contextualization 3

CONTEXTUALIZATION

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”[1] John the Baptizer speaking of Jesus

 

“Ritualism is nothing more than a rut, and the only difference between a rut and a grave is the length and depth.”[2]Chuck Smith

 

 

Something that has always existed in the Calvary Chapel Movement is the practice of what is known as contextualization.  The basic idea behind contextualization is allowing people and churches to express devotion to the core non-negotiable elements of Christianity in ways that are natural to their cultural background.

 

Contextualization and Calvary Chapel

Calvary Chapel did this during the Jesus Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  At a time when most people wore suits to church and sang only hymns in their services, Calvary Chapel allowed the thousands of hippie kids who were coming to Christ to come to Jesus and the church just as they were.  Pastor Chuck wouldn’t allow the kids to feel as if they had to take a shower, put on a suit, and start learning hymns if they wanted to follow Jesus.  Instead, he allowed them to come into Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in their bare-feet, dirty clothes, and eclectic styles.  They let the kids express their love for Jesus in new songs they were writing in different musical styles than the old hymns that churched people were used to singing.

 

Whether people were calling what Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel were doing “contextualization” or not, that is exactly what it was.  The hippies came from a different culture, and as they came to Jesus they weren’t forced to adopt the culture of established Christianity in its forms and traditions.  They were allowed to let their new love for Jesus and commitment to Him be expressed in forms and styles appropriate to their own culture, and this openness provided many more open doors for sharing the gospel with the hippies.

 

The Biblical Example

Many people don’t realize that Jesus Christ contextualized His ministry.  Jesus was a cross-cultural missionary.  He came from the kingdom and culture of heaven to a specific kingdom and culture on earth.  Jesus came to a specific place, at a specific time in history.  He ate the food of the culture He was in.  He attended the festivals and observed the customs of the culture in which He lived.  He spoke the language of the people of the day.  As He taught the truth of God He used illustrations and parables with which the people He was ministering to could relate and understand.[3]

 

Paul would carry on the great missionary example set by Jesus as he practiced contextualization as well.  When he knew he was going to be traveling through and preaching the gospel in an area where many Jews lived he actually went so far as to have his pastoral assistant Timothy circumcised, even though the poor dude was nearly thirty years old at the time![4]  Why? We know from books like Galatians that it had nothing to do with Paul believing circumcision had anything to do with one’s salvation.  Paul was contextualizing.  This was the level of Paul and Timothy’s missional commitment.  They were removing an amoral barrier to communication that would exist between them and their Jewish audience so that the people would give an ear to the gospel they preached.  He and Timothy were willing to lay down their rights in amoral areas to win a listening ear with lost people and we should be willing to do the same.

 

Personal Story

When I was pastoring a church in Idaho a group of us used to go to the local nursing home and do ministry once a month.  We would usually sing some hymns and then give a simple gospel message.  I remember on one occasion as I began to open in prayer a Mormon woman in her seventies yelled out, “Hey! You better fold your arms!”  What was the problem?  In LDS culture it is a sign of reverence to fold your arms and bow your head when you pray.  She didn’t want me praying irreverently in her presence and so she wasn’t going to let me go on with the meeting until I folded my arms.

 

So what did I do? I folded my arms!  I didn’t do it because I had to, but because I wanted to.  I know Jesus didn’t care whether or not I folded my arms, lifted my hands, or laid on the ground when I pray to Him.  So it didn’t bother me one bit to fold my arms.  But it would have bothered this woman greatly if I didn’t, and she wouldn’t have tuned her ear to one word I had to say from that moment on.  So, the meeting when on, I preached the gospel, and about a month later through a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit that same woman got saved!  Sensitivity and flexibility to cultural issues matters greatly at times.

 

No Compromise

Inevitably when the subject of contextualization comes up people pull the compromise card.  They say you want to water down the gospel and the teaching of the Word with all this contextualization business.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Expressing his commitment to contextualization Paul said,

 

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”[5]

 

Now, notice that Paul didn’t merely say he didn’t do certain cultural things to win a listening ear with lost people.  He said he became certain things to win a listening ear with lost people.  He temporarily adopted cultural and even religious practices that were amoral for the purpose of removing barriers to people hearing him out in regard to the gospel.  Paul’s flexibility in this enabled lost people to hear the Word preached and become saved through faith in Jesus.  But it started with Paul contextualizing so as to win an ear with the lost.

 

So what does this have to do with compromise? The same man who wrote this in his passion for contextualization also wrote, “even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”[6]  Was Paul into contextualization? Yes.  Was he into compromise? NO!  Contextualization is about having flexibility in forms and methods, not the message of the Bible.  As church planters we need to work to practice contextualization in our methods and yet remain unyielding in our no-compromise commitment to preaching the unadulterated truth of the gospel specifically, and the rest of the Bible generally.

 

What a Culture is Vs. What it is Becoming

Sometimes the best way to contextualize is to become the opposite of what a culture has historically been.  This is something I’ve learned while doing ministry in Idaho and Utah.  Utah is a predominantly Mormon state.  That being the case, most people think going to church includes wearing collard white shirts, dresses, singing songs that are at least sixty years old, sitting through a boring two or three hour weekend service, drinking water for communion, and trying not to fall asleep as you struggle through the predictable monotony every week.

 

Some might be tempted to think that contextualizing to reach people in Utah must mean designing your church services to be like what I’ve described above so that Mormon people will feel comfortable in your service, and therefore be able to hear the gospel.  To be sure, this might be a good thing to consider in some cases.  But I have found the opposite to be the case at Refuge Church.  What we have discovered as we’ve done church in a more casual and free way is that it is a breath of fresh air to people who have grown up in a very formal church environment.  People love that church is just about normal people who don’t have it all together getting together informally to worship a Savior who truly does have it all together.

 

So the point is this: Practicing good contextualization doesn’t always mean exactly conforming to the predominant norms in a culture.  Sometimes people who have grown up under one style of church or in one kind of spiritual environment are actually longing for something different than what they’ve known.  So again, it all comes back to being flexible with forms and uncompromising with content.  All you can do is pray, know your culture, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  He will never steer you wrong in how to reach the people in your context.

