Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jesus is not your Girlfriend

Jonathan Dodson at Resurgence offers a great post about why many songs about God's love miss the mark.

So many of the songs about God’s love currently being written and sung are cheap. They are mushy with no substance. Like milk-bloated cereal, they drip with emotion but fall flat on substance. Such cheap love songs act like God is our cosmic girlfriend.

God is not a girlfriend; God is God.

Cheap love songs typically talk about how great God’s love is for us. They fail to consider how God’s great love becomes great for us. Biblically, we know no great Godly love apart from an angry God. If God was not angry, he would be a bad lover. If he didn’t grow wrathful over idolatry, murder, lying, jealousy, gossip, and sleeping around, then his love would be cheap.

But God stands up for himself, for his infinite glory and beauty, and says, “I will not be abused. Those who treat me poorly must suffer the consequences of failing to honor the God who is infinitely honorable.” And so he pours out his righteous wrath and anger by putting to death his enemies or by putting to death his own Son.

Because God is angry and just, his love is deeper than we will ever fully comprehend.

In order to understand God’s love, we must understand his anger. God’s anger inevitably leads us to the cross, where justice and mercy meet in perfect, soul-wrenching, Christ-crushing, sin-forgiving, life-giving, love-flowing harmony. For those that hope in Jesus, the anger of God against our unrighteousness is mercifully diverted from us onto His beloved Son. As a result, God preserves and promotes his justice and humanity’s joy where anger and love converge—at the cross.

The purpose of God’s anger is to display the depth and character of his eternal justice and his love for us. When we understand that God’s love is God’s because of his justice and anger, only then can we begin to comprehend how great a love he has for us.

So how do we write worship songs that speak of God’s great love, not cheap love? Three suggestions:

  1. Contrast God’s great love with his great wrath. The more we see God’s just wrath, the more we see how great his love is to save us (“a wretch like me”).
  2. Show how God’s love is ours in the death of his Son. Text after biblical text ties God’s unfailing love to the sacrifice of his Son.
  3. Articulate the greatness of God’s love alongside the magnitude of his glory. Reveal that God’s love is just one aspect of God’s many-splendored glory.

  • Friday, December 12, 2008

    Quick Update

    I know I haven't posted much this week. I'm currently in full swing of training for my role as Graduate Program Assistantship at HoneyRock camp. The program starts students in the Wheaton grad program while working at HoneyRock for 9 months. This winter I will be leading broomball and hosting church groups that use Honeyrock's facilities for winter retreats. Today I'm traveling down to the Wheaton campus, and will be there this weekend for "Roundup." Hopefully by Sunday I can get a new post up.

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    Bush Shares His True Religious Views

    President George Bush, since he no longer has to worry about those troublesome voters, has no qualms about showing his true colors concerning religion. Below are some quotes from an article from an interview with ABC. The article either makes me feel that Bush is not a Christian, but a dirty politician who used Christianity to get elected, or a man who has a very poor understanding of what Christianity is.

    When asked if the Bible can be taken literal.
    "You know. Probably not. ... No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament for example is ... has got ... You know, the important lesson is 'God sent a son,"' Bush said.

    "It is hard for me to justify or prove the mystery of the Almighty in my life," he said. "All I can just tell you is that I got back into religion and I quit drinking shortly thereafter and I asked for help. ... I was a one-step program guy."
    So he doesn't take the Bible literally, not a big deal right. I've already covered how not all the Bible is to be taken literally. But, surely he understands what Jesus meant when He said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

    When asked if he thinks that he prays to the same God as those with different beliefs, Bush said, "I do."

    "I do believe there is an Almighty that is broad and big enough and loving enough that can encompass a lot of people," Bush said, but he drew a distinction when it comes to those who perpetrate terror."

    "I think anyone who murders to achieve their religious objective is not a religious person," he said. "They may think they're religious, and they play like they're religious, but I don't think they're religious. They are not praying to the God I pray to ... the god of peace and love."

    On the War In Iraq
    "You can't look at the decision to go into Iraq apart from, you know, what happened on Sept. 11. It was not a religious decision," he said. "I don't view this as a war of religion. I view this as a war of good, decent people of all faiths against people who murder innocent people to achieve a political objective."

