Underneath all the missiological mumbo-jumo

Read Matt. 10:32-33 

This just in: the Bible answers the question about how converts in hostile countries are to bear witness to Christ: Publicly. That, at least, is what Jesus said in the first Gospel. 

Underneath all the missiological mumbo-jumbo and artful dodges—often asserted by Western theoreticians ensconced by comfortable tenure, grants, and libraries—we ought not forget that our Lord answers this question in red letters. To acknowledge Christ means to be unashamed of him. Jesus thought that would be good for us in every generation and in every culture, even if persecution occurred. Calvin said that, “there is no believer whom the Son of God does not require to be his witness.”

– David Hall; A Place For Truth; “Update on the Insider Movement

Wrestling about what to give up for Lent?

When asked what he thought about Protestants observing Lent, Stone Cold had this to say:
The Miz had a question for the same Protestants:
When someone tried to tell The Rock what they’d be abstaining from, he just had one response:
Lastly, when Daniel Bryan was asked if he’d be giving anything up, only one word would suffice:
If you are not  giving anything up for Lent, there is not a single biblical command you’d be violating. Enjoy the beautiful liberty of Christ!
For those that are, don’t tell me. Really.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18, ESV)

What Don Miller gets right

Maybe I should have led with these before critiquing the Emergent Industrial Complex.  Don Miller’s post was not a complete strike out.  He may not have earned a hit, but he did put some contact to the bat in two areas below.

Pastor Todd Pruitt on Reformation 21:

Miller writes some very helpful comments about the goodness of work as a means of enjoying God. Unfortunately he sees this as an alternative to worshiping with the body of Christ on the Lord’s Day. The Reformed faith would be a great benefit for Miller in this for its robust doctrines of creation and vocation. It is the Reformers who reasserted the goodness of work as a means by which we glorify and enjoy God. But this is never to be seen as a replacement to our responsibility to gather with God’s people.”

Frank Turk’s comment on the Pyromaniac blog:

“You know what I like about Donald Miller? I like his certainty. I like the fact that, in spite of his book after book after book after movie about how much [sic] one can doubt what one is taught, he is certain he’s right. 

The reason? At least you can engage someone like that by what he actually believes rather than always swirling down the toilet of PostModernity and their so-called epistemic humility.”

Housewife Theologian Aimee Byrd in an additional article on Reformation 21 has some great thoughts on why it is important that we connect with God according to the way He has willed.  She reasons from Scripture, the authoritative source of truth for faith and practice:

“Interestingly, God has determined that all of us share in a particular so-called learning style when it comes to spiritual growth. He has prescribed a means to bless his people in Christ, the preached Word and the sacraments. And so we have Jesus declaring in the Great Commission how he will grow his kingdom: 

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20) 

And we see this very thing in Acts 2:42: 

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 

You see, learning my own way isn’t good enough. I need to be changed. And it is the power of God’s Word that does that in the means that he has prescribed. To echo Todd again, “What is more, in Christ we do not have to find ways to connect with God. God has connected to us through Christ!” Let us not refuse the Father’s generosity to bless us in the Son, who is much more than a learning style. He is worthy of our corporate worship, which is an eschatological event. It is a privilege to partake in the covenantal renewal ceremony, where we get a taste of the future breaking into the present. Like Miller, we all get caught up in our week of accomplishing and we slip into our default mode of thinking we are the ones who create meaning. But we are summoned to gather on Sunday, to be interrupted by our own thinking, stripped by the law of God, and clothed by his gospel grace. Only after this receiving Christ through his preached Word and the sacraments are we then sent out as salt and light. 

Miller reasons that he connects with God elsewhere through his own means. God has condescended to connect with his people. I would say that it is imperative that we connect with God the way he has called us to in Christ”

Reading Miller’s post produced a range of emotions to be worked through before hitting “publish”.  Ultimately, I wrote from sadness and deep grief.

Again, Pastor Todd Pruitt:

“I was sad because one cannot be a Christian and reject Christ’s body, his bride, his building. Christians are made and grown in the body of Christ. I was not, however, surprised because this is an all too predictable trajectory for those within the emergent/neo-liberal wing of Protestantism.  

