Archive for August, 2008

How Do We Get To Being Self-Feeders?

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!

I’ve seen a few questions come up in response to my last study “You Need Solid Food, Not Milk”, one of them being “how does one become a self-feeder?”  I thought I’d take the time to post a few thoughts on how exactly people get to that maturity-level in Christ of being able to feed themselves solid food.  This is what I’ve found through personal experience to work very well, and what I think is a way to go about this process from a holistic (all things considered) standpoint of the New Testament.

In 1 Cor. 4 we find Paul writing to the Corinthian church about the example he has laid out for them, and the sacrifices he has made for them.  He writes about how he’s telling them these things to correct them and warn them about their behavior, which we already learned has been less than ‘mature’, to say the least.  Paul says in v.15 “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”   Paul was their spiritual father in Christ, the one who would grow them in to mature Christians, but he doesn’t stop there.  You see Paul is sending them Timothy, who is like Paul in every way, to remind them of Paul’s example which will spur them on to further maturity.

Timothy was a disciple of Paul, and Paul taught him everything he knew.  It’s apparent from Scripture that Paul spent much time and energy, literally pouring his life (and at least two letters!) in to Timothy, to disciple him and prepare him for the good works God had prepared for him.  Much like the rabbis of the Jewish religion (keeping in mind that Jesus was a Jew, along with the Apostles), the Apostles all had disciples who followed them, lived with them, traveled with them, and practiced their faith with them (along with learning from them).  Timothy was such a disciple of Paul, and now with all of this in mind we have in v.16-17 Paul telling the Corinthians that he was sending them Timothy.

“Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.”

Paul is urging them to follow his example, and because he’s so serious about them learning to become mature in this way, he’s sending them his “son” Timothy.  Timothy is going to remind them of Paul in every way.  Do you see the connection?  It’s a good to remember a principle Jesus taught His disciples as they followed Him…

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40

Paul knows that people learn visually, and many times we end up accepting in to our lives what we see acted or lived out in front of us by others.  Paul knows that people learn best by following an example.  This is also how Jesus lived out His ministry in front of His disciples; a ministry of leading by example. Often Paul makes a request to the Christians he is writing to, a request for them to “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).  It’s in this that we find the underlying principle taught in Scripture on how we should go about building each other up in to mature Christians.

The teacher teaches the student by the example of the teacher’s life and the teachings that were taught to the teacher originally.  But unless the practice of the teachings is present in the teacher’s life, it’s like the blind leading the blind.  The life lived by the teacher in accordance with the teachings give the teachings power and has an impact in the student’s soul.  When the student is fully trained, the student ends up looking a lot like the teacher, because he followed the teacher’s footsteps.  Ultimately Christ is every Christian’s Teacher; however we still have our earthly Christian teachers who lead us as they follow Christ.

So what does all this have to do with someone getting to the point of feeding himself spiritually? Well, let’s look at an example in the natural world: a baby first learns to take interest in solid food and tries to eat solid food by watching his/her parents do the same.  Babies are hardwired to learn to do many things as they grow, and one of those things is to learn how to stuff solid food in their faces.  A baby can learn this on their own by trial and error, but it can be dangerous, and it’s a much slower process, or it might never happen at all.  In fact there have been terrible cases of child abuse where babies have been left pretty much alone in their cribs for their entire lives.  These babies never get the interactions with and visual stimulation they need from their parents and their brains never mature.  These kids might be four years old but they have the minds of 10 month olds; can’t speak, can’t walk, can’t think.  Without a parent’s careful hand of guidance and example, babies don’t develop properly in to functional adults.  By parents leading the way and encouraging the baby, the baby figures out how to get solid food quickly and begins a journey that they will never turn back from their entire life.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be happening similarly with us Christians.  Instead, the ‘parents’ seem to continue to push the bottle of ‘spoon-feeding’ the Word to the babes, and they never get off the bottle, nor do they even seem interested in feeding themselves food.  This is a travesty!

It’s a travesty because the process is relatively simple you see.  We take what we have learned, and we pour it in to another person’s life, who will then put that teaching in to practice, and then that person goes out and finds another person to teach, and so on and so forth.  Look what Paul said to Timothy in one of his letters:

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2

Getting someone to the point of self feeding is a messy process.  A lot of the time the baby will totally miss their mouth and make a terrible mess, become confused, or disheartened.  This is where the parent can step in and show them the better way.  It takes time and personal devotion to a Christian, as if they were your own son or daughter, to get them to the point of maturity.  And no, it can’t be done without the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so never count Him out, instead count on Him to guide you in this process of maturing yourself, and others.

