Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Children: Clay or Play-Doh? | Pastor Rob King

Clay or Play-Doh?

If you were to ask an artist, the favored and resounding response would be "CLAY!" Why clay? It is such an unattractive and unimpressive blob. However, the properties of clay make it a medium that brings desired results of an artistic vision, something of a sustained legacy of the brilliance of an idea or revelation. While malleable for a season, the clay will retain its desired strength and permanency after being adorned with an envisioned application of glazing and intense firing. Once completed, the artist's workmanship becomes a fixed interpretation that lacks the ability to be changed or improved, short of breaking.

On the other hand, Play-Doh, a colorful product that has endless possibilities lumped into a small yellow container, has the ability to repeatedly become whatever the artist so envisions it to be. Play-Doh can be shaped and reshaped, as the artist desires. On a daily basis, young artists create masterpiece-like elephants, snakes, pancakes, smiley faces, and the like, only to be able to refashion the creation a moment later. However, Play-Doh does share a property with clay. Play-Doh can and will become brittle and crumbly if left unattended and exposed to the elements.

Our children are like that Play-Doh. They are taken out of that small protective container several times a day. They are being shaped and molded at every turn. Parents, teachers, friends, classmates, others in their sphere of influence, and yes, even the world, are constantly at work to create a masterpiece of artistic impression. The upside to this is that your child comes home to you at the end of their arduous day and has one more opportunity to be divinely fashioned by a loving and Spirit-led parent before being placed back into the protective container for nightly safekeeping.

As an artist, per say, take every moment to pray and seek guidance from Christ on how to best fashion your entrusted masterpiece. Do not squander any opportunity to teach your child of God's love and the attitude of the heart that needs to be developed in order to reciprocate His love. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 instructs us,
Ò[6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (ESV)
Be diligent. Fashion your children after the likeness of Christ.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

God Loves You Enough to Hurt You | Pastor Jake Magee

6 "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.  7 "She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; And she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband, For it was better for me then than now’” (Hosea 2:6-7)

God loves you enough to hurt you.  That sounds odd doesn’t it?  Our experience is that those who cause harm to us desire our ruin, and those who cause pleasure desire our good.  We don’t have a lot of precedent for concluding that love will cause terrible discomfort and pain.  Typically, discipline becomes a mask for abuse; justice is the veneer of malice and hatred.  As such, we naturally assume that to inflict or allow pain and suffering is an expression of hate and not love. 

In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis argues God loves us so much that he hurts us; if God doesn’t allow and use pain in some way to touch our lives, he would not truly love us.  Why does he think this?  His thinking is something like this:  

The great problem to be remedied isn’t pain, but evil.  The worst thing for a person is to be evil.  The best thing for a person is to be good.  One form of false-love is one that doesn’t really care all that much about whether a person is good or bad, so long as they don’t suffer.  A true love, however, has as its ultimate goal the goodness of a person-gone bad. And a true love will use the tool of pain to get that person good.  A true love recognizes that pain is inevitable in making bad people good, just as pain is inevitable in re-breaking and re-setting a bone.  God breaks bones in salvation, and for good reason...  

“We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are…rebels who must lay down our arms…[and] surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death” (88-89).   

Since God is love and desires our restoration, and our restoration is bound essentially to the surrender of self bent in on itself (like a tree that grows abnormally), we must expect the untwisting of salvation to be excruciating.

“To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labor to make us lovable” (41).

Paradoxically, to ask God for less pain may be to ask him for less love, not more.  To be loved is to be hurt.  His affection for us is so great as almost to be “intolerable.” He demands the perfection of the beloved.  The good news is that he will fulfill his own demands for us, for he doesn't expect clay to make itself into pottery.  The "bad news" is that he will not compromise in making us lovely, leaving no tool untouched that will serve his glory and our good.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why is Theology Important? | Pastor Tim Mason

For the most part, humanity has a hard time dealing with understanding the truths of God. Humanity wrestles with the friction of what God has said and commanded to the point that one actually justifies all actions as they see fit regardless of whether or not it violates the Holiness of God. Is that what God has intended? Biblically, a lot of questions can be raised, which in my mind sends up huge red flags. In no way is my list of ‘Why Theology is Important’ exhaustive.  I think that would fill massive pages of books that would have a lot of footnotes and would fill a small library. This blog is nothing more than an attempt to solidify a foundation in which to jump from as you plumb the depths of Jesus and the Word of God!

Theology Properly Informs Us About God & Ourselves

I would be remiss in thinking we can start this proper understanding of God by not accounting for sin.  All of humanity has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 1) and because of this humanity can’t help but have a hypocritical bend towards the things of God. A right view of God gives us a right view of ourselves, in turn; a right view of ourselves gives us a proper view of God. John Calvin says this:
“Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy. This Pride is innate in all of us; unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity.”  (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
Calvin points out that humanity has a distorted view of holiness and righteousness because sin distorts and perverts. This, in and of itself, can either inform or misinform humanity about what holiness and righteousness actually are.

