There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

Archive for theology

sex in the Spirit

this from a little ditty on Galatians 5:16-26 a couple years ago

Moulin Rouge Say “desires of the flesh” in mixed company and you’re likely to get what? Smirks, chuckles, and people moving quietly away from you. Why? Because it seems an outdated phrase, or that those desires are, instead of reviled, now championed, exalted. What am I getting at? These desires are what many people would reason: “those are good things; they’re what make life worth living. Any proscription of them is just an outdated attempt at keeping people in line; or they’re overreactions to otherwise harmless expressions of pathos.”

But Paul puts these out here. And we’d be wise to consider what they’re really expressions of. Most people would see them for the most part as essentially harmless. But Paul means not only to clarify what is in opposition to the life guided and led by the Spirit, but to expose what those kind of expressions reveal about those who engage in them. For every single one of them—every single of these fleshly desires—is a good desire gone bad. A perfectly natural and holy desire twisted into something destructive, and in the end, pleasure-killing rather than pleasure-finding. They are desires divorced from their intended ends.

Consider fornication: Read the rest of this entry »

beware of always outsourcing what is in your “job-description”

newt1vt5tuesap.jpgin moments like the tragedy we’re all hearing more and more about in Blacksburg, VA, it usually becomes the province of pastors and counselors to help people, if not to “make sense” of this, keep from entering into destructive patterns of bitterness, cynicism, fury, or isolation. But, while such types have had more training in helping people “cope,” I reject the notion that those not in those roles are any less responsible for helping people grieve, process, or come to terms with what’s happened.

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oh, for that elusive peace

our circumstances must not be the determinant of our joy

that’s a comment from a respected author that’s stuck with me recently, a comment I think came into play in our exploration of John 4 last Sunday (as well as the issue of what you would say if given the chance to explain the Gospel).  This poem by Amy Carmichael ended up in my box this morning.  I think it teases out that principle. . .that rather counter-cultural, counter-intuitive principle.

As with any art, you will not notice its significance through a hasty consideration of it.  So plan to read this a couple times at least.

Have a look: Read the rest of this entry »

the mathematics of faithfulness

one of you asked a very important question after Sunday’s lesson, and after you’d listened to Keller’s comments on how the Gospel has to be handled in present circumstances: does this mean I have to wait to get all that under my belt before I can share my faith at all?

I certainly understand the frustration hearing all that might elicit. It may feel like we’re saying you need to be able to compete at the Olympic level before you can swim with anybody in the pool. Or, more to the point, it might seem as if you need to be degreed in theology, sociology, social work, and interpersonal communication before you can be faithful to be “salt and light.” Read the rest of this entry »

taste and see that the Gospel is . . .

As promised, we’ll be looking into John’s Gospel from now until Resurrection Day, but not simply for the purpose of (re-)discovering what John has to teach us about Jesus and His Gospel. While the Gospel does not change, it is not inert. It goes somewhere, “where it wishes” (Jn 3:8). How we must handle it as Christians in contemporary culture is yet another purpose for our study. To get at that question, have a listen to this lecture by Tim Keller for some background on that additional purpose for studying John’s Gospel. It has fallen to our generation to find another metaphor for the Gospel that encompasses both the dimension of forgiveness and the dimension of world-renewal.

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what to ask God for Christmas this year

We enter into the season of Advent this Sunday, a period during which we rehearse that “looking forward” to Christmas,010784bl.jpg that anticipation of the celebration of the Incarnation of God in the form of a fragile, vulnerable child. Though looking forward is really looking back to a pivotal moment in God’s history, it may in some sense be another exercise in turning our attention–in looking forward–to the day when He will return. As those in the decades prior to the incarnation looked ahead to that undisclosed day when the Lord would come with power, are we no less implored to wait with expectation–that is with hope and obedience even in days of struggle and tedium–for the coming again of the Savior? Expectation is one emotion worthy of cultivating. Keep that in mind for a moment. There’s another emotion I’d like you to consider alongside that of expectation–this one derived from your childhood:

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succinctness is the soul of wisdom

this from C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce:

earth, if chosen instead of heaven, will turn out to have been only a region in hell; and earth, if put second to heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of heaven itself.