Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hope In Doubt

A good article on doubt by Lee Strobel -Why Doubt Can Give You Hope (via Relevant):
I know I’ve gone through bouts of doubt that felt like they could be lethal to my faith. How about you?
Perhaps you’ve questioned whether God has really forgiven you or whether He can keep forgiving you when, as a Christian, you’ve failed to do what you knew He was telling you to do. Or you’ve wondered whether the Bible can be trusted. Or you can’t reconcile the world’s suffering with a loving God. Or you’ve read an article by a skeptical scientist or liberal theologian that kicked the legs of your faith right out from under you.
The issue isn’t whether you will catch the doubt virus; we’re all infected to some degree. The real question is this: How can we prevent that virus from turning into a virulent disease that ultimately ravages our faith? Or perhaps this is a better question: How can we respond to our doubts in ways that will help us emerge even stronger as a result?
As incredible as it sounds, a bout of doubt may turn out to be one of the healthiest and most hope-inspiring experiences you’ll ever go through.
Let’s put the doubt virus under the microscope where we can expose it to scrutiny and destroy some of our misconceptions that give it undue strength.
First Misunderstanding: What Doubt Really Is
Many Christians think that doubt is the opposite of faith, but it isn’t. The opposite of faith is unbelief, and that’s an extremely important distinction to understand.

In his book In Two Minds, Os Guinness said, “Doubt comes from a word meaning ‘two.’ To believe is to be ‘in one mind’ about accepting something as true; to disbelieve is to be ‘in one mind’ about rejecting it. To doubt is to waver between the two, to believe and disbelieve at once and so to be ‘in two minds.’”
Guinness also pointed out that in the Bible, unbelief refers to a willful refusal to believe or a deliberate decision to disobey God. But doubt is different. When we doubt, we’re being indecisive or ambivalent about an issue. We haven’t come down squarely on the side of disbelief or belief; we’re simply stuck over some questions or concerns.
So go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief. Those words might be just what you needed to hear to begin neutralizing the anxiety that the doubt virus has been generating inside you, robbing you of the hope your Christian faith ought to give you.
Second Misunderstanding: Doubt Is a Sin to Be Forgiven
Not only is doubt different from disbelief, but, contrary to popular opinion, doubt is not a sinful offense. God doesn’t condemn us when we ask Him questions.
Don’t you think God would rather have you be honest with Him about your doubts than have you profess a phony faith? He knows what’s going on inside us anyway; it’s absurd to think we can mask our doubts from Him. An authentic relationship means telling the truth about how we feel, and that’s the kind of relationship God wants with us.
Third Misunderstanding: Doubt Inevitably Does Damage
Another common misconception is that the doubt virus is always detrimental to our spiritual health. However, the truth is that God can use our doubts to produce positive side effects.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Be Still and Know...

Be Still by Pete Wilson:
One of my favorite verses to go to when I’m being overtaken by worry is Psalm 46:1, 10-11
God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. 10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. 11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
I think it is easy, especially as we get older, to interpret “be still” as being lazy and lethargic, like we’re just supposed to sit there while the world spins out of control around us. However, the word “still” in Hebrew actually means to cease striving. We are constantly striving to control things that we were never designed to control, so all we need to do is be still and lean into the only one who ever had any control in the first place.
Cease striving today. Not because you know that things will all work out, but because you know the God who will work it out.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Merry Hallowthankmas!



It's not just the stores - I've seen 3 homes already lit up for Christmas this week. NO NO NO 1,000 TIME NO!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Why Believe the Bible?

Do you believe the Bible? why? would you have trouble explaining to someone why you believe? Check out Notecard Answers For Why I Believe the Bible by Erik Raymund (Photo from the article)"

As Christians we are to always be ready to give a defense of the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15). The basis of this hope is our confidence that the Bible is God’s Word. It is trustworthy and sufficient.
There are many times when our confidence in the Bible can come under attack. Consider a temptation to doubt the truth of God’s Word when you or someone close to you is diagnosed with a severe medical condition. Are you tempted to doubt the sufficiency and truthfulness of God’s promises? Or consider the moment of great temptation to sin. Like Eve you are appraising the way the desire can bring satisfaction to you and meet your need. You weigh this against God’s Word. At some point you have to remind yourself of the truthfulness of the Bible. Finally, consider a conversation with an unbelieving friend who is sanctioning their lifestyle because the Bible is not true. In each of these scenarios you need to have some quick, simple, and compelling truths on retainer.
I’ve put these 5 together as something of a quick reference notecard for why I believe the Bible. I’m sure there is an acronym or something clever but I’ve not thought of it.
(1) The Biblical Argument.
By this I simply mean that the Bible claims to be God’s Word. This claim is not just in a remote passage or book but throughout. We read in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”. The source of the text, the Word is God himself. There is no flinching on this fact from Genesis to Revelation. The fact that the Bible claims to be God’s Word and proves to be so throughout history needs to be on my mind when dealing my doubts or a skeptic’s.
(2) The Historical Argument.
Here I am simply saying that overall the people and places in the Bible show up in history. When we read of descriptions of times and events we often find these same things in extra-biblical history. Further, when archeologists dig and uncover ancient artifacts it often shows us that biblical events that were not previously discovered were in fact true. And finally, the history of events from within the Bible in terms of prophecy, they happen. Consider the Babylonian captivity, King Cyrus, and the details concerning the life of Christ. Within the canon of Scripture it unfolds with historical consistency.
(3) The Empirical Argument.
Personally speaking, I have experienced a substantial change. The day I was converted I walked out of my house cursing God and then I came home praising him. How does this happen? My experience tells me that this is not some ordinary book. I’ve been moved to tears reading other books but this book actually reads me, wrecks me, and rebuilds me. What’s more, I’ve seen and experienced this same thing with other people. This change is not limited to gender, ethnicity, geography, or even time. This book claims to change lives and it actually does.
(4) The Logical Argument.
There is a single, coherent theme throughout the book that the glory of God is paramount. If God were to write a book this is how he would write it. If man were to write a book this is not how he would write it. It has the “ring of truth” as Lewis would say. Man would tend to diminish his defects and exaggerate his virtues; the Bible seems to do the opposite. It maintains the dignity of humanity but also shows its brokenness. It is here that we see the glory of God on display. This brings me to another aspect of this argument. If you survey all world religions most will agree that there is a problem and they exist to help us with this problem. However, it is only biblical Christianity that actually maintains a God who does not compromise. Every other plan of salvation has God bending his righteousness in order to show love. Man and God partner together to achieve salvation.
However, with the Bible God does not compromise. He maintains and demonstrates his righteousness while showing forth his love! On the cross God is both the just and the justifier (Rom. 3:26). This means that he does compromise. Think about this: the Bible maintains that all of God’s attributes are in tact, no dimples, defects, or deflation! However, without the cross (and outside of the Bible) you have a god who compromises something in order to bring salvation. This reminds me of God’s infinite wisdom, love, mercy and grace—as well as his authorship of the Bible.
(5) The Christological Argument.
This seals the deal. Here is it is an a nutshell: since Jesus rose from the dead he is God, therefore, his view of the Bible is the right one. Jesus believed the Bible was divinely inspired (Mt. 4:2; Mt. 22:31-32), authoritative (Lk. 4; Jn. 10:34-36; 12:47-48); powerful (Mt. 5:17-18; Jn. 6:63;Jn. 17:17); and about him (Lk: 24:25-27, 44-47; Jn. 5:46-47). Furthermore, he believed the Bible was historically accurate, “”In the Gospels we see Jesus reference Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaac and Jacob, manna in the wilderness, the serpent in the wilderness, Moses as the lawgiver, David and Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Elijah and Elisha, the widow of Zerephath, Naaman, Zechariah, and even Jonah, never questioning a single event, a single miracle, or a single historical claim. Jesus clearly believed in the historicity of biblical history.” (DeYoung, Taking God at His Word). Having Jesus’ bibliology is never a bad idea.
Conclusion
In the midst of temptation you will hear the words of doubt again, “Did God really say?” You and I need to be ready to muzzle the serpent with truth. Continue to tutor yourself with the reality that God’s Word is in fact God’s Word. Do this in the good times as well as the difficult times. Keep on studying and delighting in this truth that you might be able to properly deal with doubts both from within and from without.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Prayer Goal

