A wonderful discovery regarding worship resources. I find encouragement from many places in the blog world and yesterday was an outstanding example. It was on a blog that I had not visited before (believe it or not) called “Stay on the Rock“, that turns out to be the blog of Lifewayworship.com. I don’t feel bad singing their praises since I have spoken several times of my appreciation for the worship resources of other denominational sources such as that of the United Methodist.

The sacrament of communion

What caught my attention first was the theme of the post: Worship at the communion table. For those that don’t already know, Lifeway is the publication arm of the Southern Baptist Convention of churches and is the largest supplier of protestant material. Many churches that are not Baptist use it as for resources.

The Baptist tradition as well as the larger evangelical church, has come under fire from those of the liturgical churches for a weak theology of worship by men the likes of J.I.Packer and John Stott, Anglicans, just to name a few. So you can imagine my delight to find someone in the inside of Lifeway worship team who is reading something outside the Baptist tradition like Robert Webber’s “Ancient-Future Worship”. The post let me know that the guys producing worship resources for the churches understand that the theology of the church is important. Just another example of how rich the different traditions are and that by being willing to consider what those outside our own limited tradition have to say can only enrich everyone.

I made a short comment on the post but I wanted to publicly say to the blogger and his team- “congratulations”, for their important contributions to the churches. If you visit the post, you will note at the bottom a link to a long list of church music deemed appropriate for the communion service including both traditional hymns and contempory choruses. Here again, the rich theology of the Lord’s Supper should dictate what is best appropriate to make this one of the most blessed experiences of our corporate life together.

So thank you Lifewayworship team for your faithfulness and for including some of this bloggers favorites such as “I Love Thy Kingdom”, “In Christ there is no east or west”, “One Day”, “The Wonderful Cross”, and “Come to the table”.

See my own post last year related to Communion

THIS PRAYER WAS ANSWERED!

I receive a very interesting mailing every fifteen days from a man named David Wilkerson. For those of you who do not recognize the name, I will just say he is a godly evangelist that began a ministry years ago among the gangs of New York City (see, The Cross and the Swithchblade) which is now global in its impact.

The message in this mailing made reference to the prayer of Christ for his disciples just before he was taken to be condemned and crucified. What caught my attention was the observation of the status of his disciples at that moment in the Gospel narrative: they were in fact already possessors of what we call ‘saving faith’. As Jesus prays, he tells his Father that he has given these men the words (testimony) that his Father had sent him into the world with and that they had  received that word, believing that he was in fact the Messiah, the sent One of God. Peter, for example, had made his profession days before upon which Christ made then his declaration that he would build his Church on the rock of Peter’s (and the other Disciples) confession of faith.

While he was with the disciples, he himself had been like a shepherd, keeping them safely within the sheepfold of salvation. Now Jesus knew that his hour had come to die for the sins of the world as The Lamb of God. This prayer is first and foremost about Jesus asking the Father which sent him into the world, on the basis of his perfect obedience in fulfilling his mission, to keep forever these that believed on him. Whatever it would take in the days to come, including their denial and abandoning him in the face of death, he was then and there making full provision for their eternal destiny as children of God. He was in essence, asking God to never abandon His People.

Two thousand years of subsequent experience of countless disciples of Jesus Christ in every part of humanity has demonstrated that this prayer was heard; begining with the first generation of disciples who received the gift of Christ’s own Spirit and were strengthened to testify of Christ and his original message against all odds, and then those that received the message from these first disciples and believed on the Christ for their own salvation.

The take away for us who have initially put our faith and trust in Him is a powerful assurance that this prayer was for us as well and secures from God the keeping of our soul in this present evil age. Every provision for our salvation from initial faith to final glory is the direct result of this prayer.

“Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”        -Romans 8:34,35

see original post: Glorify Thy Son

Michael Card sings about one of the first ‘BELIEVERS‘ in the Gospel narrative. (video)

Sadness of Coming to the end:  The Year of Saint Paul

yearofpaul

This has been a wonderful year for me to be involved with the larger Christian community in celebrating the 2000th birthday of the Apostle Paul. Of course we’re really not saying goodbye to the Apostle of Liberty, how could we without saying goodbye to the Holy Scriptures themselves. But I do have a certain sadness in seeing yet another golden opportunity to celebrate our Christian unity with the universal community of faith pass into history.

So as I post my final attempt to look at Saint Paul’s influence on the Christian Church, I’ve decided to return to an old friend mentioned early in this series, James S.Stewart, author of “A Man in Christ“, first published in London in 1935.

The Vital Religion of Jesus Christ

One thing I’ve been able to do in this ‘Year of Saint Paul’, through my own study as well as looking at countless blogs and essays, including those of Pope Benedict XVI, is put to the test a working hypothesis regarding what Saint Paul contributes to the whole narrative of Holy Scripture- the unfolding drama of redemptive history.

Thank you for taking an interest in my personal journey of faith. So once more I come back to that hypothesis: that the Apostle Paul does play a rather decisive role/function in the Biblical narrative that centers on Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, I’m now ready to advance that hypothesis a step further, and say that Paul the Apostle is in himself and his writings the greatest interpreter of what James Stewart calls, “The Vital Religion of Jesus Christ“.

Paul or Paulism: The Great Dilemma

When Saint Paul composed his great hymn of Praise to Love (I Corinthians 13), he began by distinguishing between the vital religion of Jesus Christ, as it had gripped his own experience, and certain more or less imperfect and unbalanced forms of religion, which from that day to this have sheltered themselves under the name of Christianity.”

This is the dilemma for the Christian Church today in the age of the international blogging community just as it has been down through the years of Christianity: the distortions of “the vital religion of Jesus Christ” in all the different views of that religion that are out there in the real world of hurting, lonely, lost, suffering, humanity. These distortions is what the world sees and feels around them instead of the authentic Christ of the New Testament Gospel. And frankly, this frustration at times almost overwhelms me. This is why I came to the place almost ten years ago, after a great deal of experiencing much of this frustration, where I intentionally made the decision to stop promoting any one “imperfect and unbalanced form of religion” as found in the religious ideologies of Christendom, and instead try to model and encourage everyone I could to get back to the original as found in the Biblical narrative itself. So I will leave you and the year of celebrating Saint Paul’s birth (even that is arbitrary) with these remarks with which James Stewart opened his book in 1935:

Gifts and graces which God intended to be the adornment of the Christian community may cease to be its adornment, and become its snare. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels”- that is religion as ecstatic emotionalism. “Though I have the gift of prophecy, and undersand all mysteries, and all knowledge”- that is religion as gnosis, intellectualism, speculation. “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains”- that is religion as working energy. “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor”- that is the religion of humanitarianism. ” Though I give my body to be burned”- that is the religion of asceticism.

All these one-sided and patently inadequate representations of the Gospel, Paul expressly repudiates. Yet history, which has been unjust to many of its greatest men (and women), has given us from time to time, by the strange irony of fate, a Paul who is himself the type and embodiment of the very things against which he strove with might and main.

We have had Paul the ecstatic visionary, Paul the speculative theologian, Paul the organiser and ecclesiastic, Paul the humanitarian moralist, Paul the ascetic (mystic). Of these portraits which have appeared at different times in the course of Pauline study, by far the most unfortunate in its results has been the second- Paul the dogmatist, the doctrinaire thinker, the creator of a philosophy of religion, the constructor of a system. This is history’s greatest injustice to its greatest saint. It is the blunder which has ruined Paul for thousands. . . Paul’s worst enemy down through the centuries has not been Paul: it has been Paulinism. (from A Man in Christ, James S.Stewart, Harper & Row)

May we dedicate ourselves afresh to avoid (and repudiate) with all our might these distortions of this passionate lover of Jesus Christ  whom he served in life and by many sufferings and finally, death.

Related readings & downloadable essays at Christ in You, Ministries,see “Christianity is NOT a religion“, by James A.Fowler