Theological Thoughts

Come and Dine

One of our fundamental problems is that we are not hungry enough to feast with Jesus. For a person to desire Jesus he must desire something greater than himself. He must hunger after righteousness and thirst after mercy. Our problem is not a problem of hunger, it’s a problem of self-deception. We eat bread crumbs and claim a feast; we sip wine and claim a festival. What we need is a view of abundance; a Gospel table in the presence of our enemies. When our Lord Jesus says, “Come and dine,” we need to be prepared to loosen our belts.

Give them room to work

Give them room to work

Bringing up three boys affords me the opportunity to make lots of mistakes and learn much from them. This evening I was on my way to performing one of the bravest manly acts known in history: taking the trash out. In my rush to face the consequences of walking out into the dark, cold Pensacola evening, a little voice came from the back: “Daddy, I want to help.” Now, I can finish my duty with speediness or I can allow my little boy to slow me down and prolong the agony of walking a few hundred feet to my back yard. It’s then when my cheerful and brilliant wife speaks up: “If you don’t allow him to help now he will not want to help later.” Quick and to the point. It is better to allow them to serve joyfully and willingly now, then to have them serve miserably and forcefully later. Boys need to practice diaconal work. Encourage them to serve with gladness by giving them room to serve. 

When the Grass is not Greener

When the Grass is not Greener

On Instagram you have the ability to add color effects to your pictures, thus making each picture fit a particular style of beauty. The grass looks greener on the other side of an Instagram picture. We generally see people and their backgrounds and assume things are well or that they have at least a healthy part of their lives figured out. Like cheap psychologists, we determine someone’s life by their pictures on their profile.

We reinvent ourselves daily to make ourselves acceptable to the world. It’s easier to live by sight than by faith. But we should let faith set the scenery of our lives. And we ought not to live vicariously through someone else’s social media life. Further, we shouldn’t be fooled into assuming the other person’s life lacks their own set of problems and pain. This is social media deception.

Today, seek the kingdom of God and pursue righteousness. Ask God to renew you and be content with the house and yard He’s given you. It may not have the fancy color effect as your neighbors’, but it’s what you need.

What does it mean to believe in the Holy Spirit?

What does it mean to believe in the Holy Spirit?

The role of the Spirit has long puzzled the evangelical mind. For some, being “led by the Spirit means being led by some inner impulse rather than by the Spirit’s testimony to the written Word of God.” After all, who is going to argue when someone says, “The Spirit spoke to me?” This generally becomes a cheap way of substituting the careful study of the Word for a quick last minute decision baptized in spirit language. To be Spirit-led is not some impulse, nor should we dare assume our feelings are automatically Spirit-inspired. I have seen this mindset create all sorts of schizophrenic reactions in people’s lives.

On the other hand, some substitute intimacy with the Spirit for a skeptical approach to the Third Person of the Godhead: “Yes, we have the Spirit, but we don’t want to allow room for our passions and emotions. Our emotions and passions are irreparably damaged by sin. We affirm the Spirit’s work but cautiously, so we are not confused with the Charismatics.”

We need a theology that is Spirit-led: not frightened by the Spirit’s manifestation in the lives of broken people, not agnostic about radical transformation in the lives of sinners, praying that the Spirit will crush our pride and self-reliance, rejoicing passionately in the Spirit’s indwelling presence, praying in the Triune Name a lot more so we acknowledge his intercession (Rom. 8:26), speaking words of benediction often (“May God’s Spirit be with you”), filling our lives with spiritual songs in the Psalter, asking God each Sunday for a Spirit-filled worship, and desiring the Holy Spirit to interrupt our lives continually to express gratitude (I Thes. 5:18) and trusting in the Spirit-inspired Word of God to guide our lives. We are a people of the Spirit.

Subtle Idols

Subtle Idols

The reason we yield to idolatry in our own lives is not because we find idols attractive. God says that they can’t speak, hear, see, and lack strength (Ps. 115). No one becomes an overnight idolater. Idols are subtle in their deception. They offer a cheap alternative to the God of Israel. It is much easier to submit to a god that doesn’t talk than to a God that demands with his revealed Word your honor and worship. Idolatry of the heart is cheap. It consumes us little by little and soon we cease to speak, hear, see, and exercise our strength for the true God. We become like what we worship. We justify our sins with fervor because idols will never challenge us. This is why John ends his little letter with these words: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

One Solution to Scriptural Fatigue

Over the years I have experienced scriptural fatigue. I have never doubted the Bible’s authority or ability to change sinners, but I have gone through phases where reading the Bible became a chore rather than a meaningful engagement with written truth. Overcoming this fatigue can be difficult at times. Patterns are hard to undo. What has truly helped me over the years is seeing the Bible through the lens of what God is doing in the world and our call as kingdom agents in it.

