Monday, May 29, 2006

No. 9: Revelation

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I have been thinking about revelation—not the book of Revelation in the Bible, but the ways in which God has made Himself known to us. Our God is God among gods, the only One who can and has revealed Himself to us. There are basically three ways in which God has made Himself known.

Creation: The first way that God has revealed Himself to us is through His creation. God’s creative handiwork speaks boldly to all of His being and His nature so that no one can excuse themselves from not knowing of His existence.

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:20 NIV)

The words “Intelligent Design” have recently come into play in our culture. They represent an alternative to the idea of pure, naturalistic evolution. William Dembski, a leading proponent of “Intelligent Design,” says, “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.” Beyond the argument of whether “Intelligent Design” is a genuine alternative to evolution, or simply “junk science,” lie countless portraits of our Trinitarian God in nature. Below you will find a few. For further study, check out these scriptures: (Job 38-40, Psalm 19, Acts 14:15-17 and 7:22-31, Romans 1:18-21; 2:14-16)

Holy Scripture: The second way God has revealed Himself is through His Word—the Holy Scriptures. Martin Luther once remarked that “the Scriptures are Christ’s swaddling-clothes.” Study the Old Testament and you will quickly discover the hand of God at work, pointing the way toward the advent of the Messiah. You will see Jesus Christ in the garden of Eden, and as a ram caught in a thicket on Mount Moriah, and in the offerings of the Levites at Moses’ wilderness tabernacle. You will see Him manifested in many ways both as an actual appearance in time—a theophany—as in His wrestling match with Jacob, and in symbolism such as the serpent held upon a rod by Moses in the wilderness. Jesus said to the Jews …

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me …” (John 5:39 NIV)

Jesus Christ: There is no greater revelation of God to man than the third way, which is the advent of God in human form—Jesus Christ the Word made flesh (John 1:14). Jesus said …

"Don't you know me … even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father …” (John 14:9 NIV)

Understanding these things, we can go forward with confidence, knowing that God has chosen to make Himself known to us. There is no other god in heaven or on earth who can make that claim.

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For further consideration: Threes in Creation
  • Mathematics:
    ◦ pythagorean theorem: A2 + B2 = C2
    ◦ numbers: positive, negative, zero
    ◦ basic arithmetic: 1 + 1 = 2
    ◦ area = length · width
    ◦ sin of an angle = opposite / hypotenuse
    ◦ A = Πr2
  • Basic Accounting:
    ◦ debits + credits = balance
  • Physics:
    ◦ Mass / volume = density
    ◦ Speed = distance / time
    ◦ Matter = solid, liquid, gas
  • Creation Itself:
    ◦ The heavens = sun, moon, stars
    ◦ Our planet = earth, sky, water
    ◦ Spatial reality = height, width, depth
    ◦ Human existence = birth, life, death
    ◦ Time = past, present, future
  • Primary Colors:
    ◦ Red, Yellow, Blue
  • Relationships:
    ◦ father + mother = child
    ◦ hurt + forgiveness = healing
    ◦ hurt + unforgiveness = estrangement
  • Man—a Trinity:
    ◦ Man = body, soul, spirit
    ◦ Man’s body = flesh, blood, bones
    ◦ Man’s soul = mind, will, emotions
    ◦ Man’s spirit = conscience, intuition, communion with God

Monday, May 22, 2006

No. 8: Capital "T" Truth

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I have been thinking about the nature of truth. Is it absolute, or is it relative? Is it public, or is it private? Is there one universal Truth that applies to all of life, or are there many, individual truths that vary from person to person?

Consider the O.J. Simpson trial. After months of testimony, the jury acquitted the accused. Many black Americans celebrated. Not so with white America. And yet we had both watched the same proceedings. How is it that we came to such vastly different conclusions? Based upon the evidence and testimony at the trial, each group decided what was really true—for them.

For the Christian, the answer to the first and third questions in the first paragraph above, is obvious and clear. There is one, universal Truth, and His name is Jesus Christ. He said ...

