Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Systematic Theology Part IV: What's the Source?

Our God is an infinite God. He's unlimited. "His greatness is unsearchable" (Psalm 145:3). "Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty...Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea." (Job 11:7, 9).

Since God is infinite and we are not there is only one way we can know anything about Him.

Anything we know about God has to be revealed to us by God!

"Unless God had decided to show us who he is, unless he had chosen to make known his own life and ways, we simply could know nothing--yes, nothing!--about him. We are dependent completely on God’s kindness and goodness to make himself known to us, and for this we ought to be grateful every day of our lives.” (Big Truths for Young Hearts, Bruce A. Ware, p18)

“Humans cannot reach up to investigate God and would not understand even if they could. So God has revealed himself by a revelation...coming in human language and human categories of thought and action.” (Christian Theology, 2nd Edition, Millard J. Erickson p204)

I am grateful that God has chosen to reveal himself to us. But how? There are two ways that God has chosen to reveal himself to us.

1. General Revelation
AKA: Universal Revelation and Natural Revelation

General revelation communicates about God to all people in all places and at all times. General revelation is visible in nature, history and people. We can know that God is glorious and knowable (Psalm 19:1-3); wise, provider and powerful (Psalm 104); has eternal power, divine nature and wrath (Romans 1:18-20); in control of creation and the ruler of the nations (Acts 14:16-18). We can also know that God is a God of morality (Romans 2:12-16) and that God exists by the evidence that all people everywhere worship something (Isaiah 44:14-20).

The existence of general revelation brings up an interesting question: Can people come to a saving knowledge of God based solely on general revelation? In other words, can that people group living in the jungles of Africa that have never heard the name of Jesus still be saved by what they can know of God from what they see around them?

Some would argue "yes" and others would argue "absolutely not". For those that think "yes" they consider how people were saved in the Old Testament times, before Jesus. Salvation is through trust in the righteousness of God by faith.

Those who think "no" think the affects of sin are too great.

The purpose of General Revelation is to push us toward Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24-he power and wisdom observed in creation is, in fact, Jesus Christ). The problem is that we see the world with eyes tainted by sin. Not only that, creation itself has been affected by sin (Romans 8:18-25). While we can recognize the existence of a creator/God and can know something of his attributes our sinfulness suppresses the Truth about Jesus and instead we become an idolatrous people.

General revelation serves, as does the law, merely to make guilty, not to make righteous” (Erickson, p198)

While general revelation is beneficial it is limited. Because of these limitations it was necessary for God to step in and “address the human race through the special revelation of Christ” (A Theology for the Church, Russell Moore, p111) This is called Special Revelation and takes priority over general revelation in our study of God. (Even in our study of general revelation tonight we have used special revelation to help our understanding.)

Trying to understand general revelation without the help of special revelation is like me trying to see without my glasses. I can see broad strokes but not details. Without the details I am susceptible to making BIG mistakes. That's where special revelation comes in.

Special revelation makes the message of general revelation clear.

2. Special Revelation
AKA: Particular Revelation

Special revelation communicates about God to particular people at definite times and places.

God has done this through divine speech, through the person of Jesus Christ and throughout history. He spoke directly to Abraham to establish his people, Israel. He spoke in dreams to Joseph to preserve his people. He told Moses his name: I AM. He spoke through the prophets and they communicated his Words to the people: "Thus says the Lord." He spoke in Jesus: "I and the Father are one." "If you have seen me then you have seen the Father."

And this special revelation has been given to us in the Bible.

Why has he stepped into general revelation to give us this special revelation? For relationship! Special revelation shows us how to have a redemptive relationship with the One True God! The book that sits on so many of our shelves is not just another book. It is the revelation the infinite God has given us of himself.

If God has chosen to disclose himself to us and that self-disclosure has been written down, should we not study it?

He is infinite so mystery will remain (Exodus 33:20; Eph 3:2-13) but he has revealed from heaven all we need for righteousness and holiness.

Receive this revelation gladly, not lightly.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Joey Update Vol. 24

The way was full of sand and thorns. The hour trip up to a village was
complete. Now, was the time for reason of our trip: to bring a horse back to
town. I took a special delight in this trip, as riding horses turns out to
be very fun. After the requisite holiday cookies that seem to make whole
meals now that Fasting is over, we went out behind my guard's hut. And there
was Braga.

Braga means Lightning, so named because he has a patch that really looks
nothing like a lightning bolt on his side. We launched right into lessons of
how to put the saddle on and tie it, how to tie his feet so he won't wander
away and all the noises to make him stop and go. The lessons were compact
but they were clear and not a half hour later, I was up and riding. The way
to make Braga move forward to make loud kissing noises, like you're kissing
a child's boo-boo. So it was, I kissed my way back home.