"The goal of prayer is not to get good at praying. The goal of prayer is to live all of my life and speak all of my words in the joyful awareness of the presence of God."

      - John Ortberg (@johnortberg)

It Matters

Have you ever heard someone say, or have you ever said, "Who needs theology and doctrine, just preach Jesus"? Check out Why Theology Matters by Matt Capps
Have you ever heard someone in your church dismissively say, "Theology isn't for me" or "I don't think theology is important; we just need to love Jesus and love people"? While I understand the sentiment behind these statements, as a pastor it grieves me.

Though many people in the church see theology as an abstract academic discipline with no bearing on the day-to-day Christian life, theology is inescapable. Simply put, every Christian is a theologian. Every Christian, by definition, knows God, thinks about God and makes statements about God. The very word "theology" means a word (logos) about God (theos).

Christian theology is simply talking about God in a distinctly Christian way based on the Scriptures. And if everyone is a theologian, the central question becomes: Is his or her theology distinctly Christian? Recent findings give cause for concern.

True theology points to God

LifeWay Research recently studied the theological knowledge of 3,000 adult Americans. The study focused on key theological areas of the faith and revealed several areas where many Americans differ from historic, orthodox Christianity.

Almost half (45 percent) believe there are many ways to get to heaven. The same percentage says the Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses. More than half (59 percent) of evangelicals believe the Holy Spirit is a force, not a person. And 29 percent of evangelicals believe God the Father is more divine than Jesus. Where are Americans, and especially evangelicals, getting their theology?

Human beings didn't invent God, and because God exists independently from human experience, theology cannot originate from human thought or experience. Distinctly Christian theology -- what the apostle Paul called "sound doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:3) takes its starting point from the belief that God has revealed Himself in His authoritative Word, the Bible.

This is significant because the Bible stands as a testimony to the free and intentional act of self-disclosure on the part of a transcendent God. The task of theology has to do with knowing the true God and developing an integrated knowledge about Him in light of His self-disclosure.

A distinctly Christian theology is also focused on Christ. In John 5:39, Jesus says the Scriptures testify about Him. Christian doctrine is deeply personal and redemptive -- not an outline of abstract formulations or a morality code. The Bible is the unfolding story of God's rescue and subsequent commissioning of His people through the person and work of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God.

Theology is practical
Theology is undertaken so our hearts might respond to God and that our lives might be conformed to His will. All of life's central questions are deeply theological. Theology speaks to inquiries as wide-ranging as the meaning of life and as specific as particular events in life.

Our questions about the everyday ups and downs of guilt, joy, doubt, peace, suffering, justice and injustice all require a solid biblical and theological grounding to grasp them from a distinctly Christian perspective. And whether our theology is biblically sound or flawed, its implications will undoubtedly be felt because theology affects lives -- both ours and those around us.

Theology and the Christian life are not competing interests, but two sides of the same coin. This is why theology is so important to the local church. The church is a community of people on mission with God. And it's a community where the passing on of the faith, or sound doctrine, is central to its purpose (Matthew 28:16-20; 2 Timothy 4:1-4).

Theological formation should be esteemed in the church because the church itself is a Gospel-formed theological community. The church is centered on God's Word, and God's Word is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). In other words, theology is eminently practical.

Theology also engages our emotions and shapes our living. It is not an exercise in head-scratching puzzles, but a discipline that should lead to heart-stirring emotions, which in turn leads to worshipful obedience in every area of life. It is by knowing God that we come to love Him, and by loving Him that we come to know Him.

This is why J.I. Packer has long said theology is for doxology and devotion -- that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness. In other words, loving Jesus and loving people are made possible by a theological vision of God and the Christian life.

Theology fuels our devotion to God and our passion for sharing the Gospel. A solid theological vision of God and the Christian life is a powerful tool for mission.

Imagine if every Christian were a good theologian. Not just a good theologian, but a good theologian in the distinctively Christian sense. Theology matters for your church because theology is for everyone. Every Christian is a theologian.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

...Than To Rule Over All the Earth

“The delights of this world and all its kingdoms will not profit me. I would prefer to die in Jesus Christ than to rule over all the earth. I seek him who died for us; I desire him who rose for us. I am in the throes of being born again. Bear with me, my brothers and sisters. Let me see the pure light; when I am there, I shall be truly a human being at last. Let me imitate the sufferings of my God.” 

