Monthly Archives: March 2012

Evidence of Salvation

“For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well” – James 3:2 (emphasis mine).

We sometimes hear someone recite the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) as evidence of our salvation, that our character has been transformed both inwardly and outwardly.

But James’ assertion aligns with first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 5:3. In James’ ability to recognize our continuing shortcomings (falling short, Romans 3:23) there is also evidence of our salvation. Though our spirit is alive in the righteousness of Christ, our body is dead because of sin (Romans 8:10), as it is sold into bondage to sin (Romans 7:14). There should be no assumed excuse for sin but the Bible reminds us to praise God that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Begin again.

Paul committed the entirety of Romans 7 to the conflict we endure as we wrestle with the guilt and shame of our sin. The Law is good but we are no longer condemned by it. We live under the merciful grace of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

We must continue the battle but the knowledge itself of the battle reveals that we have been included in God’s salvation. Those who are not deeply convicted and conflicted by their unholy behavior are blind. Jesus repeatedly labeled the scribes and Pharisees as blind (Matthew 23:16-26), not seeing their own sins as they accused others of being sinners.

Your eyes are open to the war between your flesh and spirit. Strive on to overcome but know the conflict itself is evidence that you belong to God.

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When Life Gives You Limens (not a misspelling)

A limen is simply a threshold, a point of crossing so to speak as in a cultural shift or a change of employment, income, social class, or any other kind of movement from one status to another. Right now, the world is at a liminal moment. We are moving, full speed ahead, into the information age which is dramatically affecting how we “do business” as an ever increasingly integrated world.

Since most new “products” are information based – data, software programs, digital images or other recordings of sound and video – and the Internet dropping the time and relative cost of moving these products to nearly nothing, how information is shared, bought, or sold is already radically different than it was just twenty years ago. The printing press was such a revolutionary device that created a “new” world by the cheap proliferation of information. The Internet is the printing press on steroids, third generation mutation, then zapped with radioactivity. It is like comparing a student’s backpack for cartage to a shiny new oil supertanker.

So what does this liminal moment mean for the integration of faith and economics, for the spread of religious doctrine, for influencing history toward the aims of God’s mission in the world?

Robert Wright, in his book Non-Zero: The Logic of Human Destiny, makes the point that the speedier the access to sharing information, the more broadly folk interested in similar things can coalesce and increase their effectiveness in getting things done. The business world is already moving very, very fast on this new frontier and has already developed means the Church can appropriate for mission.

There are various communications technologies that churches and mission organizations are already using—multimedia, virtual meetings software, Internet broadcasting. How can we, especially ecumenically and globally, use new technology to advance God’s Kingdom? I am very interested in hearing from as diverse a range of voices on this as possible. Let me know what you think.

I will say this. Businesses, driven by a profit motive alone (the vast majority), are at the forefront of pushing further development of technology and trying to optimize existing technologies to gain productive efficiencies and market share. Does the church not have, ultimately, a more important message and a higher motivation?

As I said before, we are not just at any old threshold in cultural evolution. We are standing on the precipice of epoch level changes in how the world operates. Where do we take this conversation to help answer Jesus’ prayer that the people of God would be one as Jesus and His heavenly Father are one, that we might be salt and light to the world, our works glorifying God?

New technologies, changing economies, thought development…transglobal communications unprecedented in human history. Surely God sees opportunities for us to step up to the next level. My Google search on the phrase “technology in Christian mission” returned disappointing results. Why is the church so sadly behind the rest of the world? I guarantee Greenpeace and the environmental movement in general is way ahead of us on connecting the movement globally.

I would make a special note to mention David Miller of Crosscape Networks in Werrington, New South Wales, Australia ( for creating MissionTechWiki ( From there you can jump to the International Conference on Computing and Mission (

How many of us have even heard of this organization? We are looking face on at perhaps the greatest opportunity for the advancement of global Christianity yet we seem to be lagging behind. Folk, we have a lot of catching up to do!

Stay tuned…

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Hidden Treasures

The following is not a sound approach to biblical interpretation, but was a “reading” that revealed a powerful reminder. I like to confuse people by telling them that Nehemiah 10:12 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. I see confusion on their faces as they look back at me and typically ask, “Are you sure?”

