Kingdom, Power, and Glory: H.C. Question 128

What does your conclusion to this prayer mean? 
 
Romans 10:11-13 – As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
 
2 Peter 2:9 – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.
 
Psalm 115:1 – Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
 
John 14:13 – And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.


May Your Name be Holy: H.C. Lord’s Day 47

 Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 47

Q 122: What does the first petition mean? 
A 122: “Hallowed be your name” means: Help us to truly know you, to honor, glorify, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.

And it means, Help us to direct all our living—what we think, say, and do—so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised.
 
The “petitions” of the Lord’s prayer begin with a phrase: “Hallowed be Your Name.”  This has typically been seen as a declaration that God’s Name is Holy, and that is not necessarily wrong.  God’s Name is Holy, far and above every other name that has ever been or ever will be.
 
However, as we think about the Lord’s prayer, we always should keep in front of us that this isn’t a set of magic words that God gave us to repeat mindlessly so as to earn His favor.  No, in the moment that Jesus speaks these words, He is teaching His disciples to pray.  Like everything else, Jesus doesn’t impose a sort of “law” on them, but instead, it is a lesson on the direction, content, and purpose of our prayers.
 
So, while a statement that God’s name is Holy certainly stands on its own, what this phrase is teaching us flows much deeper.  Beginning here reminds us not just of who we are talking to, our Holy Father in heaven, but it also speaks the purpose of the moment of prayer into our thoughts and minds.  What is that purpose?  To glorify God.
 
It is very easy to come to the Lord in prayer with our requests, our worries, our fears, and our need for forgiveness.  In fact, far too often we treat God as a sort of “cosmic vending machine” that will give us what we think we need when we ask.  The reality, for us, however, is much deeper and much more important than this.  When we come to God in prayer, it should be our desire and ultimate purpose that God’s name is glorified and honored through our words and actions. 
 
Prayer is a worshipful experience.  In all worship, our desire is that the object of our worship is the one person/thing that is receiving all of our attention.  For believers, that one person is always God; there is nothing and no one else.  Anything being worshipped apart from God is an idol.
 
Traditionally, we teach our children that they should “fold their hands” and “close their eyes” when we pray.  There is nothing Scripturally sound about this teaching as far as I know.  God doesn’t listen to us more when we intertwine our fingers or close our eyes.  It is possible, however, that we might listen to Him more when we do.
 
Current trends in Christianity are moving toward a sort of “me and Jesus” mentality, where church and other ‘religious’ things don’t necessarily matter so much.  There are some great things that have come from this, like the idea of prayer as a conversation and relationship builder.  Others have not been so great, like Christian individualism… but we’ll talk about that another time.
 
Prayer as a conversation is a wonderful image.  We aren’t just going to God with our lists, but instead, we are to Him to hear from Him and talk to Him.  In a conversation, the person we are talking to has our full attention; when we are distracted by phones, people, or objects, we both lose focus and dishonor the relationship.  Sadly, this has become normal for us in human-human interaction and these bad habits have crept into our prayer life as well.  Perhaps there is something to a sort of devotional prayer that involves silence, eyes closed and hands folded.
 
In any case, the purpose of the first declaration is both to declare to God our intentions in the moment and to remind ourselves of its purpose as well.
 
We have a tendency to do things out of habit; sometimes we even call it “tradition.”  Have you ever thought about the holidays?  There are so many things that we do during the Thanksgiving & Christmas seasons, but why?  We put lights on our houses and on trees… we buy loads of gifts of things that will probably be discarded within months… but why?  We run from house to house, family to family, worried about seeing all the people but not actually being present with them or our own families… but why?
 
Does all of that honor the coming of our Savior?  Or do we just do it because we’ve always done it that way?  When we come to our Lord in prayer, do we honor Him with that time, worshipping Him and giving our full attention?  In the same way that we need to “remember the reason for the season,” we need to remember the reason we come before our heavenly Father in prayer.  We don’t just come to Him because His Name is Holy, we come before Him to glorify the Holiness of His Name.


