The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Faves

IF YOU’RE A WINDOWS® USER you get to store your “favorites” where you can get to them. If you have cell phone service with T-Mobile you get to have fast access to your “faves.” Favorites of course are those websites, or programs you access often, or on your cell phone those numbers you call most frequently. Even if you’re not on the web, or have determined never to be slave to the cell phone master, you most likely have favorites.

Maybe your favorites are certain relatives in your family, or recipes mom used to make. Maybe you have a list of favorite television shows, or board games. Maybe it’s authors or books, actors or movies. May be it’s a list of friends at school or people at church. Well, whatever it may be, we all have favorites.

I have lots of favorites. Ice cream flavors, books, television shows, friends. Favorites are things or people I return to often because of the comfort they bring. Be it person, place or thing, when I am enjoying my favorites I feel at home, at peace.

I suppose that it’s why I have certain favorite Bible verses and stories. When I return to these favorites, it’s like returning home, their truth brings me peace. So, what are some of those “faves” on my list? Well, there’s 1 Kings 18 and 19, the story of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal. It’s a fave because I identify with Elijah’s highs and lows. Then there’s Psalm 51, oh how I return to that great Psalm of confession and brokenness. I must include the verse I believe God laid upon my heart when I responded to His call, Isaiah 61:1-3. I desire to see a people who become oaks of righteousness, whom God chooses to use for the rebuilding of the ancient ruins. And lastly, at least for the purpose of this Shepherd’s Staff, there is Galatians 2:20, most likely my favorite verse, not because I live by its truth, but because I desire it so. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Amen and amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Explaining the Trinity and Other Impossibilities of Fatherhood

EXPLAINING THE TRI-UNITY OF THE GODHEAD is much like trying to explain one’s child. If you had asked me to explain my first child, Trinity, when she was a little tyke of two or three I would have had little problem. But, ask me to explain her as a grade school child, a teenager, a young adult, and the process of explanation becomes well nigh impossible. Now, lest you think I am picking on my eldest child, let me set the record straight, explaining the rest of our brood became increasingly more difficult for me, and it seemed to start at an earlier age. I read the books that told me each successive child would be different from their older siblings, they just never told me how different.

The learning curve continues for me, and I dare say, shall continue for quite some time to come. I am not bemoaning the fact of their differences and their “un-explain-ability,” and truth be known I appreciate each child’s uniqueness and gifts. I suppose what I am trying to communicate is that the longer I watch them, the more I stand back in awe and wonder at the people they are becoming. My inability to explain in no way diminishes the beautiful gifts they are from my heavenly Father.

Back to theology. Explaining Trinitarian theology is thus impossible. It is, as we say, a mystery. But, as a mystery, like our children, it is a wonderful thing to behold. The longer I walk with God, the more I seek to know Him, more mystery is revealed. The deeper I peer into this mystery the more wonderful and awe-inspiring it becomes. The more my heart is moved to worship. And is this not what God truly desires?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

He's No Grandpa

WHAT DOES GOD LOOK LIKE? Ask that question of a variety of people and often the reply will include a word picture of an old guy with white robes and a flowing beard. God is referred to as the “Ancient of Days,” and we often translate that into an image of the old man of heaven. But God is no grandpa.

The Scriptures tell us that God is eternal, but that does not equate with “old.” To be eternal is not the same as being immortal. To be eternal places God outside the confines and constrictions of space and time. It could be stated that God “lives” in the “eternal present.”

The God of the Bible, the God we worship, is not some grandfatherly figure sitting in some state of repose in a heavenly rocking chair. Though He is the Ancient of Days He does not experience the infirmities of age; His bones do not creak, nor does His memory fail. God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign Lord of all. He is no grandpa.

