Category Archives: Theology

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“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
- Isaiah 7:14

Despite all of the problems that humanity faces on earth, God has promised to deliver His people. This promise was originally given to the Israelites, but He also promises to deliver us today. A loving God would never allow His people to be defeated.

Because life can seem hopeless at times, God also promised a visible sign of His deliverance, so that no one would miss it. The sign was simple, yet unmistakable: a young woman would give birth to a unique child that would bring God’s presence near closer to us. This prophecy was ultimately fulfilled when Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, the son of God.

The significance of God’s promise is real and tangible. Today, no matter what problem we may face, we can know that God is with us! We do not need to doubt whether God will save us from our problems, but we can look to His promise of His Son. God has entered our world, and we are no longer alone. Even when others leave us, God is with us!

Prayer: Lord, please deliver us from the evil in our lives. Only you can save us from the problems of this world, and we thank you for sending Jesus Christ, so that we know You have not forgotten us. This Christmas, no matter what may we face, we believe and confide in You for our deliverance.

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“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.”
- Isaiah 11:10

Isaiah’s prophesied to the people of God that a Savior was coming. Through an heir of Jesse, people from all nations would be saved. This was a message of great hope, and hundreds of years later, the people of God would see that the “banner for the peoples” was Jesus Christ.

By taking on human flesh, Jesus displayed to the world who God truly is. Jesus proclaimed rescue and safety for all those who come to Him, and He offered rest to the weary. For anyone that unites with Him, Christ offers spiritual peace by reconciling us to God. Jesus alone can provide the rest that we all long for.

The birth of Christ is a reminder God rules over all of creation. With foresight and divine control, God set His intent into motion hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. Sovereign over all things, God knew far beyond what any human being could predict, for only God knows what the future holds. Nothing in human history is a surprise to God.

For us today, this is incredible news. Because the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ, we can find great peace and comfort in the fact that God knows all things, and He is more than capable of taking care of us in our time of need.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for your sovereign will. Our plans shift, change, and fail, but yours remain forever. Thank you for your gift of salvation and for sending Jesus to be a banner for all the nations. This year, may Christmas be more than an American holiday, but may it be a reminder for us that you desire to save all kinds of people, from every nation. We acknowledge and believe that you alone are the world’s source of comfort and peace.

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I think Jesus may have hacked into our bank account. Somehow, he always seems to know when my wife and I are low on cash.

Now that I am a seminary student, our cash supply is often limited, and at times, nearly nonexistent. But when we reach the bottom of the barrel, we are always provided for. This has happened over and over again. God knows all along what we need, and He is always there to help.

TV and prosperity preachers give such a bad rap to the ideas of blessing and prosperity. In the guise of fancy suits and gold rings, they spout heresy. God never, never promises us a new car or a new house. Instead, God promises that Christians will face difficulty and persecution because of the evil in this world. As Jesus said in John 15:20, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” In other words, life as a Christian is difficult.

However, because extremists twist the Bible for their own purposes, the rest of the Christian faith has shied away from talking about material and physical blessing. I am not speaking about a six figure salary, but when we have six dollars left in the bank, we need to be confident and trust that God will provide. We should not be fearful of believing that. Even when we are to blame for the situation we are in, God delights in rescuing those who repent of their ways and turn to Him for help.

No matter what day it is, God is faithful. Not only has God promised never to flood the earth again, but He takes no delight in flooding our lives with unnecessary strife. So we can truly pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” and be assured that God will provide everything that we need to get through the day.

While the bare minimum not seem like very much, it has an added blessing in that it reminds us of heaven. We can look forward to when their will no longer be tears, fear, or the pain of hunger. Luke reminds us of Jesus’ concern for the poor and needy, as he records the words of Jesus in Luke 6:20-23:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, mock you, and curse you because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold,
great is your reward in heaven…”

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A friend recently asked me to explain what a hymn is, and it is a great question. Here are a few observations. Feel free to comment and add any of your own.

1. A hymn is not determined by when it was written. The date is irrelevant. Many hymns are being written today — usually more modern in style and easier to sing.

2. Hymns often consist of a progression of lyrics, thus the need for multiple verses. (e.g., progressing from the incarnation to the consummation)

3. Hymns are generally more eloquent and theological, and for that reason, they appeal to the cognitive part of us. Hymns inspire by reminding believers of specific doctrinal truths.

4. Hymns are usually laden with complex truths, which makes them suitable to pair with praise choruses that are often simpler and more emotive. We need to worship in both spirit and truth.

5. Hymns often repeat words, especially during a refrain — a trait that they share in common with praise choruses.

6. Hymns are not inerrant. Some are well-written and worth singing, while others are not. Some wonderful hymns have been treasured by the church and passed down for centuries.

7. Hymns acquire deeper meaning over time as Christians sing them in church, at weddings, at funerals, decade after decade. As a Christian sings them over the years, the truth expressed in the lyrics becomes more precious.

8. Older hymns often have a difficult melody line to sing and can be out of the vocal range of many people. The notes and style are not sacred, however, so musicians should feel free to adjust the melody and arrangement for the sake of the congregation.

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Driving through various parts of Chicago, I was reminded of how scattered and isolated we have become as a nation. This is nothing new, of course, but I realized again how many social and economic barriers we have created amongst ourselves. One block is home to one ethnicity, while across the street is another. As a society, we are not united as much as we think, but broken.