-- St. Ignatius of Antioch, Martyr (circa 107 AD)

No Hallmark Platitudes

At a loss for what to say to a friend going through grief or other intense suffering? Whatever else you say, Don't Give Them Hallmark Platitudes (by Erik Raymond):
What do you say when someone close to you enters a season of intense pain and grief? How do serve them well?
Some of the most common choices include the following. First, you can avoid them. It is painful and unsettling to see people hurting; it’s easier to just avoid it. Second, you can minimize it. Try to shrink down the effect of what is happening by contrasting it with something else. Third, you could trivialize it. This is perhaps the most common. Here we say a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make any sense or help. But, it’s ok since it is in a nice voice or because it comes in a card.
I don’t believe any of these are helpful or advisable. Staying away does not help the person who is hurting. Friends, and in particular Christian friends, are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Rm. 12.15). Minimizing grief is just a smoke screen that doesn’t ever help. After all, Christians have a context for what is happening so providing this is actually more helpful. And finally, the Hallmark platitudes just don’t help. It actually makes the problems we are facing worse because it shows that we don’t really have much in the way of help; we just say stuff that sounds nice.
Instead of Hallmark give hurting people Habakkuk. That doesn’t sound very marketable, does it? But it is helpful. Let me explain.
Habakkuk and his people were getting their tails kicked by neighboring countries. God tells him that it is going to get far worse before it’ll get better. The Babylonians were stretching their hamstrings and about to invade, assault, and capture them. The bad religious people in Israel would be judged by the bad pagan people in Babylon. Habakkuk is grappling with his lot in life. It was hard. And this is what we can learn about suffering and helping those who are hurting. God hears the cries and wades into them. Far from minimizing, sentimentalizing, relativizing, or staying away, God enters in and provides counsel.
As you read Habakkuk in light of the situation in the book you see that God’s dealing with the prophet is instructive for us. Here are a few of the things we can glean from the book in this light....

Read the rest at the link.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Strategic Bible Reading


Need a better approach for daily Bible reading? How about Five Strategies For Daily Bible Reading by Gavin Ortlund//;
I’ve always been amazed by Jesus’ response to Satan’s first temptation: “if you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3). I picture Jesus there, looking at the stones. His ribs are poking out, and his body is worn away after 40 days of fasting. But even in extreme hunger, Jesus prioritizes spiritual food above our physical food: “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
In other words, Jesus’ response is not simply a rejection of Satan’s offer, but a reorientation of his condition. I might expect Jesus to say, “man shall not disobey the Lord even when he dies of hunger.” Instead, he says, in effect, “even now, as my body wastes away, even here my deepest need is not bread but the Word of God.”
One of the issues that comes up most often frequently when I am discipling others in the church is the struggle to do daily Bible reading. And it doesn’t necessarily get easier for those of us who are in ministry or study the Bible in an academic context—in fact, I think many pastors face the temptation of their teaching ministry from the Bible to crowd out, or altogether replace, their own personal devotional reading of Scripture. But if Christ claims that daily Bible reading is more important to us than daily food, we can’t neglect our own nourishment, even while seeking to feed others.
As I have tried to help guys struggling in this area, and also remain vigilant and creative and fresh in my own Bible intake, I’ve come up with a couple basic ideas that some have found helpful.
1) Plan a regular time and place into your daily schedule
I have found that amid the pace of life, Bible reading (like so many other things) tends to eclipsed unless it is structured into our daily schedule. I used to try to do it first thing when I wake up, but there is a glaring problem with this strategy: I drink coffee. This means that my brain is not at its best when I first wake up. Also, having kids who wake up at different times makes my morning routine less predictable. So I have switched to taking the first few minutes when I first walk into my office. I wait to turn on the computer, and I close the door. If I know there will be a lot of people wanting to talk, I go to the park or a quiet spot in the sanctuary.
Some people have personalities or schedules (or both) that are not conducive to daily time sitting down and reading. So one piece of advice I have given to people in this circumstance is to get the Bible on audio on your iPhone, and then listen to it on your drive to work, or when you go to the gym. But one way or another, it really helps to have a set time each day that is set apart for it. This helps ensure it will actually happen, and also creates a sense of rhythm and regularity to it.
2) Do it with someone else
I don’t mean actually reading the Bible with someone else in the room with you (though that can work, too). I mean have someone else who is on the same schedule as you, and whom you see somewhat regularly in the course of life so you can check in about how it is going, and what you are learning.
Over the past several years, when younger guys confess that they struggle with doing “quiet times” regularly, I have started to plan out my own devotional schedules and then going through it with them. It has been an awesome experience: not only does it provide some built-in accountability, but it also gives the opportunity to dialogue and engage about what you are learning. It is much more motivating to read carefully when you know you are going to have a conversation with someone about what you are reading, and it is also opens up doors to see new things in the text you never would have seen on your own.
I have started doing devotions guides for our church, organized around our sermon schedule, to widen out this experience to the entire church. It is really helpful when many different people are engaging with the same biblical texts and topics: it generates a lot of synergy and conversation.
3) If you are new to it or bad at it, keep it simple and short
Sometimes people struggle with doing daily devotional Bible reading because they work it up in their mind as more than it needs to be, just like people avoid going to the gym because they feel intimidated and out of place because of all the super healthy there. I have found that some people feel liberated by the reminder that it does not need to be super long, or super in-depth and scholarly. If you struggle to do daily Bible reading, and you’re trying to get better, don’t start with commentaries or huge chunks of text. Start with simplicity, and then build from that point.
For example, just reading and praying about one verse for five minutes each day is way better than doing nothing, and it’s a good starting place to build from. Just like 20 minutes on the treadmill three times a week is not going to put you in league with any Olympic athletes, but it can still make a huge difference in your health. A little is much better than none, and it gives you a place to build from.
4) Have a system for summarizing and remembering what you learn

Bryan Chapell talks about the “3:00 AM test” for sermons: imagine someone wakes you up at 3:00 AM and asks you what the sermon is about. Can you remember? If not, the sermon is probably half-baked.
When I stop halfway through the day and I cannot remember what I did for devotions that morning, I know I am rushing through my devotions too quickly, over breakfast or on the run or something, and not really digesting God’s Word. For me, it is especially easy with longer narrative texts to simply move on with my day and forget what I have read, so I have found I have to find a system to summarize and remember what I learn from it. I find it often helps to write down a brief summary of something God teaches you, and then repeat it and pray about it throughout the day.
Right now I am reading through I and II Kings, and I read a chapter a day. Because it is not always obvious how to summarize each chapter, I write down one brief sentence that encapsulates something I’ve learned from the text. So for I Kings 1 it was, “God chooses leaders contrary to human wisdom.” Not the most profound or deep idea, and not the only thing in the text. But its something that stood out to me from the process of Solomon being chosen over Adonijah. It gives me something tangible to hang onto later in the day when I think back on the story. And then I will see it again the next day to take me into I Kings 2, so it also helps build continuity from one day to the next.
5) Implement a structure for prayer and application

