Every church is changing. Even though the gospel is unchanging, every church is an expression of the gospel through their language, culture and time. But as the culture, language and time outside of the church continues to change, and each church’s cultural expression will fall behind if it does not change. No church that prevails in this culture can measure itself by other normal, or even “successful,” churches. Even growing churches tend to grow because they are “better” when compared with other churches, which means that often these churches grow because people transfer from other churches. There is some growth by conversion, but very little even in most growing churches. Continue reading Our changing church
We have a team in the Dominican Republic this year painting buildings, praying for families, teaching Vacation Bible School, and leading students in small group ministries. They do all this while, most importantly, sharing the Good News of the gospel of Jesus. Pray for them, and check below throughout their trip for updates as the team invests in the Dominican Republic! Continue reading 2018 Dominican Republic Team Updates
For 2000 years Christians have believed in the authority of the Bible as an inspired document. Christians have believed that God’s inspiration of the Scriptures has left us with a written word that is both infallible and inerrant. That is, that the original manuscripts of the original authors are inspired by God while simultaneously being the product of the intellect and personality of the human biblical author. This means that the Scripture is both the product of the writing of men and the inspiration of God. Yet, because Scriptures are inspired by God, they are fully trustworthy and without error in the original manuscripts.
To confirm or deny this belief, we can look and see if there is anything in Scripture that can be proven false or that is self-contradictory. Because of this, those who have resisted believing in the authority of the Bible have often pointed out passages that they believe are in contradiction to each other—what we might call “apparent contradictions.”
I have been considering dozens of these apparent contradictions for more than 20 years. In general, I find that they are very easily resolved and are not contradictions at all. However, the solutions to some are easier than others. The most difficult I have ever come across is the apparent contradiction of Mark 6:8 compared to Luke 9:3 and Matthew 10:10.
Mark 6:8-9 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.
Matthew 10:10 Take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.
Luke 9:3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.
The apparent contradiction is that in Mark the disciples are instructed to take a staff, and in Matthew and Luke they are instructed not to take a staff. This appears to be as obvious and direct a contradiction as could be possible. Perhaps the best analysis of solutions to this problem is still the article “Staff or No Staff?” in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly by Barnabas Ahern from July 1943. Continue reading Staff or no staff: the worst Bible “contradiction”
“Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.”
This year as a church, we’ve been focusing on joy. So I am a little embarrassed to admit that also this year, I’ve struggled to feel joyful. Instead, the circumstances in my life in the last few months have brought out more shame, insecurity, and sin that needs to be weeded out. And anxiety and depression feel like deep waters always on the brink of bursting through a weary, old dam. Continue reading Fighting for Joy through Devotional Time
All of the Gospel writers explain Jesus as the “Son of God.” Mark 1:1 says, “the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” John was written partially to a large Greek audience, whose Greek gods were often fornicating and siring illegitimate children. So using “Son of God” as the first and primary explanation of the identity of Jesus may have seemed problematic. So John says, “in the beginning was the word.” In Greek the logos, which we translate “word,” was something that was co-eternal with absolute reality, was built into the logic of creation, and was the absolute mind of all true divinity. So that may have seemed like a better idea as an introduction for John than “Son of God.” But John still uses this title as early as John 1:34, and ties it to the idea of him being the “Lamb of God” in John 1:36.
In Matthew, the disciples call Jesus the Son of God when he calms the storm, but he doesn’t say it explicitly about himself until his trial (as a dramatic climax) in Matthew 26:63-64. Then the title is repeated three times in Matthew 27.
Luke’s gospel starts with the miraculous origins of Jesus, and then he is called the Son of God in Luke 3:22 by the voice of God. Immediately following that, Luke includes the genealogy that shows that Jesus is the son of Adam, the son of Abraham, the son of David, and the son of Zerubbabel, and is in the proper line of the Son of Man, who is the Son of God and the Messiah King. This fact—that he is the Son God—is then the first thing challenged by Satan in the temptations of chapter 4. Jesus isn’t called the Son of God again until Luke 22:70.
So, although all of the Gospel writers claim that Jesus is the son of God, all of them take great pains to fill out the concept to avoid misunderstanding. And this was rightly done. Continue reading What Does “Son of God” Really Mean?
by Dietrich Gruen
This Mother’s Day I invite you to reflect on whatever legacy your mom has passed along to you, while I do the same. The vignettes I share will spark similar thoughts of your own mom, I hope.
Mary Gruen first celebrated Mothers’ Day as a new mom in 1950, the year she gave birth to me. That, of course, was her first legacy to me—life, but she also passed along the legacy of faith. I came to faith in college February 27, 1971, when I experienced a “second birth” at the height of the Jesus Movement, amidst the Vietnam War protest era. When calling home to say, “I found Christ,” my mom had a testimony of her own to share with me, then added, “I have been praying for you, for this God-moment, six years now.” So it is my mom who preceded me and interceded for me in matters of faith.
How about you, were you raised by a mom who prayed for you every day, or are you praying that way now?
Mary Gruen also gifted me and led me into a life of serving others, sharing the love of God. She was a throwback to that era of stay-at-home moms who were fulltime volunteers—in the school (president of the PTA), in scouts (den mother), in her church (treasurer, newsletter editor, quilter), in the neighborhood (community organizer), and in retirement (hospice volunteer). I got to see love-in-action, and grew up secure in that love and learned to find and give love to others in this world.
We all grow up learning what our parent models for us. How about you, what did you learn from the way your mom lived? And if you are a mom, what are your kids learning from who you are?
The mothers we learn from need not be our own. When asked, “What makes you keep on going and giving as much as you do?” Mom would always harken back to a life-changing meeting with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Mother Teresa, upon greeting her guests, took Mary’s hand in both of hers, saying, “I don’t want your money. When you return home, I want you to look about you. When you look, I want you to see. And what you see, I want you to do something about.”
Mary Gruen did just that, adopting the poor as her life’s calling, serving in places and doing ministry eerily similar to me…. With the Lower Cape Cod Outreach—a nonprofit much like Middleton Outreach Ministry, where I served as its Executive Director (1997-2008)…. In a walk-in medical clinic and drove the elderly on appointments—much like I am doing now as a medical driver with Richwood Transport! Mom was also a hospice volunteer, holding the hand of 25 residents as they died. I would do the same, beginning with holding her hand at her death; six years later I entered hospice ministry myself, as a chaplain with Generations Home Care & Hospice.
Moms do not create either monsters or angels, but provide the conditions—the physical and spiritual and emotional DNA—for what God will do. Moms of all types—midwives and grandmothers, career and stay-at-home moms, praying moms and task-master moms, nannies and nurses, school moms and den mothers—all those women God will use to shape us. Those who bring us into the world, those who raise us in the home, in the faith, in school, on the athletic fields, who work us and pray for us—God gave us the moms (and dads!) we needed to shape us into the person we’ll become.
And we are still becoming. God is not finished with any of us.