Is God Petty?

Is it wrong for God to expect us to worship Him? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I found myself in a discussion about the question of how can people be happy in Heaven knowing that they have loved ones in Hell. As the discussion went on, I focused on one point which got us to a different area. I pointed out that if Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity is true and there is an answer to the question. If not, then it’s just trivia. I could even be willing to say “I don’t know” but it would be foolish to say “I’m abandoning Christianity because while I’m convinced Jesus rose from the dead, I don’t have an answer on this question.”

Instead, we wound up discussing if God is petty or not. After all, God expects us to love Him and worship Him. Wouldn’t a loving God just give everyone a break? Life has enough suffering as it is. Isn’t it petty to have the whole turn or burn mindset?

Keep in mind, my view of Heaven and Hell is quite different. Still, it is a question we all have to deal with. Even those who profess conditional immortality would have to answer how it is they can be happy if they know they have loved ones who they will never ever see again.

Yet now, I want to focus on the whole charge of God being petty, because it is something we come up against. On the surface, it does look that way. God wants us to worship and adore Him. If we don’t, we are cast aside from Him. Loved ones are separated in that sense. How does this make sense?

Part of our problem is we have a view of God where we just make God a big person. He is just like us, except He has the omni-attributes. If you’re going to study this, you need to realize that God is very different. Whatever the view of God is we have in our mind, it’s in some way inadequate.

Second, we need to ask people where they are getting their theology from. If you make claims about God, how do you know this? If you think God is fair and loving and things of that sort, how is this known? Any claim about knowledge of God needs to be backed. If one wants to turn the question to me, it’s my position that if Jesus rose from the dead, He’s someone worth listening to and I do believe the Gospels are reliable.

So let’s look at the question. For one thing, at the start, Christians were always exclusive. This was even the case when they gained nothing from it. They were on the outs with the Roman Empire and with the Jewish people as well because they said Jesus was the true Lord of the universe.

We often think love cannot be exclusive. This is false. Not only is love exclusive, it has to be exclusive. If you love anything, you will exclude that which is contrary to it. This is one reason I don’t like “hate” being described always as a negative. Hate is not always bad. There are plenty of things we ought to hate. We ought to hate the great evils that we see in the world.

When it comes to the question of God, there are benefits for loving God. There is nothing wrong with this. If a man and a woman love each other, then in a marriage bond, there are benefits they share that others don’t have. There is nothing mercenary about that.

Likewise, if you do not have that commitment, then you do not get the privileges of the commitment. Other people, including other men, can love my wife in some sense, but they are not to love her in the exclusive sense that I do and only I get the benefits of that kind of love. If they had made a covenant instead, they would be having those privileges instead of me.

There are also costs in the case of God. If one rejects the revelation of Jesus knowingly, then one is in essence not only saying Jesus is a liar, but saying that God has not revealed Himself in Jesus. That’s a big claim and one had better be right on. On the other hand, if someone like myself is wrong, then I am guilty of the worst kind of blasphemy against God. I have to be willing to accept that.

If one does not accept God’s way, then one is going their own way. It is a rejection of God. If they don’t want to be with God, then God will honor their request. He will not force Himself on them.

Many of us also assume that we are innocent. It’s not that way at all. No one of us lives a perfect life. We all know that. We all know ways we can do better. God could have just been just and said none of us will be with Him for eternity. He did not.

We also have to ask that if God is going to be loving and forgive all, then what about evil here? Will there never be justice? Do those who lived their lives consistently going against God get all the benefits of those who did the exact opposite?

Once again, all of this depends on if Jesus rose from the dead. If He didn’t, then we could be discussing trivia. We might just have to see if another religion is true or if God revealed Himself some other way or just hope for the best. It is a tough situation then.

But if Jesus did rise from the dead, then we do indeed have great hope. We are forgiven and we will be in the presence of God. Not only that, all the suffering we undergo will be redeemed one day. God does not waste our sufferings in this life. Death itself will be overcome.