But first, I needed to know the way. One of our guards, who lives in this
village and took me up on his motorcycle, lead me a little way in order to
show me the road. He said if I followed the tire tracks, I would find my way
back home. No problem I thought. So, he went off on the motorcycle path
which is faster and soon I was out in the qadadi with Braga and God. I
remembered my first ride in vivid detail, the ride with Mizan, as I'm sure
you all remember too. I had the leading rope in my left hand to turn and
slow Braga and the whipping rope in my right hand to spur him on to great
speeds. The rope for the bit, also called the horse's brain, lay tangled in
his mane but within reach should I need to stop suddenly. I knew the great
temptation to the dizzying speeds of full gallop but thought it better to
opt for a more moderate approach this time. Still, we started out
ploddingly. Both I and the horse were frustrated with the pace, him snorting
in impatience and me trying in vain to tap the strength I knew was in him. I
knew this because some village guys were showing off with him by leaping up
without stirrups into the saddle and taking off by a mere flick of the rope.
It's all in the touch.

It was brought to me how desperately important it is to learn the language
if you really want to move anywhere. I could sense that both Braga and I
were of the same mind to go faster, but I was not properly speaking his
language. It IS all in the touch and the touch is not ruthlessly laying the
lash to him.

I followed the path, minding the way of thorns and turning him easily
enough. I then looked ahead and there the road turned into a lake, as a
broad puddle from a heavy rain some three weeks ago remained. No problem I
thought, I'll just go around it. So, off I went, to be met with another
puddle. I was considering going around this one too, but there was a lady
with a donkey fetching water from the puddle. She said something to me about
a direction but nothing I fully understood. So, she crossed the puddle and
lead Braga into the water. Then, she did the unthinkable- she removed the
bit from Braga's mouth. "Maybe he's thirsty," she said. Braga drank just
before we left and my guard said he wouldn't need another drink until we got
home. He also said not to remove the bit, because it could be tough
sometimes to put it in. So, she removed Braga's bit and I was thinking, "I
sure hope you know how to put the bit back in." Turns out she didn't. So, I
got kind of frustrated and dismounted and copied what I saw my guard do to
put the bit back in Braga's mouth. She laughed at me in my efforts but soon,
al hamdu l'llah, the bit was back in and we were on our way. I asked if she
knew the way back to the road, she said she did and that she would show me.
We first went to her village and I soon met some men who greeted me and
invited me for food and water, both gratefully accepted. They afterward
showed me the road and soon I was on my way again, plodding along. One of
the reasons the lady laughed at me was that she thought I was lost. Silly
nasara on a horse. I also was fingering the possibility but I knew where I
was generally (in Africa on planet Earth). It so turned out her village was
right on the road and that I was not lost at all!

Lost or not, I still had a long ways to go and I'd already been plodding for
an hour and a half. I saw some wonderful stretches of wilderness plains,
looking and smelling almost like Texas only with delicate (and thorny)
flyaway African scrub. I was only a third of the way home and I knew we
needed to move. I tried different combinations of the various noises and use
of the spurring rope. The kissing alone was not doing it. I also said, "Hur!
Hur!" in a strong low voice and whipped Braga's flank steadily. That was
just the thing and the new pace of the up and down trot was set. We made
fair time but the African sun was doing its job of being very bright and
very hot. My left hand still has the border of white meets red from sunburn,
even though I applied sunscreen that morning. I started scanning for another
village where I might get some water. I found it and was welcomed after some
kids of the village stared at me blankly when I greeted them. Perhaps they
could just not believe what they were seeing- a white guy trying to ride and
pass himself off as Arab, complete with beard and kaptani and turban. They
then ran off when I moved forward a little ways and repeated my loud
greeting. I'm used to blank stares and kids who don't know me running away,
so it was nothing new. My loud greeting was hailed by another and I was
invited inside, again to my delight, for water and this time, tea. Ahh, tea.
This village was a N. village, but the man who invited me only spoke a
little N. he said, but said this in Ar.

After replacing all the water I'd sweated away and being charged with tea I
and Braga set off again. I did not consider in my thirst that the sloshing
village water now in my belly might not be conducive to the jostling ride
back to town. So, I said the quick pr'yer I learned before I came here
("I'll put it down, You keep it down") and set off. I quickly found the road
and set a good pace. Braga and I were finally understanding each other. I
called him a radjil zen, a good man, frequently and meant it. I saw the cell
towers in the distance that marked home and headed toward it them. We passed
some horses, who Braga would neigh at (I wonder if horses can do cat calls)
and some donkeys, who Braga treated with utter disdain, but when he would
see them, he would want to trot a little faster to live up to the reputation
I clapped him with. Just as well, every step was a step in the right
direction and it is best he not be distracted with other horses.