It is not always easy to know how to apply various passages of Scripture to the gospel, and to ourselves. For example, if your morning schedule puts you on the old prophet at Bethel in I Kings 13, you mind wonder how in the world this story fits in with the larger biblical narrative, or what is going to come at you in your day.
There are lots of ways to try to integrate each individual text into the larger context of redemptive history, and systematically in relation to the gospel, and in the finer points, this is a complicated task that no one ever stops growing in. But I believe every Christian can make real progress by bringing a basic gospel structure to each biblical passage. For example, here are two questions that can be a very helpful launching point, and which I once again draw loosely from Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching:
  1. what does this passage reveal about human nature that needs redemption?
  2. what does this passage reveal about God’s nature that provides redemption?
That is not all you need to do, but it is often a good starting point for prayer and application. Suddenly, when I’m in I Kings 13, for example, when I’m starting to see new insights about the crookedness of sin, and the binding nature of God’s word. I start thinking about how much of my own inconstancy and fickleness I see in the characters of this story. I remember from yesterday’s reading the promise that “a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name” (13:2). I feel the weight of the relative darkness of this time in history, the desperate need of God’s people for a king and savior—ultimately, a greater Josiah. I reflect on all that has happened in redemptive history since this passage.
I find myself more aware of how deeply I need Christ. I think about where the world now would be if Bethlehem had never happened. I think about all that Hebrews says about what Christ has fulfilled, all that has already happened in redemptive history. I take time to thank him, and ask that he would help me see more of his direction and providential leading in my life, as the greater High Priest and King who is now saving and leading God’s people.
Even in I Kings 13, and in every other little corner of the Bible, however obscure, there is some unique contribution to the revelation of the gospel. There is no wasted space in the Bible. In fact, if we take Jesus at his word, “every word … comes from the mouth of God”—and is more important to us than our daily food.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Makes Sense

That Nasty F-Word: Forgive

The Christian F-Word by Jerry Jeter (Not what you think)
There is no relationship between the "F" word the world uses and the "F" word a Christian uses. Jesus would not have used vulgar language. Followers of Christ should not use vulgar language. We're called to take up our cross and follow Jesus daily. We are to live the way Jesus lived.
Jesus spoke the "F" word I'm thinking of. Christians should like the word. Yet, there are some who choose to avoid it. If a Christian avoids this "F" word, they are not speaking the language Jesus told us to speak. So, why do some avoid it? Because it is hard to FORGIVE.
That's it. Forgive. Forgiveness. Forgave. That's what I'm talking about. Jesus forgave us. He spoke the word many times, but one of the more magnificent ways He used this word was when He was being nailed to the cross. He said, "Father, FORGIVE them for they know not what they do." We don't like to forgive people who hurt us. Jesus forgave the people who nailed Him to the cross while they were in the act of hurting Him. He didn't even wait for them to ask for forgiveness.
Are you waiting for somebody to ask you to forgive them? It could happen. However, it might not happen. They might not know they hurt you. They might be justifying their actions. Or, it's possible they truly thought whatever they did to hurt you was "for your own good." Who knows? You don't have to wait for somebody to ask you to forgive them. You can forgive before being asked.
I'm glad Jesus forgave me. His nails should have been mine. He took the nails for me, for my sin... and for yours. Even though we are the cause of His pain, Jesus forgives us.

Holding a grudge doesn't help anybody. It hurts the person who holds it far more than it hurts the person the grudge is being held against. Forgiveness is a new beginning for the one who was wronged.

I FORGIVE you might be hard to say, but it will bring peace to the life of the one who speaks it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Freedom From Self Seeking

"Free Me From My Need to Exalt Myself"– from Prayers for Today


Lord, free me from my need to exalt myself.
Where I am prone to seek things for myself,
help me to seek the best things for You and others…
Where I am prone to make enemies,
help me to make friends…
Where I am prone to mistrust,
help me to trust…
Where I am prone to hate,
help me to love…
Where I am prone to despise,
help me to respect…
Where I am prone to seek being served,
help me to serve…
Where I am prone to speak evil,
help me to speak words of life…
Where I am prone to be idle,
help me to choose action…
Where I am prone to discouragement,
help me to be encouraged and to give encouragement…
Where I am prone to a lust for power,
help me to yield power…
Where I am prone to feel entitled,
help me to relinquish my rights…
Where I am prone to speak boastfully,
help me to choose meekness…
Where I am prone to impatience,
help me to  choose patience…
Where I am prone to be demanding,
help me to choose love…
All for Your glory. Amen.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Marriage Confusion

Another good and thought provoking article by Trevin Wax entitled Are Evangelicals More Revisionist on Marriage Than We Think?
I’m concerned about evangelicals and marriage.
Don’t misunderstand. I don’t think we’re about to see a massive capitulation of evangelicals on same-sex marriage. There are good reasons to reject the notion that evangelicals will adopt revisionist interpretations of Scripture or abandon the global, historic witness of the Church.
What concerns me is the possibility of evangelicals “holding the line” on same-sex marriage while adopting virtually every other wrongheaded aspect of our culture’s view of marriage.
Just because most of the people in your congregation reject same-sex marriage does not mean that their vision of marriage is biblical. Many of the folks sitting in church pews every week are just as revisionist in their understanding of marriage as their friends with rainbow avatars on their Facebook. That’s why I’m less concerned about our churches caving on gay marriage and more concerned about evangelicals adopting the underlying, revisionist framework that makes same-sex marriage possible.
Same-sex marriage is only the tip of the spear when it comes to the differences between the biblical vision of marriage and cultural counterfeit. If we focus only on current legal challenges regarding marriage, we may overlook just how deeply formed we are by our surrounding culture in matters related to sexuality and marriage. We may miss the fact that we, too, view our relationships in individualistic and therapeutic terms. We may think we’re “safe” or “faithful” if we adopt the “right belief” about gay marriage, when in reality, we may be just as compromised as the rest of culture. We may take pride in ”holding down the fort,” while the fort has been hollowed out from the inside.
Just how has society’s view of marriage changed? Andrew Sullivan, one of the leading voices in the gay marriage cause, lays out several ways in which marriage has shifted in recent decades. Each of these shifts affects evangelicals.
He then discussed in detail the three points made by Sullivan:
  1. Marriage as temporary
  2. Marriage a emotional commitment
  3. Marriage as personal expression
Then in conclusion he makes this very  important point:
We underestimate just how much cultural cultivation we have to do if we think success is just getting people to say “no” to same-sex marriage. We need the wider narrative of Scripture, and the bigger picture of marriage, if we are going to make sense of Christianity’s vision for family.
When we share the same undergirding ideas about marriage as the culture, the Christian’s “no” to same-sex marriage looks arbitrary and motivated by animus toward our LGBT neighbors rather than being a part of a comprehensive vision of marriage that counteracts our culture in multiple ways.
We are not called merely to reject wrong views of marriage; we are called to build a marriage culture where the glorious vision of complementarity, permanence, and life-giving union of a man and woman, for the good of their society, can flourish. Rebuilding a marriage culture must be more than lamenting the current state of the world at multiple conferences a year. It must include the strengthening of all our marriages within the body of Christ: from the truck driver, to the police officer, to the teacher, and the stay-at-home mom.
Success is not having church members say gay marriage “is wrong.” Success is when the Christian vision of marriage is so beautiful that revisionist definitions of marriage “make no sense.”
Read it all at the link.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fuzzified Faith

