Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cultural Christianity, could you have it?

What does it really mean to "put God first in your life?" What does it mean when we say I'm a "follower of Jesus?" What is the reality of "loving God?" what does all this Christian Talk mean?

The Church has been influenced by both the secular culture and in my opinion even more insidiously by Christian culture.What do I mean by christian Culture? and why use the word insidious to describe christian culture, is christian culture really that bad?

First, let me say that when I use the term christian culture I'm not referring to our rich Christian traditions. I'm not disparaging the great confessions of the faith, the creeds, or all of the rich history of the orthodox Christian church, but what I mean to zero in on is the American version of Christianity that has griped the church in the United States.

Let's us look at Cultural Christianity form Paul's letter to Timothy in 2 Tim 3:5. I'll provide a few different versions so you can get the idea for the different words used to describe cultural Christianity:

 having a form of godliness...(NIV)
 They will act religious...(NLT)
 having the appearance of godliness...(ESV)
 Who have a form of God-worship...(Aramiac Bible in Plain English)
 They will appear to have a godly life...(God's Word Translation)

We get an even clearer picture of cultural Christianity form the denunciations of Jesus against the religious leaders of His day; in  Matthew 23: 25-28 the Pharisee's external religiosity is severely condemned and rebuked by Jesus.

The Pharisee's religion merely consisted of obeying and conforming to a religious system, a set of rules and ceremonies to be observed and followed. Now, I'm sure to those on the outside these Pharisee's seemed to be a holy and pious group of people---but it is to these religious people Jesus reserved his harshest criticisms.

The picture that I'm trying to create is that it is possible to have a form of religion on the outside, but not have a changed heart.

True conversion must take place on the inside first--- this is why Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again (John 3:3). Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we are told that we need a new heart, and that the Holy Spirit must make us alive to God through true spiritual conversion (cf Titus 3:5).

This change on the inside comes when God makes us alive by His grace, through faith in the sacrifice of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (cf Ephesians 2:8-9).

Warning: See Matthew 7:23, "Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' We need to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). We need to examine our lives to make sure that we are not merely religious; having an appearance of Godliness, but we need to know that we have been changed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out.


Monday, September 17, 2012

The Perseverance of the Saints

 The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is not some old stuffy theological ethereal doctrine given to us from a an ivy tower by some stodgy theologian. No, it is the engine, the fuel, that fires the Christian up and helps him to run on all cylinders. 

Just what does it mean to persevere?  Actually it is part of our sanctification---we as God's people have been declared holy (Eph. 1:4). In short, the word holy means to be set apart, sacred, used by God for his purposes. So, to persevere is to be kept by the power of God, through the faith that He has given His people.

When the believer realizes that his salvation is of the Lord---he can live with confidence that God will keep him until he reaches heaven (1 Peter. 1:3-5). We will persevere and therefore we are secure, because we will persevere.

Christian live each day in the reality that it is God, the creator, king, and supreme ruler of heaven and earth who has committed Himself to keep each and everyone who are in His family.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lectio Devina-should we be concerned?

As a christian one can't help but come across the term lectio divina (pronounced lex-ee-o di-veen-a). Many of our churches are introducing this ancient practice along with scores of books that tell us that we have been "missing something" in our christian experience.

Many evangelical writers and leaders have been endorsing and teaching this ancient practice. At first sight, this seems to be a "good thing," who would have any concerns with reading the Scriptures slowly and deliberately? Who would have a concern with praying the Scriptures? who would have a concern with pondering and thinking on a passage of Scripture? Well, if that is all that is being taught there would be no problem. However, there is more to this practice than "thinking on the Scriptures."

Lighthouse Trails gives us this piece of advice:

 But if you ask mystics or contemplatives what it entails (And who would know better than they?), they will tell you that lectio divina  always includes taking a passage of Scripture (or other writings), reading it slowly, then working your way down until you have just a word or small phrase from the passage that you are meditating on (repeating over and over). Basically, you are coming up with a mantra-like word or phrase that has been extracted from a passage of Scripture, which, according to contemplatives, if repeated for several minutes will help you get rid of thoughts and distractions, so then, they say, you can hear the voice of God and feel His presence http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/newsletters/2012/newsletters20120910.htm.

