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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Armor of God

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
- Ephesians 6:10-17

People connect with this passage for many reasons. For some, it inspires them to find strength in God - as one Christian said, "to use God wholly and not just when it is convenient for us." Others utilize it as a checklist - what is my personal belt of truth or breastplate of righteousness? While I agree with both of these opinions, this passage speaks more powerfully than that.

Ephesians 6:10 - 17, in its entirety, is a call to war.

As John MacArthur put it, "Repeatedly in Scripture, the Christian life is seen as warfare". We are in a battle - a battle that has been progressing since the beginning. And when you have chosen to follow Christ and take up your cross, this is what you are entering in to. It is a battle of good vs. evil. As Christians, we know good will prevail, for the only thing good is God (Mk. 10:18, Lk. 18:19). We can read the book of Revelations and see the end of the story - but we also see the "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" Paul speaks about trying like hell to succeed.

What about this passage specifically communicates war?

First, the language Paul uses reveals the war motif. Looking at the time period in which Paul was preaching, we see the Roman world as a powerful force. They have the technology and the war intelligence to fashion armor at this period. One does not put on armor unless entering into battle.

Second, we have an affirmation of who our enemy is. We must put on the full armor to stand against the "devil's schemes", "the rulers", "the authorities", the "powers of this dark world", and the "spiritual forces of evil". That is quite a list. We are not talking about weak enemies here, they are rulers and authorities. To fight a strong enemy, we need strong armor.

Third, the type of armor matters. Paul states that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. We cannot fight this battle with physical swords and breastplates. We have to have spiritual protection because we have a spiritual enemy.

The point of this passage is not to simply inspire us to trust God, or to make a moral inventory documenting for ourselves what tools we have. It is a call, a loud one, to realize what we chose when we chose Christ. We chose the narrow path. We chose a path of persecution. We chose the path of war. It would be unwise for us to send a soldier into war without the proper training and armor. Why are we entering a battle without putting on these tools that are provided for us, and frankly, spelled out for us.

My pastor commented on what a shame it is that we have such growing access to the Bible in numerous translations, yet there is such a rapidly declining knowledge of the Bible in the world. How can this be? I am tired of this "meek and mild" Jesus presented so often. I am tired of hearing the phrase "God of love" taken out of context. Our God is a warrior. Our God is willing to fight for us.

I leave this passage with a challenge for you. Let us consider who we are fighting. There are too many people who proclaim to be followers of Christ who waste their time arguing over denominational issues. Here we have a completely transparent verse from the Bible written by Paul clearly proclaiming what and who we should be fighting against. How many of us have buckled the belt of truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, fit our feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace, taken up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, or the sword of the Spirit and armored ourselves against the flaming arrows of the evil one?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Christian Ethics: Doctrine of the Trinity

  In Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, p. 177, De La Torre contends that the doctrine of the Trinity “maintains that it is God’s nature to share. God invites all to share divinity and power with God and each other, or as Paul would promise, to become ‘coheirs with Christ’ (Rom. 8:17).” He goes on to argue that the model of the Trinity “calls for the dismantling of social structures that maintain economic injustices and dominance and oppression that foster marginalization. How, then, can those who insist on maintaining their power and privilege become part of the body of Christ?”

What is your response to De La Torre’s claim? How might the doctrine of the Trinity be taught in your church to summon believers to relinquish their privileges for the sake of a more just social and economic order?

First, De La Torre states that "Those doing ethics from the margins believe that Jesus, and all the prophets before him, understood God's reign to mean a striving toward establishing the Trinity model as the foundation for a social order where justice prevails for all. God's reign is not limited to the other-worldly, but also exists in the here and now". (De La Torre, 177). I have a few statements to make here. Will we ever abolish poverty before the new heaven and the new earth? I say no, per Mark 14:7 ("For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me), then the answer is, no. Understanding Jesus' words can prevent our brothers and sisters from being overwhelmed and "burning out" from the overwhelming reality of the poor in the world. If God's reign is in the here and now, BUT not fully realized, then poverty cannot be abolished....right now. However, how does one define "poor"? I do not see this topic discussed in De La Torre. I have been quite content and happy living on Top Ramen in my life. Is this what we are to abolish? The poverty in which one cannot even sustain oneself or their family due to social, political, or economic reasons? Where do we draw the real line for those poor in the world in which they are no longer classified as "poor"? The way that the United States define the "poor" is not realistic with the cost of living for example, in California. But how does this compare to Darfur? Not even close. We as Christians are compelled to do our best to eliminate poverty that prevents people from living by having access to the basic human rights: food, clean water, and housing. However, we are instructed to create the opportunity for these people to hear the Gospel message.
I have issues with the doctrine of the Trinity per De La Torre because it is in my opinion, taken out of context. If I should give up the few dollars that I have in order to help a brother or sister, I will do it and I have done this in the past. However, it makes no difference if they do not receive the Gospel message...what good have I really done? Sustained them for a day, week, or month? Big deal! The "good works" that I do mean nothing...the Good Works that He places in my path are His Good Works and are the Lords Good Works. There is a difference between the two. This is what I believe De La Torre is trying to explain, but fails to make a clear distinction.

