philosophy

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.

Fuel for the Soul—part 1

Photo credit: lightstock.com What makes humans different from all other mammals? We have a soul, that is, we are a soul with a body—a spiritual soul. We don't live by instinct, but reason.

We have emotions connected to our thoughts, which effect our behavior. We are moral beings and are made like our Creator.

Generally speaking, we know right from wrong. We reflect on the past, imagine the future, while living in the present. And we need something more than just food, water, shelter, and other basic necessities. We need nourishment for our soul.

A need to know

The first human was created in the likeness or image of God, as are all humans. Humankind was created to rule over all other creatures on the earth, in the sea, and the air (Gen 1:26). This was the original design.

God also gave the first humans responsibility and purpose (Gen 1:28-30). He also gave us the capacity to think and reason (Gen 2:15-17), along with the need for companionship (Gen 2:18-25).

We also have the capacity to be wrong. This is made clear in Genesis 3. We have an innate need to know the truth, which spurs our curiosity and imagination. This enables us to be creative and productive.

[bctt tweet="We have an innate need to know the truth, which spurs our curiosity and imagination"]

"What is truth?"

But what truth do we need? Many claim to know and understand the truth, but all truth is not the same. This is revealed in the dialog between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, where Pilate asks, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38)

I was somewhat like Pilate earlier in my life. I sought out truth from various sources including the Bible. Along with other religious and philosophical books, I read the Bible every day for about two years.

Did I understand what I was reading? No. I was like the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah whom Philip encountered (Acts 8:30-31). I needed some guidance, but where would I go and who could help me?

[bctt tweet="I sought out truth from various sources including the Bible for about two years"]

Fuel for my soul

Right before 1970, I was invited to a church where the Bible was taught in a simple, clear way. This church became a reference point for me.

I still wandered a while longer, but returned there, made a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus, was grounded in the truth, and began serving in God's kingdom.

What was the key? The truth of God's written Word. I realized it was the fuel I needed for my soul to grow in a healthy way. It was the nutrition—the food—my soul longed for and needed.

[bctt tweet="The truth of God's written Word was what my soul longed for and needed"]

Spirit and life

As pointed out by many, when jesus was tempted by the devil, Jesus answered him with the truth of Scripture (Matt 4:1-11). The devil's first temptation appealed to the Lord's hunger, after a 40-day fast.

Jesus' answer was, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt 4:4). This is a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3, where God reminded His people that our spiritual need is greater than the physical.

[bctt tweet="God's truth is spiritual in nature and is the only thing that satisfies my soul"]

This is what struck a chord in my heart. God's truth is spiritual in nature and is the only thing that satisfies my soul.

Jesus made this clear to His first followers—

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

But not everyone either accepts or realizes this, only those with a personal commitment to Jesus. Here is Peter's testimony about it—

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

What do you think is the best way to be nourished in the truth of God?

What role is the church to be involved with this?


We'll look at answering these two questions in a follow-up post soon.

 

2 Ways, 2 Destinies

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Things don't just happen. Sometimes the process is hidden to the natural eye, but there's a progression from what may be hidden at the start to what becomes visible.

A tree begins as a seed, develops roots, then pushes up through the surface of the soil. Life and nourishment push through the inside of the outer skin of the stem, which becomes bark covering both the trunk and branches.

When a tree buds with new leaves, flowers, then produces its fruit or nuts (seeds), we see the end product of the tree's growth. But the growth is a continuing progression. It didn't just happen.

Life is also a progression based on the choices we make along the way. It doesn't just happen, it grows and develops.

Scripture

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. [vs 1]

But they delight in the law of the lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. [vss 2-3]

But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. [vss 4-5]

For the lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. [vs 6]

(Psalm 1:1-6 NLT) [Context– Psalm 1]

Key phrase— They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season

[bctt tweet="They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are 3 ways a person is blessed with joy by what they don't do?

What are 2 things a person can do that brings blessing in their life and makes them like a fruitful tree?

What are the wicked likened to and what will they face? What will sinners not do?

What encouraging promise is given to those who follow a godly path? What is the destiny of those who go in an opposite direction?

Reflection...

This first of 150 individual, collected psalms expresses a simple truth, but also illustrates the basic elements found throughout the Book of Psalms.

