The sky looks great out over Deception Bay this evening. Just thought I'd share.
Remember 'Remember the Titans'?
Culture change is tough - but it is worth it!!! I was reminded of this as I watched the movie Remember the Titans. A coach dropped into a chaotic situation must bring culture change for the team to survive... but he doesn't just want it to survive he wants it to succeed, and to dominate. In a way we want our ministries to do likewise so what ideas for culture change can we take from Coach Boon?
Thinking about sacrifice
If Jesus is King, what does that mean for what we want to do with out lives? [Image by Chris Bellerophon Dotson on flickr]
Back to the Mission
Reminded again and again about what we are created for. We are created for worship! But because there are some people who do not worship, we have been given a mission... to go and show people they were created to worship! - photo on Flickr by llamatofu
Appeasement verses Satisfaction
Do we look to appease our emotions, troubles, discomforts with earthy things that may provide some release temporarily, or do we look to God who is the source of complete satisfaction? [Image by donald_palansky_photography on flickr]
Prayer = Dependence
Even in the confidence I have in my own abilities - I am learning that I still need to be dependent on God if the outcome is going to be worthwhile for the Kingdom. Prayer is the key consideration in this! ~photo credit: wiedmaier on flickr
Friday, 31 August 2012
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
I read Francis Chan's Crazy Love at the beginning of the year. I really enjoyed the book and was challenged by its content. Recently I've seen the immense amount of online content Chan created to accompany the book as well as another 'study' guide and DVD. I'm hoping by using all of these tools I can create a study on the book tailored for where we are in Deception Bay right now.
Check out the video, I think its a great book to study in home groups and could be used in most contexts.
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
So what's the Spiritual equivalent? Churches? Home groups? Personal devotions? I'm not sure any of those completely portray the motivation a gym represents. Churches should, but it's too easy to slip into a routine laziness every Sunday, turn up, sit down, sing, 'listen', have a cuppa, go home. Home groups are great, but again it's very easy to miss a few weeks, not do the readings during the week and not really take home anything of substance for the week ahead apart from a Tim Tam and coffee you had for supper. I heard somewhere last week that a recent survey states 80% of Australian Christians don't have a regular quiet time.
I'm wondering what the answer is. For me I do find it in my personal devotion times - I have a very systematic way of working through passages and marking/highlighting different parts of the passage with different colours according to how it is speaking to me. I find this approach works to not only devotionaly encourage my faith but also stimulate my mind and spirit in teaching, correcting, trust and faithfulness.
So how do we as pastors, leaders, or teachers facilitate a motivating spiritual workout in Church and Home Group which will at least encourage people to do their own spiritual workouts. People don't have the motivation of money spent, and personal devotions don't have the motivation of going somewhere away from home. What's the balance, and what's the added element to motivate our congregations to want greater Spiritual strength and knowledge?
Monday, 20 August 2012
If you've been somewhere, or have some ideas comment here and let me know.
Friday, 17 August 2012
As a Pastor I'm finding that people just seem to nod their heads at what I'm saying during a sermon or Bible study, they just accept what I'm talking about - usually I think out of a general notion of good manners, knowing they need to know the Bible so just sitting and listening to what someone employed to tell hem what they need to know. At times I am sure people listen and agree out of a respect they have for my studies and the relationship I've developed with them as a pastor. Even so - I still wish that instead of sitting and nodding, they would be reading and studying themselves. Discovering the truths themselves and having them confirmed, challenged and encouraged when they come to hear a sermon of study.
Again a bit of a different idea this week, but the Bible isn't all about uplifting and emotional hype. It is full of nitty gritty life applications. This one is a great one for churches. Sometimes one or two people in the church (or a small group in larger churches) 'put themselves first'... this is obviously not what Jesus had planned for his church or its mission. It's a huge hindrance and John here equates it with being 'evil' and not really knowing or even having seen God at all.
Let's make sure that a) our own motives are clear whenever it comes to Church business and b) we ensure our leaders are both humble and respected by the entire congregation.
Thursday, 16 August 2012
I love passages in the Bible that start with 'therefore' (or 'οὖν' for those Greek Geeks out there). It is always a reminder to go back and see what is causing the action we're now being asked to do. In this case it is the majesty of Christ, and his worthiness as the Son of God and Great High Priest which compels us to undertake this next bit of advice the writer is going to give.
