Thursday, October 25, 2007

“Why does God make deformed babies and pain in the world?”

One of the college students I’m privileged to serve with was asked this question by one of her roommates and she solicited my input. This is the big one and I don’t think there are any answers that are 100% satisfactory or it would cease being “the big one” in terms of tough questions. I know a couple of guys who are brighter than I am read this blog on occasion so I’m soliciting their input as I lay out my first email to this student. This was after giving it a day’s thought, but without studying so please correct me as you see fit … or expand it. A couple more installments are to come. But here’s email #1.

Sin. Not the sin of deformed babies, or even regions where tragedy hits. But when Adam & Eve sinned (Gen. 3), Creation felt it, too. The ground wouldn't produce the way it was supposed to and Adam was going to have to work hard for food. We know that because of Adam (Rom. 5) we have our issues with sin, but Paul, when talking about the struggle with the Christian life and sin, indicates that Creation is under the weight of sin - "subjected to frustration" and will itself be "liberated from its bondage ... into glorious freedom" (Rom. 8.18-22 or so). Things aren't the way they're supposed to be ... with us as individuals, and with the created world because of our breaking covenant with God through Adam.

This doesn't answer the individual issues, but it explains why things are generally a mess. People are fallen and make sinful choices - that's the easy evil (bad people do bad things). But creation isn't as it should be, either. Not much later in Romans 8.28) it tells how God can use anything for our good if we love Him, which can give meaning to individual suffering for believers. John 9 is a good example of this, but there's something to be said for those who suffer for Christ and yet honor Him, even if they're not healed.
That’s a pretty quick drive by. Did I handle it appropriately? Please advise.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 2c: Theology Proper, Creation

Finally, God is the Creator of all things (Gen. 1.1; Eph. 3.9; Col. 1.16; Rev. 4.11) for His glory (Ps. 19.1). The Father (Gen. 1.1), Son (Jn. 1.3) and Holy Spirit (Gen. 1.2) are all active in creation. If God did, indeed, create “all things,” it logically follows that He created from nothing, ex nihilo (Heb. 11.3; Jn. 1.3). God is active in His creation (Acts 17.27-28; Mt. 6.25-30), but is also separate from and independent of creation, transcendent (Isa. 55.8-9; Ps. 113.5-6).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 2b: Theology Proper, Attributes

In addition to being triune, God is eternal and infinitely perfect in His attributes. There is never a time when God did not exist in His perfection. He was there in the beginning (Gen. 1.1; Ps. 90.2) and He has always been. God’s infinite perfection bears itself out in His omnipresence (Ps. 137.7-12; Jer. 23.23-24), His timelessness (Ps. 90.1-2; Jude 25; Isa. 44.6; Rev. 1.8), His omniscience (Ps. 147.5; Prov. 15.3; Mt. 10.29-30; Mt. 11.21 – knowledge of things possible), and His omnipotence (Jer. 32.17; Mt. 19.26; Acts 17.26; Ps. 115.3). God’s greatness in these areas is eternal. It does not change (Ps. 102.26-27; Mal. 3.6). God is not only infinite and eternal in His attributes of greatness; He is also infinitely good. He is holy, both in terms of being unique, set apart (Ex. 15.11; Isa. 6.1-4) and in His purity (Hab. 1.13; Job 34.12; Lev. 11.44-45). This holiness is applied in perfect righteousness (Ps. 19.7-9; Jer. 9.24) and perfect justice (Dt. 7.9-10 – for both sides of justice; Ps. 58.11; Rom. 12.9). God is the true God (Jn. 17.3; Jer. 10.10) who tells the truth (1 Sam. 15.29; Jn. 17.17), and proves Himself faithful (Num. 23.19; 1 Thess. 5.24). God’s love is perfect in His benevolence (Dt. 7.7-8; Jn. 3.16; Mt. 5.45 – “general benevolence”), His abundant grace to the undeserving (Eph. 2.7-9; Ex. 34.6), His tender mercy toward the needy (Ps. 103.13; Mt. 9.36), and His slowness to anger that people might repent (Ps. 86.15; 1 Pt. 3.20; 2 Pt. 3.9), but His wrath rests upon those who do not (Dt. 9.7-8; Jn. 3.36). Given God’s greatness, He is deserving of all honor and, as such, it is appropriate that He be jealous if He doesn’t receive the honor due Him (Isa. 48.11).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 2a: Theology Proper, Trinity