The text below was adapted from Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know by J. I. Packer.What Is Faith? (Via Crossway Blog) Good stuff!
The word faith is used elusively and does in truth mean different things to different people, though this fact often goes unrecognized.
Some churches—in an effort to be unitive—constantly refer to the faith as a common property held by all who worship, without defining or analyzing its substance, so that worshippers can go for years without any clear notion of what their church stands for.
Theologians rise up to affirm that, in idea at least, faith goes beyond mere orthodoxy (belief of truth) to orthopraxy (living out that truth in worship and service, love to God and man)—and in saying this they are right so far. But when some think orthodoxy sanctions behavior that others see orthodoxy as ruling out, it is clear that agreement about the truth we live by is lacking, and that is what we have to look at now.
Complicating our task is the fact that all varieties of the dimension of life we call religion (Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Baha’i, Voodoo, Sikh, New Age, Scientology, and the rest) are regularly lumped together with all the versions of Christianity (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, conservative Protestant, liberal Protestant) as so many faiths. This usage makes it seem that all religions should be seen as essentially similar—which is probably how most post-Christian Westerners do in fact see them, though in the church this is very much a minority idea.
Then, too, we use the word faith for whatever hopes about the future individuals cherish and live by (e.g., that science will save the planet from ruin; that there will not be another economic crash like 1929; that this or that missing person will be found alive; that this or that cancer can be beaten; that every cloud will have a silver lining; and so on). These broader uses of the word grew up as its former Christian precision dissolved away, so that in modern Western speech faith has become a vague term, a warm fuzzy slipping and sliding from one area of meaning to another all the time.le Defines Faith
In the New Testament, however, faith is a Christian technical term, specific in meaning as our secular technical terms (computer, dividend, airplane, spanner, appendectomy, syllabus, for example) are specific in meaning, and its New Testament meaning remained specific for Christians till about a century ago. It is something we need to get back to.
What did the apostolic writers have in mind when they spoke of faith? Nothing less than what they took to be the distinctive essence of Christianity: namely, a belief-and-behavior commitment to Jesus Christ, the divine-human Lord, who came to earth, died for sins, rose from death, returned to heaven, reigns now over the cosmos as his Father’s nominated vice-regent, and will reappear to judge everyone and to take his own people into glory, where they will be with him in unimaginable joy forever.
This was “the faith” that was taught and defended against Gnostic syncretists from the start (we see Paul in Colossians and John in his letters actually doing that); soon it was enshrined in creeds, which began as syllabi for catechetical instruction of enquirers; and, with its Trinitarian implications made explicit, it has since then been at the heart of mainstream Christianity everywhere. (The Reformers debated with Roman Catholics as to whether faith brings present justification directly, but no one in the debate doubted that real faith includes all that we have described.)
So faith, that is, believing, is in the New Testament a “two-tone” reality, a response to God’s self-revelation in Christ that is both intellectual and relational. Mere credence—assent, that is, to “the faith”—is not faith, nor is commitment to a God or a Christ who is merely a product of human imagination. Christian faith is shaped, and its nature is determined, entirely by its object, just as the impression on a seal is shaped entirely by a die-stamp that is pressed down on the hot wax.
What Went Wrong?
We noted above that in our time the word faith has become a warm fuzzy, slipping and sliding in use in and out of its Christian meaning to refer to other modes of believing and behaving that, whatever else they are, differ in significant ways from what we have described. This fuzzification of faith has developed in parallel to increasing ignorance of biblical teaching and growing skepticism as to whether that teaching as it stands may properly be called the Word of God. Is there a connection? Yes.
When the church ceases to treat the Bible as a final standard of spiritual truth and wisdom, it is going to wobble between maintaining its tradition in a changing world and adapting to that world, and as the wobbles go on, uncertainty as to what is the real substance of faith and the proper way of embracing it and living it out will inevitably increase.
When reason insists on ruling—that is, making original decisions of its own—in the realm of faith, where God’s truth should be received on God’s authority via God’s authoritative written Word, the results are bleak indeed. In comes relativism, the abolishing of all absolute standards for belief and behavior; in comes skepticism about all long-standing beliefs, as if their age automatically destroys their credibility; in comes pluralism, the confused condition in which we accept incompatibles side by side without full commitment to any of them; in comes agnosticism, the don’t-know, can’t-be-sure, who-am-I-to-say?, I-give-up, don’t-bug-me state of mind. Each of these isms is familiar among us today, they creep into churches as well as going on parade outside them, and the church of Christ is sadly enfeebled in consequence.
A robust return to the older wisdom about faith’s true object is urgently needed if the church is ever to impact the surrounding culture again. All who take faith seriously should unite to work for this return.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What Americans Believe