We got to town and the many new noises of motorcycles and giggling children
and adults at the pair of us, unsettled both horse and rider. After the long
stretches of the quiet qadadi, the noise of the town takes some preparation.
We did get home though and it was a great second ride. Mission accomplished!

Then just yesterday, we (Col. and I) took Braga to the village we visited
last week. This was the third and last day of the holiday after the Fast and
we were invited. We were welcomed again and sat down to lessons in N.
vocabulary and even played a story for them to hear. Immediately after, the
person who heard the story, retold it. He did say though that he didn't
understand it all due perhaps to a difference in dialect. And Col. recorded
it and the start of testing which was interrupted by the screech of the
loudspeaker at the call to prayer. So, we checked what we recorded and to
our surprise, none of what we heard would play back!

After prayer, the men we were sitting with returned, but none seemed keen to
start up the conversation again. The man who heard and retold the story had
to leave for his field but we invited ourselves back and were welcomed for
another day. I walked back while Col. rode Braga. So, now the horse stays
this week in our courtyard so we can learn how to ride a horse well. Then
Col. will take Braga back next week. The plan at this point is at some point
in the near future, to rent other horses so we can both travel farther out
to villages.

-The 20K horse trip was successful and fun to boot!
-We did get a story retold and began with testing it
-Further exposure to people in outside villages (we tend to make quite a
stir wherever we go anyway, but news travels even faster to outside villages
when you throw a horse into the mix!)
-Horse lips are funny looking

-For further lessons in horse riding and for the return, as well as wisdom
for the future in renting other horses for travel.
-For the recorder that there we would find out the reason it did not (and
does not) play new recordings back.
-For our return to the villages we travel to and for the welcome in new

Thank you for bearing with me as I plodded along again through my first trip
by myself but not alone across country by horse. And thank you also for your
continued support of this plodding project. We are slowly learning the
language (and the touch) necessary to step up the project work from plodding
to trot to full gallop. And at that point, we can let go. Horses know how to
run by themselves.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The VIRTUAL Deep End: Maps are Good

The Deep End
Systematic Theology
September 22, 2009

A Couple of Problems...
I have a couple of problems with modern technology...specifically GPS and the internet. Let me explain:
My problem with GPS is this: I have heard more people talk about getting lost using a GPS than using a map. Mapquest and Google Maps is a subset of this. Whatever happened to the good ol' days of calling a friend for written direction and drawing a funky little map on a napkin. Or, how about going to wal-mart and buying a road atlas? Find the state...find the city...find the road...and then follow it from your house. Use whatever roads you please! The highway is your oyster! (still not sure what that really means) One day no one will know how to use a map! In fact, think about this right now: how many of you can use a map? I mean a detailed map. How many of you could get across the country with one of those fold up road maps you get at the state lines? Maps are good. They may seem a little more labor intensive, but a good map will not fail you. And if one day all of the satellites fall out of the sky you can still get around because you know how to use a map. It might not be the "easy way" but isn't it better?

My problem with the Internet is this: it is way too easy to look up information (that may or may not be accurate) on the internet. Got a question? Type it in the search bar and see what pops up! I'm sure whoever put it on there is an expert! Even worse, got a question about the Bible ? Type it in the search bar and see what pops up! If you're not careful you end up reading some man's opinion on the Scripture that in fact may not be a man who has the benefit of the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Twice last week I searched something in the Bible and ended up on a Mormon web-site. Now, in my opinion (and God's, I believe) Mormon doctrine does not always square with the Truth of Scripture. The 2nd problem is that we are forgetting where books of the Bible are, where passages of scripture are, how to use a concordance and a commentary because it's all at our fingertips. We can just type a phrase from a verse we "kind of" know and, "poof", there it is...reference and all! It's the easy way, but is doing nothing to strengthen our mind as the Mind of Christ and prepare us for the answers we need to give when the questions come.

The fact is that your generation (really starting with my generation) is satisfied with the “easy way”. The problem is that the “easy way” is so dependent on other people and structures (like technology) that when something takes effort and thought it seems overwhelming. Studying theology takes a little effort. Check out this example of effort and ask yourself, "would I ever consider the Word of God important enough to do this?"

