Friday, January 30, 2009

Questions For Self-Reflection And Evaluation

I recently started reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. In it, Foster issues a call for depth over against superficiality. He says: “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”

I was really struck by this statement, and it occurred to me that one of the great obstacles to depth is never taking time for self-reflection and honest evaluation before God.

When I was serving as an RA at Calvary, I drafted a set of questions for daily evaluation and posted them on a cork board that came with the dormitory computer desk. Whenever I sat down at my computer (which was an awful lot!), I saw those questions.

When I came back to Denver last year, I didn’t have anywhere very good in my room to post the questions (my computer desk at home is a card table) and eventually forgot about them.

I came across them again today while working on a project for CEF. It was a timely reminder from God about one way I can pursue the “depth” that Richard Foster talks about. Here they are, re-written a bit to reflect my current context:

1. What have I done today to develop intimacy with the text of Holy Scripture? Did I seek to listen to what God was saying? What have I done differently today as a result? How is my life different?

2. Have I practiced having a glad and sincere heart today? Have I said any prayers of thanksgiving?

3. Did I set aside time today to intercede in prayer for BVC Regeneration, the CEF staff, this year’s summer missionaries, my financial supporters, or my prayer team?

4. Have I helped someone today? Did I seek opportunities to help someone?

5. Have I spoken any words of affirmation to someone today?

6. What have I done today to make disciples? Is there a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy in my life? What am I doing this week to get outside of my Christian bubble?

7. Has my stewardship today been characterized by simplicity and generosity, or by consumerism?

8. What has been the depth and direction of my thought life today?

9. Have I engaged fully today? Alternately, have I taken time for Sabbath rest? Did I give myself margin in my schedule?

10. There is a difference between activity and accomplishment. Which of these characterized my work today?

11. Have I been at all lazy or slothful today? Have I entertained any flirtatious or lustful thoughts or attitudes? Is there anything I need to repent of?

12. Are there any conflicts I need to address or relationships I need to mend?

13. Have I done something today to exercise my intellect and develop my mind?

14. Did I exercise today? What did I eat and drink?

I found reading through these again today to be personally quite helpful, and I hope they can be of help to the community.

What do you think? If you had to draft something similar, what would your questions look like?

Monday, January 26, 2009


For those who may be interested in the formal formulation of the incarnation, here is the text of the Definition of Chalcedon, from the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. This has been the standard of orthodoxy since that time:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us. (Source, including the original Greek wording)

One of the difficulties that I felt in preparing the message this week was in not being able to adequately express the glory and mystery and greatness of God that the Incarnation demonstrates. I can only pray that God will take the words of Scripture and press them into our hearts through the Holy Spirit so that we will embrace Jesus as Lord and Christ with all that we are.

The other difficulty that I felt was in not being able to draw out all of the implications of the incarnation for us as believers in Christ. Perhaps we can tag on more here at the blog than the three that I highlighted in the message (i.e. we can worship Jesus, we can know God, and we can live a new life). What do you think? What are some other implications of the incarnation for the way we think or live?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Transcendence & Immanence

I have not been able to write up a sermon summary yet, but here are my notes for part two of six in our theology series: What Christians Believe: Transcendence & Immanence.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Little Wonders

Last night, in his sermon on transcendence and immanence, Andrew mentioned something that got me thinking a lot.
He used the term "little wonders", or something similar, to describe the little things that God reveals of Himself to us on any given day. Andrew said that since we live in a world torn by Satan, sin and death, God knows that we need little pick-me-ups in the day to keep us going.
I was pondering what my "little wonders" have been, and the answer came right away: At my work, I see about two hundred Little Wonders every week! I've been having such a bad attitude about my job, and I don't know why. But I have resolved to try to think of it as the place where I meet all my "little wonders". I would have a harder time seeing the small miracles of God if I stayed home in my robe and drank tea all day and played Mario Kart on the Wii (although as a vacation, that sounds awesome!). Instead, I drive half an hour to and from work four days a week to witness the miracles that each have a name and a face. I am so blessed! What do I have to complain about?
This brings me to two points. Hopefully I am not spoiling a surprise, but it will be awesome that we are going to have a sermon series on work coming up soon in Regen. Hurray!
And two: I want to know what "little wonders" God has been revealing Himself through for all of you, my friends? Let us all hear them and praise God together.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Trinity

Finally, my first post in some time. This is our first installment of a short series of selected topics on theology. Much of my material here is from Louis Berkhof, Stanley Grenz, and Millard Erickson.

