Monthly Archives: January 2014

Theology Thursday: Covenant of Grace

Standard

From CreationSwap

Welcome back to Theology Thursday! I left you hanging a bit on my last post about covenants. I’m probably not sorry for it though because maybe that means you’ve come back to hear more. ūüôā

Let’s recap. The Covenant of Grace is summed up in two simple statements: God did it all. We reap the benefits. God chose to make a covenant with mankind, and by doing this, He also fulfills the requirements of the covenant for both Him and us. We saw this in the story of God and Abram in Genesis 15, and we find the fulfillment of the covenant at the cross and resurrection.

Christ came as the fulfillment of the covenant. It’s a thing of beauty. Because Jesus is both God and man, He is perfectly able to fulfill the requirements of both sides of the covenant. Just like Abram, we could not keep the covenant, so He did it for us. But this time, unlike the story of Abram, Jesus tangibly became the sacrifice that met the requirement of the covenant. He gave His blood and His body like those animals which Abram dissected and God walked through. Only this time, the effects became permanent. The all-sufficient sacrifice.

You might be wondering¬†why He had to give His blood (and let’s get one thing straight, He didn’t HAVE to give it. He WILLINGLY gave His life – John 10:11,15, 17). What’s up with all the blood?!? Let me take you through a quick trip of the Old Testament concerning the issue of blood (or sacrifice).

Genesis 9:4 – God tells them not to eat an animal that still has it’s blood in it because “the life is in the blood.”

Genesis 9:6 – God then goes on to say never to kill a person because man is made “in God’s image” and from the dead person’s blood, the murderer’s blood will be demanded.

Exodus 12:13 – God tells the Hebrews to paint the blood of a lamb (that they were to kill themselves) on their doorposts and that when He saw it, He would “pass over” them (in other words, not kill them).

Exodus 24:8, 29:12, 29:20-21 – God instructs the sprinkling or splashing of blood on the people, on the altar/horns of the altar, and on His priests as a way to consecrate them.

Leviticus 17:11 (also v. 14) – “For the life of the flesh is in the¬†blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the¬†blood¬†that makes atonement by the life.” **major verse**

You can see that the life of a person or animal is in the blood, and for there to be a proper atonement for sins, there must be the surrendering of life – or blood as we’ve learned here. God made a covenant,

  • starting with Adam (and there was shedding of blood – remember the animals God had to kill in order to clothe them?),
  • then with Noah (God makes the covenant after MUCH blood was shed in the flood and required sacrifices after they got off the ark – Genesis 8:1-9:17),
  • then with Abram (we already saw the shedding of blood in this story – Genesis 15),
  • then with David (this breaks a little from the issue of blood/sacrifice and is a promise of an everlasting kingdom – 2 Samuel 7),
  • and finding it’s fulfillment in Christ (Jesus, at the Last Supper, holds up the wine and bread signifying His blood and body, given to us as the “new covenant in [His] blood” Luke 22:20 and see also Hebrews 8-10 for further explanation).

It’s enough information to make your head spin…I realize this. So why does it matter? I could take this in a million directions because there really are lots of reasons why this matters, but let’s keep it simple. We were hopeless to save ourselves from sin, and trust me, everyone has a sin problem. We’re born with it. (I feel another Theology Thursday post coming on…) God comes to us, offering a relationship in the form of a covenant, and it is literally our only hope. Only a perfect sacrifice (the blood) can cover the effects of our sin, and He knows we don’t measure up (it’s that whole sin thing again…we just aren’t pure). So His plan is to be both the One who offers the relationship and the one who makes us acceptable to be in relationship with Him. ¬†God did it all. We reap the benefits.

We can go before Him in full confidence knowing that we are acceptable to Him because Christ was the acceptable sacrifice. We no longer approach the holy Father as strangers covered in the dirtiness of our own sin but as children covered by the¬†blood¬†of His perfect Son. He sprinkles it on us, and we are made pure…holy…consecrated for His divine purpose. Are we sinless? No. But the good news is that He empowers us to follow Him, giving us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

So what’s your response to this generous God?

Advertisements

A Guide for the Unsettled Seeker

Standard

From CreationSwap

Here we go again. Off to another church. Will this one have Sunday school or just “Lifegroups”? Do they have a women’s ministry? What about for men? What do they say about certain doctrines? Does the pastor preach topically or expositorally? What is their worship service like? What can I expect from their children’s ministry?

You may have been in this situation before and have asked some of these same questions (or should have asked them!). You move to a new town or simply determine that you want a change in where you worship. You get this feeling that you’ll never quite find that place to call “home.” Why is this such a big deal?

I thought it would be challenging to feel “settled” as we wait to move into our new home, but I never knew how unsettled I would feel as we church hop each week. It is that same feeling I wrote about in my post on Craving Connection. We want to feel connected to the Body of Christ not only for our benefit but for our desire to serve in the Body.