How Far Would You Walk?
Lots of people say that "we deliver," but let me tell you about Frederick. In the last few years its been interesting to see the little motorcycles that now will bring pizzas and hamburgers to your door here (yes, in Africa!). Still, their "limitted delivery area" doesn't compare to Frederick's route.

You see, Frederick is a Bible School student at Manenekela (mah-nay-nay-KAY-lah). He comes for a week of intensive classes three times a year over a three year period to learn how to help his church grow and reach out. But the study is the easy part. Frederick lives in the most remote part of our ministry area and has to walk 100 kilometers (60 miles) to get to school. He travels on foot for two days, crossing a river and mountains on lots of paths.

And the "delivery?" Well, since these remote areas do not operate with a cash economy he had to bring along his school fees, five chickens. He carried five live chickens all the way. Two other students (who only have to walk about 40 miles) join him on the path. When the week is over, of course they have to walk back.

It makes me question my "delivery area," and humbles us all here. Frederick can teach us the worth of his most valuable delivery, the gospel of the One who left Heaven for us all. He delivers.

If you say "oh yeah, I'd do that" then ask yourself if you're willing to walk across the room, miss playing a video game or a school event or a social event to dig into the Word?

Studying theology is not the “easy way." Let's look at the way the great reformer Martin Luther encouraged us to study the Scriptures. His method is based on what we see in Psalm 119, so start by reading that Psalm. (I know...I's the longest chapter in the Bible...but MAN it's good stuff!)

Not a Little Prayer
Read Psalm 119 and keep track of how many times the Psalmist cries out to God for help in understanding His teachings.

1. Study Theology with prayer and humility
All of Psalm 119 is a prayer centered around The Word of God as it relates to David’s life.

Luther calls what the Psalmist is doing here an effort "to seize upon the real teacher of the scriptures himself” so as not to become “his own teacher." Remember that last week we talked about how the most important tool in studying the Word is the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Cry out for help and come into this study in prayerful humility that God would be so merciful as to teach you about himself. The Psalmist is continually crying out for deeper and deeper understanding through every aspect of life and fully depending on God to give him that understanding.

Are you dependent on the Spirit to give you understanding? Do you show that by your prayer life and your effort to utilize the mind and tools that God has given you? Be humble. Recognize that you don't know it all and that apart from the Spirit's help you will always stay on the surface of understanding who God is.

What does it mean?
Some things are really hard to do at the same time:
Rubbing your belly and patting your head; walking and chewing gum; talking to one person while looking at another; listening to instructions while reading; driving while texting (please don't try to do this one to prove me wrong!)...

Here's another way we study theology that is not the easy way because it requires engaging our minds in thoughts of God while doing other things:

2. Study theology even when you’re not studying theology
Luther encourages regular review and reflection as an essential step in studying theology. His encouragement is to think on the words of scripture and "see what the Holy Spirit means by them." So often we are concerned about "what this means to me" when we should be more worried about what God meant it to say.

Meditation is not a quick task. As Luther says: “take care that you do not grow weary or think that you have done enough when you have read, heard, and spoken them once or twice, and that you then have complete understanding. You will never be a particularly good theologian if you do that, for you will be like untimely fruit which falls to the ground before it is half ripe.”

Throughout Psalm 119 we see the writer meditating. Why was he meditating? Consider the following reasons:

Why Meditate:
-v11-To keep from sin
-v15-16-to keep the right perspective about the “riches” of the world (v14)
-v23-24-to learn how to deal with enemies
-v27-28-to learn how to deal with sorrow/emotional stress
-v46-48-to deepen the joy of worship
-v49-56-confidence/security in salvation
-v78-79-So you can teach others
-v97-104-for a unique level of understanding and discernment
-v145-152-Confidence in God’s promises when it’s most needed

But HOW was he meditating? here are 4 ways the Psalmist meditates and 4 ways YOU TOO can meditate:

How Meditate:
-v46-48-through praise, worship, and witnessing
-v78-79-through teaching
-v145-152-as a reminder of God’s promises

Theology in the Real World
How could knowing theological principles help in these areas?

3. Study Theology in the real world

Before man could be sent into space NASA had to test their rockets in the real. They couldn't be satisfied with theory. Failure with a life on the line was not an option. During the tests there were some failures (as seen in the video above) but with each failure sustained success got closer.

As you learn more about God, better understand His Word and His world it's time to start applying it in the real world. Apply what you learn in conversations, choices,

Luther's 3rd principle of studying theology involves Trying and fighting. He understood, as the Psalmist did, that through the attacks of Satan God “will teach you to seek and love God’s Word.”

