JOHN BUNYAN’S “Pilgrim’s Progress”.

An early classic in the English language that reflects the Biblical narrative of ruin and redemption is still relevent to today’s “city of destruction”! Watch first 7 minute segment.

Related Post- Discovering the Mystery

Great read 4 Thanksgiving: http://bit.ly/vgwIpq               “Pilgrims giving thanks”!

The proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ: the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit on earth in Christ’s Body, the Church.

The Day of Pentecost

Test the Spirits- I John 4

4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (ESV Bible)

According to the Biblical narrative, Pentecost literally represents the “crowning act” of the Incarnation on planet earth. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the new temple on earth is the only proof that we need that Jesus is who he said he was and did what God testified in Scripture that he did. We do well to forget about all other hopes for ever proving the Gospel story to the world’s satisfaction.

Rather as another celebration of the Day of Pentecost arrives, we should concentrate on what Jesus and his first disciples tell us about the inseparable connection of the Spirit’s coming to the story. The better we know the story-line in Scripture, the better we will understand the connection and the role of the Spirit in certifying Jesus as the exalted and enthroned Christ. Read for example God’s decree in Psalm 2:

“I have set my King on my Holy hill of Zion!

Read the Apostle Peter’s application of Psalm 2 to explain the coming of the Spirit in the very first sermon following the Ascension of Christ. (Acts 2: 32-36)

There are simply too many scriptures to list in one post that all come together in the story at this momentous historical event. Read the Apostle John’s record of the words of Jesus speaking of this event and what it would mean for his disciples in his ‘Upper Room Discourse’ on the night in which he was betrayed. (Gospel of John, 16:1 – 16).

Beginning with those first disciples, the incredible courage that enabled them to confront the very leaders that rejected Jesus and had him crucified was visible proof for all to see that the Spirit was in them and His power was their strength. This is seen throughout the Book of Acts, the epistles of Paul, and the Jewish epistles.

The ball, as they say, is in our court now. The burden of examining carefully the proof is on you and me. We are charged with “testing the spirits” in the visible community of the followers of Christ. This has always been necessary beginning with the first generation of Christians for the spirit of the world, which is the spirit of Anti-Christ, is present along side of the Holy Spirit.

So, how do we test the spirits? By observing the life of the churches! Beginning with the work the Spirit has come to do, reproduce the righteousness of Christ in His people; examine the very thing Christ himself gave us as the first thing to look for: His love for oneanother. (Read I John 3- 4) 

Little children, let no man deceive you.

Restoring Unity is what the Christian Message is all about!

Christ's Message to the churches (Revelation)

In the first century churches, the first generation, there was already considerable misunderstanding about the essence of the Church which Christ was building & nurturing- His Kingdom community. Much of the Apostle Paul’s ministry as the Apostle to the Gentiles, had to deal with opposition from the Palestinian churches and their leaders. It should come as no surprise to those who read their Bible that much of his writings include elements of this division and his attempts to heal them. In his letter to the Ephesians it is the major theme- the purpose of God’s pleasure to “unite in Christ all things”; but it is also an integral part of his letter to the house churches of Rome.

In the last century, missional leaders from many diverse church traditions saw that our divisions were directly affecting our task in the world and that the time had come to move the theme of unity to the front burner of our efforts. This effort came to be known as the ecumenical movement and many gains were made by those that participated. But many churches, because of convictions, did not participate. Some condemned the efforts outright, some observed at a distance.

In the new century, much has changed for the churches; or has it? We find ourselves still in the midst of the same world with the same assignment from our King: preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, make disciples of all nations, and above all, live out the new life Christ has inaugurated. Some refer to a “new” ecumenism because it seems that many of those that were not officially a part of the “older” effort want to be distinguished from them. I personally feel this is wrong-headed and counter-productive to the very thing we’re focused on -unity. I love, respect, and esteem some of those who were leaders in bringing into being the World Council of Churches.

I just happen to be reading another book written by W.A.Visser’t Hooft, the first General Secretary, who served the churches with love and dedication for many years. Like another of his books, The Pressure of Our Common Calling, which I posted about earlier, this is a sound theological basis for the Church’s mission, edification, and unity. It is about the perennial importance of renewal grounded in the very character of the Church of God as the new creation in Christ.

I want to quote him at the place where he emphasizes that the whole Church-all the churches, must heed the imperatives addressed to the new creation. To me that means we can never settle for anything less than Biblical unity and diligently work towards that as a goal, knowing that it will come at the consumation of our redemption in Christ.

The need of the whole Church for repentance and renewal is most clearly shown in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. It has often been pointed out that the seven churches to whom the letters are addressed represented the most flourishing part of the Church at that time. But more important is that according to the symbolic language of the author the seven churches clearly represent the Church as a whole. For seven is the figure of totality.

In these letters the whole Church is addressed. This is underlined by the fact that each letter is concluded by the solemn warning: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. The warning and promise received by each church is meant to be overheard and passed on by other churches and so to reach the whole Church.

Now it is significant that five of the seven letters are in the nature of calls to repentance. For that means that the Church as such is called to live the life of metanoia, of constant readiness to turn away from the path of this world and to let herself be renewed. And once again it is clear that renewal means living by the power of the new age. In the letter to the Church in Sardis repentance is identified with awakening (3:2,3). To be awake is to be ready for the Day of the Lord. ‘ Lo, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is he who is awake’ (16:15).

