What Does “Rejoice in the Lord” Mean?

What is rejoicing in the Lord supposed to look like? by Michelle Van Loon www.MichelleVanLoon.com and www.MomentsAndDays.org

Not long ago, an acquaintance asked me how I was doing. She knows my husband and I are facing a number of serious trials. I was having a hard day, and told her so. My words hung in the air for a moment. She rushed to fill the uncomfortable silence with a Bible verse encouraging me to rejoice in God’s faithfulness.

We’ve all been there – either on the speaking end or the receiving end. I cringe remembering times I’ve offered words meant to comfort someone who is hurting, only to have those words clank like plastic platitudes they are because I’ve spoken them trying to quell my own discomfort with the other person’s pain. And I’ve received words meant to encourage, but sometimes those words have in the past seemed to me a bit of a demand to perform so the person speaking them to me would feel better about me or my situation.

There are numerous injunctions in Scripture to praise the Lord no matter what the circumstances are. (There are also commands to mourn, lament, confess, and remain silent.) I believe the acquaintance who encouraged me to rejoice per Philippians 4:4-7 meant well. But I wondered what she expected me to do in that moment. What is rejoicing supposed to look like in times of trial or loss?

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2017/05/15/rejoice-lord-mean/

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How did the Early Church Read the Bible?

Is Christlikeness the Goal?

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 5.09.25 PMGordon T. Smith says No. Where? In his new book, Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All Three. [SMcK: Why not also Anabaptist?]

The book is a gentle evangelical apology for an ecumenical theology that is also sacramental (he’s more of a symbolist) and Spirit-shaped. Church is given the proper place, which it often is not in books on Christian spirituality. Hence, the book is a wonderful new addition to literature about formation but it comes at the topic from three angles at once.

In his reflection on John 15:4, which says, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me,” Gordon Smith then says this:

Thus three things call for special emphasis. First, the animating dynamic of the Christian life is not a Christological principle or a doctrine about Christ, however important it is for us to have an understanding of Christ Jesus that is faithful to the Scriptures and to the Christian tradition. Rather, what defines us, animates us, not merely informs but transforms us, is Christ himself who in real time dwells in our midst and in our lives.

Second, it is therefore very important to stress that the heart and soul of the Christian existence is not ultimately about being Christlike, however much that might be a good thing. It is rather that we would be united with Christ. So much contemporary reflection on the Christian life speaks of discipleship as becoming more and more like Jesus. There are two potential problems with viewing this Christlikeness as the Christian ideal and the goal of the church. On the one hand, this is problematic because Christ likeness is derivative of something else, namely, union with Christ. And to pursue it on its own actually distracts us from the true goal of the Christian life.

And then also, when Christlikeness is the goal, we get caught up in debates about what Christlikeness looks like and so easily the church descends to a less than subtle form of legalism as we impose on the church a vision of what it means to be “like Christ.”

And then third, so much piety, especially in evangelical circles, presents what might be called a transactional understanding of Christian spirituality—that Christ has “transacted” something on our behalf. While Christ has definitely acted on our behalf, it was to an end; his actions, notably his death, were not an end in themselves. The purpose of the cross was not merely about a transaction, effected for us and for our salvation. The cross had a purpose, an intended outcome: namely, union with Christ.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2017/04/27/is-christlikeness-the-goal/

How Central is Christ in Your Understanding of God?

Essentially, that is Greg Boyd’s question in his new book The Crucifixion of the Warrior God He can be heard asking, If you believe God is incarnate in Christ then how central is that incarnation to your understanding of God? If Jesus is God, is your view of God Jesus-like?

This book is intentionally provocative; it cuts across the grain of many theological platforms; he probably offends the Calvinist as well as the Arminian when it comes to “inspiration” and he offends all but the pacifists when it comes to his view of the cruciformity of God. The issue is not Who got irritated? but How biblical is this?

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” John 14:8-9

Chp 2 is nothing less than an enthusiastic display of the true face of God in Christ, and Boyd develops seven themes from the Bible:

Continue at:

Surprised by the Cross: What If?

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 12.40.19 PMThe narrative or the story into which one places the cross determines both the problem and the result. If the problem is wrath, the solution is pacification. If the problem is enmity, the solution is reconciliation. If the problem is slavery, the solution is liberation. Each of these, at one time or another, has been the fashionable atonement theory of the day. But in NT Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, a “what if” question is asked, and I shall get to this in what follows. (For a course NT Wright is developing on this, see here.)

One of the more stunning themes in the history of theology is how long it took for a theory of atonement to develop and, frankly, when it did (let’s say Anselm) it didn’t immediately become the go-to theory or anything like a consensus, and no atonement theory ever was captured in the ecumenical creeds. Cross was effective in sacrament and in faith, and how that happened was not a major concern of theologians (then, and unlike for many today). Hence, Wright:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/09/21/surprised-by-the-cross-what-if/

Heresy: Who Decides?

From time to time I read a blog or hear someone call another person a “heretic.” Recently a blog friend asked me how I would define “heretic” or “heresy.” Yes, the term “heretic” can be defined.

How do you define “heretic”?

Let me suggest that the term “heretic” is used in three ways, only one of which (I believe) is justifiable — though I have little hope that the mudslingers will learn to use terms as they are supposed to be used.

Before I get there, though, let me add another point: it is too bad we don’t have such an evocative term for praxis. Jesus’ focus was on “hypocrisy” more than “heresy,” and it might just be an indication of how far we’ve strayed for us to give so much attention to “heresy” and not enough to failure in praxis. As far as we can see, failure in practice is just as bad as failure in theology. But this is not what this post is about. We are concerned here with the term “heretic.”

Now to the three uses of this term that I routinely hear:

Read the rest: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/07/08/heresy-who-decides/

At the Center of Christian Worship?

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 7.08.44 PMWe learn from early Christian worship, not simply because some want to “get back” or “retrieve” the origins but because the earliest churches put into play what was inevitable to put into play. They had to practices certain things because those where the practices that expressed their faith. One could say those practices were their faith.

In Andrew McGowan’s very fine book, Ancient Christian Worship, we will come across six practices (meal, Word, music, initiation, prayer, and time) and today we want to look at meal.

These Christian meals “were not merely one sacramental part of a community or worship life but the central act around or within which others — reading and preaching, prayer and prophecy — were arranged” (19-20). At the center of Christian worship, he contends, was meals. Meals need to be comprehended in their ancient context.

Acts 2:42-46 sets the tone for the chp.

Continue reading: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2015/09/16/at-the-center-of-christian-worship/