Hi folks! I have some fairly exciting news about a possible CREC work in the Austin, Texas area. A little more info can be found here. Let me know what you think!
Anyone who is at all familiar with horror movies knows that there are a quite a few of them built around the theme or concept of the demonic child. “The Orphan”, “The Good Son” and “Its Alive” all come to mind. There are of course many, many others and understandably so. For the very idea of a demonic, murdering child is indeed freakish and one well suited to the horror movie genre. So, I ask myself, what is going on here? What is it about the idea of a demon child that we find so creepy? The answer lies, at least on the surface anyway, on how we view children. Theology aside, our society like most societies tends to think of children as being innocent and pure. Therefore, the very idea of a murderous demonic child is itself a monstrosity. It is an idea that those writing horror stories or scripts find easy to build upon.
Yet I think there is perhaps a deeper reason we find the idea of a murderous child horrific. In other words, I think that when we think of what children and childhood symbolizes in biblical thinking, we can grasp the true reason we find the above so perverse. For while the bible does think of children and childhood as icons of innocence, Scripture also thinks of the redemption of man, and of mankind as being intimately connected with a child. Simply put the reason we think the idea of a demonic child a monstrosity is that it is an almost perfect perversion of the life giving Christ child. Really, demonic children scare us not so much because they murder but because they pervert the hope of Christ. A hope we all long for and hold on to. Even if only intuitively.
I heard an interesting statistic this morning. Apparently, 80% of Americans identify themselves as Christian though only 20% attend worship services on a regular basis. This statistic led me to consider how it is that being a Christian has become separated from the worship of God. There are many clues that point towards how this has happened. Let me give one example. You have probably heard it said, “Christianity is a relationship and not a religion”. It is an interesting proposition, one with a long and heretical (Gnostic) pedigree and it is easy to see where this leads. “Having Jesus in my heart is of primary importance, things like worship, preaching and the sacraments are secondary to that, in fact they can even be dispensed with when necessary.” “Necessity” of course being almost completely ambiguous.
Yet, can we say that as Christians we are more or less compelled by Scripture to attend corporate worship? Yes we can and we can go on to argue for “more” than “less”.
Recently, I have been reading G. K .Beale. One of my favorites is an academic work titled “We Become What We Worship, a biblical theology of idolatry”. In it, Beale traces the history and effects of idolatry on the nation of Israel and on the New Israel, the Israel of God, the Church. Beale is not alone in his observations. Other men such as Ricky Watts have made similar ones, but the important point is this: we become what we worship, and I would add everyone worships, like it or not.
This brings me back to my original question and its answer: yes, corporate worship is essential to the Christian life and to eternity for the Christian life is preeminently about becoming like Christ. Worship is central to that and while it may be true that you have Jesus in your heart, it may be the case that apart from engaging in the corporate worship of the Triune God of Scripture that may be another Jesus you have rattling around in your chest.
Yet someone will surely say to me OK, but I still do not need a church to worship. A point I will of course dispute and will dispute it based on 1 Corinthians chapters 10-11, where Paul appeals to the sacramental presence of Jesus in the Old Covenant as a warning against idolatry in the New. In other words, Paul’s warning to the Corinthians is a very good place to argue for the presence of Christ, the Spiritual presence of Christ, during the course of worship. This Spiritual presence forms the image of Christ in us. Of course, the reverse is also true. For there are a diversity of spirits, not all of which are from Christ, though all have the same power to conform.
Next Sunday then ask yourself “Whose image do I profess to bear?” and remember. Actions speak louder than words.
Americans are probably among the most competitive people in the world. You see it in all sorts of places and in a myriad of forms. Whether its keeping up with the Joneses, or cattiness in the office we love to compete, and so we do. Now I am not against competition. In fact healthy competition is good for everyone involved, which brings me to the question. Just how can we describe or think of competition in a healthy manner? In other words, what is healthy competition?