Recently LifeWay Research took a poll that surveyed Americans on a variety of theological issues. The piece below is from an article by Trevin Wax analyzing an article on this poll by Bob Smietana entitled, “Americans Believe in Heaven, Hell, and a Little Bit of Heresy,”
There Is Something Beyond
Your neighbor is likely to belong to the 67% of Americans who believe in heaven. If your neighbor identifies as evangelical, the number shoots up to 90%, which explains why books and movies on heaven find such an adoring audience. There’s little debate that heaven is for real.
Similar percentages reveal people believe in hell too, although few seem to be worried about going there. The same number of people who affirm belief in a heavenly afterlife also believe humans are basically good, even if they sin a little. And only 18% of Americans say small sins lead to hell.
In other words, your neighbor is more likely to believe in heaven and hell than not, but they’re not too worried about which destination they’re headed to.
Takeaway: Use the common ground of belief in the afterlife to bring up questions of eternal significance. But don’t forget that most people who are lost won’t recognize themselves as lost. The heaven and hell conversation is likely to be an entry point into deeper spiritual matters. Your evangelism will need to probe deeper than the question,“What happens when you die?”
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
The findings on salvation are distressing, especially when so many of these responses come from people who identify as evangelical or Catholic. Smietana summarizes:
"Most Americans (71 percent), and in particular Black Protestants (82 percent) and Catholics (87 percent), say people must contribute some effort toward their own salvation. Two thirds (64 percent) say in order to find peace with God, people have to take the first step, and then God responds to them with grace."
The idea that Christianity teaches that salvation comes through keeping a moral code is prevalent today. Sociologist Christian Smith described America’s religious views as “moralistic therapeutic deism,” a worldview he explains in five statements:
  1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” That’s the “Deism” part. God created the world, watches things, but doesn’t do much in the way of intervening in human affairs.
  2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” That’s the Moralistic part. The goal of religion is to be a nice, moral person.
  3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.” That’s the Therapeutic part. The most important thing in life is to be happy and well-balanced.
  4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” Now, we see the Deistic view of God combine with God’s therapeutic purpose. He exists to make us happy.
  5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.” Salvation is accomplished through morality.
Along these lines, it’s no wonder that so many Americans believe there are more ways than Jesus to get to heaven. The good news is, evangelicals are much more likely to affirm the Christian teaching that Jesus is the only way to God, a sign that despite offering moralistic understandings of salvation, they recognize there is something uniquely powerful about Jesus and His gospel.

Takeaway: Realize that most gospel presentations are going to be interpreted from within a moralistic framework. Terminology like “Get right with God” and “make a decision for Christ” is likely to be heard by lost people as “get your act together” and “ask Jesus for help in being good.” We must always stress our inherent sinfulness and Christ’s gracious rescue in order to counter the moralistic assumptions of our culture. 
If It’s Not Practical, We Don’t Get It 
On fundamental Christian doctrines like the Trinity, the results are abysmal. Almost 60% of self-identifying evangelicals claim the Holy Spirit is a force, not a person. The findings get worse from there, even among the most religious.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this doctrinal confusion is that Americans are unlikely to have much patience for truths that don’t provide immediate practical benefits. Churches, in turn, are less likely to see a doctrine like the Trinity as relevant to the Christian’s daily life, thus leading to less emphasis on these matters in weekly teaching.

Americans respect the Bible, and evangelicals score well on affirming a concept similar to inerrancy (a sign that the battle for the Bible led to higher views of Scripture among many churchgoers). But the survey also shows that Americans are more likely to look to Scripture as “helpful” rather than see it as objectively true.

Takeaway: We need to do a better job teaching the basic doctrines of the Christian faith and why they matter. The pastor should handle Scripture, not as a manual for life betterment and moral instruction, but as a grand narrative that gives us a worldview – a formative story that shapes our attitudes and actions. 
The Afterthought Church
Americans love their independence. If the church wants to come alongside and strengthen their personal, individualized sense of spirituality, well and good, we say.

But church leaders shouldn’t assume their congregants see attendance as essential to spiritual growth. Half of Americans think worshipping alone is just as good as going to church, and a staggering 82% say their local church has no authority to make a pronouncement about their Christian identity. (No wonder baptism gets reinterpreted as an individual expression of faith and church discipline is rare!)

According to this research, churchgoing is an afterthought. It’s an optional exercise judged primarily by its usefulness in one’s spiritual journey, not an essential part of faith and commitment.

Takeaway: We need to ensure that when we invite people to respond to the gospel with repentance and faith, we are making it clear that we are calling them into a community. Repentance and faith entails belonging to the community of repentant believers in Jesus. Church attendance is not the fine print at the bottom of our gospel presentations.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Let The Knowledge Of You Grow...

Anselm’s Prayer for Fullness of Joy in God 
I pray, O God, that I may know you and love you,
so that I may rejoice in you.
And if I cannot do so fully in this life
may I progress gradually until it comes to fullness.
Let the knowledge of you grow in me here [on earth],
and there [in heaven] be made complete;
Let your love grow in me here
and there be made complete,
so that here my joy may be great in hope,
and there be complete in reality.
Lord, by your Son, you command, or rather, counsel us to ask
and you promise that we shall receive
so that our “joy may be complete” [John 16:24].
I ask, Lord, as you counsel through our admirable Counselor.
May I receive what you promise through your truth so that my “joy may be complete” [John 16:24].
Until then let my mind meditate on it,
let my tongue speak of it,
let my heart love it,
let my mouth preach it.
Let my soul hunger for it,
let my flesh thirst for it,
my whole being desire it,
until I enter into the “joy of the Lord” [Matt. 25:21],
who is God, Three in One, “blessed forever. Amen” [Rom. 1:25].
Anselm, Proslogion



Thursday, October 8, 2015

Knowing and KNOWING



Don’t get me wrong, studying and learning from God’s Word is invaluable. Jesus referenced, read, and quoted all kinds of passages from the Old Testament, ample proof that he had studied God’s Word with great care and diligence. The problem isn’t knowledge. The problem is that you can have knowledge without having intimacy. In fact, knowledge can be a false indicator of intimacy. Clearly where there is intimacy there should be a growing knowledge, but too often there is knowledge without a growing intimacy.

Not A Fan Facebook Page

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Problem With Bible Verses

I love Paul Wilkinson's (at Thinking Out Loud) creative piece on the danger of reading Bible verses without context - Thus Sayeth the Blogger 
1From Paul, a blogger at Thinking Out Loud, to the church online;
2Greetings and welcome to today’s topic.
3Can you imagine if I were to write a book and give a number to every one or two sentences?
4It would break up the reading for sure,
5And people would consider it somewhat pompous.
6While it might be helpful in an historical account, it would surely break up the flow in a romance story or a parable
7And poetry would be rather awkward.
8Yet this is what happens when we read the Bible.
9Because we have such easy, pinpoint access to particular phrases, we are able to focus on those.
10And we often miss the context in which they are being said,
11Or worse, we over emphasize them to the exclusion of other truths.
12So one reader believes he “can do all things,” but can he fly an airplane?
13Another believes God has “plans to prosper” him, but what if he doesn’t see material blessing?
14Yet one more thinks that the parenting she has done assures her children “will not depart from it,” but is that an automatic guarantee or just a statement of principle?
15Churches teach that “all these things shall be added unto you,” but the context is the basic necessities of life, not everything we desire.
16Or that, “all things work together for good,” which is simply a bad translation of the verb.
17Or that, “not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you are able,” means that God will never give you more than you can handle.
18God is good, and God can be trusted, but if we are to take him at his word, we need to read it properly and in full context.
19Sometimes the verse numbers mitigate against that.
20So we need to be more careful, and more studious in our reading.
21And perhaps we need to be more aware and more embracing of those recent publications which present the Bible as a single story,
22And those translations which relegate the verse numbers to a place of lesser prominence.
23The grace of our Lord be with you all; Amen.


