Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Scot McKnight's new book The King Jesus Gospel

Mike Bird just posted this promo clip of Scot McKnight's new book The King Jesus Gospel.

It is really worth watching.

(Click here for Mike Bird's blog post.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

God uses the weak and lowly to show us profound truths

Sight Magazine has just published my latest article. Here is what the editor says.

"I think the educated, the unlearned, the rich, and the poor, all have gifts and talents to build up the body of Christ. The most important person in the Bible is Jesus, and He does not grade people according to their social or economic status. Our pastors, teachers and conference speakers should be people who can help us know Christ and the Scripture. Their qualifications and ministry success – or their lack of them – simply cannot be our primary focus."

"The most inspirational people are often the least known people, including those at the margins of the society."

I then survey the New Testament and find some "unknown" people who have been most inspirational. After that I look at two communities that I participate in, and show that God does speak through the weak and lowly.

Click here for the full article.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bonhoeffer on the Cross and Truth (from Nijay Gupta)

Nijay Gupta just posted this great quote from Bonhoeffer.

"The only basis of the disciples’ truthfulness is that Jesus, while we follow him, reveals our sinfulness to us on the cross. The cross as God’s truth over us is the only thing that makes us truthful. Whoever knows the cross no longer shies away from any other truth."

(Click here to Nijay Gupta's post.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Forgiveness is powerful, beautiful, messy, and risky - Tim Gombis

Tim Gombis has written a really good blog post about forgiveness.

Everything in the post is good. Here are some excerpts.

"Forgiveness is so profoundly powerful and beautiful... Forgiveness doesn’t ask for guarantees... Forgiveness takes the risk... Forgiveness doesn’t fix everything... Forgiveness doesn’t guarantee a Disney ending... Forgiveness doesn’t clean up the whole mess... Forgiveness remains difficult, complicated, risky, and profoundly beautiful."

Click here for the entire post.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some thoughts on mission (especially cross-cultural mission) - Part 2

This post continues from my last post on my thoughts on mission (which can be found here.)

The proclamation of the gospel is found throughout the narratives in the Gospels and Acts. Cross-cultural mission (and mission in general) can especially be found in Acts. But I think we need to note the content of the gospel message. The gospel message is multifaceted. Here I will list a few Scriptures. In Athens, Paul says,
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.   (Acts 17:24-25; emphasis added)
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31; emphasis added)
Later in Acts Paul recalls what Jesus said to him,
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.  I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:15b-18; emphasis added)
Paul, who was Jewish, was sent to the Gentiles and Jews alike to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Note that it is a message of the lordship of the Creator God, God's judgment with justice, repentance, forgiveness of sins, and, most importantly, the death and resurrection of Christ. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4,
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...
Here I want to point out a few things about the proclamation of the gospel.

(1) My former religion was a mixture of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and ancestral worship. One of the most significant Christian experiences for me is the fact that I am a sinner and that by God's grace my sins are forgiven. To me, Jesus is my Lord, my King and my Saviour. The lordship of Christ, I think, should be at the heart of our proclamation.

(2) The gospel message contains many elements, and should never be reduced to a simple formula. For example, the preaching of the gospel is not about "a ticket to heaven". In fact, even a casual look at the Bible passages cited above will show that the New Testament Christians did not reduce the gospel to "a ticket to heaven".

(3) In the Four Gospels we find that Jesus' call is that people may follow him as their Lord and King. The gospel is about the call to follow the crucified Christ and risen Lord - that is, the call to discipleship. And as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, discipleship is about costly grace, not cheap grace. (Click here for my post about that.) The fact that proclamation of the gospel is about discipleship is evidenced by the so-called Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus asked his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. This is not about an intellectual understanding of some formulas to get a ticket to heaven, but about proclaiming the crucified Christ and risen Lord so that people will follow his self-giving way of life.

(4) Michael Pahl speaks of our call to proclaim and live out the resurrection of the crucified Christ, and that "the church is called to enact God's program of creation renewal in this age in anticipation of the fulfillment of the renewal of creation in the age to come." I have previously blogged on what Pahl says in his book From Resurrection to New Creation (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2010). I think it is really worth reading. Click here for the blog post.