Hallowed Name: H.C. Question 122 (Part 1)

What does the first petition [hallowed be your name] mean? 
 
Jeremiah 9:23-24 – This is what the Lord says:  “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
 
Jeremiah 31:33-34 – “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”  declares the Lord.  “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
 
Matthew 16:17 – Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
 
John 17:3 – Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
 
Exodus 34:5-8 – Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
 
Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.
 
Matthew 5:16 – In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
 
Psalm 115:1 – Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.


Psalm 89:8-18 "I Believe in God…"



Good Good Father: H.C. Lord's Day 9

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 9

Q 26: What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?
A 26: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ the Son.

I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world.

God is able to do this because he is almighty God, and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

It did not use to be a great thing for one to say that they “believe in God.”  In fact, most people, if approached, would say that they believe in a divine being or creative power of some sort that, at the very least, created this universe and started it on its path.  But is this enough?  Can we hold to a very basic belief in something bigger than ourselves, calling ourselves “spiritual” but not “religious,” and get along well in this world?  Sure…  Is is enough for salvation?  No.

Scripture points out that this kind of faith, a simple belief in God, is the same faith that the Satan’s demons have.  And, while this general belief in God doesn’t seem to have a great impact on most humans, the demons’ belief makes them shudder (James 2:19).

As the question and answer 26 indicate, there is so much more to know about and wonder at in God, it stretches us beyond the limits of our ability to think and conceptualize.  Much of this we know as the attributes of God, some of which God shares with us and others that are solely God’s own.

One such attribute that belongs solely to God, something we call an “incommunicable” attribute, and something that goes far beyond our ability to understand, is God’s eternal nature.  Time itself is a concept that does not apply to God.  You may have heard the phrase “I have all the time in the world…”, but God literally holds time in His hand.  There has never been a time where God wasn’t.  Before anything was a thing, God was present and in eternal, perfect, trinitarian communion.

God’s eternal nature leads us to another belief that we hold to which God as the sole source of creation.  This belief is known as Creatio ex Nihilo, or creation out of nothing.  More specifically this means that God created the whole universe out of nothing; He simply spoke it into being and did so before there was even an “it” to speak to.  While this may seem like a relatively obvious thing, but it is profoundly important.  If part of the nature of God is that God is eternal, whereas nothing else is, then we effectually deny what science would tell us about the “Big Bang” and any pre-existent matter.  While the happening of the Big Bang may be the way in which God began creation, and there certainly is evidence to show that possibility, what science cannot and has not been able to prove is what happened in the seconds and eons before that event.  What is important, however, is that we understand that nothing existed alongside God prior to creation.  If we allow for something to exist alongside the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) prior to creation, we are either elevating that thing to the same status as God or lowering God’s status to the realm of a thing; neither are true.  God is God; everything else is a creature, created by God.

Another thing that is, sadly, often forgotten when it comes to belief in God is His continual sustaining and providing action in the world.  Deism, the belief in an uninvolved divine being, has largely become the norm of belief in the world.  Many who believe in a higher being or an intelligent creator, also believe that He/She/It is no longer actively involved in the world.  Like a clockmaker who builds the clock, winds it us, and then lets it go, so too do we think God has done that with the universe and we are here just waiting for time to run its course.  That is, however, not what Christians (should) believe about God.  Scripture reveals to us a God who is loving and active, working His will in the world toward the redemption and restoration of the whole world.  We see this most vividly in the person of Jesus Christ, God incarnate.  If God were an uninvolved deity, the coming of Christ would be completely contradictory to God’s nature, arbitrarily showing up and a random point in time to bring salvation, only to disappear back into the sky with a promise (or perhaps threat) that He will come back some day as well.

All of theology moves us toward trust.  The purpose of our discussions here as we take the posture of “faith seeking understanding,” is one in which we are moving deeper and deeper toward trust in God.  Scripture reveals a loving God who is intimately aware of everything that is happening in His creation and one who is working to bring all things together under Chirst.  Paul writes that “all things work together for the good of those who love God,” and that is what we understand to be happening and what will happen when Jesus returns to set up His eternal Kingdom here and God dwells with us forever.