 

The Dependable Path of Authenticity

The last thing I want to mention on the issue of contextualization is the issue of authenticity.  Frankly, sometimes in an effort to contextualize guys end up changing so much about themselves and their church that they really just come off as being fake.  I know a pastor who was a successful business man before entering the ministry.  Due to his background he was a wealthy guy, so he tended to dress really nice and keep a clean-cut appearance.  As a pastor he started out dressing and behaving in the same way he did while working as a business man for almost twenty years. But one day he began to change.  In an effort to be relevant he grew a goatee, started wearing baggy clothes, and got a new hair-style.  The result was that the young people he was hoping to reach with the gospel through his extreme makeover became his biggest critics.  They thought he was inauthentic and felt like he was trying to sell them something rather than be real about what he truly believed.

 

Personal Story

Authenticity is always the strongest course of action.  Again, I learned this pastoring in the small rural town of Salmon, Idaho.  As a city kid who grew up playing in punk rock and metal bands and living a vegan straightedge lifestyle, a rural Idaho rancher town like Salmon is the last place I would’ve ever thought God could use me to reach people.

 

My wife and I moved to Salmon in 2006 and were immediately beat down with culture shock.  I’ll never forget going to Cowboy Church the first week we lived in Salmon.  It was definitely a church service like I had never experienced before!  The congregation sat in stands used in the horse and mule auction, the band played on the back of a flatbed trailer leading the people in Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb, while cowboys road real horses into the arena waving the American and “Christian” flags.  The preacher yelled a lot and looked like he’d just come from a ride on a bull at a rodeo.  All me and my could do was sit back in awe, and wonder what minister of Satan had deceived us into moving to such a place that was so incredibly different from us culturally.

 

As I struggled a bit with how God could use me to reach a place that was so different than anything I had come from or appreciated culturally, the Lord told me just to be myself and teach His Word.  That’s what I did.  And you know what, over time those cowboys, hunters, farmers, ranchers, loggers, and tough down-home people we served in that community welcomed us with open arms.  It didn’t matter that they fished on icy rivers and killed bears and all I wanted to do was listen to metal, watch movies, and read books.  The people saw belief and passion in the message that was preached.  They heard the teaching of God’s Word instead of motivational speeches and pithy comments from the pulpit.  They respected authenticity and the uncompromising teaching of the truth.  Sure, we did some things to accommodate the culture.  But more than anything it was authenticity that went a long way in reaching a culture different than my own.

 

Exhortation

Consider your context.  What are some cultural things you may need to adapt or challenge to get an ear with lost people in your context who need to hear the uncompromised gospel?  Prayerfully let the Holy Spirit guide you as you answer that question.  And as He does, be you, be authentic, and by all means preach the Bible!  Preach the everlasting gospel!

 


[1] John 1:14a & 1:18 NKJV

[2] Smith, Chuck. Calvary Chapel Distinctives. Page 101.

[3] Matthew 13:13

[4] Acts 16:1-5

[5] 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NKJV

[6] Galatians 1:8 NKJV

grave

How to Wake the Dead

“…You shall be Witnesses to Me…”[1] – Jesus  


“If you are a Calvary Chapel pastor or in teaching leadership, chances are you are concerned about the death of biblical truth in our culture and within our churches…As a pastor or teacher, you have the privilege of expositing and expounding God’s truth to your community.”[2]Chuck Smith

Speaking of the biblical gospel in a letter written to a group of believers living in Rome during the first century, the Apostle Paul said it is, “The power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”[3]  That is a brilliant statement of truth!  The word gospel literally means good news.  The message of the biblical gospel is that even though human beings are spiritual criminals who are evil from the core of their being, God still loves them.  It tells us that though all humans have broken God’s law and heart at the level of behavior, desire, and imagination, God has chosen to freely provide a way for us to be totally forgiven for our crimes.  He has made a way for us to know and enjoy Him forever in personal relationship.  We have a way to be viewed by God as perfect and righteous even though we know deep down we could never be those things practically speaking, from the inside out.

 

The Rescue Mission of Rescue Missions

How in the world could these things be possible?  Only through the life, death, and resurrection Jesus Christ accomplished on our behalf some 2,000 years ago.  The core of the good news of the gospel is that the infinite, totally adequate, self-sufficient, self-existent Holy God of the universe came to earth to reach out to humanity when we had no way of reaching up to Him in an effective way.  This was the greatest rescue mission the world has ever seen, or will ever see. He came and was born to a young virgin girl named Mary becoming not only God, but also 100% human.  He proceeded to live a life of perfect obedience to the law of God in behavior, desire, and imagination on behalf of every sinful human being.  He died the death that every person who has ever lived deserves to die on a roman cross as a substitute for all people.  There He took the full force of the wrath of God that we deserve to experience as spiritual criminals.  He rose from the dead conquering the power of Satan, sin, demons, and death on behalf of all.  He now offers us forgiveness for our sins and restoration to relationship with Him if we will simply believe in this great message of His love.  This God, who came from heaven to earth to do for us all that we could never do for ourselves, is the God-man, Jesus Christ!  This is His gospel.

The Fundamental Goal of Church Planting

The basic tenets of that message inherently carry the power of God to bring the person who accepts them from spiritual death to an experience of spiritual life if they are embraced with the heart.  It is that message that Jesus has commanded His people to proclaim boldly and without shame or fear in all the earth.  The fundamental goal of planting local churches is to establish strategic centers for the preaching, spreading, and advancement of the gospel in the world for the glory of the gracious Christ.  A church should not be planted but with the goal of functioning as an effective tool for spreading the message of Jesus in the world.  If a gathering, organization, or any so-called Christian entity exists without the express purpose of spreading the powerful gospel, it is not a church.  It is not representative of the church.

 

We need churches like the first century church in Thessalonica.  Paul commended that local church as being a community of believers who were on fire for spreading the gospel they had received.

“And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.  For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place.  Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.  For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”[4]

 

The community of believers at Thessalonica didn’t simply receive the gospel, get saved, and sit around playing church and enjoying their relationship with Jesus as they watched the rest of the world go to hell.  On the contrary, they became a center for missional gospel proclamation.  The gospel was sounding forth from the mouths of people who had their hearts changed by it’s power.  The joy over their salvation implanted into their hearts by the Holy Spirit who now indwelled them caused an overflow of gospel preaching and gospel living that brought many more people into the kingdom.

