Thursday, June 30, 2011

more theology from me...

So in thinking more about theology I had to wonder when I finished writing did what I wrote about the greatest commandment really fit the role of theology?  How I think about I looked the word theology up again online. Wikipedia says, “ Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or seminary.”  Systematic and rational!!!! God??? Systematic and rational...the study of God?  I have to confess right here and now, my view of God is hardly one of how systematic and rational He He just makes so much sense. 
So in further looking the word “Theology” comes from the Greek “theologia” which theos, means God, and logia meaning, utterances, sayings, or oracles.  Logia is related to the word logos which means word...are you bored yet?  But we begin to see our theology is about how we talk about God or maybe better yet  the study of God and what it produces in us.  Our theology seasons our conversations and our thought processes. So we see theology when we hear our insurance company tells us something cannot be covered because it was an “act of God.”  Really God dropped that tree on my car...that was not very nice was it?  Notice an “act of God” is never a good has caused damage and there is no insurance against when God smashes stuff. Hmmm. Need to think about that a bit more I think.  
So where could I possibly be going with this?  Well I have decided to work out my theology, my thoughts about God, through what Jesus has shown me.  Why?  Well He is God and no one knows the Father the way he does...let me show you a couple of things. 
In John He begins to tell the guys He is leaving and they are beginning to panic.  Philip cries out, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  Now was he expecting Jesus to pull a Polaroid of God out of His pocket and show them what He looks like?  Jesus says, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”  Can you imagine the range of emotions in that room at that moment?  They knew the Old Testament and the Law and yet Jesus said if you had seen Him you had seen the Father...How?  How could that be?  They were looking for a messiah and leader but not for God Himself to show up.  And God seemed much angrier than Jesus, didn’t He?  “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father...”  Really?
Let’s see what Paul has to say; “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Col.1:15  “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him.” v,19  So it seems to me like Paul is saying the same thing...if you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father.  My favorite is in the firs chapter of Hebrews...
In the past God spoke to out forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.  THE SON IS THE RADIANCE OF GOD’S GLORY AND THE EXACT REPRESENTATION OF HIS BEING, SUSTAINING ALL THINGS BY HIS POWERFUL WORD.”  Heb.1:1-3  The radiance of God’s glory...not sure how you feel but makes me want to worship!  
The life appeared; and we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” 1Jn:2
So my theology is being shaped and molded as I look to Jesus to see the Father.  I have to admit sometimes it creates more questions as I read the OT and all of the stuff in there.  I am not going to ignore or explain away things I do not understand...really to wonderful for me to grasp...I am going to focus on what I can see and grasp...looking to Jesus to show me the Father.  Trusting the Spirit to illuminate Jesus for me...reading the words of Jesus and acting on them rather than trying explain away what He meant when He said things like, “Love your enemy, blessed are the poor in spirit...pick up your cross and follow me.”  Follow Him to die to myself that He might live.  That the radiance of God’s glory could on occasion flash through my life for others to see...Jesus in me. And when I look at God through Jesus I don’t see limited atonement, limited grace, just for the lucky ones.  I see “For God so loved the WORLD.”  I see with Peter...”He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  
(more to come)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yes I love theology...not as much as you I see...

Boy I need to get back in a groove here...and soon! Enjoying the summer, even though it not has been much so far.  I had written a blog to post a week or so ago but not feeling like it is time to let it go I have some other ideas to discuss today.  I have been struggling a bit with my theology I think, which Richard Hooker defines as, “The science of things divine.”  I have heard other definitions and I think theology is “our thoughts on God” and we all have one.
One time I sat in on a class on systematic theology and walked out blown away...they had figured God out!  This is how He works and what He does...simple really.  Really!  You can figure God out...He works in a system.  In this system I heard about things like “limited grace” or “limited atonement.”  Now these might not be the exact terms used but the instructor taught we are predestined and selected so grace only covers those in that category...chosen and called.  So how do we know who is in or out?  If they fall into sin and walk away from God does that really mean they never knew God?  The guy who did the most to point me to Jesus eventually walked away from God and lived a really bad life.  So he never really knew God?  Seemed to me like he did...then if he did know God where did he go when he died?  And he did early.  How did this fit into my systematic theology?  
One group tells me you cannot lose your salvation...another tells me we lose it quite easily and often.  One tells me we are predestined to follow God...another talks about free will...our choice.  There is so much more to this than I am touching on but you get the point. we see we think about we talk about God.  I guess I know we need to have some of this figured out but really can we have God boxed into a systematic theology?  He can be figured surprises?  I guess I wish I had that. But for me so much of God is mysterious...strange...surprising.  When I hear someone speak so certainly about their theology and how they know exactly how God works and it is just the way they believe it to be, I am envious on one hand...and I feel sad for them on the other.  To know God is the most exciting adventure ever for one to be on.  
I think as humans we want to know God and even more we want to know what He knows so badly we work hard to get Him inside some safe guidelines we say the scriptures teach us.  I look in Genesis and the discussion between Eve and the serpent and the promise he makes that if she eats she will, “ be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Knowing what God knows...having Him figured out and being on the same level as Him.  The sad thing is she had all of that and so much more...she knew God...they walked with Him...communed with Him.  What did she gain...the only thing God held back...the knowledge of good and evil...really she already knew good...she knew God.  They were introduced to evil...which God was protecting them from.  I am not at all saying having a theology is evil, I am saying man has always tried to figure God get the inside have Him under control.  No mystery allowed...I love mystery...well sometimes.  I have to admit it would be nice to have some pat answers available for life’s hard times.  I just cannot find them or use them...actually I refuse to.  
Sorry I cannot do it.  There are many times I just have to say “I don’t know” when life hurts or does not make sense.  So I put these verses as the foundation of my personal theology...”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your heart.  This is the first and the greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love you neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”    
Not sure where this fits in systematic theology...but Jesus said it...and said it was important.  That settles it.  Now my other point is this...until I get this right how can I move on to the other stuff?  What else is there to move on to?  Never said I was deep...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crazy God thoughts....

