Theological Thoughts

The Church Needs You Back

The Church Needs You Back

I know for a fact that there are some reading these words that have lost the emotional and intellectual attachment to Jesus of Nazareth. You have been hurt by the Church–a particular church, to be precise. People have mistreated you. You may have felt lost in the community when all is you wanted to be is found. God became distant, your prayers became monotonous, and the divine Gospel became mundane to your ears. I want to urge and press you to come back once more. Open your ears to the wonder of Jesus and his Bride. You may feel unworthy to return because of your sins and abandonment. But God calls you worthy and he bids you, “Come.” The Church needs you back because without you the celebration is put on hold. As one writer observed: “The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.”

With Angels and Archangels…

With Angels and Archangels…

When the church gathers she gathers in a mystical union. Hebrews talks about how we worship in the presence of a heavenly Jerusalem; an innumerable company of angels. In the Fall of man, the angels escorted Adam and Eve out of the garden and angels with flaming swords kept our first parents from coming back to the garden. Now, Jesus has opened paradise for us and instead of keeping us from worship, the angels actually worship with us in this new Garden; they welcome us into the heavenly worship of God. As our liturgy says, “With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify your glorious name evermore praising you and singing, Holy, Holy, Holy!”

What would happen to church participation and attendance if we acknowledged that simple truth? I think the reason so many Christians are flippant about Sunday worship is that they don’t know what happens in worship. Most evangelicals treat worship as a false sick day: “Well, if I miss Sunday I can always catch up next week.” This mentality harms the body of Christ and the theology of worship established in the Scriptures. When you come to worship, you are engaging angelic beings. Your humanity as male and female worshipers, as well as your presence matters. So, if you are ever distracted during worship, you have every right to be: there are angelic beings watching us, a great company in heaven is joining us in this sacred chorus. And if this great heavenly veil were to be opened up just a bit to our feeble eyes or if we were to hear angels and loved ones joining us in the great “Holy, Holy, Holy,” I think we would grasp a little more the extraordinary experience and magnificent act that occurs each Lord’s Day.

Anxiety in the Home

The Scriptures warn us that worrying and anxiety are and will be constant temptations in our lives. But for those overcome by such high anxieties and worries, it is not easy to navigate such warnings. “Just trust” and “release your anxiety” can be helpful affirmations, but sometimes do not go to the heart of the matter. Anxiety can be rooted in a host of things, but what is important to know is that the spouse or the person who struggles and wars daily with anxiety controls the environment. An anxious husband/wife will control his environment and bring the household into the tension of his anxiety. He/she will expect others to join his anxiety as a way of soothing or sharing his own fears. An anxious leader creates a dangerous environment for grace to flourish. So, the first step in dealing with anxiety and worry is to affirm the power of such fears in your environment.

Eating at the Lord’s Table

Eating at the Lord’s Table

This morning we come to eat and drink of a meal that is different than any other meal. We may feast at the royal palace or the president’ private dining room, no earthly experience comes near the experience of eating with King Jesus. Jesus is not just here through the process of our memories of him. Jesus is here alive by the power of the Spirit ministering to us and calling us to his presence: man and woman, boys and girls, baptized in the Triune Name are welcome to eat and drink of this table. We are all covered by our Head Jesus Christ, and in him, we have abundant life.

Children’s Church?

Children’s Church?

Education must be a holistic endeavor. If that’s the case, then our children’s bodies and spirits need to be trained and nurtured. They need training that is intellectually rigorous and emotionally engaging. If you wish to be an unengaged parent, then your home gets the worldview you deserve. But if you see the world with biblical eyes, your children will see the wonder of creation as intended and taste and see the good of the Lord. This intentionality is the long-term view of parenting. It entails thinking through what kind of child you want to see at the age of 18.

If education is holistic, then education will–whether liturgical or academic–require a special parental effort. Teaching children to see the world means you are engaged with them in the exploration of the world. To train a child in the way that he should go requires parents who already know the way and are fervently seeking that way for their children. Christian education is anti-gnostic from beginning to end.