“I am the … Truth.” (John 14:6 KJV)

He also prayed for us ...
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17: 17 KJV)

Jesus Christ is also called the Word …
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1: 1-3 NIV)

The Word and the Truth are Jesus Christ. He is the Living Word made into human form. To embrace Him is to embrace the Truth. To embrace the Truth is to embrace Him.

Why is it so important to understand this fundamental idea? For many Christians, the answer to the first question posted above— “is [truth] absolute, or is [truth] relative?” —is easy. Of course Truth is absolute. But how about the second question?— “Is [truth] public, or is [truth] private?” The answer to that question may not come quite so easily.

Now, if we think carefully about the third question— “is there one universal Truth that applies to all of life, or are there many, individual truths that vary from person to person?” —the answer once again becomes crystal clear.

For the Christian, to believe in universal Truth must also mean a belief in public Truth. Some call it truth with a capital “T.” In other words, there cannot be a universal Truth that only matters to the private (religious or spiritual) realm. If Truth is universal, then it applies to all of life, not just to my own personal or religious life.

For those of us engaged in the battleground of ideas, a belief in one, universal Truth means that in the public arena, we hold firmly to a transcendent, uncompromised standard. This standard, This Truth, is set for us by a God who is separate and above—a God who has clearly made Himself known (Romans 1:18-20). This standard is not for Christians alone, but for all of God’s creation. Holding up God’s Truth in the world is what makes us salt and light.

Universal Truth is public truth.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

No. 7: Worldview

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I have been thinking about worldview. We have seen the word ‘worldview” in books, newspapers, and magazines, and we hear it on the news and even from the pulpit. But what exactly does it mean?

James W. Sire, in his book The Universe Next Door, writes that “A world view is a set of presuppositions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world.”

But I prefer W. Gary Phillips’ and William E. Brown’s definition found in their work titled Making Sense of Your World. They write, “A worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world and second, an application of this view to life. In simpler terms, our worldview is a view of the world and a view for the world.”

In the last decade or so, a wave of worldview-related organizations have sprung up across the land. The Worldview Academy sponsors leadership camps to help train Christians to “… live in accord with a biblical worldview…” Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, describes the imperative of worldview as a need to know “the truth about truth.” Colson helped to create The Wilberforce Forum, which “offers a number of resources to help Christians gain an understanding of a biblical worldview and to equip them to think and act Christianly in all aspects of life.” Colson also sponsors The Worldview Church, an online resource center providing worldview related materials.

In the spring of 2005 I attended a conference sponsored by Worldview Weekend, an organization founded by Brannon Howse, and dedicated to help believers “think and live like a Christian.” I found the weekend experience very stimulating and encouraging. Plug the words “biblical worldview” into your Internet browser and see what comes up. You will be amazed at how many groups and organizations are focused on promoting and teaching a Biblically based worldview.

Everyone possesses a worldview, whether it is an intentional, well developed, systematic set of ideas, or simply a hodge-podge of notions collected together from various sources over time. A worldview is a mental map of sorts, locking in on certain realities that provide anchorage for our entire spectrum of ideas. Maps are essential of course, for orientation, helping us to see where we are in relation to everything around us. Without a proper worldview we become disoriented, not able to locate ourselves in the big scheme.

Why do we need a Biblical worldview? I suggest that at the center or core of every worldview is our idea of God. Secondary to that core is our idea of man. Our ideas regarding God and man determine our ideas about everything else. If our ideas about God and man are not correct, then everything thing else in our mental map will be out of place.

Cultures in the free world are shaped by the collective worldview of a people. Business, education, the arts and civil government emerge as a reflection of the composite beliefs of the whole. In nations where civil government is elected freely by the governed, worldview determines the mindset (see No. 6) of those elected to govern. Therefore, every Christian should be studying Scripture to help anchor them in Biblical truth, so that we are properly oriented in reality.

