Category Archives: Church

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25 Reasons Why Christians Should Welcome (Not Ban) Immigrants & Refugees
1) God cares for all people, not just those inside a particular national border.
2) As Christians, global citizenship trumps national citizenship.
3) Christianity affirms that all people have the same value, regardless of their current religion, since all of creation comes from God.
4) The Good Samaritan story includes ethnic dimensions: (1) those outside of your ethnicity may surprise you with kindness, and (2) our neighbors include those of other ethnicities.
5) The Golden Rule requires it: treat others as you would like to be treated.  (If you were endangered, you would want someone to help you.)
6) Personal safety is not the ultimate ethic for Christians, while love is.
7) Political policies are not divinely insprired and often contradict God’s call for justice.
8) Political policies should never be superior to Christ’s commandments.
9) “Love your neighbor” is not limited by a country’s border and includes those from other countries.
10) Hospitality is an important motif throughout the Bible (e.g., Abraham welcoming the sojourners, Jews welcoming and not welcoming Jesus, the Apostles welcoming Paul, etc.)
11) “Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you” includes atheists and those of other religions.
12) Religious litmus tests may increase personal safety, while hindering the spread of the gospel.
13) Religious litmus tests are inaccurate; after all, some people within our own churches are “faking it” for one reason or another.
14) Religious litmus tests work against the gospel, since at one point, you yourself were not a Christian; being banned by Christians would have turned you away from, not towards, the faith.
15) Welcoming other religions to your country offers an opportunity for mission without ever leaving your homeland.
16) Ignoring human rights issues for the sake of personal safety merely perpetuates the problem.
17) Love always involves some degree of risk, so risk itself is not an excuse not to love.
18) The innocent, such as children, should not be slaughtered with the guilty.
19 Abraham was a sojourning immigrant (in Egypt).
20) Joseph was an enslaved immigrant (to Egypt).
21) Israel as a nation was an immigrant (in Egypt), poorly mistreated yet protected and rescued by Yahweh.
22) Moses was a refugee and immigrant (in Egypt).
23) Jesus was a refugee (in Egypt).
24) In the Bible, marked by the recurrence of Egypt, the necessity of immigration and the importance of hospitality cannot be ignored.  (Lev. 19:33-34)
25) Jesus sacrificed His personal safety for the betterment of others, including those outside (Gentiles) of His own ethnicity (Jewish).

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To begin with, I acknowledge (and would encourage others to acknowledge) the complexity of Revelation. Amidst the varieties of interpretations, the worst in my mind would be the kind that oversimplifies and overlooks the complexities of Revelation. If we claim to understand every image or symbol without any qualification, then maybe our hubris is preceding our exegesis.

That being said, neither do I think that Revelation is beyond comprehension for the average reader — especially the average reader in the time of the Apostle John. He was not writing a “code book” with codes that could only be deciphered by religious elites in a closed room. Nor was he writing a book that a single individual in the 21st century would “decode” somehow. Neither of those options fit with the biblical version of Christianity that I know, and they sound more like gnosticism than orthodoxy.

Based on those underlying principles, my primary approach to Revelation is to ask, “What was John communicating to his original audience?” before asking, “What does this say about the future?” Of course, the two questions are interrelated, but the if we limit ourselves to future questions, then John’s text would have been nearly useless to his contemporaries. Thus, questions of the “present day” (i.e., John’s day) should remain at the fore as we read what John was saying about the future.

This leads me to read Revelation as thus: How do these texts encourage, correct, or instruct believers in light of John’s vision of the future? Or in other words, how does the apocalypse affect readers in a personal, practical, and proximate way? In answering those questions, I see Revelation as presenting the following argument: Eagerly anticipate the Coming King because certain and decisive victory awaits His faithful ones.

While there are warning passages throughout the book, the overall message is one of confidence and encouragement. No one — not the Jews, not the Romans, not the Babylonians, not Satan himself — can defeat the King of all Kings. By looking to the end, believers can be confident, avoiding temptation and remaining strong in the present age — even in the face of brutal enemies and potential martyrdom.

 

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For an audio version of the following post, click here:  https://soundcloud.com/joelpeterjupp/sabbath 
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I was recently asked to share my views on the Sabbath.  As I mentioned previously, this is a very complex issue, and there are many intelligent people with convincing arguments on both sides of this issue. Personally, I’ve changed my mind several times, so I can sympathize with both sides.  If the topic interests you, I’d highly recommend Five Views of Law and Gospel, by Zondervan, which treats this topic broadly (setting the Sabbath within the overall framework of Old Testament law).

To begin, the purpose of raising this issue here in this course is to demonstrate how the Old Testament and New Testament relate to each another.  The Sabbath serves as a prime example of how our interpretation of one influences (or is influenced by) the other. For that reason, you’re not expected to solve this issue within a few days, but you are expected to see how the OT and NT interrelate.