Day 329: Romans 11-13; In View of God's Mercies

Paul closes out the the second section of his letter to the church in Rome continuing his discussion on salvation and how the people of Israel and the Gentile fit into it.  One of the things that he points out is that through God’s work in Jesus Christ, God has not rejected His chosen people of Israel and neither has He turned from them to try some sort of “plan B” for the salvation of the world.  Paul reveals to us that this has always been a part of God’s plan.  God has been working for the salvation of the world since the time of the fall and He always knew that there was no way that humanity could do it for themselves.  Paul has talked about this throughout the book of Romans, how the Law was never intended to save and neither was living in a particular way something that was supposed to bring about salvation or perfection.  In fact, all of what God did in the Old Testament, all the law and the prophets, all of God’s self revelation were preparation for the coming of Jesus that God’s people would recognize their savior and that all believers would have a context for understanding Jesus’ work to bring about our salvation.  It would be much more difficult for us to understand and recognize Jesus’ sacrifice if we didn’t have, say, the Hebrew sacrificial system.  In the same way there are a great deal of Jesus’ teachings that don’t make too much outside of the context of the Old Testament Scriptures.

So this is all well and good… actually this is great!  God, in Christ has reached down to us and lifted us out of our misery, out of the sin that has enslaved us since the very first sinful act back in the garden.  It is by grace alone that this has taken place, because of God’s great love for us.  Certainly it is not because of anything that we have done to show ourselves as worthy and, I think, if we are honest with ourselves, we understand this because we know that the deepest desires of our heart and they are selfish, self honoring, and self absorbed.  If this is the case though, that there is nothing we can do to bring ourselves closer to God, and there is nothing that we can do to make ourselves righteous, do we even have to try to do anything good?  Paul would say “absolutely!”  This is what we come to as we open chapter 12.

Paul opens chapter 12 with the word “therefore” which is a key word for us to pick up on.  It means that Paul isn’t starting something new here but saying “because of all that I have just said, now…”  This is exactly what He is getting at here.  He writes, “by the mercies of God…”  Other translations right “in view of God’s mercies…”  What Paul is getting at here is that what He is about to say is completely dependent on what he has just said.  What is to come should happen because of what has already taken place.  That is the truth of our lives as people of God too isn’t it?  What is to come in our lives, our whole lives, is to be lived out in light of all that God has already done for us.  James Brownson, in his book The Promise of Baptism, writes, “In the Bible, our identity is not found in our past, but in Christ’s past, which is our future.  Our truest and deepest self is defined not by what we have experienced in the past, but by what Christ experience and accomplished for us.”  I think this is a very good way of restating what Paul is saying here, we are “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  Paul is saying here that what has been given to us requires a response, and that response, one again, is that “Shema style” of living in which we are loving God with our heart, soul, mind and strength.

He then says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  It isn’t simply that we are supposed to love God while we just do whatever we want.  God also calls us to be set apart for Him, to live lives that are honoring and pleasing to Him.  To do this, we need to be continually following after God, continually being that “living sacrifice,” not because we are trying to make ourselves more righteous, but out of gratitude for all that Christ has done for us.  All that follows, from Chapter 12 onward is written in this light, talking about how we are to live.  Again though, this is not in the restriction style that the law was interpreted as, but in freedom from sin that we have been given in Christ, through which we are called to live in GRATEFUL obedience to Jesus Christ.



Day 300: Luke 10-11; Learning to Pray

Today’s reading encompasses a great deal parables, teachings, and miracles of Jesus.  I am planning on covering some of that tomorrow.  Our reading today also touches on the Lord’s prayer, or at least Luke’s version of it.  Prayer is one of the most important parts of the Christian life, and therefore I think that our Lord’s teaching on prayer should be mentioned sometime in this blog.  Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer is somewhat shorter than it’s Matthew counterpart though, so we will be drawing from both sections.

