The Pursuit of Sound Theology

Sound theology and doctrine correlate to sound living. Sound living cannot happen without sound theology. To ultimately bring glory and honor to God, sound living must take place. Therefore, sound theology is paramount. The pursuit of obtaining sound theology aids in recognizing false theology and teaching, as well as rejecting it. For instance, to the church at Pergamum (Rev 2:12-17) Jesus writes, “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam…. So, also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans (which the church at Ephesus discerned was not acceptable).” The church at Thyatira had a similar issue. Jesus expresses to them, “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Rev 2:20).

Understand, the practice of teaching, theology, and doctrine is a practice that is performed by all, whether it is shallow, obsolete, or deep or whether the person is a Christian, atheists, agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim. Nevertheless, it is a practice that manifests itself in behavior. Take the church at Philadelphia for instance; Jesus, knowing their works, has no rebuke for them. Commending them he writes, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Rev 3:10-11).

However, sound theology should not be divorced from the purpose and pursuit of loving God. Sound theology that is not directed at the pursuit of loving God, knowing him more, and bringing him glory is a theology that may be sound, but, to God, is empty. This lesson is learned from the church at Ephesus. The church at Ephesus was a church who patiently endured trials, rejected evil, and tested the teaching of people who claimed to be apostles and found some to be false. They also hated the works of the Nicolaitans, which were a group of people who had unsound teaching (Rev 2:15). However, Jesus has a rebuke for the church at Ephesus even though they appear to be sound in theology and living; they had abandoned their first love. In other words, they had lost sight of why they did what they did. The church had become a body in pursuit of a religion rather than a relationship.

If we are to please our great God and Savior, we must practice and not neglect the pursuit of sound theology. Sound theology leads and manifests itself in sound and right living. However, sound theology must be accompanied by a relational and intimate love for Christ. Without the intimate relational connection with Christ, sound theology succumbs to being empty religion—a religion that is pharisaic, legalistic, moralistic, and fanatical.

So, how do we pursue sound theology? (some simple points)
– Right relationship with God through faith in Christ
– Power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to aid and guide in truth, as well as obedience to the truth
– A healthy dose and intake of the reading of God’s word (a understandable translation and good study bible will help with intaking Gods’ word)
– Involvement, fellowship, and devotion to a gospel-centered, gospel-proclaiming church body
– A Prayer life that seeks to discern areas that are not right behaviorally
– Commitment to read sound theologians who wrestle with interpreting God’s word correctly, not just ear-tickling authors who write existentially about feelings, emotions, and behaviors (not that there is anything wrong with these types of books)

The Beginning of Mission

Where Does Mission Begin?

At the very heart, mission begins in Genesis 1. To me, it would be illogical for mission to begin in Matthew 28, by-passing the entire Old Testament. In addition, it would even be illogical for mission to begin in Genesis 12 with the call of Abraham.Not to discount the importance of these passages, they do provide specificity to the mission—they are just not the origin of the mission. I believe that the missio Dei, the mission of God, originates in Genesis 1. The very first book and passage of Scripture provides the details of God (YHWH, ELOHIM) creating the domain of earth. The purpose of his creation is assumed rather than explained. By ascribing purpose and function to the contents of his creation, there must be purpose and function behind God’s creation. Later on in passages such as Psalm 19, the purpose of God’s creation is understood more clearly: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge.”

In short this morning, I believe the creation of man reveals God’s intention for his created order. When God creates man he does so in his image as well as with his breath, with the intent of being intimately connected to him in the Garden space. It is with man, God’s prized creation, who is given specific instructions, that God brings his heavenly kingdom to earth. This whole idea of heaven coming to earth is woven throughout Scripture:
– God’s call on Abraham contrasted to the earthly fleshly city, Babylon
– God’s call on Israel
– Jesus coming and declaring the Kingdom has come and is coming
– The church as the body of Christ, the house of God, and as agents and signs of the Kingdom
– The coming of the new city, New Jerusalem (Rev 21-22), when heaven comes to new earth

Therefore, at the core, the mission of God is to create a peaceful and good kingdom or domain, where he is supremely and preeminently glorified as God, King and Creator; and to have a people set aside for his own glory and praise who proclaim (and spread) his greatness and grace, as well as demonstrate (in all spheres of life as they spread) the glories of his righteous, pure, and holy kingdom.

