Archives For Theology Thursday

I’m so tired…

October 7, 2010 — 2 Comments

I believe the following phrase has hindered me from growing and excelling in ministry: “I wonder what ____________ will think about all of this.” Admit it, in your own network of people you work with it is those words that keep you from doing something that you feel is right but you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings.  It is necessary to consult people about your plans and often the thought of what ___________ would think has kept me out of trouble.  But I believe this is a fear tactic placed on us by none other than Satan himself.  I think he smiles when we don’t get something accomplished in our churches because we are scared of what ____________would think.  Often ______________ is the person who has all the money in the congregation and we don’t want to offend them because that would be a significant weekly drop in our contribution.

Leaders, you might call that fiscally responsible thinking, I call that sin.  I am not sure how many times I have squelched an idea because I was scared of what people would think.  Points I should have made in bible classes, retreats and sermons have gone by the wayside because fear has crippled me like salt on a slug.  Paul tells us:

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

Why do we get so afraid of what other people think?  If what Paul said is true then the very thing we hold on to does not (or at least should not) evoke fear rather it empowers us.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  (Romans 8:16)

Did you catch that?  We have God on our side.  We have the good guys and this means that nobody can question our salvation and of that we can and should be most assured.  Who cares what ____________ will think about this or that?  If we are following the will of God then who are they to question you?  They are probably just jealous, grumpy or like to pick fights because they are never wrong.

I am so tired of remaining stagnate in fear that someone might say something if I teach, believe or do certain things.  I am tired of the brotherhood watch-dogs who write in their bulletins, preach in their lectureships, and rebuke in their pamphlets little jots and tittles of what preachers are saying and doing.  I am tired of being scared to tell someone they are sinning in fear that they might reject me or that their parents would give me a verbal thrashing.  I am tired of not speaking up when I hear so much gossip and instead keeping quiet in fear that people won’t like me.  I am tired of not preaching/teaching things I believe in fear that it might cost me my job…I was afraid to even type that on my blog but I did it anyways.  I mean is it wrong to be able to disagree with each other on matters of opinion and still be called brothers and sisters?

God told Joshua: “Do not be afraid for I am with you” (Josh. 1:9).  I firmly believe that if we let fear grip us then we can never move on to the freedoms that are ours in Christ Jesus.  That’s all for now.

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Last year I had the opportunity to teach the college class in the summer for 8 weeks and this year I have been asked to do it again.  I am honored nonetheless.  I have developed 8 lessons on the Holy Spirit and have entitled it Pneumatology 101: A Study of the Holy Spirit.  Here are the lessons:

  • Week 1:  An Introduction: Misconceptions, assumptions, perceptions and fears. 
  • Week 2:  The Spirit in the Old Testament
  • Week 3:  The Spirit in the Gospels
  • Week 4:  The Spirit in Acts
  • Week 5:  The Spirit in Paul
  • Week 6:  Indwelling of the Spirit:  How does that work?
  • Week 7:  What does the Spirit do for/to the believer?
  • Week 8:  A Pneumatic Church

Week 1 is sort of a “feeler” as to where the students are in their knowledge of the Spirit.  Weeks 2-5 is a theology of the Spirit, looking at what the Scriptures say about the Spirit.  Weeks 6-8 are the application weeks or self-awareness weeks.  There is obviously much more to discuss but this will be a good introduction to a much-needed theology on the Spirit. 

Works I am gleaning from:

  • Francis Chan’s Forgotten God.  A book that is tremendously readable but is surface-level stuff. 
  • John Levison’s Filled with the Spirit.  A deep, scholarly, well-researched treatise on the subject.  You will not find a book that is more thorough than this one.  I highly recommend it. 
  • Various commentaries. 

“They knew the story!”

January 7, 2010 — 1 Comment

Three generations of menLast night in the men’s class we studied Jonah 1-2.  Many of you know this story so I will not rehash it for you but we came across the sailor’s reaction to Jonah as soon as he told them that he was a Hebrew and he feared God.  They said:  

Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.  Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. (Jonah 1:10-11)  

I asked the class, “How could a group of men who asked Jonah to call on his god (lowercase “g” intentional) end up proclaiming Him as Lord (using the divine name YHWH)?”  One person responded in a way that challenged me: “Robbie, perhaps they knew the story of Israel.  Perhaps the story had traveled far where these men had heard about the amazing things the LORD had done and this was now confirmation that what they heard is true!”   

