Archive for March, 2013

Three little pigs in archaic English

Posted: March 15, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Uncategorized

I wish I had a working vocabulary that would allow me to communicate clearly.



Things I often get wrong

Posted: March 11, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Uncategorized

I am going to be doing a whole lot of writing. I know a lot of mistakes are going to be made…so I decided to watch this and remind myself of common mistakes. Enjoy!


Contextualization Pt 3 Jesus our Model

Posted: March 8, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Uncategorized

Jesus in the incarnation became like us, yet was so different from us. He was fully human, but without sin. He was virgin born. He was also fully God. Jesus became what he wasn’t by never leaving behind what he was. He had two natures. He identified with us in some ways, yet didn’t in others. Jesus cannot identify with us as sinners. Jesus was never a sinner, only a sin bearer. Jesus was tempted and tried like us, yet he never gave into sin. He is like us, but he is not. And I see this as a picture of what contextualization is. Some may call it incarnational ministry; I would prefer to call it contextualization. Jesus in the incarnation is not only our messiah, and message- He is our model. He becomes like us, he identifies, yet he remains distinct. 

We are to become like the person we are trying to bring to Christ, at the same time remaining who we are in Christ. As people sent on mission for Jesus, we are to try to keep the balance of over adapting and under-adapting. I think a helpful analogy comes from the movie Tangled. How many of you have seen this movie? 

There are two characters that can be two different extremes in reaching out to the world. One of them is a character by the name of Pascal. Now, Pascal is the man in the movie. He is loyal, always there, and willing to give his life for Rapunzel. But he is a chameleon. He can hide really well and become unnoticed. This is what some of us can look like if we take it too far. We can become so much like the world that our message is not distinct. This is not a problem locally but globally. Both locally and globally, people can have the temptation to over contextualize the gospel in a way that the gospel is adjusted, and changed. You become so much like that culture that you are trying to reach that you are really no different from their own worldview. 

The second character is Rapunzel. Now she has got some issues. I mean first of all her hair is ridiculously big. Not only that she has never been outside of this castle. She is under the impression that having contact with the outside world would be a bad thing for her to do. This is, sadly, how some Christians view the world. I love how Paul Wilson put this once time. He said “It is sorrowful to me that some Christians actually believe that the command in 1 John to “not love the world” is at odds with the way God “so loved the world” in John 3:16. Some Christians become too much like a chameleon while others become too much like a turtle. You either blend so no one can tell or hide so well in that shell that no one can see you.

In both cases our evangelism is unhelpful to the non-believer. If we conform too much, there will be little to distinguish us from the world. But if we don’t adapt the message, we will be so far from the felt needs of our audience that it will not be of any help. We want to be somewhere in the middle. Paul was becoming “all things to all men” while not “being under the law”, and never being “outside of the law of Christ”.  Jesus in the same way becomes like us yet is so distinct from us. We are to be “in the world” but “not of it”. There is a way that we can pursue a cultural context without participating and partnering with their sin. Don’t make yourself too much like them. At the same time, don’t make yourself too different from them. 

Contextualization Pt 2 The Bible and the Incarnation

Posted: March 7, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Theology, Thoughts

Tim Keller an author and pastor in New York speaks of persuasion and contextualization as the gospel for dummies. Today you can walk into any store and find books on anything for dummies. What these books try to do is communicate any subject from Philosophy, Theology, Science, Business, in terms that the average person could understand. These books are great and serve as a great introduction to any field or topic. The authors work hard at getting it right, and getting it across. They understand that certain words are hard to understand unless you know the shorthand and verbiage that subject requires. Tim Keller takes this concept and applies it to evangelism. He says that our work as Christians is to do the hard work of listening to a person, entering their worldview, challenging their worldview, and completing the worldview with the gospel in terms that they understand. Our gospel presentations should be gospel for dummies. People with little to no clue about justification, expiation, and propitiation, should be told about Jesus. They should know of His sinless life. His perfect payment for all of our rebellion. They should be invited to live in the power that raised Jesus from the dead so that we could be united to the God that we have been separated from

Now I know that some of you are probably thinking “ok, Angel, I am sort of tracking with you but I am not sure that this passage alone will give me warrant to change the way I approach sharing the gospel. Is there any more evidence for why I should contextualize?” I would say, yes.  God gives us two forms of revelation that would lead me to believe that God contextualized His message to us as well.  The first reason is short and sweet. The BIble…Here is why.

