Thursday, April 29, 2004

Thursday's Theology Thing: Foolishness

Hehe, when I started to write for today's Theology Thing, the first thing that popped into mind is how I like to tease my 9 year-old nephew. Whenever we visit, him and I usually wrestle with either for fun. Since I have him beat by about 100 pounds and many years of experience of wrestling my older brother (ie. I know what moves hurt ;) ), I will almost always get in some type of submission hold that he can't get out of. The only way I release him is if he says the magic phrase: "Darryl is the coolest, Cameron is the foolest!" Don't worry about his self-esteem getting hurt, he knows it's all in fun and that I think he's a great kid.

So anyways, back to foolishness. Here's Hypervine's take on it:
Foolish
Pronunciation: 'fU-lish
1. [adj] (informal) having or revealing stupidity; "ridiculous asinine behavior"; "a dopey answer"; "a dopey kid"; "some fool idea about rewriting authors' books"
2. [adj] devoid of good sense or judgment; "foolish remarks"; "a foolish decision"

If you look futher down the page you see the 1913 Webster's take on foolish: void of understanding.

There are a few verses that I want to look at, all in I Corinthians.

I Cor. 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those being lost, but to us being saved, it is the power of God.

I Cor. 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

I Cor. 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; for it is written, "He takes the wise in their own craftiness."

If you read I Corinthians, you see the words "foolish" or "foolishness" a total of ten times, and eight of those times are in the first three chapters. Read I Cor. 1-3 to get the whole theme.

I thought it was odd that there is a lot of things being considered foolish out there; namely, the non-Christian's view of Christianity, and God's view of the wisdom of this world.

Consider wisdom for a minute, arguably the opposite of foolishness. Wisdom is the most cherished possession (more so than strength or power or riches), because it is through wisdom that all of these other characteristics are obtained (read about Solomon in II Chr. 1:7-12).

To the Christian, I would say that the ultimate wisdom that we have ever received is the truth about God, and what it means to be a Christian. In the eyes of the world, however, it is all foolishness. If you are unashamed to be a Christian in public, I am sure that at some point you were mocked for your beliefs.

To the non-believer, I can understand why Christianity would come across as foolishness (or rather, I can understand their logic in thinking so). For example, how can we become more by making ourselves less? How is that we become elevated when we lower ourselves to serve others? How is it possible to consider ourselves free when we claim that we are slaves to Christ? How is it possible to claim to "die daily", yet at the same time be alive in the Spirit?

On the other hand, take the wisdom that the world has accumulated from the beginning of time. When that wisdom lacks God, it is all foolishness in God's eyes.

Let's look at some examples of the world's wisdom. The most important things are wealth, fame, and power (through God's wisdom, we see them for the unsatisfying things that they are). It is through our own efforts that we become better people (we as Christians understand that it is Christ's work in our lives that make us more complete as people). The world cherishes freedom, and most consider themselves to be free (but the Bible shows us that everyone ultimately serves God or Satan. The difference is that in not serving God, you end up being slaves to many things at the same time, such as your job, addictions, and the burdens of the world in general).

There are several examples of wisdom vs. foolishness that you can see in the comparison between Christianity and the world. This week, try to think of some (from either the world's viewpoint of serving Christ, or vice-versa).

Monday, April 26, 2004

Back to the Basics

Do you know what it is that you believe? And do you know why you believe that? Is it because you were raised that way by your family? Did you hear it from someone or read about it in a book or magazine? Is what you believe the TRUTH? Have you read it in the Bible? How do you KNOW?

These are tough questions for some of us, but we NEED to know the answer not only to make sure we are on the right track with our faith, but also so that we are leading non-believers down the right path as well. Yesterday in Church we were talking about Unity, and as a part of the sermon, the Pastor discussed basic doctrine. Many people don't really know what it is they believe, and if they do, sometimes they don't know why they believe it.

My husband and I were talking about a Bible Study he is a part of, and we were discussing that sometimes it is necessary to get "back to the basics" with our faith. We need to go back to the gospel and make sure we have a solid foundation of what it is that we believe, because Satan and those who believe differently will try their best to change our beliefs.

Getting back to the basics isn't always easy. It takes a desire to study, and learn and ask questions. It means prayer, reading the Bible, talking with your Pastor and church members, and making a personal investment in knowing and understanding God's plan for your life.

What do you do to get back to the basics of your faith? Feel free to write about it on your own site and post in the comments section, or if you do not have a site, feel free to post directly to the comments section.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Thursday's Theology Thing: Here I Am

Today's theology thing is not a word, but a phrase: Here I am.

