Thursday, February 26, 2009


The cartoon posted is based on a story from one of the non-canonical gospels, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas. I, in no way sanction that what you are about to see really happened, but it is a funny rendering of the story.

HT to Mark Goodacre of NT Gateway fame

For more on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, go here

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Gospel according to Peter

To recap, we have talked about the elements of the gospel: it was the right time; Jesus' message was concerning the Kingdom; it involved repentance; and it is empowered by the Holy Spirit. See these posts for the series part 1; part 2; part 3. This post actually follows well the previous post, that is, the gospel must be preached.

We move to the gospel message after the resurrection. We have to turn to Acts chapter 2 to see the first announcement of the gospel by the early church. This passage does not have the term "gospel" (euangellion) but you can see how this message puts together some of the elements of the gospel that we have already discussed. It is the message of Peter as he is empowered by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, where many Jews from all over the Greco-Roman world would have gathered.

  • We see that the gospel is empowered by the Holy Spirit (vv. 2-3);
  • It is connected to the Old Testament (vv. 17-21, quoting Joel 2.28-32);
  • It is costly (v. 23, we haven't studied this part yet, but it is coming);
  • Its message is the Kingdom. Peter does not literally call it the Kingdom here, but Peter points to the same evidence that Jesus gave that the Kingdom was at hand (v. 22), plus Jesus' resurrection places him at the right hand of the Father, a position of ultimate authority (v. 33). He is even called by names that both Greeks and Jews would have understood as having ultimate authority (Kurios=Lord, or another name for the emperor and Christ=the messiah or "anointed one" synonymous with the King).

Some additional elements to the message of the gospel:
  • The gospel message contains the account of the suffering and death of Jesus (v. 23).
  • The gospel message contains the message of his resurrection (vv. 24 and 31).
  • The gospel message provokes a response ("Brothers, what shall we do?" verse 37).
  • The response is in line with the original gospel (from Mark 1): Repent and be baptized (v. 38).
  • The result of repentance and baptism: forgiveness of your sin (and your culpability in putting Jesus to the cross) and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (and the power to follow Jesus).

We see that acceptance of this gospel also resulted in being incorporated into the fellowship of the believers (vv. 41-47).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Nuance of Hebrews 10.25

I really think it is important for all believers to study biblical backgrounds to some extent. You will find that when you have at least a cursory understanding of the contexts in which Scripture was written, you will have a fuller picture and a deeper understanding of its meaning. One example is Hebrews 10.25 - Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (NIV).

Many of us have heard messages (or even taught them) from this passage about how important it is for us to be a part of a local church and for us to attend church on a regular basis. Now, I am not saying that is not a valid view, but does it do service to the intent of that verse? When we investigate the reason why this verse was written, we see a deeper (and more serious) understanding of this verse.

The book of Hebrews was written to encourage Jewish Christians to stay firm in their faith. They were being persecuted by other Jews because of their devotion to Jesus. They were tempted to return to full fledged Judaism. This isn’t just a message to lapsed Christians who preferred to sleep in on Sundays or to the person who says “I don’t need to go to church to be a good Christian.” To continue meeting together may have been costly for some of the recipients of this letter, but the writer of Hebrews was trying to tell them why it was so necessary for them to keep gathering, even in the face of this pressure.

From Encountering the New Testament by Elwell and Yarborough:

“After initial courageous reception of the gospel in the face of bitter persecution (10.32-34), they must not throw away the high level of confidence they had attained (10.35). To stand firm is salvation; to shrink back would mean defeat and destruction (10.39).” The writer of Hebrews’ “central purpose is fairly elementary: Trust in the Lord and stand your ground" (349).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Albert Pujols - Five Time MVP?

Look, I don't condone what Rick Reilly is writing here. And I am praying feverishly that Albert's name doesn't pop up on one of these lists, but Reilly does have an interesting column, especially if you are a fan of numero cinqo.
See the story here.

