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Archive for the ‘Theological Reflection’ Category

Why Paul Wouldn’t Be Allowed On TBN

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“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…”
Philippians 1:29 (TNIV)

Written by missional girl

March 14, 2010 at 2:35 pm

The Danger of Theo-Branding

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The problem with theological branding is that we become too territorial about our story of how our pet theologians interpret the revelation of God, losing sight of the grand and unified theme of God’s great salvific story: Jesus.

Only when we idolize our own stories at the expense of others the Lord Jesus has Himself written onto the pages of HIStory do we lose the plot of the greatest story of all.

Written by missional girl

March 1, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible & the Church

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I’m currently teaching The Crucible. Although I strongly suspect that Miller had his own axe to grind with fundamentalists of his day (i.e. McCarthyites who still swear to this day that a Commie was under every bush—especially in Hollywood), there are important themes that are emerging as our class finishes up the first two acts. I won’t share any until we’re done with the book but there is one question that I asked my class to expound upon and I’ll leave it to you.

There is a scene where Rev. Hale asks John Proctor to recite the Ten Commandments to prove the authenticity of his faith. This “test” comes up elsewhere in the story. My question is simple:

Does right theology equal godliness? Is determining whether someone has memorized a particular passage of Scripture the ultimate litmus test for a professing Christian?

Written by missional girl

February 28, 2009 at 4:40 am

The Holiness of God and You

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from Today’s New International Version (TNIV), Zondervan Publishing Company.

INTRODUCTION

Holiness. That one word inspires a host of images in the minds of Christians. For some, it may evoke the mental picture of a disciple cloistered in a monastery praying the Psalms. For others, however, the word may recall legalistic preaching that stresses the “don’ts” of a particular theological paradigm but not much else.

Grammatically, the Hebrew word for holiness and closely related words are qâdash (kaw-dash) or qôdesh (ko’-desh). The sense of the words conveys the idea of being clean or being pronounced clean. In addition, qôdesh speaks to the idea of consecrating a thing or a place. The Greek words paint a similar picture with more nuances. The primary word for holiness is hagios (hag-ee-os) and means “sacred, pure, morally blameless.”

Inherent in all the definitions and explanations about the holiness of God are the purity, the ethereal righteous “otherhood” of God that shocks, awes, repels, and draws. However, do not think that God can be defined by one particular attribute. My only purpose for this essay is to convey one major point: the holiness of God can change our lives. What some reduce to a mere theological abstract fit only for the shelf can actually transform our lives and our churches so that we can influence the world for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Part I: Holiness and the Glory of God

Holiness has a great deal to do with reflecting and declaring the glory of God. In fact, his holiness is one of the attributes that sets him apart from false gods. Exodus 15:11 asks one of the great rhetorical questions in all of Scripture: “Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (TNIV) The holiness of God declares his royalty and kingship. There is something about God that stirs up the hearts of his people to worship him as king. Think of the most awe-inspiring monarchy to grace the stage of human history and still that crown could not match the splendor and matchless glory of Almighty God.

Let us not also forget that God’s holiness, his otherness, matters to him. Psalm 89:35 underscores that the trustworthiness of God’s word to us is connected to his holiness as he “swears” by it. Moreover, the very name of God is holy. Remember in Exodus 20:7 where God forbids his name to be taken in vain? What lies at the heart of that command? To misuse God’s name is to profane the character of God. In Hebrew culture, names were more than something you wrote on a birth certificate. Rather, the name of a person reflected that person’s prophetic destiny and character. To assail their name was to assail who they were. To profane the name of God and render it an empty, useless thing is to profane his holiness. We fail to see the otherhood of God, missing him altogether.

We cannot miss the connection between God’s character and his holiness. Moses learned this the hard way when he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to the rock as the LORD commanded (Num. 20:6-12). God’s response was pointed:

48 On that same day the LORD told Moses,
49 “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo
in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan,
the land I am giving the Israelites as their own
possession. 50 There on the mountain that you
have climbed you will die and be gathered to
your people, just as your brother Aaron died on
Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.
51 This is because both of you broke faith with me
in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of
Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because
you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites.
52 Therefore, you will see the land only from
a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving
to the people of Israel” (Deut. 32:48-52, emphasis mine)

The character of God would not be challenged even by his faithful servant. Moses had disobeyed a commandment from God before the people and would, therefore, not be allowed to enter into the Promised Land. Was God too harsh or was he keen on solidifying the seriousness of his call to Israel to obey him in all things as Moses would later warn them in Deuteronomy 32:46-47? I believe the answer is the latter. A holy God cannot ignore sin and to ignore Moses’ would set a horrible precedent for a people who had already impugned the character and name of God with their rebellion.

So how does the holiness of God in relation to his glory transform us?

