Theological Thoughts

Christian Rituals

There is no magic. Life is about rituals. Therefore, we need to build rituals. We need to establish rituals that change not only who we are, but who we wish to be. Christian formation is grounded in rituals: intentional and achievable patterns. These patterns need to provide a sustainable rhythm day after day. What rhythms have strengthened your spiritual walk?

We Need a Resurrected Messiah!

The practice of Easter is where our Christian faith shines the most. Contrary to popular teachers, the Christian faith does not eliminate your problems, it gives you the wisdom to deal with them. This wisdom is found in a glorified Messiah. You and I need a resurrected Christ to help us; a dead Christ can’t see us through pain and suffering. We need a Lord and King who looks at us straight in the eyes and not through a veil; a Christ who says, “You need to eat, here’s bread; you need to live, here’s my Word.” Easter gives that to you. Christ is risen!

The Regulative Principle and Strange Fire

The Regulative Principle and Strange Fire

The Regulative Principle of worship in its strictest form–“whatever is not commanded is forbidden”–has been argued by Puritans from texts like Leviticus 10. But does the Nadab and Abihu incident actually make the case for the RPW? Peter Leithart argues persuasively for a more wisdom principle of the RPW:

The sin of Nadab and Abihu was offering “strange” or “unauthorized” fire on the altar. But there is no command anywhere about what fire was to be used for burning incense. Yet, the priests had to make some determination of what fire to bring, and from the experience of Nadab and Abihu it’s clear that they could make the WRONG decision.

In the absence of specific commandments about the fire, how were they to know? They should have reasoned from the structures of the sanctuary system. The distinction between holy and profane runs the length of the system: There is holy food and common food, holy people and common people, holy things and common things, holy incense and common incense, a holy God and strange gods. With that distinction being hammered again and again, they should have concluded that there is also holy fire and strange fire. With regard to the regulative principle, the important point is that they were supposed to make a liturgical decision NOT merely be searching for an explicit command, but by reasoning from the existing commands and patterns to draw conclusions concerning liturgical actions that were not dealt with explicitly.

James Jordan on Calvin’s Weekly Observance of the Sacraments

James Jordan summarizes the consequences of weekly communion:

Calvin desired greatly that the rite of the Lord’s Supper be present each week in worship, and that the thankfulness highlighted in worship be extended into all labor. In this way, the principles of the Kingdom would flow from worship into the highways and byways of all of life. For this reason also, Calvin produced liturgies that involved the people greatly in the performance of worship, for the performance of public worship was training for the performance of work.a

 

  1. Christian Piety: Deformed and Reformed  (back)

Is Easter Over?

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Is Easter over?

Theologically, we know that the earthquake of Easter will reverberate until the Second Coming of Messiah. And liturgically, Easter is in no way over. In fact, Easter has just begun. The joy of Easter carries on until June 3rd, which means we still have 49 days of Eastertide. Easter is far from over and there is much more rejoicing to do in the next seven weeks.

The difficulty for many of us is keeping this Easter enthusiasm for such a lengthy period. The reason many evangelicals are ready to get to the next thing is because they lack a sense of liturgical rhythm. Lent took us through a 40-day journey, but the Easter joy takes us through a 50-day journey. Easter is superior to Lent not only in length of days but also in the quality of its mood. Lent prepares us to a journey towards Calvary, while Easter takes us through a victory march. Through Easter, we are reminded to put away our sadness and embrace the heavenly trumpet sound to all the corners of the earth. “He is risen!, He is risen!, He is risen!” The devil trembles, the enemies fear, the forces of evil shake, the sound of sin is silenced when death was defeated.

What does this mean? It means we must be busy in the business of celebrating. For dads and moms, young and old, we have much to do to preserve and pervade this season with jubilance. I want to offer ten ways we can do that in the remaining 49 days of Easter. a More