Gospel-Centered Parenting

Joannie and I have three children: Caleb (5), Ellie (3), and our recent addition, Luke (3 months). As they grow older and become more active (relationally, recreationally, scholastically), more aware of how to be manipulative, and increasingly learned and attentive to their surroundings, etc—I find raising children an increasingly daunting task and responsibility. It is overwhelming to know that I am responsible, as well as Joannie, in raising these precious children, and more particularly raising them under the rule and reign of God, through Christ. Please understand that I am no where near being an expert in parenting, nor do I claim to be. I am a learning parent. Nevertheless, in my learning, and more importantly in my growing and understanding of the gospel, my desire is to raise my children in a gospel-centered manner. Here are some tenets, albeit not exhaustive, to what I believe it means to raise children in a gospel-centered way.

– it doesn’t mean everything we do will be centered around the child or children.
Life doesn’t stop when we have children. In addition, our life does not revolve around our children. Do not misunderstand me, I and Joannie love our children. However, they are not the most important thing in our life, Jesus is. Our love for Jesus must be so strong that it may look at times I “hate” my children (Luke 14:26).

– It doesn’t mean that we legislate the gospel to our children.
In other words, we do not rule the family with an iron fist. We need to understand that we cannot force our children to follow Jesus, nor can we force them to act godly. We are sinners. I find that many times we parent the way most churches posture themselves towards the lost. They want them to act right before joining. Church is messy, or at least should be, because it is comprised of fallen people. Parenting, likewise, will be messy for we (the parents) and our children are sinners by nature. Therefore, we must model gospel-centered living as well as gospel-centered discipline; disciplining our children with grace, mercy, and love.

– It does mean that we point to God as the supreme authority in our family
I see mixed signals in so many Christian families. We worship God on Sundays, but the parents become the gods during the week. Many want their children to behave or do certain things because “they” (the parents) said so. In practice, parents act as supreme authority. If parents fail to model that they too are under the rule of God and that they answer to him, children are then taught they can do anything they want when they get older. They see freedom to live however they want when they become an adult and parent, because they are the ultimate authority. In essence, they, the children, are raised to be practicing agnostics, atheists, or deists. Gospel-centered parenting models submission to Christ, the Lord of our life, and teaches children that we ultimately answer to him.

– It does mean that we oversee our children and practice redemptive and restorative parenting
The goal of parenting is to bring our children to Jesus, the gospel. Therefore, everything we do with are children should be redemptive and restorative. This is very similar to not legislating the gospel. But, this point takes the gospel further in what it does. Not legislating the gospel to our children provides them some slack and at least an understanding that they will sin; practicing redemptive and restorative parenting gentle points them to Jesus. We teach them our talk should be like Jesus, our actions should be like Jesus, we should love people like Jesus, we should obey authority because of Jesus. In other words, Jesus becomes the redemptive and restorative hero of the family’s life. And we teach our children that unless we have Jesus we cannot please God. It is all about Jesus!

These are some of my thoughts and what I am learning about gospel-centered parenting.

Thoughts on Thanks-giving and Thankfulness

My Thoughts on Thanks-giving and Thankfulness

I believe it is good for Americans to celebrate a holiday that is geared towards being thankful. And I hate to be a pessimists (normally I’m not) about the fact that the Thanksgiving holiday, although celebrated, mostly lacks substance from the many who celebrate it. Many can say “Thanks,” “Thank-you,” “I’m Thankful for you,” “I’m Grateful,” etc. Nevertheless, thankfulness, giving-thanks is not necessarily words, it is actions; it is a lifestyle. Thankfulness is rooted in the heart and flows out of life. Even though it is rooted in the heart, thankfulness begins with perception and belief about what you deserve.

This is where, for many Americans, thankfulness becomes quintessentially difficult. For although the belief about what we deserve varies, the belief about what we deserve still exist. Many believe that they deserve a home, owning a home, a car, a job, a decent/high wage, good health, excellent health care, fair treatment, justice, a nice family, and the ability to buy nice clothes and materials.

