As I write this, it is Christmas Day, 2017. We have had some of our gift opening all ready (we do it at our house a few days before Christmas because we travel out of town for Christmas Day, and we had the majority of gift unwrapping on Christmas Eve at my in-law’s house). We still have to travel to one of my brother’s house and visit with him and his family, then travel to a church to celebrate with aunts, uncles, and cousins, then finally to a family friend’s house to hang out and eventually fix a Christmas Dinner. It’s very busy. Good and encouraging, but busy. As I think about the season, I stop to consider what’s really important during the Christmas season. Of course friends and family are important, but I wonder if the mystery of the incarnation gets lost in the busy schedule.
The Mystery of the Incarnation
If you stop to think about it, The Incarnation (Jesus becoming a human) is one of the great mysteries in all of history. How and why did the God who created the universe out of nothing choose to become a human (take on human flesh) and live on this earth?? God, who spoke the universe into existence knew the rebellion in the hearts of people (The Shadow is not the only one to know what evil lurks in the hearts of men), and though His justice and holiness demanded punishment for that rebellion (sin), He Himself took on the object of that punishment and suffered the wrath meant for humans. In my way of thinking God could have chosen to let every single person spend eternity without Him, but because of His love He could not allow that. The second person of the Triune God (Jesus) was the one who became flesh and took on that punishment.
I try to take time out of my busy days, weeks, months to considered what it took for God and Jesus to do this miracle. I honestly will never understand the full extent of God’s love for His creation, but it is good to ponder it anyway. It is difficult often to ‘be still, and know that I am God’ (obviously ‘I’ is not me but God). Our lives get so busy we forget to s-l-ow d-o-w-n and think about God. I am encouraging us all to ponder the mystery of the incarnation. Our lives need a time of rest (maybe on the day of the week we meet to worship Him). We all need to about God and the things of God more often. Maybe we should take some clues from the monks of old and make time daily for God.
Just a little reminder and encouragement
Take time to think about God. Take time to read His word and know His mind better. Take time to ponder the mystery of Jesus Incarnation. Take time to love family and friends, and be an encouragement to those around you.
Good Day and God Bless
Let me know what you do for Christmas time and the things you do to ponder God.
It is my belief that one’s understanding of God and the things of God is constantly changing, shifting, adjusting, and being refined. Due to the fact that God is infinite and we are finite, we need to accept that we will never totally understand all there is to know about God. He chose to reveal Himself (in His creation, His Word, and His son) so we are obligated to study and ponder Him. It is a task which we need to spend the entirety of our lives (and the afterlife) studying. We need to be almost obsessed with comprehending God’s character and person. If He was a god who existed but chose not to reveal to us who He is, then we would not need to study His Word to gain more knowledge of him. But He did choose of His own free will to reveal to His creation His character and workings. So we must spend time learning and worshiping the creator of the universe. But because of His infinitude we will never fully understand Him. Our specific understanding of God’s character (in my opinion) should always be changing or in a state of flux.
In my upbringing it seems I was taught to not change my theology
I was raised in a conservative Christian home. We were somewhat legalistic (you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t chew, . . . you don’t go with girls that do) but I did not think at the time that we were hyperlegalistic. But thinking back I recall pondering the mysteries of God and indirectly being told to not change my understanding of that God. I guess the idea was that we read the Bible and have a concept of God and if we then ‘change our understanding of God’ this means that we are changing who God is. For example if the discussion was about God being truth, and then I grow in my understanding of what exactly that means, then some might think that you do not believe God is truth. Which is totally inaccurate, I just understand better the concept of truth and how it applies to God. I assume when you say ‘my theology has changed’ that means I was wrong before and am believing something totally opposite of my initial belief. This cannot be further from the truth. What I am saying is GOD DOES NOT EVER CHANGE, BUT MY UNDERSTANDING OF HIM DOES!
Doing theology is like driving a car
As I pondered this idea of my theology always being in a state of flux, I tried to come up with an analogy to illustrate what I was saying. Here is the analogy I came up with (see if you like it and if it can help you think a little better about this issue).
Imagine God is represented by a totally straight road. And my understanding of God (theology) is represented by a car. As I drive my car (do theology) I am constantly adjusting the wheel to keep the car on the road (stay in line with what the Bible says about God). The road never changes but the steering wheel of my car is constantly being altered to stay on the straight road. If I were to lock my steering wheel (not adjust my understanding of God) it would not take long for me to drive off the road. I must be persistent in evaluating my situation in order to keep moving along the correct path. If anyone who has driven and fallen asleep they know it is a very short time before they are off course. We must be vigilant to keep our theology in line with the Bible.