Nehemiah 10:12 simply lists three names: Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah. The verse is in the list of leaders agreed with Nehemiah to follow God’s law. But that is beside my point.

As I read the list of names one night, I wondered, more or less asking God halfheartedly, “What’s of these names here? Why am I reading them?” There was instantly a response in my mind, “Look them up.”

Zaccur means mindful or remember.

Sherebiah means Jehovah has scorched.

Shebaniah means Jehovah has increased.

Remember, God scorches, God increases. I was somewhat taken aback that there seemed to be a statement here . . . God is like the refiner’s fire (Malachi 3:2). Remember the refiner’s fire.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2–4

The refining fire of God’s discipline, which we would all just as soon avoid, is for our cleansing, purification, and our perfection. The refiner makes the gold pure . . . it is not destroyed, like the burning bush (Exodus 3:2) was not consumed.

My other efforts to find hidden treasures in the Scripture this way have failed. But I can trust in the Lord that the Bible often speaks to my heart in far more ways than I might know.


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From Eden’s Bridge: And Then the End Shall Come (Teleology)

(This essay is a close adaptation excerpted from the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, available from the author or from Wipf & Stock Publishers. This essay should be read with the thesis of Eden’s Bridge—the marketplace is an institution of God, implicit in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 and vital to God’s mission in the world—in full view.)

There is on our day a great deal of confusion concerning the end times and such. Teleology, the study of design or purpose, has a great deal to say concerning the future as prophesied in the Bible.

Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:14). The “coming end” occurs at a point in time but time is not the focus of the statement. Rather, this end concerns a particular conclu­sion, in the sense of the adage “the ends justify the means.” The end of which Jesus spoke is the achievement of a new (renewed) status of social and political reality, the end of worldly affairs as they now stand under the corruption of sin. Jesus was speaking of the fulfillment of God’s ob­jectives in human individual and socio-cultural reformation.

Under consideration is the Greek term telos, from which the word teleology is derived, the study of the ultimate purpose or design of things. A telos may correspond to a particular point in time but refers more specifically to a change of status. It is in this sense that “Christ is the end [telos] of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). To better understand the end of which Jesus spoke, in contrast to a date, consider the use of telos when the angel spoke to Mary of the son she would bear. She was told that Jesus’ kingdom “will have no telos” (Luke 1:33). In other words, the reign of Christ will endure forever unchanged. The Kingdom of God is the end, the culmination of God’s redemptive intention, recovering God’s people and creation from the current corruption of sin.

Different approaches have been tried to bring about Kingdom te­los, such as social engineering, progressive politics, and even scientific development. If not inspired and led of God, attempts at political and social innovation will only improve conditions temporarily. The telos we look forward to is the ultimate reign of Christ in human hearts and social institutions. Where Christ rules (now only in part), the future culmination of the Kingdom begins to come into view.

In the church, the telos of God has been hindered by shallow the­ology, false doctrine, and misguided isolation from the world. Certain theological claims of the past two centuries have unconsciously reverted to a form of Platonic dualism which puts temporal and spiritual reali­ties in opposition. These claims can result in doctrines of escapism and expectations that the earth will meet a cataclysmic end to be replaced by an entirely different planet. The latter, in turn, can undermine creation care as part of the tending the Garden mandate.

The church has also been guilty of devaluing good that comes from secular activities simply because it was carried out by those who deny or ignore Christ, or who do not know of Him at all. If all good things come from God (James 1:17), then the positive impact of humanistic efforts by environmental groups or secular humanitarian agencies, for example, can be attributed to God. They are still dead works however and impute no righteousness to the participants. Opportunities to glorify God and witness to the world are missed when Christians refuse to come along side non-Christians to do good. God is advancing His mission in some cases in spite of the church, such as environmental efforts by secular organizations like Greenpeace, and social advancement activities like the poverty alleviating efforts of the United Nations and other non-government agencies, no matter how misguided or marginally successful either may be.

We are invited to take part in the Kingdom of God now. Evangelism opens the door to personal and social salvation. It is right that preaching “Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) hold the preeminent position in the ministry of the church to the world. But the Great Commission is to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Discipleship empowers the reformation of the human social condition, infusing godly wisdom and power into systemic institutions through the disciples He calls to influential roles within them.

