Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some Answers - not really...

So, I've disclosed a little bit of my internal dilemma based around understanding the full nature of who God is.  There was a lot more that went on internally in the past few weeks in trying to understand this, and I still don't understand it all.  But this is the point that I came to a couple of weeks ago.  I came to the point that I could see it, like, I understood it and put it all together (sort of).

I could see God's love in displaying himself to humanity and the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.  Basically, God is good.  No, that is an understatement, God is amazing.  And so, the most loving thing for him to do is to reveal himself to those outside himself.  God is also creative, so he makes things.  So God makes things and reveals himself to those things.  Now, God is also just.  So he gives these things what they rightly deserve.  Ok, we're going good here.  So we have beings created by God, to whom he is continually revealing himself, and he is dealing with them according to their actions, because that is what they deserve.  Now, God is also wise (striving after the best ends by use of the best means).

So we have this being, God, eternally existent.  Within his nature there is the need to create, love, and reveal himself.  So he makes a world, knowing from the beginning his exact purposes in creating that world.  Knowing how he will display his justice, love, mercy, wisdom, grace, righteousness, wrath, and this is where we run into a problem.  Part of God is an intense hatred and wrath against something unlike himself.  In fact, we know that God is jealous, meaning that he REQUIRES that all worship him, that all view him as the ultimate being.  And his wrath will be poured out on all who don't.  Which means that there must be some who do not worship and love him!

So we have this eternal being, creating for the purpose of lovingly revealing himself, knowing that this means that some will be created for destruction, in order to display his wrath and jealousy, which are good and righteous attributes.


And do you know what my conclusion was?  God, I get it, I see it, like, I can't even describe to you, the reader, how clear all of this was in my eyes, but I said to God, I don't like it.  In fact, I realized that this is a piece of God that I don't love.  I don't love his wrath or his jealousy.  I don't!

And so my prayer is, Father, teach me to love you as you are.  Teach me to see your manifold wisdom in choosing some for life and others for death.  Teach me to see your love in you wrath and your mercy in your justice.  Teach me to see you for who you are, to be amazed, and to love and worship you, because I know you are worthy.  I don't want to just know the answers, I want to love the answers, and more than that, I want to love the one behind the answers.

Come Lord Jesus Come!  For then we will get to look into these things clearly, for then we will see you and know you even as we are seen and known.  For then the revelation will be clear and complete.  Reveal yourself to us, for we need you, we need to know you, you are our very life and breath, our very vision, our very sustenance, our very food.  Come Lord Jesus Come!

How do you go about understanding the attributes of God and how He does all that He does without contradicting Himself or changing?  Do you sometimes ignore certain attributes to make your view of God more "palatable"?  What attributes do you tend to emphasize or under-emphasize?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Merciful Justice - Aren't these contradictory terms??

So, this is following the post from a few days ago...more struggles with who God is based on the knowledge that He will send people to Hell.  Think about that for a moment.  What does it tell you about God that He would create people with the intention of sending them to Hell?  Most Christians dismiss these questions/thoughts as unimportant, but this is your God!  If we claim that we desire to grow in a knowledge of God (which if you are a Christian you should desire this) and you claim to love God (which as a Christian you should claim this) then how can you dismiss this as unimportant!?

So, how is it that God can create people with the INTENTION of sending them to Hell?  Wow...

So I recently read through Lamentations.  Amazing book, by the way, never realized it, but it's an amazing book.  The city of Jerusalem is being destroyed, an enemy is camped outside cutting off food supplies.  Women are eating their children in the streets.  People are dieing every day.  Destruction is rampant.  And this author (seems to be a leader of some sort in the city) is crying out to God.  Now there are a million different directions to go with all of this, because in the past week my mind has gone a million different directions.  I've learned so much more what God's mercy is by reading this book.  At one  point the author says "because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed.  His compassions never fail"  And I realized something.  This man is looking around at complete destruction, but he realizes, we deserve much worse.  God should just destroy us right now.  But He hasn't, which is mercy, not giving the bad that someone deserves.  Grace is giving someone good that they do not deserve and mercy is withholding the bad that someone does deserve.

But this led me to a dilemma.  How can God be both merciful and just?  If justice is repaying someone according to what they deserve and mercy is withholding the bad from someone that they rightfully deserve???anyone else seeing my dilemma here?