That is good news.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

The Church Does Not Exist For You

Why is it that you go to church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I talked with someone from Ratio Christi about how we can reach our generation for Christ more. What was brought out was that we have more information than ever before, but the problem is the information isn’t being distributed. Most teachers and workers don’t really get to go out into the trenches as much and just do regular evangelism. Why is that?

My thinking on this is that we have too many people in Christianity today who think that the church exists for them. The church is where they go and get their regular spiritual fill-up. They get to hear a good concert, which is more often about getting their emotions to a high, and then get to hear a talk about how they can have better lives by being a Christian and how God loves them and all of it is about them.

How does this work with evangelism? Simple. You are supposed to bring your friend to church and the pastor is supposed to say the magic words to get them to come down the aisle and accept Christ. Never a thought of “We need to equip you so you can do evangelism on your own.” Instead, you just bring them to the pastor and the pastor does your work for you.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t invite people to church. Of course you should. I am saying your work is not just to bring people to church and then keep a seat in the sanctuary warm. You are also not meant to come to church just so you can feel good about yourself. Church is about coming to worship and give of yourself. We come to church more often to receive than to give.

As someone in ministry also, this is something that I know is a problem for many ministries. Since the church knows little about apologetics, apologetics ministries are hard to start. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t support other worthwhile ministries as the church needs more than apologetics, but it is to say that the church doesn’t know about this vital area of Christianity and sadly, their pastors aren’t introducing them to it.

Picture your average service. You go in and when the sermon starts, you hear a passage of Scripture read. You might get a little bit of the background story but then, it jumps straight to application. There is nothing about the historical setting from a greater perspective or about what the passage would have meant to the original audience. It’s all about “What does this mean to me?”

There are rarely questions about “What does this say about the nature of God?” aside from that He loves you. “What does this say about Jesus?” aside from of course, that He loves you. “What did this mean to the children of Israel?” (Why is that part even in the Bible? It’s not about us.) “How do we know that this really happened?”

Why do people not give then? Well they give their regular 10% and then that’s it. Nothing in their minds often about being a part of the greater church as a whole and the Kingdom of God. Nothing about that they might actually need to answer a question one day from someone. Nothing about they might need to do independent Bible study. It’s all about what’s in it for them.

Want a demonstration? Just picture what will happen if you have a movie night at the church where a movie can be shown for free. How many people will show up? Now picture a night where you have a great apologetics speaker coming into town and giving a free talk on the resurrection of Jesus. I can assure you turnout will be much less for that one. (With the exception of apologetics fans in the area who actually do come.)

I wish I knew more of what to do to help this. Sometimes, I do think it will take some persecution to get us to realize what we are here for. I also suspect many Christians will fall away at that point because, I mean, why should they be expected to sacrifice anything? That’s too uncomfortable.

Perhaps it will depend on the pastors since they are put in the position of having to do everything. The pastor can lay out the responsibility of the layman. He can encourage them to be able to be more self-sufficient in their Christian faith in that they can research themselves and ask the questions themselves. (Perhaps that would be a better investment of their time more often than binge watching Netflix.)

If a pastor is worried that he might lose some people, maybe he should. The people who really care the most are the ones who will stay behind and be willing to do the work. It would be better to have a small number who are faithful and ready to do the work than have a large number who are not. I believe the founder of Christianity had the same philosophy.

It is my hopes that we can be a church that teaches, gives, answers, and everything else we need to be doing. Once we understand the role of Christianity overall, we will be better equipped to fulfill our Christian mission. It will require that we move past the idea that the church is for us. We don’t come to church for us. We come for God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do We Care About Christianity?

Is Christianity really a driving passion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I talked about this topic and it is one that leads to soul-searching. I am a Christian apologist. My whole life is built around Christianity. Everything I do (Or at least I hope everything I do) is informed by my Christian worldview, yet do I really care that much about the Christian worldview?

Some might think an apologist would, but remember C.S. Lewis warned years ago about some people who were so eager to show that God exists that they didn’t have anything better for Him to do than exist. Sometimes we could be so intent on proving Jesus rose that we do nothing more with that than show Christianity is true. It’s like something I’ve said about the Trinity. It’s often this nice little doctrine we keep to the side and we pull it out whenever we have to beat up visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses.

