Friday, July 25, 2014

The Unjust Steward

Luke 16:1-9 ESVUK: "He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings."

This has always puzzled me, but at last I think I have the key to it. The important part in understanding this is in grasping what is not written--what the context of the parable is. In Luke 15:2 the Pharisees were grumbling about the tax collectors and sinners being dirty losers; in response Jesus gives three parables about searching and seeking that which is lost, the third of which is the most powerful. In that one the older brother (representing the Pharisee who was lost while nearest to God) looked down upon his brother for being poor, foolish, and generally unworthy. This parable follows on the heels of it. It's short too.

"What is this I hear about you?" says the owner, who heard that the chief steward was being unfaithful. (Notice he had no idea of the corruption of the manager, he's just thinking the guy is sloppy or lazy, not evil.) The man then pulls a fast one on his master, who was so stunned that all he could do is marvel, and commend him for his shrewdness.

This is simple advice. The Pharisees are like the dishonest man, corrupted, since money corrupts, and people who have it are rotten, and more importantly they are actually cheating God out of what is due Him. What's Jesus message? Start using your money better. Stop looking down on the poor. Look guys, you don't even have to stop being evil, just start doing better. You look down on those sinners because they are poor and destitute, but you yourselves are worse off because you're using the money you have badly. It's better to be those people who have nothing than to be you who have something are are blowing it. Be like the unjust Steward and make the most of your time and treasure.
"If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?"

Of course we know how that went.

"The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Luke 13:1-2 ESV: "There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?"
This is very interesting to me because there's an unrecorded question here in v1 that goes something like, "Jesus why did they die there?" Or perhaps, "Did God not care about the honor of His house that He would let them die there?" And Jesus answers what is really behind their question, I suspect, by cutting the heart of the matter and reading their minds. But it's not what I would have expected at all.
The Romans weren't known for their wild and unrestrained barbarism. That would be the Assyrians. Those guys would come in in their red capes, pile up the skulls of the infants they had slaughtered, and turn them into thrones to sit on. Those were the Ghengas Khan level bad guys. But the Romans? Not so much. If they came after you once they had conquered and pacified you it's generally because you deserved it. These Galilean men did something wicked to provoke Rome, like murder or thievery, and thought they could hide in the temple where the Romans were not supposed to go, and God surprised them here by dealing out justice.
Then Jesus asks a question, "And you think they were worse sinners?"
To which I would have answered "Yes of course they were! Look Jesus, as evil killers, they got what was coming to them. That's what happens when you sin like that."

But look what He says next, "No."
Oomph. Everything I thought was just upended, and then the worst part comes,  "I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
And just like that Jesus levels the ground. It doesn't matter if you have committed fewer sins than your neighbor, if you die and go to hell, it's cold comfort. In the greatest sense, all men are not more or less sinners than each other. The presence of hell is so horrid that it erases all the real differences.  Repent.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seeker Sensitive, Biblically Unfaithful

"Go into all the world, making disciples of all men..." Jesus said. Which means we are meant to go. Get out into it, leave this place. The disciples understood well enough when they took the message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and out into the world. So much so that the gospel went ahead of even Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, into Rome.

This is the mandate for Christians, we are to be seekers of people, like our heavenly Father, going out after them, pursuing them. After all, is the Holy Spirit not the most passionate seeker of men? We are to get out there, where they are at, in their homes, gardens, and places of employment with our message just as He does.
But the Seeker sensitive movement rather has everyone coming to a church building to hear the word. The congregation isn't going out after the world with the good news, they are luring the non-believers into their lair. That means Church isn't the place that the believers gather anymore to recharge and regroup with passionate devotion to God Almighty, it's the place where non-believers are converted (if they ever actually are) with gentle stories and kind words.

