Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lessons from Emmaus

Luke 24:13-35 [NIV]
13 Now that same day two of them [Jesus's disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"

19 "What things?" he asked.

"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
There are some stories in the bible that just make you want to scream at the characters in them.

How stupid are these people?

I mean, they were steeped in the Torah, probably from birth, they had followed Jesus around and heard his teaching, they had seen what he went through, they had heard that the tomb was empty, they had heard that angels - yes, angels - had said that Jesus was alive, they even felt in their hearts that something amazing was going on... and yet they did not believe. They did not understand.

Hang on. These guys hadn't merely read their bibles regularly and been part of a church. They could probably recite entire books of the Torah (OK, I'm reading this in to the fact that they lived 7 miles away from Jerusalem; only serious Jews would live that close to the temple) and had spent time with Jesus himself. Talked with him. Heard his teaching. Eaten meals with him. Seen him heal the sick. Observed his life.

And yet they didn't understand the bible.

And they didn't really know who Jesus was.

They followed him. They believed in him.

But they didn't get it.

Blimey. If it was possible for them to know Jesus and still misunderstand what he was all about, how much more likely is it that we don't get it either?

How many Christians in our churches don't actually get it? They read the bible, they follow Jesus, they have a personal relationship with him, but they still don't get it?

What if I don't get it?

What if you don't get it?

I bet those guys were sure of what they believed. They knew the bible. They knew Jesus. But they were still wrong.

I'm sure you're sure of what you believe in too. Have you ever considered you might have misunderstood Jesus?

What if you haven't got him yet?

Are you sure your preconceptions are right? I'm not sure about mine.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Christians

Just finished 'Jesus Wants to Save Christians' by Rob Bell and Don Golden.

Its good. Basically it has only one point to make, but its an important point that many, many people in churches need to hear. And it makes that point well.

Its quite a short read - it feels more like an extended sermon than a book - and Rob Bell's writing style gets a bit irritating occasionally.

You see,

when he wants

to emphasise

a point

he spreads

one line of text

over about



which can be just a bit


But anyway. The point is this: the western church of today (specifically in the USA, but mostly applicable to the UK too) has forgotten what it was like to be oppressed. And as a consequence we don't do the 'good news to the poor' bit of the gospel anymore. We preach at them, from a distance, but don't get alongside the poor, care for them and meet their needs. And we need to if we want to truly be followers of Christ - because that is what he did.

Of course, the book says that with a lot more bible quotes, stories and theology in there, but that's the main point.

Recommended, if you want a short but challenging read.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


A few people I know are in the process of planting a church. They're doing this under the banner of an American church-planting organisation (I hadn't realised that such things even existed), and I'm totally supportive of the plant. But I had a read through of the 'statement of faith' of the parent organisation (on their website) and it managed to include the word 'pre-millennial'...


I'm not an expert on the theology of Revelation, but as I understand it, there are four reasonably common interpretations of the text (see below), two of which include the 'pre-millennial' return of Christ. However, the text isn't totally clear. Any of the four readings of the text(s) are plausible.
For what its worth, on the basis of this graphic presentation of the four options, I'd probably fall into the 'amillennialism' camp. But that's not really the point here.

The point is, why make this statement?

By specifying 'premillennial' in the basis of faith, the organisation is drawing a line in the sand that I do not believe has to be there. By making that statement they are -effectively- saying "only certain types of Christians get to be part of our church". And by making the statement they are acknowledging that there is another opinion; and rejecting it.

There are certain things that should be part of a statement of faith. "Jesus is Lord" is kind of central in all streams of Christianity, the bible is unambiguous on that. But why should a church take a definite stance on one side of an issue on which the bible is ambiguous?

Can we not have the grace to say "we don't know" on certain issues? Can we not graciously allow differences of opinion on non-central issues to exist within our churches? Can we not be a bit less dogmatic on our statements of faith?