If I status update with such insight, hilarity, godliness, or profundity, that I get a thousand retweets and likes, yet have not love, I’m a cellphone that won’t stop ringing, or a car alarm at 2 AM.
If I understand every nuance of every complicated doctrine, including eschatology and predestination, and am a constant defender of orthodoxy, and if I am renowned for my ability to communicate truth with passion, but have not love, I’m nothing more than a first grader in the kingdom of God.
If I am a fantastic worship leader, able to lead hundreds of people in passionate worship of God, yet have not love, my skills are worth jack.
If I am a blog warrior, constantly on the attack against those who would distort the faith, yet have not love, I’m that yippy dog next door who won’t stop barking…even at 3 AM.
If I live a life of radical sacrifice, crazy love, and wartime mentality, and sponsor lots of kids through Compassion International, and go on mission trips in “closed countries”, but have not love, I gain nothing.
If I am a great artist, able to capture a snapshot of the glory of God on canvas, or in song, or in prose, or on film, and yet have not love, my creative “genius” is utterly useless to God.
If I preach like Piper or Chandler or Chan or Platt, and yet have not love, I’m nothing more than a squawking parrot who likes to imitate others.
If I read all the books by all the smart theologians, and can quote them off the top of my head, yet have not love, WHO REALLY CARES!!!!
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
October 16, 2014
May 1, 2014
Every once in awhile I will cross-post an article from Christianity 201 here, to remind my larger readership that the other blog exists, or because I simply put a lot of work into a post that is deserving of wider exposure…
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly. ~James 3:1 NET
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! ~Matthew 18:6-7 NIV
As I listened to both these verses in a sermon last weekend, I was reminded of a something that happened many years ago. The church secretary’s ten-year-old son announced at lunch that his Sunday School teacher believed in reincarnation. There’s a family mealtime conversation for which I would love to have been a fly on the wall.
Needless to say, an investigation ensued, the child’s report was accurate, and the teacher was relieved of responsibilities.
I’ve probably shared this story about a dozen times in the twenty years since it happened, but only today did I ask myself, “I wonder if anybody ever set the woman straight?” Obviously, removing the teacher from the classroom was the first thing that needed to happen, but someone also needed to set her straight on why Christians don’t see themselves as having existed before in another form and then, at the end of this life, returning to earth in another life-form.
About a year ago, I discovered something I had previously overlooked; namely, that in the various doctrines which join together to form a systematic theology (or as I prefer, a cohesive theology) there is a doctrine of man and for that the term used is anthropology, the same term we normally use to describe a particular discipline in the social sciences alongside things like psychology or sociology or philosophy. Perhaps you took ‘anthro’ in school but never thought of it in a doctrinal sense.1 In the list of branches of theology at Wikipedia, it’s listed as “Theological Anthropology”
- Bible – the nature and means of its inspiration, etc.; including hermeneutics (the development and study of theories of the interpretation and understanding of texts and the topic of Biblical law in Christianity)
- Eschatology – the study of the last things, or end times. Covers subjects such as death and the afterlife, the end of history, the end of the world, the last judgment, the nature of hope and progress, etc.
- Christology – the study of Jesus Christ, of his nature(s), and of the relationship between his divinity and humanity;
- Creation myths
- Divine providence – the study of sovereignty, superintendence, or agency of God over events in people’s lives and throughout history.
- Ecclesiology (sometimes a subsection of missiology)—the study of the Christian Church, including the institutional structure, sacraments and practices (especially the worship of God) thereof
- Mariology – area of theology concerned with Mary…
- Missiology (sometimes a subsection of ecclesiology)—God’s will in the world, missions, evangelism, etc.
- Pneumatology – the study of the Holy Spirit, sometimes also ‘geist’ as in Hegelianism and other philosophico-theological systems
- Soteriology – the study of the nature and means of salvation. May include Hamartiology (the study of sin), Law and Gospel (the study of the relationship between Divine Law and Divine Grace, justification, sanctification
- Theological anthropology – the study of humanity, especially as it relates to the divine
- Theology Proper – the study of God’s attributes, nature, and relation to the world. May include:
- Theodicy – attempts at reconciling the existence of evil and suffering in the world with the nature and justice of God
- Apophatic theology – negative theology which seeks to describe God by negation (e.g., immutable, impassible ). It is the discussion of what God is not, or the investigation of how language about God breaks down (see the nature of God in Western theology). Apophatic theology often is contrasted with “Cataphatic theology.”
