Racism and Christ, By: Doy Moyer

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He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26).

Racism is not just a political issue, and it cannot be fixed through political means or force. It is the symptom of a much greater problem, and this is not a problem that will ever be legislated or forced away by violence. First, and even most significantly, racism is a moral and spiritual issue. It is, at its heart, a failure to understand and appreciate that all humans are made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). “Human” is not a skin color or ethnicity. Being human does not depend on being a particular ethnic background. The greatest human quality is that of mirroring God’s image, and this is shared by all humans, however imperfectly.

As sin entered the scene of human history, God put a plan into effect that would allow humans to be saved from their sins and the corruption of the world. To do this, He called out a particular person, Abraham, and through him a particular nation, which came to be called Israel. Through this nation He would bring about His promises. His purpose in doing this was so that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). The reason He maintained a distinction between His chosen people and all others (gentiles) was to keep them holy as His people (see Josh 23:4-13). The danger was not in other ethnicities per se (as is seen in the fact both Rahab and Ruth were Gentiles who became part of Christ’s lineage); the danger was that paganism had become standard among the nations and He wanted them to stay away from the influences that would lead them down that path of worshipping other gods.

God’s plan all along encompassed the idea that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would bring together all nations into one. This is not to say that all nations would become one big worldly kingdom. Rather, all nations would unite together in Christ as one “chosen race” and “holy nation” who would proclaim God’s excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). In this holy nation, there are no distinctions to be made when it comes to the outward matters of skin color. In Christ, there is no “white church” or “black church.” Such distinctions are unknown to the Gospel. Should Christians, then, continue to perpetuate them? Shall we willingly participate in the worldly stereotypes that only divide?

Perhaps the earliest, most significant challenges for the church came in the form of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles (cf. Acts 15). Let’s just say they typically didn’t care for each other very much. There was initial reluctance on the part of the Jewish Christians to preach to the Gentiles, as is seen in Peter’s response to the Lord’s desire for him to go Cornelius, a Gentile soldier (Acts 10). It took a vision and a command for Peter to get it, and once he did, there was no turning back. “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (vs. 28). It may have been a bit shocking, then, for some fellow Jews to hear Peter declare:

“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

God’s will is that all come to repentance, that all will come to the knowledge of the truth (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Tim 2:4). Racism is a denial that Christ died for all. It is a denial of God’s desire for all to know the truth. It is a denial of the unity desired by the Lord. It is a denial of the gospel. It is sin.

Again, Peter said, “He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:42-43). Everyone. No one is out in this endeavor.

Political agendas will be what they are. God’s people need to transcend the clamor and evil trappings of the world in order to be what God intends. To be effective in reaching out to the world, we cannot pull back our hands because those of another person are a different shade. All hands are made by the same God, who desires all to be in His fellowship. Dare we deny this most important desire of God?

In truth, there is only one race. It is the human race. And there is only one holy nation, comprised of all of God’s people, who transcend the boundaries and borders of worldly kingdoms and earthly cultures. May God help us all to see all humans for who they really are—made in His image, fallen, and in need of His grace and mercy.

Doy Moyer

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2014/01/racism-and-christ.html

 

Worship, Equivocation, and the “Argument of the Beard”, by Doy Moyer

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In discussions about worship, I am finding at least two fallacies that are being floated (and are related). I want to spell them out in order to be clear about the nature of the problem I want to address.

1. The reductive fallacy sometimes called the “argument of the beard” is a failure to properly distinguish degrees of concepts and terms (“degree” is the key term here).(1) When is a beard a beard? After one day? Two days? Five days? How exactly do we tell? If we cannot tell with any certainty, then there must be no difference. If the distinction isn’t clear, then no distinction is to be made. For example, one might say that since there is a little good and a little evil in everyone, then there is no real difference between someone who is good and someone who is truly evil.

2. The fallacy of equivocation is one of the most common ones and occurs when the same term is used in two or more senses, but without recognizing it. When in the course of an argument a word shifts in meaning, but the argument proceeds as if the original definition is still in use, then this fallacy is committed. For example, one might argue that since evolution means change over time, then evolution (macro) must be true. “Evolution” is equivocated because the meaning shifted.

It is important to understand that making distinctions in terminology is not “verbalism” or “getting hung up on words.” In fact, it is just the opposite; it avoids “being victimized by words.” As Kreeft says, “The reason we make distinctions is because we insist on going beyond unclear words to clear concepts.”(2)

The issue I am raising is that we hear these kind of fallacies made in some discussions about biblical worship. Either the lines are blurred in the terminology or the term is equivocated (worship as sacrifice in general or worship as specified actions when assembled). Here I am not talking so much about technical definitions (as if a strict definition of the Greek terms will settle the issue). I’m talking more about how the term “worship” is actually used in different contexts (“all of life” or a particular, purposed assembly).