Now, I have thought since of some answers to this problem, but for my purposes today I will leave you with this question.  Feel free to comment any thoughts that you have.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review: "Why Church Matters" by Jonathan R. Wilson

Why Church Matters - Worship, Ministry, and Mission in Practice (2006) by Jonathan R. Wilson (2/18/11)  This is a well formulated work on ecclesiology, firmly rooted in the practices of the church.  The book is very academic in nature while also being very practical, readable, and accessible.  I would recommend the book to anyone who has a deeper interest into what church is, what church is supposed to be, and what God's intentions are in having "the church".  If I were to offer a critique of the book it would be it's sparing use of Scripture.  There are many concepts that are firmly rooted in Scripture, but I wish that he would have illuminated this more clearly, and there are other concepts that I highly questioned their validity and wished that he had more faithfully tied them to Scripture for further consideration.

Wisdom in Destruction??

So, I've realized recently that I originally started this blog with the intention of exploring/discussing new things that God was teaching me about himself, or that I thought perhaps I was learning about God.  At times I have gotten off of this course, at times I have stated things a little more emphatically than they should be if I truly see myself on a path of learning, but I realized today that the very thing I've been struggling with recently, the very thing that I've been contemplating and questioning, I have not posted about at all.  So here goes.  This will not be a well constructed, beautifully worded, eloquent post, because this will be a post of questions, not answers.  These have been recent thoughts and struggles in my head.

Question raised by a friend - "How could God, if He is love, create the world knowing beforehand that people would go to Hell?  And not only foreknowing this, but actually predestining it, actually planning that it should be so?"
This question has in some ways plagued me in the past few months.  It has been addressed numerous times by many great thinkers and theologians.  I know the "answers" to it, but it still in some ways plagues me.  I have listened to John Piper on the topic, and have read Jonathan Edwards' "The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners".  I have considered Ephesians 3 which says "I became a servant of this preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.  his intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."  So we know that this mystery was kept hidden IN God for ages past.  I feel that one could contemplate that for a lifetime.  And we know that God created ALL things.... wow!  And this tells us His intent, His eternal purpose (what! Wow, this is God's ETERNAL purpose!!) that through the church (!) the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities [of the world.  Right? NO!] in the heavenly realms!!!

So, I've gotten thus far.  God has called the elect, the church, and in so doing his wisdom is displayed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.  And this was His eternal purpose and the reason as to why he created all things (both the elect and those who will perish).
Ok, so I know WHY God created the world with the intention of some going to Hell.  He did it to display his wisdom.  Ok, great, let's move on.  But wait a could he do that without compromising his love?  How can God be loving and also wise in this kind of way?  Here John Piper's words ring in my head.  It is because the most loving thing that God can do is to be God.  Our only satisfaction is in God, so he must reveal himself and be true to who he is, and since he is wise he MUST display this and it is the LOVING thing to do.  Ok, makes sense.  I get it....but I still struggle.

WHY?? HOW??? How could God devise such a plan?  Isn't there another way?  Couldn't he have shown his wisdom and love some other way?

Ok, enough for today.  More thoughts later.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review: "Real Worship" by Warren Wiersbe

Real Worship (1986) by Warren Wiersbe (2/17/11)  This is perhaps the best book on worship that I have ever read.  I was originally turned off by the title, but found that as I read that the book is both Biblical and orthodox.  Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book is that he is solidly based in biblical principles and Christian orthodoxy but yet is willing to question even the most set in stone ideas and practices.  He comes across as being a true Christian mystic (one who desires personal encounters with God) while also being a good Christian theologian.  The book instructs and inspires towards true worship of our creator.  Well worth the read.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

True Worship - Why Our Lives Must Align With Our Words

 This is an excerpt from "Why Church Matters" by Jonathan R. Wilson.  He is a bit heady and uses big words, but it is well worth reading, and a great follow-up to the series on worship that I just finished posting.

