May 16, 2013

Pausing to Lick My Wounds

Ok, they’re not that deep and there’s not that much blood, but my last two blog posts have generated the highest number of hits ever for my posts, and caused a little more consternation among friends than I would have anticipated.

How can I sum up what I have said?  I keep coming back to the issue of whether we can ever say that the culture is able to set an agenda that the church should follow, or, in other words, is God really dragging the church towards where it needs to be, and where the culture already is?

Since it came to the fore the emergent church has said many good things about how the church was too tied to modernity, and how the culture had infiltrated the church. The culture eyeballed the church and the church blinked first, tweaking the gospel to suit the spirit of the age and its own advancement within it.

Over the past fifteen years through numerous leaders, books, blogs and movements the emergent church has set the bar high: The culture had hollowed out the church and indeed had taken it captive. Things had to change. And yes, things had to change. However I would humbly say to the emergent expressions of church, the bar, set so high by you, now requires you to jump it.  The culture is once again eyeballing the church, only in far more hypermodern (postmodern is so 2004 – Ed), and strident ways.  It would be a tragedy that if, after pointing out how the church was captive to the spirit of the age, the solution would be more of the same.

Every expression of Christianity has claimed Jesus to be on their side.  We would do well to remember the words of the commander of the Lord’s army (probably the pre-Incarnate second person of the Trinity) in Joshua 5:13-15

13Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

14“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lordehave for his servant?”

15The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

What response would you expect from the commander of the Lord’s army to your question if you were Joshua? After all Joshua was the man charged to lead God’s people into the Holy Land.  That he does not receive the answer he expects, or we might expect, simply shows how holy, separate and unbound by the culture is the Lord of Hosts.  Our final response should simply echo that of Paul in Romans 11 when he has unpacked the great mystery of a God who does not work the way we think he should:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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