Sunday, August 31, 2008

immanuel (God with us)

In church today the pastor, David Smith, pointed out something to me that I have never seen before. It amazes me that I have read this passage so many times yet missed this truth.

He was preaching from Exodus 3. Moses was reluctant to fulfill God’s call to be used in the deliverance of Israel. God said to him, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (3:12, ESV).

The assurance and the sign that God promised Moses was to come once Moses did what God had commanded Him. The order, at least in this instance, was not: call, assurance/confidence, obedience, then fulfillment. Rather, it was: call, obedience, fulfillment, then assurance.

Not what I would expect.

That fascinates me.

the importance of scripture, pt. 1

I am not sure that the necessary role that Scripture plays in the life of the Christian can be overemphasized. Scripture has to be the very foundation of my life. It is the means by which I can understand who God is and what He has done.

If I believe that God is holy, perfect, transcendent, and infinite in knowledge and wisdom, and if I believe that I am fallen, sinful, finite, imperfect, and foolish on my own, then it follows that I am absolutely dependent upon God to reveal Himself to me. If His ways are truly above my ways then it is necessary for Him to disclose Himself for me to truly know anything about Him. My finitude limits my ability to rightly understand who He is with any certainty apart from Him.

What sort of god is the god that can be rightly understood by the finite apart from any sort of self-revelation? A god fully comprehended by the finite is a finite god. However, a part of the Christian message is that the Almighty God has disclosed Himself to the weak and finite.

Someone once told me that I was putting God in a box to limit my truth claims about Him to the claims that are made in Scripture. This person wanted me to say that Scripture was one of many ways of knowing about God. Now, I will agree that we learn something about God from trees, lakes, zip lines, and camaraderie, but I believe that even our understanding of God through those things has to be informed and guided by what Scripture has said that we can learn about God through the created order. If we attempt to understand God apart from His word it is at that point that we have put Him in a box. We have implicitly made the statement that we can understand who He is on our own apart from the authority of what He has said about Himself. It is to exchange the God who is so big that we need Him to reveal Himself for a god that we can understand on our own apart from any sort of self-disclosure on the part of the god.

As a result, I see Scripture to be essential to the way a Christian understands life. Speaking from Scripture accurately is the surest way to know that what we speak is truth. I may not be able to say with any authority that it is God’s will for me to go to such and such a place and spread the Gospel. It might be, but I cannot be certain. However, I can say with all authority and certainty that it is God’s will for me to “love my neighbor.” Scripture needs to be the authority and source of truth in our lives. If it is not then we will live a life apart from the word “more sure... to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19 ESV).

Saturday, August 30, 2008

the plan

I have heard that it is best to have some direction for a blog. I have a little bit.

I think I will probably write about any casual reflections or stories that might come up. However, I also want to take some time to go through some questions that came up this past year in the guys’ staff Bible study at Camp Willow Run. The guys asked some excellent questions that I think will be worth spending some time on.

So, if there is not anything else for me to write about I will write about those questions and topics from this past summer.

Why I write

I like writing. I am not sure if I write well or not, but it is something that I enjoy doing. It usually helps me clear my mind and put my thoughts in order.

I also like reflecting on things. Sometimes this gets me into trouble as I can over-think or over-analyze things. Most of the time, however, I think I grow as a person when I consider life.

I also like to express my opinion. I tend to think that I am right about pretty much everything. On the one side, I think this is good. It would be odd to think I was wrong about most or even some things I believed. I should seek to be right. On the other hand, I know I cannot always be right and I need to be certain that there is not a misplaced confidence inhibiting me from learning from others.

Lastly, I am trying to live by the conviction that Christ is the center of all things. In this I fail miserably. But there is grace.

I write all of this by way of introduction. Several friends and family have encouraged me to write more. I have ignored their encouragements for a while under the belief that there is not anything that I could write that has not been better written about elsewhere. However, I am now recognizing that what I write could be more accessible to my friends and family than some of the other resources that I think are more helpful than anything I may put down here. So, I’ll write.

St. Augustine’s conversion was preceded by years of struggle and searching. The world’s philosophies could not bring him to faith. One day, while in a garden, he picked up the word of God, read it, and placed his faith in Christ. He went on to become, arguably, the most influential theologian since the apostles. It was the power of the Word that brought him to faith. What took him to the Word? He wrote in Book Eight of the Confessions, “And suddenly I heard a voice from some nearby house, a boy’s voice or a girl’s voice, I do not know: but it was a sort of sing-song, repeated again and again, ‘Take and read, take and read’” (F. J. Sheed's translation).

If this blog becomes anything to anyone I hope that it is like the words heard in the garden that day. Though they come across as the sing-song ramblings of a child may they point to the Word, and thus, point you to Christ. Take and read, take and read.