Sunday, May 24, 2015

Virtuoso Spirituality

"Frances Young uses the extended analogy of music and its performance to provide a way of understanding the interrelated complexities of reading and living the Holy Scriptures, what John experienced as eating the book. Her book Virtuoso Theologysearches out what she names as “the complex challenges involved in seeking authenticity in performance.” It is of the very nature of music that it is to be performed. Can music that is not performed be called “music”? Performance, though, does not consist in accurately reproducing the notes in the score as written by the composer, although it includes this. Everyone recognizes the difference between an accurate but wooden performance of, say, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 1, and a virtuoso performance by Yitzak Perlman. Perlman’s performance is not distinguished merely by his technical skill in reproducing what Mozart composed; he wondrously enters into and conveys the spirit and energy — the “life” — of the score. Significantly, he adds nothing to the score, neither “jot nor tittle.” Even though he might reasonably claim that, with access to the interrelated psychologies of music and sexuality, he understands Mozart much better than Mozart understood himself, he restrains himself; he does not interpolate.

One of the continuous surprises of musical and dramatic performance is the sense of fresh spontaneity that comes in the performance: faithful attention to the text does not result in slavish effacement of personality; rather, it releases what is inherent in the text itself as the artist performs; “music has to be ‘realized’ through performance and interpretation.”

Likewise Holy Scripture. The two analogies, performing the music and eating the book, work admirably together. The complexity of the performance analogy supplements the earthiness of the eating analogy (and vice versa) in directing the holy community to enter the world of Holy Scripture formationally.

But if we are “unscripted,” Alasdair McIntyre’s word in this context, we spend our lives as anxious stutterers in both our words and actions. But when we do this rightly — performing the score, eating the book, embracing the holy community that internalizes the text — we are released into freedom: “I will run in the way of thy commandments when thou enlargest my understanding” (Ps. 119:32)."

• Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book, p. 76f


HT: Internet Monk

Friday, May 22, 2015

Some Facebook Sins To Avoid

Are you guilty of any of these social media sins? - 5 Things Christians Should Stop Saying On Facebook by J.P. Jones:
Despite the flaws of social media, it can be a powerful force to share God’s amazing love over the long run. Our witness can be deeply powerful when our unbelieving friends see our continued faithfulness year after year and our hope of glory in the midst of pain (Colossians 1:27).
But that doesn’t mean everything we share on Facebook contributes to this witness. In fact, there are some types of updates we Christians share that, for the most part, do more damage than good.
Here are five status update traps to avoid:
1. Pastor So-and-So is a Big Ol’ Heretic
Imagine, if you will, your unbelieving friends tap into their Facebook app, and the first update they see is you complaining (again) about that pastor you love to complain about. You know the one. You mention, for the third time this week, another thing he taught that is heretical, and you make sure everyone knows it.
First of all, we absolutely must call out false teaching. Jesus laid the groundwork for this when He rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23). Paul and John weren’t afraid to point out many false teachers in their letters. So, that’s not the issue.
The issue is that your unbelieving friends don’t know all this. What they see, instead, is one Christian attacking another Christian for what seems like a minor matter. Such updates make it look like we spend most of our time beating each other up instead of doing that “love thing” we claim to do. (Think about how Pilate and other Roman officials responded to the complaints the Jews brought against Jesus and Paul. They didn’t see the difference; they just saw what looked like petty jealousy and bickering to them.)
Calling out false teaching is much better done in personal settings with other believers or in a private way with someone who isn’t a believer—and usually when you have time to really explain. The context is very important here. Slapping it all over Facebook makes the church seem hypocritical and hyper-judgmental.
2. Some People Just Don’t Know How Much Pain They Cause
Trust us. We get it. Someone talks about you behind your back or lies to your face. It makes you mad. You want to vent, but you don’t necessarily want to give all the details to everyone. So, up on Facebook goes a passive-aggressive post that you hope the person sees.
Maybe they will, or maybe they won’t. Either way, this isn’t what Jesus meant about us approaching that person privately to discuss the problem (Matthew 18:15–18). More than likely, you’ve made your innocent friends feel like maybe they were the ones who hurt you in some way, but they don’t know how. Now they’re paranoid.
If you need to vent, do it to someone you trust in person so that they can bear your burden (Galatians 6:2). Don’t post that vague status update.
3. Something Terrible Just Happened to So-and-So. Please Pray for the Family.
Requests for prayer can be very tricky matters on Facebook. For one thing, always-on Internet means that we can now get updates in seconds. That adds a new level of responsibility, especially in tragedy.
When something bad happens, we want people to be praying for those involved. That’s a good thing. But if we post an update about it on Facebook as soon as it happens, there’s a very good chance that family members and close friends who haven’t been notified yet could get the news through cold digital bits along with lots of strangers. That makes it even worse—especially if they don’t know all the details. At that point, our prayer request doesn’t bring the comfort we’re supposed to bring (1 Corinthians 1:3–4).
It’s much better for us to hold off on the post until we’re sure everyone knows the news (but see the next point). If you need to get prayer warriors going, text or call them directly.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Silence On Deck!

