More Alike Than Different

apostles_creedIf your neighborhood is anything like mine, there is a church on every corner. The population of the county I live in is a little less than 56,000 and I would not be surprised if there were 150 churches. Without getting into church splits and all the baggage that entails, let’s ask this question instead: Are there really that many theological and doctrinal issues that divide us? While there are some real distinctives, such as between Protestants and Catholics, the truth is most Christians are more alike than we are different. To define the differences between Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians we really have to get kind of nit-picky. The basic tenants of the Christian faith – in other words the things that really matter – are shared by all Christians everywhere.

Please read this post from the original Internet Monk. The discussions and debates can be a distraction to those of us inside the church and a stumbling block to those on the outside, but at the end of the day we are more alike than we are different.

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:12-13

Not Exactly Right

bear

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” That’s actually a quote of Friedrich Nietzsche. I guess the bear thing is funny, but… the statement is unnecessary. The original quote creates two categories, things that kill you and things that don’t. Since bears will kill you there is no exception. There are plenty of things that will kill you but the encouragement for survivors is what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Of course I have a sense of humor. The Happy Monday series is about to celebrate two years and 100 posts and shares plenty of funny captioned pictures that are not necessarily accurate from a technical point of view. Captioning funny cat or dog pics is one thing; we need to be a little more careful when it comes to handling theology. There have always been quotes and statements people mistakenly attribute to the Bible (This too shall pass, Money is the root of all evil) but in this day and age of sharing and re-posting we spend less time fact-checking than ever before. Reposting incorrectly captioned pics of the president or falsely ascribed Ben Franklin quotes are one level of misconception, sharing inspirational statements about our faith or even misquoted verses of scripture is something else. When we point and click all day every day but never actually read the Bible we run the risk of of not rightly dividing the Word of Truth without even realizing it. Maybe the bear pic is funny and I need to relax, but this one actually bothers me:

faith quotes

Faith is more than belief, it’s a belief that motivates one to action. You may heard that believing a chair will hold your weight is one thing and actually sitting down comfortably is another. And just because you put faith in something doesn’t mean that person or thing is worthy of your faith and does not guarantee you will not be disappointed. The above quote is inspirational but not scriptural. I would classify it as “name it claim it” theology because not only are these words not found in scripture they are actually contrary to scripture. The poster is scripturally unsound and potentially misleading.

I recently wrote about the Fourth Man in the Fire who appeared after Shadrach, Mechach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. Look again at their statement of great faith in response to King Nebuchadnezzar’s threat:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

They had faith that God could but not necessarily that he would. As a matter of fact God did not deliver them from the king, a fact that did not cause the young men to loose faith. Rather than deliver them from the fire God was present with them in the fire. When they came safely out of the furnace Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged their God and worshipped him. They were promoted in Babylon and a decree went out from the king that if anyone spoke against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego they would be torn limb from limb. God demonstrated his power and was acknowledged by the king, satraps and governors of Babylon because he did not deliver them from the fiery furnace. He had even greater things in mind.

God works all things together for good, often times behind the scenes in ways we don’t see or understand. God explains his plans to Abraham in Genesis 15 that take place over the next 400 years. Joseph did not fully see or understand while he was being sold into slavery or cast into prison by Potiphar but he explained to his brothers that God used those events for good and many people were saved alive from the great famine. Moses did not understand all God was doing and argued with him at the burning bush, eventually asking him to please send someone else. Yet all of these events together, from Genesis 38 to the Book of Joshua, accomplished what God promised Abraham.

Faith is knowing God can. Real faith is believing that God knows what he is doing and that we should pray for his will to be done and not ours.

Broken and Poured Out

anointed And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and wheneveryou want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9

So to summarize: A costly vessel was broken, a precious substance poured out, something valuable was given away but not wasted.  Continue reading

God is Near: Book Discussion #1

book discussionMaybe I’ll come up with a more clever series title but let’s try this out. If you haven’t read the book don’t worry, there should be enough discussion of scripture and of the Christian life in general to give these posts merit. If you don’t know what book I’m talking about it read this page. 

The process of writing God as Near as it exists in its final published form took place over a 2 year period of time, more or less. The first 4 or 5 chapters in particular have been around a while. Chapter 1 deals extensively with the creation story recorded in Genesis and Chapter 2 begins with a quick summary of the Noah story. As publication drew near I decided to leave those chapters alone and ignore certain recent events which are more suited for blogging anyway. Continue reading

Happy Monday

 

 

fifa2018

Okay, so if you’re a big fan of World Cup soccer here’s a little Google doodle sendoff. If, on the other hand, you hate soccer and are sick of the World Cup – good news! (I keep seeing the same 3 second loop – click on the image to view full size, if necessary, in order to see the whole thing.) 

Monday Coffee Continue reading

A Defense of The Apostle Paul

PaulSaul of Tarsus developed quite a reputation in the world of the early Christian church, zealously hunting down those who taught and preached in the name of Christ. He was on his way to Damascus, with arrest letters from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin in hand, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul he became one of the most prolific church planters and writers of the first century; 14 of the 26 New Testament books are his letters (epistles) to various individuals and churches.

But here’s the rub: Do we today make too much of Paul? Does our attention become Paul-centered rather than Christ centered? Just because he wrote many epistles that become a major component of the New Testament, is everything Paul wrote the Word of God? Which is why I propose a defense of Paul to consider and respond to these criticisms. Continue reading