Marks of a Spiritual



Note: The RRMinistry is a twin blog to the YouTube site by the same name. My prolonged technical struggles on the video side are nearly over. . . Finally, SUCCESS!! These posts are not offered as manuscripts of the videos. The blog allows those with more extended comments the space to do so. Thank you. Walk in the Spirit. Gil.

Soundbites and implications

There is, for some people, no meaning in life. Just live and die. End of story. Others seek to understand and articulate in simple, clear terms beyond a superficial level those things which hold meaning for them.

There's an unfortunate fallout behind such a simple and clear cut approach. The fallout is that understanding and meaning are summed up in soundbites: I'm not religious. I am spiritual. It's an mistaken implication which places spiritual over religious. One would be no less mistaken to place religiosity over spirituality. Competitive ranking and one-upmanship are the way of the world. It does not take much listening to people's efforts to express themselves beyond soundbites before their lack of understanding becomes apparent. Perhaps even worse than trite soundbites is the extremely convoluted language surrounding the talk about spirituality. Many buy into it whether in the form of superficial soundbites or the extremely convoluted because, _ it's spiritual.

Spirituality on the Internet

A brief sampling of some offerings on spiritual/spirituality found on the Internet:

just be honest, listen to your inner self, be good, listen to your gut, listen to your heart, do what feels good, do what makes you feel good inside, be yourself, everyone is spiritual, everything is spiritual, you are already spiritual, you are god, be in tune with your energy, rocks are spiritual, trees are spiritual, animals are spiritual, get in tune with the universe; a list without end.

Can anyone who feeds on this walk away with a appreciable understanding they have been filled with anything substantive in their quest for spirituality or to be a spiritual?

How is a spiritual to be identified? What does it mean to be spiritual? The question, Who is a spiritual, emerged in the apostle Paul's admonition to the Christians in Galatia, you who are spiritual restore the one who has fallen in sin.

Commonly accepted proofs of spirituality

The answer to the question, "Who is spiritual/What is spirituality?" turns our attention to Jesus. If ever there were a spiritual in word and deed (curiously, he never made claims of being spiritual) it is Jesus. It is significant his entire life and ministry are a living model of a spiritual; one without vagueness, pretense, display or the bizarre acts some uphold as proof of the call of heaven. His spirituality was evident and lived out in the midst of everyday people not as something to impress others as a mountaintop recluse. Compare this with popular proofs some teach or embrace as spirituality so readily. I encourage you to Google YouTube video for spirituality for a sampling.

These accepted proofs of spirituality include prayer, singing, listening to Christian radio, fasting, being present in the fellowship of the saints, notable clothing and adornments such as pure white garments, crucifixes, aromatics, chants, pilgrimages, soft speech and more.

Understand, this is neither a condemnation or rejection of any of these. A spiritual may very well engage or possess some or all of these, but to pass these off and accept these as what makes one spiritual, _ in outward appearance and behavior, falls short of what Jesus modeled for his disciples. Certainly, writing, such as this article about spirituality, is proof neither of spirituality nor that one is a spiritual person. Jesus modeled what being spiritual and possessing spirituality as a pretext that, you too can be can be spiritual.

Jesus and Paul on being spiritual

There's an important value between Paul's call to those who are spiritual (and would-be spiritual) with what Jesus modeled. The importance of this is vital because today many have been influenced, or lured, by the self-proclaimed spiritual individuals who cast Paul aside as an irrelevant religious (as in, not spiritual) in favor of Jesus, the spiritual. At the heart of Paul's message is that there is more than declaring oneself spiritual or being spiritual: It is what the individual, the spiritual, does for another. There's no better example of doing for another than to actively engage in the restoration of their faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Discussions and claims of being spiritual, of possessing spirituality and what constitutes these matters of the Spirit are more often an abandonment either to emotional highs or an austere appearance and demeanor. It is left solely to the individual to craft his or her own spirituality; _ for themselves. The mere use of the word in their speech is, in some people's minds, proof of their spirituality.

Jesus subjected himself to the scrutiny of his disciples. He modeled and demonstrated repeatedly certain marks of a spiritual for his disciples. I refer you to the gospel according to John chapter 8 as just one example and which will be the focus of this article. The scene involves a woman caught in the act of adultery (the man is never mentioned). The religious leaders have engaged in a carnal spectacle of bringing her before Jesus.

Marks of a spiritual

Jesus modeled the marks of a spiritual. Those same marks were exhibited by the apostle Paul. These marks, or characteristics, are for all disciples to learn and live daily. These are just three marks. They are not offered as thorough or a complete study of spirituality as modeled by Jesus. Where the Holy Spirit dwells and fills the heart of the believer, these marks begin as a thought process 1) Wisdom to discern, to a decision process 2) Confidence to judge, to the action process 3) Authority to speak.