Both Matthew and Luke’s prayer begin with praise and acknowledgement of God’s holiness.  “Father, hallowed (or holy) is Your name.”  As we enter into prayer, I think that this is a good and appropriate way to orientate ourselves to the one we are praying to.  As creatures of the creator, redeemed sinners coming before a gracious and holy God, it is important for us to remember our true place in the world.  Though God invites us to pray and encourages us to bring our needs before Him, God is still God and we need to remember and acknowledge this as we enter into His presence.

The next words that both Luke and Matthew record are that of asking God to bring His Kingdom.  We pray “Your Kingdom come…” and related to this in Matthew is “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  While talk of the Kingdom of God differs in the idea of what this means, the reference to God’s work on earth throughout history towards the restoration of creation is certainly at or near the center.  Ultimately, this is the will of God too, to bring all of creation back to its original state, the perfection in which it was created.  God has been working for this throughout history, culminating in Jesus Christ coming which hailed the kingdom of heaven here on earth.  Right now we are living in the time in between that and when we will see it in its fullness, the already but not yet period where we are waiting for God to bring all this to an end and reconcile all things to Himself.

It is at this point, when we have oriented ourselves before God and prayed for His will in the world that we then turn to our own needs.  We ask God for “our daily bread” knowing and trusting that God is going to give us all that we need for life.  Jesus talks about through throughout His ministry and teaching, telling us not to worry and showing us how God will provide as He always does.  I think what is important here, not that God’s provision isn’t important or anything because it most definitely is, would be the order in which these things come in the prayer.  Too often we come before God and just rattle off a list of things that we need as if God was some sort of a cosmic vending machine.  Jesus is showing us the appropriate way in which we should be praying to God, the appropriate orientation and therefore the appropriate order.

Jesus moves on from there to asking the Lord for forgiveness.  Again, I think that this is an appropriate place for this, and not just because this is where Jesus put it.  Coming from the Reformed Tradition, and being quite dutch in my heritage, I know what it is like to feel bad about the things that I have done or those things that I failed to do.  So very often we focus in on the fact that we are sinners and need forgiveness.  We are sinners…  we are sinners… Lord have mercy… forgive us… Apart from the things that we need, I would say that this section is the place at which we find ourselves praying so very often.  Yet we don’t need to be stuck in “guilt mode prayer.”  We are not people that have no hope, we live in the reality that grace has already been extended to us!  Jesus has died!  We have been forgiven!  Yes, we sin… but we are FORGIVEN!  This is our current reality and we need to live into it rather than just focusing in on our sins.

Finally we come to the last part of this prayer.  This can probably be the most confusing part of it as well.  Why would we ask God not to lead us into temptation?  God doesn’t tempt.  He doesn’t even make bad things happen to us.  So why do we say this?  I think a more contemporary translation that we use at seminary maybe makes a bit more sense here: “Save Us from the time of Trial.”  Perhaps it just seems to fit more with the phrase in Matthew “deliver us from evil (or the evil one).”  I think it makes more sense with what we know about God as well.  God is not the source of evil, but He does allow us to go through difficult times.  Jesus knew this as He was teaching his Disciples this prayer.  He too would face evil in its greatest assault.  Though Jesus did not want to go through this time, and even prayed that God would take the cup from Him (save us from the time of trial?), yet He resigned to what the will of God the Father was and willingly went through it (deliver us from evil?).  I think that these fit seamlessly together here and round out the Lord’s prayer quite well.

For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the glory forever, Amen.



Day 292: Mark 7-9; Transfiguration

Today we read about the ministry that Jesus continues to do as He moves from Galilee to other parts of the region of Canaan as He begins to make His way towards Jerusalem.  There are a lot of familiar narratives that take place in today’s reading, much of which we read in the Gospel of Matthew and will read again in the Gospel of Luke.  There is a noticeable shift in Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Mark over that of the Gospel of Matthew in that Jesus is interacting with many Gentiles and healing people outside of the Jewish heritage more so than he did in Matthew.  Some people might consider this a discrepancy in the Gospels, but the reality of the matter still has to do with the audience that these writers are writing to.  Matthew’s goal was to show that Jesus was the Messiah that the Jews were waiting for, therefore he focused a great deal on the like and ministry of Jesus with the Jews.  Mark’s purpose of writing was to show the events of Jesus’ life as they pertained to all people, therefore he isn’t so concerned with who Jesus is interacting with as much as He is concerned with the content of the interactions.