And if that's true (which it is) then it means the Seeker Sensitive Church by nature absolves us of our responsibilities to evangelism. It's an easy chair, and it's too easy. People in them settle into a kind of stupor, content to invite people to their Sunday service, absolved of their duty to the world. Seeker Sensitive paradigm has a lot of problems, as I've said before, but I think this one might be the most pernicious, and the most hidden problem. It makes it so easy to stop being passionate about evangelism that one almost can't help turning the whole effort over to the professional pastors. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Unbelief, Salvation, Atonement, and God's Glory

Alistair Begg made a comment that got me thinking about the necessity of unlimited atonement in the face of divine election. He pointed out, quite correctly, that it is God who assigns, and consigns, men to hell. (My phrasing). This doesn't minimize the truth that everyone who wants to go to hell does, because hell is a destination freely chosen by men, but it does mean those who choose hell were directed to do so by God's sovereign decree. The reason for this being that if men had the final veto, then man's obduracy would be greater than God's grace. In a sense, man would be sovereign. So God must have condemned them to hell because otherwise He would not be supreme, and His supremacy would not be maximally expressed.

And that fits because we know that God does all things for His glory; His goal is always to maximize the manifestation of His attributes. That's basic Calvinism (or Bible) 101, and it automatically means hell is necessary, because otherwise God could not maximally express His justice and wrath against sin, and it automatically means He sends men there. But it doesn't automatically mean limited atonement is true. "Wait," you say, "if God doing all things for His glory means there must be a hell, and it necessitates it be peopled in specific cases, then shouldn't it also mean Jesus paid only for the sins of those who would be saved?" You would think so, but it doesn't. Just the opposite actually.

For if no atonement was made for the non-elect, then they are in the same boat as the fallen angels-- they aren't going to heaven, and they can't, no matter what they do. No forgiveness is waiting for them because no forgiveness is possible. I'll say it again, God cannot possibly, under any circumstances, or hypothetical considerations, forgive them, because an invincible amount of sin is keeping them from Him. God is literally unable, not merely unwilling to save them. And does that situation maximally express His glory? Absolutely not. His great patience and loving kindness is best seen when every barrier to salvation has been torn down and He beckons sinners earnestly, having paid the price already. His glory is best seen in that there is nothing He has left undone, no hurdle remains to be jumped on His part.

So just as the obduracy of men in the first case means they must not be the ones in the drivers seat or God would be less glorious, so too does it mean the only barrier to their salvation is their own obduracy, lest His glory be lessened. The Calvinist who has their first principles in order must then realize that in some way both things are true, and that the Scriptures wholeheartedly affirms both things together. "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."
It is appropriate given that apparent contradiction that Paul's next words are what they are.

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

David and Jonathan

1 Samuel 18:1-4: "And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle."

The point, as I've always been told, is that David loved Jonathan and Jonathan loved David, because they were both manly men. And that's good. Men need to love each other more. Men need to bond into deep relationships with other men.
...Thank you focus on the family, for always giving me the wrong answer.


I visited a friend in Phoenix this last week, and at last, after many years, I believe I understand this section of Scripture. First let me say that if it didn't use the word love I would hesitate to myself, because it's so different than the eros of a marriage, or even the philo of a friend or brother. It's something beyond both that that finds itself in the service of God. It's a helpful clarity for agape, although it's something more specific than that. There are, I think, two things that makes it special, three which makes it unique.
1) David and Jonathan saw that the other was completely, 100%, souled out for God. They had given themselves fully and without hesitation, body, soul, mind, to Him.
2) Both had similar experiences in trusting God for combat. Both Israelites, both about the same age.
3) Both saw that the blessing and favor of God was upon the other.