The truth is, we deserve none of those things. When you begin with the premise that we deserve those good things, the premise is faulty. It is faulty because we do not deserve good things due to the fact that we, in and of ourselves, are not good. How can evil, wicked, sinful, depraved, unholy, unrighteous people perceive they deserve good? If someone wants to argue that we are good and not evil, and that we deserve good things—here is what I would argue: The simple fact that we, in this world, face injustice, oppression, evil, wickedness, pain, suffering, and death exemplifies the by-product of human substance and existence. We experience what is at the core of our humanity—bad, which is the opposite of good. We are all at fault to what this world has become!

However, there are glimmers of good and right throughout our world because God is still at work in the world, for he is passionate about redeeming and restoring this fallen, bad, damaged created order. This good we see and experience makes us long for more of the good. In fact, without God in the picture, many begin to feel entitled to the good. This longing for good becomes a idol; an idol (god) that leaves people dissatisfied with people and systems, bitter and angry at the world, complaining about everything (and how everything is unfair), unfulfilled and lacking, and pessimistic about what they don’t have, but long to have. In essence, this idol leads to an ungrateful society and culture. Case in point—look at our botched up political system and the polls that come out describing people’s feeling towards the president and congress. And most of the fight coming out of congress and our political system is how we can give people more, who feel entitled, without going farther into the financial abyss of debt. Our society and culture has a major problem—it is called Ungrateful. This attitude flows from a greedy, selfish, entitled, and distorted vision of what “we all” really deserve.

We will never be grateful or thankful unless we understand that we deserve nothing—more specifically nothing good. We are sinners by nature, who, unless the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrates and saves us, live antagonistically towards a holy, omnipotent, righteous God. In Luke 16:11-19 only one of the ten lepers that Jesus healed came back to give him thanks. The other nine went there merry way, failing to give thanks. And I would assume, although not specified in the text, that they failed to give thanks because they felt they deserved to be healed. The leper who came back not only was a leper, but was a Samaritan who had been healed by a Jew. He understood there was no way he should have been healed, especially by Jesus, a Jew.

Until we understand we deserve nothing good, will we ever begin to live a grateful life! Essentially, thankfulness flows from an understanding of grace and mercy. Happy Thanksgiving and may we live thankful lives!

The Consumption Factor

How can you tell if someone is consumed with something or someone? Everything they do, their actions, thoughts, words, money, and focus is on that something or someone. Whatever is consumed is projected. This is the essence of worship. When you worship something, you ascribe so much worth to that something or someone that you are consumed with it. Particularly for those living in the West, especially those living in North America, consumption is an everyday reality.

The culture and society has cultivated consumers. Sure, there are things we consume out of necessity from green beans to toilet paper. (Like I said, some things are a necessity). But, the culture of consumerism reveals something else; it reveals for many, the things that truly consume us. For many it is sports and sport teams. The movie Fever Pitch revealed the obsession that some have over sports and sport teams. Then there are other who are truly consumed about money, materialism, and becoming much better. The movie Limitless is a perfect example of someone being consumed with these things.

Here’s what happens when we consume the things we love, are passionate about—we feel at peace, we feel satisfied. However, existentially, consumption is much like a fuel tank. The experience fills the tank, but only temporarily. Soon after the experience fads, empty befalls the individual leaving them longing for another consumption experience that will bring peace and fulfillment.

We worship what we consume, and what we consume is manifested in our life. For believers, our God is a consuming fire that never fades. As Moses approached the burning bush, seeing it consumed with fire, but not fading, so too our lives should be the bush consumed by God, to which the world draws near to see. In us consuming God, God consumes us. In our worship of God, his presence manifests itself in our life.

What does consumption look like for the believer? Abiding in the presence of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is done through a constant confession of the Supremacy of Christ and his lordship over our life (Matt 16:16) and a constant unity in community with fellow believers (Matt 18:15-20). In other words, to abide in God, and he in us, means that we are constantly confessing his lordship and position in our life, surrendering to him, as well as, constantly submitting ourselves to the community of faith, the family of God through humility and unity. Think about consumption for the believer; consuming for believers is not selfish, but selfless. So constant peace, fulfillment, and satisfaction can only come when the infinite supreme God is preeminent in our life, along with prioritizing others over ourselves.

