Tag: God

God save me from…. because I’m bad!

Psalm 38 really popped out at me. It’s like a divine irony. I invested much time meditating on psalms 37-40. All these Psalms focus on God’s deliverance, with a unique twist. In Psalm 38, the twist is a double whammy: sin & enemies.

I’m bad
The Psalmist realizes his depravity and grieves over his sin. While one should work under grace, patients, and meekness when dealing with their depravity, there is still a real and sickening element to sin. Sin should grieve us. Grace does not remove the sting of sin.

Pop-factor #1: In trials, we must remember we’re also fallen.
Avoid: Self-righteousness, it’s everyone else’s fault.

Save me from…
The Psalmist realized he’s lost and in grave need of grace. He still asks for deliverance. God can use enemies, hard situations and trials independently or because of our sin. In either case, we see the pattern of asking for God’s deliverance. While trails are hard and grievous, its ok to ask for them to be over.

Pop-factor #2: In trials, its ok to ask for God to end it.
Avoid: Self-pity, making it all about yourself.

God
The real issue for anything good or bad in our lives is to show God to be God. Trials may deal with our sin, or be completely independent of it. They may be to strengthen us, or they may not. The big thing the Psalmist realizes both in his sin and in his trial is the greatness of God. God is the biggest concern. God’s justice must be satisfied as well as His compassion. God upholds the righteous, but only He can make one righteous. This deals with our sin. God delivers His own, and only He can do such. This deals with our situations.

Pop-factor #3: Trials regardless of reason are about God showing Himself as God.
Avoid: Self-focus, forgetting the big picture.

The bottom line:
God delivers bad people from bad situations because He wants to show Himself as good. It’s a hard listen. But, in bad situations don’t think you’re all perfect. Deal with the sin God reveals, even if its unrelated to the difficulty challenge you’re facing. Remember, God is God, you’re not. So, God save me from…because I’m bad!

Social media: Pensées au sujet des medias sociaux

Thoughts about social media

The last few years I jumped into the social media frenzy: learning, participating, engaging, listening and observing. I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my thoughts. After all, we’re all human…

Social Media is a cure of LIAR’s
LIAR stands for Low Information to Action Ratio… The dilemma many deal with is having too much information. This eventually trains people to ignore large volumes of solid thought. In a real sense our information driven culture trained us to ignore Sunday mornings or other “data dumps.” This leads to us knowing lots, but acting little. Social media is an ironic cure.

Social media helps in two venues:

  1. It breaks large chunks to doable small chunks. The best example observed: Rick Warren’s tweets.
  2. It builds a passive accountability. Social media gives opportunity to soak, digest and respond to information given. It allows community to live truth out together in real-time.

Social media is the Borg at birth
Star Trek created the Borg as an allegory for over invasive technology. If you read up on this sci-fi nemesis, you’ll find remarkable parallels. While the real-time connection to community is a help, it is also a vice. The Borg, even while right next to each other, have a blank stare and only connect through the hive (network). Kind of like talking to your friends by texting when they are right in front of you. This hurts.

Social media hurts in two venues:

  1. Artificial communication often replaces organic real-time conversation. The text, Facebook, tweet replaces the sit down conversation over coffee. Nothing can replace human interaction. Environments, touch, smells, etc are equally important to the human experience and communication. These dimension cannot be carried by technology.
  2. Always on can lead to allows off. The ability to focus and develop the depth needed for many things can be diminished with social media. While processing one can lose the product. This is more than just getting work done, it is also a matter of deepening relationships; the key one being with God. Humans need down time and periods of quiet reflection. Always on breeds the expectation for always available. We’re not God. Let Him be the always on always available guy.

Social media is the new old
I hear often that social media is a revolutionary not evolutionary thing. I disagree. Social media demonstrates something that has always been true: People want to be known, their fallenness unknown and both openly revealed. Any engagement with humans leads to this interplay. While the technology, feel and look may be new, human nature and the proverb…I mean torch runner… I mean bumper telegram…sigh… are still around.