That being said, my thoughts would include the following:
  • The Sabbath is one of the The Commandments.  In my view, this sets the Sabbath apart from ceremonial and civil law, since it is placed within the context of moral law.  Because we would affirm all of the other 10, we should be extremely careful about tossing it out.
  • Within the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath is set aside not merely as a day, but as a statement of our individual and communal trust in Yahweh.  Sabbath is more than a 24-hour time period.  It is a statement or proclamation that we can rest in God as He provides for our needs.  In the original context — where survival depended upon the thin thread of animals and crops — not working one day was a shocking state tent of trust.
  • While we might doubt whether we need to observe the Sabbath today, the origin of the Sabbath resides within the nature and work of God.  If God needed to rest after creation, and if we ar made in His image, and if the commandments reflect not merely a decree but His nature, then we would be compelled to observe Sabbath rest.
  • When Jesus spoke of the Sabbath, we must carefully determine whether He was abolishing the Sabbath (rendering it null) or whether He was redefining the Sabbath (or more accurately clarifying the original meaning of the Sabbath).  In my view, Jesus is not abolishing, but fulfilling the Sabbath in Himself.
  • Some might say that Jesus’ fulfillment of the Sabbath makes it void or unnecessary for us; I take the position that our worship practices, of which the Sabbath would be included, were never intended as an end in themselves, but to point us to Christ.
  • Ultimately, Jesus teaches that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around.  In my interpretation, this means that the Sabbath is intended to be life-giving, not burdensome.  Jesus blasts wide open our concept of the Sabbath, so that it’s not merely about sitting in church all day, but far broader than that.
  • In constrast to legalistic views, such as the Orthodox Jewish prohibition of cooking or driving on the Sabbath, Christians are liberated to experience all of God’s life giving peace and restoration, in whatever form that may be.  As it says in Colossians 1, all things were made by, through, and for Jesus Christ, so all of creation is opened up to us, even if that means walking around town, teaching, picking grain, helping those in need, and so forth.

That being said, forming a belief about the sabbath is relatively.  Living into the Sabbath, ironically so, is more difficult, even though it was intended to be easy.  More important than asking ourselves, “What can or can’t I do on the Sabbath?” we need to ask, “Am I trusting in God and resting in Him?” Ultimately, the Sabbath is not a calendar or a scheduling issue, but a heart issue.  In other words, are we trying to outwork God, or are we relying on Him to provide?

If you’re interested in some further reading… Abraham Heschel is a Jew who has written on the Sabbath, and it is also worth reading his thoughts on the meaning of the Sabbath.  While we would fundamentally disagree about the purpose of the Sabbath (I.e., for us, the Sabbath points to our ultimate rest in Christ), Heschel’s work demonstrates how the concept of Sabbath can be renewing and life-giving.  Obviously, the Jews have contemplated this principle for longer than some of us, so some of those insights can be applied in our Christian worldview.  Thankfully, we recognize that our salvation is not found in the Sabbath or any other regulation, but as it says in Hebrews 4, our hope is in Christ who ensures our ultimate rest.

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Christians, love in victory and in defeat.

When looking at situations throughout history and around the world, we know that Christians are not defeated by governments or political movements. Christians are not defeated by fire (Nero), policy (Mao Zedong), poverty (Indian castes), expulsion (Columbian tribes), terrorism (al-Shabaab), kindnappings (Boko Haram), or beheadings (ISIS). Oddly enough, Christians are not even defeated by crucifixion.

Even still, if you feel defeated by recent events, keep in mind that in every situation (not only situations of our choosing), Christ taught us to love God and to love our neighbors. Those are not conditional, but unconditional commandments — and are even more applicable in times of uncertainty, challenge, and confusion. So no matter how you feel, remember that we serve a resurrected King, and in His Kingdom, true love never waivers.

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One of the often neglected benefits of the Church is her people.

We tend to see the worst of Christians in movies and sitcoms, but of the hundreds of Christians I am blessed to know, I am continually amazed by the compassion that I find. Take a bunch of sinners, put them in a room together, and you’ll be amazed by what God can do with them.

As I reflect upon the church, it is saddening that people live without it — not merely the experience of worshiping a Holy God, but the experience of knowing His people. And I’m not just talking about people to hang with, but people to hurt with — people who will shelter, feed, and comfort in the midst of life’s worst moments. After all, the church is not a building of wood or stone, but a people of flesh and blood.

If you haven’t experienced the life within a church, or if it’s been a while, send me a message. I’d be glad to help you find a local church in your area.

#GiveChurchAChance
#BeTheChurch

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In the context of corporate worship, performance is defined in various, even opposing, ways.  For some, the term “performance” is inherently human-centered and distracting from the ultimate purpose of worship.  For others, “performance” can be a display of God’s gifting and grace that ultimately lead us to worship Him.  For that reason, it is more helpful to think in terms of what would be unhealthy and healthy in the context of public worship and establishing criteria for both.