 

Every church planter’s goal should be that God would establish a church through him that is like the church in Thessalonica.  Their dream should be that of a group of people being saved by Jesus through gospel preaching who become so passionate about the gospel of the God who saved them that they spread it everywhere they can.  This is the New Testament picture of a mature and gospel-planted church.  This is the kind of church I pray for, and work toward by God’s grace.

 

The Command

Planting churches through gospel preaching is not merely one permissible option for church planting strategies among many.   It is church planting as God has commanded it to be done.

 

I know by experience that there is intense pressure from within and from without for church planters to get clever with their preaching.  You see some guys who have flashy churches, major resources, tons of money, and yet the weakest sermons in regard to biblical content.  After a while you might start to wonder if just teaching the Bible simply isn’t enough.  So you start softening a truth here, glossing over a doctrine there, and all in the name of reaching people.

 

Over against this kind of thinking is the teaching of the Holy Spirit in the Bible:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For U determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”[5]

 

Now when it comes to preaching there are generally two extremes that should be avoided at all costs.  Some think that using technology, media, props, and even illustrations to effectively communicate the gospel is carnal and unfaithful.  These people confuse flexibility in methods with compromising the integrity of the message.  Jesus Himself was a master illustrator who used the familiar pictures and experiences in the environment and technology around Him to communicate God’s timeless truths in timely ways to His hearers.

 

Still others are so focused on methods and strategic communication that they sometimes fail to actually present the simple content of the gospel faithfully.  The pure message of the Bible gets twisted or lost in all the wrappings.  These people seem to forget that while good missionaries are culturally sensitive and utilize practical tools and technology to communicate the gospel, the methods and techniques are not what God has promised to bless with His power.  The simple gospel message is what God blesses with the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit to bring people from spiritual death to life.  I once heard Francis Chan ask a group of Bible teachers, “Do you want to be a good communicator, or a powerful communicator?”  We would do well to ask ourselves that question.

 

The Choice is Ours

So, every church planter has to decide where he will fit.  Will you focus on methods to the exclusion of the message like many seeker sensitive and liberal churches do today?  Will you be a fundamentalist and preach the Bible but ignore the cultural communication stumbling blocks that get in the way of the people who hear you receiving the gospel?  Or will you be in the missional middle and preach the simple gospel faithfully while being sensitive to the cultural hang-ups of the ears who hear you?

If you are all method in your ministry I would challenge you to get back to the real source of power which is the simple gospel.  You can have nothing but the power of the Holy Spirit and the pure message of the gospel in your heart, and you will have all you need to plant a church.  That is all that the first church planters had and they did well to say the least.  I would encourage you to read Acts two and pray over the topics we’ve covered so far in this post right now asking God to show you if and where your heart is out of step with His on the gospel.

 

How to Reach Young People

Something that always concerns church planters is how they are going to reach young people for Jesus.  Many leaders are convinced that kids need to be entertained and have all sorts of extra wrappings encapsulating the gospel and the teaching of the Word for them to plug into churches.  I believe this is a lie from hell intended to get Bible teachers side-tracked.

 

I was as liberal and post-modern as they come when it came to my view of truth before Jesus saved me.  I can vividly remember personally saying many of the things that pastors often quote in their sermons as depicting the epitome of the post-modern mindset.  I would give people the, “what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me,” line all the time.  And I believed that with all my heart.

 

But one life-changing day the Holy Spirit shot the truth of God into my mind like a bullet.  I couldn’t defend myself against it.  I couldn’t force it out.  He convicted me of my sin and drew me to seek God.  I found myself reading the Bible at home strangely desiring to figure out it’s teachings, something I had never desired to do before.  I remember that as I read I realized that what this book said was true of my heart was undeniable based on my human experience.  I knew it was right when it told me I couldn’t help wanting and doing things that I knew deep down were things I shouldn’t do or want to do.  I knew it was right when it told me I couldn’t make myself do or want to do things that I knew deep down I should want to do and practice.  I knew my heart was captive with the chains of sin it described.  This was my journey to becoming born again through reading the written Word.

 

After I got saved I developed an appetite for the Word like newborn babies desire milk.  I could understand the Bible where I hadn’t been able to before, and I wanted to learn God’s Word.  I found a Bible teaching church and began to soak up what I was hearing.  And the funny thing looking back is that the church I attended was about the least cool place I’d ever been from my previous cultural perspective.  The “new music” we sang were worship choruses from the 1970’s, the décor of the church looked like it was supplied by my grandmother, the pastor preached in a full suit, and the only visual images in the service were these poorly done and horridly distracting landscape scenes that would appear at random behind the lyrics on the projection screen.  You know what kept an artsy former metal and punk rock musician/social activist coming to such a lame place?  I knew I was getting stronger in the spirit through the unadulterated preaching of God’s Word!

 

Many of my friends have been saved from similar backgrounds to mine and have the same kind of stories to tell.  And as I meet lots of young people who come to the church I pastor and hear them talk about why they are with us, it isn’t the cool lighting, awesome band, or the fact that I listen to the music they do that keeps them coming; it’s the often blunt, sometimes offensive, always present preaching of gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God!

 

If you’re an older church planter or pastor trying to reach a younger generation, my encouragement to you would be to stick with the thing that God has chosen to bless with His power, and preach the gospel!  Teach the Bible!  Sure, you can draw a crowd with all sorts of things.  But the only thing that will change people, the only thing that will grip them at the core of their very being, is God’s Word.

 

Conclusion

The preaching of the gospel is what Jesus has chosen to build His church.  Preaching the simple gospel isn’t merely an optional way to do the work of church planting, but the only way.  Utilizing different methods to communicate the gospel is fine and can even be good missionary strategy, but methods must never get in the way of communicating the simple gospel message in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we want to wake the dead gospel proclamation is a non-negotiable.

 

Note- The above is an excerpt taken from “The Spirit-led Mission” by Kellen Criswell


[1] Acts 1:8b NKJV

[2] Smith, Chuck. Line Upon Line. Page 12.