Basically what it comes down to is leading by example. The teacher/parent takes the baby under their arm and leads him by showing him how to feed himself, pray, worship, serve all, and love etc. The baby will hopefully see the teacher reading the Bible every day and doing a Bible study (aka feeding himself), praying, fellowshipping and loving the brothers, and will follow that example.   This ‘witness’ speaks wonders in to affecting change and growth in the baby’s life. The teacher is also teaching and sharing with them what they have learned from the ones who originally taught them, and these teachings have relevance and meaning to the student because the teacher lives them out in front of him.

 It’s a great process and it’s worked wonderfully for us in our Bible study for years. I’ve seen myself, and other Christians I’ve had the honor of serving grow up so much in Christ, and it’s great. It’s all under the foundation of Jesus’ great commission found in Matthew 28:18-20: To make disciples and teach them everything Jesus taught us.

This isn’t the only way to get someone to the point of being a self-feeder, but it is a way I see consistently displayed in Scripture, and a way that has worked wonders in many Christian’s lives that I’ve lived around and loved. 

I hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend!  Please don’t forget to pray for the people on the gulf coast in the path of Hurricane Gustav.  And also for us flyboys who are about to go fly out there and support those poor people in whatever way we can!  Thanks!!

Grace and Peace,
Joe

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The beautiful people, all send their excuses:
(Real estate and sex lives, livestock and ex-wives)

But the poor are coming, the lame are running
In their sleazy clothes and orthopedic shoes
There’s a harelip spokesman shouting out the news

“Come to the banquet at the world’s end!”

There’s a string ensemble, and the King’s court jester
Telling parables and big jokes, to mongoloids and old folks

The blind are seeing, the dead are breathing
And the mummies dance in geriatric style
The amputees are rolling down the aisles

“Come to the banquet at the world’s end!”

Candlelight and party hats, duck and pheasant under glass
Aluminum walkers, thin white canes, caviar and pink champagne
The bride and the groom waltz on
Club foot lane at the banquet at the world’s end
The banquet at the world’s end
The banquet at the world’s end

Say the beautiful people (the poor are coming)
“We’ll live with the lights out (the lame are running)
Leave us alone now because (the blind are seeing)
Hell feels like home now” (the dead are breathing)

Meanwhile…

But the poor are coming, the lame are running
In their sleazy clothes and orthopedic shoes
There’s a harelip spokesman shouting out the news

“Come to the banquet at the world’s end!”
“Come to the banquet at the world’s end!”
“Come to the banquet at the world’s end!”

from the album “MotorCycle”
Words and Music by Terry Taylor
©1993 Twitchen Vibes Music / Brainstorm Artists Int’l. (ASCAP)
Matthew 22:1-14

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If an ODM screams in the woods and nobody cares does it make a sound? (thanks to corey for the line)

How’s that? The driving force behind the emerging church is mysticism. The premise behind mysticism is man’s divinity. Believing that man is God ultimately leads to death because in that belief system, there is no need for a Savior. Man erroneously thinks he can save himself. Thus, he dies in his sin because he rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Friends,

The author of Slice is on the prowl again…searching for someone to devour…and she found her victim. A church was donated $3 millions by someone who won the lottery. The author of Slice is unhappy that the church is praising God because this happened commenting: “See? Gambling does pay off!” The author of Slice did not tell her readers this part:

Crabbe said that only he and his wife, Jennifer, know the identity of the donor, whose only stipulation was anonymity. The donor bought the $10 ticket in Middle Island on July 19 and told Crabbe the same day. The congregation’s 12-member leadership board spent the next week deciding what to do.

Eventually, they decided, “we’re giving that whole first year away,” said Melissa Joles, of the church planning team.

The bulk of the first-year money, $102,225 after taxes, would go to Love’, a New Haven-based charity that looks to end child sex trafficking. The Lighthouse Mission in Patchogue, which feeds the poor, and Prodigal House in Port Jefferson Station, a halfway home for boys, will also get donations. After that, the church has promised to tithe at least 20 percent of the earnings and use the rest for a bigger meeting place.

Isn’t it strange that the author of Slice would complain about this? Those heretics!! I am simply floored at the half-truth reporting by SOL. To the author of Slice: When are you going to get it? When will you stop telling half-truths? When will you stop criticizing everything you see just because you can? I am almost persuaded that the author of Slice posted this in jest. One can only hope.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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The Library at EphesusIn my last article on Hebraic context of Scripture, I delved a bit into the concept of the opposite of God being chaos – a lack of order. Building a bit on that, today I would like to touch on the subject of tikkun olam and the Kingdom of God.

The Repair of the World

In the beginning, when God created the world out of the chaos, tohu u’vohu, God’s creation existed in a state of peace, shalom, with its Creator. However, because man chose to sin – to choose chaos over creation – this state of peace was broken, and creation was no longer in a state of shalom with God. Thus, chaos and not creation reigned in the lives of men on earth.