I'm starting to get to work on my ordination paper now. I'm doing this thing called "Gateway" with the Free Church District we're in. I probably won't crank it out all at once, but I'll be a little more steady than I've been. The first two articles are due to be dissected by my peers on Friday. I did Article 1 several months ago - check the "Ordination" tab below if you're into reading amateur theology. This is the first post of Article 2. The official statement of faith reads as follows: "In one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit." What follows is my expansion on this truth. In this first one it is just hte Trinity. There will be two more to follow in this Article.

We believe in a triune God, one God, but this God exists in three persons. Scripture is uniformly clear that God is one (Ex. 20.4; Dt. 6.4; Jas. 2.19). This one God exists in three persons. The Father is routinely equated with “God” (1 Cor. 8.4; 1 Tim. 2.5-6; Mt. 6.26, 30), Jesus is likewise considered God (Phil. 2.5-11; Heb. 1.3), as is the Holy Spirit (Acts 5.3-4). The unity of God in Dt. 6.4 (echad) is the same unity used for man and woman’s union in Gen. 2.24, indicating a unity with distinctions. The NT develops this compound unity by linking the three persons together as equal units on several occasions (Mt. 28.19-20 – singular name, three persons; 2 Cor. 13.14; Mt. 3.16-17 – all three persons present simultaneously; Acts 2.33, 38; 1 Cor. 12.4-6; Jn. 16.13-15). The eternality, greatness, and perfection of God demands that, while the Trinitarian members at times subordinate to one another for the purpose of mission, there is no inferiority. The Truine God is co-equal in its members.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Please Pray

These are fellow skydivers ... and friends ... of my little brother. Please pray.

Update (1:30pm):

Update (10/9):

No survivors. Please pray for grieving friends and families.

Your Money and Your Life #13: A quick review

Our culture has much to tell us about money and wealth, and it is often at odds with what God calls us to. Thankfully God gives us a picture of what He wants for us with “Your Money and Your Life.”

God has blessed most, if not all of us, with wealth at varying levels. We need to cultivate the character to handle that wealth – righteousness, humility, hard work, and fair work. Then we need to put it in perspective. Hard to do, but we have to think on the most important things, and money isn’t it.

But God knows our hearts and that we can forget what’s most important. So He gives us some tools to make sure we put wealth in its place. He asks us to tithe, give 10% to the church. And then He asks us to be generous on top of that – to any number of places, most specifically to the poor.

That’s the picture in Proverbs. The big question for us now is, “What’s next?”

If you aren’t tithing, start. God asks us to test Him in this. It isn’t often that we’re to test God, but we’re challenged to with tithing. Scary? Yes. But it’s also clear. It is an act of obedience. It feels odd to lay it out there because we don’t like to talk about it, but it is for your benefit. God will get done what He’s gonna get done. He doesn’t need it. You need to give it. I need to give it.

After your tithe, look for opportunities to be generous – whether at a whim or planned out with regular giving. Even if you don’t want to do it, start looking for options. Peru. India. Los Angeles. Cypress. Your community

Now some of you may be like Donald Miller, or myself at times, and your finances are somewhere between utter disarray and not as organized as you’d like. You don’t know where you’ll find the space for these disciplines. I encourage you to get help. We’ll be offering a biblical financial stewardship class soon. Sign up today and start honoring God in an area that is so challenging to us as individuals, particularly in the culture we live in.