Yet, this eternal God is also a loving heavenly Father. He welcomes His children into His presence. He embraces them in His strong and compassionate arms. He wipes away our tears with power and caring hands. He speaks to us with words of wisdom that our hearts can bear. He is the God who is love. (1 John 4:8)

What does God look like? He looks like Jesus. Jesus, speaking of His relationship to God, said, “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Jesus, that young, strong, wise, steadfast, obedient Son, He is what God “looks” like. A God strong enough to bear the cross. He is strong enough to bear you up as well.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dangerous Knowledge

PERHAPS HE KNOWS TOO MUCH,” so suggests one of the animated pirates on The Pirate’s of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. The travelers had “seen the cursed treasure,” and now had to pay dearly for the knowledge they possessed. Yep, too much knowledge is not good for you, or at least too much of the wrong kind of knowledge.

Knowledge got Adam and Eve in trouble…and that trouble has been passed on throughout the ages. But it’s not just any kind of knowledge that gets us in deep water, it is the knowledge we seek so that we can “be as God.” It was this promised knowledge that Satan promised to the first couple, and it is the same knowledge that tempts us today.

Throughout the history of humankind we have sought knowledge that would some how push beyond our need to humbly confess our dependence upon God. Be it in the arenas of science, medicine, finance or psychology, we believe that we can really know enough so we can take care of ourselves. Even in the spiritual arenas of our lives we hope to find just the right knowledge so to have all the questions of faith answered. History is replete with groups, like the Gnostics, who were always looking for that “special knowledge” that would answer all the questions, and move them closer to God, or in the worse sense, be like God.

Not all knowledge is wrong. In fact, to not know the truth about God is harmful. The issue before us is gathering the correct knowledge, and with the wisdom to know best how to apply that knowledge to our lives. It’s one thing to know what the buried treasure consists of and where it can be found, it’s quite another thing to be able to acquire the treasure and put it to good use.

I believe it is a great time, at the start of this new year, to head out on that treasure hunt. We know what the treasure is (to know God) and we know where it can be found (in His Word) all we need do know is start digging.

Grab a shovel and let’s get to it!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

C.S.I.

THERE IS A PLETHORA OF TELEVISION shows that now fill the genre’ of Crime Scene Investigation. From Las Vegas to New York, from the military to the FBI, everybody is trying their hand at discerning the crime and finding the culprit. Any number of tools and methods are used, and with almost light speed, the crime is solved and the perpetrator is arrested and sent to the Big House.

In my own discussion with those who actually do real-life CSI work, it never happens as quickly and with as much glory as portrayed on television. In reality, it’s tedious, painstaking, often unresolved work. Once again, Hollywood is Hollywood.

In each of these shows, as in actual investigative work, pieces are collected and analyzed, witnesses are sought out and interviewed, and all the parts are put together to become a whole story. A story which is hoped will bring forth the truth.

We live in a culture today that is desperate for the truth, and yet is often unwilling to do the difficult investigative work of discovery. For the most part truth for many is what you make it. We are free to construe the facts anyway we desire, but as any good CSI member will tell you, you just can’t play with the truth and expect it to still be truth.

I believe that this redefining of truth not only has affected our culture, but it affects the church as well. This uncertainty of what it means to be a Christian has deep ramifications for us as followers of Jesus Christ. This uncertainty affects not only the halls of academia but also the how we live out the Christ-life in our daily dealings. What we know affects how we live.

In the second century AD the church faced this same dilemma. The Apostles had all passed away, persecution was growing, people were on the move, the Roman culture was beginning to shake at its foundation, the Gnostics were starting to suggest a new and “deeper” spirituality with a mixture of mystery religions from days long past, the truth the church has known and followed was beginning to erode. It was a world not unlike our own.

It was into this crisis of belief that men and women began to arise and call the church back to its core beliefs. It was during this time that they sought to bolster the shaky foundations. It was a time of defining the faith. I believe it is time again for us to seek for and know the truth…and to live the truth we know. With this in mind we are embarking on a new series on Sunday mornings entitled, “It’s Hard to Believe – Discussing the Foundational Truths of the Christian Faith. As noted in the title, what we believe is not always easy, but it is foundational. Without a firm foundation we have nothing to build upon and anything we will build will only be subject to destruction in the midst of the storms of live.

As we turn the corner on this New Year, I invite to you come and investigate with me, the truths of our faith, the truths that help to set our foundation and to set us free. Check out our on-line discussion at: http://pastorsstudy.blogspot.com.