Theology


I realize that I have probably just shocked the life out of you with this post’s title.  However, I thought I would say what I feel a majority of Evangelicals are telling the world these days.  I have not simply grown weary, I have grown exhausted by the rabid fascination most Evangelicals I know have with the coming of the Lord Jesus.  Now, let me be clear that I fully believe in the Lord’s return to Earth to judge “the quick and the dead.”  The growth of the New Testament Church is directly attributable to the apostles belief that Jesus would return in their lifetime.  They could not stomach the Lord returning and their loved ones being left behind to face the judgment.  Accordingly, they were motivated by overwhelming compassion for their fellow-man and engaged in intensive evangelism.  I often fail to hear any underlying compassion behind many of the songs and sermons spewing forth in the modern Evangelical church.  The only thing I hear is “Yay, the Lord is going to return and we will not be here for all the trials and tribulation the world will endure.”  We are so consumed with reading, singing, and preaching about the retired bliss of Heaven’s avenues that we fail to recall that such bliss is not what Heaven is all about.  The Christian is redeemed to give eternal glory to God for the gift of salvation, not to recline in a mansion sipping tea waiting for the next angel choir concert.  When I hear the prophetic prognosticators give us their latest “Return of Jesus” forecast, I fail to hear anything about God’s grace.  I do hear that the Christian is not going to be here and those left behind are going to face unbearable horrors so come to Jesus.  I am sorry, we are simply scarring people out of Hell at that point.  Where is the recounting of God’s great love for us that He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins?   It often appears as if the only thing the average Evangelical is on the lookout for is whether Christ is on the next cloud floating by while ignoring the fields ripe for harvest around them.   Furthermore, I think it important to remember, lest we fall guilty of the same sin as the ancient Israelites, that the Day of the Lord will result in judgment upon the Church as well.  Paul told the Corinthians that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  I cannot help but think that the Lord will find us guilty for focusing on His return above preaching the full Gospel and accordingly that the Day of His appearing will not be as pleasant as we would desire.  I sincerely wish we would stop using the Parousia as means to greater attendance figures or increasing DVD and book sales, and instead return to an intense love affair with God.  I pray that my colleagues would return to the fundamentals of our faith and preach sermons on the richness of grace, declaring war on sin, and growing more each day into the redeemed image of our Creator.  Our world lives solely in the moment and has an acute awareness of its needs.  It finds nothing to meet those needs in sermons devoted to whether the European debt crisis is inching us closer to a one world government and the arrival of the anti-Christ.  I once heard a talk focused solely on the fact that the preacher thought the anti-Christ would be Spanish.  Who cares what his nationality is as long as people are trying everything but Christ to fill the intense longing of their souls.  Let us once more give the world Christ and His grace, mercy, love, and peace.  Let us so taste Heaven through communion with Him that we feel the same fire to evangelize that the early Church did.  Let us stop telling the world to go to Hell and instead say to them, “come to Jesus and live.”

Peace be with you.

Advertisements

Each morning I receive an emailed “quote of the day.”  Some days are better than others, but yesterday’s gave me pause.  I have placed it below.  It is from “The Cost of Discipleship” by Bonhoeffer and deals with the detrimental effects of Lutherans idolizing doctrine.  I found it particularly troubling in light of the direction some Southern Baptist circles are seeking to take the Convention.  I wholeheartedly agree that we need to defend the doctrine of Scripture, but it must be done in such a manner that maintains the sweetness of Scripture–it’s message of grace and salvation.  The Risen Christ warned the Ephesian church the danger of following such a path and I pray that we do not go the direction that Bonhoeffer describes Lutherans have gone.