But we’re digressing from our Sunday School teacher. I’m not sure at this point that it would be helpful to revisit a 20-year old discussion, nor to reveal I was party to something that might have been considered confidential at the time.2 But I am reminded of this verse:
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness… (Galatians 6:1 NRSV)
Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. (same vs. NCV)
The context is more overt sin and wrongdoing, but the principle is the same: To gently guide that person to the right path, using scripture. (See my treatment of II Timothy 3:16, especially the final paraphrase.)
The chorus of the old hymn, “Brighten the Corner” describes this. While you might not fully understand all the nautical imagery, it’s easy to see the gist of the sentiment:
Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!
Our responsibility is threefold:
- To identify (discern) false teaching
- To remove the person caught in error from public ministry3
- To try to restore that person to sound doctrine
1Not having engaged in this study formally, I would suspect that at the most elementary level, it would entail some notion of the teaching that “It is appointed onto man once to die, and after that the judgement” Hebrews 9:27 KJV, italics added. A Christian theological understanding of man would assert that we don’t come back in some other form as taught in Spiritism or Hinduism.
2I have however in my limited contact with this person over the years encouraged them along the lines of deeper Bible study. It grieves me to think that someone could be in church for so many years and hold to views that are so far from orthodox. However, there are times when spiritual confrontation is appropriate.
3This is for their benefit (to avoid being under judgement, as in today’s opening verses) and to prevent them from causing “little ones”(which can be literal in terms of children, or figurative in terms of people new to the faith) to stumble.
Note: Wikipedia is not the best place to go for Christian theology. Better to check out a textbook like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology or Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology, reviewed here. Even browsing the table of contents will give you a list that, while similar to the one above, will provide a more authoritative list of areas of emphasis.
April 23, 2014
November 13, 2013
August 9, 2013
Full disclosure: This is the THIRD time I’ve reblogged this piece, which is actually a pre-Easter article that Pete Wilson wrote which I’ve adapted into a non-seasonal piece. Timing is everything with this, Pete’s own kids are already back to school this week. It seems fitting to remind ourselves of these priorities as the heat of summer gives way to regrouping our forces with a fresh intensity…
Like many of you I’m up to my eyeballs in the details and logistics … I’m distracted, maybe a little stressed and certainly carrying all kind of concerns. But I just want to issue this challenge to all of us…
Pastors, I pray you’ll preach the hope of Jesus Christ like never before. Preach as if you were there the day it happened and is if this were the last message you are ever going to give!
Worship Leaders, I pray you’ll lead worship with the same awe and amazement as if you just watched the stone roll away. Whether you have lights or no lights, production or no production, may they see the wonder and awe in your eyes and voice that you actually believe what it is you’re singing.
Kids’ Teachers, I pray you look your kids in the eyes and use every bit of passion, energy, and excitement you have to tell them a story that can and will impact their life forever.
Volunteers, I pray you’ll serve, sing, hand out programs, park cars, turn knobs, and make coffee as if eternities were on the line, because they are!
Worshipers, I pray you’ll open your heart and raise your voice and pour out all you have and all you are in honor of a God who has defeated death so you may have life.
I pray [each] weekend we’ll all drop our cynicism, egos, and agendas and will stand amazed and marvel at the wonder of a God who has set us free from the penalty and the power of sin
Pete Wilson; senior pastor of Cross Point; Nashville, TN
November 28, 2012
October 2, 2012
I don’t hear voices. But on Monday I felt an unmistakable prompt to put a devotional here on Thinking Out Loud. My first response was, “No, that’s what Christianity 201 was created for.” But sometimes you do better to listen to those prompts. So here it is. The author, Cloudwatcher writes from a land down under, is a frequent contributor and comment-er at C201, and at 74-years young, is possibly the eldest writer in this blog’s blogroll with her blog, Meeting in the Clouds. To read this at source, click here.
