Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Biblical Complementarianism

N.T. Wright (whom I've never listened to before; didn't really know anything about him) is asked a question about "Gay Marriage", and presents a very interesting concept from a much wider view:

The Biblical design of our (pre-Fall original and future restored) cosmos is one of complementary contrasts:
  • Light - Dark
  • Day - Night
  • Heaven - Earth
  • Land - Seas
  • Birds (flying in air) - Fish ("flying" in water)
  • Male - Female
  • God (Christ) - Humans (Church)
  • New Heaven - New Earth
  • Lion - Lamb
  • Body - Spirit
This is the Design. Anything else is something other than the Design.

Friday, September 08, 2017

What Matters is the Heart

I recently read online the claim that, "What truly matters is obedience."

And I do not in any way want to diminish the need for obedience.

But let me suggest that the Pharisees thought the same way, that, "What truly matters is obedience". They were so ultra-concerned with obedience that they tithed on even the smallest spices - mint, dill, and cumin.

But Jesus said there were weightier matters than this type of obedience - justice, mercy, fidelity.

Jesus spoke often to this issue. He said that if you're in the middle of a worship ritual - obedient sacrifice - and remember that you've got something against your neighbor, you were to leave your sacrifice at the altar and go deal with the neighbor issue.

He spoke about how food going into your mouth does not defile a person, no matter how "obedient" you might be concerning dietary restrictions; what matters is what is in, and what comes forth from, the heart.

He spoke about white-washing the outside obediently, but having a dead inner-man.

He spoke about praising God outwardly, with the lips, while the heart simply isn't in it.

Obedience is not about finding and enforcing every little legal nuance in a legal system; it's about having the spirit that drives you to want to please God. When you tell your ten-year old son to clean his room, and he obediently goes off to do it, you're pleased with his obedience. But when he gets distracted and pulls out a bunch of toys and makes the room worse, he's not at all being disobedient; he's being a ten-year old boy. He needs correction, not removal from the family.

Failure to precisely obey every jot and tittle does not equate to disobedience. What matters with your child is not his perfect performance; what matters is his attitude, his heart. Is he earnestly trying to do the right thing, even if he doesn't understand, or gets distracted, and fails to accomplish the exact goal you set for him?

In the old covenant, it was about a legal system written down on paper (rock, actually), in specific regulations such as "don't touch, taste, handle", that had to be taught one to another. But the new covenant is not like the old; it's written on the heart, and doesn't consist of regulations like "don't eat this; observe this holy day, etc", that has to be taught one to another. It's a matter of attitude - love - first for the Creator, and then for one another. It's a matter of where your heart is.

Now granted, if the heart is in the right place, one will seek to be obedient in all things. But a perfect score in Performance is not what God is looking at in the new covenant; Jesus got that score for us, which is given to us on the basis of our attitude and trust in him. He's looking at our hearts.

Willful disobedience absolutely will disqualify one from the reward. But an imperfect score will not disqualify us, because Jesus' perfect score is given to us (he even got baptized to fulfill even that detail of right-ness, not because *he* needed to be baptized, but because *we* need to be).

What matters is the heart.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Why Are Our Assemblies Dying?

Why are our assemblies dying?

Because members no longer get value from attending.

It's often claimed that people "want entertainment", and that's why they don't attend.

I believe that's false. It's not that people want entertainment; it's that they want Value.

Entertainment is a form of value, so it works to some extent to bring people in, but entertainment is not really what people seek in attending. They seek Value.

Those who attend regularly find some value in attending:

 - a sense of doing what they're supposed to do
 - entertainment
 - a chance to criticize
 - standing within the community
 - they like lectures, and sitting mostly passively on a pew for two hours
 - a chance to meet a boy/girl-friend

Those who don't attend regularly don't find value in attending.

If we're not offering the value that the Bible has established for attending, is it any wonder our assemblies are failing?

Most people think that Biblical value is "worship", focused upward on God.

But the truth is, the Biblical value for our assemblies is one-anothering, focused horizontally on one another.

We can worship God when we're all alone in a fishing boat on the lake. But we can't one-another when we're alone.

We can worship God when we're alone on the couch at home. But we can't one-another when we're alone.

We can worship God when we meditate silently in our pew during the Lord's Supper. But we can't one-another when we're inward-focused.

We can worship God when we're looking at our song books, or the overhead projection, or the song leader, belting out the chorus of 728B. But we can't one-another when we're essentially ignoring those around us, passively "teaching" them the exact same words they're passively "teaching" us.

And since many of us are introverts, we sneak in quietly, trying to avoid the gauntlet of hand-shakers, and we sneak out the side-door as soon as the last "Amen" is uttered, because we find no value in small-talk. Those same introverts might find value, however, in a safe place to talk to others about things that matter.

The Bible presents the value of assembling as each person encouraging and enabling each other person to do good works, and to grow spiritually. This does not mean talking about the weather for three minutes before the opening announcements.

As long as "church" is structured like a Catholic mass lite, we're not going to see Biblical results for the assembly.

Here are some one-anothering suggestions:

- Set aside a time for small groups to go around the circle telling first name and some significant thing that is currently happening in their life. Make that info publicly available on a prayer-list.