And since that is the point where all Christianity starts (acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Saviour) then this passage is a great place to look at the very essence of what Christian and Church life should look like. Let's 'draw near' to Jesus - we have the chance to have an intimate relationship with God, that's something of great worth that we should never take for granted. Then we must hold 'unswervingly' to the faith we now proclaim, it's like we have this goal now that God has promised us through faith and we must head towards it - directly and in a straight line, never deviating no matter the cost or pain. I love that idea, just steadfastly doing life by the faith I profess, but only doing it because I know God who has promised that my life is safe in him is completely faithful, so no matter the pain or trials I go through I know God has my life safely in his hands and serving him is better even than my own body staying safe and unhurt.
Then comes the critical role that we all have as a church, to 'spur one another on toward love and good deeds'. As a congregation, and even as the world-wide church, our focus to each other must be encouraging each of us to hold unswervingly to that faith. It may mean discipline, teaching, rebuking, empowering, training or realigning, but the underlying motive of all those things must be to spur the other person on for their faith.
So that is the a great place to start when considering how we do Christian life together, and how we run our churches. It's also a great place to start to see the motive of preachers and teachers, understanding their motive is to spur you on, not cut you down.
Hopefully you can see this in your own Church, and emphasise it in your own life.
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
How does one generate a culture of actually wanting to be together, when no one seems to want to be together?
Sunday, 12 August 2012
Saturday, 11 August 2012
Atricle: Put ideology to one side for a moment and look at the work chaplains do
It gives a good insight into the work of School Chaplains, a bit of a breakdown to the role as opposed to School Counselors. It also removes some of the religious overtones and practically looks at their work - yet not denying the impact the 'religious' community has.
Whatever its claim to rational truth, it is an empirical truth that secular atheism just doesn't produce a larger quantity of community generosity than religion. I am not saying that atheists don't generously give to the lives of others: many manifestly do, and many better than religious folk. But as a cause celebre, secular atheism just doesn't seem to have the ideological muscle to produce 2700 bright-eyed serving volunteers overnight: religion does.I found it an insightful and interesting read.
Friday, 10 August 2012
The fact that humankind was so completely helpless in its state of sin and separation from God highlights the importance that Jesus died to put himself in the place of the punishment God had to hand out to us. Jesus' blood covers our own lives so that we are seen as innocent while Jesus is seen as guilty.
That revolutionised my life when I was 9 years old. I'd heard about Jesus and known stories from the Bible since I was around 5, yet when I was 9 through the work of my local church's Sunday School I suddenly grasped what it meant that Jesus paid the price for my sin. It was a child like understanding for sure, but a true understanding nonetheless. I realised even at such a young age that if Jesus did that for me, and then through His resurrection gained the authority to grant me a new life in Him - then my only response could be to worship and serve Him with the life He'd given me. Since then I have grown in my understanding of that. I received a huge wake up call when I was 14 as I realised God's plan was not necessarily my own idea of how my life would turn out, but yet again it was the understanding of the atonement, that Jesus paid it all, which gave me the sense of duty to continue worshiping Him no matter what and following His plan for my life and not my own. Life continues to show me that His plan is good, though I find it tough at times I still see that He works in my life while I'm attempting to live one worthy of what He paid for it. He's never let me down, the fact that huge price has already been paid means that He has already given me more than I could ever imagine, so how could His guidance ever let me down.
That's my final reflection on this topic of atonement... it's how it has effected my life, and it should be how it effects yours too. If you haven't acknowledged this work of Jesus then you must see that you still stand 'apart from God', under the condemnation for your own sin. It's only by acknowledging Jesus, then letting that amazing love He's shown for you change the way you live, that you will be saved. If you have done that, then hopefully these posts can urge you to follow Him unrelentingly. See how much He's done for you, and realise how little you have to give to Him - but give it all to Him anyway because that is simply the best (and only true) response we can give Him.
This verse really stood out to me today. In the middle of all these warnings to Israel about their idolatry towards God, Isaiah specifically speaks about the women of Israel. It's not some chauvinistic comment on the women's actions, but a true Word from God. A warning that the adorning of all these things in the name of 'personal beauty' is a form of idolatry towards God. Even today, many ladies are obsessed with their looks. It is common for an Australian woman to 'need' a multitude of hand bags, shoes and jewelry. Yet I think this passage speaks against that.
I know, as a man, I'm putting myself close to the edge of ridicule from women here, but seriously, I think this passage is pretty clear abut the intentions in having so much of this stuff, and that one day if it's not given over to God He will simply snatch it away.