Admittedly, it is easy to criticize the Christian church for not being more multicultural and diverse. While there are usually good intentions within our churches, in actuality, very little is done. This is because there is not a quick solution or an easy program that will erase the societal boundaries that surround us. We face a nearly insurmountable task.

However… we serve an amazing God. Our God is constantly desiring to tear down boundaries between people groups and unite them in love. He is continually destroying the walls of hostility. He unites people through His love.

While we don’t have easy answers, we serve a God who has all of the answers. If our God could part the Red Sea, then He can work miraculously in our communities. But we need to believe. Step one in being more multicultural is trusting in a miraculous God.

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Before God created music, He created the heavens and earth. Think about it for a moment. There are many styles of music, but we all share the oceans, the stars, the sun and moon. All over the world, we look at the same handiwork of God. Incredible!

Psalm 19:1-2 tells us that the skies display the glory of God. David says that the world around us declares, proclaims, speaks, and displays truth about God. In other words, God’s creation speaks to all cultures, to every part of the globe — regardless of language or dialect. Everyone can see God’s glory because He left no one out.

To inspire global worship in our churches, it is helpful to include images of creation in worship gatherings. Since most congregants spend a large part of their week indoors, Sunday is a great opportunity to remind them that the world is bigger than the sanctuary. In doing so, make sure that artwork and photography represents a wide scope of locations, not just scenes of North America.

God is committed to global worship, and we should try to reflect this in our worship gatherings.

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What is evangelism? Is it inviting people to church? Is it sharing the gospel? Is it about helping the suffering?

Christians have used different methods of evangelism. Willow Creek and Saddleback are prime examples of the “come and see” approach, where a large gathering is used to attract people who do not normally attend church. On the other hand, some younger churches are starting to focus on a “go and tell” approach, where evangelism is incarnational and all of life is seen as an opportunity for evangelism.

But I wonder, do we really need to pick between the two? It seems like a debate between two good approaches that are not contradictory to one another. Does an engaging worship service exclude the possibility of missional living? Not at all. In fact, each should motivate the other.

Throughout the history of the Church, there have been examples of non-Christians being amazed of Christian worship. They came, saw, and believed. Back in 988 AD, for example, some converts had testified to the power of experiencing Christian worship. They reported that, “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth for on earth, there is no such splendour or such beauty and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations.” (Moreau 102) What was true a thousand years ago is still true today. Countless people have come to Christ through the “come and see” approach.

At the same time, we fool ourselves if we believe that droves of non-believers will attend Christian events within our church walls. Compared to the growing population, fewer and fewer people are attending church. This is not due to a lack of programming, but a lack of interest in the culture at large. There is a growing animosity towards the church. So our churches must not only welcome seekers, but our churches must become the seekers — going into the world, seeking the lost, and offering hope outside of the church walls.

Rather than dividing sharp lines between us, therefore, we should see the value of both approaches. We should continue to invite non-Christians to experience genuine and true worship; it can forever change their life. But at the same time, we need to seek those who will never step inside of a church; we must reach them where they are at.

Thankfully, God doesn’t limit us to a single approach. With so many creative ways to reach others, we should do everything we can to share Christ’s love with as many people as possible.

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Missional has become a buzzword in Christian circles, but what does it mean? There are many different responses to that, but in my mind, here are a few descriptions of what it means to be missional:

Incarnational:
You display God’s good news in the way you live.

Contextual:
You connect God’s good news with everyday life.

Personal:
You view yourself as a missionary wherever you are.

Communal:
You connect with others in order to spread the good news.

Cultural:
You communicate God’s good news in a relevant way.

Continual:
Your entire life is committed to God’s mission.

Looking at that list, all of us can strive to be more missional. Before we label ourselves as “missional,” we need to be careful to recognize that being missional is more than a label. It is not a simple yes or no. There is always more that we can do.

First Ice Cream

I wonder how much time we spend wanting something else. When a child, we want to be adults. When we are adults, we want to find a job and a spouse. Then we want a child, maybe a few. When we have children, we want a house, then a bigger house. We also want a car, a television, a computer, and so on. Our cravings never seem to cease.

I was reminded of this today when my daughter ate her first ice cream cone. She never asked for ice cream because she never knew that it existed. But when it was offered to her, she entered baby heaven! She wasn’t consumed with all of the possible deserts or all that she did not have. Rather, she was so delighted with one simple ice cream cone. Her smile was bigger than I have seen any adult smile in months, if not years.

King David once wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Ps. 23:1) If we could fully grasp that, most of our moaning and groaning would cease. We would not be consumed with what we do not have; instead, we would realize that we have all that we need in God. And when content, we are filled with deep and inexpressible joy, no longer enslaved by temporary things.

 

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The book of Leviticus can seem daunting, irrelevant, boring, and downright frightening. Honestly, I have avoided the book from time to time, as have many others. It is easy to overlook the book because the “rituals” no longer apply to us, and it can be difficult to discern what those rituals teach us.

After reading just the first few chapters, though, here are a few reasons that we can be thankful for its message:

* God has a plan for His people.
* God gives answers, so we don’t need to figure out problems on our own.
* God sets standards intended for people to follow.
* God knows we sin, but still wants to communicate with us.
* God provides a way for us to get rid of our guilt.
* God enjoys our offerings, as simple as they may be.
* God has decided to forgive us!

Those are just a few reasons. Read the first few chapters of Leviticus and see if you can add some more to add to the list.