July 4th (America and the Church)


I wanted to post on this again, since today is the Fourth of July. I struggle with the idea that America is the nation of God. It doesn’t seems to make much sense to me. I have been looking at references to the Kingdom of God/Heaven in the New Testament and there are a few things that stand in the way of calling this nation the Nation of God.

1) America wasn’t around during the time that the Scriptures were written. If Jesus was representing the Kingdom of God, Heaven (which is defined as the place where God dwells), and America had not been born, then it would have to mean that there these two are not parallels. The events leading to America started much later in world history. Jesus also was speaking to the only political entity to ever be given such a title, which was Israel. The title has changed, since Israel is not necessarily the nation of God. That title has fallen to the Church, which has opened the membership to everyone across nations, kinships, races, etc. God has merely allowed America to gain much, but the frightening question is why He has done so.

2) The Kingdom in the times referred to in the Bible is ruled by God. There is nothing in the founding documents, or in current American law that gives God the ruling of President of the USA (God can actually only be totalitarian since His rule is conditioned on the complete obedience of those under him).

3) The Prophets, Jesus, and the writers of the letters continually mention or reference the kingdom coming. If the Church has fulfilled the messianic hope of the new kingdom, then it must follow that America can fall in line and recognize our commissioning by God (my apologies to the Republican platform). Although I am American, I must say that when it come to representing either this country or the nation of God, I choose God.

This is not a post of rebellion, but of perspective. I do not condone anyone seeking to use God as an excuse to defy what is not evil in itself. God has told us that governments are meant to promote order and peace (though they fail, and that is the exception) in Romans 13. Although it is assuming the correct actions of the governing, it still stands as a testament against fulfilling your selfish desire for anarchy or pointless liberation.

In Revelation 21:24, John shows us that God is not about destroying the nations, but having them follow him (and that would mean one world government ordained by God, to the ones who think one world government is evil). Also in 22:1-7 states that the end times are a time of healing the nations, which means that we should be about healing the nation with what we have to offer. If a nation is being heavily taxed, lets offer advice of mercy. When it is oppressing, let’s bring words of challenge. When the people are violent against their rulers, let’s offer creative consequences that teach and do not kill. And remember…

The Church, not America, is the Nation of God,

and the Church will see vindication and glory, not America.

So go out and live what the Gospel teaches to the world. I hope we see many great things in these end times (which, to clarify, has been the last 2000 years, give or take).

Grace and Peace.

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Arminianism and Pelagianism


Last week we looked at Calvinism and the potential towards bad theology. Today, however, we turn to Arminianism to study its one pitfall. Arminianism historically was part of the Reformed tradition. I tend to stand with theologians such as Stanley Grenz in thinking that it still should be considered a part of that tradition. In this tradition, there is an alternative view of God’s planning in that it is not set in utter stone from the beginning of time or directly after the fall. God is still sovereign since he gets what he wants by working more creatively with humans. God, however, chooses the grouping of people who will be saved and the other groups will be condemned (The God followers vs. the God opposers). This is a form of predestination different than Calvinism. To be saved, one must choose the group to be in, and in a sense chooses the salvation, but only since God has foreordained the route to salvation. Also, no one can choose God without God first doing a work in them.

The last point is important since it points to a weakness in Arminian circles. This weakness that you will find in Arminian groups is Pelagianism. Pelagianism teaches that all are able to choose good on their own. They have the power in themselves to choose God and choose their very salvation. Works and the individuals ability becomes the basis of salvation. This is a problem in good Christian theology, since we must believe that God initiates the salvific act. According to Genesis, we see that man chose evil, but God promised ultimate salvation. When Christ came, he came calling people to Him. In Romans 12:1, we see that God must transform us, albeit, if we let Him. We do not do this ourselves!

We want good theology. That does not mean a theology that sounds good. There are many things that are sweet to are ears, but true theology is challenging. It is not easy to hear that we had to be rescued. It might strikes us as unfair that someone had to call us from our state or we would have stayed there, but we must remember that the Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as coming into our history and starting a work in us. We still have to choose to accept and allow His transformative work, but He must begin it. John Wesley, a major influence of modern Arminian theology used a term called Prevenient Grace (that grace which cames before salvation). In this aspect of grace, Wesley taught that God is trying to reach to us and transform us before our moment of accepting Jesus as Lord. This counters the twisted view that we can approach salvation and righteousness on our own. Any good work is by hearing the Spirit of God’s guidance and taking the direction that He instructs.