What did the Psalmist trust God’s word/precepts/teachings/commands to do? Consider these verses of Psalm 119:

-v9-keep him from sin
-v86-keep him from slipping into deceptive traps his enemies set
-v105-help him know the right way to go when attacked from all sides
-v110-keep him away from the snare of the wicked (on the right path)
-v114-for protection
-v133-to keep sin from having any rule over his life
-v143-for joy in trouble
-v147-for hope in sorrow

See, theology is not just for the classroom. It is meant to be applied to everyday life but we cannot expect to automatically stick. We must learn more about theology by applying intentionally. As you learn about God, His Word and His world think about what it means for you at school, at home, at work. Think about what it means for what you watch, what you listen to and what you read. Think about what it means for how you speak, how you think, what friends you have, what activities you are involved in, how you talk to your friends, what you will do in the future, how you should relate to your unsaved neighbors and friends, and more.

One More Specific
One other important note on the method of studying theology is to study it in the full context of the Word of God. Be careful not to establish a belief or doctrine on one verse or and interpretation of one hard to understand verse. It is important to read the Bible with the message of the entire Bible in mind. It is important to interpret the meaning of hard to understand passages by squaring it with clear teaching from other parts of Scripture. The more you study the Bible the easier this will become because the more you will know.

A Challenge
As we start his study in Systematic theology commit to forsake the “Easy Way." Commit to taking what you learn on Tuesday nights and thinking about it for the rest of the week. Commit to taking what you learn on Tuesday nights and immediately applying it to your life when you get home and the next day. Don't come at this study looking for the "Easy Way". Come to it commited and see what God will do.

I'll conclude with this quote from a great theologian, J.I. Packer. It is a warning he has for all that will enter into a study of Theology:

"The systematic theologian’s biggest problem is always himself-that is, the unmortified arrogance and continuing darkness of his own intellect, which pleads him unwittingly, in perfect sincerity and often with painstaking labor, man-centered, culturally determined, unpractical, undevotional, undoxological, Spirit-quenching and self-aggrandizing-theological constructions that in effect put God in a box of one’s own manufacture, claiming in effect to master him by knowing exhaustively what he will and will not do. Theologians who allowed themselves to speak as if they had God in their pocket would indeed be presenting a mirage of unreality! But the true systematic theologian will carefully, prayerfully watching himself all the times o as to avoid doing such a thing.” Packer

Remember our Scripture preparation. Continue to study this week's verse:
Ephesians 4:24

and Next Week's Verses:
Psalm 19:7-11

Monday, September 21, 2009

Contemplate & Consider Vol. 12

Here's a note from a missionary in Zambia about dedication to studying the Gospel:

Lots of people say that "we deliver," but let me tell you about Frederick. In the last few years its been interesting to see the little motorcycles that now will bring pizzas and hamburgers to your door here (yes, in Africa!). Still, their "limitted delivery area" doesn't compare to Frederick's route.

You see, Frederick is a Bible School student at Manenekela (mah-nay-nay-KAY-lah). He comes for a week of intensive classes three times a year over a three year period to learn how to help his church grow and reach out. But the study is the easy part. Frederick lives in the most remote part of our ministry area and has to walk 100 kilometers (60 miles) to get to school. He travels on foot for two days, crossing a river and mountains on lots of paths.

And the "delivery?" Well, since these remote areas do not operate with a cash economy he had to bring along his school fees, five chickens. He carried five live chickens all the way. Two other students (who only have to walk about 40 miles) join him on the path. When the week is over, of course they have to walk back.

It makes me question my "delivery area," and humbles us all here. Frederick can teach us the worth of his most valuable delivery, the gospel of the One who left Heaven for us all. He delivers.

ULead: Faith

Last night at Flood Zone Drew took the ULead challenge and taught us 2 very important Truths about faith from Hebrews 11:1-3. I wanted to remind you of those Truths and challenge you to live them out THIS WEEK!

Truth 1: Faith has FULL CONFIDENCE in God (Hebrews 11:1-2)
God is faithful to fulfill his promises so we can live with full hope and confidence that our faith will be realized. But we can't expect God to fulfill ALL our hopes. If you hope is for a big house with a pool and 6 cars then God is not obligated to reward your hope of faith. If, however, your hope of faith is in having your every need provided for then you can have full confidence that God will do it. Drew reminded us that we can hope in things that God has already promised in his Word, hope in ways that Christ hoped and hope in ways that honor God and will grow his kingdom.

Truth 2: Faith must trust the Spirit, not senses (Hebrews 11:3)
I love the way that God responds to Job in Job 38:
1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.