This set the stage for the remainder of the story from Genesis 3 through Revelation – the story we find ourselves living in today.

In the Hebrew mind, the remainder of this story is one in which God seeks tikkun olam, which roughly translates “the repair of the world”. While this concept of tikkun olam has taken on additional meaning in the past 2000 years, I would like to examine it as it was viewed during Jesus’ day. In particular, it was an overriding theme within the teaching of the Rabbi Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher (Acts 22:3).

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Friends,

I read a brief post at Slice this morning and it actually got me to thinking about the Gospel, the nature of the Gospel, the people the Gospel produces, and the sort of work that the Gospel inspires us to do. I was actually thinking about it as I read Gary Haugen’s new book Just Courage. He asks a very though provoking question: “For what purpose have we been rescued and redeemed?” (28) Some of our friends might say something like, “We are saved for the glory of God.” Well, no one doubts that. But why? Haugen’s answer is that if our redemption and transfer into God’s Kingdom is simply a matter of ‘receiving the salvation of the life hereafter’ (11) then we are merely living a ‘Groundhog Day’ sort of life. (29)

Haugen believes (and I concur) that Jesus has called us to more. ‘God calls us to make the transition from being those who have been rescued from the world, to those through whom God is literally rescuing the world’ (31). I find it terribly difficult, bordering on impossible, to argue with such thinking.

So, the author of Slice writes, after quoting a short bit from Al Mohler:

Now we see the emerging church embracing the same social gospel that killed the protestant churches. What a lot of young people see as whole new ideas and concepts are really just the same old lies repackaged for a new generation. Only the biblical Gospel will ever have any impact on the world around us.

But the problem here is that I don’t see the ‘emerging church’ embracing the same social gospel at all. I could be wrong, and to be sure, I think there is a lot wrong with the ‘emerging church,’ (and I’m not about to start worshiping in a coffee shop or a brewery) but the way I have seen it is this: the emerging church is actually, well, rebelling against the mainline denominations who have abandoned Jesus’ radical call to discipleship. Have I read them wrongly? I see a call backwards to the Christianity that Ellul says ‘can neither win millions of Christians nor bring revenues and earthly profits’ (Subversion, 154); the Christianity that the mainline denominations have, actually, rejected. There is a radical nature to Biblical Christian faith, Haugen agrees too, that mainlines have rejected.

I think the author of Slice has misread Dr Mohler’s point: the mainline denominations failed not because they ‘embraced a social gospel,’ but for other reasons. Dr Mohler wrote in the bit quoted: “These denominations once fueled the great missionary movement that carried the Gospel to the ends of the earth.” Well, let me ask: What could be more of a social gospel than going into a culture and preaching the gospel that doesn’t just ‘impact’ a society, but, in fact, totally subverts it and turns it upside down? No. I would say that mainline denominations failed because they embraced a theologically inept position whereby and wherein they rejected the Scripture’s authority among other things. (He also wrote: “The primary injury caused by mainline Protestant decline is not social but spiritual.”)

Well, I’m not terribly interested in dissecting Dr Mohler’s essay or the bit that the author of Slice quoted and applied. I’m interested in the application of Dr Mohler’s quote by the author of Slice: It is just dead wrong. What killed ‘protestantism’ was not an embracing of a ’social gospel’ but a rejection of the authority of Scripture (among other liberal tendencies). This is exactly what Mohler wrote: “Committed to a radical doctrinal relativism, these denominations have served as poster children for virtually every theological fad and liberal proposal imaginable.” In the bit quoted, I don’t see anything about a ’social gospel’ but I see a lot about biblical relativism. He’s talking about doctrine, not practice. It was their doctrine that corrupted their practice not the other way around.

I do agree with the last statement by the author of Slice: “Only the biblical Gospel will ever have any impact on the world around us.” But here’s the thing: It’s not about ‘having an impact.’ I don’t disagree that only the ‘biblical Gospel’ will do something, but I do disagree that it will merely ‘have an impact,’ that is, I disagree with what that gospel will do. The Gospel is not about ‘impact.’ We’re not talking about mere impact; we’re talking about a world ‘blown up.’ The Biblical Gospel preached and lived will turn worlds upside down–not merely have an impact. I can’t imagine a more socially subversive thing. Wouldn’t social aspects of our nation change, necessarily, as this Biblical Gospel is preached and lived?

