The lost art of enjoying God

happy-woman in fieldI came across this wonderful article on Desiring God, The Lost Art of Feasting that I want to leverage to talk about a broader topic. David Mathis explains that even though fasting, the deprivation of food, is a good discipline, the Bible also points to the fact that feasts embody a celebration of God’s people enjoying him and each other that enforces our unity as covenant people. He writes,

Feasting is not first about the food. It is foremost about the Godward celebration of some specific occasion together. Good food and drink, in abundance, come in alongside our corporate focus to accentuate the appreciation and enjoyment of God and his kindness. The heart of feasting is not the food itself, but the heart of the feasters. A true feast is bigger than the food — infinitely bigger. The center is God and his greatness and grace toward us in Christ.

For Christians, feasting is not the same as mere indulgence. There is nothing particularly Christian about eating and drinking more than usual. What makes feasting a means of God’s grace for nourishing our souls is explicitly celebrating Christ together in faith. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Easter, a birthday or anniversary, when we feast as Christians, we celebrate the bounty and kindness of our Creator and Redeemer. Feasting in Christ is no mere physical event, but deeply spiritual.

I occasionally come across arguments from Christians that relegate fellowship to Bible study and deny any social type activity as the fabric of fellowship. So I greatly appreciated this article because I believe Mathis makes a pretty good case for why shared meals should be considered a vital aspect of fellowship. My congregation enjoys a monthly fellowship meal, which I believe embodies what Mathis is referring to. Not only that, I’ve lost count on the many times I’ve experienced encouragement in the Lord simply through eating with other Christians. Continue reading

Posted in Christian living | Leave a comment

Be careful with ministries (and ministers) that speak your heart

crowd_cheeringWell, once again the internet from evangelical quarters have been ablaze the past few days over Jen Hatmaker’s soft, squishy statement apparently affirming gay marriage. I’ll say from the outset, this post is not to address what she said or didn’t say; there have been plenty of others doing that. Rather, I want to leverage this situation to address a larger concern regarding the appeal of Hatmaker and other women ministry leaders.

I hear a lot of trope against women’s ministries being absent real thought, gravitate towards feelings and generally don’t want to dig deep into theological study. I suppose that is probably true in many cases and these are observations I’ve voiced myself. But I don’t think it’s enough to simply castigate the disciples as those who lack discernment and don’t want rigorous study. There is a reason that Hatmaker and other ministry leaders like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and Rachel Held Evans gain such an audience with women. They speak in a way that resonates with many. Whether it’s criticizing the old fundamentalist regime whilst demonstrating how awful they distorted “biblical womanhood” or emoting about past experiences that challenged healthy womanhood or evoking a giggle while recounting the challenges of parenting, it occurs to me that they touch the feminine soul.

And let’s not forget about Sarah Young and Jesus tapping into our hearts through flowery words via the direct messages from Jesus as if God was a 40 year old housewife. I addressed this in my master’s thesis how God speech equates to God’s revelation of himself and character, which he fully expressed in the Son.  But it’s not lost on me that there is a reason that Jesus Calling has sold millions of copies even though Young sets an horrendous precedent for how God speaks, supposing that the messages she has received equate to Jesus speaking (like, how do we know?). Continue reading

Posted in Christian living, gender issues, ministry | Leave a comment

Surprised by the deficiency of the Spirit

worship singingAs I wrote about in Hearing God Speak regarding my master’s thesis, one of the books I interacted with was Surprised by the Voice of God  by Jack Deere. If you are not familiar with the book, Deere writes about the need to hear the voice of God beyond the Bible, namely through dreams, visions and prophetic utterances.  Deere proposes that in order to have a vibrant walk with the Lord, we need to model the way in which God spoke to the people in the Bible, namely the prophets, apostles and even Jesus himself.  He uses a plethora of examples, including his own, that portrays a staid and rather lifeless Christian existence by relying on the Bible alone and the inability to really hear from God. This is contrasted with an energized Christian walk that relies on the ability to hear God speak beyond the Bible. The thrust of his proposal is that if you want to really experience the Holy Spirit then the Bible is not enough.

Unfortunately Deere’s proposal echoes a view that I believe many Christians have adopted about the work of the Holy Spirit especially related to the Bible and our Christian walk. T To varying degrees, it is the idea that the Holy Spirit is only partially present in Bible and that if we really want to experience the Holy Spirit it requires going beyond the Bible to “hear the voice of God.”