Oscar Hammerstein II wrote,
“A year or so ago, on the cover of the New York Herald Tribune Sunday magazine, I saw a picture of the Statue of Liberty, taken from a helicopter and it showed the top of the statue’s head. I was amazed at the detail there. The sculptor had done a painstaking job with the lady’s coiffure, and yet he must have been pretty sure that the only eyes that would ever see this detail would be the uncritical eyes of sea gulls. He could not have dreamt that any man would ever fly over this head. He was artist enough, however, to finish off this part of the statue with as much care as he had devoted to her face and her arms, and the torch and everything that people can see as they sail up the bay.”
We can well ask WHY?
Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was the sculptor. He went from France to Egypt in 1856 and was awestruck by the grandeur of the pyramids and the beauty of the stately Sphinx of the desert. His artistic mind was stimulated. Taken by the concept, he decided to design something out of the ordinary. He worked on the concept for 10 years, changing the design many times until he was satisfied.
The result was a colossal robed lady that stood taller than the Sphinx. She held the books of justice in one hand and a torch lifted high in the other. After Bartholdi returned to France, the French government sought his artistic services. His 10 years of planning and designing culminated in the Statue of Liberty lighting the New York harbor.
The statue of Liberty was built in the late 1800’s. The Statue was completed in France in July, 1884 and arrived in New York Harbor in June 1885. In transit, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. The Statue was re-assembled on her new pedestal in four months. The dedication of the Statue of Liberty took place in front of thousands of spectators October 28th 1886. President Grover Cleveland, the former New York governor, presided over the event.
The Statue of Liberty stands 305 feet 1 inch or 93 meters in height from the base to the top of the torch.
No planes flew at that time. There were no high rises. It was not until many years later that airplanes were able to fly above it and the exquisite details and beauty of the top of the head could be observed. Bartholdi could have reasonably argued that such detail on the top was not necessary.
WHY did he, on such a massive job, take so much trouble
on something that he thought would never be seen?
We see another example of such integrity in the work of MICHELANGELO in his four years labor (1508-12) in painting the very high ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The painted area is about 40 m (131 ft) long by 13 m (43 ft) wide. This means that he painted well over 5,000 square feet (460 m2) of frescoes, carefully perfecting the tiniest details of each figure he painted.
A friend asked him WHY he took such pains, since the figures would only be seen from a great distance, and no one would be able to discern such perfection.
The artist simply answered “I will!”
Integrity is MORE than NOT being deceitful or slipshod.
For the Christian, it means doing everything ‘heartily as unto the Lord‘
And whatever you do, do it heartily,
as to the Lord and not unto men;
knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward;
for you serve the Lord Christ
We are not called to build a sculptural masterpiece or a great work of art, but the same principle applies. If no one ever knows of our efforts, our work ethics should be the same.
When it comes to ANYTHING in Christian service,
whether it is ministering to a lonely or needy person,
or sharing the Gospel message,
or singing in the choir,
or teaching children,
or cleaning the Church,
or working behind the scenes,
or playing a major role,
or whatever we do,
we should give 100-plus percent even to the tiniest detail
which “no one will ever notice”.
Our Father will and we serve Him.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
August 15, 2012
Found this at the blog of Paul Clark, Vision Meets Reality. While this may seem basic to some of you, IMHO you can never emphasize these essentials enough. The temptation is to read this too quickly. Slow down and ask yourself how your church ranks according to these criteria. For those who want to read at source, click this link.
Along with sound theology, we also believe that there are other elements that make up a healthy church: At Fairhaven Church, where I’ve served for 10 years, we have identified 13 measures that we believe define a healthy church. We’ve created a dashboard report around these measures which our leadership and Board review each month.
- People are coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
- Our missions program is expanding locally, nationally and globally.
- People are making public professions of faith through baptism.
- Attendance in worship services is increasing.
- The worship experience is vibrant, enthusiastic and intergenerational.
- There is broad participation in serving throughout the ministries.
- New ministries are beginning as God imparts vision.
- Guests are being connected to church life.
- Covenant membership is increasing.
- Our budgetary needs are being met.
- Leaders are being developed and placed in ministry roles.
- Scripture is central to our message.
- Staff relationships are healthy.
Wednesday Link List returns next week.