The Psalms are poetic hymns and prayers, some short and some much longer. The words paint pictures to help us see what the psalmist expresses and feels.

These poems rhyme with thoughts rather than similar sounding words. This is called parallelism—parallel or similar expressions of the same idea or thought. The Psalms express strong emotions, deep worship, penitent prayers, cries for help, and with lots of repetition, which makes them memorable.

Although we can study them, they are intended to be more devotional than doctrinal in their purpose. They are expressions of the soul that stir our heart and provoke thought and reverence (worship) of God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you see the progression in what a godly person does not do? Do you see the increasing involvement away from the truth in the law of God?

What do you spend more time on—listening to what others say or post on social media, or listening to and reading God's Word?

Do you see the contrast between the person who delights and meditates on the truth of God, and the one who goes their own way?

Where is the path of your life leading you at this time? Do you realize the choices you make along the way determine your destiny?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

No Longer Helpless, but Restored

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When we were unable to help ourselves, at the right time, Christ died for us, although we were living against God.

Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

So through Christ we will surely be saved from God’s anger, because we have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death. While we were God’s enemies, he made us his friends through the death of his Son.

Surely, now that we are his friends, he will save us through his Son’s life. And not only that, but now we are also very happy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we are now God’s friends again. (‭Romans‬ ‭5:‭6-11‬ NCV)


Most every person wants to be self-sufficient and independent. This is especially so when we are young, but even in old age. Some people may succumb to what is called a victim's mentality, but even then a toddler mindset of "I want to do it myself" exists.

When it comes to living a guilt-free, forgiven life we are all helpless. No exceptions. Of course, various religions, philosophies, psychological views, and even atheists say we can help ourselves. We can fool ourselves with our own self-justification, but only God can set us free forever.

God is God. He alone can and did provide the means of reconciliation with Himself through His Son Jesus. This reconciliation is not just a free-get-into-heaven ticket for eternity, but restoration for this life, now.

So rejoice, be glad! God made it possible to have a personal friendship with Him everyday for eternity. ©Word-Strong_2015

An Open Invitation

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We live in the age of the DIY-er. Don't know how to do something? Google it! You can watch and learn how to do pretty much anything on YouTube. And there's probably an app for what you need.

It's amazing what you can learn without leaving your keyboard (or phone)!

We also live in an age of abundant advice—from philosophy to psychology—counsellors and amateur authorities abound, especially in blog-land. Oh yeah, and there's a fair bit of religious and political opinion available too!

But does all this lead to a fulfilled life, or just a life filled up?

Scripture

“Now, sons, listen to me. Blessed are those who follow my ways. Listen to discipline, and become wise. Do not leave my ways. [vss 32-33]

Blessed is the person who listens to me, watches at my door day after day, and waits by my doorposts. Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LordWhoever sins against me harms himself. All those who hate me love death.” [vss 34-36]

Wisdom has built her house. She has carved out her seven pillars. She has prepared her meat. She has mixed her wine. She has set her table. She has sent out her servant girls. She calls from the highest places in the city, [vss 1-3]

“Whoever is gullible turn in here!” She says to a person without sense, “Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine I have mixed. Stop being gullible and live. Start traveling the road to understanding.” [vss 4-6]

(Proverbs 8:32-36; 9:1-6 GW) [Context– Proverbs 8 & 9]

Key phrase

Whoever finds me finds life...

Digging Deeper...

  1. What is the wise counsel given to "sons" [young people]? How is it both a caution and encouragement?
  2. How is a person to gain wisdom? What are seven specific ways given in this admonition?
  3. What reassuring promise is given? What is the contrasting warning?
  4. What is the picture of wisdom presented to us? What invitation is given?
  5. Who is this invitation extended to? How does it relate to the previous verses [8:32-36]?

Make it personal...

How is the wisdom of God different from that offered in philosophy?

Have you ever opened your heart, as well as your mind, to God's wisdom?

Have you received and acted upon "Wisdom's" invitation to life?

How has the wisdom of God become personal and beneficial to you?

Reflection...

As seen in the New Testament of the Bible, God makes Himself known and available to humanity. But God has always extended an invitation to come know Him and to gain true life.

In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is often portrayed as a woman—to personalize it. It's a way of life, not just something  to know. This picture of a banquet is to remind us how personal and approachable God is to anyone who will respond to His invitation to life.

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