February 2011

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Feb

07

2011

Which Church Does Jesus Build?

Is it possible that there exist a ministry that properly confesses Christ, consists of believers committed to honoring Christ, proclaiming his word and administering the sacraments, and yet not be called Christ's ministry? That seems to be the conclusion of the idea of "calling," if such a situation existed with a man "not called."

The idea seems to be sometimes that the only thing missing in certain ministries is the man's calling. If he were simply called, then the Lord would bless the ministry. If he were not called, no matter what else is right, the ministry is doomed for "he ran, but was not sent."

The NT is hardly explicit on this topic of calling, and for such a necessary thing in ministry, I'd expect something more explicit. Something I do see explicit is Matthew 16 where Jesus tells us what church he intends to build. (This hit me a week ago preparing for a sermon and it was massively encouraging.)

I believe that Matt 16 says that the church that Jesus builds is the one centered on a proper profession of Christ, and committed to using the power of the keys (e.g. proper mutual oversight, accountability, and discipline). These keys handed to Peter in Matt 16 are, I think, passed on to the whole church in Matt 18.

If the keys are entrusted to the church, and not to a formal called clergy, then the idea of calling can be rather at ends with whom Jesus actually entrusted the keys to. Who has the keys? Who has authority to identify with Christ and preach his gospel? The ordained clergy? Or the church?

What is the Lord's ministry? What will he bless? What church does Jesus build? Those who confess his  name and gather together to oversee each other and proclaim his word. That is Jesus' ministry. I think this has serious implications for the idea the call into ministry is the crucial factor for it being the Lord's ministry, at least as I've understood it or heard it.

Feb

08

2011

The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love


The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love by Jonathan Leeman contains a surprising thesis supported by solid argument, pictured with continuous illustration and tethered down from its theological heights by good practical considerations. 

The subtitle of the book is "Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline." This may not sound like a very exciting topic, but if you're interested in the topic (and even if you're not!) I think you'll find  it a very exciting book! As he describes it, it is a systematic theology of church membership. I have agreed with these concepts (and taught them!) for some time, but this book put a foundation under my feet. It changed the issue for me from something "good" to something "mandatory", from it being not unbiblical, to being biblical. Seriously, a landmark book for me.

The basic thesis of the book is that while church membership and church discipline today are argued against as unloving and counter-productive to producing true community in the church, these are the very things given to us to define God's love for the world to see. God's love is a boundary-drawing love. 

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Feb

09

2011

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry, by Michael Lawrence is a book I picked up with two motives: (1) to understand what the 9Marks people meant by "Biblical Theology" as the second mark of a healthy church, (2) a growing interest in Biblical Theology (in the technical sense) and thus a corollary interest in how this discipline can practically applied to the life of the church.

(The first point is still a little unclear. They seem to go back and forth between "theology that is biblical", and "biblical theology.")

The Main Point

I think his main point boils down to this: The Bible is not just an answer book, it is also a story of what God has done and is doing, albeit a normative and authoritative one.  

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Feb

10

2011

Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome

Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, by Kent and Barbara Hughes is an encouraging book. Begins with them telling their story of how they ended up discouraged in ministry on account of a sense of failure, and how this sparked their study that led to this book. This is followed by their definition of success in about seven different points. These provide a helpful way to truly measure success in God's eyes. They conclude with encouragements and sources of encouragement to the discouraged pastor, as well as ways the congregation and wife can help.

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Feb

12

2011

Francis Chan on Love and Knowledge

"Think Hard, Stay Humble: The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride", by Francis Chan.

Wonderfully encouraging and challenging message on love and knowledge. Not so much exposition; a lot of exhortation. Very challenging message about the depth of our love for people. At the end of the day, would people ever think that spending a day with us is somewhat like walking with Jesus? Are we becoming more like Jesus? 

Feb

14

2011

Living by Principle, Not Practice

Yesterday I attended a conference here in Taipei by Stephen Tong (唐崇榮). Many people in our church had become quite a fan of him, and so I thought I'd take this chance to hear him speak. The topic was "The Key to Victory over Premarital Love/Sex" (婚前愛與性之得勝秘訣). I was greatly encouraged to see him address this important topic, and to see the huge auditorium of people  filled with people desiring to hear about this topic. 

But towards the end of the third session (the only one I attended), he began an aside on the question of masturbation (自慰), and his answer to this question was basically that it is not always wrong. I was shocked! I disagree strongly with his answer. Yet, his reasoning alarmed me even more.

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Feb

22

2011

"Love your Enemies" and the Imprecatory Psalms

Of the many concise and surprising things Jesus instructed, "Love your enemies," rates pretty near the top. Many know the passage who've never picked up a Bible in their lives. When we are struck on the cheek, we offer the other also. When someone asks us to bear a burden for one mile, we are to carry it for two, we are to "go the extra mile". This teaching is so radical and unthinkable it has left a profound impact on his followers and even his non-followers, even on the English language in terms of the idiom "go the extra mile." 

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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)