What’s more, the way of righteousness, as long as the fallen order of the world is still in existence, is a difficult path. Jesus once said that this way is narrow, meaning that it is difficult and unattractive. That means that the natural inclination is to choose the well beaten path of the world. We need God’s intervention so that we are able to choose the right path, even to be saved. May God guide us in the way of righteousness.

What is your perception of God? Are you able to do what  you need to do without God? Or is God necessary to our holy living? Are you using your own effort as the way to heaven? Or allowing God to guide your steps?

Calvinism and Deism


One of the major sections of Reformed Protestant Christianity is Calvinism. Named for John Calvin, it has its roots in a theology that started soon after the Reformation and has been a major developing theology ever since.

There are five unique elements to Calvinist theology. Predestination is the one we will take a brief look at. In this theology, God has foreordained who will be saved. It is debated the exact when of the declaration (before or after the fall), but there is a plan along this line. The point of this is sovereignty. How can an all powerful God be if he has not ordered salvific history? It is a good question. Though I am part of the Arminian side of the Reformed tradition, this question does baffle me.

One thing I have noticed in Calvinism is a lean to Fatalism. Fatalism says that what fate has been given to is unaltered by the decisions you make. This is not true. Throughout the Scriptures, God interacts with decisions in an intimate way. Fatalism creates an impersonal God that cares nothing about personal decision.

A major view that says God is impersonal is Deism. Deism teaches that God place the world into motion, but made it in such a way that it would run itself. This meant for the Deist that God created the universe, but would not intervene. God made a great plan, but it is unfortunately an impersonal plan. If Calvinism heads in this direction, it will not fit with Biblical Christianity’s view that God is active in history.

Developing a good Calvinist theology means not getting Christian Theology mixed up with an alternative theology. Going to Fatalism and Deism will not help us live in Christian hope. Looking at John 3:16 and the teachings of the Gospel accounts teaches us that God incarnated to human form. God, even if he made plans like a Calvinist would teach, he still must be involved. God decided that he would hear the cries of His people and got involved. God, if he foreordained the events of History, only does it in response to the cries of his people. If God is fulfilling a plan he made before the world began, it has to be because the plans are full of His promises of salvation and rescue. Isaiah 54:10 teaches that God’s will remain faithful even in the worst chaotic event imaginable to the human mind. The point of theology is to study who God is, but that means that we must focus on God’s Love for us, even if sovereignty is a concern.

What is your view of God’s plans? Do you think he is distant and watching things run? Is he that distant and unloving? Or is he acting in love, fulfilling his promises in the here and now?

 

Superbia


““Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have
made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily
lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission
and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever.” – BCP

Suberbia is the Latin word for Pride. This is one of the more noticeable sins in our culture. Not just in everyone else, but in ourselves too. There have been countless times that people have looked back on their actions and said, “How could I have done that?” Unfortunately, it is a very common sin. In the moment it can be very easy to not see our own pride until it is too late. Usually, someone is hurt, and then we are filled with guilt.

What makes pride so deadly is that it destroys of generosity, openness, and humility. Some people can be very proud in the hard work that they have done and they miss that God is the one who has given them their earnings. They could not have gained anything on their own. Pride can lead us to hide other sins, making it poisonous to our hearts and the hearts of others. It can ruin humility. When we entertain pride, we think to ourselves, “I can do all things through me,” which contrasts with Philippians 4:13.

Pride can also ruin the Church by making Christians think that they are wiser and better than they really are (Romans 12:3). This makes people unwilling to take not only criticism, but also biblical discipline. When that happens, it becomes apparent that pride in the self has replaced loyalty to God, who is the one who gave us the Church to begin with.

We should think as Christ and be humble servants of others. We should not even begin to practice being someone of higher social, economic, academic, or even sanctified status. These things will bring danger to our souls. Let us practice the way of Christ, which is generosity with our material things, openness in relationships, and humility in our hearts.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God

as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8

What have you done or thought that has made you proud of yourself? Have you ever let that pride define you? Is it possible that your Pride is blocking you from fully experiencing what is best for you? Are you willing to go the way of Christ and sacrifice Pride?

Invidia


“Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” – BCP

Invidia is the Latin word for envy. It is immediately obvious that this is connected to an uncontrollable desire of the flesh. This may look like greed and gluttony, but it is more specifically oriented around unthankfulness.