The telos of God’s coming Kingdom is modeled in the Garden nar­rative. It is to that model of fellowship with God and abundant provision that the world is being returned. In the interim, the powers (social and economic) and principalities (political) against which we contend are largely the corrupted formal (legal) and informal (cultural) institutions of this world. The Kingdom telos will overcome ungodly cultural norms, the greed of economic injustice, the biases of marginalization (racism, for instance), and the towers of corrupt governance.

In the Kingdom telos, overarching human institutions (i) —family, ideology, education, media, the arts and entertainment, commerce, and governance—will be renewed by the power of Christ’s love, to the glory of God and the restoration of Edenic shalom.

Jesus taught a quite a lot about economics, possibly more so than on any other topic, in relating temporal life to the Kingdom of God. The condemnations of Israel by the prophets were largely focused on the disobedience of God’s will in the economic and political oppression of the masses by the wealthy, priestly, and monarchical authorities. An important focus in the Kingdom telos is distributive justice. God gave a redemptive model of human economics in the statements on His provi­sion for Israel in the promised land of Canaan in Deuteronomy 8. He promised that the land would provide for the people in abundance (vv. 7–8) and that they would lack nothing (v. 9), that it would be a place without miskenuth (scarcity or poverty).

In economic studies, scarcity refers to the fact that finite limitations of material and non-material resources preclude fulfilling all human wants. A lecturer once made a logical point: land is not able to produce beyond its natural limitations. That is to say that material scarcity, in some sense or the other, remains. The requirement for Israel to over­come material shortfall (chaser, to lack or need—Deuteronomy 8:9), however, was adherence to God’s commands (v. 6). The eradication of poverty (lack or indigence) hinges on distributive justice founded in the love of God. Jeffrey Sachs, in The End of Poverty, implies that we have the eco­nomic ability to eliminate abject poverty in this generation. (ii) But we lack the political will to do so. That is a condition of the heart, not the mind, nor the limitation of the land to produce. While we have the ability to provide for all, deprivation is propagated by political failure motivated by selfishness, i.e., sin.

The end (telos) will look a great deal like the beginning, the shalom of Eden restored. God provided for and orchestrated the division of the land of Canaan (Numbers 26:52–27:11; 34:1–3:34; Joshua 13:1–21:45) such that all would have access to the primary means of production for their perpetual provision. God also commanded the jubilee law that would restore any sold land to the original owners (Leviticus 25:9–55) every fifty years (v. 28). No one was precluded from retaining the wealth they may have accumulated other than real estate.

It is not unreasonable to consider that inordinate concentrations of wealth are outside the will of God, specifically if poverty reigns amongst the masses and over multiple generations. The word-picture of the New Jerusalem, with its foundations made of precious stones and the city of gold, in Revelation 21:18 and 21 is poignant. It shows that when the wealth of the world is appropriated according to God’s will and distrib­uted righteously, it will overflow all need, and that the measures, sym­bols, and means of accumulated wealth will be moot.

When the end comes, the date will be of little importance. What will be important is the fulfillment of a new (renewed) social and politi­cal reality, and the just distribution of wealth.

i. Hillman, Os. Reclaiming the Seven Mountains, 2011. No pages. Online: I have adapted and modified the list of cultural pillars, substituting ideology for religion.

ii. Sachs, Jeffrey D. “Introduction” to The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, 1–4. New York: Penguin Books, 2005.

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The Fruitfulness of Faith

“He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.” – Isaiah 58:11

A watered garden produces abundant fruit. But note that every formulation for our success starts with God:

“You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’” – James 4:15

“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

We do well when we recognize the preeminence of God. We will be fruitful as He fulfills the gifts and talents appropriate to our calling. He will orchestrate circumstances of opportunities we never imagined.

Our fruitfulness is a result of faith in God:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

And His ways are better than ours:

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

Our fruitfulness comes as we release control. We are pragmatic but that is a product of the Fall, when Adam and Eve were put out of the Garden of Eden. Once separated from God’s abundant provision, Adam had to toil to provide for himself.

But now we are encouraged in hearing:

“God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

Jesus Christ has re-opened the closed way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24) that we might “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. – Genesis 1:28


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