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1. The death of Charles Manson didn’t raise as many questions as normal about the eternal destiny of a dead celebrity. It was easy to send ol’ Charlie to the pit of hell, whatever you think hell is. I would submit that hell is separation from God and some folks will prefer it. As C.S Lewis said, hell is locked from the inside…
2. Some folks will be shocked that Lewis said that…because most people have never read Lewis…
3. People think hell is where bad people go…because they think they are good ones. Pride goeth before a fall…
4. All the sex scandals in the political and entertainment circles give the culture opportunity to preach a sort moral law to the offenders. Because the Gospel doesn’t follow those proclamations, nothing will change and both will remain defiled…
5. The fear of many in the church is that God’s grace is broader than they’re comfortable with…
6. Last week, I heard one of the popular prophecy wonks say that things are so close to the end that he may not have the opportunity to preach another update…and I laughed. It must be hard to come up with another end times angle week after week after week…
7. There are far too many of us that think God is pleased when we separate over doctrinal minutiae…
8. A sign of Christian maturity is comfort with mystery…
9. On the other hand if you’re not comfortable with mystery, you’re ok… the grace of God is broader than you think… Jesus saves…
10. Long time readers will know I loathe the “holiday season”…the Grinch was a rank amateur in my book. The cure I have chosen to get through is the study of the Incarnation, which is full of all the wonder the season lacks…
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All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
A month or two ago, I was sorting through some file boxes when I came across some notes on a course I taught on the Church Fathers at the University of Detroit (a Jesuit institution) in the mid 1980’s. A graduate level course, through the years it proved surprisingly popular, usually attracting 20 to 30 students. As it was held in the evenings, from 6:30 – 9:30, it was especially attractive to clergy who used it to fulfill the continuing education requirements of their particular church or denomination. As I looked among the papers, I found a class roster in which I had noted the affiliations of the clergy attending the class. There were four Roman Catholics (a Franciscan, a Benedictine, a Jesuit and a diocesan priest), two Anglicans, one Methodist, three evangelicals (one Southern Baptist and two non-denominational charismatics), two Eastern Orthodox priests, three Lutherans (two LCMS and a LCA cleric), and one lone Mennonite, with the remainder being lay people of various backgrounds.
As I looked through my teaching notes, the familiar pattern of teaching such a course emerged. The first class was taken up with introductions, going over the broad outline of the course, handing out bibliographies, a list of required readings and, finally, the first week’s assignment – “Read the Didache with special reference to context, dating and the main theological themes of the document and prepare to discuss next week.”
When we gathered the following week, the first order of business was a pop quiz (of course), just to ensure that they had read the material. I was relieved, they had read the text. Moving on, I presented the “mechanics” of the text.
The Didache is one of the earliest written witnesses of the shape and conduct of the Early Church. The exact date of its writing, or perhaps more properly, of its compilation, is difficult to establish. The earliest date suggested is the mid 90s of the Christian era and the latest date being no later than AD 160. Portions of the text, such as chapters 9-10 on the Eucharist and chapters 11-13 on church order appear to have arisen out of Syria. The earlier section outlining the “Two Ways, of Life and Death” may have had its origin in Egypt, although it borrows heavily from Jewish wisdom literature of the time. There are some scholars who even see a connection with the Essenes at Qumran, but it seems more likely that this was simply the result of the Essenes and the early Christians using common source materials. The document itself was addressed to mixed Christian communities, that is to Jewish converts to Christianity whose communities also included gentiles who had come out of the vast religious mix of the Roman empire. The anonymous editor placed together in one small handbook a number of texts, derived from tradition, which he thought would be of benefit to new converts. Indeed, it became a very popular handbook in the early Church. The church historian, Eusebius, indicates that it might have once been considered for inclusion in the New Testament canon. Athanasius of Alexandria, over two centuries after its writing, still considered it to be useful for the instruction of catechumens and made mention of it in one of his paschal epistles.
After presenting the material on the background and dating, we moved on to the text itself and a spirited discussion of the Didache’s theological themes. This, in my mind, was the most interesting part of the class, not for what it revealed about the Didache, but what it revealed about those of us discussing the themes.