So as a father figure in my church and maybe even to others I am growing more accustomed to sharing my thoughts...out loud too!  I have always been an inside processor and would hardly ever let anyone know what I was processing or thinking about, so it is hard to get much accomplished keeping things to yourself.  So I am going to share one of my pet kingdom peeves right now that I am beginning to hear others catching on to.  I have this philosophy concerning things like church buildings and other stuff.  We started our church over 17 years ago so we know what it is like to look for buildings and such and I have begun to wonder why we, the Church, continue to ask God to pay for the same building over and many times should God and His people pay for the same building?  
I have a friend who is a pastor and they were looking at a building in Oregon, Ohio that a large denomination owned.  This denomination was going to combine three small congregations into one new one and was selling the three buildings they owned.  The building my friend was looking at was old and in need of repair and they could not afford much.  Now in my opinion, and it is “my” opinion for sure, that building had been paid for by God and His people probably more than once and now they were asking another church to pay for it again...and top dollar.  Why?  Oh I know they needed to build another building so they were using the building from the sale to pay for that, but why?  And if they had to sell, why not let the buying church set the price as to what they could afford?  Wouldn’t that make sense?  Well, it does to me and it happens.
Another friend of mine in a small community close by, their church building was on the market.  It is old and works against them on many fronts, so they had an offer, which was really low.  My comment to him was, why are you selling it anyway?  God and His people have paid for that building probably four or five many more times does He have to buy it?  Well he heard me and ran it by their elders and they heard it, kind of.  They did sell it but at the price the other church body could afford!  They sold it for almost half of what they were asking, so they were quite generous I think.  They did not give it away but a close second.  A win/win if you ask me... On another occasion one of the young guys that used to come here and has since moved close to Columbus was looking for some sound equipment for his new church family and located what he needed on ebay. He made a very low offer and the guy on the other end accepted so they made contact with each other.  Turns out the seller goes to a Vineyard Church in Milan, Mi. and David is in a Vineyard in Columbus...small world huh?  So the seller says hey you guys can just have the stuff and they gave the equipment to the other church.  David said something like, “It is like Bill says, God already paid for it why make Him pay for it again?” (I love to hear myself repeated)  Now to top it off this is really like Jesus said where He said to love our enemies...Someone from near Ann Arbor was kind to someone from Columbus!  Sweet! (Kidding)  
Now, just so you know I am not crazy, if Walmart or Krogers came by and wanted the building and property, by all means sell it and get all you can.  That is wisdom...but if another part of the body comes along and you are done with the building or the chairs or the equipment, consider giving it away.  I am sure you did a stewardship campaign to raise funds to make the initial purchase or it was paid for with the tithes and offerings from the church family, so why make someone else do it again for the SAME STUFF?  The building we are in could have been given to us, even thought there was a mortgage on it, and we could have paid the mortgage off.  Instead it was sold to a middle guy and now we and the Y rent it...I won’t complain because we have a wonderful deal but why sell it in the first place, when there are churches out there with needs?  Usually it is because we, as the Church, do not see ourselves as family but as competition or another consumer.  One of the reasons we pray for another church family every week is we want everyone to know who comes to the Vineyard we are but a part of a much larger family that meets all over the city and they are friends and family not competition.  
Another friend of mine (yes I do have friends) has a young church and it was actually sharing a building with an older congregation from the same denomination that needed the help financially.  Well the older church decided to close and without even considering the young church they sold it to a cult like church and the young group had to move!  What?  The same denomination even and they could not work out a deal?  What must God think?  Maybe He really does not care about buildings, I would guess He does not...but He does care about His Church.  
I have a dream...that one day we will stop asking God to pay for the same building over and day we will not look at each other as competition but rather see the family resemblance in all those who call Jesus Lord. See I think God is a very generous God we resemble Him when we ourselves are generous.  this will not be very popular with a lot of leaders but, hey I almost 60, I don’t think I care anymore!!! Barb and I so love the whole church body and desire to see it actually like each other...more to come on this subject.