1. Wisdom to discern (a thought process)

Jesus knew what was in the hearts of men. They were relentless in their efforts to trap him. The woman cast before him was a carnal spectacle for them. Perhaps some looked on her with disgust, others with lust, others perhaps with shame and pain for her. These emotions are not readily apparent but the reaction of her accusers to Jesus' invitation for those without sin to cast the first stone would suggest that they were what Jesus saw in their own hearts: hypocrites.

Those who dragged the woman to throw her before Jesus had no more regard for upholding the law than to see the woman restored; a clear display of men without the marks of a spiritual. How does one acquire the wisdom to assess the dangerous condition of a brother or sister in Christ playing with temptation? It is acquired through personal observation, listening and conversing with them, what others confide about them to you, or even, gossip. Gossip may or may not be true necessarily, certainly not to engage in, not to be repeated, but to be noted. These are resources and means for acquiring an accurate assessment of the individual beyond mere superficial appearances.

Discernment is getting below the surface and it is the wisdom from above of which James speaks which shapes the spiritual person's' thoughts:

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

Once the situation has been discerned wisely the danger or destruction of sin in a brother or sister's life it is still merely a thought hidden in the innermost heart. If it remains there it could well turn out to be our own hurt because we neglected so great a responsibility towards one in need. Too often fear is the reason the wisdom to discern remains an inaction, a mere thought.

2. Confidence to judge (a decision process)

There may be no greater misunderstanding, as much from believers as non-believers, than as concerns making a judgment and the fear associated with it. The idea of judging strikes an ugly, discordant note in discussions on this topic and is often promptly discarded. Most of all it is seen as not being spiritual. However, the text raises the question: Did Jesus judge the woman? Invariably, the quick response is, no. After all, did not Jesus say, Judge not lest you be judged? Indeed, Jesus did say that but a closer look of the Matthew 7 passage reveals his admonition to the disciples is to not be quick or hasty in their judgments.

There's another misunderstanding of scripture by disciples and one driven by the world's own misunderstanding of scripture, primarily. It's the lament, or the hand washing of all responsibility in the work of restoration, by those who cry, none of us are perfect. We all sin. Furthermore, they add, I'm not Jesus or the apostle Paul. True. However, disciples are called to be like Jesus and less like self in the work of restoring the fallen. It is about the one being restored.

Jesus judges a sinner

The confidence with which Jesus responds to the woman, neither do I condemn you implies He judged her. She is guilty of sin and deserving of condemnation. Her accusers failed to condemn her not so much because of their own sin (the law of Moses made no provision for anyone excluding themselves from stoning the accused because of their own sin) but because of the primary evil intentions of their heart towards Jesus. Jesus didn't condemn her because of the grace and love which he lavished on her.

What many overlook in their fear and aversion of judging is there is a judgment unto condemnation and a judgment unto salvation as concerns the restoration of a brother or sister who has fallen.

Certainly, there will be a judgment day of condemnation, but the concern in the text is the restoration, a judgment unto salvation, of this woman or a saint in Christ who has fallen.

Paul judged a sinner

When Paul learned of the Christians in Corinth (I Corinthians 5) boasting about one their own living an immoral life Paul did not hesitate to make a judgment on the matter. Although absent from their midst he judged the man and urged them to put him out of the church, that is, to break fellowship with him and have nothing to do with him. He did not give the church license to malign or otherwise vent their own personal emotions on the wayward brother. The church did as Paul instructed, the man repented and was restored (II Corinthians 2). Paul effectively modeled for them the marks of a spiritual not with vague words but through simple, direct words and actions.

Jesus, and Paul, judged these matters with the same confidence common among all believers in the Lord who rejoice in the love and grace of God. This is the confidence that comes from having been set free from fear and its crippling misery.

In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:17,18)

The disciple who, with confidence judges his brother or sister so as to rescue or restore them, may do so without fear of punishment. Yet, though that disciple acts with full integrity and honesty that will not exempt him/her or immunize him/her against a verbal assault from the one to whom they minister. Think of it as a test of your integrity and the sincerity of your motives behind your confidence to judge; your decision to follow-through on your thoughts.

3. Authority to speak (an action process)

The authority to speak is founded in scripture and not a church official or an individual in a position of authority. The words Jesus spoke are scripture and are spirit and life.

It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing.
The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. (John 6:63)

Scalpel or hatchet?

The rescue or restoration of those in danger or who have fallen in sin is not a work to be handled with opinions and good thoughts. Definitely, it is not the work of a novice in the faith. This is not to say we can not have opinions and thoughts of our own. The scriptures in the hands of a spiritual in restoring the fallen is as a scalpel in the hands of a heart surgeon. Opinions or scripture mishandled is like a hatchet in the hands of a fool. Which would you prefer in the hands of your heart surgeon: a scalpel or a hatchet?