Thursday, 9 August 2012
If we had to pay the penalty for our own sins, we would have to suffer eternally in separation from God. However, Jesus did not suffer eternally. There are two reasons for this difference: (a) If we suffered for our own sins, we would never be able to make ourselves right with God again. There would be no hope because there would be no way to live again and earn perfect righteousness before God, and there would be no way to undo our sinful nature and make it right. Moreover, we would continue to exist as sinners who would not suffer with pure hearts of righteousness before God... (b) Jesus was able to bear all the wrath of God against our sin and to bear it to the end. No mere man could ever have done thing, but by the virtue of the union of divine and human natures in himself, Jesus was able to... If Christ had not paid the full penalty, there would still be condemnation left for us. But since he has paid the full penalty that is due to us,"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1).
~Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology p 577-578
Jesus' resurrection is the sign that his atonement was complete, and fully received and counted worthy by God. Because the righteous Son paid the price, and did so completely, God saw it fit to raise him to life, to give him glory by giving him all authority over heaven and earth.
Jesus is alive today - he lives seated at the right hand of the Father, and he has complete power to judge the nations. He has this power because he shed his blood for them. The atonement has an everlasting impact because he who made the sacrifice is now the one with whom the authority lies. This is also why the resurrection is just as important a part of the atonement and salvation of humankind as Jesus' death is.
Wednesday, 8 August 2012
Just as we saw the animals covered the sins of the people in the Old Testament by being substituted in the place of the person guilty of the sin, so was Jesus substituted in our place.
The view of Chirst's death presented here has frequently been called the theory of "penal substitution." Christ's death was 'penal' in that he bore a penalty when he died. His death was also a 'substitution' in that he was a substitute for us when he died...
...The blood of Christ is the clear outward evidence that his life blood was poured out hen he died a sacrificial death to pauy for our redemption - "the blood of Christ" means his death in its saving [substitutional] aspects... By the blood of Christ our consciences are cleansed (Heb 9:14), we gain bold access to God in worship and prayer (Heb 10:19), we are progressively cleansed from remaining sin (1John 1:7; Rev 1:5), we are able to conquer the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10-11) and we are rescued out of a sinful way of life (1 Peter 1:18-19). Scripture speaks so much about the blood of Christ because its shedding was very clear evidence that his life was being given in judicial exertution (that it, he was condemned to death and died paying a penalty imposed both by an earthly human judge and by God himself in heaven). Scripture's emphasis on the blood of Christ also shows the clear connection between Christ's death and the many sacrifices in the Old Testament that involved the pouring out of the life blood of the sacrificial animal...
~Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology p579
All those Old Testament sacrifices were substitutes so they could provide atonement. Jesus (God himself) substituted himself as a complete sacrifice of atonement. That is the most incredible aspect of all of Christian theology - it is what makes Christianity stand alone against all other religious ideas. All other religions look at what you must do to appease the god or deities involved... yet here we see it is what God himself did that is the center of Christianity.
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Apologetics is an answer to the "why" question after you've already answered the "what" question. The what question, of course, is, "What is the gospel?" But when you call people to believe in the gospel and they ask, "Why should I believe that?"---then you need apologetics.Tim Keller has written a great article on Apologetics over on The Gospel Coalition website. His article (here) takes a look at what it means to answer that why question. And how important it is to do so. When I look at my role as pastor, I see this being one of the core functions I have. Even people who have grown up in the church for years can suddenly finding themselves asking those why questions. My favourite part of the job is to delve into that with them and find a solid theological answer.
It's also the focus of every sermon and Bible study I write. I don't simply want to do something 'feel good' or emotionally persuasive. I want to address the why! The what always comes first, but why is where so many people find new revelation to what God has done, is doing, and will do in their lives. Apologetics is specifically aimed at non-believers, showing them why Jesus is the true and only way. Yet I'm finding more and more that a 'meatier' apologetic is need for Christians, so they can grasp the deeper and more intricate notions of the Gospel as they grow in their faith. Either way Keller's conclusion is a good one.
