Saturday, March 27, 2010

What Is the Central Unifying Message of the Bible?

 I want to introduce a friend of mine that I've mentioned in my blog before, Demian Farnworth. He has been kind enough to write a guest post. I know you all will enjoy it, and I'll be writing about my mission trip in Oklahoma City real soon. Stay tuned.
**Guest blog by Demian Farnworth from Fallen and Flawed.**

The Bible. It can be one of the most difficult texts you've ever read. But you know what? It doesn't have to be. 

You can learn the the basic point behind the complex message of the Bible… without reading the whole thing.

In fact, I can tell you what it is in three simple words. But you have to promise me something. You have to promise me you’ll dig deeper beyond this simple cheat sheet. 

You have to promise me that you’ll sink some intellectual and emotional capital into reading the Bible. 


Now, a host of suggestions have been made as to what is the central unifying concept that runs through Scripture. Let’s look at several attempts.

Sellin, a German scholar, said the central theme of Scripture is the idea of holiness. There is no doubt that holiness is indeed an important concept. But that's not it. 
Some scholars suggest the central theme is the word “LORD,” the Hebrew word Yahweh—the LORD, the covenant God. While a central theme, were not quite there. 
God elects Abel and Seth over against Cain. He chooses Shem over against the other brothers, Abram out of the many, then Judah, and so on. The principal of election runs right through all of the Scriptures. But it's not the central theme.
From the kingdom of Israel to the kingdom of God, kingdom is a reoccurring concept. But it's not the central unifying concept. There's more. 
God and Community
Others say that what ties Scripture together is that God rules over his community. True, but there's something even more central. 
Still others argue that the Bible is simply a collection of different confessions about who God is. In other words, there is really no unity in God’s revelation. This is wrong. 
Covenant                                                                                                           German Old Testament scholar, Walter Eichrodt, says the theme is covenant. Close, but no cigar. 
No Unifying Theme
And German Lutheran pastor and Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad says that there is simply no unifying theme. Again, an incorrect position.

So, what is the single unifying concept of the Bible. The deal is it's not just one concept--it's three.  

See, the unifying themes of the Bible are covenant, kingdom and mediator. Throughout the Scriptures God makes a covenant with his people to create a kingdom where he will serve as mediator. 

Why is this important to know? If you keep this fact in mind as you go through Scripture, you will understand more readily and easily what God is saying and doing in each text you read.

You'll immediately spot the covenant. Then the kingdom will emerge. And, of course, you'll see the mediator. Not necessarily in that order. But all three are almost always there. 

In addition, as you preach and teach, it's helpful to keep these central concepts in mind and ask yourself, “How does my passage particularly relate to these three themes?” 

This will naturally cause Scripture to come to life. Words will pop off the paper. Pages will zing by. And the stories will carry you up, up and away.

Now, go give it a try like you promised.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Through a Glass, Darkly

Hey everyone, sorry for taking over a week, busy stuff lately. I'm hoping the 20th through the 28th to provide everyone with something pretty cool. That event I talked about before, MOTION? We are going to Oklahoma City to share the gospel for the second year. Lives will be changed and God will move in that city. During that week that I'm there, I'm hoping to have some pictures for all of what's going on and provide some details and stories throughout the week. I just got to get a hold of a camera. Either way, prepare to hear some great stuff then. Anyway, enough with that!

What I want to share with you all is some insight God has revealed to me this week. First I want to share with you a story.

I've had glasses since 6th grade. For the last year, I've really started needing them. I can do okay at school squinting and such and driving is pretty good, without them. Night time though, and if I need to find streets in an unfamiliar place, I'm blind. I'm nearsighted. All my life, I've been terrified of getting things near my eyes. I refuse to open my eyes in water, I've never used eye drops, fingers and other objects near my face make me fidget. I had a slight eye proximity phobia. Nothing I would let anyone see, but I guarantee if any of those things would happen the little guy in my head would be screaming himself deaf. Contacts were the tools of sadists and the devil. Just saying.

Well, I also have a huge disdain for glasses though, which is why I ninety-nine percent of the time was out and about half blind. Sometimes they caused headaches, other times they fell off. I didn't like how I looked, etc. They bugged me. So I finally came to the end of the rope. Contacts or live in my personal blurred cage.

