Posts Tagged ‘theology’

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“Say Ah” – Nov. 3

November 3, 2015

“Ah, Lord God!  It is you who has made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too hard for you.”  Jeremiah 32:17

IMG_20151026_155920Upon September’s conclusion, I knew October’s difficulties.  The nature of my employment had conspired against me by scheduling five business trips in the span of four weeks.  I realize that, for some, this may have been business as usual.  However, six business trips constituted my annual total in years past.  I am not accustomed to this level of business travel.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should reveal the locations of my business travel before you commiserate too much with me.  I was working in the following National Parks:

Mount Rainer National Park
Death Valley National Park
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Muir Woods National Monument
Olympic National Park
Yosemite National Park

IMG_20151017_092150I can just feel the sympathy evaporating as this list is read.  It was rough duty but someone has to do it.  My only appeal for sympathy is that while I was traveling to beautiful locations it was for work.  My typical trip was a three day affair; flying to the Park on day one, conducting the project meeting on the following, and then returning on the third day.  These trips contained a lot of time in airports, planes, rental cars and hotels, albeit, in the context of a spectacular National Park.

IMG_20151017_092445I have found that it takes purposefulness to truly combat the busyness of business.  I endeavor to purposefully carve out time in each business trip to appreciate the particular locale of my trip, especially on trips to national parks, otherwise I will miss the spectacular.  It is easy to fly in, do the work, and fly out without ever looking up.  We can miss a lot of wonder in our diligent toil.

Therefore, I try to find a moment or two on each business trip to set aside my labor, look around me and say, “Ah, this is spectacular!”

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I have realized my need to be purposeful in looking past myself so that I can appreciate the wonder of the world I live in, otherwise it doesn’t happen.  Beholding the glorious is one of the unique characteristics of being human.  There is no other creature who has this unique ability to appreciate the spectacular.  It is what we were made to do.

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However, I often fail to regularly do what I was uniquely created for.  I get so consumed by my daily toils that I fail to look up and appreciate the world around me.

If I am failing to appreciate the world in which I am placed,
how can I truly appreciate the Creator of that world?

If I am failing to appreciate my Creator,
how can I truly trust him?

If I don’t truly trust Him,
how can I say that I have faith in Him?

Consider how Jeremiah may have come to his declaration of faith, “nothing is too hard for God”.

He beheld the heavens and the earth;
He praises the Creator, “Ah, Lord”;
He reasons that creation must have required great power through the outstretched arm of God;
He concludes in faith that if God can create the world around him then there is nothing too hard for him.

I don’t know if this is exactly how Jeremiah thought.  Although, this is how my faith often works.

My soul is most refreshed when I lay aside my preoccupations and simply behold His glory.
My faith is renewed through each exclamation of “Ah, Lord”.
My resolve is strengthened when reminded of my God who can do anything.

I believe that we all can grow in our trust that “nothing is too hard for God”, which means that we all can use more “Ah, Lord” moments.  Maybe, rather than trying to do more, we simply need to carve out 15 minutes a day to merely relax and enjoy the spectacular nature of our Creator.IMG_20151028_155019

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the spectacular world that we live in.   Thank you for putting on display your glory.  Thank you for creating me with the ability to praise you.  Forgive me for often failing to do what I have been uniquely created to do.  Lord, remind me, today, to look up.  Remind me to behold your glory, today.  Father, inform my theology through the appreciation of your creation.  Build my faith through all the “Ah” moments that you grant me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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QUOTE (Oscar Cullmann) – Feb. 25

February 25, 2015

cullmann“The fountainhead of all false biblical interpretation and of all heresy is invariably the isolation and the absolutising of one single passage.”
~ Oscar Cullmann,

In honor of Oscar Cullmann, German New Testament Scholar, who was born on this day in 1902.

Resources:
February 25 – Today in Christian History
One Verse Heresies

 

 

 

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AM I SICK – Dec 29

December 29, 2014

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

After a month of eluding, it has happened.

An occasional dry cough has mined down into my bronchi to produce the rattling notes of illness. My sinus passages refuse to work in unison. They are contented to take turns passing air while the other throbs with the pressure of an impassable clog.

I am sick.

I had successfully managed to avoid this cold as it passed through our household. Germs have filled the confined atmosphere of a house sealed against the frigid winter weather. These germs have systematically progressed through my family – son to daughter to wife… and now to me.

I thought I had successfully eluded the buggers since wellness prevailed through our home for more than a week. Yet, there were signs that all was not well for a few days.

Sleep has been restless;
Sinus pressure has built;
And a tickle has been maturing in the back of my throat.

My wife asked me how I felt this morning and made an observation as to why my immune system may have now succumbed when it had been able to fend illness off for so long. “We haven’t been eating well lately,” is what she said.