The Gospel, part 3 - The Gospel Must Be Preached

The Gospel is a message that must be announced

We will start this week in Luke 4.14-21.
We see in this passage that Jesus was gathering a reputation as a teacher. Jesus is allowed to teach at this synagogue and is given the Isaiah scroll to read from. Jesus chooses Isaiah 61.1-2. From this passage we find that Jesus was "anointed" to preach the good news. To be anointed in the Old Testament meant to be set apart for devoted service to Yahweh.
His message was good news to the poor. (How was this message good news to the poor? Jesus is proclaiming the Year of Jubilee which was a cancellation of debts. Poverty doesn't only have to be financial.)
He proclaimed freedom from the prisoners. (How does his message accomplish this? See Acts 10.38).
It seems that in this chapter and others (Mark 1.35-39) that Jesus' primary mission (beyond his atoning death and resurrection) was to preach the message of the Kingdom of God.

As we look at other nuances of the gospel message and its proclamation, we turn to Luke 9.1-6.
In this passage we see that the gospel message is preached by followers of Jesus. This ministry is accomplished with the power and authority of Jesus (similar to his announcement of Kingdom of God being near; Mark 1.14-15). It is a message of the Kingdom of God. thus, the gospel was charged to Jesus' followers to go announce the Kingdom of God and it was done under the authority and power of Jesus (the King).

When looking at the passage where Jesus was anointed by a sinful woman at Bethany (Matt. 26.13) Jesus informs us that her story will be told within the gospel story. That is, the gospel will tell the whole story of Jesus' life and ministry and will (again) be told by others.

The last note on the proclamation of the gospel is that it will be preached to all the nations (see Matt. 24.14). In fact this mission must be carried out before Jesus returns. We see evidence of that in Revelation 7.9 that there will be members of nation, tribe, people and language.

It should be obvious, the word "euangellion" means good news, good report, good announcement. Therefore the gospel must be preached. It was preached by Jesus, it was (and should be) preached by his followers (with the authority and power of the one who sent them), it involves the whole story of Jesus and must be taken to all the nations.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More thoughts on "the Gospel"

I have been doing a study on the concept of "the gospel." It has several nuances to it, but I am discovering two interrelated "gospel" messages. There is first the gospel of Jesus, which is inextricably linked to the Kingdom of God; and second, the gospel of the Apostles which is related to the death and resurrection of Jesus (with no specific mention of the Kingdom).
They are related in that the second gospel confirms the first. It is the death and resurrection of Christ that proves that he is the King and the Kingdom age has been ushered in. And, since he is the King, we, his subjects, must be about the work of the Kingdom.
I am sure that this is not original, has anyone else seen work done on this "two fold" gospel?

Monday, February 16, 2009


Not really sure what to make of this, but I was reading this report on Alex Rodriguez' up coming press conference at the Yankees' spring training site on Wednesday and was struck by the PR machine that surrounds A-Rod. This is from the site:

Rodriguez has a large management team starting with agent Scott Boras and his staff. Then there's Guy Oseary, A-Rod's manager, a former recording company executive who also manages Madonna.

A-Rod signed with the William Morris Agency last summer to extend his brand beyond baseball, and his personal spokesman is Richard Rubenstein, son of Howard Rubenstein, whose company represents Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and the team.

Boras said last week that Rodriguez also had hired the consulting firm Outside Eyes, which according to its Web site provides "media strategy, brand development and crisis management." It is headed by Reed Dickens, a former White House assistant press secretary under President George W. Bush, and the company Web site says Outside Eyes maintains a "war room" for monitoring news and formulating a rapid response.

In addition, he can rely on the Yankees' front office and their legal and media staffs, and officials at the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Makes you wonder what is coming from Alex's heart when he discusses the steroid issue and what he has been expertly coached on.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why Do I Like LeBron James?

Because of commercials like these:

Kid N Play Reference? That's gold, Jerry! Gold!

