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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Does Theology Matter?

What if...

"How many angels could dance on the point of a pin?"

... is after all, a very helpful question?

Perhaps you are not familiar with this question.
Maybe you are someone who asks it quite often.

Let me explain.
One would usually not come across such a question unless you were in a conversation with someone who is attempting to simply mock the idea and/or minor points of theological reflection.

It is a question someone would ask if they were making fun of or pouring contempt on theology and the speculations of theologians.

It is a similar question to, "Could God create a rock so big that he could not lift it?"

(Answer: Yes, and he would drop it on you for asking such a dumb question.)

This is what many people think of when they think of theology. Old guys locked away asking questions, absorbed in meaningless debates over the most trivial, pointless questions, such as, "how many angels could fit onto the point of a pin?"

It leaves us sometimes wondering...

Does theology really matter?

I mean, isn't believing in God enough? Isn't belief in Jesus enough?

Do we really need to know and study the Bible?

Isn't faith enough?
Doesn't the Bible even say that faith is enough?

These kind of questions run rampant in churches these days.
And I believe it is mostly due to our lack of study, or care for the intricacies of theological thought.

We don't want to turn into those people, who waste away studying things that don't matter while the world around them struggles through problems that theology is meant to provide solutions for... So we just run from it.

Humans tend to do this kind of thing with everything.
Sometimes it can be healthy to do... Most of the time though, it isn't.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Formation Friday: George Whitefield

This week was crazy, what with 8 Christmas Eve services at the church I work at and travelling across the country to visit family and friends; I was unable to write a post for this week. But, do not be in dismay, for we serve a God much bigger than my schedule, and He provided at just the right time. In lieu of a Formation Friday post I would like to share this article with you that was posted today from RELEVANT Magazine on one of the greatest preachers to ever live: George Whitefield.


George Whitefield http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/13-george-whitefield-quotes-will-challenge-your-spiritual-life


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Immanuel Has Come!

Did Jesus enter into human history as a baby?

Is Christmas meant to celebrate the coming of Jesus into human history?


The reason we celebrate the coming of Jesus is because of what he did on the cross about 30 years after his birth. More than that... That what he did on the cross had any meaning because of who He is.

In other words, if this man, Jesus, was born 2,000 years ago and lived for about 30 years and died, and that was it, end of story, then we would have nothing to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas at Job's House

Two years ago, Jon Acuff wrote a piece about the worst guy to invite to a Christmas party on his famous blog “Stuff Christians Like”. He began saying to never invite this guy,

He is even more annoying than the friend who doesn’t even own a TV and tells you that constantly when you’re not even talking about TV. (And we know you watch Hulu, or Netflix or Youtube. Quit acting like you’re a 4th century Desert Father.)

Upon entering your home, the guy who tells you Christmas is a pagan holiday will proceed to do exactly that:

“Oh, you’ve got a Christmas tree? Didn’t realize you were into celebrating the winter solstice. Interesting. Are you doing that because you’re recognizing the Egyptian tradition of decorating the house with palm branches to symbolize resurrection? Or does your family swing more Northern European? Is your Christmas tree a shout out to the Germanic god Woden? Or perhaps a Roman tribute to Bacchus? Wait, don’t tell me, don’t tell me. It’s the Greeks and Adonia, isn’t it? I felt like I was getting an ancient Greek vibe in here.
What’s that you’ve got hanging over the entryway? Mistletoe? Or as I call it, “Pagan Fertility Plant.” Babylon in the house!
And do I smell ham? Are we having a Christmas ham? That will be delicious. But then you know that is a symbol of Tammuz who was fatally wounded by the tusk of a boar. Pagans started that tradition by sacrificing a boar on this pagan holiday. What do you serve with a big plate of meat heresy? Mashed potatoes? What’s the side dish in that situation?
Red and green? Occultic colors!
Yule log? A reference to the sun god!

The worst guy to invite to a Christmas party.

And some of you are thinking of that friend we all have right now aren’t you?

I can think of the second worst guy to invite to a Christmas party.
The second worst guy would be Job, well, MAYBE the second worst is Eeyore the Donkey... but Job is a close third.

Can you imagine being one of Job’s friends at Christmas time?

You’re at the party… 
Perhaps you walk up to the table where all the finger food is...

And there he is.

“Job! How are you doing?”

I imagine his response something like,

“If only my anguish could be weighed
    and all my misery be placed on the scales!
It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—
    no wonder my words have been impetuous.
The arrows of the Almighty are in me,
    my spirit drinks in their poison;
    God’s terrors are marshaled against me.”

Job! Sounds… disturbing… Here, take some deviled eggs, they came out really good this year. Maybe that will make you feel better?

“Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass,
    or an ox bellow when it has fodder?”

Job… I , I don’t know.

“Is tasteless food eaten without salt,”

No… It’s not, here take some salt… (I just asked how he was doing…)

“ or is there flavor in the sap of the mallow?”