What I want to ask myself regularly and I do ask myself is if I really have a passion for Christianity. Do I get excited? Now to be fair, different things will reach different people. When I hear sermons that are just largely application with no historical foundation or anything like that, then yeah, I find it easy to zone out quickly. When I’m at a church service, I often wish we could rush through the music part because many times the songs are often just so shallow and self-focused. I also think that sometimes when they’re not if we paid attention to the words we say, we’d find that we’re really lying. We talk about how much we are in love with Jesus and how much joy He brings and then go home and find joy in everything else but Jesus.

I’d like to tell you I’m a great prayer warrior and someone who read plenty of the Bible every day. I’m not. I read a chapter of the Old Testament and of the New Testament every morning and a verse at night before I go to bed to give me something to think about as well as the reading of a few verses with the Mrs. If I told you that every day of reading the Bible is exciting and I learn something, I’d be lying. For prayer, I have a mentor to help me with this, but it can still be a struggle.

Years ago I remember in preparing to marry Allie, I remember someone telling me that they saw me as a great lover of God when I spoke. It wasn’t just an intellectual thing for me. It was something real. When I hear that, I get amazed. I am the last one who would describe myself as a great lover of God.

The odd thing is, it’s so easy to get excited about nearly everything else. It’s easy to get excited about a new episode of a TV show coming out that we enjoy. It’s easy to be looking forward to that movie. It’s easy to look forward to a time of romance with my wife. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look forward to these things. God gave us plenty of good things for us to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17.) Many of you will have your own interests.

You can say you find it hard to really learn the things of God, but how many of you know the statistics of your favorite sports team by heart? How many of you could practically write the strategy guide to your favorite video game? How many of you know all the intricacies of your favorite TV show? It’s honestly not that it’s hard, it’s just that we’re not interested.

I think one reason for this is we’ve grown up so much with Christianity that it’s become familiar. We can often wonder how skeptics don’t see the truth of Christianity, but there is something that they do see that we could bear to see. They see that it’s a radical difference from the main view of the world. We actually believe in a God who works and does miracles and that the second person of the Trinity lived among us, died, and rose again.

Let’s be honest. A lot of stuff we believe is indeed bizarre to think about. We definitely do need good evidence and while I do think we have it, let’s not lose sight of how incredible it is.

There are an endless number of truths that could get us excited every day and reveal the grace of God in our lives. We could think about the wonders of the universe and how God made this grand cosmos so we could have one planet to live on. We could go inward and think about the wonder of our own bodies and how even a tiny cell in our bodies is a living factory. We could also turn and look at our neighbor and realize that our fellow man is always a fascinating story. I have said before that a good producer could take the life story of any living human being and turn it into a highly popular major motion picture. Why? Because people are interesting.

Wonder is just something that we’ve lost. We’ve lost it because we take everything for granted. It’s become a truism for us that Christianity is true and we don’t often look at just how radical it is that Christianity is true. Do we really consider what that means?

Let’s also talk about forgiveness. Think about it. You will never face eternal judgment for all the things you’ve done wrong and you rightly deserve that eternal judgment. God is not going to give you what you deserve. Instead, more often than not, we’re whining because God doesn’t give us something that we want. It has been a great help in my life to realize that God doesn’t owe me a thing unless He’s promised it to me. That makes me more prone to view everything I have as a gift.

When I spoke about Bible reading, we take it for granted. How many of us have Bibles just sitting on our shelves? Do we not realize how many people in persecuted countries would love to have a Bible? If they have just a page of the Bible, they study that constantly hanging on to every word. We treat it like it’s a book just like any other book. We don’t realize what a privilege we have that we can read the Bible.

It is a privilege that you can go to church freely and worship. We in the West often whine about persecution. We really don’t have a clue what real persecution is like. The day that your life is in danger because you go to church because someone wants to kill you for that, I will say you know what persecution is.