We Lutherans… have paid the doctrine of pure grace divine honours unparalleled in Christendom; in fact, we have exalted the doctrine to the position of God Himself. Everywhere Luther’s formula has been repeated, but its truth perverted into self-deception. So long as our Church holds the correct doctrine of justification, there is no doubt whatever that she is a justified Church! So they said, thinking that we must vindicate our Lutheran heritage by making this grace available on the cheapest and easiest terms. To be “Lutheran” must mean that we leave the following of Christ to the Nomians, the Calvinists, and the Anabaptists–and all this for the sake of grace! We justified the world, and condemned as heretics those who tried to follow Christ. The result was that a nation became Christian and Lutheran, but at the cost of true discipleship… We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to
follow Jesus was hardly ever heard.
… Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Peace be with you.

I will begin preaching through Habakkuk on Sunday if everything goes according to plan.  It will become the sixth minor prophet I have preached through in the last two years (Amos, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Haggai, and Habakkuk) in addition to having taught through Isaiah and Micah in our Sunday School class last Spring.  I had originally planned to preach a topical series on worship after Easter and the four sermons from Habakkuk will be on detriments to worship.  I find it pretty amazing how God works as He molds us into the direction He would have us go.  I have been preparing since early winter for this worship series, but then He drops Habakkuk into my mind.  I will be honest and say that Habakkuk is not a text I have studied that much and so I have been trying to play catch-up.  Yet, as I have studied through Habakkuk I have been humbled by how it fits perfectly into what I have already been thinking through and even more surprising, how it perfectly links to my Holy Week series and Easter Sunday sermon.  I am uncertain why God has led me to the prophets as much as He has lately.  After all, our Community Lenten Series focused around the “prophetic parables” in Hosea and Jeremiah.   However, as Habakkuk so eloquently asserts, God’s timing and purposes are not our own and we must simply rest in them.  I have found two great quotes during my Habakkuk preparation that I thought I would share.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have and that it will encourage you to take a look at the hinge of the minor prophets—Habakkuk.

“Faith and fact are not always compatible in the world of sense and sight, but that is not the whole world.  There is a world of justice that only God fully comprehends.  His people must accept by faith what they cannot confirm in fact.”
C. H. Bullock

“Such a word from God implies that they turmoil and violence and death in our societies may not be evidence of God’s absence from our lives but instead the witness to his actual working in judgment as he pursues his purpose.  No event in human history, therefore, is to be understood as completely divorced from his lordly action and will.  God is always at work, always involved, always pressing forward toward his kingdom.  But the means by which he chooses to pursue that goal may be as astounding as the destruction of a nation or as incomprehensible as the blood dripping from the figure of a man on a cross.”
Elizabeth Achtemeier

Peace be with you.

I have a particular fondness for Good Friday.  The symbolism of the Tenebrae service is powerful and it is by far my favorite service of the year.  I fear that far too often we rush past the pain of the Crucifixion to enjoy the beauty of the Resurrection.  Yet, it was the Crucifixion that forever canceled our sin debt to God and opened the path for us to be declared righteous.  So, in honor of Good Friday, I thought I’d share one of my favorite images from classical art.  It is entitled “The Lamentation over the Dead Christ” by di Brera.  I hope it makes real the message of this day as much for you as it does for me.

Peace be with you.

We conclude our Lenten lunch series today with this last look at Paul’s prayer for understanding.  We will continue serving until 2:00 so if you are in the area please come out and join us.  Also, we will have our traditional Maundy Thursday service of Word and Table tonight at 7:00 and our Good Friday Tenebrae service tomorrow at 7:00.  We hope that you will make plans to join us for each of these special commemorations of our Lord’s final days.

