Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jesus Train... God is Good... All the Time?

If you missed last week's class, you missed a powerful class from Skip Jenkins on the current "Where Faith Meets Real Life" series. Take a look at Skip's summary below for the highlight's. God is Good... All The Time?

The church found itself to be the target of sporadic, but yet intense and debilitating persecution by the Roman empire. In response, when their "faith met life," the second and third century church developed a discipleship theology that one could call "martyr theology." In this context, they understood the world in general to be a place of suffering, turmoil and trouble, but that in the church, one could "get on the Jesus train" and move from this Lost World toward the New World where Jesus was king. But, the "purchase" of one's ticket on the Jesus train (which occurred when one enrolled for baptism, and which meant that you "bought into" the christian worldview and its proclamation about Jesus of Nazareth) did not rescue one from suffering, but rather entailed a new kind of suffering. The generic suffering of all humanity in the Lost World was transformed into the imitative suffering of Christ. In fact, for these Christians, the highest call on the Jesus train would have been the call to martyrdom; that is, to suffer like Christ as one confesses Christ to be Lord and Master. For them, Jesus' call to "take up your cross," or to "drink of the cup from which I drink" was not some spiritualized process of self-denial. Jesus meant it literally.

This discipleship theology strikes at the very heart of a comfortable, affluent and "fat" American culture and church. We often tell ourselves, "God is good, all the time." But what if things are not good at all? We seem to have lost the insight of our foremothers and fathers, namely, that this is not a statement to describe the situation, but a statement of our hope in the God who transcends the situation. In other words, we don't say it as a talisman against bad fortune, a mantra of self-deception, or an incantation to magically remove difficulties and dangers. We proclaim it as our expectation that Jesus, when he returns, will make all suffering-- of both the Lost World and the Christians on the "train"-- go away. Yet, while suffering will not be able to survive at his coming, until he comes, christians look through their suffering to the One who himself suffered. So, Christians say, "God is good, all the time" even when things are not good; and this is why we have to say, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." For, when things are bad, and remain so, such that it looks as if God has abandoned us, the world and/or the church, we still confess, "God is good," and it is this confession that makes us the fools of the world and despised of all peoples. For any healing, any reprive, any liberation is a signpost of that day, when all will be healed, all will receive reprive, and all will be free. These are not "ends in themselves," but hints and clues of the truth that is in Christ; the truth that God wins and we overcome in Christ.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Be Gathered In

“The church is full of hypocrites.”
”I don’t have to go to church to find God.”
“That’s our family time.”
“I’ve been hurt by people in the church.”

There are as many reasons why people don’t regularly attend church services as there are motivations for being there. I’ve even heard a family member say that he’s as close to God as he can get when he’s out fishing on a Sunday morning. (Don’t worry, Andy, I won’t tell them who.)

Going to church every Sunday won’t save your soul. Nor will being a member of the “right” denomination, serving as a deacon, teaching Sunday school, or tithing. But just as God exhorts us to serve others, to make disciples, and to give back 1/10th of all that He blesses us with, He has a purpose when He tells us in Hebrews 10:25, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Coming together with other believers, worshipping, praying, and being taught the Word encourages healthy spiritual growth. Corporate worship brings near the presence of God: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them,” says Matthew 18:20. Being in a service with fellow believers is therapeutic; rejuvenation for a soul oppressed by a world ruled by Satan.

When I enter those doors, it’s like walking into God’s embassy here in the world: asylum, refreshment, and friendly conversation with those who speak the same language, who face the same fears, and who encourage me. Sure, when Monday comes around, I have to venture back out into the “real” world, but I go out there knowing I am not alone, and I can always go home. –John Garrod