For the Mennonite, it was the simplicity of the manner in which the early Church was ordered and the morality and practical concerns of the “way of life” (chap. 1-6). For the Eastern Orthodox, it was the priestly language used in reference to the Eucharist and the Eucharistic prayers. For the Roman Catholics, it was the sacrificial images in the instructions on the Eucharist (chap. 14). The Lutherans countered with the manner in which Christ was present in the Eucharist (chap. 7-10). Our lone Southern Baptist pointed out the preference for baptismal immersion and indicated that it appeared to apply to adult baptism (chap. 7). The two charismatics were, of course, intrigued by what appeared to be the admission of prophetic utterances (chap. 11). The Anglicans, in turn, looked to the instructions on the election of deacons and bishops (chap. 15). On and on the discussion went…
As Paul Simon said, “Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.
Now, I was not surprised by this turn of events. I had witnessed it on numerous occasions. All the observations were correct, in their own way; and all the observations were wrong, in their own way. They were correct in that the Didache shows us the beginnings of what would grow and develop through the centuries. They were wrong in that we cannot fit that developed understanding back into a first or second century document. As I explained, in the Didache we are looking at The Beatles playing in the Star Club in Hamburg, not The Beatles recording Sgt. Pepper with George Martin in the Abbey Road studios. It’s a matter of development. We can only look to find the essential qualities which provide a common thread that reaches from “then to now” and, importantly, set aside our current systems or confessional understanding and allow the text to speak for itself.
So, we approached the text once again to look for the essentials and came up with the following list. You may find more essentials or fewer. You may even disagree with this list, but this is what our diverse group agreed upon at the time and I offer it for your reflection.
1. The early Church was concerned with, and defined itself by, moral probity. What you did and said in the course of your daily conduct was the proof of your faith.
2. To be a Christian and not to be involved in a Christian community would simply have been considered an impossibility by the early Church.
3. Baptism in the name of the Trinity was the normative rite of entry in the early Church.
4. Individual and corporate prayer, fasting and alms giving were part of the normal rhythm of life in the early Church.
5. The Eucharist was normative Christian worship (likely followed by an agape meal) in which all baptized members participated. In addition to anticipating Christ’s return in the future, the Eucharist provided the assurance of Christ’s presence in the elements of bread and wine in the present “now”.
6. There was an ordered ministry of deacons and bishops (overseers) in local Christian communities that stood along side itinerant “apostles and prophets”. All in leadership (local or itinerant) had to prove themselves by their conduct, speech, humility and manner of life. Seeking any financial gain immediately disqualified one from such a role.
7. Finally, the Didache is all about the Church – how individuals relate to the Church, how the Church is ordered, and how we relate to one another within the Church.
The Didache is a short document. You can read it for yourself and it will take you all of ten minutes. I would, however, encourage you to read it “outside yourself”, that is, like a postcard from another age that you’ve discovered in the attic, only to be surprised when you realize the postcard is addressed to you. Then find your own essentials…
Remember, O Lord, your Church.
Deliver it from every evil and perfect it in your love.
Gather it from the four winds,
sanctified for your kingdom, which you have prepared for it.
For yours is the power and the glory forever.
Let grace come, and let this world pass away…
(Didache 10. 5,6)
Everlasting God, our maker and redeemer,
grant us, with all the faithful departed,
the sure benefits of thy Son’s saving passion
and glorious resurrection,
that, in the last day,
when thou dost gather up all things in Christ,
we may with them enjoy the fullness of thy promises;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever
The Report of the Guard
11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place.
- “While they were going…” v.8 “so they departed” – The Christian is always to be going – and as it shows in v. 9 Jesus will meet us along the way.
- “Some of the guard” – who drew the short straw to have to go deliver the bad news? How would you like to be that guy?
12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers
- What does scripture say about the love of money?
13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’
- Is this not a tragedy? – they cannot accept the truth and will both deny and cover it up.
- From an apologetics point, this does prove that the tomb was empty.
- Think a
bout this – they are asking the guards to take responsibility for what could be a capital crime. Compare this to the Philippian jailer who was ready to kill himself when he thought that the Apostle Paul had escaped his prison.
- But it is funny that they must come in and confess that even though their job was to guard a dead body the lost him.
