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How Does God Think of Us? – Psalm 25:6,7

How would we want other people to think of you? Wouldn’t you want them to think the best?

For some people it becomes an obsession: wondering what other people think of them. It is a source of anxiety and shame. Most of the time the truth of the matter is: they don’t spend much time thinking about us at all. And, how much does it matter anyway? Should it?

Hebrew_bible_4How do we want God to think of us?

That can be a disturbing line of thought. Many people I know were raised in a hellfire and brimstone religion, where the angry judgement of God was a prominent theme. Human sinfulness & depravity was held up as the basic fact of human nature. We are sinners. And, God is holy. God is offended and angry over our sin. God must condemn us. It is only right.

And, this message, resonates with something deep inside us. We know we are not the people we should be. We are often ashamed of ourselves. And, God must know of flaws and errors that we don’t. We are quick to condemn ourselves. Why wouldn’t God condemn us?

In fact, it is hard for us to imagine that God would think more highly of us than we think of ourselves. Isn’t it?

That is why the message of God’s love is always so hard to believe. If we are sometimes tempted to worry about what other people think of us — how much more worrisome the thought of what God might think of us. (more…)

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Finding the Path – Psalm 25:4,5

candle-tipThere are times when I feel I’ve lost my way. The future seems uncertain and the direction I need to take unclear.

But, there are also times when I feel confident that I know the way — that I know the will of God — at least reasonably well.

Psalm 25:4,5 suggests that I really don’t know the way unless I seek to know it. It further suggests that the process of seeking God’s will may take me some time and effort.

I have been discussing this Psalm as a Psalm for the “Waiting Times” of our lives (here and here and here).

Verses 4 and 5 show us the positive value of these times of waiting: it’s a time to seek God’s will and direction. (more…)

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On Having a Single Faith Journey

I see the development of my faith as a connected story. I don’t see it as a matter of once having a certain type of faith and then graduating or switching to another sort of faith. I am thankful to the people who shared the Gospel with me. I am seeking to extend that journey of faith the best I can — as honestly and truthfully as I can.

Conservative-Evangelicals-Misunderstood-MillennialsYeah, I heard the Gospel among people who talked about entire sanctification in a way that led to some confusion and frustration. Yeah, there were a number of ideas I am sure I picked up from the conservative Christian culture that I later needed to revise or even reject. Sure  — though I think I was always skeptical of that “Rapture” (“A Thief in the Night”) teaching that was so much a part of evangelical Christianity in those days.

As I said recently, I see my own faith journey as one story — even though it has taken some unexpected twists and turns.

It is only natural that faith grows and develops. And, the Church ought to be a place where people can explore new ideas and new understandings. It often isn’t, I know, — but I think it should be. New information always raises new questions. Sometimes new information forces us to develop and adopt new paradigms. It’s only natural. But, we should always be open to new information.

I look at it this way. (more…)

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My Journey With the Bible

I tweet a lot of links and many of them are critical of dictation and inerrancy approaches to the Scripture. I love the Scriptures and I love preaching and teaching the Scriptures, so this may seem strange. In fact, they are closely related to one another. In a sense, I don’t really have an intellectual campaign against Biblical inerrancy — my objections are empirical. My only objection to fundamentalist and inerrancy approaches to the Scriptures is that, in detail, they don’t work.

Greg Carey

Greg Carey

Recently Greg Carey, professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary posted a blog entry entitled “Where Do ‘Liberal’ Bible Scholars Come From?” It’s a good piece, and I think he is making a good point: Bible scholars become “liberal” (to the extent that they do) from reading and studying the Bible. The Bible itself undermines the fundamentalist view of the Bible. Carey writes:

Though I understand it differently, I love the Bible as much as I ever have. I’m just as passionate for Jesus and for the gospel as I ever have been, though I understand them differently too. But I can say this: Reading the Bible is a terrific cure for fundamentalism. That’s exactly how many of us so-called liberal Bible scholars got our start.

Then Peter Enns picked up on this and began a series at his blog: “I was always taught the Bible says X, but I just don’t see it.(more…)

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On the Grace of Holy Scripture

bible-crossWords from one of the early Church Fathers:

Study your heart in the light of the Holy Scriptures, and you will know therein who you were, who you are, and who you ought to be. If you approach the Scriptures in meekness and humility, you will really discover there both the prevenient grace by which it is possible to be inspired to a beginning, and the concomitant grace, by which it is possible to continue a journey on the right path, as well as the subsequent grace, by which one is enabled to achieve the blessedness of the heavenly kingdom.

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (ca. 465-533) Letter to Senator Theodore 6.12. Found here.

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What John Wesley Actually Said About the Bible

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley (1703 –1791)

John Wesley saw the Methodist movement as a return to the original life & faith & experience of Christianity. He wanted to return to the faith of the apostles and the early church — to find that same dynamic quality of faith and life that the early Christians had. So, Scripture had a place of central importance in Wesley’s teaching and preaching.

In Wesley’s view, devotion to the teachings of the Scripture is absolutely essential for the task of keeping and renewing the Christian faith.

So, in light of this, I’ve gathered together on this page everything substantive that John Wesley said about the Bible. I have not attempted to “tone down” or alter any of his opinions — though I have updated the language in the first quote. My goal here has been completeness.

Yes, there is some room for argument about what he may have meant by some of these remarks — of course. And, I certainly wouldn’t say the man was in any way infallible.

But, here is what he actually said. (more…)

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Walls & Dongell: Faith is Not a Work

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—” (Ephesians 2:8 NRSV)

Many Calvinists fear that any retreat from the conviction that God causes faith will make salvation a human accomplishment. If faith is something we do, then salvation rests on our deeds and no longer on God’s grace. If faith is viewed as our part in the process of salvation, then salvation must he viewed as a cooperative affair, and we should then describe ourselves as self-saviors in part.