True worship requires an understanding of the one true God and increases our understanding of that God...The worship of the people of God becomes untrue when they wrongly construe the God whom they are worshiping and when they try to combine the worship of other gods with the worship of the one true God.  The Israelites misconstrue the God whom they are worshiping when they think that ritually and legally correct worship places God under their control.  This attempted domestication of God wrongly treats God as something like a petulant giant who has to be mollified.  In a reversal of Marx's dictum, this approach is worship as the opiate of the god.  As long as we are ritually and legally correct in our worship, God will be drugged and will not notice that God's character and will are being violated in every other area of life.  This is the worship that Isaiah condemns in Isaiah 1.
The church commits this same error today when we think that enthusiastic, well-planned, perfectly executed worship excuses affluent, consumptive lifestyles that depend upon unjust economic structures and practices.  We also commit this error when we think that beautiful buildings and large offerings will distract God from the tragic, sinful reality that our churches are still some of the most racially segregated institutions in our culture.  We fall into this error as well when we think that beautiful music and well-crafted sermons make up for our failure to visit those in prison.
These errors lead to worship that is untrue because they are errors in our understanding of God.  They reflect the belief that God is not "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" (Anselm's definition in his Proslogion) but rather "that than which nothing is more narcissistic."  As long as we feed God's narcissism with our worship, we can get away with almost anything.  But that is not the character and will of the one true God.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day - a story update

I've been scheduling my blog posts out by about a month, so when I write something I schedule it to post at the next available date and follow somewhat of a schedule, that way if I have a week where I write a lot and another week where I don't write at all it evens itself out.

It is February 8th as I write this, though, and the 14th still stand open.  I figured a month ago when I got to this date that I would have something nice and lovely to say for the holiday of love, but it's now only several days away and I still have nothing...until I sat down to write my 14th short story for the 100 theme challenge.  I felt that this story, based on the word smile, would be a perfect Valentines Day fit.  Enjoy.

Julie was jittery that morning.  Why wouldn't she be?  With their youngest out of the house, her ex-husband had contacted her for the first time in fifteen years.  Their divorce had been anything but pretty.  At the time they had three small children who needed a father, so she drug her feet every step through the process.

Her emotions were a mess when she saw him, but his smile dissipated all of her fears.  As they hugged she felt the sharp blade slide through her heart.

A smile is the offer of affection as well as the disguise of contempt.

Yeah...not your typical love story...but you know, just thought I'd share :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 12) - The Conclusion

This has been a fairly long journey through my understanding of what worship is supposed to be.  As I wrote all of these things I realized that this has never happened perfectly, this has never been the complete state of man, but it is what we should aim for as we gather as believers.  We must always remember that our faith and our worship of God is not about us, we must remember that God acting in the world and in our lives is not about us, it is about the Kingdom of God that is growing, it is something much larger than us, so we must always look outside ourselves and seek to love God and those around us.  We must participate in the worship of the local church in which we find ourselves with all of our heart for the glory of God.  This is not limited to the singing; this is not limited to talking; this is not limited to serving; this is not only when we are asked; this is not only when we enjoy what we are doing.  We ought to fully engage those around us in every aspect of their and our lives and seek to grow them closer to God for His glory and honor.
I have thrown a lot out there in this series of posts, so here I will wrap it all up in one sentence:
My picture of worship is a united group of believers, freely gathering around the work of God in salvation, laying their hearts out before each other and before God, encouraging each other with the words of God through song and spoken words, resulting in lives lived for the glory of God and the salvation of lost souls.

(This series of posts came from a paper that I wrote for my pastor on my picture of worship.  This paper can be accessed by clicking the link at the top of this blog that reads "My Picture of Worship (A Paper)")

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 11) - Why Music?

Lastly, I must say that I think music is of utmost importance in all of this and should hold a central place in our corporate services.  This is based on the teaching of Scripture, the traditions of the church, and personal experience.  I believe that God has given us music for a number of reasons:
1)    Music is unique out of all human activities in that it has the ability to connect our heart, spirit, mind, and body.  We sing with our physical mouth, our spirits join in with the music, our emotions are stirred by the music, and our minds process the words.  This is why I think that it is very important that people join in the singing, that they think about what they are singing, that they feel the freedom to express the emotions this evokes (crying, shouting, clapping, kneeling), and that they have a proper understanding of what their spirit is and how it is united to Christ.
2)    Music causes words to be more easily remembered.  I believe that God wants us to sing Scripture and theology because it causes it to be embedded in our minds and therefore more easily recalled in a time of need.  Our greatest defense (No, our ONLY defense) against the attacks of the evil one is truth as contained in the words of God.  What better defense than easily accessible truth, and lots of it, through the regular singing of theologically deep songs.
3)    Music allows us to practice love and caring for the people around us.  We must be aware of our own ability to sing and not sing out at the top of our lungs if it will distract others.  But we also have to be aware of the needs of those around us and not respond negatively if they sing or act in such a way that we find troublesome.
4)    And lastly, by uniting our voices we are reminded of our unity with each other and with the united Trinity.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 10) - "The Picture"