There is a time to speak.... and a time to be silent. Here are Five Reasons To Be Silent by William Ross
Silence is not highly valued in modern culture. When it comes to communication, it seems that we value quantity above all. And in our digital world it only gets easier to add your own voice to the cacophony. I recently read about a new book that suggests the act of writing is outstripping the act of reading in the digital age.
Whether e-mailing or snapchatting or podcasting or hash-tagging, we live in an age distinguished by noise. Not silence.
Church as Faithful Proclaimer
Of course, speaking is at the center of the Christian vocation as well. There is a range of biblical reasons to speak instead of being silent (e.g. Ps. 32:3; 35:22; 39:2; Jer. 4:19; Mt. 20:31; Lk. 19:40; Acts 18:9). Most importantly, we proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth (Mt. 28:19-20). Paul asks, “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom. 10:14c).
Yet I want to dwell here on the ways that Scripture counsels God’s people to be silent, and the blessings that come with it.
Five Biblical Reasons to be Silent
1. Obedience

Simply put, you can’t obey if you are not silent to listen. This is true on a physical level, but also a spiritual one. Scripture symbolically links our hearts with what comes out of our mouths (Mt. 12:34;Lk. 6:45). To extend the metaphor, only when we silence our heart are we in a place to hear—to receive God’s instruction—and obey.
Moses highlights this idea in one of his final speeches as he underscores Israel’s call to obey all of the Lord’s commandments (Deut. 27:1-10). That requirement is rooted in their identity as God’s people: no longer slaves, but God’s own inheritance (32:9). Moses puts an exclamation point on his speech with the sharp exhortation: “Be silent and hear, O Israel!” (27:9).
So God’s commandments and our obedience are hinged together by spiritual silence before the King. Conversely, disobedience is the uproar of indwelling sin as our heart denies who we are in Christ. This principle holds in a general way not just for God’s people, but all of his creation, including demons (Mk. 1:25//Lk. 4:35).
​2. Self-Control
The silence linked with obedience also manifests self-control, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Obedience and self-control are inseparable, but distinct. On the one hand, lack of silence betrays a lack of self-control that otherwise governs faithfulness (Eccl. 5:2-3). Scripture warns that the wordy fool only gets into trouble and displays his or her ignorance (Eccl. 10:12-14; Prov. 12:23). The pragmatic but biblical solution for someone acting like a fool is self-inflicted silence: “Put your hand on your mouth” (Prov. 30:32).
On the other hand, being silent demonstrates our willingness to wait upon and serve others in love (Gen. 24:21; Job 29:21; Eph. 4:29). Silence is also the catalyst for godly self-reflection amid anger (Ps. 4:4). It attests to our resolve to endure difficulties with hope fixed firmly in the Lord (Lam 3:26-29). Silence also governs our ability to evaluate spiritual instruction carefully (1 Cor. 14:29-30), and interact shrewdly with the world without succumbing to its temptations (Ps. 39:1; Prov. 21:23).
3. Wonder
It is possible to worship God in complete silence. One of Scripture’s most beautiful paradoxes is that wordlessness can speak clearly about God’s glory. We honor God when were are in awe of him. We are made in his image and therefore bring him glory in our humble silence, while every other creature is simply mute. Scripture is full of instances of silent awe prompted by wonder before God.
This kind of silence works two ways, both of which can bless God’s people. On the one hand, when Christians come to terms with the depth of sinful grievances committed against a holy God, Paul says that their mouths should rightly “be stopped” (Rom. 3:19). Silence is the only possible response in the face of God’s holiness and the coming judgment (Zeph. 1:7; Zech. 2:12; Mic. 7:16). On the other hand, we ought to be struck silent in light of God’s incredible redemption, worked out in his promised deliverance for his people (Isa. 41:1; cf. Lk. 1:20) and the reconciling work of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:18; 15:12). Silence even in corporate worship, where the church gathers to meet with God, facilitates the reverence that he is rightly due (Hab. 2:20).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Addition and Subtraction