The old renewed:

  1. Human depravity and redemption is active in social media because we can not escape our depravity and need of the Spirit. We can’t stop being human.
  2. Humanity always craves simple and brief tidbits of communication.

The bottom line
While social media is in vogue and seemingly new, it reveals that which is true of all ages. It has strengths it has weaknesses and it will be used for both. I do not advocate balance & wisdom. I do not advocate passionate usage & complete openness. I advocate remembering we are human: fallen and in need of redemption. We cannot escape that and anything “revolutionary” will point out that we’re a mess and God loves us anyway. C’est la vie.

Book review: No One Like Him by John S. Feinberg

Defined systematic theology as that branch of theology which studies the whole of Scripture and presents the results on the basis of logical connection, detailing what the scriptures mean in our contemporary context. This is the greatest strength of Feinberg’s work on the Doctrine of God. This doctrine has been brushed over in my life and “No One Like Him” is the first serious discourse I have read about the Doctrine. It raises the question of why this doctrine is often taken for granted.

The question being asked
Feinberg’s task in the book is to give a constructive overview (understated) of who God is, in terms of our contemporary culture. Constructive and contemporary are key elements in the book as Feinberg takes on a unique approach. Instead  of a flat-out rejection of any theological system that contradicts itself or his own system, Feinberg looks at what the issues of such systems are. Within process theology or the open view of God, the driving force, driven by contemporary culture, is a highly relational God. Feinberg brings out the value of such false systems, and then clarifies how a refined conservative approach fits the needs of contemporary culture. God is King, but He is the God who cares. While not purposely bringing a balance of two conflicting views, in each section Feinberg seeks to answer properly the questions being raised. This approach leads to a logical approach within the book.

Book Size
Oddly, another strength of the book is its size. One reading is not adequate to review this book as its flow of thought builds a solid argument for God. While the spirit of communication is to state one’s point as briefly as possible, making a case for a God who cares and is King is not something that can be done in a theological journal or a Two hundred page, easy read. In a contemporary culture where people generalize, the need to give ‘exhaustive’ coverage is critical in developing a subject, especially in dealing with a infinite person such as God.

The main Point
The conclusion Fienberg reaches is one of both/and. God is king, and God cares. The conclusion, while the answer for contemporary society, does not fit with how society thinks today. It is today’s culture which polarizes issues, not seeing how they fit together as a whole, resulting in the growing popularity of process theology. God as sovereign and man as a free agent seem incompatible, unless one thinks in a both/and mindset. Great comfort comes from knowing that one need only to prove the possibility of something, not the logical necessity of something. Classical thought, while solid, is a system derived by men with inherent problems.

The bottom line
After reading this book, it begs the question of why there is not a class dealing with God exclusively. It seems that since the concept of God is so immense. As Christians we gloss over the topic and move onto more tangible things, like Christology. Perhaps it is this avoidance of focusing on God that is the root of church decline in North America. In listening to the testimonies of those brothers and sisters undergoing persecution, it would seem that they have a better grasp of who God is than we do. A solid look at God would do us all good, as there truly is no one like Him.

Book Review: Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Crazy Love goes on my must read list! The book draws out things that we easily forget, like the transforming reality of God in our life. The interplay between church, theology, and living is hard to navigate. Crazy Love brings these elements together,

What if…
‘What if’ jumps out of this book. The question Francis Chan asked that has my mind spinning is this: What if churches were more known for giving and not taking? This question, and others like it, call for a radical approach to how we live for Christ. One chapter of the book just gives story after story of people living based on God’s crazy love for them. It really is not a fluff book.

Guilt by love
Crazy Love challenges you on the love front. Many people cringe at hell, fire and brimstone (HFB) sermons, saying they’re tired of feeling guilty all the time. Others criticize for ignoring the gruesome aspect of eternity. Crazy Love has the potential to produce more guilt or conviction then any HFB sermon I ever heard. It is the book equivalent of a loving mother looking you in the eye and saying: “I love you, but I’m disappointed.