Friends, God wants to bring balance to “Your Money and Your Life” for your good, and my good. Let’s cooperate with Him in obedience, and then enjoy the blessings of His goodness without hindrance.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #12: Give More of Your Wealth … to the poor and suffering

We need to give above and beyond our tithe and we can do it in a bunch of different ways. It is clear that God wants us to be generous, but God wants us to particularly be generous to the poor and the suffering.

Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
This is sometimes challenging, isn’t it? You don’t know who’s lazy and who’s oppressed. But we can’t get away from God’s heart for the suffering, the hurting, and He calls us to be generous towards them.

You can give to the poor in a variety of ways – your local food bank, the nearest mission, or spending money to make care packages for homeless people you see – clean socks, toiletries, a bottle of water. There’s poor suffering all around the world. Check out organizations like Jane’s House or World Vision to care for the world’s poor.

We live in a world of plenty. At the same time, the needs are vast and God intends to meet those needs through the generosity of those He has given an abundance to. Like it or not; think it or not, that’s us. We’re called to tithe, and we’re also called to be generous. Let God move your heart to be generous toward those around you – locally or around the world.

What are some good organizations you’re familiar with when it comes to caring for the poor?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #11: Give More of Your Wealth … but how much?

OK. Be generous. But how much should we give? You got me. I suppose since God wants to form us with our giving, one size doesn’t fit all. But CS Lewis has some good ideas – he has that way about him. CS Lewis’ rule in Mere Christianity for giving is that you should give more than you can spare. If you are able to live at the same standard as those who earn as much as you, you probably aren’t giving enough. It needs to “pinch” us. There should be some things we want or want to do, and can’t, because we’ve been generous elsewhere.

Anyone eager to do this? I don’t look forward to more of a pinch than a tithe, if I can avoid it. But I also know God doesn’t want me to avoid it. I’m busy trying to figure out how to get what my neighbors have, not make sure I don’t have enough to get it because I’m giving stuff away. Who’s with me? But Proverbs is clear. We’re to be generous with what God has given.

This “pocket” from which we give is where we give to missionaries and other charitable causes – or different funds within the church, like the camp fund that blessed so many kids last week. Or even random needs of friends, family, or people you meet on the bus or at the supermarket.

There are a million opportunities to give – go to the Jane’s House link in the margin. You likely know missionaries who want to get overseas. If you don’t, contact me. I’ll get you some info on them.

Be sure to remember, though, this is outside the tithe – above and beyond the tithe. I learned this in 201 and it changed how we give. The tithe is where I surrender the 10% with no choice of where it goes as a discipline that the money isn’t mine, it’s God’s. There’s discipline in me “not having a say,” in not having control. I don’t like it, but I see how that forms me all the more. It is submission to the church leadership to spend my tithe well.

Giving (in contrast with tithing), generosity is where I’m a more active steward, putting the money in places where God specifically leads me.

What do you think about tithing to your church for 10% and giving on top of that? What are your giving habits … and why?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #10: Give More of Your Wealth, Be Generous

As the last post makes clear, God gives us a way to break our addiction to wealth and “stuff.” The tithe. But are there any good Pharisees reading along? I’m one. Give me a rule to follow and when I’m old I shall not depart from it. Given our relative prosperity, it may take more than a tithe to break us of our addiction to, and trust in, stuff. Really.

You see, there’s a very God-like quality called generosity that He wants to cultivate in each of us. How do we do this? Give more of your wealth.

The tithe may be easy for some of us because we’re quite wealthy and it’s a drop in the bucket of the bottom line – or at least we still have a pretty big bucket after giving 10%. The tithe is easy for me because I’ve built the habit – even if it isn’t a huge amount. Some may think a tithe is generous, but it isn’t. How do I know? I tithe, and I know I’m not that generous. I know generous people and I stand in stark contrast to them much of the time.

God doesn’t call us just to tithing, but to generosity.

Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
If I’m not generous, I need more training to be a person who reflects God’s generosity.

If you’re generous, what are the joys of generosity? If you struggle with generosity, why?