What is deconstruction?

Somewhat recently I was asked this question on TikTok. I responded that largely deconstruction is people trying to understand that various parts of their faith in order to, ultimately, rebuild one that is far stronger and deeper than the one they had when they started. While I think the answer I gave was sufficient for a bare-bones understanding, I thought I should take the time to really explore what deconstruction is, and what it means for people of faith today.

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What is Christian Doctrine?

As I talked about last week,  I think that we have done ourselves a disservice by not connecting with the Christians of the past to understand why we believe what we do today. I believe that this is a malformation because of our culture today. Far too often we are looking at the next, newest, best thing to help improve our lives. We have a progressive idea that tells us the past does not hold any relevance for us today, the future is where it is at. The truth is, the only way we have ever been able to learn is by looking to the past to understand the world around us. Math works because of the work of the mathematicians of the past to make discoveries so we can understand Algebra. All the fields of science look to the past experiments of scientists to understand the field and how to move forward. Why is it that we do not do this when it comes to our theology? We like to look to people who are our contemporaries and trust that they have all the answers. We need to be able to have an understanding of the beliefs of our predecessors in order for us fully understand what we believe today.

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What is Spiritual Formation?

I’ve written on this before, but the question is coming up again. Simply put, spiritual formation is a new buzzword and perspective on the one thing the Church has been doing since the very beginning, discipleship. However, this new perspective (some may even argue an old perspective) is not the kind of discipleship that you may find in many mainline churches. The discipleship programs that I see most often involve getting you to commit to attending church weekly, go to Sunday school or join a small group, tithe (can’t forget to get our money!), and commit to personal Bible study. To me, this feels a lot like the “Gospel of Sin Management” that Dallas Willard talks about in The Divine Conspiracy. True discipleship is not about ticking the right boxes and saying “I am a disciple of Jesus.” Rather there is something different that is called for. Enter the perspective of spiritual formation.

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Faith and Mental Health

Hi friends! I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written. Honestly, I got super excited about working from home as I saw an opportunity to write A LOT! However, as you can tell from my lack of posting, the exact opposite is what happened. I didn’t write at all. As a matter of fact, a lot of things changed for me with regards to practicing my faith, Bible study, reading, writing, and a whole lot of things I like to do. The major thing that happened is that I have had a major battle with depression over the last few months with regards to my profession and other life stresses. Then, on top of that, I had to walk away from my church back in July due to some ethical conflicts. The total impact of everything has made it quite difficult for me to find much enjoyment in anything that I like doing, that isn’t some form of escape (e.g. playing a bunch of video games). The good news is that I think I’m finally making some progress with my own well being, even if nothing has changed (as a matter of fact, a lot has gotten worse, but I’m more hopeful that I used to be).

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Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today’s Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship

If you have been paying attention to the Heart Man Book Reviews, you will remember that I read a book on the use of modern technology and a book about fostering online education. Admittedly, this field has been of interest to me ever since I read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. So I couldn’t help myself when InterVarsity Press released Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today’s Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship by Jacob Shatzer. Shatzer has a PhD from Marquette University and is an ordained Baptist pastor. This book was released in April of 2019 and is incredibly important in our world as we live with increasing usage of technology. Shatzer argues that digital technology trains us, little by little, in transhumanist philosophy, allowing us to one day accept it completely. He asks the simple question of whether this is an appropriate formation for Christians or if we should be cautious about trying to adopt new digital technologies.

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Become More Like Christ for Advent

“Then a shot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
Anad a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteouness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteouness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.”
–Isaiah 11:1-5, NASB

This is a really big post for this site. This will be the 200th post and the first one I’ve made in over 21 months! As we head into the Advent season this year, I thought it would be a good time to begin using this tool again. I won’t be posting daily like I used to, but I do aim for weekly posts.

This week’s Scripture comes out of Isaiah. Isaiah is writing about a person who will be a descendant of Jesse. This person will be filled with the Spirit, wise, and knowledgeable. Israel rightly believed that this is a list of attributes for the Messiah. We know, today, that Jesus fulfills each of these attributes. What can this mean for us today during this season?

As we walk out our faith, there is one thing we should always be doing; we should be becoming more like Christ. That means we should be working to be full of the Spirit, wise, and knowledgeable.

When we accept Christ into our lives there is something amazing that happens to us. Paul writes, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB) Part of this change is that you receive the Holy Spirit live inside of you. Many people to tend to ignore this or just brush it off, but think about it for a moment. Our understanding of God is found in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This means for us, there is a piece of the Almighty that lives within you! That’s how Paul can write later in his ministry, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31b, NASB) The Creator lives inside of each and every one of His believers, so there should be no reason that the Church should be afraid.

How can we become wise? This seems like an odd question. Wisdom feels like a thing you are either born with or not. The early church leader, James, writes “But if any of you lacks in wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5, NASB) We simply have to ask God for more wisdom and He gives it. It’s what we do with that wisdom that really matters. I believe that wisdom is a gift from God to help lead His people. It isn’t for our own benefit, but God’s.