Tone
Francis Chan writes with the art of a surgeon. He is very careful to say clearly what needs to say, while also attempting to hold back negative emotions that can get one sidetracked. Chan’s book refreshes you in how he specifically speaks against church bashing. He is right in asserting that what we truly love and are convicted about produces the most solid change. His tone focuses on process not perfection, pursuit, not purity. Perfection and purity will come because of what Christ did. The tone of this books would be one many writes should absorb.

Bottom line:
This review is brief for one reason: I don’t want to give anything away, you need to listen and engage yourself! The book will challenge your faith. Some may feel guilty at first from reading it, but it gives you a clear and balanced approach of how God’s love should impact us. For others, this book will reignite you passion to go all out for God.

Millennials: Hey world, I have a soul!

Millennials are about the rediscovering of the human soul. I read lately about “Millennials.” Depending on what definition you go by, I am one or I am not one; I consider myself one. Time tables are largely arbitrary. What amazes me about Millennials is the focus on significance and impact. There is more to life and its purpose then mere existence.

I am more than my parts
The problem with modernism and the industrial revolution? They reduced everything to a mathematical formula or chemical equation. Reason was supreme, science was king. Under this onslaught of reason on steroids I cannot help but notice- things got worse not better. Reason & science can build you a bomb, but it cannot tell you if you should use it. The atrocities of modernism should cause pause about being enlightened.

Here is what I mean: Technological progress and the acquisition of knowledge does not equate to human progress. Such ‘progress’ lead to events like Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, abortion on a grand scale, pollution on a grand scale, the break up on the family, drug abuse, etc. Modernity forgot something. I am more then my parts. I have a soul.

My soul is fallen
Anyone who states a person is inherently good never worked with children. People, by nature, are depraved. I often get tirades of pessimism when I state this, but it is the truth. If people are naturally good and education the silver bullet, then things should be getting better. They are not. Again, I cannot help but notice how things got worse or at best remained the same.

Millennials focus on social justice, significance and impact may be the realization of something far more critical: We have a soul and it is fallen. The human soul often craves justice. This sense of freedom and justice demands action. They are foundational to the meaning of life.

The law has failed
The rule of law and the destructive nature of religious fundamentalism did not solve the problems. Millennials crave spirituality, but often reject religion. It points to the argument Paul made in Roman’s 7: The law is good, but it cannot save nor sanctify us. (Romans 7 is debated passage. My take is that human nature is not the focus, but the role of the Law (Torah) is.) Milennials want to cut the fluff and get to the real answers.

The Gospel really is the main thing
The Gospel really is the answer to the questions Millennials are asking. Granted there are problems at home, in the work place, etc. We need help in learning how to handle our money, our relationships, our conflicts. The Bible teaches that it is the role of older generations to teach and pass on that wisdom. Millennials are a generation of wanting listeners. But, that wisdom is not the answer they are looking for.

Theology & exposition of the Scripture stands ands as the answer. For this gets to what should be the root voice and foundation for the church: There is a God who wants be known, make Himself known and the Gospel is the only way that can happen. God doesn’t want us to know about Him, in such case general revelation would be sufficient. God wants to be known in community with us. God is active and involved. The story of Jesus Christ is pivotal to the questions Millennials are asking. The answer results and demands action. The Gospel really is the main thing.

The Bottom line
Millennials are reminding human history that we have a soul. The best response to the questions being raised is the Gospel. Teaching theology as about God, or  teaching pragmatic & practical formulas misses the mark of what is asked. One is mere reason against questions of decades past, the other a softer form of legalism, both neglect that God created us with a soul. The Millennials questions bring us back to the main thing: That change occurs best from the inside out, and only the Gospel can produce that change. It’s as if with one voice they are shouting: Hey wold, I have a soul!

The Bible in a paragraph…

The Bible is a story about God revealing Himself to man through His relationship with Israel. This magnificent story of propositional truth gives us multiple perspectives from multiple authors in multiple points in history, all detailing the greatness of our God. The good book tells us about God, how to live, and how to have an intimate and personal relationship with God. Jesus’ death burial and resurrection is the way to that relationship. It is a deeply personal story, craving devotion, faithfulness and worship, for He is enough. The unfolding of God’s relationship of Israel spans both testaments, each essential to the other and equally authoritative. The church, a humble and secondary character, will one day enjoy the full blessings of God as both Jews and Gentiles receive mercy. The Bible is essential if we are to know Him, our true God and Lord. And in the end….God wins!

