God Loves Us Like Jesus: A Six Syllable Gospel (Childlike Theology)

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[Now part 1 of 6 in a series on Childlike Theology]

Since my son’s second set of seasons, I’ve sought a scalable summary of the gospel. Something simple enough to be sung by a six-year-old, yet sufficiently sophisticated to stun seminarians for centuries. Here’s my most successful statement so far:

God Loves Us Like Jesus

Simultaneously saying, in short, that the Father loves in the way:

  • Jesus loves us
  • He loves Jesus
  • that makes us more like Jesus

Submitting to that sort of Savior is a sweet smell to our spirit, but a shocking scare to our sin! Continue reading

LEAD! B.6 From Greed to Generosity

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In Which We Gain Power Over Money By Giving It Away

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” — Matthew 5:7

Even if we escape the pride of trusting completely in our own “name”, we still must guard against trusting in things instead of God. The purest form of this is greed or avarice, which can be defined as treating money as an “end” — i.e., an extension of the self. This is in contrast to generosity, which considers money primarily a “means” of showing mercy to others.   

Assigned Reading
  1. Peter Kreeft: Back to Virtue

    • 8. Giving Mercy vs. Getting Things (Avarice)
  2. Dick Hockett: Foundations of Wisdom
    • 3.3 (Righteous) Example: Proverbs about the Tongue

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LEAD! Syllabus for “Theological Foundations”

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[NOTE: the official syllabus is now on the “Lead” page; this post is obsolete, but kept for the sake of historical continuity].

[Yes, I should probably have written this before the first lesson, but better late than never…]

In thinking about it, I ought to take my Curriculum one step further, and actually identify the passages and key learnings for each lesson. Not only will this help ensure I’m on the same page as my pastor, but it would enable others to write some of the lessons (since class starts on September 4th!).

I’ve also cross-referenced these lessons against two common systematic theology books:

In addition to providing a sort index to the topics covered, this allows students and teachers to use those as supplementary textbooks.

  • Draft 1 – Sunday, 24th August
  • Draft 2 – Tuesday, 26th August: Added “Doctrine” “Essentials” chapters for each lesson
  • Draft 3 – Friday, 29th August: Added “Doctrines” chapters for each lesson

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LEAD! Curriculum Reset for “Theological Foundations”

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So, the good news is that our church is gearing up to start LEAD! on September 4th, and already taking applications! That’s also the bad news, since I’ve only finished three classes. 😦

Still, it only takes me about four hours per class, which is two late night waiting-to-feed-Rohan sessions (assuming he behaves), so I should be able to keep up.

The real problem is that my lesson topics have gone in a completely different direction that originally envisioned. More, my pastor has a slightly different vision for how things should fit together. Given the time timeframes, it is essential we get on the same page (and stick to it, if possible).

Here’s my current vision for what is now being called “Theological Foundations”. Hopefully my pastor and I can converge on this syllabus soon (once he’s no longer busy with his new grandson 🙂

[Updated and ratified 8/19 with John Isaacs]

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TELL: Theological Essentials for Lay Leaders

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As a counterpart (or even prequel) to my previous article about “safety skills“, I wanted to identify those theological topics essential for lay leaders to understand. In particular, I believe lay leaders need a more concise and practical “boot camp”, in contrast to the multi-year “officer’s training school” provided in seminaries.

Another difference in focus is that I believe (along with the writer of Proverbs) that the goal of theological education is wisdom, not mere knowledge. That is, the goal is to cover a small number of essential issue in sufficient depth to enable people to make more godly decisions — not simply provide an intellectual overview of traditional topics.

Given all that, here is my best attempt at a minimal 12-week course that covers the heart issues of contemporary theology. What are your thoughts and suggestions?

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Song: GraceFather

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This song was inspired by the narrative idea of “creation-corruption-redemption” as illustrated in The Grace Cycle. I awoke that Sunday with a heart full of praise, but didn’t have the words to express how I felt. The word “GraceFather” (a la GodFather) came to mind, but it was intertwined with my increasing appreciation for God’s law. The final progression looks like this:

O Precious Lord
Reveal to us Your Law
For You’re the one
Who gave to us Your Law
O Precious Lord
Who saves us from Your Law
O GraceFather
You will fulfill Your Law

[Read more] for the plaintext lyrics, or go to my site for the “microformat” lyrics to GraceFather. I’m still working with a friend to find the music to match this message.

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Song: Ephesian Covenant (I am God)

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As mentioned earlier, I’ve been looking to write a new song to express what I’m learning about God’s fatherhood. However, I couldn’t figure out where to start. Then, last week while visiting San Francisco with my brother’s family — we stayed at the Radisson Inn on Fisherman’s Wharf — I woke up at midnight. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I started thinking (fruitlessly) about this song. I finally complained to God about the block, when He basically said, “ask me.” So, I got up and went into the bathroom, and this is what I felt God had to say to me:

I am God
I am the source of all you seek
I will hold you when you’re weak
I have died to give you life
I will take you as my wife
Share your pain
Heal your sins
Be your God

[Read More] for the complete song. The rest I can perhaps claim to have written, but the chorus (however imperfectly recorded) was given to me.