 - Discover what each members' strength is, and put that strength to work some how in the assembly.

- Set up an information exchange so that needs can be matched up with skills. Sister Anna needs a broken window replaced? Brother David has the money to pay for a new window, and Brother Tom has the tools and skills and time to replace the window. David is eager to serve with his money, and Tom is eager to serve with his skills, but unless they know about Anna's need, their gifts are lying fallow and her need goes unmet.

- Rather than have a 20-minute lecture, which absolutely drives away the post-MTV generation, present God's word in a way that has value to the people. Sermons are absolutely useless to me. I do not hear a word. I am not an auditory learner. I tune out, and fall asleep. Lectures have no value whatsoever to me. And that's the main focus of most of our assemblies; it's the only service most congregations pay for. In my case, it's just throwing away money. Am I unique in that way? Or are our empty pews testimony that others find little or no value in one-sided dronings that tell us what we've known since we were three? Make your presentation interactive; get us involved. The very first Gospel sermon takes less than two minutes to read out loud, slowly, and it was followed by a Q&A. Yet we think we've improved on that by following Paul's example of preaching a kid to death (after which, he changed his methodology from talking to them to talking with them - interesting).

- Change the seating, so that instead of focusing everyone on one, everyone can focus more better on each other. How can we be one-another focused if all we see of each other is the back of each other's head?

You want your assembly to grow? Then focus on the Biblical reason for assembling: One-anothering.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Microsoft Tools Leave Me Wanting....

You wouldn't believe how difficult it was to figure out the syntax of this simple task using Microsoft tools. (Linux makes it *so* easy!):

powershell -command "& { Invoke-WebRequest -UseBasicParsing -Uri https://download.mozilla.org/… -Outfile 'FirefoxSetup.exe' }"

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Word "Sing" in the Bible

When the Ephesians, etc, read Paul's instruction to sing, they did so with a cultural background of learning their religious terminology from the Old Testament scriptures.

When they read "sing and make melody in your hearts to the Lord", they, knowing the Old Testament scriptures much better than most of us, would realize that Paul, just as he had done twice in the previous chapter, was again alluding to scripture:
WEB Ps 108:[1 ]My heart is steadfast, God. I will sing and I will make music with my soul.
They understood the word "sing" exactly as God had taught them to understand the word "sing". You can understand the word using a non-Biblical understanding all you want, and insist that it automatically excludes instrumental music, but that is not how God taught Bible students to understand the word. Here's how he taught Bible students to understand the word "sing", and how to sing his praises to the peoples:
WEB Ps 108:[1 ]My heart is steadfast, God. I will sing and I will make music with my soul. [2 ]Wake up, harp and lyre! I will wake up the dawn. [3 ]I will give thanks to you, Yahweh, among the nations. I will sing praises to you among the peoples.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The following is written by Lucas Necessary.


Without question, there is one thing God wants: for you to show up on enough Sundays that you make it to heaven; give Him just enough of your time. Or maybe it's that you throw enough money into the plate that you make it to heaven? Maybe that you believe in Him (or think about believing in Him) more of the time.

Yeah, so maybe that's not so true. It's common for us to view God in that way ("I'll give enough that I reap a reward"), but God pointed out in Micah 6 that He's interested in something else:
Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? 
He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you? 
But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God!
There is no amount of giving done that can replace a true LOVE of kindness. Not just outward acts, but being in love with your Creator; loving to have mercy on fellow man.

At least, that's IMHO.

Originally published in the CHURCH OF CHRIST Facebook group, 14 Jan, 2017, by Lucas Necessary, and then published at http://kentwest.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-following-is-written-by-lucas.html

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Why Do I "Go to 'Church'"?

A question was recently asked on Facebook: Why do you "go to 'church'"?

Here's my answer:

The "church" is designed as an alternative to the community of the world, as a different "nation" than the nation of USA or the nation of Mexico or the nation of France, etc.

If you lived in England but wanted to be a USA citizen, and you went through all the necessary process to do so, and then refused to live in the USA, what kind of USA citizen would you be?

A lousy one.

I can be committed to God without necessarily being committed to the kingdom of God (from "outside"), but I can't be a good citizen of the kingdom of God without being committed to that kingdom's community.

God doesn't tell us to "go to church to worship me" (the reason most of us have been taught since childhood for attending); rather, he tells us, over and over to, "be involved with one another; teach one another; encourage one another; bear one another's burdens; share with one another; love one another".

When you're alone, you can worship God. But when you're alone, you can't be one-another-ing.

Right now, "going to church" offers very little personal value to me, and often "costs" me something (not sleeping in; feeling more discouraged after attending than before; being bored; etc), and it would be easy to "skip church". But if I skipped, I'd essentially be saying "I'm not even going to try".

I can't control how the assembly goes; but I can control whether I go to assembly. And God told us to "go to assembly", not to worship him, but to "one another" each other. Whether the one-anothering actually happens is beyond my control in many respects, but I *can* control whether or not I'm there, available for one-another-ing.

And that's why I "go to 'church'".


Originally posted at:
http://kentwest.blogspot.com/2016/12/why-do-i-go-to-church.html