First, read Gen. 22:1-19. This has become of my favorite stories in the Old Testament, because I studied this story in the original Hebrew language, and really got a lot out of it. But there are two places in this passage where this phrase occurs:

Gen. 22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am

Gen. 22:7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?


Gen 22:11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

There are actually many other instances of this phrase occurring in the Old Testament, about 150 more times, actually.

It's interesting how the Hebrew is translated on this phrase (in Hebrew it's actually a single word, הנני.
What I enjoy about the Hebrew (which, is similar to many languages when translating from one to another) is that there is no exact way to translate it. Instead, it is more of a combination of several words : Me, Here, Now, Yes. So when you put all of these words together, it comes across as something like, "Yes, I'm here, how can I serve you?" or "Yes, what can I do for you?"

Some may think that I'm overanalyzing one word (is it even possible to overanalyze anything in the Bible?), but when I see this, I think that the person who says it is taking the attitude of complete obedience and submission. Granted, this is used when replying to people other than God (as seen above when Abraham replied to his son"), and maybe it is just a generic word used as a reponse. But whenever I am reading the Bible and see this word, I always think of a couple things:

1. Am I always so willing when God calls me to do something?
2. Do I exhibit such an attitude of servanthood to others that I am actually enjoying serving?

I think we have all seen unhappy servants at one place or another. One tends to think, "If you don't enjoy what you are doing, why are you doing it at all?" What good is there in being a reluctant servant?

So this week, whenever you are given the opportunity to serve others, grab the chance with excitement, and say, "Here I am!"

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Thursday's Theology Thing: Sanctification

Today's word is one that you may occasionally hear but not understand it's meaning.

Sanctification
Pronunciation: "sa[ng](k)-t&-f&-'kA-sh&n
1. The act of sanctified or making holy; the state of being sanctified or made holy; esp. (Theol.), the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified, or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God; also, the state of being thus purified or sanctified.

II Thes. 2:13 God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.

2. The act of consecrating, or of setting apart for a sacred purpose; consecration. --Bp. Burnet.

I like Merriam-Webster's take on sanctification:

"the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion"

I also like the lengthy description found in the Easton Bible Dictionary (from Hypervine's site).

(Sanctification) "involves more than a mere moral reformation of character, brought about by the power of the truth: it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration. In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man (Rom. 6:13; 2 Cor. 4:6; Col. 3:10; 1 John 4:7; 1 Cor. 6:19). It is the special office of the Holy Spirit in the plan of redemption to carry on this work (1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13). Faith is instrumental in securing sanctification, inasmuch as it (1) secures union to Christ (Gal. 2:20), and (2) brings the believer into living contact with the truth, whereby he is led to yield obedience 'to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come.'

Perfect sanctification is not attainable in this life (1 Kings 8:46; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8). See Paul's account of himself in Rom. 7:14-25; Phil. 3:12-14; and 1 Tim. 1:15; also the confessions of David (Ps. 19:12, 13; 51), of Moses (90:8), of Job (42:5, 6), and of Daniel (9:3-20). 'The more holy a man is, the more humble, self-renouncing, self-abhorring, and the more sensitive to every sin he becomes, and the more closely he clings to Christ. The moral imperfections which cling to him he feels to be sins, which he laments and strives to overcome. Believers find that their life is a constant warfare, and they need to take the kingdom of heaven by storm, and watch while they pray. They are always subject to the constant chastisement of their Father's loving hand, which can only be designed to correct their imperfections and to confirm their graces. And it has been notoriously the fact that the best Christians have been those who have been the least prone to claim the attainment of perfection for themselves.', Hodge's Outlines."

Simply put, sanctification relates very closely to holiness. It is both the immediate and gradual act of being set apart for God's use. The reason that is both immediate and gradual is that when we are saved, we are sanctified in God's eyes. However, throughout the remainder of our time on earth, we experience a gradual sanctification, where we strive to be more Christlike. As the above mentions, the closer one gets to God, the clearer one's sins become. God creates an increased desire to be more like Him, and thus rid ourselves of our sins (ie. to not give into our daily temptations). We begin to see sin for what it is, and it becomes easier to resist our temptations.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Thursday's Theology Thing: Atonement

Atonement
Pronunciation: &-'tOn-m&nt
1. [n] the act of atoning for sin or wrongdoing (especially appeasing a deity)
2. [n] compensation for a wrong; "we were unable to get satisfaction from the local store"

I took a class on practical reasoning (aka logic) in Bible college, and I was taught that is bad practice to define a word by using it in the definition (as hypervine did above). So I'm going to go back to the 1913 Webster definitions.

"Satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury, or by doing of suffering that which will be received in satisfaction for an offense or injury;
expiation; amends; -- with for. Specifically, in theology: The expiation of sin made by the obedience, personal suffering, and death of Christ."

I especially liked how the Easton Bible Dictionary explained atonement (also on the hypervine page):

"The meaning of the word is simply at-one-ment, i.e., the state of being at one or being reconciled, so that atonement is reconciliation. Thus it is used to denote the effect which flows from the death of Christ.

But the word is also used to denote that by which this reconciliation is brought about, viz., the death of Christ itself; and when so used it means satisfaction, and in this sense to make an atonement for one is to make satisfaction for his offences (Ex. 32:30; Lev. 4:26; 5:16; Num. 6:11), and, as regards the person, to reconcile, to propitiate God in his behalf."

The "at-one-ment" mentioned above really nails it for me. Due to our sin, we are at odds with God. Sin cannot exist in the presence of God; therefore, due to our sin, it became impossible for us to have fellowship with Him. In the Old Testament, God allowed the use of sacrifice to provide a temporary means of atonement. The penalty of the sin of the entire world (and entire history) was finally paid for by Christ's perfect life, His death, and resurrection. As one of my theology teachers explained it, "the effect of the crucifixion extends both forwards and backwards in time." What he meant was that Christ's crucifixion atoned for all of the sin that had ever been committed, and will ever be committed. Considering this, it is easier to comprehend why the death of Christ has to be so brutal: He was paying the price for all the sin throughout history!

It is Christ's atonement that allows "at-one-ment" with God once again.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Monday Musing: The Stones Cry Out

Once again, I would like to turn to an Our Daily Bread reading for inspiration. Last night we read from Luke 19:29-40 and the little story in the devotional told of a woman who was saved, and her way of spreading the Gospel was to paint bible verses on small stones from the beach and sell them to raise money for missionaries. I often wonder what other unique ways people minister to others.

This website is the same to me as her stones were to her. I wanted to find a way to use a skill that I have to be able to reach people that I normally would not have been able to reach. Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged when no one comments or responds to the things that we write, but I KNOW that we are reaching someone, because the site counter keeps on rising, and here and there we DO get a response, which is a great feeling! And, even if I only reach ONE person, then I feel I have been successful.

What kinds of things do you do to spread the Good Word? Does it matter to you whether your efforts are acknowledged? How does it feel to know you are reaching people with your personal ministry? Feel free to write about it on your own site, and post in the comments section. If you do not have your own site, feel free to post directly to the comments.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Thursday's Theology Thing: Urim and Thummim

Okay, I've been reading the first few books of the Bible (Gen - Deut.), and I keep reading about the Urim and Thummim. What the heck is a urim and a thummim???

Well, unfortunately nobody knows for certain. We can look to how it is translated from the original Hebrew (something to the effect of lights and perfections), but that doesn't offer a lot of insight either. There are several ideas though. Some believe that they are a type of gem, because some passages speak about them being in the priest's breastplate:

Exodus 28:30 And you are to put into the breastpiece of decision the Urim and the Thummim and they are to be on Aaron's heart when he goes in before the Lord. And Aaron is to bear the judgment of the Israelites on his heart before the Lord continually.

Some sites believe that these breastplates possessed almost mystical qualities that allowed the wearer (the priest) to speak to God.

What many believe, however, is that the urim and thummim were something that was used to cast lots. Here is some information from studylight.org:

"The view most generally held today is that the Urim and Thummim were two sacred lots, one indicating an affirmative or favorable answer, the other a negative or unfavorable answer".

In any case, it is clear that the urim and thummim were used to decide problems, and a method that God used to offer direction to the people of Israel.

Perhaps this is what was used in Joshua 7 (although it isn't clearly named). When Jericho fell, God instructed the Israelites to destroy everything and take no loot for themselves (it all was to go into the treasury of the LORD). Achan, however, took some of the treasure for himself. After the capture of Jericho, they were going to capture Ai, which seemed a pretty trivial matter, because they only sent two or three thousand men. However, because Achan had sinned, the Israelites were routed by the people of Ai, and about thirty-six Israelites were killed. Joshua was puzzled, because he knew that God was on their side, and they should have been victorious. God told Joshua of the sin, and said that he would reveal the guilty person by casting lots.

It may seem odd that God would use a device of chance to be His voice with the Israelites, but why should it be? God controls everything, and there is no such thing as chance. Consider this verse:

Prov. 16:33 We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall. (NLT)

To me, it is reassuring to know that there is no chance or chaos in the universe. Instead, God is in control of everything. Everything that will ever occur throughout time is already known by God and under His complete control. That should help to increase your faith in God!