Category Archives: Church Stuff

The Pinnacle of the Gospel?

I started reading Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited the other day and I’m in agreement that what we’ve come to call “the gospel” is really something else altogether. He’s quite right to point out that the gospel is about much more than personal salvation. On page 24 McKnight says, “I encourage you to pull out a piece of paper or open up the flyleaf of the back of this book and scribble down your answer to t his most important question before you read one more word: What is the gospel?” So scribble I did. Here’s a photo of what I wrote in the back of the book (because I’m too lazy to type it all out):

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So my working definition (and this is just a summary) includes Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, the message he preached about the kingdom, our victory over sin and a life enabled for good works in obedience to God. I’m sure McKnight’s definition will be slightly different and perhaps he’ll highlight things I’ve neglected and neglect things I’ve highlighted, but I think my working definition is a decent summary of the gospel as we see it in the Bible.

But that brings me to the point of this post. As I began chapter 4 of the book McKnight says that we should turn to 1 Corinthians 15 and begin there because that is the closest we come to a definition of the gospel in the New Testament. That got me thinking about how I’ve always viewed this chapter, especially the early parts of it. I’ve always described this as Paul’s summary of the Gospel. In other words, if Paul were to sum the gospel up in a pithy statement it would be the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But that leaves so much out, so I started to wonder if this is best described as a summary.

Perhaps we can view 1 Corinthians 15 as the pinnacle of the gospel. The focal point perhaps. Jesus’ sinless life, Spirit-empowered ministry, preaching of God’s rule and Israel’s restoration, etc. all led up to his death and subsequent resurrection. These events were the culmination of his ministry and the vindication of his message. Paul doesn’t have much to say about Jesus’ ministry at all but it makes sense that he wouldn’t. He gets right to the high point because without the death/resurrection Jesus would have been another failed messianic claimant.

I will note that this pinnacle is also the basis for Paul’s telling believers that they can live a Spirit-filled life in Christ. And that without this focal point our lives mean nothing. So he spends plenty of time talking about the latter part of my working definition but that’s all predicated upon our resurrected Lord.

B”H

An Inspirational Promo

I was just perusing the Westminster Bookstore website and I watched their quick promo video. Aside from being impressed by the production quality I was inspired by the vision and mission of the bookstore itself. It exists for more than to furnish students with the materials needed for their courses at WTS. It’s not just another bookstore in the niche theology market. It truly exists for the edification of God’s people. I never gave much consideration to the thought and care that goes into the decisions on which volumes to stock but I can assure you that I’ll never be able to not consider it again. I will be praying for this ministry (because that’s what it is) and I’ll be making a more concerted effort to support them with my spending even if I pay a dollar or two more at the end of the day. Here’s the video that inspired me:

B”H

Doers Do

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all the years I’ve been involved in Christian ministry it’s that doers do. Plenty of people talk about what they’d like to do and never end up doing much of anything. Doers on the other hand do what it is they’d like to do and then talk about it afterwards.

I mentioned to my pastor and his wife the other night how a friend of a friend asked me how my life has changed since my ordination. I explained that it hadn’t. I’m doing all the same things that I was doing before I got ordained. Why? Because they need to get done.

I’m all for strategy and implementation but I’m the type who’d rather apologize than ask permission. In other words, when I see something needs doing, I do it. If I do it wrong then I’m quick to say I’m sorry and make the necessary corrections, but if I waited around for a green light then the thing might never get done.

I’ve come to know a lot of folks who wait for the proverbial green light and then make all kinds of excuses when the work is left unfinished. They’ll say that they were never told how to do the task. They’ll say that they were never given the go ahead to do the task after they’d been told how it should be done. They’ll say that someone or something got in the way of the task being done properly. Whatever the excuse, they’re not doers, which is why they don’t do.

I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation to be doers of the word and not hearers only. Likewise, I think of James saying that faith is proved in actions. There’s no secret or mystery to ministry (well, there is, but I’m talking about the practical outworking of ministry). Just do it, to quote a Nike slogan.

B”H

Forsake Not Assembling

I cut a guy’s hair yesterday who shared with me that he grew up going to church and that his grandmother and aunt are very religious and keep urging him to get back but he’s just not there yet. Fair enough. I can’t tell him when he’s gonna be ready. But then he said that he believes in God and prays daily but just doesn’t want to go to church because he’s got some issues with it. That’s when I told him that we all have some issues with it, but I like to get together with others love the God that I love so we can worship him together.

To my mind it makes little sense to hoard my love for God in private devotions while never displaying it in public worship. Plus, there’s strength in numbers. The author of Hebrews tells us that when we gather we’re to encourage one another and stir each other up to love and good works. That’s something that’s much less likely to happen when we’re isolated.

In any event, I saw that he was convicted. What he’ll do with that conviction is anyone’s guess. I just hope he’ll find himself assembling with believers somewhere sometime soon.