Let me start by saying what it is not. Mindsets, attitudes and actions that engage in competition for the purpose of self-aggrandizement are unhealthy and sinful. For instance, publically running down your neighbor’s yard so that you can brag about your own lawn mowing skills is an example of sinful competiveness. Boasting about what a great day you had or how wonderful your house is or how great you church fellowships is, and how it’s not like those other churches who just don’t “get it” can all be examples of what I am talking about. Simply put competition is sinful when its aim is to build me up by destroying my neighbor, or his reputation or his anything else and of course, like any sin, it offers what it can never deliver. Glory, that which is desired in all of this, can never be achieved by self-aggrandizement. For the road to glory lies through the cross. Glory comes through dying and is never the product of human achievement. So we ask ourselves, where is boasting?
Now as I am writing this I am at least vaguely aware that I too engage in sinful competition. We all do, for sinful competition is, after all, a symptom of a larger problem. For at the end of the day we are all, as John Calvin put it, “idol factories”.
Which brings me back to the quest for glory and my exhortation to all. Seek glory where it may be found, by dying. Be as Jesus Who set His glory aside for the sake of another. Seek the glory of your neighbor and not of yourself, for glory cannot come from yourself. It must be bestowed. Humble yourself before the Mighty Hand of The Lord and He will lift you up.
Glory in your neighbor’s house, and in his messy yard and in his sometimes-unruly children. Praise God that some do not get it as you do. Love the unlovely and so prove yourself a child of your heavenly Father.
Be like Him.
Recently I have been thinking about a movement called the “Word of Faith” or the “Health and Wealth Gospel”. In this essay, I want to think a little about the way biblical terms and concepts are used by its preachers.
In the event that you are unfamiliar with this sort of teaching the “Health and Wealth Gospel”, as the name implies, teaches that God, the God of the Christian faith, wants all believers to be blessed by wealth and good health; benefits available to those in Christ through the vehicle of their faith, what is usually called “the word of faith”. Now I have to admit that at first glance some of what these men and women are teaching seems true. God does promise to bless His people. Of course, He also promises to bless unbelievers as well, for the God who sends rain on the just also sends it on the unjust. The real problem with this teaching is that it fails to do justice to all the outcomes of faith. Probably the best place to highlight this one-sidedness is Hebrews 11, where we read that by faith some received their dead back to life and some were, by faith, sawn in half. The “Word of Faith” movement seemingly misses just this point. Yet that is not the only misstep.
“Health and Wealth, Word of Faith” preachers all believe that faith becomes sight, something Scripture affirms as well. The problem is that the definition of concepts such as “faith” are not comprehensive or even biblical, which is unfortunate. Especially since Scripture gives us a very concise definition of it “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. It is difficult to see how this definition lines up with the “Word of Faith” concept. “Faith” though is not the only term that seems to be misunderstood by “Word of Faith” preachers. Anyone listening to these men or women for very long will hear a lot about God’s blessing. True enough God wants to and does bless us, but again the concept of blessing is generally left undefined. Few if any “Word of Faith” teachers offer anything like a comprehensive biblical definition, or example, of what it means to be blessed by God. Unfortunate since Jesus gives us several examples of what blessedness looks like (Matthew 5.3-12).
The “Health and Wealth Gospel” fails on several points theologically, which is enough for me to warn others to avoid it. However, I have other concerns as well. The “Health and Wealth Gospel” is tragic in that it tends to appeal to those in great need of hope, and hope is something it does offer, in spades. However, it is an offer that it is not able to deliver, which means the “Word of Faith”, “Health and Wealth” movement is full of people who are either bitter or becoming bitter towards God. People who feel that God does not keep His promises or who feel like second class Christians due to their lack of faith. The “Health and Wealth Gospel” is no Good News, nor can it be. It cannot be for it knows nothing of the Christ of St. Paul, The Christ Who taught him to trust God, even in the worst of circumstances, for He is trustworthy and He loves to raise the dead back to new life. The “Health and Wealth Gospel” can never teach this for It is a lesson that can only be learned by faith exercised in the face of trials, sickness, poverty and even death. All of which are essential to becoming like Christ.