[3] Romans 1:16 NKJV

[4] 1 Thessalonians 1:10 NKJV

[5] 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NKJV

seals

Christians and Combat

***Written a few days after the killing of Bin Laden***

Ten years ago today I was an active duty Navy SEAL deployed to the Middle East, today I am the Senior Pastor of Valley Baptist Church contemplating the death of Osama Bin Laden. Every now and again I have these moments where my two worlds sort of collide. Today is one of them. The Internet is a furry with news, Facebook status updates, and blogs all reporting on this historical event. The chatter has inspired me to blog on a topic that is near and dear to my heart–The Christian and Combat.

First, let me begin by stating that I am writing this on my own behalf. My views are my own and do not necessarily reflect any group that I represent. These are my thoughts in progress and I do not claim to be an expert…although, I probably could. :)

Second, I have had many discussions with Christian pacifists over the years. I love the majority of them dearly. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ and we just don’t agree on this one issue. Some have accused me of not being able to see the Scriptures clearly because my background distorts my ability to listen to the Bible’s teaching. I admit that this really bothers me. They are simply wrong and assume my inclination is to hold a “pro war/violence position” because of my military background. In all honesty, the opposite is true. I have had to draw my gun on people (although I have never actually had to kill someone) and I have lost a number of very close friends in battle and have seen the after affects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to take a pacifist position on this subject, but the Scriptures will not allow me to do that (in my humble opinion). Violence of any sort is horrible and I long for the day when God scraps this world and starts a new, but for now I am here living in a sinful fallen world faced with horrible things where there is no simple answer.

“The Christian and Combat” was the title of my Master of Divinity thesis. As a former Navy SEAL who is now a pastor and law enforcement chaplain, I feel I need to get to work and convert it into a user friendly format for publication as I am often asked for my thoughts on this subject. One of these days, one of these days…

My first combat mission was on September 9, 1999–my 25th birthday. At this point in my life, I had spent the last seven years preparing for this moment and had been a Christian for about 3 years. It was dark, pitch black dark, in the Northern Arabian Gulf off the coast of Iraq, my adrenaline was flowing, and I distinctly remember thinking, “Gunnar, how did you get yourself into this one?” I know the feeling that many soldiers and cops experience…my prayer is that I can help those who protect us answer these deep theological questions prior to finding themselves in combat.

There is no way for me to blog about this in its entirety–I need to write that book. But I will attempt to answer a couple of questions: 1) the need for warriors, 2) the authority of the warrior, and 3) the Christians response to violence.

The need for warriors. There is a story in the Old Testament that inspired the writing of my thesis and it is found in 1 Samuel 23:1-5. David and his mighty men are on the run from Saul when David gets word that the Philistines are plundering the people of Keilah. My first point against the pacifist argument is evil is happening all around us. You can be a totally passive person (which I feel like I am) and find yourself witnessing one person or group that is violently attacking another. I love what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says about this reality, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” David and his men were exposed to an evil situation, their initial reaction was not to respond because they weren’t in the best position to help. David asked God a second time if this is what he was to do. God’s desire was for David to proceed onward using violence to stop this evil that was already in progress. Today is no different. Evil is everywhere. Men and women everywhere are doing evil to all sorts of people. Are Christians simply not to intervene? I don’t think so.

The authority of the warrior–military, cop, or individual. The clearest teaching anywhere in the Bible on this subject is found in Romans 12:9-13:4. This passage is pretty intriguing to me this week as it is very similar the Sermon on the Mount which I am preaching on through the month of May. Romans 12:9-17 has all of the verses that pacifists love to quote like: “Bless those who persecute you”, “Never pay back evil for evil”, etc, etc. Yes, I believe this all applies to the Christian and I take these verses literally, but a literal interpretation forces one to look at the whole context–one cannot study Scripture in isolation of the whole.

Romans 12:18-19 begins to shed some light on how we as Christians are able to do this. First, the Bible says we are to be at peace with other people if it is possible and as much as it depends on our own actions. Then it says, “leave room for the wrath of God.” Okay so this is very interesting. We are not to take our own vengeance because God’s wrath is more effective than our own wrath (okay, the text doesn’t say why, that is my opinion). In my Bible I have drawn from “wrath of God” in Romans 12:19 down to Romans 13:4 where the thought carries through. Here the Bible essentially says that “it” (i.e. the authorities or government) “does not bear the sword for nothing” and that it is a “minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”

I have met a number of pacifists that I respect. Concerning these verses in Romans 13 they would agree that the government is responsible to bear the sword, but would say based on Romans 12 that there is no place for the follower of Christ to function in this capacity of authority as the one bearing the sword. Biblically speaking, the wrath of the government is the wrath of God (for the record, I am not defending all government actions, time does not allow me to unpack this, but I do think God judges nations Isaiah 34-35 this will be in the book). So to say that the Christian cannot function in this capacity is in essence to say that they Christian is holier than God and this responsibility should be left the the unregenerate.

Every soldier and cop must understand the concept of being under authority. There was one such soldier who encountered Jesus in Capernaum who understood this concept and expressed it to Jesus (Luke 7:1-10). Jesus’ response to this man was, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” This is a pretty incredible statement if you stop and consider it for a moment. The point is that when life is taken it must be under the proper authority of God and the government and right circumstances–whether you are a soldier, cop, or individual defending yourself or others.

The Christian’s response to violence. Yesterday I started preaching through Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-49). One verse stuck out to me (v.21), “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Am I happy that Osama Bin Laden is dead? Yes and no. Yes because a man who promotes evil and destruction to many people is gone. “Relief” is probably a better word than “happy.” Many of us in the West are not fully aware of the evil this man inflicted in the world. He killed many innocent people brutally. I am sad for what he represented because another will arise in due time…there are many already doing evil to the innocent even as you read this. He is dead, but many died along the way. One peer of mine calculated that some 62 SEALs have died fighting the war against terrorism. I know a few widows and children who are left behind…Osama Bin Laden’s death doesn’t undo this or the attacks that have been committed during his lifetime. But there is pleasure in knowing that the government is following through with God’s command to bring “wrath on the one who practices evil” (Rom. 13:4).