I think the disagreement here is, when it gets down to brass tacks, with methods. But doesn’t every single person called to preach have to be faithful to the methods God called them to? So Isaiah is different from Jeremiah. Ezekiel is different from Daniel. Paul is different from Peter. John is different from Peter. I am miles apart from, say, Rob Bell, but closer to Bell than, say, Mark Driscoll. But that’s OK; we don’t have to be the same. Some are called to the mega-church most are not. Some are called to coffee shops most are not. Some are Notre Dame fans and those with sense are not. But that’s OK. It is OK to be different and have different methods. What matters, Paul said, is that Jesus is preached: “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.” Shouldn’t we be rejoicing that God has called some to preach the Gospel in ways, and to a people, that others of us are not particularly called to?

But isn’t this the point? I’m not disagreeing to disagree. What I am saying is that if the Biblical Gospel is merely about mental assent and happily ever after in heaven, then of what good is it? Isn’t God most glorified when we are most satisfied in him? (Piper) And if that is true, then wouldn’t he be more glorified if more people were more satisfied in him? And should there be any limits to the methods we use to help people be satisfied in God? Isn’t the whole of the disagreement here about the methods used by different people and not necessarily with the content of their preaching?

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe many people said similar things about Martin Luther too.

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…if they will say the same thing about McCain’s speech in September?

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When the church becomes a stench in the nostrils of the unsaved, not because of the gospel, but because of lousy manners and uncouth behavior, it’s time to pull the plug on these farcical churches and admit it’s a joke. When Christ is really at the forefront of our lives and ministries, the neighbors will be grateful to have our churches in their neighborhoods. [links added]

amen.

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At what point should Guilt by Association warrant a fair reading? At what point should I stand up and take notice? At what point can I merely dismiss it as a witch hunt? Or at what point should I ignore the see-I-told-you-so attitude of someone with an ax to grind?

There is a subtle, nuanced difference between helpful research and self justification. Helpful research is factual with substantial proof. Self justification looks for anything and everything that would bolster your case, no matter how many logical fallacies you have to commit to get there. While it is a small difference that often goes to motivation it is an important distinction that should be made by anyone claiming expertise in an area.

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Friends,

Hello! For those of you who don’t know me from around the comment threads, I’m Joe C!  It’s really great to be helping out here on CRN.info and sharing what God is teaching me in my life with you all.  I appreciate the opportunity Chris L and the other contributors have given me here.  Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”, and this is what I’m truly praying God can accomplish through me by writing for this site. 

Very quickly, a little information about me:  I’m a 20-something Sergeant in the Air Force, stationed in Oklahoma with my wife and 9 month old son.  I lead a Bible Study focused on making disciple-makers (lol) on Friday nights at my house.  I also help lead praise and worship at our local chapel congregation, and I’ll be teaching Sunday school starting in a few weeks.  I’ve probably been a Christian for the least amount of time out of all the contributors on this site (so go easy on me!), and I grew up Atheist.  I was saved when I came in to the military and started attending military chapel services.  Ironically, it was the openness of the worship team at one of the chapels that put me in the position to hear and believe the Gospel.  They allowed me to play piano for them, without even knowing if I was a Christian or not (I wasn’t, really).  Now normally most of us would never allow a non-Christian to play worship music for a Christian worship service, and to this day I have no idea why they allowed me to play for them.  But, it was through playing all of these Christian worship songs, and hearing the Chaplain preach, that I heard the Gospel and came to know Christ as the Savior that He is.  So I thought that could be a quick lesson to teach us all that God uses the most interesting circumstances to reach out to us.  Alright! Well enough about me…

On to the actual purpose found in the title of this post!

You Need Solid Food, Not Milk

 
I’ve overheard and participated in many conversations over the years concerning milk and solid food, as it pertains to the Bible and to Christian living.  Recently the subject has been brought up in a few comment threads here on CRN.info, so I did a Bible study this week on the subject and I’d like to share it with everyone. 

I’ve seen many different positions taken up by godly men and women, so I don’t claim to have the authoritative teaching on the subject.  I’m just trying to share my thoughts from what I’ve seen in Scripture about this subject and also in the natural world which I think reveals a lot about God’s plan for our Christian lives, metaphorically speaking.  If anyone has anything they think I’ve totally jacked up or if anyone has anything to add, please feel free to let me know, and we’ll talk about it.   I’m on the same journey of learning more and more about Christ as anyone else is :)

Hebrews 5: 11-14:
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Looking at this section of Hebrews chapter 5 you can kind of emote with the writer, how many of us have been in this frustrating position before?  Here the writer is speaking about all these deep theological teachings to the “Hebrews”, and then…STOP.  Wait.  Switch gears.  It’s like carrying on a long conversation with someone and then just stopping and saying, “You know what?  I could keep talking but you ain’t getting it pal…”

The writer then breaks in to commenting on how they’re not getting it because despite where they should be, they can’t be there because they’re still just infants in their faith.  They need milk, not the big boy and big girl food.  This is a failure of this church body on all sides, and I’ll get more in to why that is later.  Let’s first define some terms here.

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