If you want to really know yourself, start by knowing God

Sunrise

Almost all the advice we’re given today starts with some version of being true to ourselves. We should know our personality types, our strengths, and our gifts. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, of course. In fact, it’s quite helpful. But if it’s where we start, aside from subscribing to a self-help methodology, we’re missing out on the bigger picture.

One of the reformers described that bigger picture this way: “Man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.”1 This is the right starting point. If we really want to know ourselves, it starts by knowing God. When our attention is focused on ourselves, we can easily become puffed up or vain. We might see our strengths, but we struggle to see our weaknesses. We only get half a picture, and a distorted one at that. Instead, we need to start with God, with his goodness, with his character, and his glory, because this helps us to get a better picture of ourselves. Know the One in whose image we have been made. Know God so we can know our need for him. Know God to know the character of the One who sacrificed all to meet our need.

This is what protects us from pride and folly. It’s what helps us to live as we were meant to. If you really want to know yourself, start with knowing God.

  1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Comment at: http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2017/05/28/want-really-know-start-knowing-god/

The Curious Christian

~ Aaron Armstrong

People who know Emily or me knows we’re generally curious people. By that, I don’t mean that we’re odd (although we are Canadian). I mean we’re inquisitive. We like learning. We’re always reading. We like to try new foods and restaurants (despite what one of my coworkers suggests). These are good characteristics, ones we want to pass on to our kids, too.1

So reading Barnabas Piper’s new book, The Curious Christian, was a very affirming activity for me. Not because I’m a fan of confirmation bias, but because he’s noticed some of the same things I have: many people—especially Christians—aren’t all that curious. In fact, it might be fair to say that they don’t necessarily see curiosity as a good thing. But in writing this book, Piper wants his readers to recognize that curiosity is a good gift from God. A gift that allows us to grow in our relationships with others, the world around us, and with God himself.

A better vision, not another program

Here’s what you’re not going to find in this book. You won’t find seven step processes and how-tos for becoming more curious. That’s because curiosity isn’t something that can be systematized. It can’t be turned into a simple program because it’s a way of life. That’s what you’ll see again and again as you read this book as he first offers a vision of a curiosity-fueled Christian life (the “why”), then explores seven areas of our lives where curiosity matters (the “what”), and concluding with one chapter on the how of curiosity.

In other words, if you’re someone who relishes steps and systems, this book might drive you mad. But, as Piper himself writes, “Curiosity doesn’t have a recipe. It’s not like baking cookies. If it was, it wouldn’t be very curious, would it?” (153)

So if there’s not a series of steps and guidelines, why should anyone read this book? Here are three key areas where I found it helpful (and a brief attempt to apply it in each):

Continue at: http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2017/04/10/curious-christian/

Rejoice! We worship a God we can’t control

worship

I was reading a really sweet book in a big box bookstore recently, considering whether or not it would be one worth bringing home for my family. It was a kids book, one written to tell children that God delights in them, which is certainly true. But it seemed to go a step further. It put the child in the center of all God’s hopes and dreams, as though the child is what God lives for.

This is not a “we should feel bad about the idea that God loves us” post, by the way. That’s not really my jam, anyway. God absolutely loves and delights in his people. But what stopped me from purchasing this book is that I want my kids to have a bigger picture of God than this book offered. I don’t want them to see themselves as being at the center of God’s dreams, because, frankly, that’s way too much pressure.

I want them to see God as approachable and as a God who delights in them and rejoices over them as Scripture says he does. But I want them to rejoice in knowing his happiness isn’t dependent upon them. That we don’t worship a God who can be manipulated or controlled in that way.

This is going to be one of those, “Jesus is not safe” posts, isn’t it? Well, sure, but only because it bears repeating. There is a difference between approachable and safe. An approachable Jesus is the one we find in Scripture. The one who invites us to come boldly before the throne of grace. A Jesus who humbles himself and takes the form of a servant, submitting himself to obedience, even to the point of death. If one might be so bold, he is approachable because he approached us.

There is a difference between approachable and safe. An approachable Jesus is the one we find in Scripture. The one who invites us to come boldly before the throne of grace. A Jesus who humbles himself and takes the form of a servant, submitting himself to obedience, even to the point of death. If one might be so bold, he is approachable because he first approached us.

Read more: http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2017/03/19/rejoice-worship-god-cant-control/

Joy and theology belong together

It seems to be rare to hear the words “theology” and “joy” together. Dour, grumpy, maybe on a good day affable… but joy? Nah…

And that’s a shame because it’s one of the things I love most about theology. It’s why I care about it and why I study it. Why I write about it and talk about it and read about it. Theology is all about joy.

Continue at: http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2017/03/22/joy-theology-belong-together/

I need community

large_6681037203

I pulled up to the church building last night. It was nearly 6 PM, just a few minutes before our small group was going to meet. Emily and the kids were already there, thanks to the Walker family. I got out of the car, feeling the weariness in my bones.

I’d been up since 4 AM, and spent nearly half of my waking hours in the car, driving to and from Knoxville. I was tired, though not particularly cranky (which is a good thing). My kids ran over and attached themselves to my legs, which put a smile on my face. A short while later, we were all sitting around on a couch in the office, sharing our high and low points of the week, discussing a book we’re all reading, and more. Lots of laughter, a bit of friendly ribbing, and some serious discussion ensued.

It was a good night.

Continue: http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2016/09/19/community/

A passage to pray with joy

Psalms-freely-10082

As I’ve been working to recharge my spiritual batteries, I’ve been working to refocus my prayer life as much as possible. And one of the ways I’m doing that is to pray through a passage of Scripture (usually a psalm). Sometimes I get through the entire psalm, other times I might only get through a few lines. Recently, as I turned to my Bible and began to pray in Psalm 5, I felt compelled to focus on verses 4-6:

For You are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil cannot dwell with You.
The boastful cannot stand in Your presence;
You hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who tell lies;
the Lord abhors a man of bloodshed and treachery.

Continue: http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2016/02/22/pray-with-joy/

Don’t apologize for the Bible

BIble-glasses

Have you had one of those moments reading the Bible where you just said, “I don’t like that”? Not that you were denying what was there, of course—but as you read, you found the text felt very strange. Almost alien. Whether it was a passage wherein God punished his grumbling people in the wilderness, or reading of his laws regarding intimate relationships, Jesus insisting on his divinity throughout the gospels, or maybe the entire book of Revelation—you can’t help but have moments reading the Bible when you have to stop and say, “I don’t get it,” or “I don’t like it.”

There is more: http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2016/02/18/dont-apologize-bible/