Monday, May 08, 2006

No. 6: Mindset

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I have been thinking about how easy it is to become locked into a certain way of thinking without even realizing it. Yes, we all have mindsets, some good and some not so good.

Not long ago, my wife and I enjoyed dinner at a Chinese restaurant with two other couples. I sat next to a good friend of ours who is part Sioux Indian. Now she’s as American middle class as me and the people I generally hang out with, but she does have an interesting family background. She and her husband make occasional trips to the Great Plains states where they visit some of her family living on reservations.

During dinner we discussed the idea of a name change for the Washington Redskins football team. Talk of a name change has been floating around for years. But I was surprised to hear my friend’s husband be quite bold about declaring that he thought the Redskins should change their name. I would have never expected that from him. He explained to me that his wife’s Midwest family thinks of the word “redskin” the same way that our African American neighbors think about the dreaded “n” word.

I had never heard that idea before and it jarred my mindset. If you would have asked me about this topic an hour before our conversation I would have blown off the idea of a Redskin’s name change with a disgruntled shake of the head, a scowl, and a judgmental attitude. But suddenly I am looking at this question much differently.

"The one who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind. The Spirit intercedes for God's people the way God wants him to." Romans 8:27 (GOD’S WORD Translation)

"For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so," Romans 8:6-7 (NAS)

"For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Romans 8:6 (KJV)

In these two examples above, the Greek word for what we translate as “mind set” or “minded” is phronema (pronounced fron'-ay-mah) and it means to direct one's mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for, and to be of one's party.

We have discussed racial and ethnic mindsets. What about political mindsets? Do we have them? How about theological mindsets? Do they guide the way we read and interpret Scripture?
Can our minds be re-set?

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2 (KJV)

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," Philippians 2:5 (KJV)

"Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." Colossians 3:2 (NAS)

Monday, May 01, 2006

No. 5: Matrix

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I have been thinking about the matrix lately. I am not talking here about the movie starring Keanu Reaves. What I am referring to is the ideological matrix from which our thoughts and ideas spring.

The word “matrix” literally means “womb.” It is taken from the Latin root “mater,” from which we derive such English words as maternity, maternal and mother. The Merriam Webster Dictionary tells us that the word “matrix” first appeared in 1555, and was employed to define a female animal used for breeding.

Have you ever considered that each of us possesses an ideological womb, an internal core of beliefs which feed our thoughts and ideas? Where do our ideas come from? What feeds them? This would be our internal, ideological matrix.

As Christians, we certainly desire for our ideological womb, our internal matrix, the seedbed of our thoughts and ideas, to be feeding our minds with Christian ideas. But the big question is whether or not our seedbed is complete.

Does our internal matrix favor the New Testament more than the Old? The gospels more than the epistles? Or do we have a fundamental understanding of the whole story—the big picture or the metanarrative as it is often called?

Is the metanarrative to which we subscribe bookended by Genesis and Revelation? Are we familiar not only with the creation story, but with the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph? Do we have an understanding of Moses, the Passover, the deliverance from Egypt, the forty-year wilderness wandering, and the impartation of the law? Can we make a connection between the wilderness tabernacle, the Levitical priesthood, and the ministry of Jesus Christ? What do we know about Samuel and David and Saul?

These are more than just wonderful Bible stories about individuals and their faith and failures. These stories and lives and imageries weave a tapestry, the whole picture, the metanarrative of God, His creation, and His purposes among men.

If we are casting about our lives with only a part of the story, only a minimal knowledge of the ministry of Christ from the Gospels, and we cannot see Him alive and at work throughout the Old Testament and indeed ALL of history, then our matrix is incomplete. Below are seven seeds that each of us should be cultivating in our ideological matrix-womb. Please examine them and consider how well your matrix-womb is seeded:
  • The Inerrancy of Scripture
  • A Creational View of Earth’s Origins
  • The Trinitarian Nature of God
  • The Moral Depravity of the Human Race
  • The Covenantal and Sacrificial Love of God
  • The Providence and Sovereignty of God
  • The Holiness and Perfections of God