Changes

Am a little late to getting around to this but I wanted to post here an update about this blog.

In the last couple months I have started pastoring at a church in the Littleton Colorado area called Calvary Baptist Church.  Crystal and I have been blessed to partner with some amazing people in doing ministry.  In many ways after a season of confusion and question marks, I can say with confidence that God has been leading us to where we are now at for a long time.

If you would like to find out more about our church you can go to the website and have a look around.

In conjunction with that our church has started a blog which I am co-authoring (I guess I like blogging alongside a friend) with my good friend Mark who is the Senior Pastor at Calvary.  If you have liked what has been written on this blog over the years I think you will dig the blog we have going for Calvary.  You are welcome to check it out and participate in the comments.

This blog was a great experience for me as I went through seminary and I learned a lot through wonderful interaction with many of you.

If you are wondering what happened to Matt, well the short answer is he had twins and no one has heard from him since…

ryan

Theology and the Minister

My good buddy Mark gave me this book and I have been pouring through it the last few days.  The editor Martin Downes interviews many wonderful scholars and pastors about ministry, theology, and church.  One of the people he interviewed is theology professor R. Scott Clark.  Here is a quote that stuck out to me.

Almost invariably I find that those who say they are ‘bored’ with orthodoxy don’t really understand it.  That’s the most dangerous place of all: ministers who are badly taught and who’ve become inoculated against orthodoxy by exposure to a weak strain of it.

May we all be lovers of truth, not so that we would be filled with dead life-less theology.  But because orthodoxy is the life blood of our message and our mission is fueled by our message.

ryan

Church Defined

I said I was going to post this last week but I have had some computer problems, so pardon my tardiness.  Also, I just finished reading an amazing book entitled “Deep Church” which I would recommend to all.  Now onto some thoughts on what the Church Biblically is.

The church is the community of true believing, spiritual individuals who belong to the Lord, have been called into relationship with God and fellow believers, and have been charged to live as loving witnesses, servants, and ministers to the world. The church exists both as an invisible, spiritual community of individual human persons and as a visible, institutional body.

The key aspects of the church, as an invisible, spiritual community include: First, the invisible community are people responded who in faith seek to follow Jesus (Jn. 1:12);  second, those persons who have decided to follow Christ have trusted Him as their Lord and desire to advance the mission and vision of the kingdom (1 Pet. 1:1); third, these individuals have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and have been baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13); and fourth, these persons are considered “priests,” through the mediating work of Christ (1 Pet. 2:5,9).  Also, the invisible church also includes those individuals from the Old Testament era, who were saved through their faith in Yahweh, His promises, and the coming Messiah (Heb. 11).
The following features relate to the church’s existence as a visible, institutional body.  First, the “body” consists of a local community of believers, who are devoted to the individual and corporate practices of prayer, worship, evangelism, and fellowship, for the purposes of glorifying God and advancing His kingdom (Heb. 10:9-25; Rom. 16:5; Acts 2:42-47). The local body should include corrections, encouragement, edification, and discipline practice(Eph. 3:4; Rom. 12).  Last, the local church should faithfully teach the full counsel of God, so that members can serve each other and their culture (Eph. 4; Tit. 1:9).
I believe that the church is biblically required to observe both baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion). Baptism is a symbol and testimony of a believer’s union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:2-5; Col. 2:12).  Baptism does not result in regeneration in the believer’s life; rather, baptism is a responsive action to regeneration. Baptism should be administered through immersion in water, to those who have made a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38-41).  Communion signifies the body and blood of Christ, which were broken and shed for us at the Cross of Calvary (Lk. 22:19-20).  Communion is also a marker the unity of believers (1 Cor. 10:17), and Jesus’ incredible love for us (Jn. 15:13).  Neither baptism, nor the Lord’s Supper imparts God’s saving grace to those who participate; rather these two ordinances serve to celebrate, proclaim, and remember God’s love, grace, and work on our behalf both individually and collectively.
All local churches are part of the larger, universal church; however, I believe in the governmental autonomy of each local congregation (Acts 9:31; 1 Cor. 1:2).  Members of local congregations, are called into Christian service as priests before God, and should select leaders for their churches based on biblical qualifications (1 Pet. 2:5,9; 1 Tim. 3).  The offices of pastor/elder and deacon/deaconess are critical to carrying out the ministry of the church and rooted in biblical mandates.  Pastor/elders are to serve as spiritual overseers, leaders, teachers, and caregivers for the members of the church community (1 Tim. 3:2-7).  Deacon/deaconesses are to serve the members of the church community as servant-leaders (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 5:3-16).    Spiritual gifts are given irregardless of gender to men and women for them to use in the church (Acts 2:17-21).