Christian Ethics: The Poor

Question: Although many churches provide some services for the poor, such as handing out bags of groceries or assisting in the ministries of rescue missions, churches often stop short of addressing causes of poverty embedded in existing social structures, or speaking out against economic policies and practices that worsen the condition of the poor. In light of this week’s readings and lectures, how do you understanding the church’s responsibility to the poor? What steps can you take to raise your church’s awareness of and resistance to social and economic forces that aggravate poverty?

My understanding of the church's responsibility to the poor is that we must focus our attention to helping the poor through a two way approach. One, we take care of the physical needs in order to bring about a spiritual solution. If one is hungry, feed them soup and whatever else they need in order to feed them the Gospel message. Feeding them once or twice and never discussing the transforming message of the Gospel is a mistake. This is what I hear in the statement of Ronald Sider's book that "Sider has argued forthrightly that prayers and spiritual deliverance, not programs and social service deliver, must be ever at the heart of Christian anti-poverty efforts" (11). Why not feed the body and also the soul? How often do we feed the poor and feel that we are imposing on them with our "religion". This is not right.
Second, if the tobacco and alcohol companies have lobbyists in Washington DC and state capitols, then so should we. Yes, most churches give money or have some sort of outreach to the poor, but not a representative on Capitol Hill. Why not? Influence the decision makers. As one of my professors stated, our purpose in (business) ethics is to "Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comforted".

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Christian Ethics: Did Jesus Exagerrate?

Practices of Jesus
In the 1920s, German theologian Gerhard Kittel wrote, “The demands of Jesus, exaggerated to the point of paradox and nonsense…intend only to tear open and lay bare the great moral need of empirical humanity” [Gerhard Kittel, “Die Bergpredict und die Ethik des Judentums,” Zeitschrift für systematische Theologie< The Sermon on the Mount: The Modern Quest for Its Meaning (Mercer University Press, 1985), 187]. What is your response to this statement? Did Jesus exaggerate his demands “to the point of paradox and nonsense,” or did he present actual practices that we are expected to carry out? Are these practices applicable to our personal lives today? Are they to be carried out in churches? Do they apply to national and international questions of war and economics?

In regards to how humanity lives within philosophical morals and opinions, Jesus' teachings could be seen as radical and revolutionary. However, we must keep in mind the context of first century Judaism and their culture. The Pharisees and Saducees were just two groups who studied how the Law should be carried out in one's life. In this context, Jesus spoke in response to their interpretations. So, I disagree with Kittel's statement that Jesus "demands". I would rather use the word "instructs". One aspect that separates Christians from moralists, is that we may be willing to turn our cheek to our enemies and even be martyred for our faith. To a moralist who is after self-preservation in the name of peace, these acts would be a paradox and nonsense. Jesus instructs us that our yoke will be light when viewed in the context of living in this world of which we are not a part of (another paradoxical statement) and attaining eternal life. If we think that we will follow every teaching of Jesus through our own will, we will be rudely awakened by our failure. However, these are not impossible to obtain in some form of experience. Everyday, we may encounter an event that can be directly found in some form in the Gospels, and there we will find an instruction from Christ. It is not that we will experience all of these at once, but in parts as guided by the Holy Spirit. So, we are to fully follow and listen to these practices both in our personal lives and within our community of faith. We s Christians will never be a primary factor in the decisions of national and international governments about war and economics, but we have been instructed to speak up with the words of Jesus just as he did in first century Palestine.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

God's Ways are not Your Ways!

