A Catechism for Our Day


The Word of God is always relevant.  And our hearts will be healthier when they are brought under it.

A Christian who brings Scripture and the God of Scripture to bear on his thoughts, emotions, choices, philosophy, theology, self-talk, vocation, family dynamic, behaviors, hobbies, and habits will be a Christian whose spiritual muscles and bones and organs are working properly.  This is one of the reasons Christians have historically written catechisms.  We need to know the Word and we also need to know how to apply it.

So with that in mind, let’s bring the Word to answer some questions for our day.

Q:  How should I approach and think about racial strife and protests?

A:  “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Q:  What if I think our President is a terrible one?

A:  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Q:  How do I live out my Christian faith at my job?

A:  “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).

Q:  What does it mean to be a man or to be a woman?

A:  “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God” (1 Corinthians 11:8-12).

Q:  What is marriage?

A:  “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:18-25).

Q:  What is the point of life?”

A:  “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

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Sentences 4


I’ve written a few installments of this (1, 2, and 3) and I enjoy it.  These are some one-sentence theological or philosophical propositions that I contend are true, delivered along with a head nod to Mr. Peter Abelard, and his Medieval book, Sentences.


Everyone who wants to be God will end up hating God (see:  Pharaoh in Exodus, Herod the Great, Satan). 
Self-esteem can never fix what what self-worship caused.  

A good skill to teach your kids that it seems to me is going to be increasingly at a premium is the willingness to look someone in the eye and tell them exactly what they feel and why.  

The art of speaking clearly is only important if you want to teach, persuade, be understood, raise children, be a good employee, or have healthy human relationships.  
Some unbelieving men most need to know Christianity is satisfying, others most need to know it is true, still others that it can change them, but there aren’t many moments when a man is thirsting for each reality equally; Evangelist, know your man.   

If you have never been admonished or rebuked, you don’t have a true friend. 

One of the most important distinctions in ethics that our generation seems unwilling to make is the distinction between what I like and what is right, or, if you prefer, what I want to be morally positive and what is indeed morally positive.

Character:  What a man is and what he loves.  

Lasting, world-changing Christianity, in an individual or a family or a church or a nation, requires obedience to the Scriptures.   

Grace and peace!

Some Little Kid Definitions Of Big Concepts


I think, generally, if you actually understand something you’ll be able to to explain it to a young child.  And the flip side of that coin is that trying to explain something to a little kid can help you understand it better.  

Some Christian parents, myself included, struggle at times to answer their 5-year-old’s question about what a theologically and philosophically big word means.  

“Daddy, what’s love?”

“But Mommy, what is faith?”

So, after watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with my kids and explaining what “bravery” was to my 3-year-old son, I had the idea to write this post. 

These are some little kid definitions that, while not the most precise exposition you could give of each idea, I think certainly get across what each thing really is.  These have been (or will be) my definitions for my little guys.  

Bravery:  When you love something good and fight for it.  

Evil:  Not like God. 

Faith: Believing someone can do what he says he can do.  

Family:  People connected by a love promise.  

Good:  Like God.   

Heaven:  Where God lives. 

Hell:  A place where God punishes, forever, people who won’t say sorry.  

Home:  Where you’ve been made to belong.  

Hope:  When you really want something to happen.  

Love:  When something is so special to you you’ll do hard things for it.  

Marriage:  A love promise a man and a woman make to each other and to God.

Peace:  When things are working the way God designed them to work.  

Salvation:  How people get to go to Heaven when they believe in Jesus.  

Wisdom:   Knowing what’s good and knowing how to do it.  

Happy Wednesday!

Some Personal Proverbs


The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:  To know wisdom and instruction,to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 

Proverbs 1:1-6

I’ve been thinking about Proverbs lately.  About God’s book of general statements of wisdom.  I’m grateful for the book of Proverbs, because it’s helped me to think through some very practical matters.  What’s the right way to parent?  What’s the right way to work?  What’s the right way to speak? 

I’m not old, and there are many ways in which I’m still foolish (I still often prize people’s opinion of me more than God’s, for instance).  But I think the following observations I’m making are faithful to the witness of God’s Word.  They’re in no way inspired, in that they are not breathed out by God, as the real book of Proverbs is.  

But I offer them for what they’re worth.  
A few personal proverbs, if I may:

  • Young, married men and women: Have children. I’ve never met a Godly older man or woman who wishes they’d had less children, but I’ve known more than a few who wish they’d had more.  
  • If I have a really long list of people that I can’t stand, it’s worth asking whether the issue might be me.  
  • There is nothing I’ve personally encountered that better illustrates the folly of the human heart than the movement to support the right to abortion.  “It’s not a life.  No, we don’t want to look at ultrasounds, I said it’s not a life!  And even if it is a life, a woman should have the right to end it.  No, she shouldn’t have the right to end other lives, just this one.  I’m not crazy, man, come on.  She should just have a right to end this life.  I mean if it’s a life.  And we celebrate that in this country.  Even though we want these things to be safe and legal and rare.  We celebrate it!  But no, seriously, I don’t want to look at an ultrasound!”
  • Forgiveness will be as hard as your heart is. 
  • The fundamental problem with ISIS is theological, not economic or social.  At root, they have a wrong understanding of the character and values of God.  Everything else flows from those headwaters.  
  • Where the world is a system of people moving further and further apart because of annoyances and unforgiven wrongs and technological isolation, the church should model people moving ever and ever closer in intimacy because of a shared love as big as the Gospel.  
  • Bitterness requires entitlement as it’s fuel.  You have to believe you were owed something that you didn’t get.  Remove the fuel and the spark won’t catch.  Replace the lie that you were owed something good you didn’t get with the truth that the only thing we were each owed is Hell, and bitterness won’t have any gas to keep blazing on.  
  • If you want to know how much a Christian man believes the Gospel, one way to find out is to watch how he treats his children.   
  • Remember, “father” is both a noun and a verb.  And appropriately so.   