  1. I unashamedly used some of the options from this great resource  (back)

N.T. Wright on Palm Sunday

If we try to follow Jesus in faith and hope and love on his journey to the cross, we will find that the hurricane of love which we tremblingly call God will sweep in from a fresh angle, fulfilling our dreams by first shattering them, bringing something new out of the dangerous combination of personal hopes and cultural pressures. We mustn’t be surprised if in this process there are moments when it feels as though we are being sucked down to the depths, five hundred miles from shore amid hundred-foot waves, weeping for the dream that has had to die, for the kingdom that isn’t coming the way we wanted. That is what it’s like when we are caught up in Jesus’s perfect storm. But be sure, when that happens, when you say with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “We had hoped … but now it’s all gone wrong,” that you are on the verge of hearing the fresh word – the word that comes when the storm is stilled, and in the new great calm we see a way forward we had never imagined. “Foolish ones,” said Jesus, “and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and so enter into his glory?” Who knows what might happen if each of us were to approach Holy Week and Good Friday praying humbly for the powerful fresh wind of God to blow into that combination of cultural pressure and personal aspiration, so that we each might share in the sufferings of the Messiah and come through into the new life he longs to give us.

Christ at the Movies

Christ at the Movies

Jason Lisle offers a basic Christian paradigm for movie-watching. Here are his closing paragraphs:

Since our God-given ability to create and enjoy stories stems from our nature as God’s image bearers, the kinds of stories we enjoy often parallel the Gospel – God’s true story of redemption. We can summarize the basic elements of the history of redemption as follows.

We start with perfection. Human beings enjoy life in a perfect world made by God. Then a problem occurs; a man commits evil, and life becomes difficult as a result. The evil spreads and many people suffer. A hero is born – the Christ. He is innocent, yet because of His great love, He willingly suffers pain for the sake of others. He sacrifices Himself in order to save His bride – the church. When all seems lost, the hero overcomes death itself and victoriously conquers His enemies. Paradise is restored and the people rejoice.

Just think of the many movies that follow this basic formula. Not all do, but most borrow at least significant elements. Most start in a good situation (either directly, or implied by backstory), but the “bad guy” acts wickedly and the innocent suffer as a result. A hero is raised up from among the people and confronts the evil. The hero often suffers through no fault of His own. There is a low point in which all seems lost; the hero is essentially dead. But the hero recovers and defeats the bad guy. The people are saved and rejoice. These kinds of stories are immensely satisfying because they are true to reality. They capture the basic theme of the Bible, and this honors the Lord.

The next time you watch a movie, don’t let it be simply mindless entertainment. Look for Christian themes. See if you can identify the Christ-figure. It is truly amazing how many movies parallel biblical history. This is further confirmation that we all know in our heart-of-hearts the biblical God.

 

We need more sheltering of our children

At one time we talked about protecting our children from the dangers of the world. We saw “sheltering” as a word to be treasured in its proper context; a synonym for protection. I understand certain exposure is inevitable, but have we sped up the process? Some parents overreacted to the concept and opened the gates to their children and at the earliest stages, they were exposed to big ideas and innuendos on sexuality. Such parents while fleeing the excessive protection of their own parents–perhaps–took it even a step further and allowed technology to rule the daily routine of children (think under 12). The nine-year-old girl with an iPod and Instagram account is just a common feature of modern evangelical parenting. Well, these children have grown and as teenagers, they now have knowledge of things too deep for them to handle, too nuanced for them to parse and too intimate for them to carefully apply. The warning here is to be cautious not to overreact. Let children be children. God shelters us and gives us what we can handle (Milk, then Meat). Just as biblical history grows into wisdom, let’s raise our children into wisdom first before we expose them to the world in the name of “advancement,” “coolness” or “worldview training.”

Keep Wasting Your Time

Keep Wasting Your Time

There is a marvelous phrase used by the inimitable Marva Dawn. She says that worship is a “royal waste of time.” Of course, she is not referring to worship being purposeless, she is speaking of worship as something we do as a way of losing our lives (Mat. 10:39). Worship is royal because it invites us to the throne room of God. But worship is a waste of time because in the eyes of the world a) it is a worthless pursuit, but it b) causes us to keep heavenly time and forget earthly concerns.

A royal waste of time is what we need to do more not less. We need to keep wasting our sense of worthiness and gain more from the heavenly clock which calls us promptly to see God in the splendor of holiness.

Repent of your Preferences

Worship is not a matter of personal taste, convenience and comfort. This is one reason parishioners stay in a church on average of 3.3 years. When we gather on Sunday, we need a God who challenges our taste and comfort. We need God to shake us out of this societal sloth and sleep walking and summon us to behold His splendor and respond with adoration and service and sacrifice. We need to seek the greater good of our local bodies by repenting of our preferences. We need Church to be the very tool that confronts our sinful desires and replaces them with holy submission.