Tag Archives: religion

What is the Mission of the Church?

What are we trying to accomplish anyway?

Is the mission of the church different than the commands to love God and love others that mark the followers of Jesus?

As Kevin Deyoung & Greg Gilbert write in What is the mission of the Church?, the self titled question assumes both a sender and a task to be accomplished. Everything can’t be the mission or nothing is the mission.

And if we were to agree that the Great Commission of Matthew 28 is the “mission” of the Church; that is, Go and Make Disciples of the nations. We have some series question to ask ourselves about why we do what we do?

If we were to align ourselves with the mission and work backwards would the results look like the modern Church?

If we were to scratch every idea we had of institutional church and we were to go back to the drawing boards about how to make disciples would we draft the same church programs, events, and ministries again?

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What 2.4 million users and 500 million tweets can tell us about people, culture, and weekly trends.

Scott Golder, a graduate student in the Social Dynamics Lab in the Department of Sociology at Cornell University created a program that examines people’s tweets on twitter as a window into our social universe. In short Scott Golder examined 2.4 million users and 500 millions tweets to find out when (week & time of day) certain topic or emotions were most popular, and the frequency of topics and emotions compared to others.

For read more details and the parameters of this project click here.
To use to program click here.

Below are a few results I got when I used the program:

Love is more popular than hate

Jesus in more popular that sin or grace. Jesus is also more popular Sunday mornings.

Hell is more popular than Heaven

We tend to talk more about what we read during the work day.

We tend to talk about what we listen to more Monday-Friday.

We tend to tend to talk most about what we watch during non-working hours.

Try it for yourself here http://timeu.se/

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What 500 years and 5 Million books can tell us about culture and Christianity.

Behind the scenes and in dusty libraries everywhere Google has been scanning books into their every growing database of information. As of 2010 Google said it had scanned 15 Million books into their system. This is amazing!

However, to feel the WOW factor enter the Ngram Viewer. From the subset of 5 million books the Ngram, one of Google’s amazing free online tools, allows user create statistical data about the frequency of any particular word or phrase over the past 500 years. You can also limit the time frame (anywhere between 1500 and 2008) for a more detailed look at a particular subset in history.

If it sounds confusing, or geeky it’s because you haven’t tried it yet.

Below are just a few of the many samplings I ran in the Ngram Viewer:

Heaven & Hell

Jesus & Sin

Personal Relationship with God

Personal Fulfillment

Rapture of the Church

Freewill, Predestination, Arminianism, & Calvinism

*Admittedly the Ngram Viewer is not a perfect tool. It relies on the ability of the computer that is scanning the books to properly interpret the word. An “S” printed in calligraphy might be scanned as a “F” thus making it appear that the term “best” was in sparse usage in the 1700’s.

* Secondly the Ngram Viewer does not give us detailed look into any particular study or field, for example Christianity. However, it does give an interesting sweeping view of culture and how certain words or phrases fluctuated in frequency and usage.

My suggestion… try it for yourself and share you results.

http://books.google.com/ngrams

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Salvation: More than a ticket to Heaven?

God Saves

When someone says, “I’m Saved!” There is always the contextual question, “Saved from what?” Except if it’s said at Church. Within Christianity Salvation has become synonymous with Eternal Life. Salvation means that if I believe, one day I will go to Heaven. Yet, should Salvation always equate to being rescued to Heaven?

There are many places in the Scriptures that Salvation is past, present, and future to the author or reader. One tricky example is Romans 13:11 the Apostle Paul writes,  “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed?” Was Paul saying that he was not “saved” yet?

Or take for instance Luke 19:9. Jesus said Salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day. Does this mean Zacchaeus died and entered Heaven that day?

“In the Old Testament, God’s acts delivering the people from hunger, bondage, and other difficulties are usually called ‘saving’ acts, and Yahweh is repeatedly praised as the Savior of Israel.  In the New Testament, ‘salvation’ may mean either healing or deliverance from sin-and sometimes both.  Thus, salvation has to do, not only with one’s eternal destiny, but with everything that stands in the way of God’s purposes of communion with creation-and specifically with the human creature.  Thus salvation includes both justification and sanctification.

In the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, there were many religions offering ‘salvation.’  Most of these understood salvation mainly or exclusively as life after death, and often combined these notions of salvation with the ideal of escaping from the material world. Given that context, it is not surprising that quite often Christians lost the fuller notion of salvation that appeared in their Scriptures, and came to think of salvation merely as admission into heaven-sometimes even seeing such admission as an escape from this physical world.  Perhaps the most notable development in soteriology [the Study of the Doctrine of Salvation] in recent decades has been the recovery of the wider notion of salvation as including, not only salvation from death and eternal damnation, but also freedom from all sorts of oppression and injustice.  Salvation, in its fuller sense, certainly includes eternal life in the presence of God; but it also includes the process of sanctification, whereby we are brought greater communion with God; and it includes also the destruction of all the powers of evil that stand between God’s purposes and present order of creation.”

