The Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Hoped For

I wanted to say a few words about our annual business meeting last night, and share some thoughts it prompted.

First, the good news is that all deacon candidates were overwhelmingly affirmed, and all matters put to a vote passed by similarly overwhelming matters.  Even our constitutional amendment, which was questioned by a number of people (legitimately and respectfully, I might add), passed with an 84% majority.  With all the prayer and preparation that the staff and deacons put into this process, it is encouraging to have the strong affirmation of those members voting.

I also want to thank everyone for making this another peaceful business meeting.  That doesn’t always happen, especially when people may have differing viewpoints, but this was a very good meeting dealing with issues where differences are to be expected.

The “not-so-good” aspect, for me, is that out of 587 local, active, voting members, 185 were present to cast ballots.  There are 400 members out there who didn’t make it.  Now, I know from talking with some that unavoidable conflicts kept a number away.  That is understandable.  But 400?  That would be a lot of conflicts!

Congregationalism is a form of church government that relies on the people of God praying and then weighing in on those matters where they are asked for a decision.  The belief is that God’s will and wisdom is manifested through the Spirit’s work among the body.  We have rejected the idea that a special hierarchy possesses this wisdom and authority, and even though we select leaders and ask them to lead, that selection itself, as well as some key decisions, are left to rest with the congregation.  Many of you chose not to participate, and that means we don’t really know what you think, or more importantly, how God’s Spirit may have led you to vote after prayerful consideration of the issues.  Maybe outcomes would have changed, or maybe affirmations would have been much stronger.  We just don’t know.

What I “hope for” is a greater sense in the future that we all need to be a part of congregational processes, because in a very real way this expresses our commitment to each other and to a particular means of determining God’s will in our midst.  If all those not providentially hindered were to participate, we could feel a much larger sense of consensus and direction.  That would be a good thing for us all.

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Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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No Scar

The following is a favorite of mine, especially the final stanza.

NO SCAR?

 

 Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

AMY CARMICHAEL

(missionary to India for 55 years)

Published in: on November 9, 2008 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

An apology…

We just discovered today that the voter guide that was sitting on the table in the Welcome Center urged a no vote on Issue 5.  We did not take that position as a church.  Issue 5 caps what are called payday lenders from charging exorbitant interest rates to the poor who have no other place to cash checks or who need an advance on their paycheck.  Some see this as an infringement on private business; however, the prevalence of these institutions in the neighborhoods of the poor is one of a number of indicators that it is not a regular business practice, but one that targets those with few if any other options.  The Bible’s general disapproval of charging such interest rates would also discourage the practice.

I did not preview this guide, and I’m not sure  how it came to us, but it was placed for distribution.  I had not looked at it until after someone asked about it.  While it offered appropriate comparisons of candidates’ positions on issues, which are not endorsements, its urging of “no” votes on issues 5 and 6 were not approved by our leadership.  I personally have urged my friends to vote yes on issue 5, so that the law will continue to protect the poor against abuse,  and no on issue 6 to keep Ohio from changing its constitution to allow a casino to be built near Wilmington, bringing gambling near to home.

We will seek to exercise much better oversight of guides and literature made available from outside sources within the church in the future.  I apologize for not making sure it was totally reliable.

Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 1:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Answers from Sunday night’s questions

The following are my notes in answer to questions submitted for last Sunday night’s Q & A session.

I Peter 1:18-20 says that our ransom was paid with the precious blood of Christ. But v. 22 says we were “cleansed from our sins when we obeyed the truth.”  Which is it?  Some have presented the view that the price was paid by Christ’s death, but cleansing only comes through obedience to the truth.

 

“Obeyed the truth” is past tense, and is a phrase that is used in reference to repentance and faith—we understood the truth, repented, and believed.  This is what is meant by having “obeyed the truth.”  The ransom was indeed paid on the cross, and our experiential reception of that benefit is at the point of faith.