Happy Wednesday, all!

    Sentences (Again)

      
    A month or so ago I wrote a post simply made up of theological sentences that I held to and believed.  The idea was based (ridiculously loosely) on Peter Abelard’s classic Medieval theological textbook Sentences.  It was I think, the most read post I’ve ever had, so I figured I’d re-gift it.  

    Here are a few more theological/Spiritual/ecclesiastical sentences from the heart (via the IPhone) of yours truly:  

    • There is an almost universal temptation to assume the best possible motive for what you yourself do and to assume the worst motive for what other people do; resist that temptation. 
    • It is generally best not to trust the man who claims to know God but does not know his Bible.  
    • One of the things the Bible’s existence undergirds for me is this:  My belief that it is appropriate for entities, whether they be churches, marriages, or governments, to be built on written documents; if it’s worth having, it’s worth writing out.
    • If you are a Christian, then I can virtually guarantee that you have underestimated God’s love for you; I can do that because the love of God for His sheep in the crucified Jesus surpasses all the knowledge you could ever collect and store in your brain.  
    • Generally speaking, I don’t find it to be good to invest Christian leadership in someone who hasn’t shown (over a pretty good period of time) that he is ready to do the slow, steady work of personal holiness.
    • I know it’s a word whose definition isn’t as clear as I’d like (depending on the circle you’re talking in), but I am still more than ready to wear the label “evangelical.”
    • Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to interpret and exposit well. 
    • Evangelism can be both a dutiful hard work and an overflow of the heart; after all, the best kind of tired is joyful tired, where you’re worn out from doing something hard that you really love doing.  

    Happy weekend, all!

    Sentences

       
    One of the classic medieval Christian texts was a book called Sentences.  It was by Peter Lombard, and is, I’m sure, available right now on Amazon.  As best as I can understand, having read only about it (and even then, not very much), it’s a collection of theological statements.  

      

    Well, I had a couple of thoughtful holiday days off work and a series of trips to Dunkin’ Donuts, and so I jotted down a collection of caffeine-aided theological and/or ethical statements myself over the last week or so.  Some are just restatements of smarter and older Christians, and at least one came while watching How to Train Your Dragon with my oldest daughter.

    Happy 2017, all!

    Good is when you love the right thing and then act upon it.   

    Nothing that we envy (if we envy something on Earth) is trouble-free.  

    Jesus Christ did not see through my screw-ups and foibles to the real, good-at-heart me; He saw through my good deeds and pretended righteousness to the real, self-loving and idolatrous me.  

    A Christian, of all people, is able to grieve simultaneously with deep sadness and abiding hope.  

    Faith is the means of our justification, but it is not the grounds; the righteousness of Jesus Christ is the grounds.  

    One of the best things the Holy Spirit does for a man is changing what he does by changing what he loves.  

    There is almost no less Christian of an attitude than that of complaining.  

    I don’t want to neglect doctrine and theology and I don’t want to love them for their own sake; I want to treasure them because I treasure Christ.  

    There is a kind of person who constantly points his finger at others and then complains about being marginalized, who will describe his own vocal disagreement as necessary but another person’s towards him as an attack, and this type of person is difficult to win over through argument alone.  

    One of the most surprising ways you can learn about the character of a man is by finding out what he enjoys.  

    For 3:  Books I Go Back To

      
    I thought this might be helpful.  I was considering the other day which books, after the Bible, I most often go back to (either for ministry or for personal growth), and I’m pretty sure it’d be these three.  

    1) Historical Theology, by Gregg Allison.

      
    A great book, and a companion to Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.  This one takes the same format as Mr. Grudem’s, giving a chapter on each major doctrine of the Christian faith.  But instead of outlining different views on each doctrine, it attempts to explain how the doctrine was approached in succeeding eras in Christian history.  So when I want to know what the common take on baptism in the pre-reformation era was, or what was being taught about church structure in the Middle Ages, this is the first book I usually go to.  Great format, very readable.  

     
    2) The First Seven Ecumenical Councils, by Leo Donald Davis

      
    This book is extremely helpful for historical information about Athanasius, Arius, Constantine, Cyril, and many other early Christian theologians, church fathers, heretics, and kings.  It covers the period of the first seven “Ecumenical” church councils, which is about A.D. 300 to about A.D. 800.  I’ve found it invaluable as a history of theology; I do not refer to it for theology itself, however, since Mr. Davis was a Roman Catholic priest.  I would never recommend it for personal worship or anything like that, but the book isn’t written to proclaim the Gospel.  It’s essentially telling 7 stories about historical Christian theologians and contributors, and giving a wealth of information about them as it does.  It is a treasure trove for the pure history of Christian Christology.  

    3) Commentary On the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G.K Beale and D.A. Carson 

      
    This book is probably a tad more academic than the first two, but it’s very helpful if you’re preaching any New Testament passage.  For each New Testament book an author outlines all of the quotations and echoes of Old Testament passages.  Very useful for preachers. 

    Adios!

    *I’m going to cheat and add one more.  I forgot about a book that I go back to again and again to help me repent of sinful anger, and I didn’t feel like having to delete one of the first three.

    Or maybe I was just too angry to ; )

    Uprooting Anger by Robert D. Jones.