October 26, 2019

We All Need Each Other

At Edgewood Church, we are currently working our way through First Corinthians. The last two weeks we have been in Chapter 12. (Chapter 12 Sermon 1 & Chapter 12 Sermon 2) There have been several eye-opening moments for me as I have studied my way through this book, but some of the biggest ones, at least from my perspective, have happened in this chapter. As we finish up Chapter 12 this week, I came across a summary statement in one of my commentaries that left me nodding my head in agreement, and then typing the entire thing out. I then read it to my wife because I was marveling at its implications on they way we do church.

I have included the entire quote here... and I am obviously putting it here because I would like as many of my family and friends to read this as possible. You will see that I have included 6 paragraphs. They are the final 6 paragraphs from Ben Witherington III's chapter on 1 Corinthians 12.

If you don't have a ton of reading stamina... The important paragraphs are the last 3. If you read the whole thing... Pause after the second paragraph before you embark on the remainder. Focus in on the ideas in the last three paragraphs (especially paragraphs 4 and 5).

Note as well: ekklēsia is the Greek word for Church and apostoloi is the Greek word for Apostles (or messengers).

     Paul's use of the body metaphor to speak of the Christian Community in Corinth implies that he believes that God the Holy Spirit bequeaths to each Christian community all the gifts & graces it needs to be what it ought to be. In addition, the list of gifts in this chapter strongly suggest that God gives not only abilities but also persons as gifts to the community, weather apostoloi, prophets, teachers, or others.
     But does God still do all these things for the ekklēsia today? We can certainly affirm that God provides amply for the modern at Christian community, but in some ways the provision is different. For one thing, if we are to follow Paul's ideas on this matter, apostoloi were gifts given to the ekklēsia in its first two generations, but not since then. Paul assumes in 9:1 that an essential criterion for apostleship is to have seen the risen Lord during the period of his resurrection appearances at the beginning of the church age. Furthermore, Paul tells us that he was the last to see the risen Christ (15:8). While we can certainly talk about the passing down of the apostolic teaching through the ages of the ekklēsia, we cannot talk about the passing down of the apostolic office. “Apostolic succession,” in the sense of a continued apostolic presence through a church office, is a myth, since no one after the initial witnesses can meet the essential criterion. Apostoloi were God's temporary gift to found the community of Christ, and this was probably already recognized by the end of the NT period, as Rev. 21:14 suggests (cf. also Acts 1:22). Neither “the twelve” nor “the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:5,7) were a continual presence even in the first century.
     But nothing in the NT suggests that any of the other person's as gifts or gifts to persons ceased with the early ekklēsia. Indeed, there is a considerable evidence throughout the course of church history to the contrary. How might this conclusion be applied today?
Paul is apparently referring to all the Corinthian house congregations collectively as the body of Christ. This might well suggest that one particular local house church would not have all the gifts needed in that city to serve the purposes of Christ's body. Perhaps there is a lesson here for us. As many churches as we have in every city, none of them has all the gifts, graces, and human resources necessary to be the ekklēsia of God fully and adequately in that place. There is a warning here to every singular assembly that the “church” does not cease at its doorstep. Every local assembly needs every other local assembly to be complete. Just as gifted individuals cannot say to other Christians that they are unneeded it, since no Christian has all God's gifts, so, too, this is apparently true with congregations as well. It is not accidental that different Christian faith traditions have specialized in manifesting different gifts. For example, not all truly Christian congregations have prophets or tongues speakers in them, but some do. Or again, some churches have especially nurtured the role of elder or deacon(ess).
     My plea here is not just for tolerance or ecumenical cooperation and appreciation but also for recognizing that we all need each other. Paul is correcting abuses of various gifts in chs. 12-14, but to correct abuse of a gift is not to rule out its proper use. I suspect that Paul would tell us that just as “charismania,” the overemphasis on prophecy or tongues, is not healthy, neither is “charisphobia,” the anathematizing of all such gifts. We are not called to act in the chaotic and selfish fashion the Corinthians did, but we are also not called to quench the Spirit and arrange Christian worship so that there is no room for the spontaneous Word from above to be shared. There is a balance between Spirit and structure, order and spontaneity, that should be maintained in any local congregation.
     Finally, Paul’s word about giving more honor to the weaker members of the body of Christ, the less “presentable” ones, needs to be heeded. He believes that even these folks have essential gifts and functions to exercise. It is a mistake to bring the world’s evaluative system into the ekklēsia and to set up an honor roll that favors the more presentable and dignified, or those with the more outwardly showy or dramatic gifts. Paul believes that the body of Christ is only truly strong when it gives special honor and attention to its weakest members. The more presentable members do not need such attention. 

