“Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” BCP

Gula is the Latin word for Gluttony. The word usually refers to taking in overly excessive behavior to the point of being wasteful. The common association is with food, but it is not limited to that material alone. It can be any material thing that we attempt to not only control but drown ourselves in order to find pleasure and fulfillment.

This vice can seem good on the surface and might even be called self-actualization. However, it reflects a dark side of our humanity: Greed. This is related to another we will cover later, but it shows how pervasive our fallen nature is. We have the ability to take in such a way that moves past thankfulness without thinking of it and moves right over that cliff into the abyss of destruction.

We can see the effects of gluttony in the current Economic and Ecological devastation in the world and America’s veracious appetite. Credit card debt, mortgage crises, global warming, and even war are evidence of this reality. We want and take so much, but it brings turmoil in nature and relationships.

Christ showed us and calls us to not seek to provide for our lives in a wasteful way but to share with others so that all needs are provided. This not only is an act of surrender to His will. It is an act of trust that he will fulfill us. We must take up our cross and live out this submissive reality.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. – Philippians 2:5

What do you want? Do you use so much of it that it is wasteful? What can you do to practice more sacrificial giving over wasteful hoarding?

Knowing God vs. Knowing Self

This series has been leading to a climax. We are approaching the heart of the problem of replacing intimate knowledge of God with other things. That problem is what some would call the self.

It boils down to who is king of your life.

One way to look at this is by turning to the ten commandments. The setup that is commonly accepted is that the rules start with loving God and then say things about loving your neighbor. We’ll save loving your neighbor for another day, but the notion of loving God fills the entire law. The dichotomy of this law is between choosing God and life or choosing what you think is good for the self and going down into destructive patterns. It is essentially raising your self as an idol over and against God, which goes against the first command.

Martin Luther once said, “…where the heart is rightly disposed toward God and this commandment is observed, all the others follow.” Luther understood that the gate to living well and in holiness was to first focus on honoring God. Without that step, everything else falls apart. We have gone over the things in Christianity that tend to take precedence over God (Doctrine, Blessing, Tradition, Experience, and Reason.) All of them, although great, can give us a high sense of self and tear us away from not putting anything above God. We become the idol we had been working to not become.

Because we all wanted what we didn’t have.

We have all defamed someone’s character.

We have stolen things because we were able.

We’ve given in to deep desires regardless of their effects on others.

We’ve wished that certain people were dead.

We’ve forgotten to give back to the people who have sacrificed for us.

We’ve given up on God’s rejuvenating plan thinking ours was better.

We’ve claimed to be under God’s name without actually submitting to Him.

We’ve placed TV, money, and icons at the center of our culture instead of God and others.

Why? Because we think more highly of the self than we do God. Instead of knowing God by doing His will, we intend to do our own will. Thinking that we can do it better, we forget that we humanity have been down this road before.

And just like the first time, it does not end well.

We can do it better, but only if we lose our selves to gain the plans that God has for us. What is taking the place of God in your life? What are you using to make life better? Are you thinking so highly of yourself that you are actually overriding God’s wishes for you? Do you know God or your self?

What is Valentine’s Day About?

Mark Driscoll posted an evaluation of Valentine’s Day awhile back, commemorating the man who was claimed a Saint by the Catholic Church. He claims that His holiday was ruined by Lupercalia, a Roman pagan holiday which was a lustful holiday filled with debauchery.

There are a couple problems with this view.

1) Although he is right that there were many men named Valentine who were martyred. The one commonly referred to is Valentine of Rome who was martyred in 269 AD. He rightly states that Pope Gelasius established the holiday in 496 also. He is wrong that the holiday romance ideas are simply attributed to Lupercalia. It’s a huge logical jump that leaves out too many reasons for saying that. Despite his good intentions, he is just wrong to say this. If you had been caught celebrating a pagan Roman holiday while the Catholic Church was in power, you would not have fared well.

2) Valentine’s Day was not truly romanticized until Chaucer in the 14th century began his writings and making. Since this is technically in the Medieval period, it is at the far end of that period from the establishment of Valentine’s day. Chaucer could not have been celebrating a pagan ritual 1000 years after the establishment of a holiday by a church that had already dismissed that holiday.

Valentine’s Day carries much romantic character these days. I would say that it does not have to be a bad thing. God made attraction and is supportive of people who decide to marry, pending they stay that way for life and treat it honorably. The person that the Church was originally meant to celebrate is that a Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for going against an order of the Emperor of Rome. The edict was that young men could not marry because that took them away from participating in the military. Valentine responded by continuing to marry Christian couples. What is legend is that he was supposed to be married to a lady and that they exchanged letters until he was executed. Whether fact or fiction, this story shows how Christians should act in respects to romance. Even though marriage will not be a thing in heaven, in this age it is to be a sign of loyalty, compassion, and strength. I know that my wife brings strength to me and I try very hard to bring that to her life as well. The concept of marriage we live out is a human attempt to reflect the trinity and Jesus’ relationship to the Church. We seek to bring purpose and love to the marriage. That should be partially what today is about. First, it is about the Kingdom of God and a great person who died for it. The other point is that romance can be just as much a tool for the Gospel and the Kingdom as anything else.