 

If the Lord’s supper was a meal shaped by the Passover meal, then why do we not observe it as a meal today? This is a genuine question, not necessarily an agenda. But most answers I get have to do with, a) it’s not practical, or b) our tradition does not do this. But these answers smack more of Catholicism than a good Biblical answer. Anyway, what are your thoughts?

 

Excellent question!  In early church history communion was celebrated every time believers gathered, and usually in the context of a meal.  Paul’s corrective in 1 Corinthians 11 are in the context of a meal followed by the elements of communion.

 

The kinds of problems Paul addressed didn’t go away, and what was often called the “love feast” often became a place of excessive celebration and gluttony.  Church leaders soon began to shut the practice down or separate it from communion, so that by the middle of the third century, the only “meal” was the symbolic meal of communion.  

 

My question concerns Mark 9 and I guess comes at least in part from my nursing background. I know Jesus was able to tell when a person was demon possessed (v.14-29 – sounded like epilepsy to me) vs. a physical illness (Mark 5:25 – 34, for example). How do (or can?) we tell? The answer given in Sunday school was something to the effect that the presence of evil would be so strong – that was how you would know. Also mentioned was that here in the U.S.A. we are not accustomed to “evil” for whatever reason – education, knowledge, etc.

 

Interestingly, the parallel to Mark 9 in Matthew 17 quotes the father as saying, his son “is an epileptic and he suffers terribly.”  After the disciples could not heal him, Jesus calls for him and he rebukes the demon.  Does this mean epilepsy is demonic, and if not, then how can we tell the difference?

 

First, Jesus had infallible ability to perceive what was in the hearts of men (see Matt. 9:4; Luke 9:47; Luke 11:17).  Likewise, demons had a tendency to react strongly to him—running to him (Mk 5:6-7), crying out in front of him (Mk 3:11), reacting in his presence (Mk 9:20).  Jesus was in active conflict with Satan and his forces, and they seemed to want to engage the battle.

 

Similarly, there are many activities in other cultures where demonstrations of power are common and keep people in bondage and fear, and some awe as well. 

 

In our culture, Satan’s s.o.p. seems to be stealth—keep people from considering the supernatural.  When should we begin to wonder if any problem situation is more than just physical illness, mental illness, or psychological disturbance?

 

How do we know if its demonic or just sickness?

  1. Are there obvious clues to demonic presence or potential? 
    1. Has the person been involved in demonic activity?
    2. Does the person blaspheme or otherwise show active opposition to God?
    3. Do symptoms not follow normal disease or sickness patterns?
    4. Does prayer lead to confusion and chaos rather than peace?
  2. Have longstanding patterns of sin been ignored and allowed to dominate the life?
  3. Does the Holy Spirit lead mature Christians to consider the possibility of demonic activity?

What if we aren’t sure?

  1. Consider prayer and anointing for healing.
  2. Specifically, if the person believes it may be demonic, lead him/her through prayers of confession or renunciation of evil, similar to Dr. Neil Anderson’s “Steps to Freedom”
  3. Ask the person to pray and confess that Jesus is Lord, out loud.  Paul does say that no one can confess “Jesus is Lord” unless by the Spirit of God.

I heard Swindoll reference the Apocrypha in a message this week. Obviously we don’t accept this as scripture. Is it helpful to read ( I never have) for historical record and context? As a child you think that it is heretical. Is this a true statement?

 

Generally, the Apocrypha is not heretical, although there are passages that do not match up with biblical doctrines.  For example, 2 Maccabees 12 has an offering made to bring reconciliation for the dead—deliverance from sin.  Some of the apocrypha adds fanciful history to biblical books, like 2 added chapters to Daniel and the “Prayer of the Three Holy Children” in the fiery furnace.  There is also additional material added to Esther.

 

1 and 2 Maccabees do provide fairly accurate history of the intertestamental period, including the Jewish revolt against the Greek kingdom of Damascus, and the events that form the basis of the Hanukah celebration.

