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Modernising the Apostles Creed

a not-so-sacred cow in Edinburgh via karen_roe in flickr

a not-so-sacred cow in Edinburgh via karen_roe in flickr

During a baptism class on Sunday, where many children were present, I was briefly explaining some of the key phrases of the Apostles Creed. Who is God? Who is Jesus? What does “ascended” mean? etc. I also noticed that the version of the creed we were reading had retained a few archaic English terms like “thence” instead of “there” and “Ghost” instead of “Spirit”.

I told the parents present I would update that language so the kids understood what we were talking about. If they read in the Bible, and hear in Kids Church that “God the Holy Spirit” is the third person of the Trinity and then read “Holy Ghost” in the creed, are they going to become confused? I think it’s very likely and not just for the children.

Here is my suggested modern rendering the Apostles Creed. The creed has changed much since its earliest appearance as a Latin statement of belief. Some of those changes have attracted controversy. Others were simply to modernise the language. In my version below, I have changed the wording in a few places. Have I retained the meaning adequately? Is the Apostles Creed an untouchable “sacred cow”? What do you think?

The Apostles Creed – A Modern Children’s Edition by Albert Garlando

I believe in God the Father, the Almighty maker of heaven and earth,

I believe in Jesus Christ, God the Son, our Lord:
He was made into a baby by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary; he suffered under Pontius Pilate and was crucified, then he died, and was buried; he went down into the grave.
The third day after, He arose again from the dead;
He went up into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
He will come back from heaven to judge everyone who has ever lived.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; He brings every believer into the holy Christian Church and gives them the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and everlasting life.
Amen.

 

 
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Posted by on 26/02/2013 in church, discipleship, Theology

 

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Looking at Spiritual Growth as if through a matrix

You think that’s air that you’re breathing? ;)

Sometimes the business of spiritual growth is a bit of an intangible, unobtainable, clichéd carrot on a stick that religious elites use to chastise the unenlightened. Or so it might seem.

Have a look again at that passage in Galatians 5:16-26, this time check it out through a lens of biblical theology (i.e. the repeated and progressive unfolding of God’s revelation in the Bible) and see if some of the pieces start to fall in place. Biblical spirituality is not some aloof, monastic experience. It’s a bread and wine thing – something you can eat and drink in real life. But, if you can swallow the red pill for a second and take another look, you might see how the entire Bible points us towards this.

Consider the growth of a child – those around the child notice the child’s growth. The child is not conscious of their growth though – but it is happening. Growth is organic, it not constructed.

Growth is slow and growth is permanent. Except for the mysterious case of Benjamin Button, once you grow, you don’t get younger.

However your externals do change. Your preferences for clothing fashions, the cars you drive, houses you live in – all of these change according to your tastes, the environment, condition of the economy etc. However, if all you have are Spiritual externals, then you are going to fluctuate and go back and forth and up and down.

Eventually you are going to fail completely to keep up that external appearance and our true nature and it’s inevitable works of the flesh will be manifested and we will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Instead, we must turn, repent, and come under the influence of the Holy Spirit – not the external, impotent efforts of our flesh.

A. Conduct – v.16
A command is spoken by God intended to create true life – Spiritual life.

B. Conflict – v.17
The man of flesh, the first Adam rebels against God’s Spirit – conflict results

C. Construction – v.19-21a
The man of flesh wants to create his own law and ascend to God on his own terms. In fact, he wants to take the place of God.

D. Consequence – v.21b
God tests man’s law and it fails. Instead of being a true law of righteousness it leads follows into the wilderness of disobedience where they perish because of their unbelief and rejection of God’s Spirit.

C`. Cultivation – v.22-23
The man of Spirit – the second Adam, produces the fruit from the tree of life which fulfills God’s law and writes God’s law onto our hearts and transforms us from the inside out.

B`. Crucifixion – v.24
The man of Spirit – responds to the conflict of the man of flesh and defeats him through a substitutionary death. For it is not behaviour change that redeems and transforms the man of flesh – but death to sin and new life in Christ.

A`. Conduct – v.25-26
Those risen with Christ – alive in the Spirit are the only ones able to live in God’s covenant and enjoy the life of righteousness. Which is evident in worship, fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Have you experienced the “matrix?”