I hope that you get to celebrate this holiday, whether single or in a relationship. Whatever your status, rest in the God who made romance and treat others, including your romantic interests, as God would treat them. That will truly honor valentines day

Knowing God vs. Knowing Reason

One of the major developments of this era is enlightenment. We have come a long way since the beginning of the movement, but we can see it’s effects in academia and practical living. Nothing has been untouched as far as math, science, politics, and even religion. Everything has an emphasis at some point on knowing and learning. This movement has taught us many things, but it has also given us major misconceptions.

One of the teachers I had in high school was also a Roman Catholic priest. He was teaching on the image of god one day and asked us what was it that made us in the image of God. His opinion was reason and he told us that. As much as I respected him, I disagree with this assessment.

In the old testament the idea of the image of God or any other powerful being was not based on someone inherent ability to reflect God, but on the responsibility to reflect God regardless of any ability. One thing that God is is gracious. The whole plan of salvation and discipleship is based on God’s graces and commands to us. To insert the idea that we reason and that makes us the image of God can lead dangerously into works based grace.

Reason is a good thing. It has helped us to today. Sometimes, though, we can tend to make reason the main go to for value and meaning. Our meaning, however, comes from God and what he has made us to be. Reason is not the main focus; Christ is. Reason has failed us so many times and has led us to self-centered decisions as individuals and as a people. We can’t save ourselves and we can’t become better on our own.

Questions that drive us to the main point: Do you think reason is what makes us great in God’s eyes? Has reason ever failed us? What would life be like if we tried to make our heart more about knowing Christ than knowing information?

Knowing God vs. Knowing Experience

When we enter Christianity, experiencing and emotions are an inescapable reality. One the giants of the Christian faith was a man named John Wesley. In the middle of his life while he was an Anglican minister, his heart was “strangely warmed” by the Spirit of God while listening to Martin Luther’s comments on Romans. The experience was named the Aldersgate experience after the place that Wesley experienced this.

Wesley, however, knew that experience was not the core of the Christian experience. It was a bigger reality founded in Christ. Experience and emotions can lead to devastating affects (just read about Jim Jones or the actions by Westboro Baptist Church). Emotions are unstable things that can lead to euphoria of religiosity, which is a false, shallow understanding of the Faith, or to a dark and fearful relationship, which is not love towards God, but a fear of hell, which gets no one any closer to Heaven.

An instruction on how to deal with overpowering experiences and emotions is in Revelation, where we see the record of a Church that was suffering tribulation under the Empire of Rome and the Jewish people around them. They were a young outcast group subjected to violence or at least barred from participating in society, which would have led to struggles in survival. Throughout the book, they are encouraged to stay strong and not give in. This is despite the experience and emotions connected to a desire to survive, which is a very high level of emotion and desire. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs would consider it one of the highest.

The point is that the relationship with God is very important. We are not discussing a simple verbal acknowledgement of relationship, but the type that is defined by love. Love, in the Scriptures looks very different than today. We may see it as a warm, fuzzy feeling when talking about God, but the Bible uses the words which originally were used to describe loyalty. Loyalty has to be a major drive in our love for God. If we give that up, we have lost what it means to be saved and have lost a proper response to the Gospel also.

You should ask yourself a few questions: What drives my faith, participating in something bigger than me or making this about me? Is my love like high school puppy love that is done next semester or more like love of a mighty king and his servants? Am I going to seek the emotions and the spiritual high of good experience or seek to know God who is my Lord?

Knowing God vs. Knowing Tradition

One of the easiest things to do in life is to create barriers. These barriers can be anything, but the core of what makes a barrier is identity. It can be a good thing. It is very helpful for Christians who want to understand their faith through the formation of tradition.

It can also be a bad thing. One tendency in making barriers is to build walls around us that have no open doors to allow someone to enter our group. It then becomes the primary focus of some people to have barriers. When we seek to know God better, this type of living is no longer useful. To better understand that, we turn to Scriptures, the account of God’s working in history.

In Joshua, we see a group that is potentially the most exclusive group in the history of the world, Israel. Repeatedly, the Israelites decide to take their land and not allow anyone else in it to live. It is very easy to find the history here, but there is also a theological point to the book. In order to understand that point, we must look at two things:

1) Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute (the worst Canaanite a Jewish reader could think of) was spared and 2) God did not kill everyone and neither did Israel.

With those points made, we turn to the theological question found in Joshua: What does it mean to be a part of God’s chosen and who is in that group? For part of the answer, you look back to the Torah, but for second answer, you see Rahab and other Canaanites that survived and begin to wonder who is in and who is out of the tradition of Israel.

Jesus takes this question a step further when sees more faith in the Roman Officer in Luke 7. He turns to the Jewish people and says this is better faith than He has seen in all of Israel. He is saying this to a group of people who’s tradition would have said a Roman or any gentile oppressor or overlord was incapable of having any faith like that.

