challenge

How I Got Theology– Part 1

Photo credit: unsplash.com_APokusin The truth of God is not relative. That is, it doesn't change to adapt and conform to changes in the culture and beliefs of people.

Much is made of the idea of relativism and a post-modern mindset. The concept that what's true for you isn't necessarily true for me, isn't truth.

Personal, philosophical beliefs don't become reality just because they're thought out. The natural laws of the earth and universe illustrate and reflect the unchanging nature of God, its creator, and His truth.

Clichés aren't sufficient

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, "Got Theology?" The gist of it is that theology can become highly personalized. And yet, the truth of God remains unchanged. It's based on who He is, not opinions or a belief system.

[bctt tweet="God's truth remains is based on who He is, not personal opinions or beliefs " username="tkbeyond"]

Christian believers need to be clear on why they believe what they believe. The trite saying—God said it, I believe it, that settles it—isn't sufficient, it's a cliché.

Arriving at why we believe what we do—our theology—can be understood by seeing how we arrive at that belief. I won't backtrack through what is shared in the previous post, but I do want to look at a challenge I posed in that post.

[bctt tweet="Christian believers need to be clear on why they believe what they believe" username="tkbeyond"]

The challenge—3 questions

The challenge involved 3 questions that help determine how our personal theology develops. As an example, I'll answer these questions for my own life. I'll do this over the next three weeks.

Hopefully, this will serve as a guide for you. Here are the 3 questions—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What’s been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

My learning curve

I'm a visual and kinetic (experiential) learner. I tend to learn best by watching, then doing. I'm also a reader.

My search for truth and faith included the study of various philosophies and eastern religions. I attempted to live these out to a certain extent, as I read about them. Music and hitchhiking were also part of the process.

I also read the Bible each day for at least two years, yet without understanding it. I talk about this in my book, some of it in the first chapter.

My life reflected the times of that search—the mid to late 60's in America. I was immersed in the turbulent counter-culture that marked those years. This carried over to my faith search.

A turning point

I'm a rebel at heart when it comes to learning. I don't just accept things, I question, challenge, then process it all. Of course, this doesn't go over well with authoritarian teacher-types. It even got me thrown out of a church when I kept pressing for answers.

[bctt tweet="When learning, I don't just accept things, I question, challenge, then process it all" username="tkbeyond"]

In the midst of my search, I came to a turning point in my life. I went up into the mountains, where I lived at the time, and challenged God to reveal Himself to me in some way. I was expecting something like a sign in the sky, a burning bush, or audible voice, but none of that happened. Discouraged, I headed back to my trailer.

Still wanting to hear from God, I opened my Good News for Modern Man version of the Bible to read. It's then I came across Matthew 7:13-14 and realized I was on the wrong path.

Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it. (Matt 7:13-14 GNT)

I took this as a challenge, but I refused to pray the ("sinners") prayer or write down the date, as the notes in my Bible suggested. Like I said, I don't just accept things without question. I did have an assurance in my heart that my faith search was settled. Jesus and the Bible were central to my faith, the foundation of my theology.

[bctt tweet="Jesus and the Bible were central to my faith, the foundation of my theology" username="tkbeyond"]

What about you?

So, what about you? Have you had a turning point in your life, come to a crossroads, or other cathartic experience that settled your faith and brought assurance?

[bctt tweet="Have you had a turning point in your life that brought assurance of faith?" username="tkbeyond"]

This is an important first step in developing a personal theology. It's called a lot of things—coming to faith, conversion, getting saved. Whatever you call it, it needs to happen. It's the starting point of a settled faith, a personal trust relationship with God.

I'd love to hear from you on this—

What stands out as most important in your life as a believer?

Why is this so important to you?


Next week, I plan to continue this series of posts and look at the influential spiritual leaders in my life.

Projects and Posts

Photo credit: unsplash_JSheldon Projects. I like working on projects. However, I've learned it's easier to start projects than finish them. That's probably true for most of us.

One of the reasons I like projects is my tendency to lose interest in doing just one things for a long time. I like new things, different things, and I like challenges.