The authority with which Jesus spoke to the woman, Go and sin no more is no less than as he has entrusted his disciples to do. Speaking with authority is not grandstanding to display one's own perceived spiritual prowess. The task of restoration is an awesome one. It is a time to speak with humility the authority of the word of God. It is a time to glorify God. It is a time for heaven to rejoice at the restoration of one who had fallen. Peter's words fit the work of the spiritual restoration of a fallen disciple.

If anyone speaks, let it be as it were the very words of God. If anyone serves, let it be as of the strength which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:11)

Authority makes some people uneasy. It's an uneasiness some prefer to put aside by speaking their feelings and opinions rather than the voice of authority. What they soon discover is the inadequacy of those feelings and opinions to live by or to minister to one who has fallen precisely because he followed his own feelings and opinions rather than to obey authority. Truly, this is the final test of the individual's thoughts, decision and action concerning the work of restoring the believer who has fallen in sin. Actions may be louder than words, but actions accompanied by words of authority are clear, healing and restorative for those fallen in sin. This is the work of a the one who is spiritual. His spirituality is not for him to claim nor a badge to be displayed proudly. It is his humble service to those in need.

You who are spiritual who are ever growing in wisdom to discern, confidence to judge and authority to speak restore your brother or sister who have fallen in sin.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Guess

I do not remember her name. I do remember my joy at her startled reaction and then rejoiced for her as I turned to leave.


My wife and I were shopping clothes for our girls ages three through eight. No matter what the outing as much as possible I was always along. It was never, ever a question for me whether to stay home or accompany my family. I walked in from the office in suit and tie and turned right around to head for the mall. After we had the better part of the job done I told Nelwyn I was going next door to get a coffee. It was located between a real estate office and a travel agency.

The young lady welcomed me with a cheerful greeting into the empty restaurant. She took my order and turned to get my coffee immediately. I discerned a faint accent.

I asked, "Where are you from?"
She said, "Guess." with the same cheerfulness.
"Italy." I guessed.
"Actually, I am Persian but I speak Gaelic and grew up in England" she replied. "What kind of work do you do?" she asked.
"Guess." I replied.
"Are you a realtor?" she queried.
"In a manner of speaking." I replied.
"Are you a travel agent?" she asked.
"In a manner of speaking." I replied.
"Well" I said as she handed me my coffee with a smile, "would you tell me what is your father's business?"

All of a sudden her cheerful, smiling face flashed a serious look of alarm.

"How did you know my father had a business?" she asked.
"What is your father's business? I asked again.
"How do you know my father has a business?" she persisted.
"What is your father's business? I persisted.
"He owns a tailor shop in London." she replied.

"My Father has a business to which he called me. My Father's business is to cloth men and women in righteousness to prepare them for that time when they travel from this world." I said.

"You must be a priest. What church do you go to?" she asked; a question which too often receives the terse door-closer it elicits was not my answer. She had recovered her cheerfulness and smile as she immersed herself again into the warmth of our conversation.

"In that you ask me if I am a travel agent I can, in a manner of speaking, sell you passage for your departure from this world. In that you ask me if I am a realtor I can, in a manner of speaking, sell you a portion in the kingdom of heaven not of this earth."

The moment, for that's how it seemed and how I remember it, was captivating for her as it was for me. I remember being mindful of the Spirit's presence and utterance. Although she asked for neither passage nor portion she had engaged eagerly perhaps because of her own nature of challenging others to guess and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit I myself had taken her up on her guess. I thanked her for the coffee and turned to leave rejoicing with her for her evident joy at hearing those words.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Jesus was crucified

Did Samuelsson not intend the sensationalist effect of his research? I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say that was not what he intended mainly because he states Jesus was crucified. Still, there's some value to his contribution because he, a Christian, makes Christians mindful of how we speak matters of faith in terms other than those present in the scriptures. We engage in this when we speak, for example, of trinitarian and unitarian doctrines defining terms not present in the scriptures.


Much as I appreciate scholarly work I am leery any time the focus of a doctrine relies on drilling down on a single word. In simple terms Samuelsson's point is akeen to a defense attorney arguing for his client's acquittal because all the testimony states he took the victim's life, took him down but no one ever said his client shot and killed the victim. Is this not the case if the scripture testifys Jesus was suspended on a cross that he was indeed put to death by crucifixion?

Here's an example for my leeriness concerning scholarly findings such as Samuelsson's. He may be as loaded with those pictures of crucifixion when he says Jesus "was required to carry the 'stauros' to Calvary and they 'stauroun' him." The scripture says it was Simon of Cyrene (Luke 23:26) who carried the cross for Jesus.