This quote comes from pg. 262-263 from Conflict and Community in Corninth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians by Ben Witherington III

August 9, 2019

I still wouldn't be able to locate my interest in your problem.




This is one of my all-time favorite Frasier Crane Quotes!

Here is the transcript of Frasier's response:

 Frasier Crane:
"... at Cornell University they have an incredible piece of scientific equipment known as the tunneling electron microscope. Now, this microscope is so powerful that by firing electrons you can actually see images of the atom, the infinitesimally minute building blocks of our universe. Roger, if I were using that microscope right now, I still wouldn't be able to locate my interest in your problem."

June 15, 2019

Rampant Individualism

Stephen Um on Discipline…
“There is a cultural aversion to discipline. We’re comfortable with the idea of self-discipline. -- bringing ourselves into line with a certain standard in order to reach a long-term goal like weight loss, eating healthily, or earning an additional degree. We even refer to different branches of knowledge or fields of study as ‘disciplines’ because we understand that it takes sustained focus, hard work, and self-discipline to grasp them. However, we are uncomfortable with the idea of being disciplined by an external force -- someone or something outside ourselves.  And the reason for this is rampant individualism. Jonathan Leeman says, ‘[for] the average person in Western culture today: every attachment is negotiable. We are all free agents, and every relationship and life station is a contract that can be renegotiated or canceled, whether we are dealing with the prince, the parents, the spouse, the salesman, the boss, the ballot box, the courtroom judge, or, of course, the local church. I am principally obligated to myself and maximizing my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness… I retain the power to veto everything.’”
Stephen Um, 1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross (Preaching the Word)


The Pug Bunk



The Pug Bunk
Our pug (Zeus) has been spoiled.

We made the mistake, after we moved, of allowing him up on the end of the bed because he was crying... He has mommy issues. He can't be away from my wife at any time if she is in the house.

We put a blanket out and his bed and lifted him up there so that he could be near her. We had never let him in the bed before, and he is too old / fat to get up there himself. But... we felt sorry for him and lifted him up there.

Well... I quickly tired of lifting him up, but once we had done it the first time, he was not going to be content to be that far away from his favorite person in the world.

I had to come up with an alternative because I was sick of lifting him up.   (He is on the chunky side and it is just annoying... Especially after I've already climbed into bed.)

My solution: The Pug Bunk.


June 4, 2019

dream vs. reality


Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. 
By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all of its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be every so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

June 1, 2019

power and love

"Like life itself, power is nothing --- worse than nothing --- without love.  But love without power is less than it was meant to be. Love without the capacity to make something of the world, without the ability to respond to and make room for the beloved's flourishing, is frustrated love. This is why the love that is the heartbeat of the Christian story --- the Father's love for the Son and, through the Son, the world --- is not simply a sentimental feeling or a distant, ethereal theological truth, but has been signed and sealed by the most audacious act of true power in the history of the world, the resurrection of the Son from the dead. Power at its best is resurrection to full life, to full humanity. Whenever human beings become what they were meant to be, when even death cannot finally hold its prisoners, then we can truly speak of power."

Andy Crouch, as quoted from Playing God by Stephen Um in his commentary on 1 Corinthians

Authority

Stephen Um on authority...


"Authority is not authoritarianism. Authority is the ability to influence others -- the right to give orders and make commands with the good of others in view. Authoritarianism is enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.  It is 'showing a lack of concern for the wishes or opinions of others; domineering; dictatorial.'  Authority is having a supervisor who seeks his or her staff's good in harmony with the good of others, leading to personal and social flourishing. Authoritarianism, however, is having a supervisor who demands strict obedience and crushes both individual and social flourishing for the purpose of maintaining control. The problem is that all of the uneasy feelings associated with authoritarianism (which are good and proper!) have been imported into the conception of authority."


Stephen Um (1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross, Preaching the Word Commentary Series)

April 27, 2019

A Personal God.

