Saturday, June 24, 2017

This week's lesson (June 24-30): Paul - apostle to the Gentiles

All through Scripture, it is clear that God has a people who love and follow Him.

All through history, it's been clear that we are that people.

And ever since Abraham, it's been clear that the definitive mark of God's people has been circumcision -- in fact, the Bible even refers to it as "an everlasting covenant."
  • Jesus was circumcised, remember.
  • The apostles were all circumcised.
  • And while God may have reached out to the Gentiles in love, there is no evidence from Scripture that He has ever intended them to be the leaders of God's people.
To be sure, the Apostle Paul has written that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" -- but however true this may be spiritually, the fact remains that all these distinctions are still binding socially.
That is why we must resist recent attempts to make our churches "politically correct."
Yes, that is why Gentiles must not be ordained. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

This week's lesson (June 17-23): major themes in 1 & 2 Peter

"Respect all human authority," it says in 1 Peter.

"Submit to governing authorities," it says in Romans.

"Pray for all those in authority," it says in 1 Timothy.

So that's what I've been doing.

Ever since January 20, I've added a prayer for the President to my pastoral prayer at church. "Bless our President," I say, "that he might govern with wisdom, humility, and justice."

Has it changed him?

Dunno.

Has it changed me?

Dunno.

Have I received a lot of feedback on this from church members?

Oh yeah!
  • Some have taken this as a show of support for the President.
  • Some have wondered if this is an ironic critique of the President.
  • And one member told me that, "You can pray for him -- but he's not my President!"
All of which suggests that we're still struggling with the central question of 1 & 2 Peter -- the question of how we follow God in an imperfect world. (Or as Bruce Springsteen put it, "How do we keep our ideals after we've lost our illusions?")

Do I have an answer?

Not yet.

Do my church members agree on what that answer might be?

Not yet.

And that, in itself, is reason enough to pray.

Friday, June 16, 2017

This week's lesson (June 10-16): the Day of the Lord

I may need to rethink this whole business of survivalism, a.k.a. "prepping."

Read 2 Peter 3, after all, and you'll find lots of stuff about THE END OF TIME . . .

But not much stuff about bug-out bags.

Or MREs.

Or how to prevent scurvy with spruce-needle tea.

And yes, it tells us to prepare for THE END.

But it does so by urging us to live "holy and godly lives."

To live "peaceful lives that are pure and blameless."

And "to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ."

All of which may be useful in THE END OF TIME . . .

But all of which sound suspiciously like the way I'm supposed to live every day.

Friday, June 09, 2017

This week's lesson (June 3-9): False Teachers

The best commentary on 2 Peter 2:1-22 comes from a Conference President -- one who told me "there are three things that get pastors in trouble: power, sex, and money."

"And since their sexual problems usually grow out of control issues," he added, "this means the three things that get pastors in trouble are are power, power, and money."

"And yes, their money problems also grow out of control issues -- and you know what that means? It means the three things that get pastors in trouble are power, power, and power."

Go -- and don't do likewise.


Friday, June 02, 2017

This week's lesson (May 27-June 2): Prophecy and Scripture

You know the drill:
1. An issue comes up -- could be weddings rings, could be same-sex marriage, could be the age-old question of "Will my dog be in heaven?" . . . but whatever it is, it seems to pit the personal experience of church members against the message of Scripture and/or Ellen White. 
2. A team of theological experts is assigned to look into this issue -- and after much study, a report is issued that explains What Inspiration Actually Says About this Subject (WIASAS). 
3. Upon completion of the WIASAS report, the issue is Official Declared to be Settled (ODS), and the church moves on . . . 
Or not.

Now compare this with what happens in 2 Peter 1:16-20:
1. The author gives his story, i.e. what he actually experienced. 
2. The author gives the message of Scripture, i.e. what it actually says. 
3. And the author explains how he story of his personal experience helps shape his understanding of Scripture . . . AND his reading of Scripture helps shape how he understands his own personal experience.
In short, it's not Personal Experience OR the Meaning of Scripture that is definitive; instead it's the two of them acting on each other in a kind of interpretative dance.

All of which suggests that the issues of our day need more than just a team of experts to tell us What Inspiration Actually Says About this Subject.

No, we also need to hear what all of God's people are saying about this subject, based on God's leading in their lives..

And then we all need discover just how these two messages -- Scripture and Experience -- can both inform each each in our church.

Just like they do in 2 Peter 1:16-20.