From "What Does it Mean to Accept Jesus" by Ray Ortlund:
“You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9
You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are multi-divided. There is something like a board room in every heart. Big table. Leather chairs. Coffee. Bottled water. Whiteboard. A committee sits around the table. There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, the childhood memories self, and many others. The committee is arguing and debating and voting. Constantly agitated and upset. Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision.
We are like that. We tell ourselves it’s because we are so busy, with so many responsibilities. The truth is, we are just indecisive. We are held back by small thoughts of Jesus.
A person in this condition can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways. One way is to invite him onto the committee. Give Jesus a vote too. But then he is just one influence among many. This way of inviting Jesus into one’s life is common here in the Bible Belt. But it isn’t Christianity, as defined by the New Testament. The other way to “accept Jesus” is to say to him, “My life isn’t working. Please come in and fire my committee, every last one of them. I hand myself over to you now. Please run my whole life for me. Show me how that works.” That is not complication; that is salvation.
“Accepting Jesus” is not just adding Jesus. It is also subtracting the idols.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Beautiful



From @DailyKeller

Tests of Assurance

How Do I Know I'm a Christian by kevin DeYoung-
Whenever counseling Christians looking for assurance of salvation, I take them to 1 John. This brief epistle is full of help for determining whether we are in the faith or not. In particular, there are three signs in 1 John given to us so we can answer the question “Do I have confidence or condemnation?”
The first sign is theological. You should have confidence if you believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God (5:11-13). John doesn’t want people to be doubting. God wants you to have assurance, to know that you have eternal life. And this is the first sign, that you believe in Jesus. You believe he is the Christ or the Messiah (2:22). You believe he is the Son of God (5:10). And you believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (4:2). So if you get your theology wrong about Jesus you will not have eternal life. But one of the signs that should give you confidence before God is that you believe in his only Son Jesus Christ our Lord (4:14-16; 5:1, 5).
The second sign is moral. You should have confidence if you live a righteous life (3:6-9). Those who practice wickedness, who plunge headlong into sin, who not only stumble, but habitually walk in wickedness-should not be confident. This is no different than what Paul tells us in Romans 6 that we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness and in Galatians 5 that those who walk in the flesh will not inherit the kingdom. This is no different than what Jesus tells us in John 15 that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. So if you live a morally righteous life you should have confidence (3:24). And lest this standard make you despair, keep in mind that part of living a righteous life is refusing to claim that you live without sin and coming to Christ for cleansing when you do sin (1:9-10).
The third sign is social. You should have confidence if you love other Christians (3:14). If you hate like Cain you do not have life. But if your heart and your wallet are open to your brothers and sisters eternal life abides in you. One necessary sign of true spiritual life is that we love one another (4:7-12, 21).
These are John’s three signposts to assure us that we are on the road that leads to eternal life. These are not three things we do to earn salvation, but three indicators that God has indeed saved us. We believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God. We live a righteous life. We are generous toward other Christians. Or we can put it this way: we know we have eternal life if we love Jesus, we love his commands, and we love his people. No one of the three is optional. All must be present in the Christian, and all three are meant to be signs for our assurance (see 2:4, 6; 4:20; 5:2).
John belabors the same points again and again. Do you love God? Do you love his commands? Do you love his people? If you don’t, it’s a sign you have death. If you do, it’s sign that you have life. And that means confidence instead of condemnation.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

