Category Archives: Theology

I am who I am

Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

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My name is Larry, I am created in God’s own image.  I came from Him and someday I will be going back to him.  My worth is not dependent upon your opinion.  My worth is not dictated by societal norms.  My life is much more than what you may see of me or even your judgment of me. Who I am is much more than the cultural group to which you think I belong. Do not segregate me because of some outside, physical attribute. I refuse to be canceled.  Just societies are built on the acknowledgment and acceptance of the truth of all human beings are bearers of God’s image. They all have equal dignity, incalculable worth with rights that cannot be taken at the whim of any other.  It was C.S. Lewis who wrote, “There are no ordinary people, you have never talked to a mere mortal.”  The essence of my dignity is not man-made. I am not an earthy person experiencing spiritual things, but a spiritual person experiencing earthly things.

Measuring God

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Jeremiah 23:23-24 “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.

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We live in a world defined by measurements. I have a GPS system in my truck, and it tells me about the distance between my home and Church.  Not in a straight line but the distance driven along the path I must take to get there. We think feet, yards miles, and even hours to travel. Gas for that same truck is in gallons. Our lives are determined by measurement.

Further, in our need to define and measure everything, we cram God into our concept of space. We would containerize God. We push God to be up there somewhere. He is in a place where we can hide from Him.

God is not contained in heaven and earth as some seem to think. God in His person and His attributes fills heaven and earth exactly as the ocean fills a bucket that is submerged in the ocean depths. To assign God to a place up there is to deny God being everywhere.

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Lord, you are more than I can define.  Help me to see you in the dark places and the happy times. Thank you that you are not just in the destination and the journey and the starting place.

I Can’t do it!

Titus 3:7 “When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

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I can’t do it. If I depended upon my own merits, I would never make it. It just is not enough to overcome the negative ledger of my life. Fixing myself, again and again, to straighten my soul out, will never be sufficient. I must resign to the failure of every effort to measure up.

Jesus told the story of two men in the temple. One said, “God, here I am—all fixed up. Every hair is in place!” The other said, “Oh God, I just crawled in off skid row. Have mercy on me!” God forgave the skid row bum, but sent the other man away, hardened, unrepentant, and unforgiven.

When I come to God, I must know that all that is provided is out of God’s mercy.  It is not my work.  It is not a clever well-turned phrase that earns my mercy. It is not my effort to work out my own salvation. I come to Him just as I am in humble repentance.  When the human spirit comes to God knowing that anything it receives will be out of God’s mercy, then repentance has done its proper work! God promises to forgive and forget and to take that man into His heart and teach him that all of God’s kindnesses are due to His mercy. What more can a sinner ask?

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Dear Lord, You know me as I really am, yet You extended Your great mercy toward me. Thank You for Your divine love and forgiveness. I come to Jesus as I am!

The question.

Matthew 21:23 When He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”

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It is a question that has been asked for two thousand years.  By what authority did Jesus do all that He did? Was Jesus more than a teacher, a magician, or a charismatic leader? Is my belief from God or is it just religion?  The question asked of Jesus was more than innocent questions by religious leaders.  These were questions directed to the center of my belief in God.  Religious leaders ask.  Elders ask. Leaders ask.  You may well ask. The source of their asking was unbelief.  Any authority would diminish their self-conceived importance. Any acknowledgment of the authority of Jesus diminishes their claims.  

But the asking is not wrong. The effort to accept God’s authority over all others starts with asking.  Let us not let unbelief and the opinions of others be our authority.  It is quite acceptable to ask if you accept the answer that Jesus is Lord.

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It is my decision

Luke 16:10-13 He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous 1awealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?  No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

My belief includes a concept of stewardship.  I am called do many things in the name of my God.  One of them is to give to others.  If I have a Christian heart for the unborn, I can support charities that promote the sanctity of life.  If I have a Christian heart for the hungry, I can work in a food pantry distributing food.  If I encounter someone who is broken down along the road, I can stop and see if I can provide assistance. If I am prompted to mow my neighbor’s lawn because she can’t physically do it, I can pull the lawnmower out. I listen to the voice of God, that little, small voice within me revealing my responsibilities. It is not the responsibility of the local government.  It is not justice warriors standing on the steps of the capital holding signs for justice who dictate my love.  It is not those people or the sum of all these people that dictate to me what I can do for my neighbor.  I do because that is what God expects of me.  It is not your picture of justice, or some politician.  Lord give me a heart for those you want me to help.

The Intent of God

Fear does not rule my life. I live in hope and great expectations.  Never-the-less, I look at our current place in history and perceive a radical change in our culture.  The number of persons which have no belief in God it at about 7%. Further 16% of the world’s population do not identify with any religion. Both these statistics suffer from the ebbs and flows of perception.  That is not what is disturbing me.

What brings me to a point of consternation is the change in the loss of the understanding of the true intent of God. Theology (Study of God), Christology (Study of Christ), Ecclesiology (Study of the Church), and the plethora of Bible resources all have become entities in themselves without much on the intent of God.  Study for study sake has taken the place of study to discover what God wants. To discover what God’s intent is toward me.  What does God want for me?

What does God’s intent mean to the way I live my life?  What does God’s intent change me?  Or for that matter how am I to know that I need to change?

Maybe I it is just to late for me to embark on a quest for God’s intent for me and simply and blindly follow all those who have boldly gone before.  Or just perchance there is an inner need that has to be satisfied.  A need to know.  And in knowing, a chance to change.

Thoughts on a question

I received a question on a post the other day and it caused me to do some research and soul searching. The question was about the place of the current descendants of Abraham, the Jewish people, in the necessity to be evangelized by the Gentiles.

