Author Archives: centralityofthegospel

Truth — What is it?

In recent years I have taken some Masters Courses in Divinity.  Part of the program is one of classroom content on various evangelical and Christian topics.  The other part is scripture practicum (SP).  SP is a study  into exegesis.  Exegesis is the process of taking a critical look at scripture to understand Gods truth.  One of the things I remember in SP was that before we apply Gods truth in the the hear and now  we must first understand the then and there.  First, then and there… then, here and now.  In other words before applying scripture today we should understand the biblical text through the eyes of the original author before we apply or misapply Gods truth today.

The second thing I remember from SP was that total objectivity of truth is a myth!  I remember these words very well!  In other words  all of us bring our biases and filters into our interpretation of scripture and the world everyday.  If we do not understand our own biases and filters we may never see truth in it’s fullness.  If we had an emotionally  difficult day we WILL interpret Gods truth differently than if we had a good day.  If we have experience Y in our background we will interpret things differently than if we had X in in our background.  No matter how hard we try or how much time we spend reading scripture,  we will always have a slant and a bias as we interpret truth!  The question is are you aware of your own biases and filters so you can … at times … put them down and let the “real” truth  stand on its own!  Exegesis is a arduous and difficult process since our lenses have often become “rigid” when we interpret and study God’s truth.

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A Multi Part Series about Faith (and politics)

Due to many of the concerns  of mine and many human behaviors I have observed over the last 10 -15 years in the evangelical and political world I felt a multi-part, complex blog discussion was in order.   Yes you heard me right … this topic is going to be about both faith and politics.     Primarily I hope it is concerned with how faith and politics intersect and how the current  social landscape does not reflect the Jesus that I see in scripture.  My prayer and hope is that this topic speaks especially to evangelicals in the political world so that WE can be effective in His Kingdom to go out and make disciples of all nations.

And even though I do have my own biases, I want to keep those to a minimum in this discussion.  My hope is that like any good Gospel and Jesus centric sermon would do ….. that this discussion will convict both the perpetrator as much as the victim, the democrat as much as the republican, the liberal as much as the conservative, and the elder brother as much as the younger brother.  My prayer is that I can mostly put down my own biases and skews in life and talk to all sides and all people. In the end I hope you can hear the Good News about Jesus — that He died while we were still sinners so we can have TRUE FREEDOM!

This series starts with one basic premise I see that has reached an epidemic high in the current social and political landscape.    That our current culture embraces shame and criticism of others as a primary social tool to win.  Shame, I contend, since the fall in the garden is the primary tool that the serpent used to bend Adam and Eve toward sin.  And it is the primary tool that evil continues to use to keep entire cultures of people in isolation and propagating sin!  Todays social and political landscape continues to use shame as a tool to get on “top” of the other side. Also, this seems to be just as true in the Christian world as it is outside the Christian world.  It is just as true of democratic elites as is the republican elites, just as true of the political right as it is of the left.

Shame wants you to believe  it only shows up in big and grand ways.  However, it normally shows up in a persons face, subtle glances, and body language. It shows up in covert ways in our facebook posts and tweets.  Since we know as Christians it not right to be shameful people we submerge our shaming tactics into passive aggressive tendencies.  It shows up in a glance of disapproval and our  body language as much as our words when talking to a person we disagree with.  Shaming tactics are ubiquitous.  They are so engrained in our culture that we no longer see our tactics as shame.  We are not even aware of these shaming tactics.  We just see them as being right.  And in the Christian world many are in denial that our use of “truth”  often does not reflect both the position and posture of Jesus Christ toward a sinful world.  It does not reflect the Jesus that I see and read about in scripture!

This topic will have the following parts to it.  As I complete each part I will provide hypertext links to each part in this BLOG.