However, the trouble with an exclusively rationalistic apologetic ("I'm going to prove to you that God exists, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Bible is true," etc.) is that it does, in a sense, put God on trial before supposedly neutral, perfectly rational people sitting objectively on the throne of Reason. That doesn't fit with what the Bible says about the reality of sin and the always prejudiced, distorted thinking produced by unbelief. On the other hand, an exclusively subjectivist apologetic ("Invite Jesus into your life and he'll solve all your problems, but I can't give you any good reasons, just trust with your heart") also fails to bring conviction of real sin or of need. There will be no joy in the grace of Jesus unless people see they're lost. Thus a gospel-shaped apologetic must not simply present Christianity, it must also challenge the non-believer's worldview and show where it, and they, have a real problem.
I certainly gain a lot from reading his posts, you should check them out if you have the chance.
Our understanding of Christ's nature is crucial here... He is the eternal, preexistent, Second Person of the Trinity. He is God in the same sense and to the same degree as is the Father, a sense in which no other human has ever been or will ever be divine. To his deity he added humanity. He did not give up his deity in any respect, but only the independent exercise of his divine attributes.This quote slams home the fact that Jesus was not only the perfect person to atone our sins, but the only one who could do so. Marrying the human and divine natures of Jesus is key to understanding the atonement. It is also instrumental in giving us an idea of the length God went to to atone the sins of his people. God didn't have to provide a perfect atonement for sin. He could have left it up to us to keep living under the laws, trying to atone in our own way, and continuing to fail. But it was his love that meant he sent Jesus. Jesus' love meant he was willing to give up the 'independent exercise of his divine attributes' and limit himself to the human form. Not only that but then be mistreated so harshly by his own creations, before being killed and experiencing God's wrath for all our sin.
In our understanding, Jesus' humanity means that his atoning death is applicable to human beings. Because Jesus was really one of us, he was able to redeem us. He was not an outsider attempting to do something for us. He was a genuine human being representing the rest of us... Not only is Jesus human; he is completely human. He took not merely the physical nature of a human being, but the full psychological makeup of humanity as well. He felt the full gamut of normal human emotions. Thus he was able to redeem all of human nature, for he assumed all of what it means to be truly human.
In addition, Jesus' death is of sufficient value to atone for the entire human race. The death of an ordinary human could scarcely have sufficient value to cover his or her own sins, let alone those of the whole race. But Jesus' death is of infinite worth. As God, Jesus did not have to die. In dying he did something God would never have to do. Because he was sinless, he did not have to die in payment for his own ins. Thus his death can atone for the sins of all humankind.
~Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, p821-822
The atonement is where God's love, and God's justice meet. If they had never met then God would have ceased to be God (because he would have compromised one of his eternal qualities) and the human race was doomed (because he justice meant that despite his love he must punish sin). Yet both his love and justice are appeased because Jesus has paid that price. He has taken the punishment.
Monday, 6 August 2012
The common understanding of the term atonement is that it is reparation for a wrong doing. Namely; a consequence of doing something wrong and an action to make things right. We've seen in previous posts that it is quite clear that when it comes to the relationship between God and humanity that humanity has done something (a lot) wrong, so it is understandable that some sort of atonement is needed. Atonement is what would allow the human race to avoid the previously mentioned result or punishment of sin.
Atonement is not always offered however. 2 Peter 2:4 (ESV) shows us that "...God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment..." so we see that in the case of angels there was no chance for atonement... they had to live with the consequence of their sins. So God could have rightfully chosen as part of his perfect justice to hold all humans accountable for all their sins, without a chance or reparation. His love for us is evident in that he has always offered a chance for humankind to atone their wrongdoings. Even before Jesus, God had instituted a form of atonement.
"The Hebrew word most commonly used in the Old Testament for the various types of atonement is kaphar... The word literally means 'to cover.' One was delivered from punishment by the interposing of something between one's sin and God. God then saw the atoning sacrifice rather than the sin. The covering of the sin meant that the penalty no longer had to be exacted from the sinner."
~Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, p822
So we see that the old sacrificial system in the Jewish religion held a certain atoning quality. The death of animals appeased God's wrath so that humans wouldn't die for their sins. The blood of the animal 'covered' the sins of the people. The animal was the thing that 'interposed' between one's sin and God. This however was not a complete atonement, because the humans had to continuously sacrifice animals to keep covering the guilt of their sins.
So the ultimate atonement needed to be made, because us humans could never completely be atoned by the substitution of another creature. This is why the cross, Jesus' death, is the perfect atoning sacrifice. Tomorrow we will see why Jesus alone could be our atoning sacrifice, but for now we must understand that it is only through atonement that we can expect God to let us live.