-Justo L. Gonzalez, Essential Theological Terms. pg 162-163

Salvation cannot be understood in reference to one particular saving act of God. Jesus has rescued us from many things, and will one day rescue, redeem, and renew us and creation. The one unifying aspect of Salvation throughout the Scriptures is that God does the saving apart from the help or interference of man.

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What Part of the Gospel is Optional?

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Read the bible like you listen to a symphony.

Watch NT Wright talk about how to read the Bible. Great Video.

The Whole Sweep Of Scripture from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

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Communion Art

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Christianity compared to other Religions

 

 

Religion: Man pursues “god.”

Christianity: God pursues man.

 

Religion: Man tries to appease “god” by doing good.

Christianity: God sacrifices himself for man, to reconcile the relationship, because man is sinful.

 

Religion: If man works hard enough he might be able to reach salvation/nirvana.

Christianity: Man is hopelessly lost and a slave to sin. Only by God’s grace through faith can one be saved.

 

Religion: Truth is a path, lifestyle, doctrine, or teaching.

Christianity: Truth is Jesus.

 

Religion: Man, by his own will, reforms his life.

Christianity: God frees, and transforms man, empowering man with his Spirit so that man can lead a new life.

 

Religion: God is needy, wrathful, or indifferent toward creation

Christianity: God is love, because God is triune. Love only exist in community, and since God is self-existent and eternal he was love before creation, nor did he need creation to love.

 

 

Christianity can be twisted and perverted in any of these areas reducing it to just other religion that controlled by the hand of man.

 

However, when we understand and believe the *Gospel of Jesus it is the power of God to save, transform, and breathe life into our broken world.

 

*The Gospel of Jesus is the good news that says man is hopelessly lost and enslaved to the things of this world. But God in his great love pursues man, and made himself the substitute for the corruption and punishment our sin created, dying on the cross, and rising again the third day welcoming us to live under his rule as newly freed and redeemed slaves.

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Imitation of Christ

I’ve begun to read the classic devotional Imitation of Christ by 15 century author Thomas à Kempis. This book has cut me the core with the turn of every page. It is written with short 1-2 page chapters addressing different aspects of the Christian life. I can hardly put the book down, but in this momentary pause I wanted to share some of Kempis insights that have meant the most to me.

Chapter I

“What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but rather a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without the grace and love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”

Chapter III

“What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day?”

“If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the Day of Judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.”

Thomas à Kempis constant call for humility and excessive of faith and love through action has become another voice reforming what I believe it is to be and live as a Christian.

If you haven’t read this book… Read it. If you haven’t read it recently… Read it again.

This book is public domain, so for those who don’t want to purchase a copy you should be able to find a free copy online somewhere.

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The Sacraments: a means of grace?

I wanted to return to this subject and give it some more space. For many Evangelicals this topic seems as strange and as pagan as incense, candles, and Jesus still displayed on our crosses.

The question is, are the sacraments a means of grace or merely symbolic of grace already imparted directly to man.

There are two general conclusions to this answer within Christianity.

Sacramental

Represented by Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian variations.


The sacraments are a holy sign and seal of the covenant of grace.

Sign: the sacrament represents something other than itself. It teaches about some truth symbolically.

Seal: the sacrament certifies by the authority f God that a person receiving it the quality signified. Only when rightly administered by the conditions demanded in God’s word does the sacrament truly certify and authenticate the promise or quality signified.

-Westminster Confession of Faith

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed God’s divine grace was made available and effective in human lives through a variety of means or “channels.” While God is free to work in many ways, the Church has been given the privilege and responsibility of being the Body of Christ that carries forth His redeeming purpose in the world.

Sacraments are effective means of God’s presence mediated through the created world.

Wesley affirmed the Anglican teaching that, “A sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace, and means whereby we receive the same.”

The ritual action of a sacrament does not merely point to Gods presence in the world, but also participates in it and becomes a vehicle for conveying that reality.

God’s presence in the sacraments is real, but must be accepted by human faith if it is to transform human lives.

The sacraments do not convey grace magically or irrevocably, but they are powerful channels through which God has chosen to make grace available to us.

Wesley saw baptism as the initiatory sacrament by which we enter into a convent with God and admitted as members of the Church.

archives.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=4&mid=992

wesleyumcsd.org/articles/1/pages/3/

Of the Means of Grace

(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.)