What follows is a list of characteristics to help us assess any kind of performance.  Not all of these characteristics will be present every time, but they serve as general “marks” that we can use to assess whether performances are healthy or unhealthy.

 

Characteristics of Unhealthy Performances

- The performer or the performance receives more attention than God.
- The congregation does not engage spiritually, but merely admires the performance.
- Clapping and praise goes to an individual or a small ensemble rather than God.
- Compliments revolve around the performer rather than the content or message of the performance.
- Performers are concerned more with their performance than the transformation of people’s hearts.
- Anger or jealousy results after poor performances, or pride after impressive performances.
- Performances stray from the standards / regulations found in Scripture.
- People prefer the performance over their own engagement.
- Prayers for the congregation are neglected.

 

Characteristics of Healthy Performances

- The performer and congregation recognize that glory belongs to God.  (Psalm 115:1)
- The performance serves an intentional, Christ-glorifying purpose in the overall worship service.
- The congregation is invited to participate in some way — e.g., meditating, praying, singing, etc.
- The message of the performance is rooted in biblical truth.
- Performers strive for excellence, but recognize that transformation results from the work of the Spirit.
- Generosity results after performances, longing to give others opportunities to share their gifts with others.
- Performances align with the examples and principles found in Scripture.
- People are led to the priority of God’s Word (proclamation & response) in the worship gathering.
- Prayers for the congregation are prioritized.

 

 

 

 

 

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No one ever told me that my heart would feel this way.

Even the strongest Christians have their weak moments, but the sins of a friend can be depressing.  Indeed, many times, a friend’s sin weighs even more than our own sin.  We see evil from an outside perspective, and in small measure, we experience how God must feel.

It feels like heavy snow upon the heart.  You watch as a friend delights in the world and buries their life in sin.  You hope they will stop,  come around, and realize what they are doing.  You wonder what will happen next.  You wonder if they know God at all.  You pray that God will have mercy on another soul.

But rather than casting the sin out of our minds, acting as if it never happened, it is good to have heavy hearts.  Scripture tells us to restore sinners in a “spirit of gentleness,” as if we were surgeons operating on our own child.  When it comes to sin, we are dealing with something far more serious than we realize.

Furthermore, we can be susceptible to the same sins, so Scripture warns us to “keep watch on yourself” (Galatians 6:1).  When we are apathetic or brash towards other people’s sin, we disregard Scripture and endanger ourselves, so God reminds us to feel the weight and tread lightly.

As you think of a friend or a relative who has made some poor decisions, take a moment to intercede for them and pray for your own strength

 

photo credit: i k o via photopin cc

Crop Wheat Field 11

Simply defined, preaching is the intentional proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.

As proclamation, preaching occurs at a particular time, in a particular place, to a particular audience.  Preaching requires that someone is listening, and it requires presence and immediacy that is unique compared to other forms of communication, such as a printed book or a video recording.  Put another way, preaching requires particularity.

General or archived sermons (such as those used by satellite churches) serve a purpose, but do not qualify as preaching in the holistic sense.   Such sermons do not address the particular needs of a particular congregation, which is composed of particular individuals at a particular time.  As such, these sermons address general needs, but never address the particular needs of a particular people.

Crop Wheat Field 11As Haddon Robinson once wrote, “In the Gospels we see that Christ never dealt with two people the same way… A sermon full of generalities hits no one in particular.”  (The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, 117)  In other words, Jesus recognized that preaching involves not only words, but the people being addressed.  There is particularity when Jesus speaks, and preachers today should recognize how our Lord and Savior proclaimed the good news of His Kingdom.

Preaching is not a relic, nor an object for electronic archive, but an event that takes place in real-time and real space.

 

 

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It is important to apply Colossians 3:23 to all aspects of life. In that verse, Paul reminds us that “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men.” In other words, our work should be defined by maximum effort and the right motives.

Many of us miss the mark in one way or the other. Some people become accustomed to their situation, becoming overly comfortable, and slow down in their efforts. They may have good earthly reasons, such as a lack of pay or a mean boss, but they forget the ultimate purpose of their work. Other people work hard, but for the wrong reasons. They work to please men instead of the Lord, and in so doing, get distracted from the goal.

A.W. Tozer pointed out that we often live out of fear. We choose the easy route (fearing hard labor) or the common route (fearing opposition from others). In reality, the best choices in life are usually difficult and unpopular.

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On this wonderful MLK day, let us remember the sacrifice and dedication of all those who have continued Christ’s work of bringing together all people. Our God is a God of reconciliation, and He is the one who unites different races and ethnicities. Let us celebrate His work through His Son and through His people.

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For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us… He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.  Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.

(Selections from Ephesians 2-3)