The churches are called to remember from what they have fallen (2:5) or what they have received and heard (3:3). That is to say they are to realize again that they represent the new creation. If they do, if they turn resolutely away from the old age, then they will receive the new name (2:17 and 3:12) and be counted as belonging to the new Jerusalem (3:12). Such a metanoia is in this world never a completed process; it is to be actualized and implemented every day anew. – The Renewal of The Church, p.47 (1956)

Restoring or renewing the unity of the Church of Christ is never easy work. Church history for almost 2000 years will tell us that. But progress in recent decades has been made- perhaps more than at any other time. This is what our Lord intends and if we are serious about following Him, we have no other path. Unity is not optional for the Church nor for any indivdual Christian. All of us must make it a part of our prayers and efforts by the grace of God and for His fame on earth. This season of Eastertide is a great time to make this a priority in our spiritual journey of faith.

see “Reasons for Neglecting God’s priority

Another take on the True Community that we all are created to long for is represented in this song written and sung by an old favorite, Squire Parsons. There is just one minor adjustment that I would call your attention to, but for me it is an extremely important one; the pictures that were chosen for this video. 

According to the Biblical narrative, one of the essential elements of Jesus Christ identity has to do with his radical reconstitution of major elements of the Old Covenant faith tradition. Such integral factors as the Temple, the Law, the Priesthood, were reinterpreted by Him in such a way to announce that what these elements foreshadowed in the past, He himself was their ultimate fulfillment. This is what caused his most heated conflict with the institutional religious leaders and ultimately led to his crucifixion “outside the camp”. (see Hebrews 13: 12-14)

So when Squire Parsons sings about Beulah land, is he thinking of the old city of Jerusalem in Israel or is he longing for the Jerusalem that is above? The heavenly Zion, the eternal city of God, which is that community that God has prepared to satisfy all our longings. For me, it is obviously the one the Apostle John saw and testified to us about in the penultimate chapter of the Bible.

Planning Ahead for the Advent Season 

If you’ve paid attention to recent posts, perhaps you’ve noticed that I have been in “Advent” mode for almost a month and its just the middle of November. I can’t explain it- maybe it is due to the year we’ve witnessed since last Advent and the urgency I feel to witness to the Incarnation Event to all who will give an ear, pointing to that event as the most signifcant of all events in this present world. 

advent09

The Coming of the Promised Deliverer

Once again this year, I am going to post about the resources over at The General Board of Disciplehip of the UMC. Here is a little teaser along with the link for planning for Advent, including the Scripture texts and the themes of worship:

“Advent places us into the sweep of the Eternal One breaking into history, awakens us to the radical disjuncture between God’s dream for creation and the mess we have made of it, and challenges us to join God’s mission to make all things new.Especially after this year of so much economic upheaval, it may be the ancient call of the Advent message, rather than the ephemeral call to recreate the “perfect Christmastime,” that the church and the people around us most need to hear and heed.

“The days are surely coming,” Jeremiah reminds. “Even so, come Lord Jesus,” the church in Revelation replies. May our reply this season join that of all the saints, here and now and in the age to come.

ADVENT PLANNING 2009 – I encourage you to check out the resources and the orientation unless you already have found your own. At the beginning of the Christian year (for most) is a great time to actively participate with Christians the world over in celebrating the Gift of the Son of God, Jesus the promised Christ.

Neglecting the Greatest Gift

I want to continue the subject of the last post, which as you remember, was the concern voiced by internetmonk that an unhealthy emphasis on the Glory of God was having on “all things human”. I agreed with the spirit of that discussion, especially the confusion among Christians that is undermining our unity of calling and purpose in the world. And to me this is the real danger that indeed faces us today: the neglect of the great salvation/redemption which is the Biblical narrative.

I think the subject has everything to do with all that we have been finding as we have focused on the Apostle Paul and his unique contribution to that narrative, especially as he interprets what God really accomplished in the Christ Event, the cycle just celebrated with Advent, Passover, and Pentecost. We have seen in this “Year of Saint Paul” that nothing short of a new humanity in Christ, a humanity that would succeed where the old had “come short of the Glory of God” and could not please God in the flesh is the message of the Gospel of the grace of God.

Is that salvation only (exclusively) about a prepared place referred to as “heaven” beyond death, or is much more included involving “all things human” in this life, which directly relates to the life beyond? There is no doubt that the Biblical narrative is about the Glory of God as it is revealed progressively to the human race on planet earth in history. But that revelation is always in the context of that humanity and its history. God indeed wants to be known and worshipped as the only true God by his creation, especially humankind made in His own image and for that very purpose. And the meaning and quality of human life is in turn always related to the right relation to the True God- qualities like peace and harmony, blessing, or strife, conflict, and cursing.

So when we fail to keep these two essential parts of the whole narrative balanced, we are not only in serious danger of missing the purpose for which we were created but the purpose for which the Redeemer has fought and won the great battle for freeing us from our former bondage into “the glorious liberty of the Children of God”, as Paul says it. In fact this is the over-all vision that the Apostle lived with from the time that he was confronted on the Road to Damacus and later had as long as three years in the Syrian desert to think out.

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many Sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (letter to the Hebrews 2:10)

God’s eternal plan involves the promise to make “all things new’; both a new earth and a new heaven. Thankfully there have always been those among us who have seen that the Glory of God is forever intertwined with His creation, humankind and the material creation. So internetmonk is raising a legitimate warning that we are not keeping the proper balance. Once again in this generation, as in those that have gone before, parts of the Body of Christ are speaking into this imbalance. Will we keep fighting oneanother from our own faith traditions precious heritage, or will we practice the UNITY of God’s New humanity in Christ and let every contribution be received which will result in the “Growing up into the fullness of the Body in Jesus Christ”? Will we finally grasp the full intent of God’s mighty once-for-all work of redemption when “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”?

I intend to mention three major ways that this “seeking a holistic salvation” took within Christianity in the 20th century, as we continue this discussion. To wet our appetites I will simply introduce a phrase that I think we can look at from the past- CHRISTIAN HUMANISM.

A related essay- Lockerbie-Thinking Like A Christian.