1) What is theology?
- a term derived from "God" and "word/study," so formally it is the study of God.
- It has regretably grown out of style but essentially been replaced by words like "biblical" or "worldview," both of which incompass the same idea.
- Theology is what Christians believe and how it affects what they do in all aspects of life. Every Christians is a theologian and needs reflect on their God and their life theologically so we can be "in the world but not of the world." Jn 17:6-18

2) How do we do theology?
- Traditional there are four sources of theology, for protestants in order of importance: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience
- Ours is an age where experience rules and tradition is culturally relative and this is where the order is important. The only constant in this entire process is Scripture and it needs the most prominence and all else is subjected to it. Experience itself should never become a means of interpreting something in isolation. That is, always speak with your church community about your experience with God so that you may gain from the wisdom God has provided you and not ruled by your emotions.
- The way I stated how theology is done at the present moment: Theology is the result of reflection on Scripture, clarified by Tradition, explained by reason and tested by experience.

For the trinity Grenz states it well in Theology for the Community of God. When he says that the early church had to reconcile the reality that the Bible teaches that there is one God and that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.

3) What is the Trinity?
- A shorthand term for the reality of one God who exists in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- It is the very being of God and thus foundational for all other topics.
- A universal belief of all Christian traditions, on this we are clearly united.

4) Old Testament Support
- Gen 1:26; 11:7. The plural language is best understood as God's fullness being present in creation which upon the further revelation of the New Testament as the Trinity.
- "Angel of the Lord" or other theophanies. Gen 16:7-13; 18:1-21; 19:1-28; Mal 3:1
- God, Messiah, and Holy Spirit. Is 48:16; 61:1; 63:9-10

5) New Testament combined with Old
- God is savior of his people (OT) more clearly Jesus Christ is the Redeemer and Savior of all people. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:76-79; 2:17; Jn 4:42; Acts 5:3; Gal 3:13; 4:5; Ph 3:30; Tit 2:13-14
- God dwells among his people and moves their hearts (OT), more clearly, the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church (believers)
Acts 2:4; Rom 8:9-11; 1 Cor 3:16; Gal 4:6; Eph 2:22; Jas 4:5
- God sends the Son, Jn 3:16; Gal 4:4
- Father and Son send the Spirit, Jn 14:26; 15:26; Gal 4:6
- All three clearly seen in the baptism of Jesus and great commission, Mt 3:16, 17; 28:19
- Named together, 1 Cor 12:4-6; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Pet 1:2

6) Summarizing the important points
- God is One, The Divine Being has one indivisible essence
Deut 6:4; Ex 20:2-3; Mt 22:34-40; Jas 2:19
- “Three-in-one-ness,” Three individual subsistences or persons
Mt 3:16-17; Mt 28:18-20; 1 Cor 12:4-6;
- Undivided and Equal in Belonging
- All are equally God and are equally holy, righteous, merciful, powerful, etc.
- Completely involved in all acts together, never separate
- Subordinate in how they relate or work in creation but not in essential being.
I understand this is a controversial topic these days which is basically the result of people thinking equality is an absolute term as if we cannot make distinctions in what a being does and what is its nature. These tendencies are seen in the homosexial debate and gender roles. The modal distincation of Francis Suarez helps us in this matter (for you metaphycians out there). What a being does is not identical to what it is, though its act is necessarily dependent upon its nature but its nature is not dependent upon its act (c.f. JP Moreland, Univerals). I believe that functional subordination and ontological equality can be maintained, and well trained theologians in philosophy do so without serious difficulty. Its symantics and culturally people do not like the term "subordination" because they ascribe to it a negative connotation of inequality.
- How Father, Son and Holy Spirit works together
- Thus “all things are out of the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.”