I just have to pause and ask myself why is it that I don’t really take the time to appreciate and celebrate the good things that I have. As an apologist, am I more interested in showing Christianity is true than also learning what a difference it makes? I need both. Some of us have strived to be so sure that our doctrine is right that we haven’t bothered to see if our Christian walk is right.

I also don’t want to be legalistic in this. My wife and I still joke about hearing a Christian conspiracy theorist talk about the Pokemon Go game and saying that while some of you are out there playing that, you could be doing evangelism. Of course, that can lead to any number of bizarre ideas. You could take your wife out on a date which is really helpful to your marriage, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to sleep, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to church and worship, but you could be doing evangelism. I am not at all saying we are to be machines doing evangelism and nothing else at all.

I am just saying that I want to watch myself and I suspect a lot of you want to watch yourself. I am honestly hopeful that some of you are reading this and saying “I hear you. I could bear to get some joy over Christianity.” I want it to be that when people look at my life, they know that Christ is a passion for me.

If anything else seems like a greater passion, the goal is not to love that less. Not at all. C.S. Lewis said it’s always the goal to love Christ more. What sense does it make to say “I’m going to love X less so that it gets below my love for Christ.”? Why not raise your love for Christ?

I do think apologetics is greatly important for this. It shows us that Christianity is true and not just an idea. Once we know it is true, the onus is on us. What are we going to be doing with that? If we do not let it change the way we live our lives, do we really believe it? Maybe we do, but has it really sunk in?

Our lives are gifts, and God gave us many things that we can enjoy. There are many other gods vying for our attention. Sex, money, food, pleasure, popularity, etc. None of these are evils in themselves. All of them we can enjoy when we do so rightly, but let us never look at any of these as our ultimate. None of them can deliver for all time like Christ did. They are fine when enjoyed as Christ would have us enjoy them, but not when they become gods themselves.

Do I plan on improving myself? Yes. As an apologist it is something I have to do. There are many times our actions speak so loudly our words can’t be heard. How can I convey the importance Christ has in my life if people look at my life and don’t see that importance? (This is in fact one reason I am so pro-marriage. We Christians should be living marriage out the best so that the world will know the fake interpretation of it and think that Christians have the best marriages of all.)

I hope you’ll join me on this quest.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/5/2012: John Koessler

What’s coming up Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

First off, we’re getting started on putting new episodes up. I’ve got some of the sound issues worked out so hopefully we’ll be on schedule again soon. Having said that, what are we going to be talking about when this Saturday comes?

In the apologetics world, we can often be running at full throttle most of the time. There are people to answer and books to read and debates to watch. Let’s not forget that many a spouse has become an apologetics widow. We get so busy doing this and that and we fear falling behind and before too long, we just can’t take it anymore. Do we need to maybe take a break?

Is it proper to ever rest when the Kingdom is what we’re working for? Can a soldier ever stop on the battlefield and rest? If there are souls at stake, by what reasoning can it be said that we should not be working with all our might at our duties? To answer these questions, I’ve brought on someone who does not work primarily in apologetics, but whose book I think can help, and that’s Dr. John Koessler. Who is he?

koessler

According to his bio:

John Koessler serves as Chair & Professor in the Division Applied Theology and Church Ministry at Moody Bible Institute where he has been a member of the faculty since 1994. He is an award-winning author who has written ten books including The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap (InterVarsity, 2016), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment: Finding Hope When God Seems to Fail Us(Moody, 2013), Folly Grace and Power: The Mysterious Act of Preaching (Zondervan, 2011), and True Discipleship: The Art of Following Jesus (Moody, 2003). He has contributed articles to Christianity Today, Mature Living, Leadership Journal, Discipleship Journal, Decision, and Moody Magazine. He also writes a monthly column for Today in the Word entitled “Theology Matters,” and is a regular contributor to that publication’s devotionals. Prior to joining the faculty of Moody, John was pastor of Valley Chapel in Green Valley, Illinois, for nine years.

How can the Christian properly integrate all that they need to do in their life with rest? What is rest? Is it proper to actually not be engaging in study and debate and actually just be taking a break with the loved ones? Furthermore, how does this work with worship? What is worship and are we really doing it? Could it be that sometimes we’re so eager to get people to come and fall on their knees before Jesus that we don’t often go and do that ourselves?