Here are a few things I’ve learned through this small journey to finding a “church home”:

1) It’s incredibly hard not to compare former pastors with these “potential” pastors at each church we try. I’ve decided we were rather spoiled at our former church because we had a pastor who faithfully preached the word in a dynamic way so as to keep our attention while at the same time challenging us to think and to live out what he preached. It was no fluff, let me tell ya. My litmus test these days, unfortunately, is whether or not I can stay awake (and trust me, I NEVER fell asleep at my old church).

2) Closely related to my first point, it’s important to let your pastor know how he’s impacted you in the way he serves your church. A lot of people sitting in the Sunday morning pews have no idea how fortunate they are to sit under the teaching of a well-rounded pastor. Can we just clone the good ones? Is this too much to ask?? (Note to everyone at IBC: You should go tell Dr. Fisher how much you appreciate him. Go.)

3) It takes time to find where you should serve. This is true of you even if you already have a church home. What is more, you should be asking yourself this question if you aren’t serving somewhere already. Does the church have ministries that you are already interested in (women’s, children’s, missions, etc.)? Is there a need in the church for someone to lead a particular ministry (service, reaching singles, college)? It’s a fine balance to determine what¬†you want from the church and how you can¬†serve in the church.

4) There are far too many churches that are going with “trendy” rather than “truth“. Like I alluded to above, I’ve heard a few “fluffy” messages…ones that have very little substance. This tells me something very alarming about church-goers today–they like the fluff. UGH. I’m not ok with this! This also tells me something about the pastors–they’re either lazy and don’t take the time to prepare a really great sermon, complete with illustrations and packed with the Word of God OR they have lost the purpose of being a pastor…preach the Word faithfully, guide and protect the flock.

I’m sure I could go on for eons about what I’ve learned, but because that part of me that says I have to have a point is yelling at me, I must stop here. I challenge you who are searching for a church home, think and pray about what kind of message you’ll be getting every week. Also research what the church offers for you and as a way for you to serve (what you can offer to the church).

For you who already have a church home, I encourage you to consider how you can serve as a part of that Body. It will look different for you than it does for your best friend…and this is ok, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Also take a good hard look at the messages that your pastor presents. Is the Word of God primary or is it an afterthought? Does he jump from topic to topic without a seeming goal in mind or does he have a plan for your church as he goes through a sermon series or book of the Bible? Do you fall asleep? (ha! just kidding…that could be your problem, you know.) May you never be satisfied with “fluff“, my friend.

Introducing: Theology Thursdays

Standard

One of my favorite things to talk about is the Bible. Related to this, I also LOVE theology. I took three systematic theology graduate courses about five years ago, and I have been hooked ever since. I’m hoping you’ll be hooked too after enjoying some of my posts related to theology. I’m definitely no expert, but I certainly love to think about these things (and you should too).

The reason that theology is so interesting to me is not just for the benefit of knowing something that sounds intelligent, but it has more to do with what we do with the theology¬†behind the passage. It’s the famous, “so what?” question. Sure, it’s nice to know things that scholars love to dig into and research, but what will we do with it for our lives? If we have knowledge but are completely unchanged by what we know, is it really worth knowing? That’s why I’m writing Theology Thursdays (although it remains to be seen if I will actually stick with Thursdays…we shall see).

One of my favorite topics in the theology course had to do with covenants. There are varying views concerning this topic alone, but for my post, I’ll be looking at covenant theology (rather than dispensationalism…if you don’t even know what that is, great, neither do I, really! haha). Also please note that this is going to be very brief so you don’t get bored ūüėČ

You are wondering what is meant by covenantal theology (right? please say yes). To boil it down: God did it all. We reap the benefits. Seriously! That’s it. But for those who aren’t really satisfied with that answer. I’ll give the main points from one of my lectures (Systematic Theology III with Douglas Kelly at RTS).

1. God sovereignly establishes the covenant.

I can almost hear you saying, “ok, and?” Well, it means that God is the one who initiated the covenant. What covenant, you ask? The covenant of grace. It is every covenant (or promise) that God makes with every human in the Bible (starting with Adam, then Noah, Abraham, David, and finding its fulfillment in Jesus). I’m not talking about the promises like Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you…), but about true covenantal promises that have to do with God initiating the promise and expecting the individual to agree to the terms. In other words both God and the individual are committed to the covenant. (Something else that can get confusing is the issue of multiple covenants. The way covenantal theology sees it is, God makes one covenant – the covenant of grace – and each of the successive covenants are just a part of the greater covenant. I believe this is one point that differs from the dispensational view.) It is important to note that a covenant is an agreement between two parties. This comes in handy later, trust me.