It is true. We came off of our diet cleanse (SOUL CLEANSE) through the Christmas festivities. We have not been eating horribly but it surely hasn’t been as well as before.  Our diet might not be the sole reason for my illness, but I surmise that it was a significant contributor.

I came across a survey at Ligonier Ministries recently. The survey purported to take the temperature of America’s theological health.

TheStateOfTheology-InfographicThe survey concludes:

  • Answers are reflective of our “made-to-order” god.
  • The majority of Americans perceive “goodness” to be a better description of people then “sinful”.
  • The majority of Americans aren’t convinced of a literal heaven and hell.
  • Pluralism is rampant within our culture.
  • Our culture is anti-theological – we are in a new dark age.

The survey demonstrates that many professing Christians are theologically sick. After writing this blog for a couple of years, these survey conclusions do not surprise me. I regularly get emails and comments from individuals purporting beliefs that are anti-theological.  I wonder if one of the contributing reasons for the theological illness of America is our typical Christian diet.

I read Psalm 63 as part of my daily Bible reading this morning. I was struck by three words.

Earnestly
Thirsts
Faints

We will not earnestly seek after someone we don’t value. We will never wait for our thirst to be quenched by someone we don’t trust. Surely, we will never exert ourselves to the point of passing out for a belief we doubt.  I find these words very convicting because they do not describe me to the degree that I would like.

The passion of the Psalmist is the natural manifestation of a healthy soul. It is the result of someone regularly grounded on a dietary foundation of sound doctrine. It is through sound doctrine that the value of Christ is expounded; the trustworthiness of God is demonstrated; and doubts are answered.

Doctrine is not a bad word.

Doctrine merely means knowing what you believe, why you believe it, how to live it, and how to share it. It is anti-theological to reject doctrine just because it is doctrine.  This attitude resigns us to a life of chronic spiritual aliments.

Let’s embrace a regular diet of theology and the passion that will come from a spiritual healthy life.  If you are interested in my thoughts on how to cure bad theology, check out CURING BAD THEOLOGY.

“People are cutting themselves off from 2,000 years of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of the Word of God. We never want to exalt tradition over Scripture, but we still need to recognize that we are par of the historic body of Christ.” ~ Stephen Nichols

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your word.  Thank you for the centuries of ministry by the Holy Spirit to your children.  Lord, I want to be passionate about you.  I want to thirst for you.  I want to seek after you earnestly.  Give me that commitment to follow you and be obedient to you.  Draw me closer to you.  Heal me of my chronic spiritual aliments.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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QUOTE (Horatius Bonar) – July 31

July 31, 2014

Horatius Bonar

“It is not opinions that man needs: it is TRUTH. It is not theology; it is God. It is not religion: it is Christ. It is not literature and science; but the knowledge of the free love of God in the gift of His only-begotten Son.”
~ Horatius Bonar

In honor of Horatius Bonar, Scottish preacher and hymn writer, who died on this day in 1889.

Resources:
July 31 – Today in Christian History
Horatius Bonar>Quotes

 

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QUOTE (Dorothy Sayers) – July 15

July 15, 2014

sayers“Why do you want a letter from me? Why don’t you take the trouble to find out for yourselves what Christianity is? You take time to learn technical terms about electricity. Why don’t you do as much for theology? Why do you never read the great writings on the subject, but take your information from the secular ‘experts’ who have picked it up as inaccurately as you? Why don’t you learn the facts in this field as honestly as your own field? Why do you accept mildewed old heresies as the language of the church, when any handbook on church history will tell you where they came from?

Why do you balk at the doctrine of the Trinity – God the three in One – yet meekly acquiesce when Einstein tells you E=mc2? What makes you suppose that the expression “God ordains” is narrow and bigoted, while your own expression, “Science demands” is taken as an objective statement of fact?

You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you know about Christian beliefs. I admit, you can practice Christianity without knowing much theology, just as you can drive a car without knowing much about internal combustion. But when something breaks down in the car, you go humbly to the man who understands the works; whereas if something goes wrong with religion, you merely throw the works away and tell the theologian he is a liar. Why do you want a letter from me telling you about God? You will never bother to check on it or find out whether I’m giving you personal opinions or Christian doctrines. Don’t bother. Go away and do some work and let me get on with mine.”
~ Dorothy L. Sayers

In honor of Dorothy Sayers, an English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, translator and Christian, who was baptized on this day in 1893.

Resources:
Today in Christian History
Goodreads > Dorothy L. Sayers Quotes

 

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MALADY OF THE EXPERT – May 16

May 16, 2014

“Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” John 8:49

Hello my name is Expert
We live in a land of experts.

If we have a disease, we go to the hospital’s experts.
If we want knowledge, we go to the University’s experts.
If our car maintenance light glows, we go to the car dealership’s experts.

