Category Archives: Ministry

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“Blessed are the poor.” – Luke

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” – Matthew

 

In my own life, I have recognized that my reading of Luke has varied depending on life circumstances.

 

When I have been poor, I have found extreme comfort in seeing ”poor” without qualification – a reminder that God remembers me in my physical poverty.  And when my economic condition has been better, my reading moves towards Matthew’s ”poor in spirit,” meaning that I focus more on spiritual poverty. I mention that because as we read Luke (whether in poverty or affluence), we need to be aware that our economic “lens” may influence our reading of the text.

 

So in the times of life when you have abundance, remember that others, such as those in impoverished countries, are reading Luke differently than you. That’s not to say that their exegesis is better or worse.  It’s a reminder to always see the rawness of Luke’s gospel — keeping in mind that poverty is not merely about a lack of means, but a lack of well-being.

 

In other words, poverty affects people holistically, since poverty often results from economic enslavement to a person or a system. So at the end of the day, poverty is not so much about possessions, but powerlessness. It is easy to lose hope when overwhelmed with poverty, but into that hopelessness, Luke speaks a powerful word: “Blessed are the poor.”

 

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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.

plane

In the aftermath of the Flight 370 crash, news outlets and culture at large have been captivated by the story.  Given the rapid developments of world news and the short attention span of 24-7 news channels, it is all the more surprising that channels like CNN have focused (roughly 90-95%) on this story for roughly three weeks.  Meanwhile, discussions regarding Russia and Crimea were mentioned for “just a second” (in the words of one CNN anchor) prior to returning back to Flight 370.

In light of this immense amount of attention, we can draw some observations that teach us about humanity.  What follows are several reasons why this story has been so captivating:

 

  • We wonder about the future. Many of us fly, and we worry about our safety.  We are partly captivated for selfish reasons — evident by the fact that most of our attention has been on the plane rather than the victims.  This is most evident when news anchors use the word “exciting” when describing finding debris and/or wreckage.

 

  • We recognize (yet doubt) the limitations of technology.  Part of our fascination results from the disbelief that cell phones, satellites, and radar cannot give us an immediate answer.  We find it hard to believe that part of the world is beyond our knowledge.

 

  • We feel loss with fellow human beings.  Despite the fact that we probably do not know anyone on board, we sympathize with those who are hurting.  Seeing family members wail over their loved ones resonates deep within us.

 

  • We believe that humanity will rise.  People want a resolution (e.g., finding debris being called “hope”) to be assured that humanity will overcome our pain and our ignorance.  We may have lost 239 lives, but our investigation may save hundreds of lives in the future.

publicworship

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.

 

 

 

 

 

beards

Whether you’re new to the church or have been around for a while, this guide may help.  Believe it or not, but facial hair is a window to the soul.  It is my hope that this guide from Leadership Journal will help you navigate the confusing (and sometimes absurd) world of church culture.

 

beards

 

 

book

Leaders should develop vision by “reading” three key areas:

Read situations.  Rather than ignoring the current situation, leaders should read the context.  Visions are not formed in a vacuum, apart from community, nor are visions cookie-cutters that can be applied to any situation.  It is essential to take into account the immediate context.  Vision not only looks to the future, but takes into account the present.

Read hearts.  Too many leaders die on the battlefield of their own ideas rather than taking into account the people they lead. An effective leader leads people towards change, but that change must start with reading people’s hearts, otherwise it might be change that people don’t really need.  Just as a heart surgeon asses the condition of a heart, so must church leaders asses a congregation before determining next steps.

Read people.  Church leaders must recognize that God’s Spirit is working within people’s hearts.  For that reason, vision should not be established by a single individual, such as a lead pastor.  Instead, leaders should value what God is already doing and trust that God will bring about the change.  To develop a vision, church leaders must ask questions, listen to people’s stories, determine strengths and weaknesses, and discover how God is already working within the community.

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Useful tips for meeting objectives in any organization, including the local church:

1. Define purpose and mission.
2. Assess strengths and weaknesses.
3. Write specific and measurable objectives.
4. Work towards general agreement.
5. Maintain a reasonable work load.
6. Develop strategies for using resources.
7. Practice accountability.
8. Design long and short range plans.
9. Be willing to change.
10. Measure progress.

(adapted from Kenneth Gangel, Feeding and Leading)

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As a gift from the Gospel Coalition, here are 7 free D.A. Carson books that have been read and loved by many. I am looking forward to reading these, and I wanted to pass them along. The books are in PDF format that can be downloaded, printed, or transfered to an e-reader.

7 Free Books
http://tiny.cc/freecarsonbooks

Many thanks to Andy Naselli for offering these links on his blog. In addition to these books, there are hundreds of additional resources available at Carson’s bibliography.

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The family was designed by God to be a unique place, the most basic form of community, where much of our spiritual growth can occur.

Because God designed families, churches should support families and minister to them. In this effort, churches need to encourage families to live out their faith outside of Sunday morning. It is during the week, within the natural context of our home, where we make our daily decision to follow Christ.

At a formal level, midweek gatherings help parents, children, and youth to refocus on Christ. At the same time, there needs to be balance. Especially for young families, rather than “over programming” and having families over-commit (which can be counter-productive to spiritual growth), churches should support spiritual growth that can take place within the home. Extra help should be provided for young families who are just starting their journey.

We should never forget that churches need to be a “second family” for dozens, if not hundreds of people. Many do not have families, and others do not have healthy families. Because of this, it is important for the church to be sensitive to these needs and provide a safe place for orphans, singles, divorced, and widows. As the church loves as a family and ministers to those in need, the gospel is supported and enabled to spread (Acts 6).