Lost and Found - Depth and Content

I am skipping ahead in the book that I am serial reviewing, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them). I am doing so because this chapter deals with the type of depth and content the younger unchurched (and believers as well) desire when discussing the Bible. This comes to mind as I have read the recent Mark Driscoll dust up in Baptist Press (here) and discussions of him on Nightline, NY Times and even an upcoming feature on CNN. I am working on putting together some thoughts on why Mark Driscoll is important (and maddening). I don't know if I will post those finished thoughts on here or not. But in the meantime, here is what Stetzer, Stanley and Hayes have to say about the younger unchurched and depth (and content).

Ed did some research on churches engaging people in emerging culture and found that one trait was consistent in “successful” churches: they were spending more time and going deeper into the content of Scripture and theology than was common in more established churches. Content and depth were a passion. He finds that the “churched” young adults, who are willing to stand for truth in today’s culture, desire to be equipped. On the other hand, unchurched young adults also established that if they were ever to make a decision for Christ, then it would be an informed, educated one. They are proving the importance of depth and content by avoiding the churches that lack it.

Ed looks at several “key images” to help us grasp a more accurate understanding of the qualitative aspect of their research. These key images represent the “voice of the people” that they interviewed.

Key Image – Let me safely join the conversation. This implies:

A desire to process and personalize content; a recognition that everyone has something to contribute; an interest in learning that provides entry points for people at all levels of spiritual maturity; a genuine interest in God and the Bible; an affinity toward discussion, struggle and story.

Key Image – Help me find my way. What stands out:

A strong desire to connect Scripture, faith, and real world issues; an ongoing evaluation of one’s personal beliefs, values and lifestyle; a strong desire for stability in a world that seems to be counteracting it; a search for truth that impacts everyday living.

Key Image – Young adults want the real truth. What this says:

Young adults want to deal with the tough questions and pat answers won’t work; there is a desire to address controversial topics in community; a need to focus on truth and not what has been added to it; an interest in exploring the Bible, including the challenging parts; an examination of worldview and other forms of truth.

Some other thoughts on content – These young adults desire depth, that is the level of content. It is about engaging people at every level – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and even physically. Our teaching must be emotionally and intellectually challenging. It takes good preparation and it involves asking the difficult questions of a text. It is also about struggle. One of the reasons why young adults think of church as emotionally and intellectually dishonest is because they see very little authentic struggle from their leadership. Often, a pastor stands and presents biblical truth in a way that implies that the pastor already has it all figured out. Young adults desire transparency, seeing the presentation of the struggle of the one who is presenting the truth after he/she has struggled with it. A pastor can go a long way in cultivating an atmosphere of depth, as well as authenticity and community, by simply figuring that he or she doesn’t have it all figured out. When teachers present information along with the questions and struggles, people have the sense that they are truly encountering something of quality – a moment of true, deep and honest content. And that is what connects.

Ed gives us some advice on cultivating depth in the Church.

  • Teach the entire Bible, even the difficult sections.
  • Foster discussion in Bible study and teaching.
  • Address tough topics and answer difficult questions.
  • Make apologetics a priority
  • Provide exegetical Bible teaching
  • Sing theologically sound music.

Today’s young adults may be the most intelligent, yet cynical and overly marketed generation in history. As a by product of this situation, they accept little at face value. They ask tough questions and expect challenging answers. Thus, a superficial exploration of God, truth, and life will not be successful.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Gospel, part 2

This will be the second lesson from our gospel series. We are looking at various aspects of "the gospel" in our small group study at Memorial Union at 6pm on Wednesday. If your in the area, stop on by.
Mark 1.14-15 - Now after John had been handed over; Jesus went into Galilee preaching the gospel (good news; the announcement) of God. And saying the time has been fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe in the gospel (good news; announcement).

The time was fulfilled?
Why was this the time? What did this mean?
Read Gal. 4.4-5 - But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
From a historical standpoint, this was the right time because:
1. There was a common language (Greek)
2. The OT (the Scriptures) were available in this common language
3. Vast road system (easy to travel).
4. Achievement of law and order (Pax Romana)
5. Spread of Judaism throughout the Empire
6. Jews longed for a messiah

Kingdom of God is at hand (or near).
Because the King was at hand, the kingdom, naturally was at hand.
What kind of King? John the Baptist wanted to know the answer to this question.
See Matt. 11.2-6 - Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.