So while the church may look different than the traditional models than we are used to in the United States, there are clear Biblical imperatives for what a church must include and do.

ryan

Churchless Christianity

I read this book a few years ago and have been struck by how well its thesis has held up since the book was written in 1991.  In fact it might have been ahead of its time.

The book deals with Hindu’s in India who become Christians but go on practicing Hinduism in regards to houses of worship, fellowship, and cultural framework.  These Hindu’s made a public profession of Jesus but did not join a local church.  Many missionaries have thought this was the elixir to solve doing missions work in places hostile to the Gospel.

No need for people to put themselves in jeopardy by stepping away from their previous faith community and facing suffering, rather than can just be secret believers.

My point being here is that when Christianity becomes churchless it is able to avoid the mockery, persecution, and suffering that comes along with following Jesus.

Church free Christianity has becoming more prevalent not just in far off places but right here in America.

In India the church is seen as needless, but here in America the church is seen as irrelevant.  People operate under the assumption they can be true followers of Jesus and have little to no involvement with the local church.  The Church and we as a body has seemed to have failed in conveying to people the deep transforming truths of Christianity that create and demand a new and deeper life.

The reasons for this are endless but a few are that we have turned church into entertainment.  Churches have striven for marketing first often at the expense of faithfulness, and doctrinal truths have been replaced in favor of subjective journeys and experiences.

All of these shifts implicitly exhalt the individual over the body.  Which makes church less and less central and more optional, even for the Christian.

ryan

Hard Truths: Election

When most of us think of the word election we think of a democratic process in which we decide who we want to vote for and select for office.

The Bible also speaks of election and it has historically been one of the hardest truths for Christians to wrestle with.

The truth is no Christian who seeks to be faithful and wrestle with the full text of the Bible can avoid the subject.  So what do you do with it?

I could of course expound all the biblical evidence for individual election and why I think it is clearly found in the text, but let me go a different direction.

Two points.

1. Election seems unjust.  It does indeed, if we are viewing things from a western democratic framework.  We think, “hey that’s not fair, I should get to have my voice heard and make my own choice.”  Ephesians 2 tells us that humans are dead and unable to make any choices for or against God.  The human nature apart from God electing them is not that some would make a decision for God and some would not, but that none of us apart from God’s grace can make any kind of decision.  Dead people are unable to choose or elect for anything, this is why God elects and gives life to those who are spiritually dead.  Dead people cannot vote and when they do, its called election fraud.  Therefore it is not unjust for God to elect, all of us are dead and God does not owe any of us life, it is all grace.

2. No matter what, salvation involves a (pardon the Bushism) a “decider.”  Either each of us make a decision for God or God makes a decision to save us.  The bottom line is that decisions are being made.  So while this question is outside of the biblical scope, and assumes my first point is incorrect, I would ask who is it you want making such weighty decisions?  Creator God who is kind, wise, and all-knowing; or sinful humans that often make foolish choices that are not wise or in their best interests?

Though the truth of election is a hard one, especially considering our cultural framework and perspective to which we approach it from.  It is a major mountain I believe believers must summit as they progress in their delighting and submission to the word.  Let me leave with a quote from Paul Jewett.

The question of individual election has led more people to read scripture for what they want to find ( rather than listen to scripture for what they are afraid to hear) than virtually any other theological issue.

Yet I believe that letting the Bible speak clearly on the matter of election regardless of how it first sits with us, has exponential value to our souls.

ryan

On The Other Side Of Repentence Is Joy

I have been obsessed with Psalm 74 for the last month or so.  I literally cannot get it off of my mind.  In a good way the Holy Spirit is haunting my soul with attempting to deeply live out and grasp what it is trying to say.  Let me share two verses with you and plead with you to linger, the way you would over a new dress, or iphone.  Take time to absorb it.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire but you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 74:25-26).

For my last post was about repentance and constantly proclaiming that Jesus is our God but we do this so that we may have the joy of our Lord.

Repent but do so with the joy that God is your only desire.  That nothing in this earth holds any weight in comparison to the richness and pleasure of God.

I imagine that when we stand on the other side of this life we will be bewildered at what we loved, thought about, served and focused on.  As we spending eternity enjoying God forever.

ryan

Why We Repent

The Gospels constantly call us to repent.  Why?  Some feel it is as if God wants to rub our noses in our sin so that maybe we will not do it again, hardly.

The call to repent is how we ongoingly reaffirm our devotion to Jesus as Lord.  Jesus is Lord and the source of my identity.  I am not defined by the sins I have done or the sins that have been done against me, but by the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

Repentance re-orients our affections to Jesus, because it is only when our sin becomes bitter that Jesus becomes sweet.

ryan

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