Join me this Saturday as I interview John Koessler on this. We’ll be talking about the proper role that rest plays in the life of a Christian and what difference it makes. We’ll also be talking about the need for worship and why it is that we should actively participate in worship. Be watching your Podcast feed for this one and please consider going and leaving a positive review on the Deeper Waters ITunes page.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Radical Pursuit of Rest

What do I think of John Koessler’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a day and age where technology should have made it easier for us to do anything. We were expecting a Jetsons world where we just go and push a button and everything gets done for us. The irony is that with most every invention of technology meant to save time for us, we in fact often have less time left.  We want to produce constantly. Do we ever take the time to just rest?

Koessler argues that rest is essential and we get caught in a trap of productivity. Of course we should produce, but we are not machines. We cannot work 24/7. We in fact often live to work instead of realizing the purpose of work is often so that we won’t have to work. It is to free us for leisure and rest.

How many people go on vacation and still do work? Thus far, I have avoided this. The last vacation I managed to get to go on was my honeymoon with my wife a little over six years ago at Ocean Isle Beach. I made a commitment before I left and spoke about it with my parents and in-laws. No contact for us. Don’t call us. Just let us be. The only book I brought with me was my Bible. I had my IPhone with me, but I used it for GPS mainly. I did not check email. I did not check Facebook. There would be plenty of times later to put up pictures of the wedding and such. There were plenty of other people who could do ministry while I was gone. This week was to focus on me and my new bride.

I have no regrets from that decision.

Unfortunately, many do not make such a decision ever. They come home from the office and bring the office with them. This is even what happens in the case of ministry. A man can neglect his family because this is the work of God. He forgets his first work of God is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and to teach his children the fear of God.

Koessler’s book is a reminder for us to take a break. The anxiety we feel about the future is in fact a failure to trust in God. We don’t rest because we think we have to keep producing. We have to in order for God to also care for us. There is no rest and if we do stop and rest, we beat ourselves up with guilt.

In fact, Koessler tells us that sloth can be related to noonday madness. It can be seen as constant busyness. We keep busy for the sake of keeping busy. It’s like the employees in the office who hear the boss is coming and all of a sudden solitaire and emails go down, Pokemon Go gets turned off, and everyone starts acting like they’ve been working hard.

Koessler also writes about ambition. Now ambition I think is fine if you want to be excellent at what you do. We should all want that. The problem can often be when you don’t delight in others and their successes and only keep thinking about yourself. That ambition is often connected with our pride.

Koessler talks about worship as rest as well. Worship at churches often turns into a performance where we have to work the audience up and by the way, that isn’t enough because if you’re truly devoted to the church you’ll sign up for all these programs. Helping out the church with other programs is fine, but let’s remember that worship is a fine goal in itself.

Of course, something has to be said about the digital age. I know of the trap for as I sit here writing, I have my email and Facebook opened and I hear the news program my wife is watching. Multi-tasking is a way of life for me. There are times you just want to see what happened on Facebook and realize you’ve spent about an hour or so browsing on it and to what end?

For my final positive, I appreciate Koessler’s honesty. He does write about having a hard time sleeping at night. He does write about struggles with ambition. He does write about worship services and sermons that he frankly finds boring at times. These show me that Koessler is with me on the journey.

Despite that there are many positives to this book and it’s a good wake-up call, I do have some recommendations for change. For instance, what exactly is rest? Koessler differentiates it from sleep, but it’s still not clear what it really is. What also would be its relation to play? If I take a break from reading and studying and go play a game, am I resting? If I go out on a date with the wife, is that rest? Would snuggling together on the couch to watch a movie be considered rest? I don’t remember any real clarification on what rest is and I definitely would like to see how play fits into this.

Still, Koessler’s book leaves you with plenty of food for thought. I have been thinking quite often about his concept of worship. I’m pleased to know Koessler is on the same journey as well.

What is Praise?