Some related posts:
How are you growing?
Book Review of The Bible Matrix
When did the Reformation stop… for you?

 

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Smashed by Greatness

Greatness is not something to be rejected outright. It can be something to pursue to be the glory of God.

A couple of examples? The below video highlights a few. It’s an excerpt from a sermon preached by Mark Driscoll on Luke 9:46-50.

If you’re sick, how often are going to wish your doctor didn’t aspire to be a great Doctor? Do you really want one that is “humble” and doesn’t think much of their own abilities and has made no time whatever to develop themselves to be the greatest Doctor they possibly can be?

If we are going to be a good steward of our resources, talents, time, gifts, abilities, relationships, etc then we will pursue greatness – not for the sake of being a celebrity – but so that Jesus is imaged in our life to the greatest extent possible.

Some of us, me especially, need to be smashed by God’s greatness so that we stop accepting mediocrity in our lives, families and ministry and pursue greatness for God’s glory. Lets stop trying to please or pacify people and be great servants, preaching a great gospel about a great redemption as told in a great Bible all about and for a great God and great King – the Lord Jesus Christ.

 
 

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Why Youth DON’T leave the Church

It’s a common part of each generation in Churches all over the western world. Children are drawn into a youth program, through either parental or peer influence and they hang around through high school, but then soon after University commences they take off.

Much of this is due to having a bit more independence and freedom. Some of it is an allurement to academia or career – e.g. a particularly winsome lecturer in Philosophy 101 that convinces them to be libertarian and throw off the shackles of religion or suddenly having a pay packet and not being able to resist the urge to blow it all every weekend on partying.

Churches have bemoaned this migration for years. A lot of time and money is spent trying to develop programs and strategy’s to “keep” them. Is that the right attitude? Are you sure you want to keep them? What of those who stay? Why do they stay? Is it because, the Church in question is doing something right or well enough for them to stay?

Jon Nielson, a senior high pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, blogged on this recently and suggests 3 key reasons youth will stay. Something all Churches should consider and investigate further.

1. They are converted – not just compliant

We youth pastors need to get back to understanding salvation as what it really is: a miracle that comes from the glorious power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit.

We need to stop talking about “good kids.” We need to stop being pleased with attendance at youth group and fun retreats. We need to start getting on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in the hearts of our students as the Word of God speaks to them.

2. They have been equipped, not entertained

If I have not equipped the students in my ministry to share the gospel, disciple a younger believer, and lead a Bible study, then I have not fulfilled my calling to them, no matter how good my sermons have been. We pray for conversion; that is all we can do, for it is entirely a gracious gift of God. But after conversion, it is our Christ-given duty to help fan into flame a faith that serves, leads, teaches, and grows. If our students leave high school without Bible-reading habits, Bible-study skills, and strong examples of discipleship and prayer, we have lost them. We have entertained, not equipped them . . . and it may indeed be time to panic!

3. Their parents preached the gospel to them

It’s not uncommon for church-going parents to blame church leadership for failing when their little Johnny or Jane follows the call of the wild and opts to party instead of bible study.

As a youth pastor, I can’t do all this. All this equipping that I’m talking about is utterly beyond my limited capabilities. It is impossible for me to bring conversion, of course, but it is also impossible for me to have an equipping ministry that sends out vibrant churchmen and churchwomen if my ministry is not being reinforced tenfold in the students’ homes.

Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it’s also not a crap-shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church.

Youth Leaders, Pastors, fearful parents, find out what you are doing right with others who stayed. Chances are it will be all, or a combination, of these three points. Most of all, preach the gospel to your kids – not a moralism that says, “Good boys and girls come to Church.”

What else is your Church doing right that others can learn from?

 

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Would you like some cheese with your WHINE?