What’s a mallow?!

“I refuse to touch it;
such food makes me ill.”

Now I share that as a light introduction to a more heavy topic...

So many people run around just wanting to throw Christmas Spirit into every dark corner of their lives. And sometimes… well most times, they want to throw it on others as well.

Because it’s Christmas, nothing can be sad around Christmas time!

But if you are Job at Christmas... the last thing you want is someone telling you that you need to be happy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advent // Love

Christmas is about...

Sometimes I wonder if we really understand what we sing.

I'm not talking about all times I've heard people sing along mindlessly to country songs about girls dancing in the back of some beat-up truck while drinking beer. Maybe there's a time to ask why we sing dumb songs, but not today.

I'm talking about when we sing mindlessly to glorious songs. Don't just skip over that word. Glorious.

When words come out of our mouths, voicing truth that is pregnant with....glory, do we really understand what we are saying? 

We do this all year long, but nowhere is it more evident than during the Christmas season. I mean, think about it. How many of the Christmas carols have we sung our entire lives and never stopped to think about what we are really saying?

Try reading these lines. Read them slowly. Read them more than once. Think about what you're reading here:

"Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth."

"Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners RECONCILED."

"Son of God, love's pure light....the dawn of redeeming grace."

Think about that last one...the dawn of redeeming grace. We celebrate the dawning redeeming grace. What does that mean? It means we were enemies of God, bound by sin, hopelessly lost. BUT, Jesus came. Jesus redeemed us by His grace. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent // Joy

Giving Control to the Infant King

By this time in December, you've probably heard the Christmas story reiterated by radio plays, church sermons, and festive books multiple times now: Mary, the virgin, conceives a child after being told by an angel. Joseph is a little freaked out at first but after a visit from an angel, he keeps his faith and sticks with Mary. They travel to Bethlehem because of the census, and there was no room in the inn, but no worries, because the stable was free. The baby is born, the wise men bring gifts, and the shepherds stop in. The end.

Yet I'm convinced that there is so much more depth to this Christmas story - that the Christmas story is wedged deep in each of our hearts because we can relate to some, if not all, characters in the story. The storm of questions that must of entered Mary's head when the angel bestowed her with the impossible anointing of being Jesus' mother. The initial fury and feelings of betrayal that welled up in Joseph, and the incredible doubt acting as an initial roadblock to faith. The uncertainty of the shepherds who felt filthy and unworthy of being in Christ's presence, even in a stable. The furious ruler who is terrified of losing control of his kingdom, who goes to all lengths to kill this babe of a savior who could supersede his power and reputation. They're all human, some of them presented with Jesus so closely that they could touch him. They all get to witness the beginning of heaven kissing earth. But when we're confronted with Jesus, it means He's the real king. It means we're not in control anymore.

I'm finding the Christmas story is one of losing control, and one of trusting the strangest and strongest Savior we've ever known.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent // Hope

The speaker in this video is name Eric. He wrote this for College Heights Christian Church, a church that I used to attend and volunteer with while I was studying at Ozark Christian College and living in Joplin.

There are four of these 2-3 minutes videos that they produced this year and I thought I would share one on each day leading up to Christmas Eve. I hope you enjoy them... and all the more, I hope they touch you, wherever you may be this Christmas, this Advent, season.

A Prayer for Trust and Confidence

A Prayer for Trust and Confidence

This is a Catholic prayer written by St. Pio of Pietrelcina that I thought too beautiful not to share today. I hope it finds you well as we prepare for tomorrow, the Sunday before Christmas.

Oh Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence and trust in Your divine mercy, and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings which bring immense goodness to our souls and that of Your Church.

Help us to love You with a pure and contrite heart, and to humble ourselves beneath Your cross, as we climb the mountain of holiness, carrying our cross that leads to heavenly glory.

May we receive You with great faith and love in Holy Communion, and allow You to act in us as You desire for your greater glory.

O Jesus, most adorable Heart and eternal fountain of Divine Love, may our prayer find favor before the Divine Majesty of Your heavenly Father.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Formation Friday: William Wilberforce

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
― William Wilberforce

Yesterday was the 149th anniversary of slavery finally being made illegal in the United States, thanks, in a huge way, for how God used one man in England about 60 years beforehand... a man named William Wilberforce.

If you have seen the 2007 movie, Amazing Grace or read the biography by Eric Metaxas by the same title then you need no introduction to the greatness of this man.

William Wilberforce is most notably remembered and revered for leading the fight for abolition in all of Great Britain's Empire. What motivated him through this long, stressful, and very painful ordeal though was not a desire to get his name in a history book, nor was it just about helping people find freedom. William Wilberforce felt a genuine call to do this because of his faith in Jesus Christ and his belief that ALL men and women and children were created in God's image and therefore deserved the dignity of being a human being.

Well, of course. 

In today's society, even those who do not believe in God or an endowment from a Creator, they at least share the ideal that all deserve human dignity.