So I did it. I made an appointment to get contacts. My entire drive there, I had some serious fears going through my head. It's going to hurt! It'll get stuck! Grotesque infections! I lose them! You get the idea.

Well I went into the eye clinic got my eyes checked and got to the point of sticking this thin little piece of plastic onto my eyeball. Lord help me. I did it though. Pretty quickly and effectively too. Then I did it again. After that, I popped them out (not literally popped them…eek.) and then put them in a second time. Awesome.

Here's the point though. When I put those contacts in, it was like I had never seen in my life. It blew what I had seen through glasses out of the water. I felt like a new man. I wanted to run and see everything I could, because it felt like I was seeing for the first time. It was such a great feeling, that I didn't go back to school that day. I decided it's a beautiful and nice day, I can see, I want to live in this moment. So I went about taking everything in for the day. I felt like I was seeing Fayetteville in a completely different way, a whole new perspective. That's what this story is about. Perspectives.

You see I had become blinded to what was going on around me. At some point I figure I had at least as good of vision as I had with contacts, if not better. Through time though, my vision waned until I came to where I am now. This didn't happen overnight. I didn't just wake up unable to see. It was a slow progression. For how many of us is that the case for our spiritual life? How many of us have had a slow progression into blindness? How much is that true for us as a whole? As a society?

The fact is humanity has been on a slow slide into blindness since the day we took the fruit. We wanted to have knowledge, but instead have become blinded with ignorance. Look at Romans 1:19-22 and Matthew 13:13-15. The word of God shows the same thing.

Back to you personally though. You can't hope for society to change if you can't even do it yourself. It's like the Casting Crowns' song "Slow Fade". "Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid, when you give yourself away.
People never crumble in a day.
" You don't become a murderer, a gossiper, a thief all in one day. You make a progression to a point where finally you reach a threshold which from where you use to be standing seemed to be impossible to cross, but now is but a mere footstep. We have to realize every time we have a sinful thought, we need to resist. Every time a righteous idea comes to mind, we need to go for it. It may seem like its just one idea, but they add up. One sin adds to another and suddenly you are something you never imagined you could be. One great God-given idea adds on top of another and suddenly you don't have to even think about doing it. You just do. We are creatures of habit. We need to always keep things in perspective. Every sin counts. Every good work counts. Neither truly matter in terms of salvation, except that Christ died for every last sin and that we are free of them. They do matter in a believer's walk.

I challenge you to open your eyes. Open your eyes and SEE. Break down paradigms. Listen\read\see thought-provoking ideas and challenging notions. Look into yourself and what you think you have down pat, rethink it. Look at every action you take, every thought you think. Take it back to the bible and check yourself against it. It's the only true perspective. Be courageous and ask others what they think of you. Ask them to tell you the good things and the bad things. Don't get upset; try to take in their perspective. Next time you see that bum on the road. Don't be quick to judge him. Think about all the different paths life could have taken you and realize you could have been there. Challenge the way things are. Ask what does it mean to worship? What does a relationship with God mean? What does it mean to love? You will be surprised at what you will find. What is God really like? We may only be at the shore of His Ocean, but it only takes 6 inches to drown. DIVE! Your world will only grow that much more beautiful and vibrant. Always remember to check yourself against God's Word though. It's infallible. Regain the sight you've been losing spiritually. So what do you say? Are you going to face your fears and see the world for what it is? Good and bad? You have my two cents, tell me what you think.


Much Love,


"When a mother saw a thunderstorm forming in mid-afternoon, she worried about her seven-year-old daughter who would be walking the three blocks from school to home. Deciding to meet her, the mother saw her walking nonchalantly along, stopping to smile whenever lightning flashed. Seeing her mother, the little girl ran to her, explaining happily, "All the way home, God's been taking my picture!" Fear is often caused by our perspective."

"Rather than saying "God, here is my problem," we should put the problem into perspective by saying, "Problem, here is my God!"