What does it mean to praise? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I read a passage of Scripture together every night and lately we’ve been going through the Psalms. Last night, we read a Psalm where praise was highly emphasized and I try to think about what we read at night as I go to sleep and I wondered what praise was. It’s one of those questions that we would think is so easy to answer, but maybe it isn’t.

Praise is a matter of giving honor where honor is due. It is saying that God deserves all that we give Him. In the ancient society, everyone was clamoring for honor, and in fact, this was not condemned, but what was needed was to point out that God deserves honor. God is the one who has the most honor by virtue of His being, but we can give Him even more honor by giving Him more to show His reputation and worth in our eyes.

Could it be that sometimes one of our problems with worship services with music is that it has all become about entertainment and application. We leave a worship service wanting to feel better about ourselves often by hearing how the music has benefited us. We want to hear a sermon about how we can be good people in the world. How often are we allowed to enter into the grandeur of God by worship?

For us to have a worship service and we look at only the benefit we get is to picture a wife making love to her husband and at the end only saying “Well that felt good” and not giving her husband and thanks or praise for his great love for her. True worship could leave us feeling good, but it could be it could leave us feeling miserable. It could leave us feeling convicted. A true sermon will have application for our lives, but it will be more than just self-help. It will draw us into the grandeur and glory of God and knowing who He is.

Praise will also result in dying to ourselves. It will mean that we realize we are not the center of the universe and that God is greater than we are. This is something that believe it or not, we have to realize. Many times it can be hard for us to think about God, and this includes myself. It’s mind-blowing to think that everything in this world is usually more interesting to us than God.

When we come to realize who God is and what He has done for us and live lives of gratitude and honor to God, we will find ourselves more focused on His Name than on ours. We will be looking at what we can do for the glory of God instead of what God can do for the glory of us. True praise will result not necessarily in good emotions, though it can do that, and good behavior, though it can do that, but go beyond that and result in holiness and Christlikeness on our lives. If we are not growing in those areas, perhaps we should ask if we are truly praising God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Case For The Psalms

Do Christians today really need the Psalms? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As readers of this blog know, N.T. Wright’s work is just gold to me. N.T. Wright brings so much life to the biblical text by sharing the historical context making it a deeper and deeper work to be appreciated. In fact, Wright was a major influence in getting me to switch my major to NT.

Yet in his book “The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential”, Wright turns to this important OT book, a book I honestly rarely see scholars engaging with, except for how it relates to the NT. Wright does some of that, but he also brings out the importance of it on its own.

The Psalms we must remember were the hymns of the early church and the first Christians. They were before Christ, the embodiment of the hope of Israel. They longed for what it is we all longed for and what was ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

Of course, this is not to say that new songs should not be written. Indeed, they should be. Yet so many of our songs lack the rich depth that can be found in the Psalms. How many of the songs we sing in church today really usher us into the amazement of knowing God in Christ? I can say that one that certainly does it for me today is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Whenever I hear that song, I simply have to sit down. I can’t stand and sing that song. I am humbled every time I hear it with the recognition that God is holy and without Him, I am not. With my interest in theology also, I am deeply appreciative that a song says “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

Perhaps our songs could learn something from the Psalms with the Psalms being the archetype that we all draw from when it comes to writing new songs today. These songs should embody our hopes that the Psalms themselves embodied. Wright goes into three areas.

First, the Psalms all hoped that God would redeem time. Many a Psalm points back to events when the God of Israel acted in the past in order to bring about a people. The reason of course was so that God could bring about a great future and that future had not yet come. Thus, the Israelites were living with a hope for the future and that hope was in the present unrealized.

Many of us today can still pray “How long O Lord? How long?” Yet the Psalmists were in many ways saying the exact same prayer and their stark honesty is refreshing. At times, the Psalmist chooses to point the finger not at fallen humanity or the devil or forces of evil, but at God Himself. Why is God doing or not doing something? The Psalms would be a way of saying to God the promises He had made and looking with the hopeful future trust if not present trust that He would bring them about.

Second, the Psalms hoped that God would redeem space. The land of Israel was the sacred land to the people. Yet at times they had been removed from the land and when they returned, they were still in exile as a foreign power was in charge.

