Tag Archives: theology

Read the Deuterocanon

There are many who follow a plan, often yearly, to read the 66 books of the  Protestant Bible. However, I find it also helpful and interesting to read books associated with and important to Christianity outside the Bible. This year, I’ve come up with a plan to read these books (very slowly) throughout the year.

I’ve chosen books from 2 categories. First are the Apocrypha or Deuterocanon recognized as Scriptural by the Catholic and/or Orthodox Christian faiths. Second are books highly regarded by early Christians. Some were even considered “canonical” by a bishop or two.

Even if not considered Scriptural, none of the books on this list have been rejected as heretical by any major Christian group and are usually considered helpful in understanding the history of Salvation.

Enjoy, modify, and feel free to pass it on.


Heaven’s Wisdom

 

The following is a sermon about James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a written for an audience that speaks English as a non-primary language.

If we’re going to study James, let’s start with the warning in 3:1 about people who want to be Bible teachers. We can learn that I should not desire to become a teacher, so we already know I am a disobedient child by saying any of this.

In this passagedivine light, James teaches us about the wisdom that comes from God. He first shows us what wisdom should not look like. Then he teaches what wisdom should look like.

The most simple way we show wisdom is by doing good works with humility. This means doing good things for others and trying not to let them know it was you. Make it your secret mission to good things for others.

Of course, it is better to do good works, even if other people do know it was you.

Now, James explains the world’s wisdom. The world says that it is wise to do only what is good for yourself. The world says that you must try to be better than everyone else. They say you should brag about your accomplishments.

This is not truly wise. James is teaching us that wisdom and humility work together. Telling others about the wonderful things we have done does not actually help us.

When I have a job interview, I tell the employer good things about myself. This is okay. However, many of us act like we are always in a job interview. It is not always important to talk about what we are good at. We should also admit our weaknesses.

Heaven’s wisdom does not act like this. The devil brags about his accomplishments. The people of the world have to “show off”.

The wisdom from Heaven is humble. It does not have to be seen. Its good actions are hidden and secret. God is the only one who knows what the truly wise have done.

Is it your main goal to do better than others? God did not tell you to be someone else. God told you to be you. He created you differently from anyone else. He has a plan and purpose that only you can fulfill.

My wife is a wonderful woman. She has been given certain gifts and strengths. However, God did not have us get married so that I would become more like her. The same way, God did not create my wife to be more like me. We are both to be more like the people God created us to be.

Wisdom is not about being better than others. Wisdom is about humbly being like Jesus.

If your goal is to be someone else, you will be quickly confused. You will actually do evil things you never planned on doing. Only following God’s purpose for your life makes it possible to do truly good deeds.

So, how do we make wise decisions? When you are faced with a difficult decision, you should think through a list of questions.

  1. Is it pure? – clean, undefiled, with no hint of doing wrong
  2. Is is peaceful? – causes peace
  3. Is it fair? – thinks about the needs of others, gentle
  4. Is it obedient? – allows you to obey others
  5. Is it full of mercy? – help you help others
  6. Is it full of good fruit? – helps you do other good deeds
  7. Is it clear? – a certain decision
  8. Does it not pretend? – does not hide

When a decision matches all of these qualifications, you can be sure it is the right one. Mark this verse and come back to it when you have challenging choices to face.

One difficult decision my family faced was whether my wife should quit her job a few years ago at the book store. We had to consider the rules of James 3:17. It was pure. It was peaceful; no one was hurt. It helped her meet the needs of our son. It didn’t affect our ability to be obedient. It was merciful to our family. It has the good results of helping us do more as a family. It was clear and sincere. We had to make financial adjustments, but it was a good move for our family.

James wants to make sure that we know how important peace is. When we try to have peace in our relationships and decisions, it will help us do what is right. We argue because of our own sinfulness. We fight outside ourselves because we are fighting inside ourselves.

We need peace inside so that we can have peaceful relationships. This comes by doing the good works God created us to do.

One of the rules for wise decisions was to make peace. When we want someone else’s life, we do not have peace. When we want their possessions, we do not have peace. We have arguments and fights.

What is the solution? We are supposed to ask God for what we want, rather than being jealous. We should come to him before being angry with someone else.

One question we quickly ask is, “Why doesn’t God give me what I want when I ask for it?” James tells us, sometimes we have bad reasons. Sometimes we are not trying to serve others. Sometimes we want to be sinful. God won’t give us what we want then.

God will meet our needs, and our first need is for his love.

Finally, James summarizes his teaching. Obey God. This simple idea is all we really need to know. When we obey God, we are confronting the devil. The devil must leave us when we are in God’s presence.

Come close to God. We do this by obeying and praying. Pray constantly about everything. Believe that God is always close. Know that he is giving us his wisdom.

The wisdom from heaven is humble, pure, and peaceful. These all come from constantly being in the presence of God. Come close to him.