These accounts keep repeating the same question. However, as we move further, we begin to ask a new question, a more important one. Where is your relationship? Who or what do you want to know more? Are you more concerned about your tradition or is God your primary concern?

In Christianity, we must remember that our most desired person is God. If we seek our tradition first, then we forget that our tradition is about seeking God first.

But if we seek God first, our tradition is made better and is transformed.

Knowing God vs. Knowing Blessings

One of the major themes of Scripture and Christianity is blessing. The Bible is filled with passages that ask God for blessings. It can be a good thing when viewed in the proper Biblical lens. However, it can become a snare for people when blessing from God becomes the focus over and against knowing God.

There is a popular pastor that preaches these days. He is very heavy in the idea that God just gives blessings and that everything is going to be okay. There seems to be much grace in that idea, but it lacks the truth that bad things happen to good people.

There is also a section of Christianity that seems to promote the idea that if you have enough faith, blessings will come your way. There seems to be much truth in this statement, but no grace. The gracious reality is that blessings are not actually direct consequences of Godly living. Bad things happen. That is part of being in a broken world.

In Exodus 33, we have the most gracious and honest vision of God. At the beginning of the chapter, God is angry. He remembers how rebellious they were at Sinai and He lets them know it. Israel is scared. Who can even survive in the hands of an angry God. But then God listens to Moses’ pleas for mercy.

And He says yes to mercy.

And to prove it, he personally comes to Moses in all His glory and protects Him, which meant that he would do the same to His people. He would exist with them and yet protect them from destruction.

Israel didn’t deserve that, and yet, they got that blessing.

The only thing to after receiving blessings like that is to live in worship to that God.

We do not live thinking that everything is okay despite what we have done. We also do not live trying to earn the favor of God. We already have that great blessing in Christ. The only thing we can do is to come closer to the one who has blessed us.

Knowing God vs. Knowing Doctrine

When looking at the Christian faith there are two ways of going about it. One is knowing God and His glory and faithfulness. The other is knowing a doctrine and using it to replace God’s glory and faithfulness.

The first, knowing God, is a wonderful pursuit that leads us into places of great ministry and actually leads to great doctrine. For centuries the Church has had the Creeds which teaches that God is our source. This is a core teaching of Scripture. This is also the reason Scripture carries a highly relational view of a good God. God does not create and then destroy; he just creates. Destruction happens when humans take matters into their own hands, and go against a God fighting for those who want to bring the greatest glory to the Creator who has given them good things. God is always giving and waiting to give good things to the World.

God is the good source. We want a relationship with that God.

The second, knowing doctrine as God, is a dangerous place that ruins or limits ministry. It amazes me how many times we do this still. It reminds me of Peter saying that Jesus was the Messiah, but did not want to say that Jesus was supposed to die. To Him, the Messiah had to follow the rules set up for him. But Christ kept going the direction that He had plotted. With the Church today, this is like the doctrinal stances and personal beliefs we want to hold. We have a tendency to hold on to the rules that we have made. But there are problems with this. These problems are known has control, will-power, and greed. We want to define things before God gets Hands on it.

What is it that you call God? Is it the Christ in you or the Christ you have created?

If the latter, then we lose the inward reality of the faith which comes from a greater reality outside of us. As Richard Foster once said, “With the decline of the inward reality of the Christian faith, an increasing tendency to stress the only thing left, the outward form, developed. And whenever there is a form devoid of spiritual power, law will take over because law always carries with it a sense of security and manipulative power.”

Is that not true? Have we not seen that a million time in history? God wants us to find the Christ in us and to continually move deeper towards Him. In doing so, we will find that doctrines and rules, even the so-called biblical ones, were not fulfilling the law. They were not things that brought true security. Only proper relationship with God and His creation can fulfill the law. That is the only thing that can offer a true, un-manipulative power that comes in the Spirit.

Knowing: Beginning of Knowledge

Before we get into the different elements of knowing, let’s talk about the idea of knowing in the Scripture.

1) Knowing between two intimate persons: Genesis tells us the Adam knew his wife. There is sexual reference here, but it also represents a knowing the is simply relational. To know someone like this is to get into the daily life that they live. And when you are the first two people created, there are not any options here.

2) Knowing as planned outcome or foreknowledge: This is a form of knowledge that is usually applied to God (Psalm 38:9, Amos 5:12, & Acts 1:24). It represents a sense of God being able to set a plan into motion and having information about humanity and the World that would not be available to Him if He was not God.

3) Knowing as a trusted outcome or hope: Here the writer has an outcome that is expected. This usually connected to themes of God’s faithfulness(Psalm 20:6, Hosea 6:6, & Romans 5:5)

4) Knowing as cognitive knowledge: (Daniel 7:19 & Romans 1:19) This is either a knowledge that you have or at least something you want to figure out. It’s all brain. No heart issue is really present when the word knowledge is used this way.

Knowledge as we want to encounter in this series can include some of these, but the one we will focus on is the form of trusted outcome and hope.

Here are the big questions. What do you trust to satisfy you? What do you trust to complete you? What do you trust to resurrect you?