As we continue our series “Unshackled: Joy Beyond Circumstances” from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I wanted to share a brief video from The Bible Project on joy. This is one of their biblical theme videos and, as with much of their work, I appreciate the wide scope they walk through in a relatively short time.
Last night, we had the immense privilege of hosting an event at Eastbrook Church put on by the Milwaukee Declaration group entitled “A Wake Up Call to Live the Dream.” It was an amazing multi-ethnic gathering of believers from congregations around the city and suburbs of Milwaukee. At the end of the night, we provided some possible next steps. Since some folks have asked me about that resource list, I am posting it to my blog below.Read More »
This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I made a shift in our worship service order where we will recite the Apostles Creed on the first weekend of each month before participating in communion. As a non-denominational church, we are not alone in rarely reciting creeds. However, here is my apology for regular recitation of the creed together in corporate worship. I offered a slightly different version of this in the conclusion of my message this past weekend, “The Joy of Faith.”
One of the most important ways we announce that we are living by a different story is to rehearse – to say again and again – to declare – that our story is something other than the story of this earth.
There is a word for that in Christian practice and history: an affirmation of faith or declaration in a creed. So, I am going to have us do something different as a church here at Eastbrook. I want to have us regularly declare that we are living by a different story. When we gather on the first weekend of every month and celebrate the communion meal, I want us to take a stand together around the truth of the gospel revealed in Jesus Christ. I want us to announce to a listening world that Jesus is Lord and we are living for God’s good life and no other counter claims.
The Apostles Creed is the most widely used and consistently affirmed summary statements of faith within the global church of Jesus Christ. Although its exact origins cannot be traced, the Apostles Creed in its present form is first found in a document from c. 750. The basic concepts and structure of the Apostles Creed is found as early as c. 340 in what is known as the Old Roman Creed. “Teachers as varied as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Luther have held the Apostles’ Creed remains the best condensed statement of Christian faith and the most reliable way to learn the heart of faith.”
As we launch into our series “Unshackled: Joy Beyond Circumstances” from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I want to encourage us to consider more deeply whether there is a difference between joy and happiness. There are a millions articles about the superficiality of happiness, but Scripture actually does reference happiness as an experience of life with God. That being said, our culture often simplifies happiness into a fleeting, emotional state that we are perpetually seeking without really finding it. Joy, on the other hand, involves a decision of the will to approach life in a certain way, with a certain mental state, regardless of circumstances. Scripturally, we see that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer in Christ (Galatians 5:22-23) and is from first to last a gift from God (Psalm 19:18; 21:6; 94:19; John 15:11; Romans 14:17; 15:13; 1 John 1:4).
How are we to understand the tension within the Christian Scriptures related to cities?The Hebrew prophets are often critical of cities and many of the destructive promises within the Scripture are aimed at cities, not just groups of people. At the same time, we cannot escape the moving words of the prophet Jeremiah calling God’s exiled people to seek the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29) or the call of Jesus to his disciples to go to the cities to proclaim the gospel message (Luke 10).
When we understand what the city represents, we understand better both the order Jesus gave his disciples to go into the cities, and this other curious reference to the city as the center of crisis: “Go to the cities . . . . Shake the dust from your feet against the cities . . . when you are persecuted in one city . . . .” It is in and because of the city that the critical point of preaching is reached. There are of course many valid critical explanations of these texts, but they are not exhaustive. To me it does not seem sufficient to limit Christ’s words to the twelve (or to the seventy in Luke) and to speak of a temporary and exceptional mission of the apostles….
The message of the cross must be carried to the center of man’s autonomy. It must be established where man is most clearly a wild beast. Its goal is less the total umber of men, than the entity man. Christ’s sending his disciples out into the cities of Israel is their most dangerous mission, for it is directed against the heart of the world’s power and betrayal….
It is only by seeing in these texts a shaft aimed at the city that we can bring the various meanings back to one. For undeniably Jesus was here showing what would be the Christian’s attitude and position concerning the city and his work there. It is not for nothing that Christ’s unsettled status is mentioned (“The Son of man has no place to lay his head”), and that immediately afterwards he sends his disciples into the place of man’s stubborn establishment (Luke 9:57 and 10:16). It is not for nothing that he asked his disciples to go through the cities of Israel, fleeing from one to another, putting each one of them in a position of choosing, in a position of responsibility (Matt. 10:23). It is not for nothing that he showed that the departure of the disciple was most serious, that their departure, by shaking the dust from their sandals, was decisive in the order of condemnation (Matt. 10:14-15). In fact, all that we found in the Old Testament texts is here in résumé. The situation of the people of God in Babylon is the exact situation of the disciples in the city. This dialectic between staying and leaving, preserving and judging, is centered in the preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom. The entire doctrine which we have so far discovered and received is illuminated by these few brilliant words from Christ’s lips. Nothing has been changed, but what was announced is being fulfilled. What was described is being lived. And from this vantage point one can look back and understand the rest.
The disciples’ mission is outside the country, in the cities where God’s people, Israel, may be found living, in those cities where these people have entered into slavery, where they have shut themselves up in refusal and disobedience, where they have betrayed their vocation. God’s Israel has now become the church. Around her, the same battle is raging. She is bogged down in the same mud and must take up the same work, a work never finished because the city is the city. Go through all the cities of Israel, comes the command, brining judgment and forgiveness. Your work will not be done until the Son of Man returns. Even Nineveh converted is still Nineveh, and you, as ever in danger in her midst, can expect nothing other than the Lord’s lot (Matt. 10:24) – expulsion from the city.