In light of the repetitive nature of today’s reading, not that repeating things like this is bad, I would really like to take a moments to talk through something that we didn’t have a chance to talk about in the book of Matthew, that is Jesus transfiguration.  We are presented with a narrative that contains within it images that are similar to those of the prophets and even the book of Revelation.  Jesus, while on the mountain with His three closest disciples, is “transfigured” before them.  This word ‘transfigured’ comes from the Greek word μεταμορφόω (pronounced metamorphoō – from which we get the word metamorphosis) and literally means to undergo a change in physical or external form or a spiritual transformation.  For me, this conjures up images of the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, something that is rather commonplace turning into something of extraordinary beauty.  Yet the text tells us that this was like nothing they had ever seen before.  Jesus’ clothes were whiter than any garment could be bleached.  John Calvin, in his commentary on the transfiguration says this about what the disciples saw:

“His transfiguration did not altogether enable his disciples to see Christ, as he now is in heaven, but gave them a taste of his boundless glory, such as they were able to comprehend… Thus in ancient times God appeared to the holy fathers, not as He was in Himself, but so far as they could endure the raise of His infinite brightness… There is no necessity for entering here into ingenious inquiries as to the whiteness of his garments, or the brightness of his countenance; for this was not a complete exhibition of the heavenly glory of Christ, but, under symbols which were adapted to the capacity of the flesh, he enabled them to taste in part what could not be fully comprehended.”  -John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke; Vol. 1.

Every commentary that I have read talks about the Transfiguration as being a very particular revealing of Jesus divinity in a life in which His humanity is often emphasized.  Sometimes I think we forget this contrast, this paradox of Jesus being both completely human and completely divine at the same time.  Calvin points out here that what the disciples are seeing is a “translated” image of the true glory of Jesus, seen in a way that the mortal disciples would be able to comprehend.  God’s true glory is like a completely foreign language to us, so foreign in fact that we have absolutely no way of comprehending it.  In every vision that we see recorded of God, we get a description of human(ish) features and are so much more real, more glorified than we are, and yet this is still just a translation of the true glory and nature of God, something we will never know truly on this earth.  The Transfiguration is an in-breaking of the heavenly, divine aspect of Jesus into this reality.  Jesus divinity is confirmed by the voice of God here, in the same Words that were used at Jesus’ baptism: “This is My Son whom I Love.  Listen to Him!

Some commentaries on this event talk about the significance of Elijah and Moses appearing and talking with Jesus in this time.  Moses and Elijah were two of the greatest figures of the Hebrew Scriptures, both of which were taken away.  There are suggestions that this happens for the disciples benefit, to prove to them that Jesus is not a reincarnation of either one, but is exalted above both of them.  Another suggestion is that Elijah represented the prophets while Moses represented the Law.  Both of these could be true, or at the very least can help to color our reading of this passage.  However, I think that we would be remiss if we thought that those things were more important than what is happening with Jesus in this time.  We are seeing the true Divine, Son of God in the fullness of His glory, or at least what our human minds can understand.  One other thing is very true about this reading in all three Gospels in which it is recorded, from this point on Jesus sets His face towards Jerusalem, to His eventual death, and never looks back.



Day 274: Haggai 1-2; Priorities

The prophet Haggai was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah, one of the many returned exiles from Babylon under the reign of King Darius.  In fact, Haggai and his are mentioned in the book of Ezra.  Haggai returned with the first wave of exiles from Babylon.  After a few years of being in Jerusalem, the people had rebuilt their own houses and some of the city while the Temple, God’s house, stood in ruins.  Haggai’s message to the people was that they needed to get their priorities straight.  It was by the will of God that the people even returned to their homeland and to the city of God, yet right away they started in their bad habits again, thinking of themselves first.  Unlike some of the other prophets that had come before him, well accepted  by the people living in Jerusalem and they got right to work on rebuilding God’s house.