I have had people throughout my life seem to say they know who God is and therefore they should never change how they think of Him and I just think this is a poor way of doing things. We need to be using every day to better understand our creator and savior.
Has it all been said about Luther and the Reformation?
I put off writing a blog post from this last Saturday (supposedly my normal posting day) until today due the fact that October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. I decided I would wait until ‘Reformation Day’ to give my thoughts on Luther and the beginnings of The Protestant Reformation. So what is there left to say?? Has not everyone everywhere (those who care about this topic at all) said whatever needs to be said??
I guess to some extent that is true. A plethora of books, articles, sermons, videos, and commentaries have been produced to talk about all aspects of Luther, his life, and his significance. So what is it I could say that would be ‘different’?
I want to encourage you (and me) to periodically refocus our lives
Of all the great things that one can discuss about the Reformation, the one that is important to me is the idea of self-evaluation. Consistently and periodically all of us should take a step back from our busy lives and see if what we are doing is matching with what we are believing. We often get so busy with our hectic lives that we sometimes stray off the path, but because we are still on a nature hike we think we are doing OK. I think of all the contributions to Christendom that can be credited to Martin Luther the single thing I applaud him for is taking a stand (no matter what the cost) to show people the church needed to refocus its priorities. Luther was so singularly dedicated to biblical truth that he was willing to be not only an outcast but an enemy of the majority of Europe, if he knew he was OK with God. In essence he told himself he would rather be accepted by God and rejected by everyone else than vice versa. The church needed to examine what it did and why it did those things to see if they had wandered off the path. Martin Luther was one (really among many) to stand before multitudes and declare that he was right and the church was wrong. He encouraged them to refocus their faith in order to be good and faithful servants.
Are we in need of a person (or cultural) reformation??
I believe all followers of Jesus Christ need a ‘periodic personal reformation.’ We have difficulties sometimes ‘going through the motions’ and living our faith the way we have always done them, when what we need it to have a serious talk with ourselves to see if we are living biblically. We also need to have the courage to accept our inconsistencies and change what needs to be changed no matter the personal discomfort. As Luther did we need to take an honest look at ourselves and say to whomever will listen, ‘things need to change and I am willing to change them, no matter what’ (OK, I know that’s not a direct quote from him but I was attempting to pretend I know what he thought).
So What’s the point?
Here’s the point – Martin Luther compared his final authority on theology (the Bible) to his next highest authority (the Church) and decided the two did not match up. Either the Church needed to change or the Bible needed to change. The answer was a no-brainer – he decided the Church needed to change, but they refused so he changed himself, thus sticking with his ultimate authority: God and His Word. I wonder if we need to change our understanding of God, Jesus, outreach, giving, and living by faith to better match what the Bible says??? Hmmmmmm, could be!
Let me know what you think.
Comment and tell me a story of how you evaluated your faith journey and changed it to be more pleasing to God.
Everyone has spiritual gifts: when, where, and how do you use them?
As I taught high school Bible class several years ago, we had a discussion about spiritual gifts. The chapters we examined were in the New Testament in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4. Among the many gifts listed, these are but some: giving, administration, prophecy, and teaching. The students in my class had several good questions and comments. I informed them it was my understanding that all followers of Jesus are given at least one spiritual gift. These gifts are to be used to further the kingdom and bring glory to God. According to Ephesians God gave people gifts to “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built upuntil we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
I informed the students it was my understanding that every follower of Jesus was given at least one gift of the spirit. And according to Ephesians these gifts were given to build up the body of Christ. So then we got into a discussion of where, when, and how one is to use their spiritual gifts. For example I posed the question, “if a person’s gift is teaching and they are not teaching a Sunday School class but instead are teaching in a school setting, are they fulfilling this command of God? Is it OK for one to use their gift in a setting other than the local gathering? Or must they be using the gift inside and outside the church as long as their priority is the place where they worship regularly?
How am I supposed to use my gift?
After years of teaching periodically (at my local church, at a Christian school, at other local churches) I have had to wrestle with this one big question (given the instructions discussed above), that I had seriously been contemplating for years: IF MY SPIRITUAL GIFT IS TEACHING AND I AM NOT USING THAT GIFT IN MY LOCAL CONGREGATION, AM I LIVING IN DISOBEDIENCE?? You see I believe my gift is teaching and I have had the desire since childhood that I want to spend my life teaching others the truths of God. In college I narrowed my field to teaching the Bible (instead of some of my other interests like computers, or math, or history). In seminary I focused on studying Church History and my passion for that topic grew considerably. However after graduating from seminary and not going into teaching as a profession, my teaching opportunities were very infrequent. I taught Sunday School classes when I was asked but rarely was teaching on a regular basis. Was I not fulfilling the command to use my gifts? Is it OK to teach in a school setting and yet not do so also in one’s own church??