Before the holiness of God can transform our lives, we must first collide with it head on and “heart” on that changes our course forever. The story of Isaiah bears upon this point. Isaiah was a man with connections. His cousin Uzziah had been the king of Judah before his death and Isaiah was probably a member of an important family in town. But while worshiping in the temple, Isaiah had an encounter with God that changed him forever. He encountered the glory of the Lord in a heavenly vision:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the
Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted,
and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above
him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two
wings they covered their faces, with two they
covered their feet, and with two they were flying.
3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory. (Isa. 6:1-3)

The glory of God brings a hush over the mutterings of the human heart. Isaiah was overcome with the intoxicating, divine otherhood of God. Even the angels, keepers of the throne of God, could not help but cry in exultation “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (emphasis mine).

While some are content to have “encounters” with a holy God, God himself longs for a people to live in, abide in—not merely encounter. As God confronts us with his holiness, we worship him with a surrendered heart first. We bow and worship before him just as Solomon and the priests did when the glory of the Lord was so thick, so palpable that nothing the quench that holy, precious fire (1 Kin. 8:10-11).

What happens when we are confronted with the holiness of God?

Written by missional girl

May 19, 2007 at 4:24 am

The Glorious Resurrection

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Jesus On the Road to Emmaus

Luke’s account of the resurrection and post-resurrection activity has been my favorite gospel account, partly because of the hilarity of a risen Jesus walking around with unsuspecting Christ followers who did not recognize their Lord in his risen glory.

Luke 24:13-35 (TNIV)
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles [a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

I’m amazed that Jesus did not just find the disciples, say his peace, and get back to the right hand of the Father quicker. But thankfully, God the Son was and is a “people” person. He chooses to reveal himself even to those of us whose faith is shattered by circumstance and unrealized expections of others. He walks with us as he did with Cleopas, piercing the darkness of our own hearts and minds with his presence.

Jesus asks the questions and then reveals himself to the two on the road as the Answer. He opens up their minds to the Scriptures and all that they reveal about him. He fellowships with them, coming to their homes and breaking bread for them. Notice that “their eyes were opened” to who was sitting with them when Jesus took, blessed, and broke the bread (24:30-31). I wonder if Jesus used the same wording he used on the night of the last Passover (Luke 22:19). Or maybe Cleopas and his friend remembered the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:41).

Whatever the case, the resurrected Jesus gives us a foretaste of what was to come: he revealed himself then and he is still revealing himself now. Without the resurrection, the revelation of Jesus would be rooted exclusively in the past. Jesus would be just another history lesson decorated with cobwebs and sprinkled in dust. But Scripture and the testimony of history shows that Jesus, the resurrected Son who overcame death and the grave, is revealing himself all over the place, even on the internet.

To him who wasn’t content to be raised from the dead alone but died and was raised so that those who believe in him could be raised with him on that glorious day: to him be glory, honor, and power forevermore.

Written by missional girl

April 8, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Good Friday Reflection

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Am I masochistic for celebrating death? Then let it be so when it comes to Christ’s crucifixion. Through His sacrifice, humanity has the opportunity to be made whole and forgiven in the eyes of the Father.

It isn’t a tad bit ironic that we would even refer to today as “Good Friday”. After all, has any figure in human history ever been more comfortable with paradox than Jesus? He was God in diapers, the Son of God, yet He was born in less than a royal atmosphere. He was God in the flesh yet called a woman He created Mother. He was God the Son, holy and righteous, yet a friend of sinners and the arch enemy of empty religion. He was sinless and yet chose to bear the sins of humanity upon Himself.

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
(John 10:17-18 ESV)

God the Son, holy, righteous, and sinless “became sin” for us that we would become the righteousness of God. In death, Jesus did for me what I could not do for myself.

I’m not in the mood to write a deep theological or exegetical reflection on all the Greek verb tenses used in the crucifixion narratives. I am only in the mood to say one thing to Jesus this day:

“Thank you.”

Written by missional girl

April 6, 2007 at 3:59 pm

Looking In All The Wrong Places

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I have always wondered about the idea that a loving God and evil could not co-exist. While it is easy to take out our anguish on God for all the trouble in the world, we would do well to recognize that God has been and still is at work dealing with evil, most notably through the cross of Christ. N.T. Wright’s Evil and the Justice of God deals with this reality.

I believe the fundamental problem with dismissing the existence and justice of God is that is exposes a strange desire we have regarding our circumstances in relation to who God is. That is, we believe that if there was no evil and if everything in life is peachy-keen, then the idea of God is far more tenable. What that means, then, is that we want our circumstances redeemed, not our own souls.

But remember that it was humanity that fell and consequently everything in creation. The sun never failed to rise at the beckon of the Almighty. The waves did not resist the command of God to roll. We are the guilty ones. And we are the ones who need to be redeemed and set free from the pull and penalty of sin.

Redeemed circumstances have no power to deal with sin. We are still prone to being selfish and making decisions that harm others and blaspheme God. Just because the cup is shiny doesn’t mean it’s fit to drink from it.

Written by missional girl

March 15, 2007 at 2:43 pm