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Showing posts from April, 2008

Being A Theologian

One of the realities of human existence is that we think about things. True some people ponder more than others, but everyone has pondered the great questions of life. We can’t help it. People were made to think.

This reality means that every person, on some level, is a theologian. Stanely Grenz in his systematic theology book wrote:
“Every Christian is a theologian. Whether consciously or unconsciously, each person of faith embraces a belief system. And each believer, whether in a deliberate manner or merely implicitly, reflects on the content of these beliefs and their significance for Christian life” (Theology for the Community of God, p. 1)

This means you are a theologian. We become theologians when we take time to think about who God is and consider His existence. We do not all agree on the person and nature of God, even within the Christian Community there are disagreements about such things, but by thinking about such things we become theologians. It is through this proces…

Blog Vacation

My girlfriend is flying in today from New Mexico. She will be spending the next week with me here in Iowa, so I am taking this time off. Don't forget about me and come back on May 1 for brand new posts.

Blaming God For Suffering

"What is less often asked is why our modern Western world, which has seen a decrease in human suffering unparalleled in human history, seems less able to deal with pain and more quick either to blame God for evil and suffering or to deny his existence altogether—or, as contradictory as it may seem, to do both at the same time. We seem to have lost our ability to adequately wrestle with this most persistent of problems; instead, with each decade that passes, we grow more and more angry with God, even as we believe in him less and less." ~ Louis Markos; Lewis Agonistes; p. 91

How Committed Are You?

Committed to the Basics: Part 6

If we are going to grow in our faith and if our church families are going to in their impact we have to be people who are committed. First, we must be committed to following the Lord Jesus Christ wherever He might lead us. Second, we must be committed to doing those actions that give strength to our faith. We must be committed to learning God’s word. We must be committed to fellowship with other Christians. We must be committed to the Lord’s Supper as we remember Jesus’ sacrifice. We must be committed to prayer as we turn our lives over to God.

The reason the early church was able to make such an impact is because they were dedicated to these disciplines. Read how Luke describes the early church:
42 They continually devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer. 43 A sense of fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All the believers w…

Committed to Prayer

Committed to the Basics: Part 5

This series has been devoted to identifying those disciplines that need to be part of our lives: both as individuals and in our church families. Just as an athlete can only reach his or her full potential when they are committed to mastering the basics of their game, we can only reach our potential as Christians and as the Church when we are committed to these basic disciplines.

We have noticed that when the church began in the first century and as they tried to mature new believers and make an impact in their culture they devoted themselves to four different disciplines. We find these disciplines in Acts 2:42: 42 They continually devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer (ISV). In this one verse we discover the four disciplines, the basic fundamentals, that the early church was devoted to. They were devoted to learning. It was important for them to know God, His purposes, and …

Committed to Communion

Committed to the Basics: Part 4

A great musician first needs to learn the notes and the scales in order to master the music. A great basketball player needs to learn how to dribble, shoot, pass, rebound, and defend before he can master the game. As followers of Jesus we have to learn and be committed to a few basic fundamentals if we are going to be successful at the task Jesus has commissioned us to accomplish (make disciples).

We find these fundamentals in Acts 2:42: They continually devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer (ISV). I believe this verse outlines four basic fundamentals that need to be a part of our lives and the lives of our church families. The first discipline is that we have to be committed to learning. If we are not taking the time to learn God’s Word then we will not be able to know how God wants us to live. The second discipline is we need to be committed to fellowship. Life is tough …

Committed To Each Other

Committed to the Basics: Part 3

One of the reasons the Church was able to grow from a handful of disciples to an unstoppable force of Christians is because of the early church’s dedication to the basics of discipleship. These basics are essential for us as individual Christ Followers as well as for our church families as a whole. We cannot fully become who God created us to be if we are not committed to these basic fundamentals of faith.

We find this basic fundamentals in Acts 2:42: And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (ESV). The example of the early church provides us with four disciplines that need to be part of our lives. The first discipline is that we must be committed to studying. The Bible must be part of our lives, whether it is individual study or learning for Christian teachers, we must have a commitment to God’s Word.

Th second discipline the early church was committed to was fellowship. We in…

Committed to Learning

Committed to the Basics: Part 2

When we find ourselves struggling, in any area of life, it is essential for us to return to the basics. The basics are those fundamentals that have to be done in order to have success. If we ignore these basic fundamentals then we will struggle. This is true in our personal lives as well as the Church.

The only answer to the struggle that the Church finds herself in in our culture is a return to the basics. Acts 2:42 provides us with those basics that the early church were committed to as they grew from a little Jewish sect in Jerusalem to an unstoppable movement that changed the course of history.

Let me set the background. It is the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover, and about 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven. The disciples of Jesus, there are about 120 of them, are in Jerusalem. The apostles, and possibly some other disciples, are in the upper room waiting as Jesus instructed. That morning of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descends …

Mastering The Basics

Committed to the Basics: Part 1

Everything in our lives begins with basics. Basics are those fundamentals that we must learn and master before we can grow and have success. School children in kindergarten learn the basics of the Alphabet and Numbers because reading and math are dependent on them. Without mastering of the basics the ABC’s and the 123’s there is no hope that the child will learn to read and write or add and subtract.

