Accordingly it seems to me that anyone who intends to embark on prayer should lay a foundation for himself by preparing himself a while so that he will be the more attentive and alert throughout his prayer. He will have put aside every testing and troubling thought and will recall, as far as possible, the greatness of the one whom he is approaching, and the disrespect which lies in approaching him yawning and inattentively and, as it were, contemptuously.Origen, On Prayer, 31.2
My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"
26 September 2007
21 September 2007
...the spiritual poison...is injected by the enemy powers into the mind of any who neglect prayer and who do not observe the words of Paul, following the exhortations given by Jesus, that we should "pray ceaselessly." For like a dart from the soul of the one who prays with knowledge and with reason or by faith will it go forth from the saint, and wound to destruction and dissolution the spirits which are hostile to God, those who desire to truss us with the bonds of sin.Origen, On Prayer, 12
I for one find myself wanting to win more than I find myself wanting to glorify God. I don't think we need to close down all bloggy discussions and disagreements, but we must go about them with the same passion which should be driving all of life: to make the name of Jesus Christ beautiful among the nations.
A fourth way we can show and exhibit love without sharing in our brother's mistake is to approach the problem with a desire to solve it, rather than with a desire to win. We all love to win. In fact, there is nobody who loves to win more than the theologian. The history of theology is all too often a long exhibition of a desire to win.
But we should understand that what we are working for in the midst of our difference is a solution — a solution that will give God the glory, that will be true to the Bible, but will exhibit the love of God simultaneously with his holiness. What is our attitude as we sit down to talk to our brother or as group meets with group to discuss differences? A desire to come out on top? To play one-up-manship? If there is any desire for love whatsoever, every time we discuss a difference, we will desire a solution and not just that we can be proven right.
19 September 2007
12 September 2007
To answer, I'd like to point out a few things about the Great Commission (Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.) and then a few practical remarks about the mission work of the American church.
Jesus' commission was to the apostles, but not the apostles alone. That is, this commission extends through the apostles to the whole church. The only proof one needs is to see the actions of the commission: teaching and baptizing. Those were actions repeatedly imparted to the church; if the imperatives of the commission were given to the church, then we can assume the scope of the commission (all nations) belongs to her as well. More proof of this would be to read on into the book of Acts to see how seriously the church took her commission to disciple the nations. There is nothing in the pages of the New Testament to make us think the geographical focus of the commission will be lifted before the return of Christ.
Jesus' commission is based upon and geared toward the great covenant promise God gave to Abraham: in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Gen. 12:3) There has always been, and there must always be, a worldwide focus of gospel-centered churches. We see this focus in Jesus' repetition of the commission in Acts 1:8, You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
More broadly, the pattern we see in the church of the new covenant is a pattern of sending. All we have to do is read through Acts and the Epistles to count up how many people were sent from one place to another for the purpose of gospel ministry: Peter, Barnabas, Paul, Philip, Silas, Timothy, Apollo, Titus, etc. The book of Philippians is especially strong with the expectation and need for sending: I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need (2:25)...a Christian church is one that sends laborers into the harvest fields, near and far.
In response to the charge that a focus on international missions is a foolish waste of money and resources and an unnecessary danger, I would note the following: Gospel ministry has never operated according to the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 2:4-5); remember the story of Paul being forbidden by the Spirit from going to Asia! This doesn't mean we don't use wisdom - it means we seek and use heavenly wisdom. If God has decided to use the foolishness of international missions for the building of His church, we are in no position to disagree. As to the threat of danger, we must weigh it seriously, but if the church comes the point where we aren't willing to risk our lives for the kingdom, what really has become of us?
In response to the charge that international missions can be accomplished in our own backyard, I say "amen." But it's an "amen" with a qualification. God has providentially arranged the world so ministry in American can have consequences reaching farther than ever before. But this isn't enough: there are yet some countries that have no significant presence in America. And even among those that do, there are families and certain groups in societies which will never be represented in America, being prevented by poverty and/or oppression.
In response to the charge that American missions is prideful, given the greater numbers of Christians elsewhere and the moral decline of the American church, I would reply: hogwash. Proper missions says: we are both sinful and worthless. The only difference is the access to God I've found in Christ. There is no pride in evangelism, local or worldwide. Also, it's important to note that, despite the decline of the American church, she still has much to offer a needy world. Even as the numbers of American believers declines, the church still has more financial resources than any national church at any point in history. Simply put, we can afford to send more missionaries and so we ought. Furthermore, the American church has a wealth of theology and men and women with ability to impart that theology to the baby churches around the world. Realization of our theological and monetary resources isn't prideful as long as we recognize the Giver of the Gifts.
But even if we had no money and our theology was paper thin, we must still go. Always going, always sending, the church - every church, everywhere - must participate in the great commission, beginning with our neighbors and extending to the corners of the earth. This is Jesus' plan for extending His dominion over the nations (not just individuals, but nations!) - may God keep us from anything that would hinder our participation in His plan.
06 September 2007
This is all hypothetical of course.