4"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
7when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Experience does not make truth. Just because you have not touched, smelled, felt, heard, or seen something does not make it invalid. Faith trusts the Spirit and not just "experience". Much of Christianity leans on trust in the Spirit: creation, resurrection, future glorification (heaven) and more. Faith hopes firmly in these things as it trusts the Spirit.

Begin to deepen you faith (full confidence in God and trust in the Spirit) now and you will see deeper faith and trust in the future. What is God wanting you to have full confidence in him that you have been trusting in your own understanding instead? Trust him this week. Have full confidence in him this week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Funny or Not? Vol. 26

Systematic Theology Part II: Overcoming Obstacles

Our study of theology can run into several obstacles that we are in danger of tripping over. When these obstacles come along we are tempted to give up in our study. So, even though we may fall let us get up and keep going, removing the obstacles out of the way, and fighting for more of God in our lives.

What obstacles can hinder our study of theology? Here are 3:

1. Laziness
Proverbs 6:6-11 tells us the story of the ant, how she goes about her work without having to be told to do it and before the need arises. Studying theology is something that is going to take some self-motivation. It's sometimes hard to see how theology will benefit your life, but that's where we need to kick laziness. We may not know how God wants to use it, or when we will need it, but we still need to be diligent to study now so we are ready when the moment arises.

Laziness in studying theology is a danger we need to watch out for. It can get hard and that’s going to make us want to give up, sit back, relax and not even try. If you give into the laziness you will be weak in witnessing, poor in understanding of truth and lost in the struggle of life.

How do we remove the obstacle of laziness?
Determine to engage your mind (2 Timothy 2:15)

2. Lack of Illumination
Have you ever tried to do something blindfolded? Some things are possible, yet really difficult, to do blindfolded (like sorting coins or walking through a room) while others are near impossible (like sorting m&m's into colors or drive a car on a busy street). Studying theology is near impossible without sight or illumination. The Holy Spirit is promised by Jesus to lead us into all Truth and help us remember what He has taught us (John 16:12-15). Much of the study of God will seem like foolishness to those who are not in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

The most important tool in our study of theology is the Holy Spirit. You can have your bible, commentaries, notes, teachers, videos...everything and still not understand what is being studies. The Holy Spirit’s job is illumination...helping the light bulb of understanding come on.

How do we remove the obstacle of Lack of Illumination?
Regularly pray for illumination. If you are not in Christ, then the Spirit is not your helper. Confess your sin, surrender to Christ and receive the Spirit.

3. Limitations of Language and Understanding
God reminds us how much smarter (infinitely smarter) he is than us in Isaiah 55:8-11. But, just because some things are hard to understand and seem "beyond us" doesn't mean we need to stop trying. Keep asking the question "why?" and keep looking for the answer to the "why"'s

How do we remove the obstacle of Limitations?
Start on the surface but don't be satisfied with the surface (Ephesians 4:11-25)

Our Goal in this study is not to make you professional theologians able to answer any and every question about God and his world but to give your beliefs a sure foundation on Truth. Our goal is to move you from Folk Theologians to Lay Theologians.

What is a Folk Theologian? It is what most people in our churches are...including us in many ways. Here's a definition:

Folk theologians “reject critical reflection and enthusiastically embraces simplistic acceptance of an informal tradition of beliefs and practices composed mainly of cliches and legends.” Nathan W. Bingham

Another way of saying that is we believe what we believe because of tradition, not because of any effort or study.

Don't be a folk theologian, having no reason or understanding why you believe what you believe. Confirm your beliefs in the Word and the Spirit. Challenge your beliefs and do away with the ones that are incorrect. Then you will accomplish the goal of our study: to become Lay Theologians.

What is a Lay Theologian? Here's a definition:

Lay Theologians “seek with what means it has to bring Christian beliefs into a well-founded, coherent whole by questioning unfounded traditions and expunging blatant contradictions.” Nathan W. Bingham

In other words Lay Theologians use available tools to place beliefs on a solid foundation of Truth.

So, bring your beliefs to the Word and let's see how God wants to lead us into a deeper understanding of Him and his Word.

In Preparation for next week memorize Ephesians 4:24

Joey Update Vol. 23

"And after Ali Baba uttered the magic words, 'Open Sesame', a door that no
one would have seen opened right onto the face of the rock wall, revealing a
cavern within the mountain. As Ali Baba entered, his eyes widened to circles
as big the sun, for what he saw was a treasure trove as if all sultans and
rajas had combined their wealth in this one place. Gold and silver dripped
from the walls and jewels of all kinds lay in piles scattered about the

Now, I know the power of a good story and I happen to like telling good
stories. It is after all, what first got me interested in this ministry. But
what, you might ask, does a story from medieval Persia have to do with what
I'm doing here? Well, I'll tell you.

