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Stick Figure Theology

First, a little caveat to say I like theology. Really I do.

No, really. I do.

It's just I believe we haven't been doing too good a job doing theology for awhile now. Like, say, the last two millennia.

I really don't intend this to be another typical rant against the practice of Christian theology, with stuff like "theology divides and Jesus unites." It does and He does, but that's not my point. I don't want to attack theology with simple and easy put-downs. We need theology. We need vigorous and life sustaining theology. Heresy, is real and especially dangerous when the Gospel of Christ and his kingdom is distorted. Theology, or the study of what we believe about God, is important.

We just haven't been doing a very good job I fear.

My basic complaint against the practice of theology has to do more with the practitioners, us, than with theology itself. We think we understand more than we do. It's a worldview thing. The underlying assumptions that a…

What's good for our hearts

Life pushes us in unpleasant directions. Living a life of faithfulness to God can become a challenge in the face of immense pressures to conform to modern culture and a godless lifestyle. We certainly don’t have the strength within us to push back. Scripture challenges us to keep Christ and his kingdom as the top priorities in our lives, but we have bills to pay, a mortgage to keep, a boss to please, a family to raise, and temptations to face.

One of the best antidotes for the venom that threatens to paralyze my own spiritual life has been Psalm 73, one of the handful of “wisdom” psalms found in our collection of 150. Asaph, listed as the psalm’s author in the heading, reminds us of one simple fact: God is good. Nothing else is good as God.

The psalm opens and closes with this truth, which then frames the entire discussion of pressures in life that are not so good. The opening verse of the psalm says "God is good to Israel," God’s people. The last verse, verse 28, concludes…

You are my sunshine

Ah, sunshine. It's marvelous stuff. When we are happy, we walk on it. When it gets on our shoulder, it makes us kinda melancholy-happy. And when we are angry at the man, we tell it to go away.

But there is an even better way to see sunshine. Psalm 19 lays out a great lesson for us about sunshine and the Bible, and how we need to be connected to the shining light of God's Word.

David's great psalm tells us of the importance of Scripture. It's a very famous psalm, and rightly so, used often to help us understand the natural revelation of God in the heavens (verse 1). Other times, the psalm is used to make the point that the written revelation of God in the Bible is perfect, sure, right, and more valuable than gold (verses 7-10).

There is a specific structure to the psalm, with the first six verses speaking of natural revelation, the next five verses proclaiming the value of biblical revelation, and the final three verses showing us how to use the Word of God to combat si…

Do you know where God keeps the hail

In today's class of the Story of our Beliefs, we took a break. Not a complete break from our study mind you, just a different direction for a day to prepare ourselves for the upcoming discussions on the more controversial issues with which the Church has wrestled over the centuries.

Instead of following our normal procedure of going back into history and reviewing past debates on a particular subject, We spent this week looking at a very practical passage of the Bible, sort of as a way of cleansing the palate. We studied the book of Job.

(See the Class presentation)

Job has long been one of the most important books for me. Why look at Job in a class related to theology and church history? I'm glad you asked. The answer is found in Romans 9, which is one of those passages that comes closest to being a real "theological discussion." I would still say, however, Paul's purpose in the chapter is more practical than a theology outline on the subject of election. But Paul …

Stick Figures

I am more and more convinced God is bigger than our theology. We possess, however, a self-inflated assurance that our theological viewpoint truly reflects the majesty of God. We are like a four-year-old who believes his stick-figure drawing of daddy really looks like his father. 

More on this in the days to come.

History of sin, part 2

For those in my Sunday Bible Hour class, The Story of our Beliefs, we finished up our look at the Church's various viewpoints of sin throughout the centuries (see the presentation slides here). Sin is one of those subjects that is simple and complex all at once. Simple because we have a pretty good idea of what sin is, at least on a practical level, but complex because there are tricky questions about the origin of sin, the problem of evil, our responsibility for our sinfulness, and the extent of our ability to withstand it.

We can get by in our Christian life without delving into the details of these issues, but whenever we tackle the theological questions relating to our salvation, we need to look first at sin.

We picked up our discussion from week one with a quick look at the reformation. Martin Luther's own struggle with his personal sense of sinfulness and guilt certainly played a role in his study of the book of Romans and the realizations about God's grace that led …

Choosing a path

We all need encouragement. Carrying around discouragement, doubts, and discontent is tiresome. So it is not insignificant that John 14, containing Jesus' great discourse on the Father and Holy Spirit, begins with the words, "Don't let your hearts be troubled."

The problem is our hearts are easily troubled. We all have troubles with a capital T. Pain dwells within and during difficult periods of our lives we feel consumed. Even during the good times, pain can be a next-door neighbor knocking on the door asking to come in for a visit.

The solution given in the following words are familiar. "Believe in God," Jesus says, "believe also in me." It is our beliefs that direct our heart. With the right beliefs, our hearts can steer clear of the discouragements that linger and grow within.

Everybody believes in something. Deep in our heart, we each choose something we trust to guide us, something by which we can decide which is right.

(Wait a minute, this s…

Oops, my bad - Story of Sin

Unfortunately, believers in Jesus are experts in the subject of sin. We have too much experience with it, sadly.

On the other hand, when it comes to theological discussions about the origin, nature, and transmission of sin, the questions are harder than they look.

That is what we discussed this morning in the adult Bible hour class, The Story of our Beliefs (see here for class information and here for the class presentation).

As believers, what we yearn to talk about is how thankful we are to know our sins are forgiven. We have experienced the awfulness of our rebelliousness and know that disobedience keeps us separated from God. So, to know that our sin has been nailed to the cross and we bear it no more, well that is truly bliss (to paraphrase Spafford's famous hymn).

In light of that internal yearning, what would lift our hearts and encourage us would be to read and reflect on David's emotional Psalm 51, which talks of sin, remorse, and gratitude for forgiveness. We could s…

In the Beginning

That's awfully pretentious, to start this first post with the opening line of Genesis 1.1. Well, I certainly don't think this beginning has anything to do with that beginning. Other than the fact that both are starting points. Of course, that was the starting point of a written revelation of God, referring to the starting point of the creation of the whole universe. 
I have less lofty goals in mind.
To begin, however, allow me to begin where that began, with the assumption that the almighty God exists and can speak reality into existence simply by commanding it. God is outside of that creation, speaking light, worlds, and creatures into existence. He is above and beyond that creation.
In the next chapter, that same God, now called the Lord, is within his creation, digging up dirt and making a man, and later a woman. He walked and talked with them. Regardless of what you believe about the historical accuracy of the first couple (and someday we'll talk about that), I hope yo…