We have heard the argument that “all of life is worship,” based on passages like Romans 12:1 (which uses latreia, service). I won’t quibble over the question of whether a sacrifice is a form of worship, and so I would agree that there is a sense in which this point is true. All that we do is to be to God’s glory, reflecting a self-sacrificial mentality that seeks God’s praise. Our lives are to be lived in adoration to God as we proclaim His excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). Worship certainly is not confined to four walls one day of the week (cf. Jas 5:13). How, then, are the above fallacies made? Please note the following statements that express the sentiment of arguments I’ve seen and heard in my experience:

1. Since “all of life” is worship, then there is no real difference between the rest of life and the so-called worship assemblies.

2. Since “all of life” is worship, then worship is not something for a set time and place with any kind of pattern attached to it.

The first example is a form of the “argument of the beard”; the second is equivocation. Is there a difference between “all of life” in the broad sense, and specific actions at a certain time and place that are called worship? Here is where the mistake is made. If all of life is worship, then, it might be reasoned by some, there is really no difference to be made in coming together in an assembly for worship other than just being a part of life. Worship in an assembly, then, is not based on any patterns, so we can do in our assemblies what we would do in any other context. There is no real difference. The distinctions are blurred. There is nothing particularly special about worship in an assembly context. In fact, it’s not really worship as much as it is encouragement for each other.

Concepts of “worship” are distinguished in Scripture, which shows that worship can be a purposeful act aside from “all of life.” Paul went up to Jerusalem “to worship” (Acts 24:11, which uses proskuneo, to bow down, show reverence). Abraham went up the mountain to worship (Gen 22:5). Worship, in this sense, is something that has a starting and stopping point, a time and place. We can go “to worship” (which is active). As such, it is distinguished from normal activities of life—the same activities that are part of our daily self-sacrifice to God. If no distinction is to be made, then why do the Scriptures make one? Wasn’t Paul already worshipping with his life when he went up to Jerusalem to worship?

The question is, do we, in our assemblies, have specified actions God wants us to do together that may be called worship? Can we not call singing praises to God worship (Eph 5:19-20)? Or giving thanks and praise in prayer together? Even an unbeliever, if convicted in an assembly, might “fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Cor 14:25). Yes, worship can take place in a special way, distinguished from the idea that “all of life is worship.” No, the exact Greek term for “worship” need not be used to recognize this is what it is (“praise,” for example, would make the same point).

Some of the talk about worship seems to be a reaction to what many have, through the years, called “the five acts of worship” in assemblies. I’ve never been a fan of that terminology, and I feel no need to try to put all of this in a neat little box just for rhetorical purposes. Some of what we do in assemblies is meant for edification of each other (preaching, teaching), and so one might question whether or not such is “worship” in a strict sense. The question is, what do we see Christians doing together in the context of a purposefully assembled congregation? 1 Corinthians 14 is sufficient to show that they did worship God together in song and prayer. They did teach and edify. They did partake of the Lord’s Supper (cf. 1 Cor 11:18ff). These were purposeful, specific actions they performed in assemblies as a congregation meeting for that purpose, and abuses were chastised. Not everything was acceptable to God in those assemblies.

What’s the reason of all this? Even if one wants to argue that “all of life is worship” based on the need to be living sacrifices, such does not negate the need to assemble with saints on the first day of the week for purposeful actions of worship and edification together, as authorized by God and according to His grace. We cannot excuse ourselves from being part of a group on the basis that “all of life is worship,” nor can we use our purposed assembly times to just do whatever we wish based on a failure to distinguish concepts of worship. God is always in charge of His worship, and we are still responsible for following His will when we come together in those purposed assemblies.

Make your life a life of worship, but also make the assemblies with the saints a special time of worship and edification. Never neglect one for the other, but strive to keep your life and worship in harmony. If our lives really are worshipful, then our assemblies together will truly be special as we raise our voices as one in praise and seek to teach and edify each other for deeper growth in knowledge and spirituality.

1. Geisler, Norman, and Ronald M. Books. Come, Let us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1990.

2. Kreeft, Peter. Socratic Logic. 3rd ed. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine, 2008.

Doy Moyer

The Greatest Commandment, By Doy Moyer

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Matt 22:34-40

Why is loving God the greatest commandment? In a nutshell, because it gets to the foundation of our true motivation for serving God. It strips away our pretensions and forces us to come to terms who we really are and what our purposes are.

There are some commands that we can outwardly and ritualistically do by rote. We can attend assemblies. We can mouth the words of songs and prayers, we can take the bread and fruit of the vine of the Lord’s Supper, and we can put on an outward show that may fool those around us. But loving God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind is not something that we can ultimately fake. The actions are outward, but this command goes to the very depth of our being. We don’t want simply to be “attenders”; we want to be sacrifices.