Wow! I never thought of that.  It makes sense when they cast Jonah overboard, pray to God and then offer a sacrifice.  All from knowing the story.  Even if that is not true (we may never know) the story of God remained strong in the lives of so many people.   

What about you?  Do you know the story?  The old, old story that is true is the air you breathe!  The story of God is pervasive in the lives of everybody.  I find myself, in discussions with the unchurched, pointing them to markers in their lives that reminds me of stories I hear in Scripture and their response is, “Really?  Tell me more about it!”   

May you know the story and tell it!  Have a great day!


(Click here to catch up on the Job series to get a contextual feel of where I am at)

Have you ever received bad advice?  I know I have been guilty of giving bad advice and as a minister it is almost impossible to avoid the peril of “advice-giving.” So many people seek it and many times I find myself at a loss of wisdom and guidance and all I can do is pray.  The more I read Job the more I am impressed with this man who endured so much at the hands of the Accuser and at the hands of his four friends.  It says that the Accuser did not test Job anymore but I wonder if Job’s three friends are some type of manifestation of the Accuser in human form.  In other words, are we seeing an ongoing “test” of sorts where the Accuser manifests himself in four different entities in an effort to “try” Job and prove that he will eventually curse God.  I don’t think there is any textual evidence for this theory nor have I read any scholar who has introduced it but it is neat to think about nonetheless. 

Eliphaz’s Wednesday Night Invitation (Job 5)

After “knowing” Job’s issue of suffering because of a vision he received, Eliphaz now moves to offer the invitation sermon for Job to repent from his foolish ways lest he spend an eternity in hell…ok, harsh generalization but you get the main concept.  Eliphaz drops a few subtle hints at how he feels about Job as he says he is jealous (verse 2) and a fool (verse 3).  They are subtle in that he is talking about situations he has seen in his past but he is applying those same situations and the implication is that Job is acting the same way.  Keep in mind that the driving question that leads Eliphaz is 4:17 and his assumption that a mortal man cannot be right or pure before God.  So he has to prove otherwise.  Eliphaz says, “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (verses 6-7).  So he urges Job to “seek God” (verse eight) who can do so many things beyond our comprehension and ability (verses 9-16).  But he also does something that strikes me as amazing: he essentially tells him to rejoice in the fact that he gets to suffer (“reprove”)!  “Job, you should be glad that God is correcting you!”  Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase says this pf verse 17, “So, what a blessing when God steps in and corrects you!”  Then Eliphaz caps off his invitation with this, “Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.  Hear, and know it for your good” (verse 27).  Paraphrase: “Trust me on this Job.  I have looked everywhere and I know the answer so do what I say because it is for your own good!” 

Job’s MySpace Status Reads: “Confused” (Job 6)

Job wants answers too you know: “Oh that I might have my request, and that God would fulfill my hope, that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off” (verses 8-9).  Yet there is no fundamental cause (that he knows) for his suffering.  I mean the man did everything he possible could to love god and love others (seemed to work for Jesus in Matt. 22:37-39).  Disgusted with Eliphaz’s diatribe Job points to the obvious and that his friends are (at this point) acting foolish and are speaking only to be heard.  “My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed, as torrential streams that pass away” (verse 15).  The ESV study Bible had a neat comment on “torrent-bed”:

A torrent-bed is a wadi, a depression or rift in the rocks that gathers water from cloudbursts or melting ice, which races down the slope.  Desert travelers could not carry sufficient water; they depended on rains or melting snow, which quickly dried up in the hot sun. (pp. 881-82) 

Job’s conclusion is that his words are harsh and have no sustenance in them.  They were there to comfort him not to give endless explanations for his sufferings.  Job does want solutions (so he is willing to listen to them to a point it seems) but he is convinced that the only solutions come from God. 

Lessons Learned

With much of the speech sections of Job I find myself called to pay attention to what I say and how I say it.  James was right in pointing out that our tongues are a consuming fire (James 3) and sometimes that fire spreads uncontrollably.  I am also called to pay attention to how I posit God and his providence.  Each time I go through Job I am always in question of God and why this was done to such a good man and why there was so much, to use a PC American term, collateral damage.  God’s ways are not our ways, neither are his thoughts our thoughts and for that I submit  to an Anselmian position of fides quaerens intellectum or faith seeking understanding.  Lord I believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)!