Recently, I've been working on a new project. It's connected to a couple of other projects that are revisions of previous projects I've completed. I hope to make it available next week.

What's make these popular?

For this week's post, I've collected a few of the more popular posts on my blog. I'd like to get some feedback on what makes them interesting or engaging.

Is it the topic? Is it the title? What is it a link on social media? What is it recommended by someone?

Whatever the reason, I'd like to know. So, here's the list of the top 5 posts, let me hear your feed back and thoughts.

Top 5 posts

  1. The Art and Value of Encouragement
  2. 5 Basic Foundational Truths of the Christian Faith
  3. Acronym-ically Speaking
  4. About the Beginning of the Story
  5. Who Needs Fellowship?

Again, as you check these posts out, let me know what interests or engages you most about them.

  • Is it the topic?
  • Is it the title?
  • What stands out to you?
  • What is most valuable or helpful for you?

Thanks! And please feel to comment on or share any of these posts!

More Than Promises

Photo credit: unsplash_SWijers Commitment. Is it a forgotten value? Many express commitments, but how many follow through? Companies, politicians, the media, people making New Year's resolutions, all talk commitment, but are they only empty promises?

Promises, promises. Talk is cheap. Words are many, actions are few. However you express it, rhetoric and rants fill the air, but not resolve.

Resolve is the root word for resolution, "I resolve to...." Resolve, resolution, commitment, whichever term is used, is a promise requiring action. But what's the basis for making such promises? This is important.

The "C" word

The "C" word, that's what I called it. At the beginning of each new year, I'd craft a message on commitment. Each message was framed within the current need of the church in view.

Throughout most of the 80's, I challenged those I pastored towards some commitment. It became something we joked about, "oh no, the 'C' word again!"

It was joked about, but understood. Each of us in the church, including me, knew we needed to be challenged, reminded of our commitment to follow Jesus.

When I moved overseas, my challenge was directed towards pastors and leaders to study, preach, and teach the truth of God's Word. Later, I challenged my staff and students in the Bible college. I also challenged myself.

Over the years, many of these messages and challenges focused on the importance of God's Word, the Bible.

[bctt tweet="Resolutions are promises that require a commitment to action"]

A spiritual famine

When I returned from the mission field in 2005, I saw a great need in the church. I didn't have the same opportunities to address this need, as I had while pastoring and as a missionary. So I addressed it within a much smaller circle of influence.

Still, the need grew. It continues to grow. We are moving ever closer to what the prophet Amos spoke hundreds of years ago—

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12)

How would this be possible with so many biblical resources available today? We (Americans) are awash in study Bibles, devotionals, study guides, conferences and workshops, small groups, and mega and home churches.

[bctt tweet="We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment"]

We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment. We lack commitment to walk in the truth of God's Word. Let's face it, we're more talk than follow through.

Take responsibility

We don't need to be more articulate and erudite in Bible knowledge. We need to live the truth of the Scriptures out in daily life.

  • Live out the truth whether people notice it or not.
  • Live it out so it transforms our life from the inside out.
  • Live it out even when it doesn't meet the expectations of others.
  • Live it out even when it costs us something to do so.

[bctt tweet="We don't need more articulate and erudite Bible knowledge, but to live it out"]

How? Each believer needs to take personal responsibility for their own life.

Don't blame the church, the culture, pastors, anyone, or anything else. Each of us need to commit to seek the Lord, understanding His Word, and living out our faith each day.

Back to basics

What do you think is needed to make this kind of commitment? What does real commitment need to be based on?

In sports, when a team is making careless mistakes or playing without focus or passion, it's said that the players need to get back to the basics. Practice of simple, but essential fundamentals.

I believe this is true for Christian believers, pastors, leaders, and the church as a whole. But what are our basics? What are the essentials we need to put into practice?

[bctt tweet="What are the essentials Christian believers need to put into practice?"]


Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore some of these essential basics. I gave a hint above for the essential I'll focus on first. But what do you think?

What do you see as essential to live out the Christian faith?