The basis of this is not trusting in God’s provision and plan. It is an easy sin, because we naturally like to think that we can supply all of our needs. The problems here are that we do not always recognize needs properly and we are often powerless to gain them.

The way of Christ demands trust. No one can carry their cross without having hope that God will provide life in the midst of a deadly situation. Such a faith is profound and highly exercised in loyal trust to a faithful God. And what’s more, if God was willing to provide for His Son, who became human, in His moment of crucifixion, then He will surely provide for those who also voluntarily walk the path of the Lord.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

and gave him the name above all other names… – Philippians 2:9

What is your envy? Is there something that you are scared that you cannot live without? Or do you think people will think less of you if you do not have it? Are any of these things what you really need? Are you willing to see your need for taking up the cross and following Jesus? Are you willing to trust God to provide for that sort of journey?

Ira


“Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” – BCP

Ira is Latin for Wrath. One might say this is for the person who is always angry or picking fights. We have many of those in this culture. I grew up in Southern USA, who are stereotyped as a people who are easily angered at someone saying the wrong thing. This is not completely devoid of truth. In the Bible we see the same thing being mentioned in Ephesians 4:26.

Let’s not get too confused here. We must remember that the traditional view of wrath as a deadly sin is more connected to destructive personality. The person who is oppressed or physically injured or has seen this done to someone else has every right to be angry since this is an anger derived from a desire for justice. The anger we are discussing is one that provokes all sorts of destructive circumstances.

What we must be cautious of are violent endeavors and always starting fights. In other words, bloodshed and bullying are to be avoided at all costs. The reason for this is that the Kingdom came as a harbinger of peace. Jesus is even called the Prince of Peace. He even went to a cross without resisting.

Peace is the will of God for humanity. From the creation it has been the desire. In the end, it will be part of our reality. In the present, we must live out this reality as we reflect Christ to everyone. It will not do any good to throw punches and draw blood. We must heal wounds and restore life to the broken and dying.

…he (Jesus) humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. – Philippians 2:8

 

In what ways do you practice wrath? Do you try to hurt others and try to cause trouble in other people’s lives? Are you willing to put that death and go as far as accepting being a victim who will be rescued? Or do you think that you can plan better than God and rescue yourself?

Acedia


“Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” – BCP

Acedia is Latin for Sloth. This term is commonly used to refer to someone who is physically lazy. Our culture seems to understand that on a physical level, someone who does not exercise is bound for a bad future. Failure to act in health usually brings someone towards death.

Failure to act is something the Church has noticed also. The Church has taken note of a more devastating slothfulness of the spirit. The person who participates in this sin does not take part in disciplining the spirit and in such lives a life that rejects God. This does not necessarily indicate a view on whether someone can reject God or not. But it is a reflection of what is in a person’s heart.

Spiritual Laziness is more poisonous than many people realize, mostly because it’s effects are not felt until it is too late. Starting lazy spiritual practices are seen as harmless, but they are really a letting down of our guard, which allows evil to reign in our lives.

Living Christ’s mission takes discipline. We cannot take up a cross without a commitment to practice the way of Christ. Who can bring love, forgiveness, and peace if they do not practice these qualities in their own heart.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. – Philippians 2:7

how are you a sloth? What keeps you from taking up your cross in spiritual discipline? Are you willing to commit to practicing the way of Christ and exercising your faith?

Avaritia


“O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” BCP

Avaritia is the Latin word for Avarice or Greed. This concept seems very perceivable in our culture through commentary on government in movements such as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. We are all constantly aware of greed, because it is a sin that is very evident in all people. How many times have we ignored more important matters in order to have more money and things.

What makes Greed so bad is relational trauma. Much like soldiers with PTSD, we can cause long-term effects on us and others by competing on the battlefield of material gain. There is nothing but death there, physical and spiritual. It does not bring life to the participant.

We were not made for this death, because it is final and without hope of a future. There is another death we take part in, one in covenant with God as we join in the death of Christ. But this death is a death of hope. Although it is found in sacrifice, not greed, it experiences the promise of resurrection. It is filled with eternal life, not just in the future, but immediately.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Though he was God,

he did not think of equality with God

as something to cling to. – Philippians 2:5-6

What are you desiring more the God’s grace and love? Do you find more happiness in material wealth or relationships that reflect Jesus? Are you willing to make Christ the center of your pursuit of satisfaction and the model for your life?