14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
- What is going to be told to the governor? That the guards were paid off or they were incompetent?
15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
- “And this story…” Which story? The Resurrection story? No, the “someone stole the body” story.
- To which day = this day? The day Matthew is teaching – 33 to 67AD – for 34 yrs this story was going around – well it is still going around.
The Great Commission
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
- Now the 11 = Judas was already gone.
- Galilee is in the north – the crucifixion took place in the south. They had to believe the women and travel. They went by the direction and the testimony of women.
17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
- Is the “they” in 17 referring only to the 11 of v 16 – or is “they” comprised of more? Did the women go?
- How did they worship him? Compare to your puppy who comes and sits at your side, licks your hand – just because he knows that you love and provide for him. Even down to the ball he plays with.
- “Some” = more than just Thomas.
- At this point, what is there to doubt? This is why we are commanded not to forsake the assembly of ourselves together. We have all doubted at times, but we help each other overcome that doubt as God speaks and works through the church.
- Not going to church is dangerous.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
- How much is ALL authority?
- Heaven and earth = All everywhere.
- Jesus is the mighty king, our risen savior – victorious – crucified – and risen Lord gives us the great commission.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
- Go therefore – as you are going – along the way, to the post office, to the market, at your job etc – be making disciples.
- A participle vs an imperative.
- What is a disciple other than a Christian? How do you make Christians? Through both water baptism and teaching.
- I have heard people try to make the distinction that you are first a believer and then you develop to a disciple. I don’t see how this is possible – it is usually brought up to get around the claim that Jesus is teaching baptismal regeneration… which he is.
- This is also the institution of Christian baptism – and… the answer to “what about the thief on the cross?” He died before Jesus instituted Christian baptism.
- Note that baptism is in the name of the trinity.
- Important here is Jesus’ recognition of the trinity.
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
- What is ‘all that I have commanded’? Simply, be a Christian.
I made this decision for a number of reasons.
First, it is imperative that every CC pastor and church member read it so that they can know the truth as Taylor documents in his letter.
Taylor has a great memory and the documents to back up those recollections…every thing he writes in this letter I have had verified by other sources and much has been the basis of my reporting in the past.
He writes the truth…not just from his perspective, but from what factually has taken place.
Second, as Taylor says, this split didn’t have to happen.
It was created by avarice and dishonesty.
Third, it vindicates Brian Brodersen, who won’t vindicate himself.
Read his own words and see what he’s been through…and then compare that with the untruths that have been propagated against him.
Finally, in a strange way, I do so to protect Wayne Taylor.
If the rank and file pastors and secondary leaders of the Calvary Chapel Association do not stand up and demand changes in leadership immediately here’s what will happen to Wayne Taylor for his efforts.
He will become a pariah.
He broke the rules and told the truth for all to hear and must be punished.
People won’t remember in a year why they shun him, but will do so anyway.
This movement hates conflict and these mighty men of God become eunuchs for Christ when dealing with it.
If they do so in this situation, they become complicit in the slander of good men and the splitting of the movement which will lead to the irrelevance of the movement.
If they stand up and do what is right and righteous, one may assume that God the blessing of God will follow.
If they don’t…we’ll have plenty of material for future articles.
Time to choose…
He did extend his claws into my leg to slow his descent, however
Chester does not know how to be a lap cat.
Chester doesn’t know much about a lot of things and knows too much about some other things.
He knows that life is hard and a cat does what a cat must do to survive.
A cat may have to kill, both prey and competitors for prey.
A cat must never trust, because trust leads to confinement or abuse.
Love is a lie that is used to snare him, the worst trap of them all.
He knows these things because that’s what life (and humans) taught him before I coaxed him out of my bushes.
He doesn’t know how to purr, but he tries sometimes.
Chester has never kneaded and weaved as most cats do to comfort themselves…he knows little about comfort at all.
He is a glutton…food was scarce once and he eats his food, Missy’s food, my food (if he can reach it) and then screams for more food when he’s done.
He screams a lot.
He’s attacked Miss Kitty, for no reason except proximity.
He knows that life has changed…but he can’t fully shake his past.
He likes being petted a bit…just a bit.