Not only that, where did God exactly dwell? That was a question. God had made His presence known in the Temple? Where was He when the temple was not there? How they longed for it! This is of course fulfilled in the NT when we have the living temple of Jesus come and then we read in 1 Corinthians that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, they longed for God to redeem matter. It is a gnostic view that this world is evil. Christianity says the world is good, but something has gone wrong with this good world. We can often get at the environmentalist movement for worshiping the creation seemingly, and some do, but we should not lose sight that this creation is the creation of God and it is good and He has a purpose for it.

All these three are still often our hopes and a work like this has taught me I need to go back and reread the Psalms and see the hope of Israel in them. It is not only myself but all of us who do. We need to look at the Psalms and ask why each Psalm was written and what was the purpose and notice the nuances of the beautiful poetry therein.

So once again, I am in debt to N.T. Wright for helping me to look at a portion of Scripture afresh. I am never disappointed by a work of Wright. May he write many more works and may God bless us with more scholars of the heart and caliber of N.T. Wright.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Good Are Our Churches?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been following closely the debate concerning my father-in-law, Mike Licona, and Norman Geisler. As I checked Mike’s facebook today, he wrote about being in South Africa and how after he gave a talk at a church on “Who Did Jesus Think He Was?” 37 came forward wanting to start an apologetics group.

Average church in America?

“Apologetics? Do I need to apologize for being a Christian?”

A lot of time and money is spent building new churches for people to go to. Many new churches can sadly start over reasons such as not being able to decide what color the carpet should have been in the old church. Of course, there are some that reach a specific group which is highly understandable, such as Korean churches. Many of us don’t speak Korean and we should be thankful for those who do starting churches provided they’re in line with orthodoxy.

But as I thought about that church in South Africa, I think about what’s going on in America I thought “Do we really need more churches?”

I just went to Google maps and had no trouble finding a church within a mile of where I live. If I expand the search, I can find many more churches very easily. Does anyone really think the problem that we have in America is that we just lack churches for people to go to?

Seriously. How many churches do you pass by on your average commute to and from the workplace? How many times are you saying “I really wish there was a church here in our area.”? Of course, what you could be saying is “I wish there was a good church in my area.” It’s like looking in the fridge and saying “There’s nothing to eat.” There usually is, but usually what you see in the fridge is not providing the desire that you have.

Could it be that the real problem is that we do not use the churches that we have? Too often in churches, we have pastors who are simply ignorant of the Bible and then produce a group of people who are also ignorant of the Bible. These churches are prey for groups like the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the New Atheists.

Study is a dirty word to the average person today. I was tempted to say the average layman, but even pastors can often pride themselves on their ignorance. They may not know what they’re talking about, but by golly, they have passion and they can count on the Holy Spirit to take that passion and override their ignorance.

How many people really think the Holy Spirit honors having to do the work for someone because they didn’t want to take the time to do it for themselves?

Something that we need to learn in the church is this. No matter how passionate you feel about a belief, that does not make that belief right. Of course, you could be entirely right, but do not think you are right just because you have a lot of passion.

I just got done recently reading Tim LaHaye’s “Rapture Under Attack” where he says that the reason the pre-trib position is spreading and growing is because it is just the teaching of the Bible and the Holy Spirit is blessing it!

Okay. Sure. That’s a possibility.

However, I also suspect I could read a post-trib author who would say “While this view has not been as popular, we do see it on the rise today because the Holy Spirit is showing people that it is in the Scriptures and giving it His blessing.”

Anyone can claim the Holy Spirit for their belief system. Anyone can say the success of the teaching spreading is because of the Holy Spirit. They could in turn say the reason a true teaching is not spreading is because of the hardness of the hearts of men. Whichever way you go, you can come up with a reason why a teaching is spreading or not spreading.

What needs to be done by everyone on every side of every debate is to focus on the reasons for why your view is true whether it is spreading or not. Let us keep in mind Mormonism has been on the rise throughout the world now and the Mormons would point to their message being true as the reason for that spread. They would say the Holy Spirit is confirming it by the burning in the bosom.