Friday, 3 August 2012
We see in the Old Testament where our imagery of blood and sin and washing and forgiveness comes from. We can look back now and parallel this passage with the redemptive work of Jesus' atonement. Yet like nearly all of Isaiah's passages each imagery is followed by a warning. That's important to take note of.
Thursday, 2 August 2012
Seems pretty harsh. But let's tie it with what we know about God's character.
'Although God's punishment of sin does serve as a deterrent against further sinning and as a warning to those who observe it, this is not the primary reason why God punishes sin. The primary reason is that God's righteousness demands it, so that he might be glorified in the universe that he has created. He is the Lord who pracitices "steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for all these things I delight, says the LORD" (Jer. 9:24)'We know that God is genuine, he is who he says he is. We also know that his purity includes complete holiness, not allowing any evil or ungodliness into his presence. Because of that he must be righteous and only relate with those who have no ungodliness infecting their life (because to do so would ruin his purity, his integrity and ultimately negate his divinity). So he must be just and punish those who sin - who allow ungodliness to infect their lives (which through the seed of humanity is all of us - no one escapes that justice).
~Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p509
But we also know that one of the objective attributes of God's greatness is life. God is life. He sustains it, he gives it, he created it, because it all flows from his very nature. If God is life, then ungodliness must equate with death.
Tribulation and distress; that sounds like the right thing to compare to being cast away from God. If God is love, being away from him can only be tribulation and distress - adding that a constant state of that is certainly not life as we would define it, so comparing this with death is not a far reach either.
The importance here is to remember God's character and the attributes of his divine nature are what engage the fact he must deal with sin, and he must deal with it with death. God is not a meany who wants his own way. God is love, God is life, God is pure and God is just. If we are not pure his justice requires him to disconnect himself from our ungodliness. If he is love, and life then the only possible result of being disconnected from him is punishment and death.
So far it seems pretty dismal for us humans, but this is why atonement is so important, and we'll finally get to it in the next post.
Wednesday, 1 August 2012
Genesis 3:1-7 recounts the first sin of the human race, but that far from exhausts the biblical references to the fall... the fall is integral to the whole biblical message...We see that no matter the kind of sin, all sin is aimed at God. Romans 1:19-23 (ESV) says;
The most characteristic feature of sin is that it is directed against God (Psalm 51:4; Romans 8:7; James 4:4). Any minimizing of this, such as the notion of sin as selfishness, seriously underestimates its gravity... In the fall, humanity snatched at equality with God, attempted to assert its independence of him and questioned the Creator's integrity and loving provision for it.
Bruce Milne, Know The Truth, p128-131
God's invisible qualities, which have been made know are all those attributes of his nature mentioned in the last post. Every sin can be traced back to the fact that we take our eyes of the infinite, great and good God and instead turn to some man made idol (be it another religion, money, power or simply ourselves). All sin first begins with the created judging that the Creator is not who He says He is and replacing him with their own ideas for fulfillment. How absurd is it that created even attempts to judge the Creator!
Even more absurd is the idea that the created can do this and not be punished by the Creator. The Creator has every right to do what he wants with his own creation. If I were to sit down with paint, brushes and a blank canvas, as the creator I have every right to paint what I want. For the art itself to try and dictate the way it is painted is completely illogical because I can do what I want with my creation.
The quintessential thing to note though about punishment for sin is the impact it has on the purity of God. This purity (as we have seen) is part of God's objective nature so exists infinitely and unchanged just as God has for all time. The holiness of his purity means that he cannot be in relationship with anything that is infected by sin. Sin simply cannot be tolerated or connected to God in anyway, his character demands it. Because of that he requires anyone who has a relationship with him to be completely righteous (not having any sin attached to them) because he cannot even relate to anything which is not wholly good. God is also 100% just. His creation was created in accordance to his nature - throughout Genesis 1 we see God saying "It is good" - so for his justice to live up to his integrity he must punish those who don't live up to his own nature. For him to simply ignore it would be for God to waver on his integrity, to deny a part of his very nature - which would in turn cause him to cease being God. So we see a punishment for going against God is necessary.
Did you know the Olympic Games are mentioned by Paul in the Bible? Check out this really interesting article by David Mathis on the Desiring God website. With a few quotes from John Piper we get an elevated idea of how we as Christians can use the games for inspiration.
"Why would the Christian Scriptures mention the games? To help us upgrade our two weeks of Olympic watching by opening our eyes to what they have to say about God, the gospel, and the Christian life."