Transitions in Life and Ministry

Photo credit: DeathtotheStockPhoto The past several months brought the reality of transition back into focus for me. Ten years ago, I began a long, even difficult time of transition—in life and ministry.

Living on the other side of the world, life seemed more simple. It was often busy overseeing two full-time ministries, with leadership involvement in our local home church.

It was a full life with plenty of challenges, yet it was simple. My purpose in life was clear.

A major change in life

Life on this side of the earth (FL) was full of busyness, but my purpose was not so clear. Some things were quite clear. We moved back to the US to care for my parents.

But I went from a person of importance in ministry to near anonymity. For the first time in a long time, I wasn't doing what I was gifted and called to do by God, or so it seemed. I also wasn't in charge of any ministry except at a distance.

After about a year or so, I found a place to serve in a local church body. Finally, I was able to employ some of my ministry gifts, which was good. But our first year back was very difficult. At least three different full-time ministry opportunities evaporated.

Learning a new thing

After a few more years, I began to write and eventually self-published a book. This was something I wanted to do for many years, but it also was a great challenge. I found out that writing is a lot different from speaking.

I learned a new craft and it was a sharp learning curve for me. I also went out to search for a regular job to pay the bills, which also was a challenge. I found out there wasn't a big market for a former church planter and missionary like myself.

Learning a new way

Presently, it seems I'm in a new time of transition. I'm learning a new way of putting to work the gifts and calling of God. It's a new phase of walking by faith.

Right now, I'm enjoying it. I like the challenge and have a renewed sense of vision. I work at keeping expectations realistic, which includes managing my time and energy in a different way.

The nature of transitions

This seems to be the nature of transitions. They are a time full of challenges and change. Things are different, unfamiliar, and sometimes bewildering.

Handling transition well is both simple and complex. A big part of doing it well depends on our attitude and outlook. Do we see transition as an opportunity or obstacle?

A balancing act

Over the past several months, I've been helping others navigate transitions. My role requires an objective view of things, while drawing on past experience. It's kind of a balancing act. I can't just fall back on how I've done things before, but I still draw from my experience.

I'm learning that a good mentor or coach needs to learn how to adapt what they know from experience and apply it in different ways, different situations, and with different people.

We're all different. We have different gifts and skills and experience. And yet, many things are similar. Management is management in various fields of work or ministry. People are people, work is work, and God is ever faithful.

Navigating transitions in life and ministry requires a genuine walk of faith, if we want to do it well.


What are some of the life or ministry transitions you've gone through?

How have you navigated them so far?

What would you do differently or wished you'd known going into a transition?

 

Confidence in God

Photo credit: Anthony Easton-cc I’ve heard the sentiment, “religious faith is just a crutch,” expressed many times over the years, but never understood or accepted it. Perhaps it’s a variation of Karl Marx’s famous quote, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”

The idea is that those interested in religion or spirituality are somehow less than those who aren’t. The assumption is that when people exercise faith, they toss reason aside. I don't believe this.

Religion isn't a cure

Why don’t I believe this? For one thing, when there’s pain or injury, it’s both wise and reasonable to provide care. Sin causes pain, and it injures everyone in some way. But the cure for sin isn’t religion, it’s faith in Jesus who conquered sin by His death and resurrection.

Have you seen someone spin a basketball on one finger? Have you ever tried spinning a ball on the tip of your finger? I have and didn’t do it well. But I’ve watched people who are good at it.

It seems like they could keep spinning the ball forever. When it begins to wobble and starts to fall off the tip of their finger, one confident and deft tap of their hand keeps it spinning.

The difference between unbelief and faith

“He [Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.”—Roman 4:20 (NKJV)

What I notice in this verse is the contrast between unbelief and faith. It’s the opposite of what some people might think. Faith isn’t anti-reason, it’s greater than reason. Unbelief causes a person to waver. It creates a resistance to trust.

Faith is strength, not weakness. Real faith, genuine trust in God, sees beyond what others focus on. It doesn’t see the ball wobbling, it sees the ball spinning strong.

Abraham’s confidence was in God, not himself. He believed God’s promise of a son, though he and Sarah were past the age of bearing children. Faith, true faith, sees beyond the doubts of others, even discouraging circumstances.

