Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I realized I forgot to mention that I am on holidays this week. Will post again next week.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baptism of Jesus

I have been sick for the past couple of days - if you could pray for me that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Matthew 3:13-17

I have often wondered why Jesus gets baptized by John. He says it is "to fulfill all righteousness". But I haven't always been clear on what he means by that statement. John's baptism was a baptism of repentance and Jesus was sinless so he did not have to repent.
Was this some way of identifying with John and/or the people who were coming to John?

What do you think?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rethink your conference

The conference I am part of, Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (EMMC), is in the process of discussing our core values. If you are part of the conference I invite you to jump over to rethink your conference and join the conversation. But I would love to hear what any of you think - so feel free to post your thoughts here.
There are three core values purposed:

Radical Discipleship - Jesus Christ is the center of our faith
  1. We accept Jesus as both Savior and Lord and live in relationship with him
  2. Accepting Jesus as Savior means we trust him for forgiveness and eternal life
  3. Accepting Jesus as Lord means following him in daily life
  4. We interpret the Bible from a Christ-centered point of view
Authentic Community - Christ-centered Community is the center of our life.
  1. We move beyond individualism to enter the fellowship of Christ’s church.
  2. The experience and practice of forgiveness is the means toward community.
  3. We structure our churches to facilitate community.
  4. We read and interpret Scriptures in the context of community.
  5. Christian community models hope for the world.

Active Reconciliation - Reconciliation is the center of our work and witness.
  1. We call all persons everywhere to be reconciled to God.
  2. We invite all persons to experience the reconciliation of personal healing.
  3. We encourage all people to seek reconciliation in personal relationships.
  4. We work and pray for peace in all areas of conflict and injustice in the world.
  5. We commit ourselves to live in harmony with God’s creation.

Are these good core values? Should we drop some of them? Are we missing something?

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Religious

Matthew 3:1-12
Why does John call the religious people a "brood of vipers"? Why does he tell them to "bear fruit worthy of repentance"?
In Luke's gospel John's message of repentance is directed to everyone who comes to him. But Matthew notes that John specifically targeted the religious with this message. Why?
I mean it makes sense to tell "sinners" to repent. Prostitutes, tax-collectors (who in that society were really traitors to their country and God), gang members, pagans, atheists, liars, cheaters, adulterers and people like that need to change. But John directs his message to the religious.

Could it be that we, the religious, need to repent of:
  • Using religion as a cover up for our own sin. Instead of examining ourselves we simply see the wickedness of those who are not part of our religious group.
  • Using religion as a way to get power. We tell people that in order to be faithful to God they must submit to the religious organization. This can be blatant or very subtle, like using guilt to get volunteers to run programs.
  • Using religion to keep God at a distance. Instead of getting to know God we make spirituality about obeying a list of rules.
Could it be that being religious actually makes it more difficult to experience God's grace?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Intercultural symposium

This morning I attended a seminar called Intercultural Symposium. The intent of the seminar was to help congregations "to embrace the mission at our doorstep". Presenting were Sam Owusu, Andrew Lau and David Macfarlane (David was the speaker at the EMMC gathering in the summer).
I found Sam's presentation very interesting. He argued that in order to be faithful to the bible our churches need to be multi-cultural. Sam pointed to many different passages. It was fascinating to here him read the bible as an immigrant with a multi-cultural prespective. One passage that struck me was Revelation 7:9-10.
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."
Sam pointed out that worship in heaven is diverse. Once we are in heaven we don't simply become one culture rather it is a gathering of all cultures. And then he pointed out that we pray "your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." So, aren't we praying that our churches become multi-cultural?
I think he is right. If the church truly embraces the great commands - love God and love others - and the great commission - make disciples of all nations - then we will be multi-cultural.

However I still have some questions, like:
If we are suppose to be multi-cultural does this mean that we should no longer start churches that target a certain ethnic group?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Jesus and John

Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist comes across as a fiery, wild, crazy man. He shows up in the dessert and preaches that people must repent. Then when the people who are religious show up he calls them a "brood of vipers". He tells them that they have to "bear fruit worthy of repentance".

How does this message line up with Jesus?
Compare Matthew's summary of John's message with his summary of Jesus' message: Matthew 3:2 and Matthew 4:17
Some other texts to ponder
Matthew 7:21-27
Matthew 12:33-37
Matthew 23:12-36

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

John the Baptist

John the Baptist comes as the forerunner of Jesus. Matthew 3:2 gives a summary of John's message:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
The kingdom of heaven refers to the rule and reign of God. John is saying that God is near. God is about to establish his rule and reign. John views himself as standing as standing on the edge of time. God is about to do something new - he is about to act in decisive way.
Once God acts then all the other kingdoms because meaningless. All the rulers, powers, authorities of this world are subdued before God.
The only way respond according to John is to repent. This is more than just a mental decision. Repentance affects the way that we live. No longer live as if the rulers of this world are in charge. We live believing, completely convinced, that God rules.

Who are the rulers in our world? How do we live under their power? What does it look like to live under the power of God?

Friday, October 02, 2009

What about the other babies?

I hate this story. The story that Matthew tells in chapter 2. The one about Herod "the great" killing all the boy children in and around Bethlehem in his attempt to kill Jesus. I read in some commentaries about how God's grace works in this situation by saving Jesus. Jesus' dad, Joseph, is warned to flee in a dream. But all I can think about is "what about the other babies?" Why did God not save them?
Now I have intellectual answers for all this. We can talk about free choice, about how free choice is necessary for there to be love. And that choices have consequences both for the good and bad.
Imagine being a parent. Or an older sibling. Soldiers show up and kill your baby. The anger, the rage, the pain. Intellectual answers would be somewhat empty to say the very least.
And the really tragic thing is that within our history this is not an isolated event. But it is something that is constantly repeated again and again. Those with power killing, abusing, those who are weak. Our world is totally messed up.

And I guess that is why we need a savior.