    Am I the only one flabbergasted that in the same breath one man can say ""I think anyone who murders to achieve their religious objective is not a religious person," and then say that He is a religious person? So he says that the Iraq war was not a religious decision. Is that what lets him sleep at night, thinking that his decision was based on false information and a personal vendetta to fix his daddies mistake rather than religion? The fact that he is still defending this war shows how completely out of touch he is with the American people.

    More commentary on this subject available here:
    Contend Earnestly: "Jesus" Isn't Enough

    Monday, December 8, 2008

    Theology According To Newsweek

    If you haven't already heard Newsweek has decided to let America know what the Bible Really has to say about marriage. I mean they are professional journalists so they should know more about Biblical interpretation and application than seminary trained pastors right. Those who are in support of gay marriage are in shock that the same people who showed up in great numbers to vote for Barack Obama could have voted for heterosexual marriage only. You see the problem with getting all those black and latino voters to the polls was they are religious people. So Newsweek feels it is their responsibility to correct these ignorant religious people on what the Bible really has to say about homosexuality and marriage. So what do they have to say?
    Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
    Had Lisa Miller, the writer of the article, any real understanding of scripture (or any plan to actually explain it) she would have known the stories of Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon's love lives were there to explain how they were sinners who missed the mark; they are not an instruction manual for marriage. Miller also says "Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family." So lets look at Jesus' words on marriage found in the Gospel of Matthew.
    And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
    Seems hardly indifferent to me, but what do I know. Perhaps she confused Jesus stance with Paul's "lukewarm endorsement" of marriage. Paul says
    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
    Wait, I thought Paul only wanted marriage as a last resort for hornballs who couldn't keep it in their pants. Why then would he associate these people with the relationship between Christ and the Church? Does that mean Paul thinks Christ is like those lesser married people? Or is it perhaps Miller missed, or purposefully excluded, the true feelings of the Biblical authors toward marriage. I suggest if Miller really wants to be religious journalist then she actually get a basic understanding of what she chooses to write about.Perhaps she could start with some lessons in Greek or a Church history class.

    Get Religion covered this article much more extensively.

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    The Importance of Expositional Preaching

    Three months ago I started working at HoneyRock camp in the Northwoods of WI. Working at a Para-church organization is a change for me since I have worked in some capacity in a local church ministry for the last four years. While I love the ministry opportunities, one change I'm having difficulty with is finding a local church. Our search has taken us to many churches in a two hour radius and we still feel very disappointed in what we have found. This has lead to discussion between my wife and I about what in a church can we sacrifice to find a suitable match. We have talked about the importance of expositional preaching, Biblical theology, Biblical worship, evangelism strategy, ministry, and other aspects of the local church. So this week I returned to Mark Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. After reviewing the nine marks I think these are the core of what we are looking for in a local church body. Today I would like to focus on the importance of expositional preaching.

    Expositional Preaching
    For those who have never had a pastor who preaches expositionally it may be difficult to understand the importance of a preaching style. I mean after all its enough if the word is being preached, right? So perhaps we should start with the definition of expositional preaching. Expositional preaching is preaching whose object is to expound what is said in a particular passage of scripture, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. Unlike topical or Biographical preaching, expositional preaching offers an explanation and application of a particular portion of God's word.

    Expositional preaching starts with a belief in the authority of scripture. Expositional preaching is not so much a style of preaching, but rather a commitment to focus on the very word of God. Many preachers will gladly state that they believe in the authority of scripture, and have a commitment to the words of God, but without preaching expositionally the pastor will never preach more than he already knows. A pastor preaching topically can use passages to support the point of his sermon, and yet never explain the point of the passage. Preaching expositionally means preaching it in context, trying to distinguish the original author's intent. A pastor who does not show this discernment may be trying to insert his own agenda into the sermon, rather than the message of God alone.