Being comfortable makes him nervous.
He’ll lay at my feet like a dog and walk right next to me as a dog would also.
If he thinks he can do so without Miss Kitty noticing, he’ll sleep right next to me…with the queen of the house snoozing on my other side.
He wants to love and be loved, but his fears and his scars keep him from fully having what he desires.
For another cat owner,he wouldn’t be worth the trouble.
He’s so much like me, I couldn’t possibly give him away.
Every once in a while I have to be reminded that God feels the same way about me that I do about Chet.
God loves me and is sometimes the only one who thinks I’m worth the trouble.
He will keep me…even if I never get better.
He feels the same way about you.
He gave me Chester to remind me…and you.
You’re worth it…even if it seems like He’s the only one who sees it.
He will never leave or forsake you.
Don’t even think about petting me…
Make your own application…
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership [Grk: koinónia: participation; communion; fellowship] in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:3-11)
Reading the opening verses of Philippians, one quickly notices Paul’s deep affection for this church. He thanks God whenever he remembers them; prays for them with joy; holds them in his heart; and yearns for them. He feels this way even while writing from prison.
However, it would have been inconceivable only a few decades earlier (before his conversion) for Paul to have written such a letter. The differences in religions, cultures and worldviews between the zealous, Pharisaic Jew and the pagan Roman citizens of the leading city in Macedonia (named after the father of Alexander the Great) were so immense that Paul elsewhere described these differences as a “dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:15). The requirements of circumcision, food and other purity regulations, Monotheism and national aspiration would have rendered unthinkable the type of deeply personal fellowship that Paul and his Philippian partners later came to enjoy.
Meanwhile, Paul was also an enemy of the very God he claimed to serve as an early persecutor of Christ and His Church, as he confessed: “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church” (Phil 3:6). What happened to radically change everything for Paul and his Philippians partners?
“for you are all partakers with me of grace”
Simply put, Christ and His Gospel happened to them. Christ sent Ananias to proclaim the Gospel to Paul (Acts 9:17-18; 22:13-16). Some years following Paul’s conversion, Christ sent Paul to proclaim the Gospel to the Philippians (Acts 16). The grace of God through the Gospel of Christ profoundly and eternally changed their lives and their worldviews.
What happened was the implementation of God’s “plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:10) This plan God implemented through the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7). The Gospel reconciles God and man, as well as human relationships. It “unites all things in [Christ]….”
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 3:7-8)
The Gospel totally eclipsed Paul’s former life and worldview. The zeal for his former way of life passed away once he was grasped by the love of God in Christ. All the symbols of his former religious and national zeal became loss in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.
Paul’s gratitude for grace extended to his partners in the Gospel: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Phil 1:3-4). The communion (or fellowship) of believers in Christ, not only reconciles God and mankind, but creates peace and mutual affection between old enemies. Writing to the Galatians, Paul said: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:27-28)
The Body of Christ does not obliterate genders or individual personalities, each with his or her own unique gifts and talents. But this communion does unite us to the Image of God, which is Christ Jesus, and bestows in us a participation in the same Spirit. Therefore, Paul urges all Christians: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:4-5). What we share in Christ is eternal and takes precedence over any temporal association.
“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:8)
In his letter, Paul did not yearn only for the nice folks or the ones he knew personally; he yearned for “all” the Philippian Christians with the “affection of Christ Jesus.” Jesus gives us His affection to share with others. Christ’s affection includes forgiveness. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt 18:21-35), Jesus warns his disciples against withholding forgiveness of our neighbor from the heart. Thus we read of Paul entreating Euodia and Syntyche to reconcile their differences (Phil 4:2-3).
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:9-11)
The “fruit of righteousness,” which Paul desires for the Philippians, through his intercessory prayer, comes through Jesus Christ. He is our righteousness by faith through whom we are made pure and blameless in the sight of God through His precious blood which He shed for us. In Christ, God gives us a new address: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Phil 3:20-21)
Let us abide in His Word and never grow weary of receiving grace upon grace, which is ours in the Gospel. And may the fruit of righteousness fill us and manifest itself in faith towards God and in fervent love towards one another, “to the glory and praise of God.” Amen.
“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:6-8) Amen.