  1.  Truth — What is it?
  2. Genesis – Our Starting Point of Truth
  3. Gods Plan — Relationship and Community
  4. Establishing the moral vision of the New Testament and Jesus
  5. True Freedom — What does it look like?
  6. Application for Today

 

God is Transforming the Larger Narrative of Our Lives

Mat 9:12-13  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matt 9:12-13 should not be seen as just another discrete truth of scripture.  But rather this is a truth that summarizes much of the entire book or Matthew.  This verse is challenging the larger meta-narrative of how each of us interprets life and truth.  The definition of a meta-narrative is an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences and understanding.

Every time we leave Church on Sunday and attempt to apply our Christian truths, we apply them into the larger narrative, or a lens of interpretation, in our lives.   In Matt 9:12-13, Jesus is challenging this narrative by saying the religious narrative of the Pharisees, sacrifice, is not the narrative Jesus wants.

Jesus challenges the Pharisees with the narrative of mercy.  Jesus words about these two narratives seems just as applicable today as it did in His day when Jesus was dealing with the Pharisees.  Tim Keller nuances out these two narratives in today’s culture by saying one narrative is “religion” and the other narrative is “Gospel”.    He goes on to say the difference between Gospel and religion is religion says if you obey, you are acceptable; but the Gospel message says you are accepted, therefore you obey.

Matt 9:12-13 summarizes much of the book of Matthew as Jesus discusses the Kingdom of Heaven and what a discipleship community of Christ followers should look like.  The issue, Jesus says, when we apply truth with the religious (sacrifice) narrative we often misuse or abuse God’s truth the same ways the Pharisees did.  This narrative breaks down and destroys relationships!  However, when we apply God’s truth with the mercy narrative, we draw people into a community of people that represent the Gospel and Jesus. The mercy narrative builds and strengthens our relationship with God as well as our relationships with each other.

 

The Gospel (the Good News) of Jesus Christ tells us…

We are more sinful and weak than we ever cared to admit AND…

We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope.

The Moral Vision of the New Testament

Its been  a while since I posted last.  However, there have been many deep thoughts I have had during the last election — and probably for many years before that.  As I pondered the Facebook and Twitter sphere and the attitudes that each side has toward each other, I believe that the moral vision of the new testament has been lost in today’s religious and evangelical world.   I consider myself an evangelical, but it seems to me the position and posture of Jesus has been lost today.

A few words I have seen used a lot in many evangelical Facebook  and twitter posts are the words integrity, morality, and truth.  However, as you read the posts you will notice that the words are used always used in a comparative (and often condemnational) stance.  They are comparing themselves to a group they consider not moral, not having integrity, and not being in the truth.  As you continue to read down the posts and the comments the language degrades further into more comparatives and more condemnation toward the other group.  I have seen many times references to the idea of “winning with truth”.

I need to say that I do hope we are moral, people of integrity, and that God’s truth comes out and prevails.  However, in terms of truth…  Jesus said “He” is the truth.  I have never seen Jesus use the idea of “winning with truth” in scripture.  Jesus always had compassion toward others sinners and other groups and loved them.

Today we often use the words truth, integrity, and morality as a language that makes us feel powerful over others.  We feel a sense of power over other people and other groups when we use this language.  We feel like we are “winning” when we use this language and hang out with others that reinforce this language along side us.  Our idea of truth can be a very powerful and abusive weapon toward other people and groups we may not agree with. IF we are not aware of our own sinful tendencies truth can be very powerful and abusive.

The moral vision of the New Testament is completely lost when our language of truth does not have a grace and mercy narrative toward others.   Speaking the truth in love is such and easy phrase to say but yet difficult to do unless we can clearly see the moral vision of the New Testament and actually start behaving like a gospel-centric community should behave.

I read recently read a re-tweet about how we must stand up for truth and not be politically correct.  The comments that followed almost made me sick as they degraded into condemnation and criticism.  As I read scripture, especially Paul, I see a lot rhetorical sophistication and political correctness when discussing many hot topics of the first century church.  For example the book of Philemon, shows Paul navigating the difficult topic of slavery in the first century church.  Paul knew exactly how to exhort and challenge Philemon to “do the right thing”.  Paul’s rhetorical sophistication navigated the culturally hot topic of slavery in just the right way.  Grace, mercy, and truth.