I honestly am looking for answers
I know all Christians have spiritual gifts and they are to be used for God’s glory and the edification of the local body, but what happens when that local body had no opening for you? If my gift is teaching adults yet all the church has is openings for 2nd graders, should I teach those students, even though I would be more comfortable and my higher education in theology could be better used in adult classes?? I just do not know what the answer is. I have asked these questions and others like them for years and am not satisfied with the answers.
I am back. I know it’s been a long time (about 4 months) since my last post. I honestly have no excuse. I had a very busy summer: travelling to see relatives out of town (almost every weekend) and working a lot, plus riding with my son while gets his driving hours in order to get ready for his drivers license. But I realize these are not good reasons, they are excuses. They are not truly good reasons to delay posting for months.
Honestly, one of the main reasons I am inconsistent with my blogging is I am not convinced people are reading it and therefore their lives are not being benefited. I do this to aid people in their striving for significance and to improve their understanding of Church History. I simply have doubts as to my importance to these people. We are told by blogging gurus to be consistent in our blog posts. We are encouraged to set a schedule (once per week, once per month, every day, etc.) and this consistency is something the readers can count on. With the theme I have chosen (the history of Christianity) it is not like I will run out of ideas for posts anytime soon. I mean after all, it does involve over 2000 years of people, movements, places, and subjects to discuss. There is enough stuff to write about to take up thousands of posts. Really the bottom line is I am not a very disciplined person and when it is easy to not do something (exercise, read, pray, etc.) I often end up not doing it.
I am trying again
But part of life entails knowing when you do not succeed in your goals and attempting to rectify the situation. So that’s what I am doing now – getting back into blogging. Here’s what I have decided, though. I am going to try to blog every other week on Saturday. I will see if I can be consistent with this schedule.
Please send me some comments and let me know if these posts are helping you.
Please tell your friends to read this blog IF you believe they can benefit from some of the things talked about here. My goals is to serve my readers and answer questions they may have about theology or the history of Christianity.
It is an interesting phenomenon, especially in western post-enlightenment, modernist thinking that we hate paradoxes. People have been so conditioned to abhor logical contradictions that when it comes to pondering the mysteries of an infinite God, contradictions cannot be accepted. This hatred of paradoxes goes far to explain why many good, well meaning followers of Jesus ‘got it wrong’ when explaining some of the difficult concepts in Christianity.
Children are taught from a young age that there are certain laws of nature (also called laws of logic) which cannot be broken. These children are not taught logic explicitly but the worldview in which they are raised does not allow for paradoxes. While I agree that most of life does not defy the laws of logic, I would assert that God being who He is has the ability to go against well understood natural laws. I will discuss these laws of logic briefly then attempt to support my statement that God can and has broken some of these laws.
The 3 laws of logic (a brief summary)
The 3 laws of logic are: the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of excluded middle. The Law of Identity, simply stated is: P is P. This seems an obvious statement therefore due to its nature is confusing but all this means is that a statement is, and is NOT something else. The second law, the Law of Non-contradiction, asserts that it is not possible for something to be and not-be at the same time in the same place. For example, it cannot be raining and not raining at the same time in the same place. The third law (that of the Law of excluded middle) states simply that one has either P or not P, there is no 3rd option. In the example of it raining outside this says it is either raining or not raining, there is no other option for that statement. These three laws hold true for the universe at all times and in all places (except when it comes to God).
So what’s the point of discussing laws of logic when talking about God? I brought up the ideas of the laws of logic in an attempt to have us understand what the phrase, ‘it does not make sense’ really means. When someone says that an concept makes no sense what they are saying often is that the idea being pondered does not fit into their worldview which denies allowances for contradictions. Having said this little bit about logic and how our minds work when it comes to contradictions, I would like to make the assertion that much of Christianity does not make sense, thus is illogical, yet true nonetheless. God has and does defy the laws of logic and sometimes ‘God just does not make sense’.
Does the biblical view of the Triune God make sense?
When pondering some of the basic doctrines that are unique to Christianity, we must come to the conclusion they are biblical, even though they are illogical. One of the fundamental teachings in both the New and Old Testaments is that there is one and only one true God. Genesis 1:1 states “in the beginning God . . .” stressing to readers the monotheistic religion of Judaism (and later Christianity). Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema, states positively “the Lord is one”. Yet there are hints in the Old Testament and explicit statements in the New Testament asserting there is more to the unity of God, there is a triunity. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Christians use these 2 verses and many, many others to show the equality of God the Father, Jesus (God the Son), and (God) the Holy Spirit. If they are equal then they are all God, however, there can only be one God so the doctrine of the Trinity does not make logical sense. Nevertheless for one to be dogmatic on the ‘Oneness’ of God while rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit is unbiblical. The Bible teaches there is One God, yet Three persons are ascribed with divine attributes.
