Indelible Grace Church

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Indelible Grace Church Blog

Imago Dei

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The IGC mercy study group has been reading through Tim Keller’s Generous Justice. And we’ve been asking ourselves, how can we be a church that loves the poor? One of the resources Christianity gives us is the doctrine of the Imago Dei, man created in the image of God. Genesis tells us, “God created man in his own image,” so that every person, no matter their circumstance or condition, deserves dignity and respect. This was a radical concept in the ancient world, where tribalism, genocide and slavery were simply accepted.

The modern world no longer tolerates such atrocities, holding to the idea of universal human rights. But we often don’t realize that the Western idea of human rights arose out of the Christian teaching on the Imago Dei, the inherent value of every human being made in the image of the Creator God. As we move into a post-Christian world, the very idea of human rights stands on tenuous ground. Many secular philosophers argue that all people deserve dignity because of certain capacities – self-consciousness, the ability to reason, to make moral choices. But who is to say which capacities qualify and in what measure? What if a person has greatly diminished capacities – like someone born with cerebral palsy or severe autism? Is he still deserving of human rights? What about a fetus or someone in terminal illness?

This brings me back to the question: how can we be a church that loves the poor? When we see that every person, no matter their economic circumstance or their job skill-sets or their sociability, bears the image of God, will we love the weak and needy. For Jesus said, “whatever you did for the least, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 March 2014 11:32
 

"This is my body"

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So I’ve been reading Given for You by Keith Mathison, which is a fairly lengthy treatment on the Lord’s Supper. Have you ever read a book so that even as you are learning a great deal, you realize how little you actually know? This is one of those topics for me. But I wanted to share one thing I’ve come to appreciate more deeply. Which is why the Lord’s Supper, a picture of our communion with Christ, is a physical meal. Why does our connection to Christ consist of eating bread and drinking wine? Why is it so physical? In John 6, Jesus said he is the true bread from heaven and that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we cannot have eternal life. Just as it was for the Jews, this is difficult imagery for us. But what Jesus means is that he saves us through his body – his bodily death on the cross and his bodily resurrection from the grave. And therefore, we partake of this salvation by physically eating and drinking his body. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper is not just a fitting symbolic picture, it is the meal through which we actually partake in Christ and are united to him.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 10:54
 

Skeptics Night 2014

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So I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s book, Center Church. And he talks about how though we live in a post-Christian world, modern people are nevertheless attracted to the values inherited from our Christian past. I thought it was an interesting point and I’d like to quote the passage at length:

In his history classes, C. John Sommerville used to demonstrate to students how thoroughly Christianized they were, even those who were atheistic or antireligious. He would list the values of shame-and-honor cultures (like those of pagan northern Europe before the advent of Christian missionaries) and include values like pride, a strict ethic of revenge, the instilling of fear, the supreme importance of one’s reputation and name, and loyalty to one’s tribe. Then he would list corresponding Christian values, which had been hitherto unknown to the pagans of Europe – things like humility, forgiveness, peaceableness, and service to others, along with an equal respect for the dignity of all people made in God’s image. Many of Sommerville’s most antireligious students were surprised to learn just how deeply they had been influenced by ways of thinking and living that had grown out of biblical ideas and been passed on to them through complex social and cultural processes. His point was that much of what is good and unique about Western civilization is actually "borrowed capital" from a Christian faith, even though the supernatural elements of the faith have been otherwise neglected of late in the public sphere.

This has relevance to how we do evangelism in a post-Christian world. Christianity is widely seen as retrogressive and oppressive. And yet people are still drawn to the Christian ideals of universal human rights, justice, equity, freedom. We must make our appeal that these values have their strongest foundation in the gospel and not in secularism, and simultaneously, we must address the objections our culture has that makes Christianity no longer a viable option.

We’re going to try to do that at Bodi’s Java café on March 15. I will be addressing the question: Isn’t it cruel of God to cast people into hell just because they don’t believe in him? I encourage you to invite your friends.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 11:42
 

What does it mean to be a missional church?

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We’ve been talking about the vision of our church for 2014 – to be outward-facing.  Another way to say this is that we seek to be a missional church. This term has gained popularity of late but is not well understood.  To be missional means to understand that modern culture has shifted.  America used to be a “Christianized” nation, meaning most people had a general but vague understanding and appreciation of Christianity.  So that evangelism was merely stirring up people to believe what they already knew.  But we now increasingly live in a “post-Christian” world, in which most people have no idea about even the basic elements of the gospel, and moreover, are suspicious of, if not hostile to, Christianity.  In other words, American Christians now find themselves in the same position that Christians in India or Japan face.  All of us live in a mission field.  And therefore, this changes the way we do church, so that our gospel presentation has to be theologically deeper and provide cogent answers to the objections our culture raises.   If we’re going to effectively reach our secular neighbors, we have to adopt a new posture of being “in mission” in every aspect of our lives.   This is an age full of promise, for our situation is more like the early church than in any other period of Western history.  It is an age full of opportunity but with many challenges.

Image: Paul preaching at Mars Hill by Raphael.

 

IGC Vision 2014

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Years ago, I read Stephen Covey’s self-help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I don’t remember much except the counsel that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.  You would think this is a bit of unnecessary redundancy.  But for people as well as churches, it’s incredibly easy to get sidetracked and forget what the main thing is.  For IGC, the main thing is the gospel.   And so we seek to be gospel-centered in teaching, community, and other-orientedness.  On this third area, we've looked for these past two weeks at how we can be an outward-facing church through mission and mercy.

Mission
From July 25 - August 2, we’re going to send a short-term missions team to Haiti.  This Sunday, Pastor Wade will give a presentation on the details of that trip.   I hope you will prayerfully consider going out this summer and support this team with resources and prayer.

Mercy
I will be leading a "Mercy Study Group" that will meet once a month to discuss various readings on the theology and pragmatics of helping the poor.  The study group will last six months and is open to anyone.   In the end, we’ll be asking – how can we engage the poor in the East Bay?  What practical steps can we make as a church to lift up even a single family out of poverty?  This study will begin in February.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 January 2014 12:27
 


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