There is so much more I could write on regarding this subject, but I am running out of steam and I would like to post this tonight. Regardless of your theological bent regarding pacifism, I think we all agree on Paul’s instructions to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

We should be on our knees this day praying as Paul tells us to above. I am thankful for the sacrifice of soldiers, cops, and good Samaritans who put their lives at risk in the calling of restraining evil.

5883glycerine_soap

Soap Operas Teach Biblical Morality

I was in a grocery store line many years ago and TV Guide’s cover advertised an article entitled, “Soap Operas Teach Biblical Morality.”  I thought that was about the dumbest thing I’d ever heard.  Soap Operas are all about prima donna drama, selfishness, fornication, adultery, lying, murder, cheating, greed, hatred, bitterness, personal revenge, and smoldering resentment.  These are the polar opposites of Biblical morality.  “That’s just plain dumb,” I thought, but I was so intrigued that I bought that issue of TV Guide.  I read the article, and by the end of it the author had me convinced that indeed, soap operas teach Biblical morality.

Here’s his premise: the Bible teaches that selfishness, fornication, adultery, lying, murder, cheating, greed, hatred, bitterness, personal revenge, and smoldering resentment will result in unhappy, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, discontented, uptight, and joyless people.  What do we see on soap operas?  Unhappy, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, discontented, uptight, and joyles people. Soap operas are a backhanded reinforcement of Biblical morality.  It would not ring psychologically true, even in our jaded culture, to have a program where people murder, commit adultery, lie, steal, hate, covet, scheme, etc., and live happy, joy filled, worry free lives.

Hollywood actors and actresses can glorify out-of-wedlock or extra-marital sex on the movie screen, but when their real life spouses commit adultery – they divorce.  They can’t get away from the moral standard impressed upon their hearts.  When people choose to live outside the moral standard of our Creator, any happiness and joy they seem to have is a cosmetic that has to be put on before leaving home to mask the basic discontent of their lives.

J. Budziszewski, in the September 2003 issue of Touchstone magazine, helps us understand why this is so.  In his article The Furies of Conscience, he artfully unfolds the way our conscience functions.

Conscience works in three different modes:

  • Cautionary – alerts us to peril of moral wrong and generates an inhibition against committing it.
  • Accusatory – indicts us for the wrong we have already done.
  • Avenging – punishes the soul who does wrong and fails to heed the indictment of the accusation.

Conscience is therefore teacher, judge, or executioner, depending on what mode it is working: cautionary, accusing, or avenging.  It appears that the workings of conscience cannot be stopped – they can be ignored, but ignored at the peril of the one denying and hardening their conscience.

The article in its fullness will go a long way in informing and equipping the pastor in understanding how even the pagan or the backsliding Christian cannot escape the reach of conscience.  This will greatly aid you in counseling and preaching and understanding yourself.  It can be found at http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-07-027-f

I was convinced – soap operas teach Biblical morality.  No, they don’t preach against the vices that are portrayed, but they do demonstrate that those who live in these vices never experience the true joy of life and only find themselves broken again and again.  As pastors, counselors, and preachers, we can rest assured that a life of rebellion is an empty life, regardless of the smiles and the thrills that attend it.  Pastor, your church is filled with soap opera characters.  Like most churches, the soaps have no larger than life heroes – no Rockys, no Rambos, no Indiana Jones’.  They portray regular people living in the furies of conscience.  Many who listen to you Sunday after Sunday are being decimated by the furies of conscience. By Christ, we can see through the smiling faces into the broken hearts, we can see past the bling to the sting, and we can present a Savior who can silence the furies of conscience.  Biblical morality is inescapable – even by those so desperately seeking to overthrow it.

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Ideas on Doing Outreach – Daniel Fusco

The critical mistake that many church planters make is that they think that God’s calling on their lives equals a ‘successful’ plant. Planters think that since God is calling them to an area that they will simply show up, put up a sign, and people will flock into the building because they are ready to teach the Bible. Oftentimes people get the false impression that if you simply teach the Word, people will flock into a new church. This may be true if you are planting a church in the middle of a full on revival, but in reality, in 2009, there aren’t too many place in the United States that are in the middle of a full on revival. Effective church planters need to do outreach to meet people so that they can come to the building to hear that Word of God. This was brought into focus for me when I was speaking to one of the older pastors in the Calvary Chapel movement. This pastor was there in the beginning of the Jesus Movement. He told me that not only was the Pastor Chuck Smith’s teaching anointed, but there was also a ton of outreach going on. There were concerts and Christian communes. There were outreach studies going on in schools, homes, and by the side of the road. Greg Laurie was inventing new cartoon tracks and they were being handed out. Teaching tapes were being given out. There were people, outside of the church building, meeting people with the intention of communicating the Gospel to them. A successful church plant is one that is reaching out to their community. When the people who are reached come to the church, then they will get the opportunity to hear God’s inspired Word.

In one of Mark Driscoll’s books, he gives a great and simple insight into casting vision for outreach. He asked three simple questions: Who are you reaching out with? Who are you reaching out to? And how are you reaching out? Feel free to read that article to see the finer points of these questions. But to begin our discussion, these questions are important. Who are you reaching out with? Is it just you? Do you have a small team? A large group? The answer to this question will affect the scope of our outreach. Who are you reaching out to? Depending on whom we are trying to reach, this will color the style of outreach. In the Jesus Movement, Christian concerts worked well, but might not in every context. This speaks to the need for cultural exegesis and understanding our target communities. This is where statistics and demographics can be incredibly helpful. Do we love the community that we are called to as Jesus does in such a way as to understand them? Finally, how are you reaching out? This is the culmination of the first two questions. When we understand who we are reaching out with and who we are reaching out to, then we can formulate an action plan as to how we are going to reach out. It is this third section that I want to spend some time on.

Have A Plan

It is simply wisdom to have a goal and that can be executed. If we have a plan and set some goals, we will have a better chance of accomplishing anything. So I always recommend that church planters come up with a plan, no matter how basic it may be. Set some goals and work towards their fulfillment.

Don’t be Seeker Sensitive, Be Seeker Sensible

I don’t know who coined this pithy phrase, but I like it. We need to be sensible to the people that we are trying to reach and the message that we are giving out. This is important because oftentimes our outreach ideas are not relevant to the people we are trying to reach. We have a tendency to import an outreach strategy that we saw used in another context. We need to be sensible. There is nothing worse then investing time and energy into something that isn’t sensible.