The Scriptures refresh our mission as actors in God’s theater. When the kingdom of God is seen as supreme than everything else is added, including a fresh love and perspective of God’s Word. When the Bible becomes a therapeutic, individualist manual, then love for its truth varies based on our shifting emotional status. But if the kingdom and God’s mission take a central role in our hermeneutics and reading, it may not solve our occasional fatigue, but it will reshape our view of reading and learning from God’s Word.

Combativeness as a Non-Virtue

I am arguing for instilling an ethos that produces children–particularly boys–who are firm in their convictions but irenic in their day to day expression of them. This model is kingly. Kings control themselves and their actions for the sake of their communities. They fight for their sheep but their fighting is cruciform; foolish in the world’s eyes.

When combativeness becomes a goal or a desired virtue it serves only the purpose of self-aggrandizement and rhetorical isolationism (“I create chaos with my words because I am the only one who can clean up the mess”). If my boys grow up feeling the urge to speak to every issue simply to stir controversy or to enrage those nearest to them while eagerly lifting up the “I am prophet” banner, they’re self-deceived. We are to teach boys to ask questions so that they may grow to ask better ones. Kingly men ask even though they possess authority. Kingly men humble themselves before they are exalted. Beware of those who only make pronouncements.

Jesus grew in favor with God and with man (Lk. 2:52). This favor with man is the oft overlooked characteristic of the God/Man. Enemies will naturally find the gospel offensive, but very often we offend the Gospel with our actions.

In the end, fathers must seek this dual favor for their future men. I pray my boys’ convictions will be as firm as Mount Zion and their ability to engage contrary thought to be as gentle as a dove. They shall know us by our love. When combativeness becomes the desired virtue, they will refuse to know us.

Hays on God’s Unlikely Election

Richard Hays observes in his I Corinthians commentary that God’s “mysterious election of this unlikely group of people symbolizes the pattern of eschatological reversal, deeply embedded in Israel’s prophetic tradition, which also characterizes the message and ministry of Jesus.” God confounds human wisdom and overturns expectations. He takes the unknowns of this world and makes them protagonists in the kingdom.

From Dust to Worship: Preparing our Hearts, Genesis 1

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

DUST-AND-CLAYGod does not take matter that already existed, he makes matter, then uses matter to form the heavens and the earth. This ought to be a humbling thought for us. God creates us and then uses us for his own purposes. We are the clay being formed into whatever the Potter sees fit.

In worship, our finitude meets the infinite God: the undivided Creator, co-equal in power and glory. Our finitude cannot grasp the purposes of God. But God acts righteously with us whether we understand it or not. We can ask, we can peer, or discover new things, but we will never truly comprehend God’s ways (Is. 55:9). The inspired Apostle Paul does not even know the fullness of God’s purposes, which is why he makes a blanket statement in Romans 8:28: “All things work together for the good.” Paul states the conclusion, he has not given us the process. And it is good that he doesn’t tell us precisely how things are going to work out. God gives us the conclusion so we may trust him in the process. God works out his creation for our good, and he works out your life for your good.

You are here today because you do not know your tomorrow. You are here today to pray for your daily bread. You are here today to hallow God’s name because only he knows our tomorrow. After all, he created the heavens and the earth. From dust, he made worshipers. You are here to worship God almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

Doubting the Love of God?

A new year is upon us! The time of new beginnings is here. As we reflect on the year past, what lessons have we learned? I believe in new resolutions on January 1st as I believe them on March 26th. Why? Because the Christian life is immersed in repentance and new beginnings. You cannot have new beginnings if there is no end to old habits.

Advent came, Christmas is here, Epiphany is upon us! Time moves us as a repentant heart should move our resolutions. What are we resolved to do? What changes will we make that will cause us to love God more, serve him more faithfully, and cherish my neighbor? Will I continue in a life of self-comfort tolerating my own sins while pounding deeper and deeper on the sins of my neighbor?

Someone posed the question to the great Swiss theologian, Karl Barth: “Professor Barth, what is the most significant theological idea you have ever encountered in your life?” Barth pondered for a second and replied: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” If we cannot accept this statement than our resolutions will not even make it through this service. You are what you are because God’s love has been poured on you. Every resolution you make now til’ December 31st needs to be grounded in this immeasurable characteristic of our God, his resolution before the world began to love you.

Jonathan Edwards, in his famous resolutions, put it this way:

Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

On this eleventh day of Christmas, remember that the second Adam came for you so you may not henceforth die and perish, but live and love the God who is determined to give you abundant life. Amen.