Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chris Brauns on Gossip

Blogger Chris Brauns has a helpful post on gossip. I left a comment on his blog asking him for a biblical definition of gossip; here is his response and my follow up:


Nick, it’s such a good question. My first thought is that you are a guy who is attempting to think biblically. And, that is 80% of the battle.

Of course, it is a matter of discernment. So, as we grow in wisdom we will be able to spot gossip. It’s like the old Supreme Court line about pornography, something to the effect of, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”

Having said that, several questions could be asked: (1) Does it betray a confidence? 20:19 (2) Does it need to be said to glorify God and build relationships? (3) Is Matthew 18:15-17 being violated? In other words, should someone either be confronted or should the matter just be let go (Prov 19:11, 17:14). (4) Is the person who is hearing the information part of the solution? Often talking to a pastor is necessary. But, talking to someone who isn’t a leader in the church isn’t.

Sometimes Proverbs calls it “whispering” (ESV) – - Is it “whispering”, and I’m thinking about the way it is said?

Sloppy answer on my part. I’m talking around it. But, I think it’s worth doing. Just you asking helped sharpen my thinking.

Gossip: the unnecessary spread of information (often sensational) when that information may damage another or the cause of Christ or help a party avoid confrontation that should take place.

Nick — can you tweak that and make it better?


Hey Chris,

Your answer was extremely helpful. Would you mind if I posted it on my blog? I don’t have much to add to what you said except that I guess a good test to ask ourselves before we share information comes from Mark 12.30-31: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” If we ask ourselves “Am I loving God?” and then “Am I loving my neighbor?” it might cause us to think twice before sharing information about that neighbor.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

N.T. Wright on the Parable of the Sower

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55.10-13)

The sowing of seed, resulting in a crop that defies the thorns and briers, is a picture of YHWH's sowing of his word, and the result is the return from exile and, indeed, the consequent renewal of all creation. At the heart of the story is the cryptic announcement that the time foretold by the prophets is at last coming to birth...Israel's God is acting, sowing his prophetic word with a view to restoring his people, but much of the seed will go to waste, will remain in the 'exilic' condition, being eaten by the birds, or lost among the rocks and thorns of the exilic wilderness. The eventual harvest, though, will be great. We are here no far from Jesus' story about the great banquet. The party will go ahead and the house will be full, but the original guests will not be there. Judgement and mercy are taking place simultaneously.
(Jesus and the Victory of God, 233-234)

Not only does Jesus tell us about the different reactions to the word that is being sown but he also, by reaching back to the Old Testament, tells us what the word is and what it is accomplishing. Jesus was announcing God's kingdom in a radically new way. God was becoming king and, as a result, was accomplishing the great restoration. God's purpose is to have a 'returned' people who are saved from the great curse. What a great blessing it is to be a part of this people. What a great savior we have who took this curse upon himself, going down into exile so that we might emerge clean. What can be said but 'Praise be to God'.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

10 Favorites for Helping You Understand the New Testament

10: "For Everyone Series" by N.T. Wright
09: "A Community Called Atonement" by Scot Mcknight
08: "Simply Christian" by N.T. Wright
07: "A Bird's Eye View of Paul/Introducing Paul" by Michael Bird
06: "The Cross of Christ" by John Stott
05: "ESV Study Bible" by Crossway Books
04: "New Testament Thelogy" by Thomas Schreiner
03: "Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament" edited by D.A. Carson and Greg Beale
02: "Christian Origin Series (Especially Jesus and the Victory of God and The Resurrection of the Son of God" by N.T. Wright
01: "Theology of the New Testament" by Frank Thielman

I find myself going back to these books again and again. I was telling a friend today that if I could have one book, besides the bible, it would be Frank Thielman's NT Theology. Nothing has aided my study of the books of the NT like this volume. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

1 Clement 1: A Healthy Christian Community

I have started to read through 1 Clement with my wife. Some people in the early church really cherished these letters from these great men of God so I thought I should too. I haven't read the whole letter yet, and haven't done extensive research on it either, but I have started to make some notes and study questions for the first chapter. You can read the letter here and you can read a bit about Clement here. I would also highly suggest purchasing this book.

1 Clement 1

The members of the Christian community are:

1) marked by a faith that is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. They are constantly looking to him because they know that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him and he is returning to judge the living and the dead.
2) genuinely pious. Their piety consists of showing generosity and love to their ‘neighbors’; in other words, they do good to all, especially to those of the household of faith.
3) openly hospitable. They open up their home to all because Christ is Lord of all. When Christians share what they have with others, regardless of sex, race, or class, it is a powerful testimony to the world that Jesus is building his worldwide kingdom community.
4) sound in their knowledge. They will know their Bibles and will not be tossed to and fro by false teaching. They will know the fundamentals of the faith: that the Messiah was revealed, justified by the Spirit; seen by angels, proclaimed to the nations; believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
5) they submit to the leadership and honor those who are ‘aged’ in the faith. God has ordained that local churches have established authorities. Their role is to teach and shepherd the flock. To demonstrate the unity of God’s family members must submit to godly leadership. Another blessing of local churches are ‘experienced’ Christians. There is much wisdom to be gleaned from these people.

The leadership of the Christian community instruct:

1) the young people how to think. Minds wander, especially young ones. They need to learn wisdom because it doesn’t come naturally. Young people need to be trained to use their minds in a way that honors Christ as Lord.
2) the women to have a blameless, reverent and pure conscience. Women should have a heart for their husbands and their home. They need to be instructed on how to remain obedient to their husbands and manage their households in a godly manner.

Questions for Reflection:

1) If a godly person were to look at your life would they be able to say that you have a faith that is steadfast? What best describes you: Are you constantly worrying or getting in ‘bad moods’? or do you find that when you enter into hardship your thoughts turn to the crucified, risen and reigning Messiah?

2) Are you generous with your possessions? When you go to work and get a paycheck are you focused on, “how can I use this money for myself” or are you thinking, “how can I use this money to bless others?”

3) Do you seek to open up your home to others? If not, why? Do people feel “stand-offish” around you or do you make people feel welcome?

4) Are you actively reading God’s word? Many Christians in the early church didn’t have any Scriptures available to them and would consider it a huge blessing to have their own copy of God’s word. Do you read the Bible daily or do you just casually read it ‘here and there’?

5) What do you think it means to submit to church leadership? Do you seek out the wisdom of those in authority and from those who have been Christians for a long time?

6) What do you focus your attention on? Christ Jesus said that we ought to, “Seek first the kingdom of God and it’s righteousness”. Do you set your mind on how you can honor Christ as Lord in all things?

7) How is your home life? If you are a husband, are you leading and loving your wife as Christ does the church? If you are a wife, are you humbly submitting to the guidance and counsel of your husband?

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Kingdom: The Really Really Old Perspective on Paul

"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Ephesians 2.11-22).

Some observations:
1) There is peace between Jews, Gentiles, and God; it's not a vertical or horizontal thing, it's both. Let's not be platonic.
2) Gentiles are no longer separated from the 'commonwealth' of Israel and the 'covenants of promise'; we shouldn't be scared of using words like 'covenant' because Paul wasn't.
3) The law is the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles. It is okay to say that Jews wore the law as a 'badge' which identified them as those who inherited the covenants and promises of God. However, it can become very difficult to distinguish nationalism and legalism (and I don't think we should).
4) The main purpose of the cross is that it creates a worldwide family that is at peace with one another and with God. The church is not secondary.
5) Both Jew and Gentile need the message of the cross.
6) The church is the worldwide family that is indwelt by the Spirit.