The Gospel is Free; But Getting It Out is NOT Cheap

We need to spend money on outreach. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it isn’t. It seems that oftentimes we would rather spend our money on anything else other than reaching people for the Gospel. We would rather spend money on the building a church (building) than building the church (community). Are we more concerned with getting ourselves a salary our reaching our community? Getting the Gospel out in our community will cost money and we should be prepared for this. It is money well spent (as long as we are mindful of who we are trying to reach).

It’s The Slow Drip That Works

What I mean by this is simply that it’s the cumulative effect of all the outreach attempts that work. We are apt to judge the effectiveness of an outreach based on immediate fruit. But in a church plant, it is the entire breadth of outreach that will have the effect. A continued outreach initiative, over time, will be effective. So have a broad view of it. Think about it, how many times have you heard about something before you try it? Like a restaurant? Oftentimes you’ll see an advertisement or two, maybe a billboard, then you’ll hear of a few people who went there and then you’ll try it. Churches are the same way. After someone gets used to seeing your name, if they know someone who likes it, often they will try it.

Put Your Name and Logo On Everything

This is the simplest outreach style. I call it ‘passive outreach’. To simply get name recognition, you want to put your logo, name, and website on everything: handbills, t-shirts, pens, everything. If you put your branding on everything, eventually people will notice you. As a Calvary Chapel pastor, if I am driving through a town and I see a dove, I instantly know what that means. There is recognition of the name and symbol. In our towns, if no one ever heard of us, there is a good chance that they are not stopping by for a visit.

Maintain A Good Website (and keep your name in the Yellow Pages)

In the technologically obsessed United States, it is criminal not to have a strong web presence. We are really shooting ourselves in the foot if we are not all over the web. Simply google your community and see what comes up. Put your name everywhere. On every community website that you can. The internet is here to stay and we want to be a part of it. People still use the Yellow Pages as well. Make sure your name is in the Yellow Pages. Also, don’t forget that you can negotiate with the Yellow Pages salesman. That we have in the Yellow Pages was being offered at $120 per month and we settled on $30 per month. That’s an extra $90 for other outreach ideas.

Train The Congregation in Community Engagement

Jesus’ outreach style was to train up twelve apostles. Jesus knew that having thirteen points of contact (Himself plus the twelve) would be more effective than it just being Himself. As we are teaching the people the Word, we need to be constantly raising up people who are effective witnesses on their jobs, while at school, as they recreate and the like. I am constantly downloading outreach sensibilities to the congregation as we walk through the Scriptures together.

Finally, The Church Will Be Passionate About What The Pastor Is Passionate About

Brothers, if we are not passionate about the lost, neither will the folks in our fellowship be. Just as Jesus reproduced Himself spiritually in His disciples, so will we. If our hearts do not burn for the lost, then we will never inspire them to care enough to share. Brothers, do we have a passion for the souls of men? Is it a passion that will drive us out of the safety of our offices and studies and into the places where people congregate to them won for Christ? A church planter without an outreach passion is not a church planter.

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Understanding Your Context – Daniel Fusco

When I speak with church planters, I always want to find out about the area that they are ministering. I ask them about the community, its values, its style, the demographics, etc. I find that oftentimes men haven’t taken the time to do any cultural exegesis. At first, this took me aback. But then I remembered that when I planted the church in New Brunswick, I did barely any cultural exegesis. I was a young man with a Bible who knew that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I had seen the Lord change my life and I had a passion to see people experience that same change. So I set on out, without thinking much about where I was, the uniqueness of the area, etc. Even when we first began, although I was saying all the right things about my understanding of the community, the reality was that I didn’t really take the time to understand the average person in New Brunswick. I didn’t love the community enough to want to really know and understand them. The ministry suffered because of this. Not because I didn’t teach the Word, but because I did but not in a way that anyone could understand. It suffered because I exported the ministries that I had seen at the church that I was an Assistant Pastor at, rather than seeing my area for what it was and tailoring the ministry accordingly. So now, we’re going to look at ways of understanding our ministry context as well as some of the pitfalls that church planters face.

The Most Important Thing about Contextualization

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is unchangeable. It is fixed. It cannot be altered and still be honoring to God Himself. But how we communicate these truths need to be changeable. They will change as the times do and as the culture does. The reason that I say this is the most important thing about contextualization is that many people don’t want to contextualize the gospel because many people change the Gospel to reach a culture (this is called syncretism). This is wrong. But you can package the gospel in such a way as to keep people from actually being able to hear it. Imagine if you were interested in using a new computer. You go and talk to a ‘professional computer guy’ and he speaks to you in very technical, computer geek language. Within a few minutes, you are completely lost and your eyes glaze over and you decide that learning about the new computer is not for you. Is it that you weren’t really interested in learning or was it that the computer guy just shot soo far over your head that you just couldn’t get it? I’m sure a lot of our churches are like this. So in any discussion about contextualization needs to begin and end with the unchangeable gospel that God asks each of us to package specifically for our target audience, our community.

The Scriptures are Completely Contextualized

This was a mind-blowing realization to me. There are four Gospels. Each one has a different audience. Matthew, writing to Jewish people, quotes extensively from Scripture and is constantly looking at the fulfillment of prophecy in the life of Jesus. Mark’s Gospel has very little of this, as he was writing to a different audience. You’ll notice in Luke’s Gospel how he is always clarifying things to explain things that the average Roman wouldn’t understand about Jewish culture. Each of Paul’s epistles are contextualized to a specific area. The Galatians were struggling with the Judaizers, so Paul spoke to them about the necessity of faith apart from works. The church in Corinth was simultaneously spiritually gifted and carnal. So Paul shared to them the unsearchable riches of Christ within their context. Although all of this is God-breathed, it was inspirationally directed to a specific group of people. Not only were the words and concepts inspired, but also that those words and concepts were to be directed to a specific target audience! Jesus was incarnate into first century Judaism. He looked and dressed as they did. He understood how they were raised, as He was raised the same way. He spoke their language. If the Lord would have been incarnate say today in New York City, the Gospels would contain the same truth, but in drastically different packaging. One of the keys to understanding your context and ministering effectively within it is to ask the simple questions (with radically important answers), “If Jesus were to be incarnate today into (insert your location here), what would His ministry look like?” “If the Apostle Paul was doing his missionary work in (insert your location here), where and how would he do his ministry?” Then you should ask the question, “Why aren’t I doing these things?”