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17b-19

We conclude our look at the dimensions of God’s love today by examining Paul’s desire that we know the depth of God’s love.  It would appear at the outset to be the easiest of the dimensions to understand.  The ability to perceive depth, after all, is something we learn to do unconsciously during infancy.  Yet, if we were honest we would all say that we sometimes do not accurately perceive the depth of some things.  I learned this first hand a few weeks ago when, while helping in our church’s Adopt-a-Highway clean-up effort, I found myself stuck in water halfway up my shin.  I had told my wife Eliza that I did not think the ditch was that deep just before I started sliding down the bank into a ditch that I soon found was over my head.  My inability to perceive the ditch’s depth left me mired in unyielding mud, wet, dirty and feeling totally helpless.  Indeed, if Eliza had not pulled me out I would  probably still be stuck and given our recent rains in even more water and muck than I was.  I cannot say that this was the first time I have found myself in such a predicament, however.  My inability to accurately perceive things has often caused me to make poor decisions that were contrary to the best that God had for me and I found myself stuck and helpless.  The great thing is that there is someone who can help us when we find ourselves in the ditch.  Jesus’ resurrection from the cold depth of His borrowed tomb insured forever that there was no depth so great that God’s love still could not reach us and pull us from.   What a comfort it is to remember that when we find ourselves in life’s ditches.  However, the eye troubles that first caused us to get in the ditch, can sometimes impair our vision from accurately seeing that is where we are.  Hence, Paul adds after praying that we grasp all these dimensions that we know intimately the love of God.  It is incumbent upon us to continually seek God’s help to not only get out of the ditches we can see, but to give us clear vision to see first that we are in the ditch.  Jesus came to enable us to see that we have stumbled off God’s path and to lead us back to God by the way of the Cross.  I pray that you will have the power to feel afresh the depth of God’s love as it reaches where you are and brings you back to firm ground.  I pray that you would use these next few days to experience again the great gift of God’s Son and through His passion to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is God’s love for you and to feel it intimately in your heart.

Peace be with you.

Last night I was listening to Dr. Al Mohler preach on I believe “Family Life” as I drove home and heard him give this great quote by Tertullian.  I thought in light of my earlier discussion of John Piper this week, it would be a fitting way to end the week.  I hope you enjoy it.

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. They need not be furtive about making the Sign of the Cross, nor timorous in greeting the brethren, nor silent in asking a blessing of God. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not.

Peace be with you

Here is part three of our Lenten lunch devotions.  We will conclude next week so please if you are in the area come and join us from 12-2 for great food and fellowship.

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17b-19

We arrive today at Paul’s third dimension of God’s love, height.  I believe this is the hardest dimension of the four to fathom.  I can use what I have previously experienced and enlarge it to comprehend the width and the length and even the depth of God’s love.  I have never though stood at the base of something and knew that regardless of how hard I tried, it’s peak would remain unseen and inaccessible to me.  Yet, that is exactly the way the Scriptures describe the height of God’s love.  The psalmist prays to God in Psalm 108 and says “for your steadfast love is great above the heavens.”  In other words, there is nothing that will ever be able to stand above God’s love.  What a wonderful truth to let slip into our souls.  Yes, we may sin grievously, but God’s love is such that His forgiveness will still stamp it down if we but ask.  Yet, it goes farther than this.  I do not know about you, but I am often intimidated by things taller than I am.  I get nervous when I have to get something off the cabinet’s top shelf because I generally have to stand on something to reach it and I am always afraid of falling.  I fell down a flight of stairs once and have been hesitant of going down stairs ever since.  I get really nervous driving across most bridges, particularly the high ones.  After all, it is a long way down.  Indeed, when I have something to do that I am dreading, my mind will often endow the task with proportions that often make it much bigger than it actually is.  What a comfort to know then, that I can stare directly at the things I fear the most and see the height of God’s love towering above it.  Paul prayed that we know  the height of God’s love because he had experienced it first hand.  He had stared down everything from angry mobs to ultimately the Roman emperor through the power of it’s height.  He even gazed into Death’s cold, dark glare and said with unbending resolve “O death, where is your victory, where is your sting” for He knew the height of God’s love could overcome even that which we consider to be final.  I do not know what you are going through today, but I pray that you will see that God’s love towers above it, ready to slip between you and your burden and lift it to heights unknown to allow you to walk free.  I pray that this freedom will enable you to face down every fear and sin that so easily besets us and that you may know that God is still in control.

Peace be with you.

Next Page »