God's Ways are not Your Ways!
Time: 23 minutes

This is a podcast that explains our paper titled My Ways are not Your Ways.



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Saturday, October 10, 2009

1 Corinthians 7: Marriage and Paul Sermon

This is a sermon podcast on 1 Corinthians 7 given at the Bible Truth Fellowship on
October 4, 2009.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cultural Background and the Gospel of John

Discuss the possible cultural background of the Gospel of John. Suggest what sort of historical-cultural situation John’s Gospel might have been originally intended to address.

The Gospel of John differs from the Synoptic Gospels by “translating” certain elements when compared to the Synoptic Gospels in order to probably reach a different audience. For example, in the Gospel of John, it is mentioned that the presence of eternal life exists here and now . The New Testament speaks in a tone (in regards to eternal life) as an event to take place in the future and the Gospel of John speaks about eternal life as being already here which would be similar to the Synoptic Gospels phrase “the kingdom of God” being present now and to be fully realized in the future. This translated point that eternal life exists here and now suggests that the audience were not Jews and would not be familiar with the meaning of the phrase “the kingdom of God”. This would then suggest that the audience were Gentiles. The tradition of the Early Church holds the belief that the Gospel of John was written by either “John the Elder”, or “John the Apostle”. Even though it is uncertain who exactly wrote this Gospel, the consensus is that this Gospel was composed in Ephesus, Syria, or Alexandria . These three areas were predominately Gentile, or in the case of Alexandria, separated enough from Jewish influence that the audience would understand the changes that the Gospel of John speak of if compared to the Synoptic Gospels. When looking at the choice of words that the Gospel of John uses and in light of the historical information as to where this Gospel was composed, it is logical to suggest that the intended audience were Gentiles who would not understand Judaic concepts or beliefs.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Revelation and the People of God

In the book of Revelation, how do the people of God come to participate in the reign of God and the Lamb, what’s their role in conquering the bad guys? What are one or two implications for what we are called to as we follow Jesus today.

The people of God come to participate in the reign of God and the Lamb by becoming a saint, being part of the first resurrection of Christ, or being one of the 144,000. The role they serve in conquering the bad guys is to offer praises to the Lord. The angels of the Lord battle with Satan and his minions...there is not a reference in Revelation that any of us actually "battle" anyone. One or two implications for what we are called to as we follow Jesus today is summarized well in Revelation 14:7: ..."Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jesus in Hebrews

According to Hebrews, what is the significance of Jesus’ work for the everyday life of the people of God? How might this be applied to your contemporary context (is there something analogous to the struggles confronting the recipients of the letter)?

Jesus was the final sacrifice for sin creating a New Covenant, which ushered in a new period for all the people of God who are ruled by faith and are being "assured" of what is hoped for and certain of what is not seen (Heb. 11:1).

In regards to the work of the every day life of the people of God, we need to: keep loving each other as brothers and sisters, entertain strangers (spread the gospel message), remember those in bondage, honor marriage, keep our lives free from this world, remember our leaders (apostles), test our faith being careful not to be led astray by strange teachings, continually offer God praise, do “God’s good works” and share these with others, and pray (Heb. 13).

Applying this to our context today, not much has changed, though more stress can be put on the author's call for perseverance. Faith requires action, which is proven in the many examples in chapter 11, and we need to "draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" to follow the path God has laid out before us (Heb. 11:22).


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Paul, God, and Ecclesiology


In Paul’s letters, who is God, which is to say, how is God’s identity shaped by the scriptures of Israel and the Christ event? Answer this question in one or two sentences. Then answer this: How does the identity of God, shaped as it is by the scriptures of Israel and the Christ event, impact an argument that Paul makes about who God’s people are (ecclesiology) or what they should do (ethics) in any one passage of your choosing (restricted to Romans through Thessalonians, not the Pastoral Epistles)?


Paul brings the God of the Old Testament who was the God of the Hebrews into a new light to the rest of the world when Jesus was crucified and resurrected...Paul is bringing this same Hebrew God to the Gentiles as the Creator of all, the God of both Jew and Gentile, the God of all.

Paul's identity of God's people shaped by the scriptures of Israel and the Christ event is best summarized by the following passage:

(My statement is that the identification of God's people is the church...not a denomination...but the body of believers be it a converted Jew or converted Gentile...)

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (New International Version)

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized bya]">[a] one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.