The Characteristics of this king – Blind receive sight; lame walk; lepers cleansed; deaf hear; dead raised gospel preached to the poor.
Look at Isaiah 35.4-6; the above list from Matt. 11.2-6 are the things that will take place when Yahweh (the King) comes. Jesus gives these things as the evidence that the King is here to John.

Repent – the word means to change your mind. It often had the connotation of a new relationship with God that impacted all spheres of life. It dealt with the question of one’s standing before God. This repentance was calling for obedience to the will of God; trust in God and the rejection of false gods; it was turning aside from everything ungodly.
See Jer. 26.3 and Ezek. 18.26-28. Ezekiel gives the picture of what repentance looks like. Jeremiah tells that God will change his mind (repent) of the calamity he is planning on his sinful people if they listen and turn from their evil way.

Yahweh is coming as a judge, so get ready and repent (turn to him). Jesus is Yahweh’s appearance. This is tied back to John’s announcement that the one following him (Jesus) will baptize with the Spirit. This Spirit empowers this repentance.

What can we learn from the Gospel in this passage?
Jesus tells us to believe in the Gospel. The content is that Jesus is King. As the coming king he demands that the wicked changed their ways and follow him in obedience. We are to believe in this gospel, which as was shown last week, is connected with the “evangels” of the Roman Emperors, that is Jesus’ coming is an event that brings about a radically new situation for humanity.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lost and Found, part 2

Ed and his fellow authors broke the younger unchurched into four types, yet realized that there might be some overlap between these groups. The four types of the unchurched are:
1. Always unchurched (never been involved) – about 22% of the younger unchurched. They have the smallest, yet widest view of God and Jesus. If we create a composite character (which the authors do), we see that they, for the most part, do not believe the Jesus died and actually came back to life, yet they are open-minded enough to admit that having faith in Jesus might make a positive difference in a person’s life. They have no church experience but still believe that many church goers are hypocritical in judging other people. They are somewhat curious about God, or a supreme being. They seldom wonder about their eternal destiny. They have cloudy views on the after life and since that is the case, their views on the afterlife have little impact on how they live.
2. De-churched (having attended as a child) – largest subgroup (62%). Their interest and receptivity are generally higher than the other types of younger unchurched. They possess more traditional views of God, Christianity and the church. Yet, they are still open to the possibility that supreme beings of other world religions may be similar to the biblical God. Also have negative views toward church goers (hypocrites again) and they have personal lifestyle issues that make them wonder if they would be accepted at church. They occasionally wonder about their eternal destiny than the previous group which impacts lifestyle somewhat.
3. Friendly unchurched (not particularly angry at the church) – (15%) – have no current animosity toward the church. They do not view the church as a bunch of hypocrites, and Christians’ do not get on their nerves. Strongly agree that God exists and is unique. They do not think that it is necessary to attend church in order to relate well with God.
4. Hostile unchurched (angry at the church or have some negative experiences with the church) – (37%) – They are usually anti-church and probably consider the church and her members to be bigoted and dangerous. Do not think that the biblical God is the same as those presented by non-Christian religions. Believe that the church is all about organized religion instead of loving God and people.

Cultural Issues
There were two issues that the pollsters asked these younger unchurched about and what impact the stances by a church would have on them. First, how would they react knowing a church did not endorse the ordination of women as pastors? Would it impact their decision to attend that church? Nearly 65% said it would negatively impact their decision. Second, would knowing that the church you were considering visiting did not welcome and affirm homosexual members negatively or positively impact your decision? Once again the overwhelming majority of the younger unchurched reported this would negatively impact their decision.
This tells us that we cannot have a serious conversation about reaching the unchurched, particularly the younger unchurched, without addressing issues of gender and sexuality.