The Bible is God’s written Word to us. When God decided to reveal Himself, He revealed Himself in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. God chose to reveal himself in propositional words. He used language that we could identify with. He didn’t chose a heavenly language or heavenly grammatical structures. He used what we understood as a way of communicating with us.

It is crazy to think that God spoke to us. I mean, just let that sink in. The God who not only made you and sustains you decided to reveal Himself to you, that you may known Him, enjoy Him, and glorify Him! He wrote 39 books through about 41 authors over a span of 1,400 years in order to give you the Old Testament . It is even more unbelievable to think that He would dwell among us!!

But God’s Word is a story of redemption. He doesn’t just reveal His judgement, power, and wisdom in creation. He also reveals a plan of salvation. The written Word points to the Visible Word that we find in John. God was preparing everything for His Word to become flesh. It is in the incarnation that we see the clearest picture of how God feels, acts, reacts, and speaks. God had already revealed a lot about who he was, but in the Incarnation we see something amazingly beautiful.

It is not an easy thing to think about. I mean, just think of how awesome the incarnation is. How mind boggling it is. God who is outside of time, and created time, steps into time, space, history! The immaterial God who is spirit becomes physical. I love how a a rapper puts it. “God put on the uniform of the human form”. As if describing Himself through Scripture wasn’t clear enough God sent His Son to make the Father known.

Jesus our Exegete

Lets look at a passage that would make this concept a bit clearer. In John 1 we are introduced to the Word. This Word was with God and is God. He creates everything and without him there is nothing that has been created. Not even Himself. As Creator He could not have been a created agent to assist in creation. In vs 14 this Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. Isn’t that amazing!!! God, dwells among us. He lives among us, he feels what we feel, he sympathizes with us and identifies himself with us!!! But that isn’t it! In verse 18 we find an amazing verse, and one that has been rocking me for the last couple of months. Verse 18 in the NIV says

18. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

The phrase I want us to focus on is the phrase, “has made him known”. This phrase comes from the word exegesis, which is a term theologians use for a right interpretation of a passage. This passage is telling us that Jesus explains God, He interprets, and clearly demonstrates God for us. He is, in fact, deity for dummies. You want to know how God loves sinners, look at Jesus on mission with tax collectors, prostitutes, and the religious outcast. Do you want to see God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness, look at the cross and the call of God to come to HIm for salvation. If you have ever wanted to know how frightening the wrath of God is, look at the cross. Do you understand the compassion of God? No, then look at Christ as he weeps over Israel, the tomb of Lazarus, and moves toward them. What does God think about the religious people who seek their righteousness in their work. Well, how does Jesus address them in the gospels? God is made known to us not only in Scripture but in the Incarnation.

Contextualization Pt 1

Posted: March 6, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Theology, Thoughts

What does it look like to talk about Jesus to people who are far from knowing Christ? How do you adapt the the message of the gospel without adjusting it? How much of our presentation can be changed without changing what we present? In theological terms, how do we contextualize the gospel? 

If you are thinking, “contextualla what?” Let me give you a brief definition of the word. Contextualization is taking the simplicity of the gospel and teaching that unchanging truth to a group of people in a way that would make sense to them. It is when we bridge the gap between the ancient world and ancient times with modern cultures. For the next couple of posts I want to look at 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and see what Paul says about gospel communication. As we study this passage, I want to make a case for why we should be presenting the gospel in a way that fits the context of our audience. As messengers of God, our goal is to communicate to people what God says in a way that would stir something in them for God, His people, and the world.
Here is the passage.

