Thursday, January 21, 2010

Married and Buried? (1 of 2)

It is rare to find someone who does not associate weddings and funerals with church. Churches expect their pastors to officiate at these ceremonies on a regular basis. This is interesting because the Bible has nothing to say about what should happen at weddings and funerals.

The church is never given a charge to oversee ‘holy matrimony.’ Those words are not even in the Bible. Marriage is sacred and watched over by God, but the church is nowhere commanded to perform or officially sanction marriage. What we do have in scripture are passages that encourage husbands and wives to love and submit to one another, encourage men and women to honor God in the way they treat their spouses, compare marriage to Christ and his church, and present weddings as a time of celebration.

(Malachi 2:13-3:5 is an excellent passage that both shows how our commitment in marriage directly affects our relationship to God, and foretells the coming of John the Baptist to prepare the hearts of the people for the arrival of Jesus.)

Likewise, there are no apostolic instructions to the church concerning funerals. Jesus himself had no funeral, he was simply buried. The same happened for Stephen in the book of Acts, “Godly men carried Stephen to his burial and cried in sadness over him.”

There is one key New Testament teaching about burial: Just as marriage is a picture of the union of Jesus and his church, a pre-death burial describes our union with Jesus. “For in Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and you are complete in him… You were buried with him in your baptism, and you were resurrected with him through the faith you have in the great power of God, who resurrected Jesus.” Colossians 2.

Even though there is no Biblical mandate for it, these two life events are deeply associated with the church.  They are considered responsibilities of the church.  For many, weddings and funerals are the reason churches exists in society. Over time, churches have let themselves be redefined by culture. There is no scriptural prohibition against churches participating in weddings and funerals, but these events should never, ever define the church.   Jesus is the one who defines the church, fills her with life and gives her purpose.

When anything other than Jesus gets into the description of what the church is or what the church does, something has gone wrong.

Churches will continue to minister to those getting married and the families of those who have died. This is right. Churches do need to adapt somewhat, however, so that its services is not seen as a function, but as one more opportunity to shine the light and the love of Christ to all people.

Coming in Part Two: A full one in four Americans do not expect a religious wedding or a religious funeral at their death. According to modern culture, they will have no need whatsoever for ‘the church.’ (This is the problem with letting culture define what the church is.) In part two, we will look at how we can minister to people who have no association to church culture as they pass through these life events.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lord, help the ones in Haiti!

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital Wednesday after a powerful earthquake flattened the president's palace, the cathedral, hospitals, schools, the main prison and whole neighborhoods. Officials feared hundreds of thousands may have perished but there was no firm count.

Going beyond outreach means more than shaking your head and saying “That’s a shame.”

It means going beyond ‘saying a prayer for them.’

Do what you can.

Do more than anyone expects.


Go if you can.

Pray earnestly. Learn the names of cities, neighborhoods, people and pray for them. Remember those who are suffering, as though it were you suffering with them in your own body (Hebrews 13:3).


Sunday, January 10, 2010

It’s not right. It’s not just. It is sin.

At least 1.5 billion people in the world have NEVER even heard about Christ and the Good News. How easily that number slides off our lips with little comprehension of what it means!

One of the problems is that we are myopic and see what is close to us. That is why 97.5% of the money in the offering plates stays at home and only 2½ % gets to the rest of the world. That is why less than one tenth of one percent of Southern Baptists become missionaries. This is not right. This is not just. This is sin.

That is a quote from Avery Willis in his recent letter in which he informed those of us in the International Orality Network that he has been diagnosed with leukemia and likely has only months to live.

We forget how dark it is without Christ for those who have never heard, who have no hope, who don't even know that there is a Hope.

Downward Mobility

I just want to be a Christian — a simple, radical, marginal, downwardly-mobile follower of Jesus. There’s nothing unique or spectacular about being a Jesus-follower. You just remember that God’s love is borderless. You just declare the Good News to the poor, as He taught us to do. And it all happens through relationships, not programs or organizations.   -- Dave Black
I guess 8 years on the mission field gives a person a better perspective on the problems of clinging affluence while trying to effectively live out the gospel. It is very very hard to do, and probably more than 99% of the people that try to do both end up letting go of either a life fully lived for Jesus or the comforts and securities that affluence provides. On the other hand, it’s easy for people to ignore the words of a missionary as someone who has “forgotten what it’s like in ‘the real world,’” or some nut that was called to suffer for Jesus.

Sometimes… most of the time, you can’t have it both ways. 

Recall the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem in Nehemiah chapter 4. The wall was so important and so vital to be protected, that the construction workers carried swords in their belts as they worked. All those who carried supplies, did it with only one hand, so they could keep a weapon in another. During the building of the wall (52 days overall) they didn’t take their clothes off, not even to sleep and never put down their weapon, not even to drink water. That’s not a comfortable lifestyle, but it gave way to a glorious result.

What would you really be willing to trade of your comfort for the kingdom to advance?

Now a serious question…

Would you trade your car for a bible translation for an indigenous indian tribe of only 550 people? I dare you. I’ll help you do it if you’re interested.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Seventy-six Percent? Wow!

According to the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, 76% of people in Louisiana say that they pray at least once a day. That’s pretty remarkable. It ranks Louisiana as the second most praying state, falling just one percentage point lower than Mississippi. Nationally 56% of people claim to pray daily.

You can read the state by state results for yourself.

There is something significant here. People in Louisiana appear to be overwhelmingly open to prayer. Even though nearly half of the Louisiana population (47%) does not attend religious services on a regular basis, more than three-quarters of Louisiana residents say they pray regularly.

Why shouldn’t prayer be a starting point in going beyond traditional outreach? Though people can be quite resistant to hearing a religious doctrinal presentation (which is essentially what a gospel presentation ends up being), they may be quite willing to have you pray for their needs and talk to God on their behalf. They may be open to praying together.

Prayer ought to be more effective too. Gospel presentations are instructions and a call to action.  Prayer is action. In prayer, one stands before God. Once you’ve done that, something is going to happen.
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