Demographic Research Is Not Unspiritual

I had always thought that it was unspiritual to look at demographics. As if using demographics somehow made your calling of God of a lesser effect. I had heard people speak ill of Rick Warren for surveying the area that he hoped to plant in to find out about what the people’s experiences with church and their perceptions of what would be the type of church they would attend. He found, among other things, that people wanted sermons that had real life application to it and they wanted a church that really valued their children. I believe that God wants these things as well for His church. Wikipedia defines demographics as ‘Demographic or demographic data refers to selected population characteristics as used in government, marketing or opinion research, or the demographic profiles used in such research. Commonly-used demographics include race, age, income, disabilities, mobility (in terms of travel time to work or number of vehicles available), educational attainment, home ownership, employment status, and even location. Distributions of values within a demographic variable, and across households, are both of interest, as well as trends over time.’ Demographics are simply a compendium of who lives in your area. It was completely illuminating to read the US Census Data for Mill Valley, California where I currently serve. The people here are 90% Caucasian. 60% of the people have a college degree and one in three people have an advanced degree. The average per family income is more than twice the national average. This simply teaches me that the people here are primarily Caucasian, wealthy, successful and very well educated. This has profound implications for ministry style and approach. Would it be wise to come into a primarily Caucasian area and harp on the need for the ministry to be multicultural? With the education of the area that I am in, I have to make sure to anticipate the intellectual arguments of very well educated people and pepper all messages with this. Demographics are a snapshot of the makeup of your community. You want to know who you are trying to reach and make sure that your approach takes into account the people you are trying to reach and not just your own personal preferences.

We Absolutely Need to Understand the Average Person in our Community

Now I hate to say this but you won’t understand the average person in your community reading Bible commentaries and listening to your favorite pastors. Don’t get me wrong, you need to study to show yourself approved and be edified. But this will not help you understand your missiological context. Are your neighbors reading Bible commentaries? It is doubtful (although we wish they would). Do your neighbors really care about what some group of Christians are doing in some place that they’ve never been that you don’t agree with? Again, it’s doubtful. But oftentimes, this is what pastors do.

I have found that in order to understand the people that you are called to minister to, there are certain things that you can do to aid yourself.

1) Purposefully vary your people context.

Make sure that you spend time with non-Christians and find out what is important to them. It is really easy for church planters and pastors to spend all of their time with folks from within their congregation. It is essential and a disciple to vary your people context. Find out where they get their information from, the books they like, the movies that seem important to them and what they laugh at and why. Talk to them about sports and politics, but not to argue with them, but to understand them.

2) Read their information sources.

Read your local newspaper if it is popular and widely read. Read magazines that are targeting a population that is similar to your own. Read the popular books in your area. You can go into the local large bookstore change and ask them for their list of the most popular books that the store has sold. It’s a good idea to buy a book or two and read it with a mind to both understand your target population and also have a point of contact to begin dialoguing with people about (like Paul’s ‘Unknown God’ reference in the Book of Acts). I have found that magazines are easier than books as they are shorter and not as involved/time consuming. Also, if your area is strongly of a certain political flavor, you want to really understand their worldview so listen to their pundits, even if it makes you a bit nuts. If you want to understand whom you are trying to reach, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices.

3) Find the Points of Commonality

As you speak to people and as you digest their information, find the areas that you can agree on with the culture at large. Most people are used to Evangelicals being completely adversarial in their approach. It turns them off, just as it would us, if we were in their shoes. In almost every culture, there are things that there is agreement on. It’s important to find those points and use them as a relational bridge.

4) Proximity Breeds Accountability

I always encourage church planters to live directly in the community that they are called to. You want to live in the same context as they do. People will consider you irrelevant if you are living in the suburbs and trying to plant a church in the middle of a city ghetto. Your contexts are different and they will see that. You want to shop where they shop, work out where they work it, have the same weather, etc. And by all means, if you move into an area, change your cell phone number to have the same area code as everyone else, there is nothing that says ‘outsider’ more than having a cell phone number from some unheard of area code. And on that note, get your license plates changed ASAP if you move across state lines.

5) Teach As If Your Community’s Seekers Are There

If all of your messages are directed at evangelical people and are concerned with evangelical sub cultural discussions, then the only people who will be interested in them are evangelicals. But in most of our communities, there are less and less evangelicals and more and more people who don’t go to church. If you ever hope to reach your community, you want to make sure that you are teaching to an audience (whether you are in actuality or not) who includes those who are not yet Christian. Don’t just invalidate the average concerns with mockery. Those are real people’s concerns. Teach the Scriptures and show the community God’s love from them by lovingly addressing their most common concerns and explain to them how that concern is either unfounded or way more important than they realize. When you teach, teach as the average person in your community is there, and Lord willing, one day they will be and there will be conversions in the church.

6) Make Sure that You Really Love Them

Love is always relevant. I often think of Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners. He was nothing like them, at all. But yet He loved them and spent copious amounts of time with them. Even though He was distinct from them, He was there with them and no doubt, they knew that He loved them. We need to make sure that we love the community that we are trying to reach. We need to beg God for His heart for the people. He loves them. Jesus Christ died on a cross so that those who would come to Him might have life and have it more abundantly. God give us your heart of love for our communities.

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Inexplicable God

One of the most mind-bending and yet rewarding things we can do is meditate on the trinitarian nature of God.  While not all agree, the Trinity, or Triune nature of God, is a reality most definitely affirmed by the teaching of Scripture.   The biblical testimony portrays God as existing as three separate persons who all equally share one divine essence.  These persons have revealed themselves as God the Father, Jesus (who is God the Son), and God the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

 

The Bible and the Nature of God

The biblical teaching on the nature of God can be summarized as follows:

1. The Father is God (Jn. 6:27)

2. The Son is God (Jn. 1:1-3; Heb. 1:7-8; Col. 1:13-17)

3. The Spirit is God (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4; Ps. 104:30; Acts 5:3-4; Acts 13:1-4)

4. There is only One God (Deut. 6:4; Mk. 12:32; Rom. 3:30; 1 Cor. 8:6)

5. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are NOT each other (Matt. 3:16-17; Jn. 1:1-3 & 18; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)

 

What Does the Biblical Data Mean?