Abraham's confident faith

Abraham didn’t waver with unbelief, he trusted God with confidence.

He honored God and God honored him because of his faith. Abraham is our example—an example of strength, not weakness. Abraham didn’t have the benefit of the written Scriptures and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as believers do today.

Yes, he had very personal encounters with God that most of us may not experience, but he still lived by faith. The majority of his century-long trust in God was lived in simple faith, which is the same life of faith each follower of Jesus is called to live.

What challenges your faith? In what areas of life do you struggle with unbelief?


Click here to see the original post, as it appeared on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post with others!

 

The Wrong Kind of Encouragement

Photo credit: lightstock.com

Because people did those [evil] things, God left them and let them do the shameful things they wanted to do. Women stopped having natural sex with men and started having sex with other women. In the same way, men stopped having natural sex with women and began wanting each other all the time. Men did shameful things with other men, and in their bodies they received the punishment for those wrongs.

People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God. So God left them and allowed them to have their own worthless thinking. And so they do what they should not do.

They are filled with every kind of sin, evil, greed, and hatred. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, lying, and thinking the worst things about each other. They gossip and say evil things about each other. They hate God. They are rude, proud, and brag about themselves. They invent ways of doing evil. They don’t obey their parents, they are foolish, they don’t keep their promises, and they show no kindness or mercy to others.

They know God’s law says that anyone who lives like that should die. But they not only continue to do these things themselves, but they also encourage others who do them. (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭26-32‬ ERV)


The Bible is politically incorrect. It contains the truth, but it doesn't square with popular culture. This poses a dilemma. It poses a dilemma for those who want to believe in God and the truth of His written Word (the Scriptures), but want to embrace the wind of popular cultural values.

A lot of posturing takes place today, when it comes to what the Bible says and what many people want it to mean. The problem with God's truth is that it is inconvenient and politically incorrect. It doesn't change with the shifting tide of popular opinion, culture, or social norms. It doesn't change because it contains the truth revealed by God who is unchanging in His nature. This has been true for millennia, not just the past few decades.

Reading the history within the Bible reveals the unchanging nature of God, and the ever-changing behavior of man. Human nature is also pretty consistent. Consistently bad. Even the Bible's heroes are shown to have some major character flaws, wrong behavior, and questionable judgement. And yet, God consistently provides a way for them to be rescued and restored. How? He rescues us because of His mercy and restores us by His loving kindness.

This portion of the Book of Romans was written nearly 2000 years ago, yet it describes the current behavior and attitude of humanity. Things like—jealousy, murder, lying, gossip, rudeness, pride, bragging about themselves, disobedience to parents, not keeping promises, showing no kindness or mercy—are descriptive of our current world. Sadly, these things are encouraged through public and social media, both out of ignorance and intent.

And yet, God continues to extend His mercy and grace towards anyone who would trust in Him, and His truth prevails. He and the truth will outlast all human culture, all governments, and all challenges in rebellion towards Him. It's up to each person to choose the truth or what seems right for the moment. ©Word-Strong_2015

The Search

©CCCM – the Tent

During the sixties, I was part of the counterculture movement seeking spiritual truth. In the early seventies, I became part of the Jesus Movement.

This movement was neither organized, nor guided by any church or religious organization. It was the work of God in people searching for spiritual truth and encountering Jesus in a personal relationship.

“It’s not about religion, but relationship,” was a common expression in those days. Young people popularized the Jesus Movement, including those known as hippies who joined the developing counterculture of the 1960s.

A spiritual vacuum

A spiritual vacuum existed in those days. For the most part, traditional churches did not reach the young people of that generation. Several elements in our current decade remind me of that era.

Today, traditional and established churches are not reaching the young people of this generation, including those raised in Christian homes. Many surveys show a strong trend toward young people leaving churches in droves.[i]

In my own search for truth as a youth, I sampled wisdom from various religions and philosophies that surrounded me in abundance and diversity.