 Lighthouse Trails continues with this---

Contemplative mysticism pioneer Thomas Keating explains what lectio divina is not. It is not traditional Bible study, not reading the Scriptures for understanding and edification, and not praying the Scriptures (though praying the Scriptures can be a form of lectio divina when a word or phrase is taken from the Scriptures to focus on for the purpose of going into “God’s presence.”). Keating says that lectio divina is an introduction into the more intense practices – contemplative prayer and centering prayer http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/newsletters/2012/newsletters20120910.htm

And the article continues:

While some people think lectio divina is just reading Scripture slowly, and what’s wrong with that, it is the focusing on and repeating a word or small phrase to facilitate going into the “silence” that is the real danger. There is certainly nothing wrong with reading Scripture carefully and thoughtfully. Thoughtfully, we say. In eastern-style meditation (and in contemplative prayer) thoughts are the enemy. Eastern-style mystic Anthony De Mello describes this problem with thoughts in his book Sadhana: A Way to God:
To silence the mind is an extremely difficult task. How hard it is to keep the mind from thinking, thinking, thinking, forever thinking, forever producing thoughts in a never ending stream. Our Hindu masters in India have a saying: one thorn is removed by another. By this they mean that you will be wise to use one thought to rid yourself of all the other thoughts that crowd into your mind. One thought, one image, one phrase or sentence or word that your mind can be made to fasten on. (p. 28)

To sum it up, the Bible tells us to "examine all things carefully" ( 1 Thess. 5:21). We are to use spiritual discernment, as Greg Koukl points out in his book Discernment: head or heart?

  When the Bible talks about discernment — when it talks about assessing spiritual things — it's talking about a rational assessment based on objective criterion. You can't be "too much in your head" when it comes to spiritual discernment. Using your head is spiritual discernment, if you're using the truth properly

Also writing on the subject of spiritual discernment John MacAuthur in his book Reckless Faith,  notes:

 Biblical faith ... is rational. It is reasonable. It is intelligent. It makes good sense. And spiritual truth is meant to be rationally contemplated, examined logically, studied, analyzed, and employed as the only reliable basis for making wise judgments. That process is precisely what Scripture calls discernment

We as the church must be very diligent in putting all things to the test--- "Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world' (1 John 4:1).

For a good reference see Ray Yungen's book, The New Face of Mystical Spirituality-Contemplative Prayer. http://www.amazon.com/The-Face-Mystical-Spirituality-Contemplative-Prayer/dp/0982488122

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bonhoeffer man of God!

Thoughts on Bonhoeffer. After reading half of Eric Metaxas' 500 page book on Bonhoeffer, I'm putting Bonhoeffer on the top of my hero list.

Bonhoeffer was seeing and understanding the zeitgeist of his culture in such a way that most people even his closest friends at times did not understand what he was saying and looked at him as an oddity. However, Bonhoeffer was acting as one who was following the voice of God in his life.

It seems that we as individuals and the Church at large are truly an oddity when we become hard followers of Messiah. We are certainly a peculiar people---which really means we are the unique possession of God (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).

Bonhoeffer increasingly was feeling that he was God's captive. There was a feeling that Bonhoeffer had that he was going to be used of God in a unique and particular way. God had indeed called this young German Christian to reform the church of Germany and to stand-up to a brutal dictator that would eventually lead to his execution.

Through His prophet God called the church to "be the Church" to "act like the Church" and become in essence and in reality true disciples of the Son of God. This message was delivered in a church culture that was just the church in name only, but not the true Church of Jesus Christ. The German Lutheran Church of Martin Luther had turned into brick and mortar. The Holy Spirit had long since departed, and the Church in Germany was de facto apostate.

Bonhoeffer's legacy was that he was a man of action. Metaxas notes on (p. 240) :

This was likely Bonhoeffer's most important contributions a Fano, [a conference] and in many other circumstances, rousing others to action, away from mere theologizing. His thoughts on this would be expressed in his book Discipleship, in which anything short of obedience to God smacked of "cheap grace." Actions must follow what one believed, else one could not claim to believe it.

"Be ye therefore followers followers of God, as dear children (Ephesians. 5:1).

The Renewing of the Mind

I've have written in the past on the life of the mind. I cannot stress enough the importance for the Christian to develop the life of ...