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Wrestling for My Name

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September 28, 2004

I step onto the field.  Though the night is dark,  I see my Opponent waiting for me, the Author of all my miseries.  I flex my hands, eager for the combat.

“Mal’ak,” I cry.  “Step aside, or face my wrath.”

My Opponent does not move.  He does not shirk, nor does he laugh.   He simply nods, acknowledging my challenge.

Rage fills me.   All the lies, and torment, and frustration that I have bottled up for years, decades, come pouring out of me, coursing through my veins.   With a roar more beast than man I race toward the hated figure.

He shifts slightly then, bracing himself against my rush.   No emotion yet shows on his face.   I put my head down, and tackle him with all my strength and speed, hoping to force him down.

I hear him grunt softly as I knock the wind out of him, but he stands firm.   My shoulders ache as if I’d slammed into a wall, but I ignore the pain.  I wrap my arms around his abdomen and squeeze, hoping to constrict his breathing.

But he is too quick for me.  While I’m still getting my grip around him, he lifts me by the waist and slams me down, loosening my grip and stepping away.   I bounce back up, and hurtle forward again.   This time he steps aside, dodging my rush, his joined fists pounding my shoulder blades and knocking me to the ground.

My anger tempered, I get up more slowly, and approach cautiously, circling.   I know he’s bigger than me, stronger and faster.  Smarter, too.   The only thing I have going for me is that I want this more than he does.  I hope.

We circle each other, hands pawing the air as we search for openings.   I think I see an opening and lunge for his knee, but he jumps out the way at the last second.  I quickly roll to my feet, to avoid giving him another free shot.  The circling continues.

I know I can’t delay, since my Opponent can outlast me.   I risk all on brute strength, hoping his overwhelming superiority will make him overconfident.  I close quickly and leap forward, catching his throat in my hands.    Too close for him to pry me loose, he responds by squeezing my ribcage, preventing me from breathing.    It becomes a question of which of us will blackout first, if the lack of oxygen doesn’t force one of us to loose his grip.

Then, surprisingly, he smiles.   Persistent basted, aren’t you?” he chortles.   Then without changing expression, he releases his grip on my waist, then pops a fist right onto my hip joint.

Pain floods through my leg, almost making me black out despite the air now finally rushing into my starved lungs.   I slide to the ground, my arms nearly nerveless, my leg a lump of useless muscle. Yet, I see his feet before me, and with the last of my strength I pounce on his leg, and wrap my arms and good leg around him, like a small child hugging his father.

“No!” I cry.  “I will not let you go.”

He seems surprised, and after a few half-hearted attempts to shake me off realizes that I won’t let go voluntarily.  Yet, he seems strangely reluctant to exert more violence upon my person.

“What is it you want from me?” he asks in his deep voice, sounding almost — but not quite — puzzled.

I’m crying, pleading, clinging to his leg as if it was my only rope, and I suspended a thousand feet over jagged rocks.  

“Please,” I beg. “Do not leave me without your blessing.” 

I tighten my grip in a show of bravado, though I know I have scant seconds of strength left should he choose to resist.

But he does not resist.  Instead, he laughs.  The sound of his voice is like bells ringing, or birds singing.   The very air seems to brighten at the sound.  All my aches and pains start to melt away, though my arms are as weak as ever.  

“Day is coming,” he speaks, after the laughter fades away. “I must be going.  But you have earned your blessing.”

He reaches down, grabs me by the shoulders and lifts me upright.  His right hand seizes mine in one bear-like clasp, while the other claps my shoulder — almost knocking me down again. 

“You have fought well, but today you have learned what strength really is.  No longer shall you be called Master Ernie, but Mister Ernie.  You shall wear my livery, but you shall still rule your own kingdom. In the service of the Emperor Over the Sea.”

With that, he stepped back, then clapped his hands twice.  Two servants came, dressed in white.  One carried a gold robe, with a purple design sewn on front, which he wrapped around my shoulders.  The other carried  a golden sword in an ebony scabbard, which he banded around my waist.

My former Opponent stood watching my accoutering with an approving smile.

  “They suit you well, lad.” he said cheerfully.  Then, cocking an eye at the brightening sky, he added, “But now I must be off.” He began to stride toward the horizon.

“Wait,” I cried, limping after him.   He paused and glanced over his shoulder. “Will… Will I ever see you again?” 

He laughed, and resumed his trek, his speed increasing.  I feared I would never get an answer to my question.  But then, just at the edge of vision, before the rising sun obliterated his presence, he stopped, turned, and yelled back at me.

Fear not.   Anytime you forget who your Master is, I’ll be happy to come by and give you another lesson.”

And then he was gone.

I sink to my knees, exhausted.  It would be so easy to lie down, to sleep. To heal. To rest.

Instead, I force myself back to my feet.  I look toward the darkness, where the light has not yet come.   I have a kingdom to win.  An Emperor to serve.

Slowly, deliberately, I raise my sword and limp into the battle for which I was born.

Finis.