From Stephen Um's commentary on 1 Corinthians:

“The idea of a personal God would have been almost impossible for the Corinthians to understand. In a sense it is equally difficult for us. And it is much easier to keep God at a safe distance. If he is just a set of data or a perceived lack of data, then we can treat him like an impersonal force. God becomes a decision that I need to make (“Do I believe in God or not?”) rather than a personal reality with whom I need to reckon.”
1 Corinthians: The WORD of the CROSS by Stephen T. Um

March 30, 2019

Preaching Jesus Christ... Crucified

“His task had been plain, his purpose definite; he determined to know nothing among them but Jesus Christ, and to know and proclaim him in a way least acceptable to the wisdom of the world, namely, as reduced to the deep disgrace of death by the cross. It was Christ and his atoning work and not any human philosophy of human salvation that formed the sum and substance of Paul’s message.”
Charles Erdman (The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Exposition)


March 23, 2019

we miss her when she's gone...

A couple of videos 
that I submit as evidence 
to how much we miss my wife 
when she is not in the house... 




You may draw your own conclusions... 


March 16, 2019

patronage

You ever read something in a book that leaves you sitting there, mind spinning? It is usually followed by an audible "hmm..."  I will then usually look up from the book and slightly to the left. (I'm not sure if that means anything, but that is how it happens for me. I love it when that happens, and I am usually grateful, because this occurrence goes along with my sermon study as I am preparing for Sunday.

This happened a couple of days ago as I was reading my commentaries for my 1 Corinthians study. This one came from Stephen Um's commentary in 1 Corinthians.

March 3, 2019

Welcoming All

At my church, when we are going through a book of the Bible, I never feel as if "I" have accomplished something or completed something... I always think of it as "we've made it through." In my mind... we worked our way through this, and this last book has been one of the largest undertakings of our Church: The Acts of the Apostles.

This morning, we will be completing our study of Acts. I believe that we started Acts in November of 2017. (You can find most, if not all, of the sermon recordings on our Edgewood Podcast.)  We've had a couple of side notes along the way, but I believe that it adds up to almost 50 sermons. I've learned so much on this particular journey, and I hope that those who have attended Edgewood, a little over the last year, have also learned from this endeavor. I thought about typing a post with some of the lessons that we've learned... but that felt a little too overwhelming. Instead, I would like to share a small fraction of the lesson that I found for today. 

February 28, 2019

Quiet Wisdom

For all of my teacher friends out there...

For all the ones who toil,
day after day,
attempting to help their students in the ways
that seem so small at the time...

For all those who offer
bits of direction,
and assume that there is only once concession,
well... maybe...

For all of those instructors
who instruct sincerely
and know in the end that very clearly 
that only a few were listening...

For every single educator
who educates from the heart
hoping each day that just one will start
to change...

For the teachers out there who counsel
though counselors they are not
this role they fill on the spot
when one child's ears are open...

Keep this saying in mind:
"The words of the wise
heard in quiet
are better than the shouting of a ruler
among fools."
Ecclesiastes 9:17 (ESV)g

February 21, 2019

God has granted you all those who sail with you.

About a year ago, I ran across a verse that gave me a measure of comfort. That verse is Acts 27:24.  It is right in the middle of a story involving Paul the Apostle, a ship, a storm, and an angel. (The angel is the one speaking to Paul in the verse:
... and he said, "Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you."
Acts 27:24 (ESV)
The last half of that verse resonated with me.

Even though I am never really alone, I was feeling alone at that time...  I was feeling like I was by myself in the work of the ministry.  I knew it wasn't true, but that feeling was working on me and I found joy in these words... especially thinking of our church as a ship and the ones who "sail with me."

I even set it as my background on my several of my devices for the next year...

"God has granted you all those who sail with you."  Acts 27:24b

February 12, 2019

Let your Requests be made Known to God

Philippians 4:4–7
[4] Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. [5] Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; [6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)
At a typical prayer meeting, what do we do? ... We share requests. We have request boxes. We make lists. We submit them to one another, share them through prayer chains, and ultimately lay them at the feet of God. This is precisely what we ought to do, according to this verse, but there is more here.  Why did Paul use so many different words to describe our prayer request list?

February 10, 2019

February 9, 2019

"God's Own Fool"

"God's Own Fool"
One of my all-time favorite Michael Card Songs:


Seems I've imagined Him all of my life
As the wisest of all of mankind
But if God's Holy wisdom is foolish to men
He must have seemed out of His mind