A Reformation of Sons

A Reformation of Sons

We need a new reformation for men. Men in our day are growing older without growing up. Men are forsaking their responsibilities and raising boys that have absolutely no sense of the old Puritan work ethic. Young boys and teenagers amuse themselves to their mental deaths in front of the latest Netflix series. The expectations for our sons have diminished. We have a generation of sons growing up never having sung a hymn, never having memorized a catechism, never having read a classic, and never having sat through healthy biblical instruction. At what point do we begin to collectively post theses on church doors? At what point do we begin to despise worldly wisdom and set our eyes on kingly words? Training sons to be kings is our aim. We need a reformation of sonship.

Woman as the Glory of Man

Woman as the Glory of Man

Paul calls the woman “the glory of man” (I Cor. 11:7) because it is the order of creation. The woman is the last thing God makes. She is made to complete man; to finish what man starts. And in life, this reflects the fact that men are leaders and women completers. God designed us that way. Women, your role is to glorify things. Husbands, if your wife is your glory then you need to grasp what glory is. Proverbs 12 says that an excellent wife is the crown of her husband. Glory is a crown. A king views his crown as his glory. It gives him honor. And his honor is to be respected. As one pastor wrote: “The wife is to the man what the shekinah glory is to the tabernacle.” Israel protected the glory of the tabernacle. Israel cared and elevated the reputation of that glory. Man, you are to guard what Adam failed to guard. You are to treasure what Adam failed to treasure. Your wife is your glory.

Update: I was asked whether Adam was a bad husband before the Fall.

Answer: No, he was a faithful husband before the Fall. The fall entails a number of failures. Of those failures, the failure to protect the bride from being deceived is one way in which Jesus became a better Adam by being faithful to his bride. Adam’s multi-faceted failures become Jesus’ multi-faceted victories as the Second and Final Adam.

God’s Surprises

God’s Surprises

In the midst of our anxieties, depression and angst about the future, we must think with Trinitarian lens because we have a limited focus. We often need to be surprised out of our situation. God is the expert in surprising and re-directing our plans. If you have tasted of the human experience at any level, you know that we can easily depend on our strategies or plans to bring us happiness. The old saying, “We make plans, and God laughs at them,” is not very Christian. God does not laugh at our plans as if he is secretly waiting to make a mockery out of his children. That’s not how our Father in heaven deals with us. God doesn’t laugh at our plans; he beautifies them by sprinkling his mercy. God’s mercy is what catches us off guard; what surprises us. When our plans are re-arranged and when our future doesn’t turn out the way we imagined, it’s not God’s mockery, it’s God’s mercy. So, be cognizant that when things seem to be falling apart around you, it’s the mercy of God, not his curses or mockery. The Triune God has never played a wrong note in history and neither will He with the story of your life.

Self-Knowledge and Community

God created us with the ability to know ourselves. That knowledge comes first by “contemplating the face of God.” But this contemplation does not come from morbid introspectionism for we are easily self-deceived. We would rather point out the character flaws of others than to insist on our own need to change. And we may think that we know ourselves fairly well until we are confronted by someone else. That friend or family member may reveal something that was before unknown to us; that knowledge was not hidden, but we kept it hidden by telling ourselves again and again that such idea is absurd. These self-knowledge revivals, what we might call the “aha” moments, occur in the face of a loving community. It cannot occur in isolation from community. Isolation provides seeds for further self-deception. In summary, we cannot know ourselves outside of God and His created society.

Self-Attesting Reality

Self-Attesting Reality

How we read the Bible speaks volumes about our demeanor towards culture. If we cannot think biblically about any reality or decision-making process we are making ourselves subservient to extra-biblical authorities. If we’re incapable of commencing our thinking biblically we’re just as capable of abandoning our Christian categories. It is the great compromise of our age that we hold on firmly to “God and Country” but fail to know what God requires of us who are called to think and speak as citizens of a heavenly country. We have allowed the presuppositions of pagans to guide the thinking of the pious. Our theory of knowledge is inescapably secular. We have retired our Sunday hats after church and replaced it with the hats of neutrality and unbelief.

I have found that people’s passions run deep…for the wrong causes. In fact, they have so engaged in secular pieties that they have established social structures, hierarchies, right and wrong categories, stipulations, and judgment based on systems and promises that show utter contempt for the God of the Bible. What guides your thinking of reality? What gives shape to your decision-making? The redeemed man is led by the self-attesting reality of God’s word.