The same is true for us as we follow Jesus. If we want to be the type of people, and and thus the Church, that God wants us to be, then we have to commit ourselves to the basics of what it means to follow Jesus. I want you to think about this question: What are the basics you are committed to?

There is a legend about the great football coach Vince Lombardi that dates back to the early sixties when he took over the reigns of the Green Bay Packers. The Packer franchise was struggling—the team had been losing for almost ten straight years. They were on the…

Fundamental Importance

"Our relationships are of fundamental importance. Human life may be said to consist of an intricate web of relationships--in the nuclear family, in the wider circle of relatives, among our neighbors, friends, and colleagues. Human maturity is seen in the ability to form stable, loving, and responsible relationships. In this sphere probably all of us betray a lingering immaturity, since we all find difficulty in establishing a satisfactory relationship with some people. Although I have no wish to oversimplify, I am convinced that the major secret of harmony in personal relationships-- at home and at work, in the church and in the community--is to learn to live 'unto Christ'. When this radical adjustment has taken place, others follow naturally." ~ John Stott, Life in Christ, p. 82

Focus is Everything

How to Pray: Part 6

If we are going to have a relationship with God then prayer has to be a part of our lives. Hopefully you have come to realize that prayer isn’t about giving God a list of demands that you want met, but it is about seeking to connect with our Heavenly Father.

That means that prayer has to be something we are committed to. My main problem with prayer has been that I haven’t been committed to it. I have believed that God would bring about His will and so I had to do is trust Him. You see, when I had the wrong view about prayer I didn’t understand why I even should be devoted to prayer. As my understanding of prayer has changed I now realize that the importance of prayer isn’t about getting “answers” to my prayers, but it is about connecting with God. Our relationship with God depends on our commitment to prayer.

If prayer is so important to our relationship with God how should we pray? Jesus gave us a model prayer in response to that question:
9 “Therefore, this is…

Give Us Today...

How to Pray: Part 5

Prayer is an essential part of a Christian’s life. For that reason Jesus took the time to teach people to pray. Not only did Jesus give people teachings on prayer, but He also gave us a model prayer. Models serve as examples to help us understand what the real thing is like. The model prayer of Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), helps us understand the essential parts that make up prayer.

Prayer is about giving God our praise. This helps us to remember who God is. If we make prayer just about a wish list then we are in danger of making God out to be Santa Claus or a genie. He is neither! God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He provides what we need for both life and godliness. He is our Heavenly Father who loves us. He is our Sovereign and King. God needs to be honored, loved, and respected for Who He is.

Prayer is also about our priorities. Being human and only able to see a small part of the entire picture our desires often run cont…

Your Kingdom Come

How to Pray: Part 4

Jesus taught His disciples to pray. He taught them that prayer wasn’t about giving God a wish list, but it was about connect with Him. In order to do that we have to be in a place removed from distractions and temptations (Matthew 5:5, 6). We also have to remember that it isn’t about the words we say, but about being honest with God and trusting Him as our Father (Matthew 5:7, 8).

After giving His disciples those two teachings on prayer, Jesus provides them with a model pray, so they can have an idea of what prayer sounds like. We call this prayer the Lord’s Prayer and it we discover three elements that make up effective prayer.

The first element concerns our praise. We need to remember who God is and treat Him with the respect and honor He deserves rather than treating Him like Santa Claus or our own personal genie. Jesus honors God by recognizing Him as “Our Father who is in heaven...” If our prayers are going to be effective we need to spend time praising Go…

Our Father

How to Pray: Part 3

What makes prayer effective aren’t the words we use or the wish list we give, but our desire to connect with our Heavenly Father. Being confident in our relationship with God will help us understand what to pray for and how to pray.

When Jesus taught on prayer He gave to His disciples a model prayer. This prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, helps us understand the form of prayer. The model prayer Jesus gave us contains three elements that will help us keep our focus when it comes to prayer. I believe that when our prayers are comprised of these three elements, rather than a to do list, our prayer lives will be revolutionized.

9 “Therefore, this is how you should pray:‘Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy.10 May your kingdom come.May your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.11 Give us today our daily bread,12 and forgive us our sins,as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.13 And never bring us into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one.’ (M…

Christians Divided

I have a question that I would like to pose to my vast readership (all five of you): What is the responsibility of Christians in a nation divided by politics?

To me this is a very difficult question to answer. On the one hand you have desire to stand up for what is right and on the other hand you don't want to turn someone off to Jesus based on politics.

What I am looking for are ways Christians can speak clearly about moral issues of our day without letting politics muddy the waters about Jesus. I would appreciate any thoughts you might have about Christians and politics. I hope to hear from you.