I also admit to feeling sorry for Miller as I read his post. I am not trying to be condescending. He certainly does not need my pity. But pity him I do for his impoverishment of understanding of Christ and his church. As a result he is robbing himself of the very ways that God has promised to nourish him.” 

One final word from Derek Rishmawy of Christ and Pop Culture:

this article breaks my heart, because this is exactly the kind of logic that people latch on to and use as an excuse to separate themselves from the Body to the desolation of their spiritual lives. This is why pastors, preachers, and teachers in the Church can no longer avoid deep, biblical teaching on the Church. If she [the church] is to be healthy and functioning, our people must know what the Church is and why it exists beyond our own need to “connect” once a week.”

Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Soli Deo Gloria!

Bold font denotes my personal emphasis to any quotation. 
I’m happy to clarify and answer any questions in the comments. I reserve the right to delete and moderate as I see fit.

Short Treatise on the Supper

In the Great Commission, Jesus gives instruction based on His authority to call his Kingdom to Himself:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV, emphasis mine)

What is taught and commanded regarding the Supper?

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:14-20, ESV, emphasis mine)

The Apostle Paul weighs in on the importance:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, ESV, emphasis mine)

To offer the Supper is a means of preaching the Gospel, and we are exhorted to do so.

Brothers, sisters — let us come to the table today with repentant hearts and childlike faith.

But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God! (Psalm 40:16-17 ESV)

Jeremiah Twenty Nine, "Rounders" edition

One of the greatest verses of comfort and reassurance of God’s plan for your life is found in Jeremiah 29.  In the midst of Babylon’s conquest of the land, God’s assurance of His plan for His people rings out:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV).

Jeremiah reads the Words of the Lord to the people in exile in the form of a letter.  While many of us are quick to focus on verses 11 & 12, it is my feeling that ignorance of the surrounding verses (4-14) not only distorts the above verses but may strip the verses of their ultimate power when we seek direction.

It would be a mistake to take verses 11 & 12 as an instant relief to adversity.  Starting in verse 5 and continuing through 7, we see that not to be the case.

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:5-7 ESV)

In poker terms, the Lord is the Master of slow-playing His hand.  In the same way the Jews expected a violent, political revolution ending in the overthrow of the Roman empire, the exiles in Babylon almost certainly were hoping for the same thing to happen to Nebuchadnezzar.  What God has in mind is much different from this, but so much greater.

The Word of the Lord is subversive to cultures adverse to Him, because it calls us to love our neighbors (read: ENEMIES).  And as Douglas Wilson mentions here, the Lord has two ways of destroying His enemies: by actually wiping them out a la Sodom and Gomorrah, or by loving them and welcoming them into His kingdom as repentant believers.  In telling the exiles to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you,” this is His desire (emphasis mine).

If you are still following the poker reference, Nebuchadnezzar is going head-to-head with the Lord of Hosts at the final table.  Ol’ Nebby thinks he has Jehovah cornered after the flop, and is feeling even more confident at the turn.  Seeing as how God just told His people to pray for the welfare of Babylon to Him, it would almost appear God is about to throw in His cards with all of His chips on the table.  Behind his vintage Mesopotamian shades, Nebby has to be grinning between drags of his Camels.

In verses 8 and 9 it is confirmed that this is not going to be a quick deal of the cards:

For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:8-9 ESV)

And oh, are they easy to listen to.  We are constantly confronted by those who claim to be on the side of God, yet offer their consultation with little to no consideration of the Ultimate Truth.  Jesus confirms this in Matthew.  With the river card yet to come out, this is advice blatantly ignoring the fulfillment of God’s great plan.

By the time verses 10-14 are read, the river card is shown and every last chip is now sitting on the side of the table with Yahweh.  When you are playing cards against the God who made the table, the chips, the chairs, the ash trays, and you it is hard to pull an ace-in-the-hole against the Sovereign.

For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV)

In the face of adversity or a feeling of misdirection or even no-direction, it is paramount we call upon God.  He will deliver us, and it will be His great victory.  It is sin to try to force God’s hand (and fail we will each time), but there is glory and rest in the revealing of His great will from suffering to redemption.