Excellent question.  From that question you have to make the assumption that the chosen people of Israel, those who are a direct part of Abraham’s family, are not saved.  That opens a hole can of worms.  There are those who think that God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation and the world will be blessed by them, only refers to the acts of bringing the Messiah to the world and does not afford any special privileges or spiritual status to them other than birthing Jesus.  These of the Supersessionism movement would assert a theological view that the Old covenant to Abraham was replaced by the New covenant of Jesus. Following this line of theology, the Jews like the rest of the world must accept Jesus to be saved.

Supersessionism is a very well accepted theology in the Christian Church for the majority of their existence. Christian traditions that have championed this single Covenant Theology are the Roman Catholic, Reformed and Methodist. never-the-less in a recent poll of Christians, 60% believe there will be righteous Jews in heaven.

The other side of the argument is dual-covenant theology which holds that the covenant given to Moses is still valid and therefore the Jews do not need evangelizing. If a ethnic Jew is keeping the Law and as Micah states in 6:8, “O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to live kindness and walk humbly with your God,” then they are assumed righteous and deserve the associated rewards. They would take the statement of Jesus, “No man comes to the Father but by me,” and translate the word man as Gentile. That Jesus only came for the Gentiles.

If this dual-covenant theology then it opens the possibility of a third and a fourth and a fifth covenant. This view is currently being championed by Islam saying that the final and most authentic expression of Abrahamic prophetic monotheism, supersedes and replaces both Jewish and Christian teachings. The doctrine of tahrif teaches that earlier monotheistic scriptures or their interpretations have been corrupted, while the Quran presents a pure version of the divine message that they originally contained.

So now back to the original question.  In God’s eyes “Whosoever believes in Jesus” John3:16 includes Judaism.  Whether we actively do so that is up to the individual and calling.  But just because a person is a gentile or a Jew makes little difference.  It is one of those things we will discover when we get to our final reward.  But before then it is just a talking point.

The greatest enhancement

Stop and think.  Think of God, better think of God’s mind. Imagine God with a concept of creation.  To create something that is perfectly designed, perfectly built, and perfectly understood. Think of a God who made decision after decision in the design of man. And once built, watching intently the happenstances and sometimes chaos resulting in His design.  Get inside the mind of God and seek the trillions of detailed decisions He made before He made it all. And He said it “WAS GOOD”.

We stop and think and wonder strange things and we ask questions.  “God why did you make the Duckbill Platypus and mosquitoes?”  And that is just the point of the greatest design enhancement, the greatest augmentation to his ultimate creation was to allow us to ask, “WHY.”

Rules for Bible Study

Every community, every group, every organization must have rules to guide it.  I found the best rules for studying the Bible fall into three areas: Truth, Study, and process.

  1. Truth
    • God’s truth is the only truth.
    • No one on this side of heaven can know all of God’s truth.
    • God’s truth for us is revealed in the inspired Word of God.
    • God’s truth is illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
  2. Study
    • We study to know more of God’s truth.
    • We study to become disciples
    • We study to show ourselves approved.
    • We study to change our behavior.
  3. Process
    • Questions do not necessarily have a right or a wrong answer.
    • Feelings are valuable but are not truth.
    • Actions have moral consequences.

The truth is not enough.

Sometimes I just don’t get some of the assumptions I hear from my brothers and sisters in the church.  It could well stem from personal experiences or even pre-conceived understandings of my own.  Whatever my problem may well be, I hear some of the strangest voiced conclusions and they set my own sensibilities on edge.

A few years back I was teaching a class on the book of John.  We were trying as a group to understand Jesus. What brought up the edgy feeling was the response to the question, “Why do you study the Bible?”  That question had many answers.  Some of the answers were conditioned “Sunday School” answers, while others were a little more honest, and others from those who were truly seeking more in their spiritual lives.  It was the last answer that didn’t seem quite right.  “I study the bible to be a better Christian.”  What it sounded like to me was this apt student was equating the accumulation of facts and theological understanding with growth. 

I pressed him to clarify and he quoted from John 8:32, “The truth will make you free.” He was saying when there is enough truth in your life you will, by that accumulation, become a better Christian.

I didn’t argue or tell him he was wrong, I simply smiled and jotted down a note to get a better understanding of his perceived pathway to growth.

At issue is endemic to many in the church. The idea of filling your heart with so much knowledge, so much scripture, that you become a super Christian, is often proclaimed.  What a terrible thought.  What an indictment against the very God in which we serve.  Before you get your own hackles up, let me explain.

First, the Gospel of John does say, “the truth will set you free.” But like most misconceptions of the will of God, it was taken out of a larger portion of scripture.  Jesus was speaking to Jews who had been influenced by the Pharisees and had come to an understanding of Jesus.  They had the head knowledge.  They had accumulated so much Jewish theology and insight of the prophets, they saw these as pointers to Jesus being the Messiah. Consequently, they had accepted the words of Jesus as truth.

Second, the Gospel of John in the same eighth chapter and which this “make you free” statement was stated also includes a preface. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and that truth will set you free.” The key is not accumulation but a holding.

Holding is not just gathering the wheat in the fields and taking it as an accomplishment.  Holding is knowing the purpose of the wheat and making bread. To be a disciple is to conform to the teachings of God, to stay on a prescribed path set by God, and it is to be more than a sponge.

Why do I study the Bible?  Two things.  I study to understand God and His path for me. And subsequently, to finding that path, I utilize my new understanding to follow that path.  My life is one of revelation and reconciliation. Without the second part, the first part is without much help to my growth.  My growth is dependent upon my understanding of God’s place for me AND my willingness to do something about it.