Raised in a nominally Christian home, even confirmed in the faith of the Episcopal Church at the age of twelve, I found my Christian moorings too weak to keep me from drifting into varied experiences, philosophies, and religious encounters. These encounters brought plenty of confusion and uncertainty.

During the late 1960's, I had developed a ritual of reading the Bible every morning. Even so, I still used drugs and alcohol, practiced transcendental meditation, and played and wrote music, along with other experiences typical of that time.

Through it all, I was coming to believe Jesus was an important element of true spirituality. During this period, a friend invited me to a certain church in Southern California, which later became a mega church within the Jesus Movement.[ii]

Thrown out

I attended an evening service where a very young but quite charismatic evangelist was teaching the Bible. At the end of the study he gave an invitation to “accept Christ.”[iii]I wasn’t ready to do this.

After the service, I began asking many questions my friends were unable to answer. So they brought me to a man considered a Bible answer-man of sorts—I continued asking my questions. He answered me by quoting verses of Scripture from the King James Version (KJV), but without explanation.

I had studied Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school, so it wasn’t the archaic language that troubled me—it was my lack of spiritual understanding.

Each time he quoted a Scripture in response to my many questions, I could hear a round of “amen’s” and some cheering, as he refuted my challenging questions.

Intent on my quest for spiritual truth, and exasperated with his pat answers, I finally asked him—“If I could destroy all the books in the world, how would you then tell me how you truly know God?”

He promptly called me the devil and threw me out of the church.

The wrong way

It was another two years of spiritual wandering before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus, my Lord. I continued reading the Bible and praying, but didn’t give up the other activities and experiences that were counterproductive to my spiritual growth.

My frustration deepened and became desperation.

One morning, leaving the small trailer I lived in with my girlfriend, I went on a search for God. I expected some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience, as Moses had before he led Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-6).

I saw no sign, no burning bush, and didn’t hear any voices.

Discouraged, I returned to the trailer and began reading my Bible. I came to some verses that challenged me—

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

In my heart I took up the challenge of going on the narrow and hard way. I had considered many different philosophies and religions in search of a harmonious belief everyone could hold.

This text showed me I was on the wrong path that led to destruction. I saw the last part of the verse as a challenge to pursue, so I committed my life to God.

A changed life

My life changed little by little as God showed me a new way of living.

I began to give up old habits of my previous lifestyle and developed new ones. On the day of my wedding I experienced a rush of new life and freedom.

I had closed the door on my old life as a new door opened up.

My wife and I attended the same church I’d been thrown out of, but I had a much different attitude and view of God.

I began serving the Lord[iv] in various ways, and became part of the church staff. My wife and I became full-time volunteers who oversaw the childcare ministry at the time our first son was born.

A better way

Years later, I’ve often wondered if the time between my earnest questioning and eventual commitment of my life to Jesus could have been shorter—perhaps two years shorter!

What I needed that night and what millions—even billions—still need is a simple, clear, and complete explanation of the gospel.

For many people, Jesus is only a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery.

Every Christian believer should be able to share the truth of the gospel with or without a Bible in hand, and without using Christian terminology and jargon.

Is this possible? Absolutely!


[i] The Barna Group has done a lot of research, especially in the area of young people. Here are a couple reports that reveal this trend of church dropout among youth/young adults— Barna article. There was also a significant study done by sociologist Christian Smith, which he published in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (published in 2005), coining the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Here is a link to an article about MTD

[ii] The Jesus Movement was a Christian counter-culture movement starting in the late sixties, and growing to prominence in the early seventies. Young people, often termed Jesus freaks, and Christian rock music, characterized this non-organized movement. [http://www.one-way.org/jesusmovement/| http://conservapedia.com/Jesus_Movement]

[iii] “Accepting Christ,” describes a person making a decision to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is also called “making a decision for Christ.” An invitation (opportunity) is given to make this decision during an “altar call”—an invitation to come forward or signal an intention to “accept Christ” with a raised hand, then being led in a simple (often rote) prayer.

[iv] “Serving the Lord” became a popular phrase describing volunteerism in the church, but can also include paid staff positions. The idea being it’s more than a job, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord.”


This is another excerpt from my book— The Mystery of the Gospel