Berkhof, “Just as human nature is too rich and too full to be embodied in a single individual, and comes to its adequate expression only in humanity as a whole so the divine Being unfolds itself in its fullness only in its three fold subsistence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

7) Examples of Distinctions within the persons of God
-The Father is God (Mt 6:5-15; 1 Cor 8:4-6)
Designing creation and redemption, and knows the end of all things
-The Son is God (Jn 8:58; Lk 7:36-50; Ph 2:5-11)
Creation and redemption were done through Him, and will come again to do the work of the final judgment
-The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; Jn 16:5-16; 2 Sam 23:2)
Completes the work of creation and redemption, and will complete the work of uniting God to his people for all eternity

8)Essential Elements
- There is one God and He is one
- Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equally God
- They each have distinctive functions

7) Common Erros
-Absolute Monotheism, Islam/Monarchism, no indivisible persons
- Tritheism, Three gods
- Modalism, three different ways or manifestations of God at different times, i.e. God was the Father, then became the Son, and is now the Holy Spirit
- Arianism (Jehovah’s Witnesses), Jesus only a man adopted by God and the Holy Spirit an impersonal force or influence from God
- That any human being can fully understand it. It is a divine mystery which our finite minds can only undestand in part. Our knowledge is still sufficient for knowing the one true God

8) Significance
- God is a completely self-sufficient and independent personal being
- God created us out of his own freedom and not because he was lonely or lacked anything of any kind. How glorious is his love!
- We are created in his image and thus are intrinsically relational beings who live life in relationship to God and other human beings
- The Trinity is involved in all works of God (this is a modern insight from what I understand perhaps as a result of the work of Moltmann and Pannenberg)
- The church should reflect the unity and diversity of God in both the cooperation of all the gifts of spirit in one body, and of the diversity of humanity (all races and cultures) are to be united in worship and service to the one God
- We do not serve ourselves but each other as the each person in the Trinity seeks the glorification of the others.
- Some say that the family best reflects the Trinity. One man and one woman united who then give life to a child.

Blessings in our pursuit of God to know him as he is in all his fullness.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Round-Up of Good Articles & Blog Posts

I have been coming across a lot of good reading material lately, and I thought I would share it with the community:

Trevin Wax has been conducting a multi-post interview with Andy Crouch (senior editor at Christianity Today International) about an important topic for missional Christians: culture. Andy’s thesis is this: "The way to change culture is to create more of it." Here are the various posts: (1) What is "the culture?" (2) Evangelical culture-making, (3) Critiquing culture, (4) Conservation, (5) Beware of World-changers, and (6) Response to John Seel.

Michael Kruse, a business analyst and devout Christian, has some thoughts about marketing, branding, and the church: (1) Marketing the Church? (2) Economic Metaphors and the Church, and (3) Church as a Family Business.

On that note, Richard L. Reising (creator of the What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church? video) has a great post explaining why a church should not advertise itself unless it is worth advertising. (A welcoming environment and real life transformation must come first.) Check it out: The Miraculous Mailer.

Mark Driscoll has a few words we all need to hear concerning worship.

Edith M. Humphrey (associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) has one of the most thorough and thoughtful articles I have read explaining why marriage is a male-female union. It is firm without being judgmental. Here it is on Christianity Today’s website (published way back in 2004): What God Hath Not Joined.

This article is hard to read, but we need to read it: If This Isn't Slavery, What Is? New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof tells the story of a girl named Pross who escaped from the sex slave trade in Cambodia, and he explains why the era of America’s first black President is the ideal time for leading a 21st-century abolitionist movement on behalf of the estimated 27 million slaves in our world today (80% of them women and over half of them minors).

To wrap up on a lighter note, do you speak 2009? "Want to stay in the loop for the next 12 months but are worried that you won't understand the lingo? David Randall reveals the words and phrases you'll need to keep your street cred intact this year." (Yes, this is from a website in the UK, but never you mind.)

Here are some examples to whet your appetite:

Co-rumination: Excessive chattering about problems, real and imagined. Leads to the amplification of real anxieties, and creation of new ones. Has increased markedly in recent years, as email, messaging, texting, and Facebook have given the self-obsessed a multitude of outlets.

BlackBerry prayer: The hunched-over, self-absorbed pose adopted by those fingering their Blackberry, or texting on their mobile. Often accompanied by facial expressions to match tenor of the message being sent.

Staycation: A vacation without the travelling. Or the expense. Or the tan.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Blokus: The Fun Continues

Everyone who was at New Year's Eve at Crystal's:
BLOKUS is online! You can play in a semi-Scrabulous (may it rest in peace) fashion, either in training mode or in competition. Even Paul would probably have to play in training mode...these guys are tough!

Happy playing, fellow nerds!
See you Sunday.