The Upper Room

Something I picked up in church:  The “upper room” that was the setting for the Last Supper (Luke 22:7-12) was also very likely the same “upper room” in which the Disciples met to replace Judas (Acts 1:13).  That means it was also the place where Jesus washed His Disciple’s feet and since it was the place “where they were staying” in Jerusalem, it must have been where Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection and was very likely where the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost (Acts 2:1), which we celebrate this Sunday.  So this room was, in effect, the first church-as-building.  And it reminds us of what happens even today in church buildings, which are the places where we too receive the Lord’s Supper, serve each other, meet the Risen Lord, and receive the Holy Spirit.

Pastoral care for the transgendered?

The latest Time Magazine cover story announces  that “another social movement is poised to challenge deeply held cultural beliefs”; namely, that of  the transgendered (men who feel they are women, and women who feel like men, often undergoing surgery accordingly).

A few years ago, seminary professor and now head of the Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission talked about how to minister to a transgendered convert or member of your congregation.  I’m curious if you agree or have a better idea.  But is it the pastor’s job to try to “fix” a particular kind of sinner, or is it sufficient to preach the Word in law and gospel, employ confession and absolution, and administer Baptism and Holy Communion, leaving the outcome to God as with everyone else in the congregation?

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Moralism of the right & moralism of the left

United Methodists are considering whether or not to have an amicable split, so as to accommodate both sides of the moral debates that the denomination is struggling with.  As I know from personal and family experience, Methodists have always had a strong emphasis on morality.  It certainly has an evangelistic strain, with its roots in the Wesleyan revivals, but its moral focus can tend to moralism, an emphasis on moral rectitude that overshadows the forgiveness of Christ.

The prospect of a Methodist split shows what is happening across many denominations.  There is a moralism of the right, fixating on traditional sexual morality, personal vices, and family values.  And there is a moralism of the left, fixating on “social justice,” care for the poor, and political liberalism.  (Note that it is possible to uphold what is “moral” without succumbing to “moralism.”)

But what–or, rather, Who–is often missing in moralistic churches of both the right and the left is Christ.  The right often relegates Him to the moment of conversion, whereupon Christians can then get to the real business of regulating their behavior.  The left reduces Him to a political liberal like themselves.  Both treat Him mainly as an example, rather than as Savior, Redeemer, and Sacrifice. [Read more…]

Sudan denies the release of condemned Christian

This weekend there were reports that Sudan would release the woman who was condemned to be hanged because she would not repudiate her Christianity.  But now Sudan is denying those reports, saying that only a court ruling could release her.  The woman, Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, whose husband is an American, had her baby in prison, where she is also caring for her 20-month-year-old son.  She had her baby baptized. [Read more…]

Tullian Tchividjian expelled for crypto-Lutheranism?

Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian and the grandson of Billy Graham, was kicked out of the Gospel Coalition blogging community for what the GC folks are calling a doctrinal issue over sanctification.  Others claim other reasons, including Rev. Tchividijian’s criticism of how other GC members handled a sexual abuse scandal.  But I take the official statement from the Reformed organization seriously.

As we have posted, Rev. Tchividijian discovered the distinction between Law and Gospel in some Lutheran writers who helped him through a personal crisis in his ministry.  The complaints about “anti-nominanism,” being weak on sanctification,  and downplaying the role of moral improvement in salvation sound like common Calvinist misunderstandings of Lutheranism. [Read more…]

“The hardest place on earth to be a Christian”

That would be Pakistan, according to Jesse Johnson.  It isn’t just that Christian are persecuted by the government.  The entire culture systematically excludes, punishes, and torments Christians.  Christians may not attend schools or universities, so most of them are illiterate.  This keeps them from getting decent jobs. Their testimony is not accepted in a court of law, so they lack legal protection.  Their daughters are routinely kidnapped.  Christians are often accused of blasphemy and murdered. [Read more…]