After the people had rebuilt the temple, we read in Ezra 3, that many of the old people, those who had seen the first Temple, wept at the sight of the second one because it was not as good.  These folks didn’t weep for themselves, but because they felt as though the second Temple had done an injustice to the Lord.  However, God spoke through Haggai again to remind them that it wasn’t the physical building, nor was it the things they adorned it with that made the Temple glorious, but it was the presence of God almighty there that fills the Temple with glory.  Here too we see a promise from God of a future glory, when all things will be made right again and the House of God will be in its fullest glory.

I think that one of the main themes in this story is that of priorities.  Too often we get our priorities completely mixed up, putting the things that we want over the things that God wants for us to do.  I’m sure that there wasn’t a sinister plot to not rebuild God’s house when the people returned.  They probably just got caught up in things like… surviving.  But Haggai points out that, once they had build their own houses, they needed to refocus their priorities and get to work on the things that were important.  This was one of the main reasons why they had returned to Jerusalem in the first place!  More important that the priorities here though is the reaction of the people to Haggai’s message.  They don’t hem and haw, they don’t call a consistory meeting or a town hall meeting, they don’t hire consultants to consider costs to see whether its worth it or not… THEY RESPOND and get to work!  This is what God wants from us when He speaks to us… when He shows us where we are mixed up in our priorities… He wants us to RESPOND.  I think that too often we try to think it through and see what we need to do rather than listen and do.  A great many movements from  God have been cut down in consistory meetings due to “lack of available funds.”  If God is calling us to do something, HE WILL PROVIDE all that we need to make it happen.  It may not be glorious.  It may not even be glamorous.  It might not look like the work of the Mega-Church a couple blocks away, but it will what God wants it to be: work for His Kingdom.



Day 266: Amos 7-9; The Same or Different?

The people of Israel were called to be a nation that was set apart from the nations of the world.  God called them to “be Holy as I am Holy” and to be a light to the nations.  However, as Amos points out here towards the end of his book, Israel had become the same as the “Cushites,” which is a group of people from the Nile region, namely Egypt.  God’s people were no better than the people that enslaved them, the people that they came from, and the people that they conquered.  Because of their sins, they would face the same destruction as these nations as well.

While I don’t think that things here completely translate, today’s reading made me wonder a great deal about where we stand as the Church in today’s culture.  There is so much talk around churches about being relevant and being able to speak to today’s culture.  We do things like use technology, play rock music (some that doesn’t even Christian), and even dumb the message of the Gospel into just living and being nice to people (Moralistic Therapeutic Deism).  All this we have done in an effort to reach more people, but I wonder as I’m writing this if that is really what we have done.  I wonder if we have not made some of the same mistakes as Israel did, running off after other nations, cultures, and gods rather than seek after the God that called them out of slavery and bondage and into a new life with a new identity.

As we have talked about before, the people of Israel were convinced that it was the land that God had given them that gave them their identity as God’s people.  Because the land was a promise from God, they thought that living there was enough to make them God’s people.  However, for Israel it was actually their command to live a Holy life, to Love the Lord with all their Heart, Soul, and Mind and to Love their neighbor as they loved themselves that they derived their identity.  They were to be set apart, to honor God with their lives and to be a witness to God among the nations.

Again, I am drawn to the question of how the Church is doing in this category.  Are we God’s people set apart and living in a way that both honors God and points others to Him?  Or are too busy trying to make ourselves look like the culture around us, squabbling about musical styles, and making sure that those that come in our doors think the way we do?  Is the Church called to cower in the face of culture, to curl up and let culture wash over us?  Or are we called to stand up in the midst of a morally declining culture and be a beacon of light that points to the good news of the Gospel of Christ Jesus in whom we find our ultimate identity?  I think it is the latter.