Arius got it wrong, but his way does make sense
A bishop (pastor) of a Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt around AD 300 (his name was Arius) thought he had solved the difficult doctrine of ‘how to better understand the person of Jesus and the assertions that Jesus is God.’ Arius said God is one and therefore Jesus must be a created being (albeit the highest of all created beings). To Arius’s mind and worldview Jesus could not be fully God or there would exist 2 God, which is contradictory to the teachings of the Holy Bible. Arius is quoted as saying, ‘there was a time when Jesus was not’, which would mean He is not eternal, ergo not God. This was logical to Arius and his many followers, however it is unbiblical. In the New Testament we have many, many accounts of Jesus accepting worship that is only fit for God. Arius attempted to put forth a doctrine that was ‘logical’ to him. At the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 3ooish bishops gathered to discuss the idea of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son (Jesus). Their conclusion would later be refined into what is called the Nicene Creed, which states, concerning Jesus,
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.
As you can read they were very intentional and specific on the wording as to not confuse the statement. The orthodox view of Jesus would forever include this understanding of His person.
I believe this statement gives a precise description of the ‘begottenness’ of Jesus. I believe Arius was not intentionally unbiblical, he just wanted to ‘wrap his mind around’ these ideas and his aforementioned statement was the best way for him to understand a very complex (yet ESSENTIAL) doctrine.
So what’s the point?????
Here’s the point of my discussion: Christianity is full of things we just cannot fully comprehend and may not make sense, WE JUST NEED TO EMBRACE THE MYSTERY and do our best to understand it as biblically as possible. I had a seminary professor once (shout out to Dr. Albert George “Joe” Crawford (who I refer to often as Albertus Magnus)) who said one thing in relationship to mysteries of God that has always stuck with me. Dr. Crawford said we as followers of Jesus are to say all the Bible says about any certain topic, no more and no less. And we are to leave the rest up to calling it a mystery that we will never fully understand. We are to be comfortable in living with the tension that exists concerning these issues.
Please give me your input and comments.
Question: Who are some of the people from your past that have made a lasting impression on your thinking. I would love to read a brief description of the person and the ‘words of wisdom’.
Which person to highlight in contemporary Christianity (2017 America)
There are so many well known Christian leaders and thinkers these days it is difficult to decide on which one to highlight. As I always do I take some time to ponder the people or events about whom I would like to write. Many names came to mind, but then I thought I wanted to focus on someone who is around right now (AD 2017). Even with this I thought of several people who are seen (some I agree with their theology, some I do not) as thought-provoking individuals in Christendom: John Piper, John MacArthur, Nancy Pearcy, Dallas Willard (although he died just a few years ago), Timothy Keller, N. T. Wright, Max Lucado, Rob Bell, Franklin Graham, Joel Osteen, Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, and many others.
So the question is: who do you pick? I decided that I would write and emphasize Dr. Timothy Keller.
A short biography of Timothy Keller
Dr. Keller was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1950. He earned his BA from Bucknell University, MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and his DMin from Westminster Seminary in Pennsylvania. In his years at Bucknell he became acquainted with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, through which Keller became a Christian. He is interested in urban ministries (sharing the Gospel and discipling new Christian) in the urban areas of large cities. He and his wife founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989. Their church has grown into an attendance of 5,000 people per week. It is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, which is reformed in its theology. Dr. Keller is very well known for his pastor’s approach to issues as well as his emphasis on Christian apologetics. He is the author of several books, among them being: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism; Jesus the King; Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering.
I have not read all of Keller’s books (actually I only read one: The Reason for God, and I own the one on Pain and Suffering but have not read it yet) and was truly impressed with his approach to the topics. His paradigm is from the perspective of a pastor. I have read many books and articles discussing some of the major ‘apologetics’ issues, such as the existence of God or the problem of evil, with most of them coming from an academic perspective. Keller is as academic as most, but uses simple language to express complex issues. I very much appreciate his pastoral handling of these difficult, yet extremely important subjects.
My 3 bullets for Tim Keller:
He writes and preaches about deep theological issues from a pastor’s heart and perspective
His time of influence is 2017, so he is dealing with issues current for our time (such as same sex union and suffering)
He approach is to address contemporary subjects in a thoughtful and simplistic way, in order for the person who is not schooled in Christian scholarship to understand and ponder.
Please let me know what you think of Tim Keller. Who is a significant Christian to you about whom you would like others to know??