Sometimes we focus on the outward items, but must never neglect the heart and mind. Loving God this way means giving him every fiber of our being — truly denying self and giving ourselves as complete sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him (Rom 12:1-2).

God has never accepted mere ritualism. Just read the prophets, where you will find some of the strongest rebuke and judgment geared toward ritualism (cf. Isa 1). It wasn’t acceptable then; it isn’t acceptable now. God deserves our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Nothing is left untouched.

To see this point even more, let’s look to a couple other passages:

1. Matthew 15. Recall that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees here for placing their tradition on par with or above God’s commandments. Then, He quoted Isaiah: You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors ME with their lips, But their heart is far away from ME. ‘But in vain do they worship ME, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

This is taken from Isaiah 29, where God is, in no uncertain terms, pronouncing judgment on a wicked and obstinate people — His people here, Jerusalem, not the surrounding nations. According to verse 13, their “reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” There was no heart and soul in their relationship with God, and so they were ripe for idolatry, deaf and blind like the idols they served, unable to appreciate what God had done for them.

2. Deuteronomy 6, where the original command to love God with all the heart was given. Here we should notice the close connection to the first of the Ten Commandments. After the initial command is given to love God, He then tells them to pass the instruction on to their children, to make it permanent, not just on the frontals of their foreheads or the doorposts of their houses and gates, but in their hearts. They were to make sure they remembered this as they entered the land and built their houses and enjoyed the fruit of the land. Why? Verses 12-15 answers: “then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.”

What intrigues me here is the relationship to the first of the Ten Commandments: 1) Have no other gods before Me; 2) Make no graven images; 3) Do not take the Lord’s name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. In Deuteronomy, He says to fear only the Lord, worship Him and swear by His name; don’t follow any other gods.

Here’s the point. A person might outwardly keep the Sabbath. A person might not make a graven image. He may not even take the Lord’s name in vain through falsely swearing by Him. A man might do that without truly loving God. But the one thing he could not do without loving God with all the heart, was to have no other gods before Him. How so? Having another god before Yahweh was more than just having a material image to bow down to; it is more than outward action. It is deeply connected to what is in the heart. If a man places, in his own mind, anything before God Almighty, then he has violated the point of this command.

So it is with us, for if God is not first in all, then, we have made gods of ourselves. Loving God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind places our own deaf and blind gods, whether in mind or in material, on the altar to be burned up and forever laid to rest.

Doy Moyer

viahttp://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/10/the-greatest-commandment.html

A People Set For Restoration

This week I posed what I suspected would be a valuable question: “In your experience, or studied understanding, what are some “poor excuses” for multiple churches/congregations who “teach the same things” in a given locality? Feel free to respond privately as well.” I received a wide range of responses both publicly and in a private format.  At a later point I will address some of those comments. For today I thought it best to consider how things are, rather than how did get here. With that in mind, and know that many hurt as I do about the deep divison among those who claim to follow the Christ

Be Forgiving

If you really want reconciliation, our foremost importance is the ability to forgive and let the hardness of the past fade. We all know it hurt, but will it not hurt more to let the injury exist untended?

21Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22J*sus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.g

23“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.h 24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.i 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servantj fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,k and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,l until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 ESV)

Be Ready for Forgivness

I have lost track of how often folks worry so deeply if the one they hurt will or could ever forgive them. When they finally build up the courage they need to beg for forgiveness they often behave with such amazement! They wonder how it is they could ever have waited so long to have things right again. If you really want to be a person set for reconciliation, be ready to accept forgiveness openly.

7A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13Jesus said to her,“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.b The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:7-15 ESV)

Be A Disciple

Jesus declared a simple truth:

15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15 ESV)

Instill within yourself a deep love of Christ, and you will find yourself seeking to be at peace with God and if possible all men. Were there one thing you could do to help build a bridge, it would be to teach people to love the Christ.

Be An Example

Finally make sure you show reconciliation both in matters involving those who claim Christ, but also to all men.

6If you put these things before the brothers,a you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10For to this end we toil and strive,b because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

11Command and teach these things. 12Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,c so that all may see your progress. 16Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:6-16 ESV)

I Don’t Remember Chemistry And I’m Not Homeless by STEPHEN ALTROGGE

Is it just me or is there a lot of pressure on parents to provide their children with the absolute perfect environment for growth? We are told that our children need to be breast fed, need listen to classical music, need to be able to read by age four, need to play sports, need to play an instrument, need to be involved in theater, need to know Latin, need to experience the world broadly, need to understand various philosophical arguments, need lots of friends, need solitude, need to be nurtured, need tough love, and on and on and on. If we don’t provide these things for our children their growth will be stunted and they may end up as a hobo or drug dealer.