Theology Helps to Establish a Biblical Worldview

EVERYBODY ascribes to a worldview. The issue is the lens in which one sees the world. This point takes on a totally different trajectory if the first point, sin, is not realized. If humanity thinks it’s generally good and holy, the problems of pain and suffering aren’t sin issues; they are nothing more than poor decision problems. The Biblical Worldview is not religious behavior, but a life transformed by Jesus. This thinking is exemplified by Paul in the Book of Acts on Mars Hill in Athens. (Acts 17:22-32) Paul goes to Athens, observes a sense of spirituality and can’t help but see where their “spirituality” was misinformed and perverted. In addition to that, Paul would go on to affirm their sense of spirituality but correct it by bending it back towards the Biblical understanding of God. If our theology is not established how could one decipher or discern the things Paul did? Would humanity get caught up in crazy religious behavior or blatant pagan activity? What would be the difference?

Theology Builds Maturity

Growing in our knowledge of God and the things about him can’t help but inform our behavior. Both Paul and Peter use analogy and symbolism in the form of infants and adults. (1 Cor 3, 1 Peter 2) Obviously there seems to be an inference to growing in truth and knowledge here. If that is the case than there seems to be a reflection of this with human behavior. Paul talks about feeding his followers milk and yet they don’t seem to show themselves to be ready for meat. If your Theology of God, Jesus, Scripture doesn’t inform your thinking and action, it may be faulty and ultimately infantile. There is a reason the New Testament is filled with epistles written by Godly men that dealt with the hard, laborious task of seeing Christ formed in people in light of bad, misinformed behavior. (Galatians 4:19)

Theology Creates and Strengthens Conviction

If a life lived in servitude is to be established and branded it has to be rooted in a solid, Biblical conviction. What cultivates or hardens conviction? Is it feeling or emotion? Is it right behavior? It is a Calling that doesn’t waver in times of trouble or hardship. Paul would use military language in addressing Timothy. He consistently labors to affirm Timothy to stand firm. Not on his own will but on what has been established by Jesus and the Cross. Paul would urge people to root themselves in the solid foundation that is the Gospel and not be blown away like chaff from wheat. (1 Tim 4:6, 6:3) Paul would go on to appeal to Timothy that deception is immanent and will increase. Paul urges Timothy to root himself in Scripture and Truth as to not be blown away by what would cause a person to stray. (2 Tim 3:1-9) All of this to say that conviction doesn’t come through human knowledge, but by the work of the Holy Spirit in which gives comfort, guidance, conviction and ultimately stability in the gospel.
What Does This Mean?

It would seem that the Christian life could so easily be reduced to nothing more than moral activity. Things in life can be measured by what’s done more than by what’s known and the same can be said the other way. But honestly, the things in life become more about the “who” than they do about “what.” Our lives as Christ followers are to reflect the glory of God in all things. I would think that the greatest way to reflect the Glory of God in all things would be to actually live, breath, believe, preach, proclaim, and champion for God and the Gospel as He has revealed it. This means ALL we do, know, feel and believe should come under the authority of Scripture. The great part about this is God uses us as His vessels to reflect and inform the world about Him and his Glory. I urge you to know Him in the hope to be known by Him.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Bell and Six Tragic Truths About Hell | Jake Magee

Recently hell has become...well…a hot topic. With the release of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins in which he affirms (in his own elusive way) that no one will stay in hell forever, there has been a much-deserved response and backlash to Bell and others who appear to be quite comfortable living on the fringe of error. I can't help but to think of the countless unmarried Christian couples who attempt to live on the border of sexual purity and impurity. “How far can we go and it not be considered impurity”? This premarital enterprise usually comes with many creative alternatives to the act of intercourse, as well as many reaching redefinitions of what counts as sex (this is not original to Bill C.), love, commitment, holiness, etc.

Similarly, we find in Bell and others the attempt to live on or just beyond the border of error (yet claiming to be within the border of truth). Accompanying this attempt are creatively devised alternatives to what Scripture seems to plainly teach, as well as various unimpressive and uninformed redefinitions to justify their position (e.g., "eternal" doesn’t mean…"eternal"). One gets the sense that agenda is informing interpretation rather than interpretation informing agenda. And yet as Bible-believers, we are bound by the later. As R.C. Sproul once said, “You are required to believe, to preach, and to teach what the Bible says is true, not what you want the Bible to say is true.”

With that said, here are six tragic truths about hell that are relevant to this controversy; truths that are tragic enough to compel us to hold the line on orthodoxy, as well as to take seriously the call of every believer to labor in prayer and mission for our lost neighbors.