I and my teammate had just set off for another village outside our town. It
was a nearby village and the 5K distance away did nothing to dissuade us.
The hot sun was more of a deterrent but we had curtailed this by covering in
kadmul and ball cap respectively. A thing about directions here: having no
street signs as we would think of them gives a great importance in the point
of a finger in a general direction. Our common question, "Where is such and
such a place?" gives us a common answer of "hinak" (over there) with a point
of a whole hand (the usual way of pointing here) in a general direction.
Sometimes, they give us more detailed information such as, "See that big
tree? It's the right of that, far away. Keep going straight." Fortunately,
there is usually no lack of people to ask where we are going and to give us
a friendly nudge in the right direction.

So it was, only a few days ago, our quest to find another village where N.
is the primary spoken language, was successful. We did considerable
wandering through considerable fields of millet (nicely growing I might add)
and also passed through fields of tall grass where plenty of spiky little
stickers lay concealed, just waiting for the chance to hug you with their

Upon arrival to the village, it turned out to be larger than we expected, we
were met with a boy coming from the fields. We asked if this was the village
we were looking for. Yes, he replied. He led us down the brier-lined path
into the center of the village. There was a large group of men sitting
there, some sleeping, the rest labouring at threading straw mats or baskets
together. So, we sit down to join them, gingerly for the spiky stickers had
yet to be plucked from our clothes, and the meeting went well. They seemed
pleased that we could speak N. and pleased that we wanted to speak N. with
them. We were pleased that they spoke primarily N. and even one of them a
little bit of Eng. from some time spent abroad. A few of them were working
on an impressive sized basket. I asked its name in N. and he told me. He
said it used for storing a certain kind of small seed, found in the wild and
used, I think, for making couscous. That's when I remembered a story about
another seed.

I launched into the story of Ali Baba, a favourite of mine for its mix of
complexity and simplicity, and seemed to hold the attention of many of them.
After I was done, one of the men retold a part of it, in better N. than I
probably did, to someone else who also was present for the first telling. I
do not know why this is, only it is probably due to my thick Am. accent or
strange use of words in their ears. Still, I was delighted to see it. After
all he retold the story I told, and in a group too!
I think we made a favourable first impression and we were even invited back
to celebrate the Feast after Fasting is done.

Even though I like the Ali Baba story a lot and wish frequently that there
was some magic phrase to open the treasures of N. culture to me, I have not
found it yet. In the place of an easy magic phrase, there is the slow,
though rewarding, task of meeting people where they are and investing my
life in them. I am not so practiced at this as I hope to be, but I am
learning. And the treasures, though yielded slowly and in small quantity,
are not some lifeless gold and silver, but a living relationship that is
able to strengthen (or weaken) over time. So, I will continue investing
myself in the culture of my people until I find that perhaps one day, the
Relationship I am a part of with the Father is introduced seamlessly into
their culture. That is my Request and that is my Hope.

-Further opportunities to get out into outlying villages
-Good first impressions all around
-A promising traveling season to come as the rains and Fasting ends

-I found out today that a package from 2007 (read that again) is coming
tomorrow on a plane! How's that for speedy?

-Please lift up Col., my teammate, and I in these next weeks to come. Lift
us up above discouragements, as there have been many since the start of this
project and do continue. I've shared a few of these with you in previous
-Please lift up changes in our team. Certain members of our team will be
leaving the country for a while, so this will be a big change. I am
confident that we will be able to continue strong but also fairly confident
that there will be some tough times ahead. Pr'y for our advance against the
sprtual darkness in this place.
-We have around 6 weeks left in our town before we head to training in AMS.
Pr'y for remaining time here that it would be a focused time on G0d and the
work we are here to complete before we head for training.
-Lastly, but not leastly, continue to lift up our request and need for able
and willing and available people to work with as we craft stories with them.

I am certainly thankful for you all, loving your email responses which are
so encouraging and your pr'yers are priceless, truly known in value only to
the One we direct them to. I am still learning to be thankful in the small
things, to worship in the everyday, and to praise in the ordinary. This, I
believe is the living way of real saints. And real saints are His specialty.


Contemplate & Consider Vol. 11

From Ken Ham's blog:

To the same degree

(Numbers 11:1) And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.

The Lord Jesus Christ has shown an enormous degree of favor on us by providing for our every need, and to complain is to offend Him to the same degree.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Systematic Theology Part I: Why Theology?