All You Need For All You Lack

What do you lack? What do you need? Consider All You Have In Jesus by Chad Lunsford (Via Pinelake Church):
How aware are you of all that you have in Jesus, of all that God wants to show you and do through your life? Here’s another way to ask it: How aware are you of all that you possess in Jesus compared to what you feel you lack? For most of us, we’re far more aware of what we lack. We think we need more money, a bigger home, more time, more intelligence, more capacity for work, and the list can go on and on.
But we don’t often take the time to list all that we possess in Christ. Paul reminds us that there is a fullness of God that’s waiting to work within us and through us — abundantly beyond what we even know to ask:
“I pray that you… may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”Ephesians 3:18–20
Too often, however, we allow the awareness of our problems to outweigh the awareness of His power. Are you aware of all you have? In Ephesians 1, Paul powerfully unveils all that’s ours through Christ. Here are three ways that he raises our awareness of who God is, which opens our eyes to all we have in Jesus:
1) I AM BLESSED; GOD IS A BLESSER
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” Ephesians 1:3–4
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we are blessed. In fact, when we actually begin to look for our blessings, we become overwhelmed with them. They’re everywhere, and maybe you should start counting yours. After all, God is abundant with his blessings — not just “enough” blessings, but every spiritual blessing God has already given you. Regardless of what comes your way, you don’t have to question God. You can know for sure that He’s a blesser.
Not only are you blessed because God is a blesser, but you can be a blessing. You can bless others in many ways:
  • Through kind words
  • Through service
  • Through thoughtfulness (e.g., text messages, letters, phone calls)
  • Through intentional and personal actions to others
2) I AM A CHILD; GOD IS A KINDHEARTED FATHER
“In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:5–6
We are God’s children. He has adopted us because of the kind intentions of His will. It gives me great joy to pray over my children as their father. But I remind them of their heavenly Father whose love far surpasses my own. Even though I’m flawed and mess up, I teach them through prayer that God never will.
We are sons and daughters of God, and He’s a kindhearted Father. You are loved. You are pursued. You are worth His Son’s life…You have a good Father!
3) I HAVE GRACE POURING OVER ME
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.”Ephesians 1:7–10
We can be consumed with our pasts, our failures or what has happened to us. Sometimes, we’re convinced that our past prevents us from a future, and we allow our identity to be shaped by what has taken place in our lives or what is taking place.
Paul says that you can stop all of that — because you’ve been redeemed! Regardless of what has happened in your life, God has redeemed you for a holy purpose. You’re not someone who is full of shame and guilt. Instead, you’re overflowing with the riches of God’s grace!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Subversive Kingdom

Everything in the news these days says that our world is broken. Don't give in to despair - read this instead: Subversive Kingdom: Our World Is Broken, But We Can Know the Healerby Ed Stetzer
Look around. Our world is broken. I'm not talking about the "world" in terms of nature (although creation, too, bears the marks of sin's blemish and decay). I'm talking about the "world" comprised of the people, structures, and systems that make up society--- the moral patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that result in things like unfair business practices, racism, extreme poverty, dishonest government, dirty politics, family breakdown, cheating, stealing, oppression of the weak, and so many other distressors and defilers.
In this world people who possess an evil thirst for power are often able to get it. People who harbor selfish desires can usually find a way to succeed at manipulating and taking advantage of others. People who feed on human weaknesses and depravations have little trouble exploiting those who can't (or won't) control their lusts.
Head gaskets blow. Jobs are deleted. Children get sick. People die.
You see it everywhere you look--the unjust normals of earthly life. Damp, dirty blankets trail out from under cardboard boxes beneath a city bridge. Retirement savings plummet in value just as their account holders need to tap into them. Trees go down in a thunderstorm, making the homeowner's premiums go up. Punk burglars break into a person's house, and all the police can do is file a meaningless report.
It stinks. It's bad. It's not right. It's broken. And in homes and hospitals every day of the week, at courthouses and gravesides everywhere in the world, people of all spiritual makes and models suffer from it--- from a world that toils along in hopeless disrepair.
What many of these people probably don't know, however, is that the only place where all of this turmoil will be made right--- all sickness, anger, discord, and broken relationships; all birth defects, hunger, addictions, and bankruptcy--- is in the eternal kingdom of God, to be evidenced one day in the unchallenged reign of Jesus Christ. Only in Him will any of us experience the ultimate destruction of impurity, disease, sadness, and loss; of hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and floods. All of it.
Because this kingdom (though not yet consummated) has already been inaugurated by the appearing of Christ on earth, we and the church have a meaningful role within the "already, but not yet," in-between time we call this present time. More than having a role, we sense inside us a God-given desire to alleviate as much pain as possible with the tools and opportunities he has placed at our disposal. We hate watching people suffer from the debilitating effects of evil in the world. We want to see the fallen and broken world, with its hurt and pain, driven back and overthrown. We may be pretty good at drowning out our heart's compassion with large doses of television and ice cream, but deep down we want to be part of making a difference in others' lives.
That's because we not only have what many have called a "God-shaped hole" in our hearts that he alone is able to fill; we followers of Christ also have a kingdom-shaped hole that makes us want to be part of what God is doing on this earth.
We wait for this lost, broken world to be completely fixed and reconciled to God. Yes, the kingdom is "already," but it is still "not yet." Complete victory is inaugurated but it is not yet consummated. And even though Christ's conquest is ultimately assured, right now the battle rages back and forth, delaying the end until the time set by God himself.
And I'll just say it. I'm about ready for this to end.
Not long ago my father e-mailed me about my sister, who died from a rare form of cancer while she was in college. His message arrived during the week of her birthday, when she would have been forty-five years old.
He said, "I miss her." I e-mailed back, "I miss her too, Dad." We are waiting for a day when these things do not happen anymore. Some time ago I tweeted about the tragic suicide of a member of my extended family, ending my post with the word, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus." Someone asked me, "Why did you say that? How are those things connected?" They're connected because our citizenship is in Heaven. We wait in hope for the return of our Savior. Right now our broken world rebels against its rightful King. People get sick. People are hurt. People hurt each other. People die.
Yes, the kingdom of God has come near, and our families and churches are outposts for the kingdom of God. We experience the kingdom's power, and we work to subvert the world's system and see the advance of God's glorious kingdom, where people are transformed, marriages are restored, and relationships are reconciled. We will never, however, take over the world and fix all its problems. So we look to Jesus, and we wait in hope.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, "Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace" (12:28). As we are receiving this kingdom, it is an action in process, not completed. The word shaken in this verse comes from a word meaning unmoved, firm, and stable. It also is used in Acts 27:41, where it refers to a ship run aground with "the bow jammed fast . . . unmovable."
Often it seems circumstances in our world are always changing--most often for the worse. What God is doing in His kingdom, however, is creating a place of stability and firmness for a people who currently yet temporarily live in the midst of chaos. He calls us to join Him in destroying the devil's works and establishing more and more outposts of His righteous kingdom. And as our Lord delivers this kingdom to us, our lives fairly shout our testimony to the reality of the unmovable, unshakable God.
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32 KJV). He has. He will. And its subversive nature changes you, those around you, and ultimately the world.
The kingdom of God is among you. Stay subversive.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Theology