Questions for Reflection

  1. What applications does Eliphaz’s urge for Job to repent have on members of the churches of Christ? 
  2. Do you think it is fair to criticize Eliphaz so harshly?  Why or Why not?
  3. What are your reactions to Job’s reply? 
  4. What would you say to Job in an effort to comfort him?

A lady in our congregation recently lost her husband and I remember visiting her during the process of hospice and waiting for him to die.  There was nothing I could say to comfort her or to erase the pain she was encountering.  The day he passed I remember walking in the house and just going up to her and hugging her.  She wept in my arms and I said nothing.  What do you say to someone who just lost their best friend?  Nothing.  I did not offer trite words like “God loves you,” or, “He’s in a better place now,” because I knew deep down that those would not help her.  I said nothing. 

Job’s three friends (four counting Elihu in chapters 32-37) traveled a great distance to be with him and mourn with him.  Different cultures (and religions) have different practices when it comes to mourning.  In Protestant White America (generally speaking) most of the mourning is done quietly and very personally where as in African-American culture (generally speaking) mourning is much more communal and is very vocal and participatory (wailing, etc.).  These friends are sharing the current Ancient Near Eastern practices of the time and even the rudimentary Jewish customs of mourning.  Simply put: they are with their grieving brother. 

Why God?  Why?  (Job 3)

Chapter 3 is split into 2 (normally 3) sections: Job’s Curse (vv. 1-13) and his Lament (vv. 14-26).  We are quick to question Job’s motives for cursing his birth (what Hartley calls a counter-cosmic incantation) but let me remind you that until we walk in the shoes of the bereaved, we should be very careful how we analyze their behaviors.  Simply put: Job wants all recognition of his life to end.  One can see the parallels of his experience with his curse of his birth:

  • “Darkness” (v. 4)
  • “Nor light” (v. 4)
  • “Gloom” (v. 5)
  • “Deep Darkness”  (v. 5)
  • “Clouds” (v. 5)
  • “Blackness of the day” (v. 5)
  • “Thick Darkness” (v. 6)

We could go on but you get the picture.  The picture is, well, dark and gloomy.  Nothing makes sense to Job so he curses his life to be removed from the pain he is enduring.  So much so…that he laments.  5 times in verses 11-26 (11, 12, 16, 20, 23) Job begins with the question, “Why?”  That’s a most interesting question isn’t it?  Clearly he is lamenting at the why’s of his situation but still going back to his previous message about his birth. 

He searches for meaning…but finds none. 

Retribution 101: you get what you deserve (Job 4)

Eliphaz speaks and you will notice that each friend feels like he or she is an expert on things.  All of them point towards a modified retribution theory because nothing else makes sense.  “Job, you a clearly getting what you deserve BECAUSE you have done _____________.”  You fill in the blank.  Eliphaz paints a grim picture but does so because he could not resist in speaking to Job’s situation (4:2-6).  The two driving questions come from 4:7-8 and 4:17: 

 

Lessons Learned:

Something that spoke to me is that we should never try to question someone in the grieving process.  Their thinking may be off and may be incorrect but it is what they are going through and we must simply allow them to hurt even if it means going against God (not implying that is what Job is doing only making a statement about what some people do).  

Secondly, there is a time to weep, a time to mourn, a time to say something and a time to stay quiet.  Something I would not say to someone who is grieving, “You are impatient” (4:5).  Why do the righteous suffer?  Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people?  We may never know in our finitude until we reach the infinitude of God.  that is the embedded question for theology thursdays.  One things I am still earning is this: if you think you have the answer to somebody’s problem you better rethink it because you really do not have a clue. 

Questions for Thought

  1. What are you reactions to Job’s intense curse and lament in chapter 3? 
  2. Have you ever felt like Job before?
  3. In what ways can we empathize with Eliphaz speaking the things he did?
  4. What are your thoughts about divine retribution (aka getting what we deserve)? 

I look forward to next week when we consider Eliphaz’s encouragment for Job to repent and Job’s reply!  Stay tuned!