I propose that this position undermines the work and presence of the Holy Spirit in relation to the biblical text. It presumes that the Holy Spirit cannot be fully active with just Bible reading alone or if the preacher simply reads and explains the text. Now Deere does not dismiss the power of Scripture, since he does have a chapter entitled God Speaks Through the Bible. But the thrust of his proposal is that it is insufficient. But I don’t think it adequately relates the Holy Spirit’s involvement revelation, which is how God made himself known.

Deere’s premise rest on the fact that the Holy Spirit began the age of revelation in the book of Acts, which gives us a prescription for how we should hear from God [1] Well, if we see that Scripture is a product of revelation, that is how God made himself known, that prompts us to go back to Genesis and follow along as His story progresses. The covenant promises and acts of God in relation to his people unveil a progressive revelation, in which he provides the Law and to which the Prophets testify.  The people and miracles that he used were for the purpose of revelation, which unrolls progressively through Israel’s history with the expectation of fulfillment of covenant promises. The progressive revelation culminates in the Son so that the fullness of the Godhead is revealed in the Son (Colossians.2:9; Ephesians 1:9-19). The Son fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-18) and all the promises of God (2 Cor. 1:20). Continue reading

Posted in church life, pneumatology, scripture | Leave a comment

On conservatives and race: do black lives really matter to the right?

black-lives-matter-super-169In my last post, I addressed an issue of priorities that drives politically conservative Christians to not only be drawn to the GOP but also feel compelled to endorse it’s candidate to uphold priorities. Specifically, I noted issues of life and traditional values and expressed the following.

These concerns are quite legitimate. We care about the rights of the unborn. And we care about the liberties granted us under the founding principles of this nation, that are to ensure freedom of worship. And so the typical response at elections is who will align with these values.

I confess that I had a particular audience in mind when penning that post, those who insist that the GOP platform is the most compatible with Christian values regardless of who their spokesperson is. For this crowd, these are concerns that are most directly linked to issues of life and morality. It is not lost on me that these priorities draw the conclusion that other concerns Christians care about don’t matter. These would be issues that have been under the lens, particularly with with the emergence of Black Lives Matter–issues of racism, policing, criminal justice, education, and poverty. These are issues of life and morality as well, which weigh heavier on people of color. For this reason, a major criticism of the right, and primarily Republicans, is that there is a disinterest and disregard for the concerns of minorities. Some will even label the Republican Party racist.

I do think there is some validity to this criticism. The elevation of abortion, religious freedom, and same-sex marriage has been a traditional platform of the Christian Right, made prominent in the 1980s with the so-called moral majority. Let’s be honest about who this movement represented: white Protestant America. Continue reading

Posted in Christian living, culture, politics | Tagged | 9 Comments

About that time Peter demanded his religious freedom

jesus-and-disciplesIn what has been one of the most bizarre, sleaziest election season, it goes without saying that the choice for Bible adhering, gospel-centered Christians has been quite challenging. Typically motivated by issues of life and religious freedom, it makes perfect sense to me that there is a natural compatibility of Christians towards conservatism and are either fully entrenched in the GOP or as independents, like myself, lean right and want to uphold these values. We who naturally gravitate towards the GOP naturally want to ensure that one who supports our values will occupy the highest seat of the nation. Not that the executive branch acts alone (why we have a checks and balance system), but there is a certain orientation towards issues that we typically expect.

These concerns are quite legitimate. We care about the rights of the unborn. And we care about the liberties granted us under the founding principles of this nation, that are to ensure freedom of worship. And so the typical response at elections is who will align with these values.

But there’s just one problem. The candidate of choice in 2016 has created an ethical dilemma.

Nonetheless, someone has to occupy the Oval Office. And so many evangelicals have convinced themselves that the issues of religious freedom, right to life and same-sex marriage are far too important to concede to the likes of Hillary Clinton. After all, she would only continue the legacy of Obama with it’s same-sex agenda, government coercion whose ideology goes directly against the grain of the principles upon which America was founded.

And so as conservative evangelicals clamor to justify a vote for Trump, despite the fact that his character maligns every ounce of morality that Christianity represents, the argument goes – but our religious freedom, the Supreme Court, traditional values. We need to live as Christians, after all. And living as Christians in this great nation means we should not have to bow to the heathen regime of Alinky-esque rulers who strive to squash our position.

It’s like this is the most important thing. Continue reading

Posted in Christian living, church history, gospel, politics | 6 Comments