[Adopted 1932]

21. Although God is present and operates everywhere throughout all creation and the whole earth is therefore full of the temporal bounties and blessings of God, Col. 1:17; Acts 17:28; 14:17, still we hold with Scripture that God offers and communicates to men the spiritual blessings purchased by Christ, namely, the forgiveness of sins and the treasures and gifts connected therewith, only through the external means of grace ordained by Him. These means of grace are the Word of the Gospel, in every form in which it is brought to man, and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and of the Lord’s Supper. The Word of the gospel promises and applies the grace of God, works faith and thus regenerates man, and gives the Holy Ghost, Acts 20:24; Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23; Gal. 3:2. Baptism, too, is applied for the remission of sins and is therefore a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5. Likewise the object of the Lord’s Supper, that is, of the ministration of the body and blood of Christ, is none other than the communication and sealing of the forgiveness of sins, as the words declare: “Given for you,” and: “Shed for you for the remission of sins,” Luke 22:19, 20; Matt. 26:28, and “This cup is the New Testament in My blood,” 1 Cor. 11:23; Jer. 31:31-34 (“New Covenant”).

22. Since it is only through the external means ordained by Him that God has promised to communicate the grace and salvation purchased by Christ, the Christian Church must not remain at home with the means of grace entrusted to it, but go into the whole world with the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16. For the same reason also the churches at home should never forget that there is no other way of winning souls for the Church and keeping them with it than the faithful and diligent use of the divinely ordained means of grace. Whatever activities do not either directly apply the Word of God or subserve such application we condemn as “new methods,” unchurchly activities, which do not build, but harm the Church.

23. We reject as a dangerous error the doctrine, which disrupted the Church of the Reformation, that the grace and the Spirit of God are communicated not through the external means ordained by Him, but by an immediate operation of grace. This erroneous doctrine bases the forgiveness of sins, or justification, upon a fictitious “infused grace,” that is, upon a quality of man, and thus again establishes the work-doctrine of the papists.

Purpose of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is essentially an application of the Gospel, with all its spiritual blessings, in a sacred act. It offers, conveys, and seals to the communicant forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation; strengthens faith; promotes sanctification through strengthening of faith; increases love toward God and the neighbor; affords patience in tribulation; confirms hope of eternal life; and deepens union with Christ and His mystical body, the ch. (1 Co 10:17). It also serves a confessional purpose (Acts 2:42; 1 Co 10:20–21; 11:26). All these blessings are mediated through the Gospel-promise in the Sacrament (“Given and shed for you for the remission of sins”) and are apprehended by faith in the divine promise. The words “This do in remembrance of Me” do not mean merely that the communicant is to remember the absent Christ, who atoned for his sins; they invite the communicant to accept the forgiveness offered in the Sacrament (“Do this in remembrance of Me” means: remember Christ’s blessings and accept them by faith; cf. Ap XXIV 72). The Lord’s Supper differs from the preaching of the Gospel, which is addressed to all hearers, believers and unbelievers, and from Absolution,* which is individually addressed to believers, to the believers as a penitent group, in that the Sacrament offers forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation individually to each communicant under pledge of Christ’s body and blood, received with the bread and wine.

http://www.lcms.org/ca/www/cyclopedia/02/display.asp?t1=g&word=GRACE.MEANSOF

Luther contrasted prayer with the sacraments. He stated that the Word and the Sacraments is something God “does to us.” While prayer on the other hand is something the believer does toward God.

Ornamental:

Represented by Baptist, Anabaptist, and Arminians

Zwingli, regarded as the founder of this view, rejected the instruments (sacraments as a means of grace) and entirely refused to accept any other means of grace other than direct unmediated communion with God.

In fact he believed the elements of water bread and wine to be created barriers between God and man. He believed the sacraments were a confession, not a confirmation of faith. Because of his views he preferred to call them ordinances, not sacraments.

This was a radical break from the long doctrine of the church on this issue.

7. Calvinism* and the means of grace. Calvinism rejects the means of grace as unnecessary; it holds that the Holy Spirit requires no escort or vehicle by which to enter human hearts. The Ref. doctrine of predestination* excludes the idea of means which impart the Spirit and His gifts to men, the Holy Spirit working effectively only on the elect. Acc. to Ref. teaching, the office of the Word is to point out the way of life without imparting that of which it conveys the idea. Ref. theol. regards Word and Sacraments as necessary because of divine institution. They are symbols of what the Holy Spirit does within as He works immediately (i. e. without means) and irresistibly. “Enthusiast” doctrine of the Anabaptists* and of the many sects since their day regarding the “inner light,” gen. identified with the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and the “2d conversion,” has its root in this specifically Ref. doctrine of the immediate working of the Holy Spirit. See also Enthusiasm.

http://www.lcms.org/ca/www/cyclopedia/02/display.asp?t1=g&word=GRACE.MEANSOF

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