Tax issues – specialist in accounting.
Court issues – specialist in law.
Building issues – specialist in engineering.

We expect our specialists to have answers. We pay them for answers. Often, specialists are cast aside until we find the one who agrees with what we want to do. Even if we can get the answer we want, a bad response is often better than the uncertainty of  “I don’t know.”

We want to know.

This expectation of answers has probably always been at the bedrock of religion. We want answers for our questions of the physical world and we want answers to our questions of the spiritual world.  I recognize the expert’s attitude exerted against Jesus by the Pharisees in chapters 7 and 8 of the Gospel of John. That similar attitude seems to echo through the theological debates of our time. They provided reason and rationale as to why Jesus was not the Christ.

The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” (John 7:20)

But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from. (John 7: 27)

…But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (John 7:41)

They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” (John 7:52)

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (John 8:13)

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48)

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be? (John 8:52-53)

Yet, these proclamations of experts proved to be false and misguided. Their expertise in the Law failed them because it was not based on complete understanding. They were applying flawed, sinful understanding to a manifestation that was without precedent. They rejected the Christ because He did not fit the model in which they were so convinced He would appear. Jesus did not come as they expected, therefore, he could not have been the Christ. Their expertise did not adequately provide the understanding to inform them of the events that were transpiring around them.

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (John 8:43)

I read the Pharisees’ objections to Christ and can uncomfortably relate to their self-assured theological knowledge. They were the experts of theology for their day and based on their knowledge they had answers. It just happened to be horribly wrong answers based on a lack of understanding.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Infant Baptism vs. Adult Baptism
Charismatic Gifting vs Cessationism
Sunday Worship vs. Saturday Worship
King James Only vs. ESV Only vs. NASB Only
Traditional Service vs. Contemporary Service vs. SOMA Service
Premillennialism vs Postmillennialism vs Amillennialism

How much of the rhetoric from these debates is honoring to our Father?

I have studied these issues and I have my opinions. However, I also know that those who do not share my opinions can advocate their position from scripture. I don’t know of a better illustration of this fact than the debate moderated by John Piper between Jim Hamilton, Doug Wilson, and Sam Storms. (An Evening of Eschatology – Piper, Hamilton, Wilson, Storms)

Three capable theologians, who love and follow Jesus, came to three different conclusions based on their understanding of scripture. The fact is that two or maybe all three are wrong. Someone has made a wrong decision based on flawed understanding. Yet, churches have split over these issues in ways that I view as dishonoring our Father. It is the malady of the experts.

Since we are all subjected to the same malady, the only cure is grace.

crossChrist was perfectly clear in His teaching to the Pharisees about who He is.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was, “I am”. (John 8:58)

The further away we get from that central teaching – Jesus Christ and him crucified – the more grace we need to show our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As we mature in our faith, we should delve into the “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Cor. 2:6) However, we must resist the arrogance of the experts.

We must show grace in our theological assertions for our more immature brothers and sisters so that their faith “might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:5)

We must show humility in our debates, understanding our inherently flawed understanding of the mysteries of God.

Imagine how glorifying God’s church would be, if our debates were dominated by experts of humble grace rather than experts of flawed understanding.

PRAYER: Father, you know that I am inclined toward the attitude of the expert.  Forgive me for caring more about winning a theological argument than showing grace to a fellow heir in Christ.  Forgive me of the dishonor that has been wrought when love was not my foremost objective.  Lord, make me into an expert of humble grace.  Give me wisdom in delving into your wonderful mysteries.  Remind me of my continuing lack of understanding to keep me humble.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

A man should never be ashamed to admit he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
~ Alexander Pope

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QUOTE (Henry Ward Beecher) – Mar. 8

March 8, 2014

English: Henry Ward Beecher.

“The way to begin a Christian life is not to study theology. Piety before theology. Right living will produce right thinking. Yet many men, when their consciences are aroused, run for catechisms, and commentaries, and systems. They do not mean to be shallow Christians. They intend to be thorough, if they enter upon the Christian life at all. Now, theologies are well in their place; but repentance and love must come before all other experiences. First a cure for your sin-sick soul, and then theologies. Suppose a man were taken with the cholera, and, instead of sending for a physician, he should send to a bookstore, and buy all the books which have been written on the human system, and, while the disease was working in his vitals, he should say, “I’ll not put myself in the hands of any of these doctors. I shall probe this thing to the bottom.” Would it not be better for him first to be cured of the cholera?”
~ Henry Ward Beecher

In honor of Henry Ward Beecher, American Congregationalist clergyman and reformer, who died on this day in 1887.

Resources:
Today in Christian History – March 8
Our History – Henry Ward Beecher
Beecher, Henry Ward
Henry Ward Beecher>Quotes

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