    Expositional preaching has a long history in the church, and has often been the spring from which new growth has come. Martin Luther's attention to the words of God found in scripture gave birth to the reformation. The scripture being preached is central to worship. When I've found myself in a church service that did not preach the word of God, as I have twice in the last month, I become infuriated at the neglect of forgetting the very word of God when we meet. Preaching is the fundamental component of pastoring, not counseling or worship. The preaching of the word of God will result in worship, we do not need music for that purpose. I encourage all pastors who do not preach expositionally to do so, and encourage all congregants to pray for their pastor to have a healthy view on the authority of scripture.

    Saturday, December 6, 2008

    Two Views on the Theology of Santa Claus

    Why to Believe In Santa Claus

    Reformed pastor W.H. Chellis offers an explanation of why he believes in Santa Claus, and how it helps the Christian faith. Basicially Chellis has four main points which are listed below, you can view the whole article here.

    1. I believe in Santa Claus because I affirm the deep truths of Faerie.
    2. I believe in Santa Claus because I affirm the mystical body of Christ.
    3. I believe in Santa Claus because of what he teaches about God.
    4. I believe in Santa Claus because the death of magic is the beginning of unbelief.

    Santa Christ?

    Sinclair Ferguson offers another idea on the theological implications of Santa Claus and how those get passed along to our view of Jesus Christ. Ferguson's main point seems not to abolish Santa Claus, but for the Christian to not confuse Santa Claus and Jesus Christ. The whole article can be viewed here.

    we may denigrate our Lord with a Santa Claus Christology. How sadly common it is for the church to manufacture a Jesus who is a mirror refection of Santa Claus. He becomes Santa Christ.

    Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been "good enough." So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners.

    Or Santa Christ may be a Semi-Pelagian Jesus -- a slightly more sophisticated Jesus who, Santa-like, gives gifts to those who have already done the best they could! Thus, Jesus' hand, like Santa's sack, opens only when we can give an upper-percentile answer to the none-too-weighty probe, "Have you done your best this year?" The only difference from medieval theology here is that we do not use its Latin phraseology: facere quod in se est (to do what one is capable of doing on one's own, or, in common parlance, "Heaven helps those who help themselves").

    Then again, Santa Christ may be a mystical Jesus, who, like Santa Claus, is important because of the good experiences we have when we think about him, irrespective of his historical reality. It doesn't really matter whether the story is true or not; the important thing is the spirit of Santa Christ. For that matter, while it would spoil things to tell the children this, everyone can make up his or her own Santa Christ. As long as we have the right spirit of Santa Christ, all is well.

    But Jesus is not to be identified with Santa Claus; worldly thinking -- however much it employs Jesus-language--is not to be confused with biblical truth.

    Friday, December 5, 2008

    Why I Wished I Lived In Seattle

    I wish I could go to this. Its D.A. Carson speaking at Mars Hill, Seattle. How great to sit and listen to such a great theologian. Man I wish I lived in Seattle. Those of you in going, have a great day tomorrow.

    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    Church Sign Theology Thursday

    How do you even begin to deal with the ignorance of this sign? Seriously, talk about a verse taken out of context. Exodus 20 is the ten commandments, with verse three being "You shall have no other gods before me" Obviously another problem is the fact that Obama is not even a Muslim. Sure they could argue, on the authenticity of his faith, but to argue that he is a Muslim just shows ignorance. The biggest problem is the blatant disregard for the scripture used. Ex. 20:3 is not telling a secular nation that if they democratically elect a Muslim, then they have sinned against the Lord. No, rather the text is delivered to the people of Israel as they are in the desert. The ten commandments are instructions for the individual Jew's life on how to honor YHWH. They most definitely were not instructions on how to run a secular nation.

    Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    Advent Calenders by Graphic Designers

    Here are a few Advent calenders designed by graphic artists I've found. None are from a Christian perspective, but have 25 days of great graphic designs.

    The first is by Rod Barrett

    The next is from 383 project.

    The last calender is not an online calender, but rather a picture of a real calender. I find this one to be a great design: clean lines, different but complimentary fonts, and a nice warm color scheme. Original found here.

    Monday, December 1, 2008

    Hows Your Advent Going?

    Kim Riddlebarger offers an interesting take on Advent calenders. You can find more here

    Don't forget to wash it all down with a Ten Commandments stein from Cafepress.