"The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend."  - Henri Bergson

"Was blind but now I see." – John Newton

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Triune God

The Trinity. I've been putting off this topic for quite a long time. You see, I love theology. I find it fascinating. I spend nearly my entire school day, reading up on such things. I however deal with a few issues. For one, I feel anything that I could say, for the most part can be found other places, better said. Secondly, I usually don't get the full gist of it all. Finally, I have an even harder time trying to explain it then I do trying to learn it. I would consider myself fairly intellectual, but my realm of intelligence is emotional and inter-personal. Laws, processes, and definitions are tough for me. My theology is a very emotional theology. Not one that is swayed with my mood. Nor one similar to a impassioned church service invitation. Those are emotions from my head. I'm talking about the emotions of the heart. A God-centered heart specifically. So rather than giving you a textbook answer on the theology of the Trinity. I'd much rather give you my layman's theology, and if you hunger for deeper understanding, I'll point you in the right direction. Fair enough?

I've had to deal with criticisms of the Trinity since early January. You see I'm living with my grandmother who I love dearly, but who happens to be a Jehovah's Witness. Which in case you don't know. They do not believe that Jesus is God or divine. Instead they believe that Jesus is literally the son of God, as in God created Jesus before anything else and then had Jesus create the rest. They believe that Jesus is the archangel Michael. Not cool.

The Trinity in itself is easy to explain. Jesus is God. The Father is God. The Spirit is God. All three are God. All three however, are different persons. One entity, three persons. Easy to explain, hard to comprehend. Each has it's own personality, but nonetheless, each is still God. All three have been around forever, all three are just as powerful as the other, and no one is higher than the other. Together they add up to the Godhead. Three in one. There is only ONE God (Isaiah 45:5 ), and He since the beginning, has been three separate persons all at once.

There is a separation between the persons. For instance, Matthew 24:36 tells us that only the Father knows when Jesus is to return. This is the clearest example of the difference. There are plenty of others too. Jesus while on earth was fully God and was fully man. A balance beyond our comprehension.

You can't figure this doctrine out from any one verse. No verse will tell you up front, God = Three, same, but different etc. You have to look at the scripture as a whole. Which I believe puts off many people and they just nah, it's false. Shame really.

I've had many people ask, what does it matter? So what if they are or aren't three in one? Simply put: he whole faith rests on it. If Jesus isn't God, then as Christians we are doomed. If Christ isn't God, then what authority can he have to forgive sins, specifically our own? If he isn't God then our sins haven't been atoned and we are still dead in them. If that were true, they might as well have hung me or you on the cross, because that's about as much good as it would have done. If he wasn't also fully man, how could he be the sacrifice for us? Humans sinned, and humans were to pay for it. Christ couldn't just be God, he had to be human to pay a human-owed debt.

The fact is Christianity doesn't make sense without all three being God. The Father, justifiably holds humans rightfully accountable for their sin and expects the debt to be paid in full. (Romans 6:23). The Son, both God and man has a key role in it all. As God he has the right to say what would be an acceptable sacrifice. As man he can be the sacrifice. The Father then can accept that, pour our the full cup of wraith on Christ, and let the payment be fully paid. Thus, giving us the opportunity to have salvation through grace and mercy. The Holy Spirit then works in us to give us faith, and rebirth, letting us be regenerated so that we can lead a life of righteousness. Christianity relies on each and every person that makes up God. Without all three, you don't have salvation. Period.

This isn't easy. For a non-believer I expect this to be all but impossible to understand. Believers, even the best of us, are hard-pressed to understand it. That's okay though. We are human. He is God. God is infinite, why would beings such as ourselves have any clue of who He is? What makes us think we are even capable? The nice thing is though, in time, we will understand it all fully (Luke 8:17 NLT).

The main point is that Christ, as God and man, did die for us and in doing so gave us the ability to be free from the bondage of our sin. Its what you make of that part today, that truly matters.  That's where the theology leaps off the books and takes on a life of its own. What are you going to do with that truth?

Much Love,

 "Tell me how it is that in this room there are three candles and but one light, and I will explain to you the mode of the divine existence." - John Wesley
"The best theology is rather a divine life than a divine knowledge." - Jeremy Taylor