At the end of each chapter there is a “fable” with each of the unchurched types represented by a composite characters along with a committed Christian represented as well.

Lost and Found

I am beginning another one of my award winning book review series. I received a free copy of Ed Stetzer’s new book Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them (co-written by Richie Stanley and Jason Hayes) with the promise that I would blog about it. This book has three sections. The first section looks at the “who.” Who are younger adults today? What do they think about God, Christianity, and the church? Based on additionally research, the second section provides a thorough analysis of the ministry needs of the younger unchurched. The third and final section looks at churches that are reaching young adults, with a focus that combines the who and the how. They seek to examine churches that are effectively engaging emerging culture and regularly seeing young adults come to faith in Christ. Instead of telling you what you should do, they analyze churches that are doing it – and they seek to learn from them.

The authors point to a book by Robert Wuthnow (After the Baby Boomers) and note that, among other things, that although a general decline in religious attendance has occurred among American younger adults, other measures of belief and spirituality have not suffered such a decline. For instance, little change has occurred since the 1970s in the proportion of young adults who believe the Bible to be the Word of God. Wuthnow finds that a greater percentage of current young adults, compared to older adults, prefer personal experience as the best way to experience God. These younger adults are more spiritual tinkerers rather than religious service attendees.
“Spiritual tinkering is a reflection of the pluralistic religious society in which we live, the freedom we permit ourselves in making choices about faith, and the necessity of making those choices” (Wuthnow, 135).

I will post later today about the way the authors define the different types of younger unchurched.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

80s Greatness

Combining the greatness of Pop Up Videos with my favorite song of 1985 "Aint Gonna Play Sun City".
It is funny though, Joey Ramone's line criticizing Ronald Reagan's policy of constructive engagement rang a bell with me. It is the same policy that Bill Clinton employed when he was pushed to demand human rights in China. Look here

My favorite part: David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Bruce Springsteen and Pat Benatar. Daryl Hall was great for the whole decade. Missing from this shortened video: Miles Davis, Zak Starkey and his dad (Ringo Starr), Kool Moe Dee, the Fat Boys, the Big Man, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Wilson from the Gap Band

Exegetical Goodness?

I commented last week on “the gospel” from Mark 1.1 and as I was teaching through this, I thought I’d point out another little exegetical nugget for you. After Mark announces the beginning of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, Mark immediately quotes Isaiah (he actually combines a quote from Malachi and Isaiah and attributes it to Isaiah. How can he do that? That is a subject for another blog).

Mark’s quote is almost a verbatim quote of Isaiah 40.3 from the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint). If we work backwards, the term for Lord in Mark and Isaiah is kurios. However, the Hebrew term for Lord in Isaiah is Yahweh.

So, when we put this all together, Mark is telling us that John the Baptist (the forerunner of Malachi 3 and 4) was preparing the way for Yahweh. For those who claim that Jesus was not God, nor did he ever claim to be, the author of the second gospel sure thought he was.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quick Thought on Why We Were Created

I was sent an email asking why did God create us. I had to reply quickly, so this is not as thought through as much as it could be, but I am interested in your responses to this reply:

Some will say God created us to worship him (as we look at the second commandment, where the Israelites are told not to worship false gods, implying that He alone is to be worshiped). I think when we look at the creation story, God created humanity for relationship and/or fellowship. We get hints that God is already in some kind of relationship prior to humanity in Gen. 1.26, “Let Us make man in Our image…” and then in verse 28 we see that relationship extended to all humans in relationship “Be fruitful and multiply,” that is, relate to one another. We see more of that in 2.18, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” Also, God used to walk in the Garden and freely communicate and relate to the man and woman until their sin disrupted that pure fellowship.
If we return to the commandments, God also lets the people know what he has done for them in commandment one, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt…” Thus, again, God details how he relates to his people, prior to worship. God created us for fellowship. As we get to know the character of God, then we see that He is worthy of worship.

Love your thoughts, reactions, corrections.