Book Review: The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Tozer’s book is incredibly technical and mysterious at the same time. He pushes you, hard, and asks very pointed questions about your belief in who God is. Often theology proper (the study of God Himself) is glossed over and assumed. Tozer implies throughout the book that maybe it should be first among the theologies.

God Speaks
The big thing that stands out is how God actively wants to communicate today, just as much as in times past. The very fact that God gave us the Bible speaks volumes on how God wants to actively pursue and interact with people. God is not a set it and forget it person. God speaks actively today as He did in times past. This includes authorial intent, what God spoke and meant then is what He is saying to us today.

“The Bible will never be a living book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in his universe…I think a new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.” (p. 71-72, Italics author’s emphasis)

More than Saved
We forget God the father. The book brings out something we too easily forget, lose, or never attained. God gave salvation as a means to pursue Him, not as a ‘get out of jail free card.’ The danger of viewing the Bible or Christianity as a psychological self-help community, or merely as a redemptive story is that both neglect the key to the Bible, to faith, to life, and that is a personal God. Jesus will and purpose was the will of the Father. We must get back to that.

Format
Tozer is hard to read. He writes in a way that we do not speak or think like today. This makes getting through the book a little difficult. It’s like reading someone’s journal. He is very humble and very pointed, but it is a chore to get through the book. I say this to be aware of it, not as a criticism. I wish I read this book long ago.

Tozer ends each chapter with what is a lost art in churches today- written prayers. His prayer for himself and those who read the book create a significant impact. One can develop a solid prayer life from the end of each chapter. We often view prayer as only genuine and heartfelt if it is spontaneous. A book of prayers may be helpful and a great resource for today. Each generation must speak to God. Being formal is just as genuine and heartfelt as being spontaneous.

Bottom line:
The Pursuit of God is on my “Must Read List.” It brings into balance that Christianity and the Bile is about God wanting and being known, and everything else is subservient to that foundational principle.

Not Perfect is a Holy Thing: Moses

Person: Moses
Epic Fail: Anger and frustration
God’s View: One of the greatest prophets

Ever avoid getting involved because you’re angry or frustrated? STOP! Moses had numerous occasions whereby he got frustrated and angry. He even failed in this area. God still used him! Moses was an imperfectly HUGE hero in the Bible. While anger and frustration may be a weak area, perhaps you should pursue God and overcome these struggles.

God’s Man
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt ; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king ; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land ; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.
~Hebrews 11:24-29 NASB

Moses’ Failure
The story of Moses did not go as smoothly as mentioned in Hebrews 11. He took matters into his own hands by killing an Egyptian, causing him to have to flee. While this may not be the best way of handling his situation, look at how God viewed it. Even in failures or when we do things wrong there can be glimmers of faith.

Moses did not view himself as a good communicator. So, God gave him Aaron to be Moses’ mouthpiece. This lead to some problems down the road. Still, Moses lead the people out of Israel. There were multiple occasions that lead to anger and frustration for Moses. In one instance, he struck a rock out of frustration rather than following the instructions God gave him. This failure kept Moses from entering the promised land.

God’s final view
God describes Moses as a man of faith. Moses wrote the 5 most critical books of the Bible, the Torah, by which all other books point and connect to. He conquered nations, stood for God when all Israel, save a few, looked elsewhere. He saw God. Moses was not a great man because he lacked faults, was perfect, or in him was no sin. Moses became a great man because he pursued God.

Yes, Moses had to face consequences for his sin, but its not the sin that God brings up, its the acts of his faith. Here is the key to God’s grace and forgiveness- it wipes away all sin! While there may be consequences to sin here on Earth, the failure of sin is not the final word on our lives! Out of the trials and failures that Moses, and ourselves, face on Earth will be written the strengths of our faith and the grace God granted to us.