Welcome back to the Deep End everyone! We've moved our meeting Tuesday nights to allow for my new schedule with the children's bible studies on Wednesday nights. We have also started a new series on Systematic Theology. Why? Well, that was what this first lesson was all about! Why should we be interested in studying such a subject?

Every year people pay thousands of dollars and hours of their lives studying some crazy subjects. Check out these courses that some colleges around the country are offering:

Centre College in Kentucky: The Art of Walking
Bowdoin College in Maine: The Horror Film Context
Alfred University in New York: Maple Syrup; Tightwaddery, or the good life on a dollar a day
Georgetown University in Maryland: Philosophy of Star Trek
University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota: Finding Dates worth keeping
Frostburg University in Maryland: The Science of Harry Potter
Santa Clara University in California: The Joy of Garbage
University of California: The Science of Superheroes and, of course, Underwater Basket Weaving.

Like I said...thousands of dollars and countless hours studying subjects that have not long-term, let alone eternal, significance. In a word the time spent in these classes is largely...WORTHLESS.

We have a chance this year to study a subject that is not only eternally significant but has implications for our daily life right now. This is Theology...the study of God...or as one theologian defines it:

"The investigation of all possible truth about order to discern...creation's appropriate response to God." Paige Patterson

Here are 6 More Good Reason to study theology
(check out This Page and This Page for the original source from

1. You're a theologian already
We all already believe something about God (even those who believe God does not exist). This belief about God is our doctrine...our theology. The question is this: Is what you believe about God correct? How can you know? Studying theology can help answer that question. God has revealed himself to us in his creation so that we can all know something of him (Romans 1:18-22) but has revealed even more of himself in his Word, the Bible. Let's study it!

2. You will study what you love
Everyone has subjects they love to learn and teach about, but are we getting strong in those subjects (cars, people, video games, sports, cooking, etc.) while getting weaker in our understand of God and the world he has created? If we love Jesus we will want to KNOW him.

3. Your Doctrine will determine how you live
I love how companies have to put crazy warning labels on things. I think it's amazing that people will do things that are clearly dangerous and idiotic without thinking twice. I know NOT to do certain things because I know they are dangerous. I do other things because I know they are beneficial. The way I live is determined by what I know. The way I will live my life for the glory of God will be impacted by what I know of God. Theology will help me better know how to honor God with my life.

4. You think too highly of yourself
You might know a lot about a subject. In fact, maybe you're an expert in certain areas. But, just because you know something in one subject does not excuse you from effort in another area. The reality is that Theology is a subject that can be studied for an entire life and still not plumb the full depths of what it has to offer. Don't be satisfied with the little you know about God or the assumptions you have about God. Take advantage of the other great minds that have considered God to a depth beyond your imagination. Don't think you are beyond studying theology and that it can't be exciting or applicable to your life.

5. Your discernment will be sharpened
You will be able to better recognize sin in your life and recognize those who are creeping into the church to destroy the faith (Jude 3-4). It's time to contend for the faith and to do it with dedicated study.

6. You need to know what you believe and why
"Much of what you believe has likely been formed due to where you heard the gospel." Often the influences of our location, family and church can influence our beliefs more than the Bible does. Often we believe something and have no idea why we believe that or why it may be right...or wrong. It's time to test the teaching, study the Word and KNOW God.

The Purpose of Theology
"To know the triune God, His special revelation to man, His will and ways, in order to more effectively live holy lives in His service and to lead others to do the same." David Nelson

Do Hard Things Update

Check out this article from blog

The 100 Hard Things Project

I'll be getting this book when it comes out, but until then, stay plugged into

Friday, September 4, 2009

Funny or Not? Vol. 25

Flood Zone Schedule Additions for 2009/2010

School is starting and so is our new Flood Zone Schedule!

Starting on Sunday, September 13 we will kick off this new schedule. Come be a part of ALL OF IT!

Flood Zone 2009/2010

5:00-Prayer Group
(Meeting Time for Ryan & ULead Teacher of the Month)

5:30-Overflow Band Set Up
(Tuning, Music & Such)

5:45-Worship Matters Devotional
(Required for Overflow Band. Everyone welcome.)

6:00-Overflow Band Practice

7:00-Flood Zone

8:30-Clean Up and Set Up

The Deep End Returns!

The Deep End returns on TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 8! That's right, Deep End is moving to Tuesdays!

This year we will be going even deeper as we dig into some systematic theology...

What is that? Come on Tuesday to find out what it is and why YOU need it!

See you at our house at 7:00!