I do not doubt Mormonism is spreading. I do not doubt that Mormons feel something very strongly. I do doubt that it is the Holy Spirit. I am not a believer in Mormonism simply because I do not think the facts support Mormonism.

Facts. You know, maybe that’s what we need to get back to. Maybe we need to get to truth. It seems too often in our churches we are trying to get people to a feeling rather than to a mindset. We want people to feel Christianity is true. We don’t want them to think about why it is. We want people to feel the love of God. We don’t want them to think about what the love of God means. (That is no simple doctrine!) We want people to feel good about themselves. We don’t want them to think about what it means that they carry the image of God and what it means when they are told that they are sinners.

Of course, I am not against feelings, but feelings are to be in response to something. We have our beliefs based on our feelings when our feelings are based on our beliefs. If one is given good reasons for believing Jesus rose from the dead and one realizes they can understand and articulate those reasons and feel great as a result, praise God! If they have the reasons and can articulate it and are just not a feely type and don’t feel what the first person feels, praise God just as much!

And wouldn’t it be great to have churches doing that more than just being support groups? Now again, don’t misunderstand. Churches do need to be providing support. Members do need to be caring for one another. However, the church is not meant to be your local branch of Weight Watchers or Alcoholics Anonymous. I have no problem with churches letting such groups use their buildings. That’s fine. The church is meant to be more however. The church can help you diet. The church can help you maintain sobriety. The church is meant to do more. The church alone is the only organization that can teach forgiveness of sins through the God-man Jesus Christ.

When the church becomes just a social club, we have lost the point of it. It has become all about us instead of being all about God. What we need is the foundation of good theology rooted in Scripture and Christian thought throughout the ages and then from that foundation we can draw support for one another.

Let us also remember worship is not meant to be something just to make us feel good about ourselves. I really wish the church would return more to the classic hymns of the past. When I was growing up, I remember they sounded slow and boring, but now that I am older, I realize the rich depth that is within those songs that I have missed.

There are some songs sung in churches today that I will sit down during. I think some are outright wrong. Many are just shallow. A good worship service is seen as one where we leave feeling good, but we are not the ones who are to judge if a worship service is good. The service is not for us. It is for God. We often forget that we are worshiping Him. We are not putting on a concert.

The church has all that it needs today to be a powerful force. In America, we should be a country having a massive influence on the world scene with Christian witness. What do we have? We have a media that celebrates sex outside of marriage, abortion as the law of the land, homosexual advocates pushing for marriage, the idea that we need to be tolerant of Islam, Joyce Meyer and Joel O’Steen being seen as great Christian literature, political correctness being a reigning ideology, a church afraid to “offend” anyone, and the greatest threat to a church often seen as being when a new Harry Potter book comes out. (Which by the way, I thoroughly love the series for all concerned)

We have the most access. The internet can be found in the majority of homes today and while there’s a lot of junk on it, there’s also a lot of good stuff for those who will take the time to look. We have a huge number of ministries here with numerous educational resources. We have television and radio shows dedicated to the spread of the gospel. We have libraries and bookstores where people can find books to study. We also have enough wealth here to finance several ministries. We should be on the forefront in evangelism and Christian witness.

We are not.

And the solution is not to build more churches.

The solution is to use the churches we have built by filling them with Christians who know the Scriptures and can teach them accurately. We need songs that will edify and enrich our theological lives. We need to be aware with the media of our age and how to use it and how to interact with it. We need to be involved in government activities instead of running from them using our power as Christians to limit abortion, same-sex marriage, and other such practices. We need to be educating our youth and teaching them how to think. We need to be again establishing real Universities and Seminaries where Christian thinking can be spread.

Can we do it? Well we can. There is no doubt about that. We have the means to do so. It is not a question of can. It is a question of will. Will we do so?

I pray we will, for if we do not, it might not just be the case that in America, the next generation does not know of Christianity. It could be that there might not even be a next generation due to an America that fell away from its heritage in faith and lost its identity altogether. There might not be a nation to pass on to our descendants.

The choice is yours and mine where we go from here.