(5) It is absolutely important is that we do not see ourselves as superior to those who do not know Jesus. Christians are fellow sinners who need the grace of God for salvation. We have come to know Christ because of God's grace, not our righteousness. We are to proclaim the gospel with humility, and with sincere love for those who are living in darkness.

(To be continued.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Community: Problem solving or problem sharing? Or solidarity?

In my last post I cited some great points made by Tim Gombis. Gombis says that sometimes churches don't quite live as communities of the cross: "They imagine that the problem is the problem.  After all, churches aren’t supposed to have problems or challenges, just as individual Christians are supposed to have perfect lives.  If there’s something wrong, then there’s something wrong!"

I have some further thoughts on this.

Because of my work and ministry I have been involved in quite a few Christian communities and churches. I am concerned when the more vulnerable members of those communities are hurt or going through a difficult time. For others, these vulnerable members are the ones who have “problems”. Often sincere and committed Christians try to help them by their "problem-solving" skills, as if there are always formulas to tackle the “problems” in people’s lives. Sometimes this works. But I would prefer problem-sharing rather than problem-solving (if we insist on using the term “problem”). If we stand in solidarity with those who are hurting and those going through hard times, and if the first thing we do is to listen and share their pain, then we are on a journey together to deal with the issues that causes the hurt and pain.

I think that’s what Jesus did when he was on earth. He walked life’s journeys with his fellow human beings. He showed us what it means to be truly human – that is, someone who is willing to share the pain, suffering and injustice in this world. Yes, he taught us how to live wisely. Yes, he taught us to pray. Yes, he spoke of God's judgment and God’s love. And so should we teach others. But his message is about God’s upside-down kingdom (or right-way-up kingdom, from his perspective). It is about “those who are first will be last, and those who are last will be first”. It is about self-giving and solidarity with the poor and oppressed. I think this is where the apostle Paul gets it right – God’s wisdom is found in the crucified Christ. And it is in the crucified Christ and risen Lord that we see God's power manifest.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Let the gospel overwhelm and transform - Tim Gombis

Here are some excerpts from Tim Gombis's recent post in his blog. I think they are excellent.

"It seems to me that the New Testament assumes the constant rehearsal of the story of Scripture in order to shape the identity of God’s people.  We get to know God and his ways with his people as we have our imaginations shaped by the narrative of Scripture.  That’s the resurrection-powered world we inhabit, with all its possibilities, its dynamics, and its causes and effects."

"God works in power only through communities of the cross.  God unleashes resurrection power only among cruciform communities of humility and weakness.  God’s people, therefore, can adopt postures of humility toward one another and call out to God for wisdom to find a way forward through any challenge.  They then put their heads together and commit to the hard work of discussing and listening to one another in order to creatively come up with a way to deal with whatever challenge they face."

"It seems to me that here is where churches sometimes fail.  They imagine that the problem is the problem.  After all, churches aren’t supposed to have problems or challenges, just as individual Christians are supposed to have perfect lives.  If there’s something wrong, then there’s something wrong!"

"I hate Christian clich├ęs, but I’ve never forgotten this one: “the end is the process.”"

"The goal is not simply to get rid of the problem or to get past the obstacle as quickly as possible.  The goal is to go through the hard work of discussing and listening in order to strengthen the bonds of community through that whole messy process.  Get people involved, let people give advice and counsel.  Cultivate openness, honesty, and vulnerability.  Giving people opportunities just might allow them to discover their gifts and capacities to contribute to a community.  It will allow a church to actually do the “one-anothers” of church life."

"[Y]ou only lose when you try to win.  God has already pledged his allegiance to us in Jesus, so we can’t lose.  We’re already loved by God despite our failures, sins, and shameful pasts, so there’s no way we can fail.  If working through a difficulty as a community takes more time than we thought, that’s okay.  If we think we’re going to miss out on great opportunities because we’re doing the hard work of making sure everyone is unified, that’s okay, too.  Like I said, the whole point is the process, and we win when we remain unified and grow in love for one another."

Click here to read the full blog post.