That Little Word “Amen”

The very last question in the Heidelberg Catechism - via Andrew Wilson
Q. What does that little word “Amen” express?A. “Amen” means: This shall truly and surely be! It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer than that I really desire what I pray for.
Amen to that! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Community Over Relavance

What if the things you do to make your church attractive actually obscure the attraction of the gospel?
The attraction of the gospel is what Jesus described in John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Not just love in general, but love for one another. That love in the Ephesian church—between Jew and Gentile who shared nothing in common but Christ—is what Paul says makes even the heavens above stare in wonder at the wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10). The gospel brings people with nothing in common (Eph. 2:18) to love each other even more deeply than family (Eph. 2:19).
Here’s an example of that kind of community: a few years ago, a Harvard professor visited my church. He was an expert in crowd psychology. He wasn’t a Christian. The relationships in the church fascinated him. It seemed people had nothing to gain from each other. He didn’t see any plausible explanation for what drew this ungainly group together—until, underneath it all, he discovered the gospel. Today, he is following Christ in our church.
In an attempt to be attractive, however, many of our churches let that vibrant, supernatural attraction of gospel-filled community sit idle in the background while we settle for tepid, naturalistic, similar-to-this-world attraction. To paraphrase those well-known words of C. S. Lewis, we’re making mud pies in the slums instead of delighting in a holiday at the sea.
How do we do that?
1. We divide a church based on similarity.
Sometimes an entire church is geared to a particular demographic, like a hip-hop church or a church for millennials. Sometimes it’s segmentation within the church, like a singles group or small groups for couples with kids, or services for different musical styles. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this “ministry by similarity.” But it comes at significant cost: if ministry by similarity starts to characterize your church, it obscures true gospel unity.
What if the Ephesians had split up into a church for Jews and one for Gentiles? After all, Jewish Ephesians would be more comfortable going to a church of their peers, right? But a gospel unity between natural strangers is profoundly more attractive than the comfort of similarity, be it the natural strangers of Jew and Gentile, Democrat and Republican, millennial and retiree, home-school mom and lawyer mom, or NASCAR fan and opera connoisseur. Have you constructed your church so that this kind of love is on display? Or is it smothered by ministry-by-similarity?
2. We downplay the commitment to each other Jesus expects every Christian to make.
Our churches allow any Christian to feel part of the church community on whatever terms they desire. But Jesus expects every Christian to love other Christians in ways that are quite significant—to sacrifice for each other, to pray for each other, and to hold each other accountable. When we’re not honest about the commitment Jesus expects of every Christian to a local church, we obscure the depth of commitment the gospel creates in a church. Look hard at how your church practices membership: does it clarify that Jesus expects this kind of commitment from all his followers?
3. We make evangelism an individual endeavor instead of a corporate endeavor.
Church community is perhaps the most obviously supernatural evidence for the truth of the gospel (Eph. 3:10). Is it clear in your church who led who to the Lord? Or are there so many people involved in each conversion, it’s impossible to say? If the church is functioning as it should, I hope that your general experience falls into that second category.
How are you trying to make your church attractive? Let’s be like Paul: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”