How is our worship and consumption of God manifested in our life?
– Our desire to keep his commandments
– Our supreme love for God triumphing and trumping over our love for the world and the things in/of the world
– Our love for others; believer and non-believers
– Our focus to embrace and participate in God’s mission in the world of revealing himself and reaching all nations
– Avoiding false teachers, teaching, and spirits that would drive a wedge between us and God

The question for me and you? What consumes us? What are we worshipping? Simply put, the consumption factor reveals what we worship.

Passion for the Mission

I am attempting to start a weekly series that writes on the following subjects:
– Monday is for Mission
– Tuesday is for Truth, Theology, and Treasure
– Wednesday is for Worship
– Thursday is for Thoughts on Ministry and Culture
– Friday is for Family

Although these topics may change and evolve overtime, my goal is to put my thoughts in writing.

So today is on mission. My simple thought for mission begins with the foundation for mission: the glory of God. If this is not our foundation, whether it be a church, a company, a organization, a non-profit, or an individual, the foundation is faulty at best. The glory and praise of God is the foundation of mission. If we fail to start here, the other facets of mission, such as the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, will not have the powerful force of the Spirit of God driving the mission, because it (the focus of the mission) will be on people-not the glory and supremacy of God. Let God be the center from which the mission originates.

The Center

Everyone has a center; a place from which life flows. Think of center the way the heart works; a central organ pumping blood throughout the body. As long as the heart is pumping, the circulation of blood sustains life. If the heart stops, well, you get the point. Just as we have a physical heart that pumps blood throughout our body, sustaining our lives—we also (all of us) have a spiritual heart.

Here is how this spiritual heart works. Whatever it is in our life that we have elevated to the status of God (god), the supreme and ultimate reality in our life, is the very thing or person pumping energy and life into all areas and spheres of our life. In other words, our center drives every sphere and area of our life. It drives our personality, dreams, ambitions, vocation, career, money, family, relationships, decisions, emotions, feelings, actions, behaviors, reactions, responses, etc. The way we live in each sphere reveals the condition of our spiritual heart.

This is why when times our good and everything is going well, the true condition of the heart is able to have a sort of facade. However, when there is tension or situations in life, whether they be financial, familial, relational, emotional, transitional, the facade is stripped away and the spiritual condition of the heart is laid bare. This is the essence of the gospel and the work of the Spirit—to strip away the facade to reveal to people that everything, particularly their (spiritual) heart, is not healthy, it is not right.

For believers in particular, the tensions, valleys, struggles, failures, disappointments, and difficult times in life expose areas and spheres of our lives that do not have a healthy center. [Remember, one of the goals of the Christian life is to bring every sphere and area (of our life) under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (center).]

I guess the reason why I was prompted to write about this topic, this morning, is because of some recent revelations in my own life; areas of my life that have unhealthy centers. And there is a temptation that I could just chalk up my unhealthy centers and say, “This is the season I am in,” “It is has been a difficult time in my family and I’s life,” “I am under a lot of pressure,” “There is a lot of unknown variables in my life,” etc. However, I must realize that as James points out, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Paul puts it this ways in his letter to the church in Philippi, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). Furthermore, the author of Hebrews, throughout his exhortation, encourages believers to look to Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith.”

I praise God this morning for exposing and revealing areas of my life that need to fall under the Lordship of Jesus. To be honest, it is not fun to be spanked by God; however, on the other hand, I would not want to be disciplined by anyone else.

I end with what I read this morning 2 Peter 1:3-15. In this passage, Peter explains that believers have been given everything they need to have the gospel, to have Jesus, to have the divine power of God, as their center driving and pumping (spiritual) blood to all areas and spheres of their life. In addition, Peter provides a list of qualities that should be in our life, and increasing. These qualities, according to Peter, described in God’s word, are extremely important. These qualities keep us fruitful, clear-headed, and grounded. Read this, and may we all be challenged this morning to have at the center of our life the gospel, Jesus Christ.

“3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.”C