 

Revelation 21:14 says that the twelve foundations of the walls of the Heavenly Jerusalem have the names of the twelve apostles.  Which is the twelfth?  If not Judas, is it Matthias, or is it Paul?

 

We certainly can’t be sure, but here is my guess.  John is the author, and if he were to list the twelve, he would have included Matthias, whose choice was part of a process in which he was involved.  Therefore, I would guess Matthias.

 

What is your vision for the function of the small groups vs. what ABFs are currently doing in the church?

            This will be covered much more in depth as we begin to launch small groups church wide next year—our latest trial groups are going on now.  Generally small groups are meant to be places where relationships can be built around shared learning and service.  That would seem similar to ABFs, with one major difference—ABFs are not, generally, small enough for everyone to get to know each other, everyone to participate with some level of accountability, and for sharing on a more personal level.  ABFs build fellowship among a group of people, and can be a place out of which more personal relationships grow.  Practically speaking, ABFs only reach about 40% of our adults, with anyone involved in Sunday ministry unable to participate.  Small groups, along with ABFs, will become the community building component of our ministry.  We are going to work to develop a strategy of ministry that calls for everyone to do three things (which God’s Word would call us to):  Worship; Community Life; Service.

 

 

Would you please address the upcoming election since it holds such moral implication/There seems to be a lot of confusion even among believers about which political issues are the most important.  Could you speak to that since the election is Tuesday?

 

In any election, Christians should take the privilege to vote very seriously, as a spiritual assignment.  For others, political calculations may be most important, but for us, the freedom to choose the character of our government by choosing those who serve in it brings responsibility before God.  I have a number of articles on my personal blog, the CyberParsonage, where I clearly indicate for whom I will vote and why.  For tonight let me say that Christians may and do differ on many issues related to this election.  We may have different views on whether the war in Iraq should have been fought, and whether or not immediate withdrawal is the best option.  Some of our difference may have to do with whether we hold pacifist views (which some Christians do), or whether we believe that either the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan can fit within the historic definitions Christians have used for “just” wars.  So, I cannot say we should vote for someone or not vote for someone as a Christian on that issue.

 

Similarly, while the Bible does speak of private property, taxes, and helping the poor, it does not spell out a singular Christian position on these matters.  I can apply biblical wisdom that would lead me to believe certain policies are better for people than others, but I cannot condemn differing views.

 

For the Christian, we must see the government as that human institution responsible for the punishment of wrongdoing, the providing of peace within society, and the protection of its citizens.  Governments create a national morality by the passing of laws, so it is foolish when people say to Christians that we cannot force our morality on people—that is exactly what governments do. 

 

Therefore, if we want to seek the blessing of God upon our nation, we should do all we can to see its morality mirror as closely as possible biblical morality.  And here there is one great public issue that places the United States on the wrong side of the moral fence: abortion.  The nation stands under God’s judgment for this refined form of child sacrifice on the altar of parental convenience.  We will continue under judgment as long as the practice continues.  One major candidate for president takes positions that make him the most extreme supporter of abortion ever to run for the Presidency.  Another opposes abortion except in the cases of rape or the endangering the life of the mother.  One will only appoint judges who support the right to abortion, and will sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which will remove parental notification requirements from current abortion laws.  The other says he will appoint judges who do not create rights not specified in the Constitution.  If you do not know which is which, you have not been paying attention. 

 

This may be viewed as being a one issue voter, and I would have to admit, I think that when the murder of the most helpless among us, not just abortion, but infanticide, are in view, these do trump the other issues of our day.

 

Now let me hasten to add that sometimes the choice may not be as clear, and there Christians may have to wrestle with whether to vote for a lesser evil, or not to vote for a major candidate.  This issue divides many Christians as well, and goes beyond this question. 

  

Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Other Blog…

The blog I maintain about non-church stuff, that is me speaking personally as opposed to pastorally, is The CyberParsonage–you can find a link to it in the blogroll to your right, or right here.

Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 1:28 pm  Leave a Comment