Jesus’ New Commandment

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Springtime flowers (photo credit below).

The “Maundy” in “Maundy Thursday” is a word from the Latin Bible where Jesus’ new command is translated as a “new mandate“–and since he traditionally gave that mandate or command on Thursday night before he was betrayed, the Church’s celebration of the Last Supper and its related events has come to be called Maundy Thursday.

But is Jesus’ command really new? After all, the command to “love your neighbor” is mentioned in Leviticus 19–hardly new–and Jesus indirectly refers to that statement in Leviticus elsewhere when, in the Gospels, he asked to state what the greatest commandment is; he replies that we are to love God with our whole heart, and “the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”

So it isn’t new in the sense that it has never been said before. Nor is it new in that Jesus hasn’t said it before. How is it then new? Continue reading

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Reading the Bible as a Coherent Story, but Not Too Much

The Story of OVOGrowing up as a new Christian, I learned a lot in a short period of time. Most of which I learned from reading the Bible. Seriously. Just reading it.

But, Bible reading alone is not enough to make a Christian. On the contrary, the proverb is true: most heresies arise from someone “reading the Bible alone in his closet.” Reflecting on that period, I realize that I too developed some theological wrinkles that would later need to be worked out in the context of the leadership of Christ’s church. In short, I had a lot to learn.

Like me, far too many Christians, generally, and American Christians, in particular, assume that wisdom begins with them, here, now, in the 21st century; and that we alone have inherited the key to knowledge when it comes to the sacred truths of Scripture. Continue reading

Church S/Hopping in 2017

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Old Books

I recently came across the Reformed Reader, a WordPress site dedicated to encourage people who have an interest in solid Christian theology. I’d like to commend it to my readers here.

It is stewarded by a professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary (Andrew Compton), and a minister in the United Reformed Church (Shane Lems) and has a good sampling of texts and quotes which are both old and still applicable to our modern situation as Christians in a quickly changing world.

For instance, I was struck by how much Continue reading

Five Truths about the Incarnation that Will Blow Your Mind

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The wisemen bring gifts to the Christ, a moment traditionally remembered on Epiphany.*

Today is the church’s traditional celebration of Epiphany. The church I serve recognizes the “five evangelical feast days” during the Christian year. While Epiphany is not one of them, by gathering for a meal as a congregation, for what we call our “Epiphany Feast,” this event helps us continue to enjoy Christmas into January, as well as marks the beginning of our new year together as yoked-together believers in one local body. I’m posting the essay below (delivered previously this past Advent as a sermon on Christmas) as a reminder that Christmas, and its underlying doctrine of Incarnation, is more than just a day for shopping, that we can toss out to the curb like a dried up, has-been pine tree once the new year hits.

Zap! Like a loop of wires in your house, your mind is only suited to carry a certain level of “current” when it comes to theological truth. The following five truths–more like riddles–will trip the circuit in your brain if you think too hard about them. Yet, contemplating such truths is the perfect antidote for Christmas consumer ‘excess’ and a great way to prepare your heart to receive the Christ this Christmas season. Continue reading

7 Reasons Protestants are Pro Ecclesia

Pro Ecclesia means “for the church” and Protestants are people who “protest.” That’s a strange combination: how can Protestants (negative) be for the Church (positive)?

It all began innocently enough. A German Bible doctor  and priest penned something like a medieval letter to the editor when he posted a list of ninety-five arguments on the public bulletin board (the door of the chapel in the center of town). This priest-scholar believed these were worthy of debate by church leaders and published them out of a love for the Church and an established tradition of seeking its reformation.

However, that priest, named Dr. Martin Luther, was eventually excommunicated by the Roman Catholic hierarchy for refusing to recant his views which he first articulated when he posted those concerns, called theses, on October 31, 1517.

It is remarkable that such a small action (which was essentially nothing more than a blog post or an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer) set in motion what would eventually become the Protestant Reformation. Since then, that historic event (or events, as many historians acknowledge a number of reformations) has come to define a movement of Christian belief known as Protestantism.

Yet, as a Catholic reform movement defined in part by objecting to certain things–especially religious traditions and practices which have little or nothing to do with the Bible–we must not be understood merely as an opposition movement, or as people who only stand against.

I think there is a need to reemphasize that while the label or term “Protestant” has historically negative connotations, it does not summarize the whole scope of Protestant belief. We need to freshly articulate he positive grounds or foundations for protestant faith and practice.

Besides this, because of the many traditions within Protestantism, it is important to lay out the major convictions held by those who find themselves still “protesting” certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church as a way of understanding what binds us is greater than what divides. Here then are seven “pros” or positive beliefs that all Protestants share. Continue reading

Ascension Snips and Clips

So much gets left on the cutting room floor–hence “snips and clips” in my title–when preparing a sermon. Here is a fascinating, orthodox, and devotional article by John F. Maile, called “The Ascension in Luke-Acts,” taken from the Tyndale Bulletin 37 (1986). Its gist is to engage in a scholarly, but pious way, with the value and biblical basis for believing, and loving, the doctrine of the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

In particular, I love this quote, below. As you read, notice how the author makes a theological connection between the Ascension in Luke’s Gospel and the Ascension in Acts.

In that regard, this is biblical scholarship that promotes the reading of your Bible, and loving more deeply, and obeying more fully, what it teaches; this is theological scholarship that exalts Christ and His Bride, the Church: Continue reading