Talk about a lot of pressure! Who can possibly do all these things? I certainly can’t.

But is it possible we’re setting the bar too high for ourselves and our children? That maybe we’re getting a little carried away? And that maybe, just maybe, we’re going beyond what God requires of us as parents?

Let me be honest, I don’t remember much from my many years of schooling. And don’t get me wrong, I did pretty well in school. I don’t say this to brag (because honestly I’m not too impressed) but I graduated from college Suma Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA. I was very good at gaming standardized tests.

Yet despite my decent performance in school I don’t remember much. I can’t remember all the elements on the periodic table. I can’t remember all the countries in Africa even though I was forced to memorize them. I can’t remember who was the governor of Massachussets in 1843 even though I took Advanced Placement History. I think James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers but I’m not sure. The only Latin phrase I know is “Carpe Diem” and I got that from the movie Dead Poet’s Society. I never played lacrosse or took part in a school play.

Let me tell you what I do remember.

I remember coming downstairs every morning and seeing my dad reading his Bible.

I remember all the times I went fishing with my dad.

I remember all the music we jammed out to as a family, including Billy Joel, Sting, The Beatles, dc Talk, and Peter Gabriel. The constant presence of music in our house gave me a love for music as well as a biblical framework to interpret music.

I remember my mom and dad’s constant, appropriate physical affection. I remember that they always told me how much they loved me. I remember sitting in church and feeling my mom’s loving hand on my back.

I remember our morning family devotions even though I often fell asleep during those devotions.

I remember seeing my dad serve my mom when she was battling depression. He made dinners, did dishes, and cleaned up after us.

I remember totaling my parents car and neither of them getting angry at me.

I remember my dad telling me he didn’t care what career I chose as long as I followed Jesus.

I remember all the fun books we read together as a family, which in turn instilled a passion for reading and learning in me.

Education and extracurricular activities are good and important. But maybe they’re not as important as we think. What’s most important is that we teach our children to love Jesus, love others, and be servants. If they know Latin, great. But if not it’s really okay.

Don’t feel guilty for falling short of your own unrealistic, extra-biblical standards. There are only a few things in life which really, really matter. Focus on those things and the rest will fall into place.

via: http://www.theblazingcenter.com/2013/09/i-dont-remember-chemistry-and-im-not-homeless.html

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Called to Lead: 26 Leadership Lessons from the Life of the Apostle Paul, by John MacArthur

Another valuable read, though at times sprinkled with his own denominational leanings. John MacArthur is a noted author and provides a nice counter piece on developing leadership. He pulls away from the common cyclical themes shown in most corporate/business focused works and seeks to present a Biblical model of success. With his emphasis on Paul we can hopefully learn some vital principles to help those who lead, lead well.
available at Amazon: Called to Lead: 26 Leadership Lessons from the Life of the Apostle Paul

Growing Up with Social Media

via Letterbox:

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As society hurtles towards its increasingly digital future, we all have to accept that children are starting their journey into the online world at a much younger age than any of us did and experience far fewer barriers (they’ll never know how lucky they are not to hear a dial-up tone). LETTERBOX has been looking into the effects that the digital age is having on younger minds and has generated the fascinating infographic below that’s teeming with interesting details.

For example, did you know that there are more than 5 million users below the age of ten on Facebook, despite the minimum age requirement being 13? Of these users, over 200,000 of them are aged six or younger. These statistics and others listed below all point to the incredible fact that the average age for a child to start regularly consuming online media is now only 8-years-old.

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Some of the statistics covered in our infographic may seem shocking, but they’re not necessarily doom and gloom statistics. Here at LETTERBOX, we realise that the future of entertainment is increasingly becoming screen-based, but we believe there can be a healthy balance between traditional entertainment and online interaction in your child’s life.

Talking to mothers of young children, we found that the online safety of youngsters is a very common worry. Amelia Henderson, a 34-year-old mother from Kent told us about her own concerns.

“My nine-year-old was so insistent that she wanted a Facebook account, but I was so worried about her signing up. I’m glad to see from this research that my concerns are a common challenge for young people online,” she said. “Children’s tablets and other online parental tools are giving me the confidence that the web can be safe.”

One innovation we are planning to bring into the LETTERBOX collection in time for our autumn catalogue is the Kurio children’s tablet computer. This 7-inch Android powered device features extensive and easily configurable parental settings. These can control when and for how long the tablet can be used, what can be viewed online, which apps can be accessed and many other aspects. The Kurio isn’t a dumbed down child’s tablet, but is a fully featured device that has been designed and optimised for a younger audience.

We still strongly believe that traditional values are an important part of every childhood, even with the surge in interactive media and online interaction outlined in this infographic. Our collection will always include traditional fun such as doll houses, learning toys, outdoor games and so much more to keep children’s playful imaginations as bright as they always have been.