102121463But the flaw in this Calvinist fear lies in its improper understanding of the nature of faith itself. The Bible itself does not describe faith as a work that accomplishes a task, or as a deed that establishes merit, or as a lever that forces God to act. Instead, we find that genuine faith is something quite different. As Paul’s treatment of Abraham shows, the patriarch’s faith had no power over God, earned no merit before God and stood as the polar opposite to honorific deeds. Abraham believed God, and righteousness was ‘credited’ to him, not paid to him. God alone justified Abraham freely on the basis of Abraham’s faith (Rom 4:1-6). Since by its very nature faith confesses the complete lack of human merit and human power, it subtracts nothing from the Savior’s grace or glory. By its very nature, faith points away from all human status and looks to God alone for rescue and restoration.

— Jerry L. Walls & Joseph R. Dongell, Why I Am Not a Calvinist (2004) pp. 77, 78.

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Calvinism and John 6:44

An email and my response:

 

Hello Mr. Adams,

I read with interest your comments on Calvin's comments on John 3:16 on your web site. I was wondering what your thoughts are on Jesus' words as recorded in John 6:44:

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (NKJV)

(It is unfortunate that English editions tend to translate the Greek as "draws" rather than the more accurate "compels" — especially since it is also translated more accurately as "dragged" elsewhere.)

Have you considered that perhaps Calvin's "on the other hand" was intended to recognize what the whole of scripture says about this issue?
 
He just may have been appealing to theology that is rooted in scripture itself.

(more…)

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Lord, Have Mercy! – Psalm 57:0-1

This is one of many of the Psalms that begins with a scribal note.

לַמְנַצֵּחַ אַל־תַּשְׁחֵת לְדָוִד מִכְתָּם בְּבָרְחוֹ מִפְּנֵי־שָׁאוּל בַּמְּעָרָה
To the leader: Do Not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

Hebrew_bible_4It’s hard to know what to think about the scribal notes at the beginning of the Psalms. I often ignore them. Our modern translations, which set them apart from the rest of the Psalm — printing them in italics or in smaller type — encourage this attitude. And, then, it’s also true that in the English (as distinguished from the Hebrew) text they are not actually numbered with the rest of the Psalm. In English, the scribal note at the beginning is labeled (if anything) verse 0. Easily ignored.

Because I read along in Hebrew (well, let’s not overstate this — I’m using an interlinear text), I often start reading the scribal note before I realize it. In Hebrew, it is verse 1.

And, while I usually skip these — and I don’t really know what to make of them for sure — I can still see three distinct stages in my attitude toward them. (more…)

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Old Testament Foundations

Hebrew_bible_4In a church that I pastored years ago, one of the church leaders expressed surprise when I gave sermons based on Old Testament texts. He had pretty much written off the Old Testament — at least, from what he knew of it — and I hadn’t. In fact, I enjoy preaching from an Old Testament story or text.

I’m pretty open that I do not expound on the Old Testament the way a Jewish rabbi would. Yes, I try to understand the Old Testament in its historical context. But, for me that is just a beginning point. I also want to understand it (for the purposes of Christian preaching) in light of what God has revealed to us in Christ. (more…)

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Evangelical, Wesleyan, Egalitarian

Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (1739-1815)

Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (1739-1815)

Some time back I posted this list compiled by Kevin Jackson of the Wesleyan-Arminian blog: Women Leaders in the Wesleyan Movements. I did it to make a point: support for Women in Ministry in the Wesleyan movements goes back to the days of Wesley himself — back to the very beginning of the movement. And, in this regard to holiness denominations were (generally speaking) more radical and far ahead of the Methodist Episcopal —> Methodist —> (+ EUB) —> United Methodist Church. Though, of course, the Methodists got on board too.

The revivalists were there first.

That is a paradigm shift for a lot of people. The acceptance of women in ministry in the Wesley-related movements was well ahead of the modern, secular feminist movement — and is, in that sense, unrelated to it! The more radical, Bible-thumping, revivalistic branches of the Wesleyan movement accepted the idea of women in ministry long before the official acceptance of this by the United Methodist Church. (more…)

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Introduction to the Book of Colossians

paul-iconI’m not sure how I first got interested in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, but it is a part of the Scriptures to which I keep returning.

When I began my Christian life as a young man, I set myself to reading the Scriptures. No one taught me how to begin. No one gave me any advice. I don’t know whether that is good or bad, since I probably would not have taken anyone’s advice anyway.

But, there were many parts of the Bible that surprised me. There were many parts that bored and confused me. And, there were many parts that fascinated and spoke to me.

I was enthralled, for example, by the prophecies of Ezekiel. When I got to the Song of Solomon, I was surprised to find a book erotic love poetry (odd-sounding though it was) in the Bible. The voice of Jesus in the Gospels called me again and again to re-examine my life.

And, for some reason, Paul’s letter to the Colossians was one of the books that spoke to me and intrigued me. It still does. (more…)
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What Does It Mean to Take the Bible Literally?

Bible+handI keep hoping people will stop using the word “literal” to describe the Bible — as in: “take the Bible literally” “literal interpretation of the Bible” and so forth. The reason I keep hoping for this is the fact that the term is over-used, wrongly used, and abused.

What does it mean to take the Bible “literally”?

What does the word “literal” mean? It seems to be used rather loosely. I understand it to be the opposite of words like “symbolic” “figurative,” or “allegorical.” To take a thing literally is to take it at face value.

It’s not that difficult a concept. Yet, the way the word is used would make you think otherwise. (more…)

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