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
1) Contextualization- faithful to Scripture, but relevant to the culture

If you notice what Paul is saying there are a lot of questions that should be going off in your head. Paul is saying that there is a way in which we can package the gospel so that other cultural contexts can be more receptive to the message. So what does it look like to communicate the message in a different way without compromising it? What does it look like to be faithful to Scripture?

Faithful to Scripture

I think that it is important that we make a distinction between good contextualization and bad contextualization. I mean how far can you go with this? What do you mean “become all things to all people”? Of course, there is a way that you can take this too far. Do we become an adulterer to the adulterer? A thief to win the thief? A drunkard to the drunk?

Look at the passage again. There is a way to export the message without compromising the message. Notice first, that Paul says he “became” all things. The hard work of removing the stumbling blocks and hindrances are on him. Paul took it upon himself to know the people, culture, and community he was reaching in order to preach to them. But Paul never was ruled by anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ. Paul remained faithful not only to the message, but to God. At times he uses the Law, “though not being under the law”, in order to win those under the Law. At other times he becomes as someone outside of the Law, though not “being outside of the law of Christ” in order to reach those outside of the law. Paul’s goal is to see people from these different groups or communities encountering the saving message of Jesus by embodying the message. Paul proclaimed the message of the kingdom without surrendering his allegiance to any other king.

The issue is not becoming all things. Paul made sure that though he became like them, he was able to draw the line. He wasn’t under the law. But he wasn’t outside of the law of Christ either. So, without giving up who he was in Christ, Paul became what he was not in order to win those he was identifying with. He is faithful to preach and faithful to the One he is preaching about. His message and method were faithful to God. His message and method came across in a way that was culturally understood. Paul’s message was true to the Bible and meaningful to the hearer. He didn’t just get it right, he got it across. 

Relevant to the culture

Paul shows us that the goal is not only about getting it right. It’s also about getting it across. He wanted to make the message he was preaching easy to understand. Paul seems to give himself to people. It’s a love for people that move him to study them. Look at verse 23 where he says that his goal is to “share with them in its blessing”. He is not only concerned with having his doctrine put together. He is also concerned about people who have yet to “share in its blessing”. He is wanting to win more of them. He wants people from all sort of backgrounds to come face to face with the gospel of Jesus. Paul wasn’t in anyway watering the message down. But he wasn’t keeping that all satisfying, living water to himself either.

There are many examples of how Paul sought to share the gospel with many different groups in Acts. We wont go too into it tonight but if you want, look at Acts 13 and then look compare it to chapter 17. Tonight we will only look at Acts 17. Let’s turn our Bibles to Act’s 17.
Paul was on mission with Silas and stops at Athens. There he begins to speak to people in the marketplace and reasons with them as much as he could. He then addresses them and affirms them for being religious. Even though they were a city full of idols, he encourages them for their spirituality. He connects Jesus to a statue labeled the unknown god. He quotes pagan philosophers. More than likely Epimendes of Crete and Aratus. He doesn’t quote Scripture or talk about Jesus as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies. In this story, Paul preaches a truth centered message in a culture oriented way. His message is faithful to what God has revealed, and it is culture specific. 

Paul teaches us exactly what it means to “become all things” that by all means we “might win more of them”. We need to take our cues from what this passage is communicating about our gospel presentations. Are they addressing the heart felt needs and intellectual objections of the hearer? Do we know what those needs, heart issues, and objections are? Or are we presenting the gospel in a structured way? 

Now, I don’t have a problem with tracks, structures, tools, and principles for evangelism. I thank God for many of them. But do the structures and tools in sharing the gospel become the substance of our message? Or do they serve as guidelines or categories to think through? Do we ponder about how to make the gospel shine? Are we constantly thinking of how our message is being received? Paul would exhort us to make this our job. An ambassador of Jesus should not only know the message of his King, he should also know how to communicate it to those he is addressing. Sometimes people don’t have a problem with the message, it is just that they have a hard time with the method we use. Let’s do the hard work of not making the method the problem.