One of my previous employers use to host a Friday afternoon social that consisted of some drinks and snacks. The snacks would vary depending on which team member had done the shopping, but one thing was consistent; there was always a nice bottle of wine with a few cheeses and usually a loaf of sour dough and olive oil dip. The afternoon provided a way to wind down at the end of the week, debrief and catch up with colleagues that you had been too busy to speak to earlier and otherwise relax before heading off into your weekend. It was something to look forward to, particularly if the week had been a little long. At 4:00pm each Friday, it was “tools down” and time to push away from the desk and gather in the break out area for a drink. My wife and I also enjoy an occasional wine and cheese night at home with a movie. The idea is pretty much the same, relax, wind down and enjoy a small treat.

But there is another type of “whine” that isn’t so enjoyable or relaxing. You know, the whiner, the martyr, the cynic, the perfectionist – they just can’t seem to talk without complaining about someone or thing. They have the un-delightful talent of making any interaction painful.

What does God’s word have to say about dealing with this habit of complaining? In Philippians 2:14-16, Paul says,

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

How do I do that? It is not achieved by a mere act of will power. It is an effect or result of living out the inner reality of the gospel of Jesus in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit (spoken of in verse 12 & 13).

When we are truly meditating upon and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, our complaining is undone. Our complaining says, ‘I am entitled to better than this.’ Whereas the gospel says, ‘I am entitled to be judged for my sin and sent to hell for eternity. Thank God for his grace and mercy to me.’ When we put the gospel first, we will gladly sacrifice all types of ‘complaining’ for the sake of the salvation of others.

When Paul says the result of not complaining is we “shine as lights in the world“, he is alluding to Daniel 12:3, “Those who are wisewill shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”

The point he is making is that people believing the gospel, will react differently to the circumstances in life. A complaining Christian is speaking and acting as though the gospel isn’t true.

How do you make a positive impact so that the world takes notice? Not by whining. Instead, speak the word of life, sacrifice your own agenda and give yourself to Jesus (v.16-18).

Choosing not to complain is an act of self-sacrifice. It is a loving decision to enter into personal suffering, loss and inconvenience for the sake of Jesus and others. Jesus entered our broken lives and pain and took it upon himself to give us life. He chose not to exercise his entitlements and instead died for our sins, in our place and we are called to sacrificial service for the sake of others coming to faith in Christ.

 
 

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The best thing about Christian ministry

… is often the worst, in experience.

When I was a student minister, my Senior Pastor, Sam Keller, used to say 2 things to me:

  • The best thing about being in the ministry, is … the people.
  • The worst thing about being in the ministry, is … the people.

How do you handle the strained relationships in your life? We all know that to have a successful business the employees must work together; To have a successful football team the players must work together; To have successful government the legislature and senate must cooperate; To have a successful family the members must work together; To have a successful church we must work together; Very little is accomplished in life by yourself.

Success is never a one man show. When there is unity there is tremendous power and potential. The problem is people don’t always get along. How do you resolve conflict and increase cooperation without becoming a bland consensus of lifeless uniformity and seething passive aggression?
This photo belongs to nilsrinaldi's photostream
Would you believe, the answer is “contending“?

It’s true!

Although, it is not contending with each other, instead it’s about contending for each other.

Australian NRL Commentator Phil Gould recently observed elements of a tough and successful football team:

They encourage each other, support, cheer for, celebrate with, believe in, trust, fight for each other and play to their strengths. That gives us a great picture of the word Paul used here – play as a team. You have different roles, different positions, different gifts, abilities and strengths but play as a team!

In Philippians 1:27 Paul tells the Church to “stand firm” in the Holy Spirit, “contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” The word “contending” describes the way athletes strive together as a team to achieve a common goal. How much more so, can Christians work together, contend with each other, for each other, instead against each other, for the sake of advancing the cause of the gospel message of Jesus Christ?!

The life Jesus calls us to is a life of other-ness – to be lived for others – just as he lived, and died. Gordon Fee in his commentary on Philippians says:

 A crucified Lord produces followers who themselves take up their cross as they follow him. To live for Jesus, on behalf of Jesus is to live the same way he lived – and died – on behalf of others.

Paul wants them to see everything is the context of this. Everything! Their suffering, circumstances and relationships come back to:

WHO is Jesus, WHAT has he done, and WHAT DIFFERENCE does it make to us as a community.

Friendships are forged in the crucible of contention – contention with each other for a common cause. How have you seen relationships transformed positively through sharing a difficult experience?

 
 

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