 


Armchair Theologian

Every Saturday and Sunday guys (and gals) all across America comment on the performance of their favorite athletes. Inevitably, one guy feels like he could have done a better job than his team’s quarterback, and everyone else thinks he’s full of bologna.

Well, I’ve come to realize I’m guilty of an even worse offense (no pun intended…. Okay, yes it was.) I have so often made the mistake of thinking I could get to know God primarily by reading good books about him, preparing for sermons and listening to good teachers. I thought that I was a professional theologian simply because I am paid to teach about God, (a most amazing job I must say.) I even thought that Bible reading alone would make me a theologian.

But, I am an armchair theologian.

None of these things on their own make us closer to God. Theology is not the “study of God” as if God was just another academic subject. To study God, one must grow in relationship with Him.

How do we do this? It must start with the most perfect revelation of God that humanity has received, Jesus himself. Jesus is the Word of God. Those that knew him personally sought to explain him to others. John the Apostle, the beloved disciple whom Jesus saw fit to give a Revelation of the Apocalypse, is more appropriately termed a theologian than anyone else. He walked with Jesus, heard him, loved him, and proclaimed him. Similarly, the other biblical authors proclaim him either prophetically (Old Testament) or didactically (New Testament).

So rather than continuing my game of trying to come up with innovative ways to explain old ideas, how can I truly become a theologian? I must be like John by walking in the presence of Christ. I must obey Paul by rejoicing always, praying without stopping, and giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

True theology is about prayer. Prayer is appropriately guided by the teachings of Scripture and the advice of those with a consistent prayer life.

Pray for me as I pray for you, and let’s get to know God.


Fast Food

I am happy to announce that I have developed something just for you! Have you ever felt like you wanted to develop spiritual discipline but just didn’t have the time? I have just the thing to feed your hungry soul!

Fast Food!

No, I’m not talking about McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, or any other “I’ll have a number 2” kind of establishment. Nope, I’m telling you to fast food.

Fast (intransitive verb) – to eat sparingly or abstain from some foods.

Thanks Merriam-Webster! Sounds great doesn’t it? It takes no time, no money, and you might even lose weight. (Goodness! Why am I saying “you”? I need to get in on this.)

In truth, though, fasting isn’t about food. In fact, the point of fasting is to make life not about food. We (you and I) eat so unthinkingly that we barely stop to breathe. If I got good at praying before every meal, my prayers would often last longer than my meal.

Fasting strengthens the soul and focuses the mind. It is an opportunity to focus our hearts on Christ as the only one who truly keeps us alive. No food can do for us what Christ has done.

So how do you get started? Start by stopping. A common Christian practice throughout the past has been to fast meat and meat products on Fridays in commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Many include Wednesday as the day Judas sold out his spirit to betray his Lord for some physical money. Fasting in this way in preparation for a major holiday (like 40 days before Christmas or Easter) is also common.

This is by no means a cause for guilt, legalism, or judgementalism. It is a personal, individual way to commit a small portion of food and time to what really matters. Even if we commit to fast together, keep you eyes on your own plate!

The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. Matthew 9:15b ESV

So hurry up… FAST!


I Promise Death

I’ve been in sales for 20% of my life. (That sounds more dramatic than 5 years, right?) I have developed a firm policy of under-promising and over-delivering. With that in mind, I have some unfortunate but expected news for you:

You will die.

I can guarantee it. St. Paul’s letter to the churches of Rome poses a very challenging reality:

“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23a ESV

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23 ESV

I’ve never been known as a prophet, but those are pretty good odds. Based on my experience with human beings, it seems that every one of them sins and every one of them dies.

While I appear to make light of that reality, it is unquestionably the most depressing, tragic reality of our world. The ultimate questions of life quickly lead to the ultimate questions of death. For those that consider the possibility of believing in a good and all-powerful God, the question of death is forefront.

Why would a good God who could stop death allow so many to die?

The answer resides partly in the understanding of who God is. He is the source of life, and sin by nature is any action that causes us to separate from him

“…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into  his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Genesis 2:7 ESV

The following question would be equally valid, I believe:

If God is life and sin cuts us off from life and all have sinned, why is anyone ever surprised that death occurs?

I realize that we are not surprised by death in general but mainly when it happens to someone close or in large groups. Death is shocking, and from the belief that God is life we can also claim that death is unnatural.

Death is not the way that God chose for man. It was the way that man chose for himself. However, God is not limited by man. From the beginning of the world he forsaw that we would choose death. It is no coincidence that he had eternally planned for God the Son to become human, emptying himself and assuming a human body through the Virgin Mary, to become the lowliest of men. From there he chose death.

God, who did not sin, died. How unnatural is that?

But that wasn’t the end. He descended into death where all who had passed on before anxiously awaited his arrival. From there he conquered death with overwhelming life. (He is Life after all!) He resurrected in spirit and flesh and later ascended to the presence of the Father in spirit and flesh. From there he promises to return to resurrect your dead bodies. In other words, he will come to give you life!

I promise you life! Are you ready for it?