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Sunday, July 13, 2008

But as for you,

communicate the behavior that goes with sound teaching. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance. ... Encourage younger men likewise to be self-controlled, showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and a sound message that cannot be criticized, so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us. ... in order to bring credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So communicate these things with the sort of exhortation or rebuke that carries full authority. Don’t let anyone look down on you.
(Titus 2:1-3, 6-8, 11-14, 15) NET

Wow. As I was reading through the book of Titus today, these verses in chapter 2 really stuck out and challenged me. I pray that these words from God speak into your heart and mind as well.


three books

Over the last two weeks I spent some time reading and wanted to share some thoughts of three book that were, if anything, wildly different from each other:

Predictably Irrational

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. On the order of Freakonomics, an economist has done a good bit of research and experimentation on humans (hey, no animals were hurt!), and our social behaviors. The thesis of this book is the incredulous and frequent irrationality that humans react with, and so much so that it is predictable, and without much logic, or rationale. Many people are aware of this and have used this knowledge for marketing, programming, etc.

An insightful book with a lot of fine lessons and questions brought up by Ariely, but to me the bottom line is: you are not as in control, or as logical, or as sharp, as you may think you are. Don’t be offended. This book should humble you as you become more aware of what you may have thought are your unique and individual preferences and habits. Each of us is wonderfully unique and we all have our personal preferences, but Ariely shows us that we are all very much alike in that we don’t seem to be able to make very rational choices. Enjoy the odd perspectives by which Ariely researches and the variety of his studies to deepen your understanding of yourself and others. This book hints strongly along the lines of Blink, a book I highly recommend about our unconscious habits and gut instincts.

The Shack

The Shack, by William P. Young. I do not read much fiction to begin with, and I had only heard negative, or at least questionable, things about this book, so it was possibly a book that I would never, ever read. However, a friend challenged me to read it with the caveat that it might be a book that could change my life. Fancy that. Well, it did change my life: I can now add it along with many other books in my growing library. But other that that, I can assure that I will not look back on my time spent reading this as ‘defining’ for shaping my theology or my psychology (two things that could always use challenge and growth). The story is not that remarkable, and other than the radical and eclectic characters of God that Young draws up, it really is not that exciting to read. It was sound enough theologically, and hit a high note in terms of explaining the ways in which one could expect God to have us react as we come to know His love.

One line from the book that will stay with me for along time (probably b/c it rings well with my attitude of wishing authenticity in people) is: “Take the risks of honesty”. Wow. Wonder what it would be like if we could all do that more?

If you like to read great stories and want to learn more about how God is causing people to react with His love, I suggest reading “Same Kind of Different as Me” (its not only a page turner and wonderfully written, but it’s beautiful because it is not fiction!!)

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, by D.A Carson. This is a brilliant book and my favorite of the three, likely because it is primarily discussing God from a trusted writer, pastor, and scholar.

It seems that the way that we humans have centralized God’s “major” purposes have changed somewhat over time. There were eras where the focus were the dogmas (doctrines) of our faith, or maybe the humanity of Jesus, or the unity of God’s people, and the universal church (for more about theology and what that really is, I recommend reading “Who Needs Theology?” here is a brief post).

But nowadays it is God and His love that is a more central theme by which we present God. This is great, mind you, because God is love, and He alone gives and shows pure love. That has always been true, and has always been presented by His church.

However, the bend that we seem to be on in our culture is to over-sensualize and, quite frankly, simplify, God’s love to merely human terms, emotions, and understanding. Hey, we are human, and this side of eternity we’re not going to get the fullest understanding of God and His awesome love, but God has revealed His love through Jesus Christ and He has given us His Word (the Bible), by which we can come to a responsible and sound understanding of what real love looks like. It is in this context that Carson explains a sound, doctrinal understanding of the truth of God’s love, and it is more loving and lasting than what is coming across in a lot of teaching and preaching lately.

Bless you,

Saturday, July 05, 2008

what is your reason?

"I have a hope in God... This is the reason I do my best to always have a clear conscience toward God and toward people." Acts 24:15,16

Paul was in court and is continuing his defense of any wrongdoing against the Jewish people, their laws and faith, and against any Roman laws. Paul had been thrown in jail and was being persecuted for standing up for his faith in Jesus Christ. Here he has the leaders of the institutionalized religion that his own faith and heritage stemmed from (Judaism), and Paul has to give testimony that he was speaking the truth and they were wrong. They had no idea how wrong they were.

We can speculate on the reason for their blindness. Maybe it was unwillingness to admit they were wrong about their lives, or bad interpretations of the Scriptures and the prophecies pointing to Jesus as their Messiah, or maybe it was their thirst for power and control of what faith is, and should be. I think it was likely all of these, and though we may never know for sure, we do know that when the Light of the world (Jesus) came, He was not recognized and His own people did not accept Him (see John 1:1 -11).

From his many letters in the New Testament, we do know how Paul intended to live and what he believed. Paul's hope was in Jesus' resurrection, and Paul was willing to stand up for the truth of his faith. In this one verse, Paul gives us plenty to learn from as he tells us that he gives his best to stand on the truth of his fath, and that he does this with a clean conscience because he loved God and people.

Paul did not live a life of testifying and suffering for Jesus so that he could be popular, or for the love of money, for power, or for position. Paul was not a people pleasing glad-hander. He was not in court because of selfish ambition, or vain conceit, to get ahead in society or to boon his career. Paul wasn't in prison because he had made some mistakes in understanding what Jesus did, or because he misinterpreted the Scriptures.

I have been reading and meditating on these verses quite a bit lately, and I believe it just might be starting sink in. As I begin to study it, or as a wonderful Pastor has said recently, let it study me (cf Hebrews 4:12), I am deeply challenged and struggling as God does heart surgery. The struggle is just being honest to evaluate whatever I do, and why I am doing what I do, to find out if I am really doing my best, and giving my all, for the truth of my faith. Which should be, as Paul states above, because I have a hope in God. Stop. Read it once more. Because of hope in God.

And this is where the studying really begins: What is our reason? What is it that we hope in? Is it true (trustworthy)? Do you know the truth of your faith? Do you believe in true things?

With belief comes action, and here is the quick breakdown of how it works:

- What you believe affects how you think,

- What you think affects how you feel,

- How you feel affects how you will live.

So, how is your living working for you? Does faith in Jesus have a real part in your living? How does this faith actually play out? Do you live out faith the way that Jesus taught, and lived? Does our faith look like the same faith that Paul, along with the other biblical writers, wrote, taught and lived? Are the things we do consistent with the whole of Scripture?

Take each moment of the things you are doing and ask if the reason you are doing it is because of the hope you have in God, or is it for something else?

What is your reason?