2. God sovereignly administers the covenant.

Establish. Administer. Po-tay-to. Po-tah-to. No, it’s actually not the same thing just said in a different way. In this point, God determines the nature of the relationship to the covenant and the obligations for the individuals agreeing to the covenant. In other words, man doesn’t get to bargain with God about the terms. God sets it up.

3. God sovereignly fulfills the conditions of the covenant.

EEEeeeeEE! This may be my favorite part. ūüôā You see, when two individuals enter into a covenant, both are required to fulfill their side of the bargain. If one party does not keep his end of the covenant, it means death for him (there is a great video by Ray VanDerlaan on this very topic). Do you remember when God makes the covenant with Abraham (then Abram) and has him cut up several animals, then God (the smoking firepot and flaming torch) “walks” through the blood? (You’ll find that in Genesis 15.) It was a very sobering moment for Abram because when God did this, He essentially said, “may this happen to Me if I do not hold up My side of the covenant.” But what about Abram? He didn’t walk through the blood! This is because God¬†elects to fulfill the conditions of the covenant for both Him and Abram (we’ll see an even greater picture of this in Christ). The main point here is that none of us could possibly hold true to the covenant with God, and He knows it.

4. God sovereignly sustains the covenant.

If this doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will (especially since the last point was pretty awesome too). God by His will empowers believers to fulfill the requirements of the covenant. In other words, it is Him at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” He gives us faith, leads us to repentance, softens our hearts for obedience (all important requirements in keeping the covenant). It’s absolutely beautiful. Take it in. He gives us everything we need to be faithful in covenant to Him. Only my God would think of doing something like that.

So there it is! Four points about covenants. Sorry it ended up being a little longer than I originally thought! There’s so much more I wanted to say…maybe another day. ūüôā Stay tuned for the “so what” discussion (since that is, after all, why I wanted to write about theology in the first place!).

They Call Me “Mom”

Standard

I’ve been debating when I should write about this particular topic. It’s a bit of a touchy issue for a lot of people. But here I go anyway!

For anyone who knows me, you are aware that I value womanhood but not in a femi-nazi sort of way. I started a class at my old church (boo hoo, I miss you ladies) on the role of women as explained in the Bible. This sets off all kinds of red flags for a lot of women because many of you automatically assume I mean “you have to be a stay-at-home-mom, homeschool your children, cook gourmet meals every day, keep a spotless home, and serve your brains out by being completely hospitable all the time” (or any other combination of “that woman”). It’s just unfair! That could be several examples of different ways women express their God-given roles, but I seriously doubt that every¬†woman could do all of those things (or should do them…). For this post, I’m only going to hone in on one particular role: mother.

I wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed of being a mom. I know, stone me now, what kind of a mother am I anyway?! Well, I’m one of those mothers who has grown into her role as a mom. And I’m still growing… But I definitely believe in the importance of being a mom and raising the children God has given me. I just don’t feel like I’m very good at it. Yet.

You see, I had lots of dreams about what I wanted to do with my life (I know, it sounds awfully selfish written out like that). I was going to get my master’s degree and start out in a great job then have children. I am a planner. This was my plan. But God had the real plan, and enter at stage right, my first child. All of the sudden my perspective changed. I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, so this new addition to our family meant I would be staying home. No master’s degree. No great job. No pats on the back for a job well done.

I began to learn very quickly that mothers, particularly those who don’t work outside of the home, get stuck in a vicious cycle known as “it’s never enough.” No matter what you do all day long, you feel like you don’t have anything to show for it. So what do you do to remedy this awful feeling? Enter stage left: works. Anything that makes you feel like you’re doing something that gets results. It could be ministry. It could be volunteering for a noble cause. It could be part-time work. Anything but parenting and taking care of the home (because who wants to work at something that doesn’t get immediate results??).

The world tricks you into thinking that what you do in the home is not “real” work. It gives you no warm fuzzies (only occasionally when that one child does the cutest dance you’ve ever seen or picks up his toys without you asking). It tells you that what you’re doing is not worthwhile because you can’t see immediate progress (and who decides what is actually progress anyway?). And let’s be honest, we believe it almost all the time. When you aren’t acknowledged for that brilliant way you handled a sibling tussle or how you prepared a meal that turned out perfectly, even according to Emeril’s standards, you get discouraged. You begin to question if you’re doing this whole mothering thing right. You wonder if it’s really worth it.

Now take away all those “works” and all those voices that whisper (or scream) that you’re wasting your time. That’s kind of what has happened to me in the last 2 months. When you move to a new place, all you have are each other. You have no church home (yet) where you can serve (cross off ministry). You don’t have a place to volunteer because frankly, you’re still trying to figure out how to get the grocery store to buy food for your family (cross off noble causes). You have no part-time work and no desire to try to look for any for that matter (cross off that job that you can measure your success at). But you do have your children and husband. Suddenly I’m getting better at being a mom because that’s all I have right now!

