LentBlog Day 36: Members of One Another…

Romans 12:3-8

May I just say how difficult it is tonight looking for a picture to go with this post? Go on Google Images and search “individualism” and notice everything that comes up is PRO individualism.

And while the Body of Christ is not made up of identical members, for sure, is it most certainly not a purely individual thing, as our culture perhaps wishes it were.

The key here is when Paul reminds the Romans they are members of one another.  We don’t have the same function. We don’t all have the same giftedness. We don’t all do the same things. And this is OK.

BUT to assume that the church is just this loose collection of individuals with no vital connection with each other is a big fat mistake. What might it mean for us to be members of one another? It means your sin affects me, as does your righteousness. It means faith is corporate. It means “community” is not just a recent church marketing buzzword.  It means there is no such thing as a Lone-Ranger Christian (even he had Tonto). It means there is no salvation outside the church.

It means my individual wants, desires, and will aren’t #1 anymore. In the church we– collectively and individually– submit to the Lordship of Jesus. As we authentically do that, we discover a unity that is beyond what the world offers. The authentic church is the death of the sovereignty of the individual.

Blessings on this snowy (In Indiana, at least) Palm Sunday.

Mark

 

 

 

Advertisements

LentBlog Day 35: On Knowing God’s Will.

Romans 12:1-2.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

NRSV

I wonder tonight if maybe this whole Lent Blog could have been about Romans 12. Probably so.

Reading Romans 12 again tonight the end of verse 2 jumped out at me. It occurred to me again a lot of people in the church tend to ask questions about God’s will for their lives. What does God want me to do? To be? Where to live? How to spend my life?

And, quite simply, I think Romans 12 reminds us the “God’s will” questions are secondary. The first and most important question is, “Are you offering yourself as a living sacrifice?”

My pastor told me, and his pastor told him, that step #1 to knowing God’s will for your life is this:

1. Your answer to God has to be “yes” before God even asks the question. yes

What’s God’s will for you? It doesn’t really matter if you aren’t saying “yes” to it, does it? First things first. Is your life a daily sacrifice to God? Is God transforming you daily, renewing your mind?

Again it comes down to Commandment #1. God must be first. Love God wholeheartedly; undividedly. Don’t get the cart before the horse. Holiness (purity) of heart and life comes first.

Blessings!

(On a side note, tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and here in Central Indiana we’re staring down the barrel of 10 inches of snow. Weird.)

LentBlog Day 34: Don’t Be Conformed…

Romans 12:2.

I have to admit, I read this today through my lens. My lens is that of a pastor in the Nazarene tradition, Seminary grad, married to a pastor, having seen some of the best and the worst the church has to offer in a life of ministry…

My mind goes to a fellow pastor and mentor of mine. He told me a couple years ago that he’s begun to realize he’s spent the last 30 years of his life worrying about the wrong stuff. He’s looking at the remaining years in ministry (may they be numerous!) and is determined not to spend them “worrying about roofs and parking lots.”  I identify with his deep sense of God’s call to be involved in the transformation of lives, not just the building of an institution.  I see my friend living out Romans 12:2. I see him breaking the mold his generation of pastors and church leaders have squeezed him into (and he would admit he was a willing participant).

So I’m reading this through my lens tonight. And sometimes I think “conforming to the pattern of this world” could be talking about more than just blatant sinful behavior or something.  I think it might be, in this case tonight, speaking of patterns of church life that just might be shooting at the wrong target. And maybe, just maybe, a Kingdom Way might do it very differently.

I was talking to another friend this week whose church has spent a ton of money on their facility recently, most of it borrowed. And while the facility is impressive to be sure, the thought that crosses my mind is if we put all our financial eggs into the attractional, facility- and program-driven, Sunday morning attendance basket, and yet we didn’t make any disciples, then we’ve blown all that money. Poof.

To think differently means something’s going to have to bust us out of this mold. God must transform us by the renewing of our mouldminds. My mentor-friend has spent significant time recently rediscovering his passion for the deep theological work that forms the foundation for pastoral ministry. He’s reading new stuff and old stuff. He’s sharpening his sword, so-to-speak. The renewing of his mind is transforming his approach to ministry, and it’s busting him out of that 1990’s Church-Growth mold. Thanks be to God!

I don’t know how many pastors read this blog. My suspicion is not many, because not many total people read it, I think, according to the statistics. But I will say this: If you’re reading this and you’re a pastor, may this passage from Romans 12 rock your paradigm as it has rocked mine. May none of us be content to spend the Divine Calling on our lives building roofs and paving parking lots.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 33: The Living Dead.

Romans 12 (Focusing on v.1)

SO MUCH TO SAY IN ROMANS 12 I don’t quite no where to start… so I’ll start at v.1, yeah?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

The words “spiritual worship” here are τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν. λογικὴν has the same root as logos, so a better translation might really be something like “reasonable.” λατρείαν means something like “service,” but its uses are talking about liturgical service. Service to the temple etc. Worship is a pretty good translation, though “act of worship” maybe captures the thought better. Think “liturgical act” here. So Paul might be saying something like this:

“Look, I beg you, offer yourselves as living sacrifices… holy and acceptable… THIS is the only act of worship that makes sense.

So let’s just get this said, shall we? Where does “I don’t like that ___________” fit in that definition of worship? How does that definition somehow confine worship to a worship gathering? Where does “I go to church because I like _________” fit with that? Where does “I’m not getting fed” or “I want to be uplifted” fit here?Where does church hopping fit? Where in this definition of worship does getting my way fit? Where does the almighty sovereignty of the individual fit here?

