Archive for October, 2008

A Couple Books Worth Reading

Recently, I have started reading Jerry Bridges.  In seminary, many of my friends and professors were great fans of his writing and went on and on about how encouraging his books are.  For whatever reason I only recently picked up a few of his books and started reading them.  Jerry Bridges has a better grasp of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ than many of the other men whom I have read (perhaps it is more fair to say that Bridges has a better grasp of expressing the gospel in an intelligible way in late 20th/early 21st century America than many of the men I often read).

The first book that I read by Bridges was Respectable Sins:  Confronting the Sins We Tolerate.  In this book, Bridges outlines about 15 sins that Christians tolerate and even at times encourage among one another.  Respectable Sins was, at the same time, overwhelmingly convicting and unbelievably encouraging.  How is that possible?  Bridges was able to confront several sin issues that are often overlooked, even in and by pastors, while at the same time boldly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and the sufficiency of the work of Christ.  My recommendation, for what it is worth, is that you read this book.

The Discipline of Grace:  God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness is the second Bridges book that I am tackling.  I just began this book today, and two quotes absolutely struck me.

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.  And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace” (19).

The second quote is from a letter by Mutua Mahiaini, who leads the Navigators ministry in Kenya, he wrote, “Any moment in our lives when we bask in God’s mercy and grace is our highest moment.  Higher than when we feel smug in our decent performance and cannot think of anything we need to confess” (27-28).

I have only read the first 28 pages of The Discipline of Grace, and I recommend you read at least that much.  If the rest of the book is half as good, then you would do well to read it too.

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Acts 2.42-47

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  Acts 2.42-47 (ESV)

Acts 2.42-47 and other passages like it are important because they provides  clear descriptions of the life of the 1st century church.  When dealing with this passage we must bear in mind that it is a description of the 1st century church and not a prescription for the modern church.  That is to say, Luke is not giving us directions for exactly what we are to do as the church.  However, the descriptive nature of this passage does not lead us to the conclusion that there is nothing the modern church can learn or apply in the modern setting.  The principles behind the specifics are of great value even today.

The vision of Christ Church Conway is “To work for the expansion of the Kingdom of God by starting a new church in Conway, AR which will a) be a worshipping-community, a ministering-community, and a transforming-community, and b) work to plant and water the seeds of the gospel in the lives of individuals in Conway and all the places where we serve.”  Acts 2.42-47 is one of the passages that helped shape this vision.  The Acts 2 passage illustrates the broad statements of being a worshipping, ministering, and transforming community. 

Community is very much alive in this passage.  One indicator of community is the number of plural words… they, all, their, people, homes, etc.  Clearly, this passage deals with the church as a whole, rather than as mere individuals.  Yet, the individual is not excluded.  The individual and his function within the church are repeatedly presented in light of the group.  For instance, individuals were selling their own possessions in order to give to other individuals.  Individuals were attending the temple for worship together with other individuals. 

The Acts 2 community functions as a worshipping community.  Their devotion “to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v42 ESV), is likely a reflection on the worship of the early church.  Further, we see in verse 46 that the people were going to the temple, the place of worship, daily. 

The Acts 2 community functions as a ministering community.  We have already pointed out the voluntary communalism (something very different from communism or socialism) displayed by those who are well-off selling their possessions and giving to those in need.  In fact, this was happening to such a degree that Luke is able to say in Acts 4.34a, “There was not a needy person among them” (ESV).  The fellowship that was shared among the believers, having each other in their homes, worshipping together, and learning together is also an aspect of a ministering community.

The Acts 2 community functions as a transforming community.  As these believers gazed on the glory of God, they were literally awestruck themselves.  People were being brought out of, or at least supported through, physical poverty.  The group was growing as “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (V47 ESV).  In addition, they were functioning as agents of transformation in the community around them as they were used by God to preach the gospel so that people would be saved

My prayer for Christ Church Conway is that as we grow in faith as individuals we too may function as a community deeply committed to worshipping the true and living God, ministering to the real needs, both spiritual and physical, of those around us, and striving for gospel transformation.  That is to say my prayer is that we will achieve or vision of being a worshipping, ministering, and transforming community.  The three parts of our vision statement are certainly the principles behind the particulars of the Acts 2 passage.  However, a more basic principle is at work behind these.  God, for Christ’s sake and through Christ, had changed these people so that they could function as a worshipping, ministering, and transforming community.  May we too be changed.

 

 

 

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Poetic Theology

Here are a couple of poems by a friend of mine named Manley Beasley (aka Chris).  In these two poems he has aptly expressed some of the key doctrines of our biblical faith.

 

The end of Folly

Can the dead man raise himself, 
pull the sky into his lungs, 
reach beyond the dark abyss
and bathe himself in rising sun?

Is the dead man conscious of
his frigid hands and unconscious mind,
the worms that twist beneath his skin,
the stench of rotting, carnal rind?

“Raise yourself!”, Folly shouts
“Breath the sky into your lungs!”
The rigid corpse with vacant stare
is silent. Folly is undone.

 

That we are slaves

That we are slaves is in dispute,
autonomy the bitter root,
that grows into a putrid fruit,
inedible and sick.

The cultural philosophy,
the tainted lens through which we see,
unexamined, just believed,
an old illusionist’s trick.

I am in chains; I know its true,
fettered desire is nothing new,
once shackled to sin and now to You!
Who brought fire to this lifeless wick.

 

 

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