The Bible clearly teaches each of the above five realities regarding the nature of the One true God.  There is only One God. He exists in the three Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Each of the three are divine, and they are not One another.   They are not three separate God’s.  They are not one divine Person portraying Himself three separate ways.  They are three literally distinct Persons unified by one divine essence.

 

Um, Can You Explain that Please?

Usually this is the point that our brain starts to hurt.  As we try to stretch our finite minds to the point where we can wrap our proverbial arms around the awesome and infinite reality of God’s nature, feelings of futility and inadequacy soon follow.  While we can certainly apprehend the biblical teaching regarding the Triune nature of God, we cannot fully comprehend it in it’s fullness.

 

How ’bout an Illustration?

The truth is that we cannot even adequately illustrate the Trinity.  Many have tried to do so, and I personally believe they have done so in vain.  Even the closest illustrations fall short at the end of the day.  Let me point out the most common illustrations people set forth in attempt to better understand or articulate the reality of the Trinity:

 

1. The Clover- Some say that to illustrate the nature of God to the people he was trying to reach in Ireland, Saint Patrick would point to the three-leaf-clover.  He would suggest that the nature of God is like a clover that, while being one entity, has the three parts in the leaves which ultimately all connect as one.

2. The Egg- Some suggest that the fact that an egg has three parts (yoke, white, and shell) while still being one egg can serve as an illustration of the Trinity.

3. The Water- Others point to water which can exist in three forms (gas, solid, liquid) as an illustration of the Trinity.

4. The Family- Still others would point to the family as a potential illustration of the Trinity.  Admittedly this is my personal favorite.  These folks point out that, biblically speaking, men and women become one flesh through marriage and sexual relations.  When parents reproduce and have a child, the child genetically proceeds forth from the essence of both the father and mother who are one flesh through marriage.  In the end, it is contended that this illustrates the Trinity in that the human father, mother, and child are all three separate persons and yet one in a legitimate sense.

 

The truth is all of these illustrations fall short for various reasons.  And while helpful for lifting our minds to a perhaps good starting place as we begin to try and appreciate the complexity and beauty inherent within the Triune nature of God, none of these should serve as absolute pictures of the precise nature of God.

 

Reaction Time

When we get to this point in meditating on the Trinity, I have found people react in two ways depending on where they’re at with Jesus in their personal lives.  First of all, the skeptical non-Christian begins to mock.  They say, “If I can’t explain it, or find something of comparable nature to illustrate it, it must not be true.”  Secondly, the new or untaught Christian might begin to doubt.  They might find themselves thinking, “Can this be true if we cannot explain it?  Are the skeptics correct, and the Trinity is just another made-up human superstition?”

 

Answers for the Skeptic

In response to the skeptic I would say three things:

1. Either the Bible is God’s Word, or it isn’t.  Many who are in opposition to the doctrine of the Trinity also affirm the inspiration of the Bible.  Their are some religious groups who affirm the divine inspiration of the Bible, and yet because the Trinity doesn’t make sense to them logically, they reject it and come up with other translations of Scripture foreign to the original languages in which the Bible was written for the sake of supporting their view.  This is all done to justify making Scripture conform to their logic, rather than bringing their supposed logic into conformity with the plain meaning of Scripture.   At the end of the day either the Bible is God’s Word and must be accepted, or it’s not.  But you can’t have your cake and eat it too on this one.  If the Bible is God’s Word the Trinity is the only possibility based on the teaching of the whole counsel of God as summarized above.  Either the Bible is God’s Word or it’s not.

 

2. Don’t think more highly of your logic than you ought. Don’t you think it’s possible that there might be some things that are true about the infinite, sovereign Creator of the universe that are just a little difficult to wrap your much smaller, finite mind around?  Do you really think you’re so smart that you should be able to fully wrap up everything about the nature of God in a nice little intellectual package that is easy to understand and explain? Don’t think more highly of your logic than you ought.

 

3. Don’t be a hypocrite. The fact is that every skeptic who scoffs at the doctrine of the Trinity based on it’s incomparableness is a hypocrite.  They know that there are many things they affirm to be true though they can’t fully understand or explain them.  I know there are many things like that in my life.  There are things that I know are true, that are scientifically explainable, that I still can’t fully comprehend.  I know there are scientific explanations regarding how giant aircraft carriers made of steel, transporting thousands of people, planes, and supplies can float in the water, but it still doesn’t make sense to me.  I know science can explain why it is that a fly can float in the cab of my truck while I’m driving 75 down the freeway and not splat against my back window, even though I know that fly isn’t moving in the same direction as my vehicle, at the same speed.  And yet, if I were to stand up and jump in the air in the back of my truck going the same speed, I would be dead in the road.  How does all that work? I mean, is there a problem in the matrix, or what?  You can explain it to me scientifically, but it still won’t fully make sense.   I believe even the most ardent skeptics regarding the Trinity hold to many truths in their lives which they  apprehend and affirm while knowing they cannot fully explain or comprehend them The honest skeptic would agree.  Don’t be a hypocrite.

 

Answers for the Christian

For the new or untaught believer who is struggling with doubt over their inability to articulate, understand, or illustrate the Trinity, I would comfort you with the truth of Isaiah 40:18: “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?”  In short, the Bible itself declares the inexplicable nature of God!  We don’t need to worry about not being able to explain or illustrate what God has already told us is inexplicable and without illustration.  Part of being God is being absolutely unique amongst all other things in existence!  The reason you can’t point to an illustration and say, “That is what God is like,” is because He is altogether unique and incomparable in every single possible way!

 

At Refuge we like to say in regard to meditating upon the mysterious nature of our God that, “Logic can only take you so far before all you can do is stop and worship in awe!”    I hope this brief reflection on the inexplicable nature of the One True and Living God has inspired you to do that.  Let logic, reason, and understanding take you as far as it can.  And when you come to the end of that finite road, worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who together exist as our One True God!