Those distractions (though they can be very good things to do, don’t get me wrong…it’s all in the motives and in the calling) have become less and less, and I’m able to see with more clarity what I can be doing with my boys right now. Does that mean I’ve got every minute filled with exciting science projects, fun new adventures around the neighborhood, educational field trips, creative snacks and games? No. I told you I’m a mom, not super woman (P.S. neither is anyone else in this world…she doesn’t exist). However I am taking the time to settle into this mom role. Those boys are worth it. One day they’ll be our leaders, and I don’t want anyone looking at me wondering what’s gone wrong with our society. I’m taking this thing seriously, and I hope you do too. After all, we’re not doing this for anyone on this earth. What God¬†thinks is what really matters in the end. He is our standard and the One who determines real success.

So please, be encouraged today if you are a mother. What you do in the home¬†is¬† important because God says it’s important. Remember that Abraham wasn’t running around the country speaking at men’s groups or volunteering at the soup kitchen to find his worth. He already found it in his God. And this God expected him to go to a new land in faith that God would bring about a promise that he could not even fathom. Later this same God speaks to the Israelites (Abraham’s legacy) about what they are to do – “teach these things to your children…” (Deut. 4:9). No big audiences. No pats on the back. I’m sure God expected Abraham to teach his children who his God was. He¬†was to be found faithful with what God had given him, and I believe you’ll find that he did just that (see the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 and Genesis 12-23).¬†May we be found in that last day as women of faith who did well with what He has given us.

P.S. I’m speaking from a stay-at-home-mom viewpoint. I am in no way downplaying a mother who also works outside of the home because I have a feeling she also deals with some of the same issues I face. My desire is to encourage all mothers to see the importance of what they do in the home whether or not they are there 24-7. Whew. I feel better now that I got that off my chest…

You are Loved

Standard

I stood there weeping as the song “How He Loves” by David Crowder played. I am pregnant, so I guess it’s okay to ball like a baby during a worship song at the church. Or maybe it was something else that day…

We had a very long weekend because my husband, Eric, was off on Friday and then we had a wedding to attend on Saturday (more than 250 miles away I might add). I was in an unusually poor mood all weekend which I suppose comes with the territory of having a melancholy personality (joy). So as I walked into this church we’ve been trying out for the last 3 weeks, I was ready for a thorough heart washing. After being in such a funk, I typically beat myself up and expect God also to be hard on me for some reason. Chastisement. Correction. All a part of the Sanctification process, right?

It’s a funny thing to expect a certain response (anger, chastisement, disappointment) and to get a response completely opposite of what you dreaded. This is what I heard instead:

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us.

Sometimes, you just need to be reminded. He loves you so.

And when you least expect to be treated with grace, He pours it out lavishly so that your heart is full of His love and cannot possibly hold a single drop of condemnation. Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.

He is jealous for me. He is not willing to leave me stuck in my sin, barely keeping afloat in a storm cloud of crazy emotions. Sometimes that jealousy looks like a fierce removal of anything not of Him and sometimes it just looks like love (and maybe sometimes a mixture of both).

I think this is what the woman felt like who was forgiven much. Instead of condemnation, she received forgiveness. She loved much because she’d been forgiven much. (You can find her story at the end of Luke 7.)

How He loves you so. Consider yourself reminded ūüėČ

 

P.S. I’m okay now ūüôā I think…

The Bible – it’s alive!

Standard

You’ve probably heard the passage:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

And then you’ve probably wondered, “what exactly does it mean that the Bible is living? active?”

Me too, actually.

Have you ever read a passage (let’s say from Philippians), and you were struck by a verse, right to the heart, and at that moment, it was the most profound thing you’d ever read? But then you go back to that same passage months later, or even a year after your initial reading, and suddenly, you’re struck again but in a completely different way? THAT is what I’m talking about. It is alive! This is possibly the best news ever.

Here’s the reason why… Haven’t you ever been in a place in which you were desperate to encounter God or receive encouragement from His word or get help for a particular sin? Maybe you read your daily Bible reading, and it just didn’t do anything for you. You begin to think, “what’s wrong with me that I don’t get anything out of this Bible?” But then, you keep reading…and reading. And suddenly you begin to experience what the writer of Hebrews talked about. It pierces your soul. It discerns your thoughts. You start to change. It’s alive in you.

There is never a moment in which God’s word takes a break from working in your heart and mind. It is ACTIVE. Just when you begin to despair over a life circumstance or a particular sin that you can’t seem to overcome, His word penetrates those places of greatest need and you walk away changed.¬†

God so desires for you to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He uses His own words to break up the rough soil in our hearts and plants His truth there. It’s not just words on a page. They are words that have the power to transform our very lives.