Confident In Our Relationship

How to Pray: Part 2

Prayer isn’t about giving God a to do list, but it is about connecting with God. When we pray we empty our hearts to God. We not only tell Him of our wants, but also about our sins, fears, worries, hopes, successes, and loves. Prayer allows us to seek God’s will and establish a connection of faith and trust with Him.

Jesus’ initial teaching about prayer (Matthew 6:5-8) dealt with two great truths. The first truth that we need to remember is that place is very important when we pray. If we hope to really connect with God we can’t pray in public for the world to see, but we need be by ourselves, away for people and distractions, in order to give God our entire attention.

The second truth that we find in that initial teaching is that words are not important. Prayer isn’t about saying the right words, phrases, or the right formula. Prayer is telling God what is in our hearts. When prayer isn’t about the “right” words then we can stop worrying about whether or not …

Connecting With God

How to Pray: Part 1

Fundamental to our relationship with God is prayer. In my previous series on prayer we noticed that prayer isn’t about giving God a wish list, but it is about connecting with God. We feel frustrated with our prayer lives because we have made our prayers about help me, give to me, bless me rather than cultivating our relationship with our heavenly Father. When we remember this our prayer life will become more dynamic than frustrating.

In order to make prayer about connecting with God we have to remember where the focus of our prayers need to be. One of the ways to determine the focus of our prayers is to ask ourselves questions:
Is prayer about us or is about God? Are we praying out or religious obligation or out of a desire to connect with God? Is prayer a religious activity or is it an act of faith in a good and loving God? Are my prayers about me or are they about God?

For orthodox Jews and Muslims set times of prayer are a part of their lives. It is partiall…

Love Grows

"Love can never be simply between you and God. It can never be limited to that relationship. Jesus makes that clear. Love is more than the relationship between a man and a woman, no matter how extraordinary it may be. Love is ever expanding. Love always grows, not just deeper, but wider. Love always loves people more and always loves more people. Love calls us to community; love calls us to humanity; love calls us to each other." ~ Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings, Intimacy: Entry 16

Being Intentional About Purity

Purity is not something most of us seek to have. Most people, Christian included, want to know what they can get away with or how close to the line they can be without stepping over. By doing this we have trained our hearts to desire the rotten ways of this world rather than the glorious way of God. In short we have to get serious about purity. Jesus in Matthew 5:8 tells us: “How blessed are those who are pure in heart, for it is they who will see God!” (ISV) How important is purity in your life?

Purity is not only the absence of evil in our lives, but it is also the commitment to do good with our lives. Having a desire for purity means we are committed to Jesus and that we will go wherever He leads and that we will do whatever He says. Jesus will lead us to a life of purity if we are truly following Him. If we are unwilling to follow Jesus, if we are not willing to live a life of purity, the presence of sin in our lives will eat away at our hearts.

We can hide sin from each other, …

More Pictures

Here is the setting sun reflecting off the ice in Storm Lake.

The ice is finally beginning to melt.

Here is Barkley trying to stay warm at my parent's house.

The night lights in Storm Lake.

The Foundation of Discipleship

How do you know you are a disciple of Jesus? Take a moment and think about it. If someone asked for proof that you are indeed a follower of Jesus Christ what evidence would you provide? If I may ask this in a different way: What does it mean to be a Christian? I think many Christians are frustrated because they go to church once a week, pray everyday, and even manage to read the Bible on a regular basis, but it feels like something is missing in their lives.

In the past Christianity has focused on “spiritual disciplines” to help us understand what disciples should be doing. These things include study, pray, meditation, service, fasting, fellowship, and worship. Let me be absolutely clear in this: when these disciplines are done they can play a major role in connecting us to God. The problem is that being a follower of Christ is about doing these things. All these disciplines can be done (at least faked) by people who had no faith in Jesus. When it comes to following Jesus there is…

Living the Good Life

Each day is filled with importance. One of the ways we know that life is important is because of the different emotions we feel as we experience different events. Life is important so we throw a party to celebrate an anniversary. Life is important so we attend the wedding of a close friend, and smile as she receives the kiss from her new husband. Life is important so we spend hours preparing for the big presentation at work. Life is important so we do a victory dance when the Boston Celtics beat the Detroit Pistons. Though some of these things are more significant than others I hope you see my point. There is meaning in our everyday lives.

I believe one of the problems we have, and the reason that life often fails to live up to our expectations is that we make our lives these about these everyday events. Yet when the deal falls through, our spouse dies, and our team loses it feels like our world has come to an end. It is not possible to experience the good life through these events. Ev…

Then No Salvation

"If, then, we are not concerned to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit and nurse the sick, and care for the refugees and prisoners; if we have no social conscience and no compassion for the deprived and the dispossessed; if we are inactive in face of the acute agonies of the world--then clearly there is no love in our hearts for the needy. But if there is no love for the needy, there is no love for Christ who identifies with the needy; if there is no love for Christ, there is no faith in Christ, since faith without love is spurious; and if there is no faith in Christ, there is no salvation." ~ John Stott, Life in Christ, p.92