As I have thought about my own case I decided a confluence of these three things contributed to it. A similar religious history in the churches of Christ, at a similar age and stage of life in having a number of young kids, a similarly named wife, similar enjoyments like chess, reading, running, martial arts, a similarly good mind. The secondary areas of life match fairly closely, but the key piece was seeing the similar all encompassing burning passion for doctrine, and hearing the work that goes on at the church he has been called to pastor which validates it. I thought, 'this man has given himself totally to God without hesitation. I admire, rejoice in, and would see more.'
For that I see in him what I perhaps could have been, had God called me to being a pastor. There is something in seeing yourself with different eyes that causes joy to jump over the barriers and knock you to the ground. The result of which is when you spend time with them it goes too fast, and you come away greatly encouraged. It's not a jealous feeling, nor a brilliant one, nor a bright feeling, but rather feels more like a deep, swift, clear, straight river. It's not physical, touching, or sweet like a marriage can be. It's a little like going into battle and having your life in their hands, but it's more reflective, more focused than that. It's combat but at the same time like you're going on the jungle boat tour at Disneyland while big band music plays. It's not that you overlook their faults, which you immediately offer advice for, and it's not that you're polite and acquiesce to their propositions, no, you're still abusive in humor, still fully yourself, it's just that you are compelled to rejoice at seeing or considering them. Friend is too crude a word, and brother isn't specific enough. Knit-Soul is an odd an expression for the feeling, but it so unique that I suppose it gets closer than anything else. I feel it now. I wish I could describe it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Teacher Training at FBC

So as a teacher at FBC, I’ve been invited to the teacher training seminar. Nothing unusual in that, we’ve been doing these things for awhile now, but I took a closer look and things have indeed changed.

Please consider this my personal invitation and recommendation to attend the Teacher Training event on Saturday, June 28 from 9 am to 4 pm in Rm E201 (lunch will be provided).

With the completion of the modular project and the arrival of a new Senior Pastor who is passionate about discipleship, FBC faces an unprecedented opportunity to reach our community. This is going to take workers for the harvest (teachers and leaders who are dedicated, passionate and united in their efforts). This kind of unity requires common experience, language and purpose, which is the goal of the day.

This event will be led by David Brown. David is one of our own. He and his wife Liz have been a part of FBC for the last 5 years, and he comes to us with 10 years of teaching experience as a professor at the University of San Francisco and more than 8 years of experience in Christian teacher training and development. In addition, his personal Biblical research in the area of spiritual maturity and stages of spiritual growth is extensive. This will be an informative, inspiriting and challenging seminar based on Disciple-Making Teachers, by Josh Hunt and Dr. Larry Mays. We will consider the integration of what we have already gleaned from the stages of maturity found in the book MOVE and the Biblical mandate to make disciples with proven principles that will influence individuals to take the next step in their relationship with Jesus.

So please say yes, and join us as we continue to prepare to launch a year focused on equipping adults for discipleship, spiritual growth and next steps toward maturity.

There is more to this than it first appears. It starts with the first underlined sentence which gives the game away. Actually it starts with the second paragraph not being truthful. The modulars are not ready yet, but that’s okay. The new senior pastor is indeed passionate about getting everyone to have a common language and testimony, and that’s less okay, but whatever, it’s still mostly accurate. The killer is the purpose of the all day event as to create a unity of language across FBC, because that language is Willow Creek. In other words, the purpose of the all day training is to get us to think and speak like a Willow Creek mega church staff. And that’s bad.

Continuing on we find out we’re being led by a Mr. David Brown, so far so good, whose leading qualification is a secular university professorship at one of the most insane cities in America. Things just soured a little bit. Now we come to the underlined phrase, we will be using the book Disciple Making teachers. I look up the book on Amazon, and here’s the preview:

… Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, for example, has led the way with the seeker-driven paradigm, the seven-step strategy, networking, and various other innovative ministry strategies. But when I hear Bill Hybels preach his average weekend seeker message or midweek New Community message, I think to myself, “Willow Creek’s strategy could be dead wrong, and he would still fill the auditorium.

You see, it’s really not about networking or the seven-step strategy or all the rest of those excellent approaches. It is about the fact that Bill Hybels puts it together on stage. When he talks, people listen. I just smile when I hear that Midwestern accent because I know he will probably deliver another great message.
It’s the same with Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church…

 It goes downhill from there, believe it or not. So the game’s up now, FBC is hosting an all day event where we are going to learn how to do mega church, Willow Creek style. Traditional Bible based teaching has fully gone out now, and what has arrived to take its place is the pale horse of community group facilitating. As it is written, “Come out of her My people, lest you share in her punishment.”