And so this phrase, “God is really among you”, is the real picture of worship. Whether we look at the Garden of Eden or heaven, the defining factor is the active presence of God. Worship is where Christians are so caught up in the Spirit, so consumed with Christ (in mind, body, heart, and soul) that they have removed distractions from their vision and lives and God is in control to the extent that when they gather with other Christians in the same place, God is really among them. As we love, non-believers will see the love of Christ. As we speak, non-believers will hear the words of Christ. As we serve, non-believers will see the hands of Christ. So worship should be people gathering in the name of Christ, free from the things of the world and the fear of men in the church, so that God can truly and fully move through them, so that the kingdom of God is built up, both from within and without.
I’m sure that there is much more to worship than just these things, but I feel that this is a good summary of worship in every sense. As someone said to me recently, the Spirit should move through us corporately. We should be so united and connected that the Spirit of God is moving through us as we gather together. There should be conviction of sin, visions of heaven and God, power for life and godliness, love for all the elect, prayer for healing, teaching for transformation of the mind, sharing for encouragement. All of these things must happen in order and love.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Update on the Project - Short Story #9

Here's the ninth short story for the hundred theme challenge.  If you don't remember, I am writing a 100 word short story for each of the 100 theme words.

He didn’t want to move, in fact he never really wanted to move, mostly because he was always told to move.  Go this way, go that way, go go go.  Arthur was always being commanded, always directed, always controlled.  But it seemed to bother him today more than most, because today he wanted nothing more than to sit and rest.  His job felt like slave labor, his boss a task master, every waking moment being dedicated to the service of others.  But today, as every other day, he passively pulled his cart because that’s what he was told to do.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 9) - Sixth Piece to the Biblical Model - Non-Believers in our Meetings

Which lastly leads us to - our meetings should make sense to and be comfortable for non-believers. This is taught in 1 Corinthians 14. The result of non-believers attending our meetings and hearing our prophecy and seeing our worship should be that their hearts are laid bare before all and they fall down worshipping God exclaiming “God really is among you”. So as people feel the freedom to speak the words of God into others lives, for the edification of the body, and as we see ourselves for who we are and turn to Christ, seeing who He is, and being made into His likeness and image through love and good deeds, the final result should be the bringing in of non-believers who see that God is really among us.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Update on the Project - Short Story #7

Here's the seventh short story for the hundred theme challenge.  If you don't remember, I am writing a 100 word short story for each of the 100 theme words.

He had been walking and talking with his closest friend for what seemed like an eternity, in fact he had quite lost track of time.  It seemed to his senses that the day had never ended, but he slowly became aware of the fact that it had at least been a number of days since he had last eaten or even slept for that matter.  He briefly mentioned the feeling to his friend with whom he had been walking, but He didn’t seem to find it that odd.  What Enoch didn’t know is that he would never return home again.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Series on Worship (Part 8) - Fifth Piece to the Biblical Model - Love and Good Deeds

The result of our meetings should be love and good deeds.  We are told in Hebrews that we should not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but we should think of ways to spur one another on towards love and good deeds.  When our heart is set aright with God and we come to a place of loving Him more, the result should always be love for our brother as well as our enemy.  So love and good deeds should be the result of us seeing ourselves for who we are and then being turned to God and seeing how big He is, through people speaking into our lives by way of their spiritual gifts, for the building up of the body.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review: "Loving the Church" by John Crotts

Loving the Church (2010) by John Crotts  If I were to rate this book on a scale of 1-10 it would barely get a 3.  It was very poorly written.  The author tried to weave a story throughout the book to enhance the overall message and provide the opportunity for application, unfortunately there is little consistency to this "story" and many times the characters are forced and do more to detract from the message than enhance it.  Also, there are many assumptive statements that he never even tries to back up with information.  Unfortunately, I feel that what he has to say is very important and I agree with many of his conclusions, but his presentation leaves much to be desired.  The one highlight of the book is his treatment of Biblical eldership within a church.  I felt that he at least did a good job of handling that.