Since my son’ssecond 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 →
This is the final lesson in our series, but hopefully just the beginning of your journey in understanding what it means to lead others — and yourself — into the “name” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
As we proceed to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (cf Philippians 2:12), it is essential to continually rejoice (cf. Philippians 4:4), because the “joy of the Lord is our strength” (cf. Nehemiah 8:10). We may occasionally become discouraged when we realize we will never reach complete perfection, either in our discipline, our character, or even our theology (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:9). On the other hand, the good news is that this means we will always have room for improvement!
This course has tried to give you the basics, but there are even more wonderful truths about Christ to be understood, deeper works of the Holy Spirit to be experienced, and greater glories for the Father to be won.
May we persevere together in that pursuit until the day we are all finally united with our Beloved Bridegroom, to celebrate His matchless “name” for all eternity.
Memory Verse: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” — Matthew 25:13 (NKJV)
In Which We Withdraw From The World To Draw Near To God
The modern world considers solitary confinement and enforced silence as among the worst long-term punishments — with good reason; it is a terrifying thing to be cut off from the consolations and diversions of society. And yet, the very severity of that terror hints at the fertile spiritual soil to be uncovered when we deliberately cultivate time away from the distractions of ordinary human life…
Memory Verse: “Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.’ “ — Luke 4:42-43 (NKJV)
In Which We and the World are Transformed as We Pray to the Father
Prayer is the process of aligning our thoughts, desires, and decisions with the Name of God, so that His Spirit can work through us to transform our lives, our relationships, and our world.
Memory Verse:“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” — Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV)
In Which We Abide Fruitfully Instead of Vegetating Slothfully
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” — Matthew 5:6
Sloth may seem like an archaic sin in our busy modern world, but our frenzied activity is itself a sign of sloth, which can be defined as a lack of vigor in pursuing God’s name — His character and purposes. In fact, the self-centered pursuit of our own “name” — especially under the guise of religion — is actually the worst kind of sloth! (cf. Matthew 23)
The antidote is to empty ourselves of worldly pursuits so that we become truly hungry for faith, hope, and love. Only when we abandon slothfully seeking our own comfort — which merely results in restlessness — can we experience the divine dynamism and peace that comes from abiding in Him…
In Which We Are Rescued from Our Folly by God’s Love
Love is the primary virtue of the Heart. It is both a Decision that gives rise to Emotions, as well an Emotion that gives rise to Decisions — and it needs both to thrive. It can be defined as “the ability to pursue another’s glory — even at the cost of your own.”
Love is particularly needed by the Fool, whose emotional damage drives a cycle of self-punishment disguised as the pursuit of pleasure. The only way out is to purify our hearts by receiving God’s love and forgiveness, to the point where we love Him more than the false gods we’ve served — and discover what it means to genuinely love ourselves…
In Which Jesus Sends the Comforter, and We Are Convicted By Him
This week we move from the Father and the Son to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. This also continues our theme of God restoring His Image by saving us from our rebellion. And as usual, there is a heavy price to be paid…
In Which We Receive the Gospel, And Are Saved By It
Our series so far — indeed, the first half of human history — is but a prelude to the coming of Jesus Christ. In Christ we have the word of God made flesh, the perfect revelation of God’s character, a tangible representative of the Trinity, and a reminder of what we were created to be.
Yet even more glorious than all that: Christ is Our Lord, and has become our much-needed Savior…
[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:
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 🙂
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?