But this was not the case for a majority of the world's history, most notably in the British Pre-Victorian Era.

The world was only "Christian" in the most superficial of ways. Morality was dictated by government, not by the Bible. This sense and disinterest in religion or Christian teaching was mostly due to the bad taste the religious wars of the previous century left in the mouths of the elite.

To take the Bible in any way serious was to be deemed a fanatic, barely acceptable for the poor and common folk, and socially prohibited by the cultural elite.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What Does Advent Mean?


Whatever you call it, there is no mistaking this time of year. Far from just a noticeable change in weather (though that’s a bit subjective in Florida), there is something going on around town and everyone seems to be getting involved. Music is playing (mostly a rehashing of the same 20 songs from the 1950’s), people are bustling about stores looking for particular gifts for friends and family, and all around churches and homes are setting up nativity scenes. Commercials focus on family, on men proposing to women with diamond rings, on Santa checking his list twice. TV stations run various “25 Days of Christmas” movie marathons.

Unless you live in a cave with no access to the outside world, there is no way to miss that this time of year universally holds a particular meaning.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Formation Friday: Teresa of Ávila

“It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.”

Teresa of Ávila also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, an author for the Counter-Reformation and a theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be a founder of the Discalced Carmelites along with St. John of the Cross.

Teresa was also the first of only three women to obtain the title "Doctor of the Church", the most prestigious canonization of any saint.

(Translation: She is a pretty big deal for Catholics and many Protestants.)

Last night I was talking with my friends, Evan and Breanna, and I told them who I would be writing on for today. Evan responded by saying that Teresa is like oatmeal. The first time you try it, you may like the taste but the texture sometimes has to grow on you. Especially if it is very soggy oatmeal.

Now before I get called out for comparing a great woman of God with a bowl of oatmeal, let me explain...

I liked that analogy when it comes to Teresa. Evan isn't convinced whether he likes her or not, but nonetheless we all acknowledge she is an important figure in Christian history. She was at the forefront of the Catholic Counter-Reformation and brought a mystical love for Christ back to a very rigid and overly-structured time for the Catholic Church... much like Pope Francis is seeming to do right now with the Roman Catholic Church. Not everyone likes this Pope, but no one can say he isn't doing good things. He has to grow on you. You have to get used to him. Much is the same with St. Teresa. Her words were shocking to the church in her time, and they remain today, just as shocking.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent: Wait

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Have you ever wondered about this song, like, why Israel is captive, or why they are mourning in exile? And why are they mourning in exile… here. Here. Where you are. Where I am.
It is a Christmas favorite, but honestly it was never meant to be sung in conjunction with songs like “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

Why are we singing about Israel at a time like this? It’s Christmas! Where are the cookies?

There are multiple things going on in this song that point us to a greater element of this time of the year. The Church Calendar celebrates this time (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) as the Church’s New Year. This season is called Advent.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Songs I'm Meditating Through... As the Deer

This is an older worship chorus that is still sung in churches today, though it is becoming more and more seldom. This is to be expected though as newer worship styles become more popular and new songs become new favorites. "As the Deer" was written by Marty Nystrom in 1981 and quickly grew to become a beloved chorus/ hymn sung by congregations everywhere.

The song is rich, due to it being based primarily on scripture (Psalm 42 and Psalm 63) and theological truths. The title is from the first line of the song, taken straight from Psalm 42:1.

Take a listen, even if this isn't your particular style of music, it's a good reminder of who God is and what our appropriate response of worship should be.


Nathan Bryant

is a pastor living in Phoenix, AZ. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology. Nathan has a combined passion for unity and discipleship in the global church.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

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Nathan's Website

Friday, December 5, 2014

Formation Fridays: John Bunyan

For today’s Formation Friday, I highlight John Bunyan. I have read only one of his works, his most famous, The Pilgrim’s Progress, though I hope to read his other works soon. My information and wording of this post is heavily relied upon by the research and writing of Tim Challies, a brother and warrior for the faith. He blogs regularly at challies.com I encourage you to check out his book reviews and articles.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about John Bunyan was his unusual ability to preach and teach. It is recorded that King Charles II once asked John Owen (another important Puritan that we could learn so much from) why he listened to Bunyan, an uneducated tinker, to which Owen replied, “Could I possess the tinker’s abilities for preaching, please your Majesty, I would gladly relinquish all my learning.”

John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress and undoubtedly the most famous Puritans save for maybe Johnathan Edwards, was born on November 28, 1628 in Bedfordshire, England. His father,
Thomas earned his living as a chapman and as a brass worker. As was custom in their day, John was expected to take over the family business. In 1644, Bunyan turned 16, but it was not a sweet 16. It was a very sad and eventful year for the Bunyan family: in June, Bunyan lost his mother and, in July, his sister Margaret died. Following this, within two months, his father married (for the third time) to Anne Pinney and a half-brother, Charles, was born. John Bunyan soon left to join the Parliamentary Army.