Today’s evangelical world, especially when it comes to politics, has lost the moral vision of the New Testament and the vision Paul showed in Philemon in my opinion.  We often do not show both the position and posture of Jesus in politics!!!

I encourage you to consider that much of the the nuance and balance that is in scripture has been lost today.  We lose the real vision of Jesus as we interpret scripture with brood strokes and over simplify God’s truth.  We have lost the moral vision of the new testament as we attempt to “win” our arguments.  Often, scripture does have rhetorical sophistication and often there is political correctness that strives to show mercy, grace, and truth.  As we strive to have both the position and posture of Jesus a new dynamic of truth will become evident.  A dynamic that does not just attempt to “win”, but rather a dynamic the restores all people and all creation back to God’s original design in the garden.

— post not complete, to be continued and adjusted later on

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ …

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ God’s law becomes unproductive!

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ God’s law becomes behavior modification!

 

Emotionally Healthy Faith

I often feel a sense of frustration in today’s political culture where everyone is always trying to “win” with truth!  I have for some time known that black and white thinking thinking is a sign of spiritual and emotional immaturity and it seems like many candidates running for office have figured out that condemnation draws a crowd of supporters(John 8:1-11).  It seems to me that often missing in many candidates, and many relationships in general, is an inability to process uncomfortable thoughts that allow enough grace, mercy, and safety for all sides to express themselves.  A character trait often missing for many running for office.

As Sue and I lead Marriage Re-builders, a ministry for marriages in crisis,  at our church we have a saying:

Safety + Being Heard and Understood = Basic Building Blocks of Rebuilding Intimacy

Years ago Sue and I learned a dance called east coast swing.  Many years later we learned a new dance called west coast swing.  What we found out while learning the new dance was that in the middle of west coast “swinging” we would all of a sudden start to east coast swing.  The reason for this was because we had established a muscle memory in ourselves that knew only how to east coast swing.   It took us quite some time to unlearn the old muscle memory of east coast swing and to learn the new muscle memory of how to west coast swing.  I believe, today, we could probably do both without having any issues.

For us to grow relation-ally we often need to “practice”  and exercise new emotional muscles.  Often the muscle memory of our old emotional muscles will take over.   Like dancing, to learn to exercise new emotional muscles we will need to practice using them. It will require  grace, mercy, and often putting down our desire to “win” to explore the thoughts and feelings that we may have never exercised before.  We may need to find safe people and community where we can “practice” this.  We may need to find mentors that allow us to express those thoughts and feelings and rather than fix us they allow a process to take place that requires just the rights amounts of grace, mercy,  faith, and time.

So, Safety + Being Heard and Understood is really the foundation for us to express more intimate and difficult thoughts and feelings.

Below is BLOG topic I wrote several years ago about dancing called the “Cosmic Dance of Life”.. also about learning this relational dance.

https://centralityofthegospel.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/the-cosmic-dance-of-life/

 

 

 

Practicing the Presence: 6/9/2016

After practicing the presence of God last night my mind reflected on some things that Kyle Fever said in my Synoptics class video. We often read the book of Matthew like some of the things are not possible. In other words we read it as something just to point us to Christ and our need for Him. However that is not the message… at least the way Matthew is telling the story.  Many of those things in Matthew, in community, are totally possible.

I thought how much better could practicing the presence of God be when I think they are possible. How much more delight in my conversation with God will there be?  I often think to myself “It (or I) have always been this way. It will never change”. To not live in either fear or selfish entitlement of my own thoughts and feelings…. but to reflect on Gods presence and through him all things are possible.

Just my .02c worth on practicing the presence reflections last night.

– Jon