B”H

On Preaching the Word

As someone who loves theology and biblical studies I’ve come to realize over time that it’s simply best to preach the word in a congregational context. What I mean is simply this: Preach the text and let all the theology flow from it. Don’t spend too much time speculating. Use the information gained from biblical studies to illuminate it but don’t make biblical studies the focus to the exclusion of what the text is saying.

I’ve learned that trying to turn Bible study (at least in the two churches I’ve been a member of) into miniature seminary lectures isn’t greatly effective. The glazed over eyes are usually the best indication that it’s not hitting home. And that’s okay. People who want seminary lectures should by all means attend seminary. The average believer that I’ve encountered just wants to know what the Bible says and find ways to apply it to life.

Your experience may very well be different. If it is I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know.

B”H

Upgrade

Okay, so here’s the deal… My church’s laptop—which we depend on for most things audio/visual during our services—had a busted screen. Someone sat on it or put something heavy on top of it, but whatever happened, the monitor was useless. The aging laptop was slowing down anyway and it was high time that we upgraded. For the past year I had been using my personal laptop (a late-2013 15″ Retina MacBook Pro) to do most of the heavy lifting. I still used the HP to record the audio and display the Scriptures (sometimes, depending on which program I used). I also used it to record the offerings.

So anyway, the church has been saving our pennies for a while now and we finally had enough n the reserves to purchase a new machine. I opted to get a refurbished mid-2012 13″ MacBook Pro. I chose this particular model for a very important reason: Upgradability! This is one of the last models of the MacBook Pro series that can opened up and tinkered with. My personal computer is what it is and it will never be anything else because everything inside of it is soldered down. Not so with this one.

So in addition to the MBP I picked up some extra RAM, an SSD to replace the optical drive, and a bracket to hold the SSD. I also procured an inexpensive set of precision screwdrivers to make the upgrade happen. So after watching some YouTube tutorials I opened up the MBP and made some changes. Here are the specs of the computer when I first brought it home:

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So I opened the MBP up and swapped out the stock 4GB of RAM for a whopping 16GB of RAM. This was to aid in multitasking, which is something that occurs every church service. I then replaced the near useless optical drive with a 250GB Samsung SSD. After that I cloned the 500GB HDD onto the SSD and then reformatted the HDD. So now the operating system and applications are on the much faster SSD while I’m using the HDD for storage. There were some issues with trying to set up a RAID array but I won’t go into that because it makes me mad to think about it. Long story short: no RAID! So here are the specs after the upgrade:

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I didn’t realize that RAM was 1333 MHz when I purchased it but it’s not that big of a deal. Sure, 1333 MHz isn’t as good as 1600 MHz, but 16GB is way better than 4GB! So I’ve spent all of my free time today installing the necessary programs on our new computer and now I’m ready to load it up in the bag and have it ready for it’s unveiling in church tomorrow. God is good!

B”H

Baptismal Remembrance

I’ve started a series on the sacraments at church. The first class was on baptism in preparation for baptizing three members (which we did yesterday). One of the things I wanted to focus on, and which I believe will be a major focus of the entire series, is that the sacraments are about what God has done, is doing, and will do. God should be the focus. Scott Hahn has noted that when God cuts covenant he marks it with physical signs (e.g., a rainbow, circumcision, blood). The sacraments, Hahn says, are physical signs of God’s covenant. I agree.

When I spoke on baptism the other night I noted the many “types” and “shadows” that appear in the Old Testament. There is the Spirit hovering over the waters when God begins to create. The death/new life of the flood. The deliverance from bondage/sin as Israel passes through the Red Sea. The entry into God’s promises as they pass through the Jordan. And while not quite so obvious, the end game of Israel’s “new exodus,” which in the Prophets takes up the language of the exodus from Egypt, to include plenty of talk about water.

But as I recounted this information I asked the congregation to remember the word “recapitulation.” These important events of salvation history were all recapped in Jesus’ own baptism. To start, why would Jesus, who was without sin, need to be baptized? John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. But Jesus said that it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus is the representative Israel, and more fundamentally, the last Adam. Where they failed Jesus succeeded. Matthew recounts Jesus’ baptism thusly:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

We have the creation recapped in the Spirit descending over the water. We have the death/new life of the flood recapped in the dove imagery. The identification of Jesus as God’s Son recalls the identification of Israel as God’s son when he called for their exodus from Egypt. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, which was passed through to enter into the Promised Land. These are not subtle allusions and I don’t think they were meant to be.

But armed with this knowledge I asked if we should view the events of Israel’s history as “types” and “shadows” of baptism (well aware that Peter calls the flood a type of the baptism that now saves)—with the understanding that types and shadows point to a greater reality—or view baptism as an event that recalls God’s saving acts throughout history? I prefer the latter. It’s not that baptism is a greater reality, but rather baptism is a recapitulation of an already great reality, namely the salvation of God. On this understanding it isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) controversial to say that “baptism saves.”

B”H