Fact is, they don’t fit. None of them do.  We’ve all seen those attitudes and even embodied them from time to time… sometimes even in worship gatherings (or after them…). And while we may call them a lot of things… “Authentic worship” is not one of them.

Paul keeps hammering away in Romans the way of Jesus is the way of life through death.  And like it or not, the death is ours, as we identify with Jesus, die daily, pick up our cross and follow him. Me Church doesn’t fit that paradigm. orthodox

Paul says, in light of all the mercies of God… who redeems Jews and Gentiles who go from the faith of Abraham into the faith of Jesus… it’s time to get yourself out of the way. Offer your very self, every day, to God.

I am so thankful the attractional, seeker-sensitive, market-driven movement in the church is going the way of the dinosaur (Except perhaps in certain places where the church seems to cling to 1994 for dear life). I think there’s something better. Something more authentic. Something that will last. Something that has a voice in our culture. Something deeply, truly worshipful. I’m thankful to be a part of it, and I’m excited about where it will lead.

Blessings,

Mark

 

 

LentBlog Day 32: Without a Leg (Or Maybe a Branch) to Stand On…

Romans 11:17-24

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

NRSV

I reprinted the passage because if you haven’t read it, it’d be a good idea to read it now. What a cool passage. Even now I’m smiling as I write.  Paul has shifted his focus from the people of Israel to the Gentiles. He said at the beginning of chapter 11 that God had redeemed Gentiles in part to make his chosen people jealous. Then here he likens the Gentiles to a wild olive branch that is grafted into a strong, cultivated olive tree.  Then he brings them down a notch or two, reminding them that they are not “all that.”

19 You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe.

V. 20 is jumping out at me tonight. Our culture likes to have solid ground upon which to stand. We take a stand for certain causes or moral and ethical “oughts.” We have personal, denominational, and political stances on issues. Stand and be counted. Stand up for what you believe in. Stand and fight. air

And Paul reminds us if we are to stand, we stand on faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen… (Heb. 12:1). We take our stand, if we do, on hoped-for, unseen things. That doesn’t sound like much to stand on. It’s not very solid rock. You wouldn’t want to build a house on the hope of a foundation. Yet this is where we stand, if we stand: on faith. The faith of Abraham. The faith of Jesus.

In the upside-down (or is it perhaps right side up?) world of the Kingdom of God, standing on faith is more than all the solid-somethings upon which me might stand added together. So we stand… in awe. Amazed that we’re able to stand in the first place.

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 32: Of Beautiful Feet.

Romans 10:14-21.

This passage is pretty straightforward for me tonight. It gets me back to the call to ministry on my life.

It goes like this:

Sending –> Proclaiming –> Hearing –> Belief –> Calling on the Name of the Lord –> Salvation.

paul mosaic

So faith comes through what is heard, and what is heard  is the word of Jesus (or maybe word about Jesus… though word of Jesus I think is better). Lest we forget the truth of the Word of the Lord… that he invades human existence and reveals the Father by the Spirit… we are reminded that the word we proclaim having been sent is not our own. It is the incarnate Word that is Jesus. Jesus must be embodied in our words. At that point, they’re not really our words to begin with. I’m reminded of a quote from Al Truesdale from NTS: “God-talk that is really first of all man-talk is not God-talk.” God-talk must be first and foremost Christ-talk. Trinity-talk. Words given by, inspired by the Word among us.

Only then do the words of those whose feet are beautiful, when they are heard, bring forth belief and this salvation.

 

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 31: The Word Is Always Near You.

Romans 101:1-13

I have had a blast looking at this passage tonight. As I read, I heard Paul taking folks down a notch or two, and it would do us well to hear him: This righteousness that comes from faith says, “Don’t try to elevate yourself too high, reaching for the heavens” (how many of our worship gatherings have as their sometimes-stated goal to “touch heaven” or “bring the glory down?”) and don’t go too low, perhaps in some sort of false humility. Instead, the righteousness that comes by faith says:

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

This is the phrase that jumped out at me. The Word is near. The Word of faith that Jesus is the Christ and has been raised.

The Word-become-flesh is near us. Emmanuel. God-with-us. We must simply look around.

Now, that verse intrigued me so, I decided to research it a little, even though it’s 10-something at night and I’m pretty tired. I had to hear what Karl Barth said about it, so I found my copy of Romans and found his work on Romans 10.  Here’s what he said, in part:

Far too transcendent, far too important, far too full of significance is the Word of God by which the Church is constituted! We cannot endure it– even though it be heard by human ears and proclaimed by human lips!– save when it is trumpeted forth in the final question and in the final answer. The Word is nigh unto us. Wherever we cast our eye, the dynamite is prepared to explode.

(Barth, Romans,  Oxford University Press, 1968, p 381)

piercing

The Word– the incarnate, in-breaking, invading Word of the Lord in Jesus through the Spirit– is near us. And that is not necessarily a safe thing. Aslan, says Mr. Beaver, is not a tame Lion.

Look around. The dynamite of the Kingdom is ready to explode. That is a scary, exciting, refreshing, wild, renewing thought for me tonight. The Kingdom is not safe. But “safe” is not what we’re called to. Movements that change the world are not safe. The Movement that will redeem the world is even less so. 

I wonder what would happen if some of that dynamite went off?

Blessings,

Mark