How's your Theology this fine Monday morning? Check out Theology Is For Mondays by R. J. Grunewald:
Theology is primarily seen as the activity of professors and pastors, and occasionally a world that is entered into by normal people on Sunday mornings. But theology isn’t primarily an academic exercise and theology isn’t primarily about Sunday mornings. Good theology matters on Monday morning.
Your theology, whether you even realize it or not, shapes what happens in your daily life not just in your “spiritual” activities. Theology shapes the way we live out our faith in our careers, in our families, and even in our communities. The way we understand the grace of God shapes the identity we have which in turn also shapes the way we see and treat others. The way we understand God’s calling shapes the way we do our work and the way we understand the roles we play in the various spheres of life.

If your theology doesn’t impact your normal, ordinary, everyday life – it might be time to abandon your theology.
When we think of theology, we tend to quickly enter into the realm of dead guys and long words and things that are hard to comprehend. And while those things have a place and are even enjoyed by nerds like myself, theology is much more simply the study of God. Which means that whether you consider yourself one or not, you are a theologian.
I love how R.C. Spiral said it:

“No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian in the technical or professional sense, but a theologian nevertheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones.”
So what does a theology for Monday mornings look like?...
Read the rest of the article at the link.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Living Within the Sexual Revolution

We are all feeling like we are living within a cultural whirlwind this year. Take a minute to read Five Suggestions for Christians in the Midst of the Sexual Revolution by Kevin DeYoung. He provides some needed perspective and guidance.
Hardly a week goes by without another social media parade marching by in celebration of the sexual revolution. Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner, Kim Davis, Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Obergefell and on and on –the talk of sex is everywhere (and not a drop you should drink). It’s almost impossible to turn on the tv or scroll through your phone or open the paper (what are those?) without being bombarded by pictures and stories and headlines that all have to do with sex–not just sensuality (which would be bad enough), but the castigation of those who uphold traditional sexual boundaries and the applauding of every permutation of sexual activity (“infinite diversity in infinite combinations” as one political fundraising letter put it).
How should evangelical Christians and evangelical churches respond?
Here are five suggestions:
1. Do not be shrill. Remember: at any time, anyone can listen to almost anything you say. There are no “private” thoughts on Facebook. Any post or comment you write or share or like or pass along can be read by friends, opponents, and strugglers. This doesn’t mean we can’t speak clearly or strongly or with passion. But if you just need to emote, go on a long walk and pour your heart out to God. Let’s show the world that Christians are reasonable and unwilling to revile in return. Happy warriors not shrieking sirens.
2. Do not be silent. If you said “Amen” to the first suggestion, don’t miss this one. I suppose giving up is one way to end the culture war, but it hardly seems consistent with the whole salt-and-light business Jesus talked about. There are more people who agree with you than you might think. Every time we speak up–thoughtfully, respectfully, winsomely–we help others see that the revolution has not overtaken all of us. If all the Christians remain quiet and refuse to defend the truth (or themselves), we will not only do future generations a disservice we will inadvertently lend credence to a lie that says traditional views are no longer possible or plausible.
3. Do not neglect singles. The sexual revolution rests on two mutually exclusive propositions: sex has no meaning and that meaning must be expressed. On the one hand, we are told that there is no “essence” to sexuality, nothing inherent in sexual activity that gives it a natural shape or meaning. And yet, we are told that the worst thing we can do to anyone is repress their sexual expression. So sex is nothing and everything at the same time. Sex is essential to our identity, but the essence of sex is arbitrary. Into this mess, the church can speak a better way. Sex is a divine gift, but it does not define us. The church must grow as a place of welcome, hospitality, and purpose for single people. We must show that even if the world thinks there is something cruel and unusual about celibacy, Christians know that the fullest, most deeply human existence is not inimical to this path. After all, we worship a single man who never had sexual intercourse.
4. Do not outsmart yourself. I’ve often been asked, “How should we minister to the sexually broken? How can we reach out to gays and lesbians? What pointers do you have in talking to friends and family members who are same-sex attracted?” There are plenty of people with far more experience in these areas, but my humble advice is not to overthink things too much. No doubt, there are unique challenges in ministering to gays and lesbians, but the way we phrase the question can unintentionally place such persons in a category outside the bounds of normal human existence. Whatever the particular struggles, let’s not forget that we are more like each other than we are different. We are all created in the image of God. We all struggle with a sin nature. We all need a Savior. We are all idol factories. We all want to know we are loved. We all need to repent and be forgiven. Ask questions, listen, share, pray, turn to the Bible, show compassion, point people to Jesus–that’s the basic charge for all of us with anyone.
5. Do not be scared. God has seen tougher stuff than this. God has a plan. God will accomplish his purposes. No matter what the President or the Supreme Court or Apple or ESPN decide, Christ will keep building his church and the Spirit will keep doing his work through the Word. Turn every thought of panic into a commitment to plan and an attitude of prayer. Our God tends to do his best work when the odds are most stacked against him.