Becoming more knowledgeable seems to have an easy answer, just read/study your Bible more. While this is true, it truly is only part of the entire picture. In order for us to become more knowledgeable, we must filter our entire lives through the lens of Christ. This helps us see how God is moving through the world’s events and through the events/people of our lives.

We should also be reading. Reading what, though? Read your Bible. Read the newspaper. Read blogs. Read books. Read teachings from good teachers. While there are many good reasons to read, Reading gives you new knowledge and exposure to new ideas. You simply cannot grow in knowledge without reading something.

As we begin this Advent season let’s think about how we can become more like Christ, accept the Holy Spirit, gain wisdom, and learn about God.

The Promise of a New Creation (Isaiah 63-66)

Book of Isaiah

Sorry it’s been so long and unpredictable when I’m going to blog. I’ve been going through a pretty rough time in my life. Today I finally feel renewed and feel that it’s time for me to get back into this blog. So hold on tight. We are going to finish the Book of Isaiah today! Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but if we’re all here there will be another post!

As we finish the book of Isaiah, we start with a depiction of God coming in wrath among the nations of the world. He is covered in a red garment. He is asked why, and God explains that it is the blood of those who do not follow Him. Calling forward to the future crucifixion, God is pictured in blood, suffering in order to save His people, and dying for people of all nations. “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, …” (63:9, NASB). In verse 16 we see a glimpse at the future struggle of Gentile Christians. “For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.” (63:16, NASB).

God’s people, Jews and Gentiles, offer up a prayer of mercy and help. They recognize that God is angry because of their sin. They have all chosen to go against God. Now, they have realized the error in their ways, and are asking Him to give them mercy. “You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, we continued in them a log time; and shall we be saved? (64:5, NASB). They now submit themselves for God to make them as He thinks is right “we are the clay, and You our potter;” (64:8, NASB). They recognize that they need His mercy in order to become the people that He wants them to be. Their heart’s cry is to simply be made new. For God to destroy their old selves, and make them new.

The nation of Israel had long been a people who knew about God. God calls the a rebellious people. They constantly turn away from Him, and do the things He has asked them not to. So God tells His people that He has chosen a new people that will obey Him. He says, “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and an heir of My mountains from Judah; even My chosen ones shall inherit it, and my servants will dwell there.” (65:1 & 9, NASB). “Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry. Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty…” (65:13, NSAB). God is telling the people of Israel that because they are unfaithful, He will take care of those who obey Him before them. They will find themselves in need, and God won’t help them until they seek Him. Then God promises a new creation. He will remake Jerusalem, and the earth, into a place that knows and follows God through the people who obey Him today.

God does make one final warning to His people before the new Creation. It is not simply good enough to say and do the correct things. They have to actually do them and follow God, because they know it is right in their hearts. Hypocrisy has no place in God’s new Creation. God’s new Creation will see an end to all evil, and people who actively work against Him. “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind” (66:24, NASB).

We live in some crazy times. We hear people all the time denouncing God. There are Muslim extremist groups who’s sole purpose is to destroy either the US or Israel. This something easy for us to remember as our nation remembers the events of 13 years ago today. We see and hear about despicable acts towards women and children, simply because its a lucrative business and makes someone lots of money. We live in a world full of evil, but there is hope. We have hope because of Christ. We find our salvation in him, so our souls are good. But what about this world that we all must live in until it is time for us to go home?

God promises a new creation for the people who follow Him. All evil will be eradicated from this world, and God will set a new world with Himself and Christ at the center.  If you’d like to read more about that I’d suggest reading the event in the Book of Revelation.

For us today though, as we live our day in/day out lives, God’s promise is still there for us. God will never leave or forsake you, so long as you believe in His Son. Jesus is the way that we can have hope in a world full of evil. Christ came, and died for our sins so that we can have God’s promises. We just have to make a stand and follow Christ, no matter what the world tells us.

I’ll end here with a verse that has been my prayer today, and I hope it becomes yours.

“Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.” –Psalm 119:133, NASB

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 119

Also in this Series

God’s Blessings Restored (Isaiah 60-62)

Book of Isaiah

With the desolation of Jerusalem, the city was now longer a symbol of glory for the people of Israel. However, God wants to see it restored. He shares a vision with Isaiah showing that not only is Jerusalem restored, but people from all nations come to worship God. First the people of Israel will be brought back to their home land, after the Exile. With their help, “Foreigners will come to rebuild your towns, and their kings will serve you.” (60:10, NLT). All nations are bound to serve the people of Israel; they will be glorified above all others because of God and they will praise God. “salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter.” (60:18, NLT).

God isn’t done with His people. He knows them, and remembers His promises made to them. Blessing will come upon them because of their oppression . “Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” (61:7, NLT). The people have had to suffer because of their sin. But now that the punishment is over, they will enjoy great blessing from God.

When Jerusalem is restored, the people of Israel shall be restored as well. They will become something desirable, a shining light to all the nations. Where they were once thought of as a nation of undesirables, all people will come to see there glory and God’s glory. “They will be called ‘the Holy People’ and ‘The People Redeemed by the Lord’. And Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Desirable Place’ and ‘The City No Longer Forsaken’.” (62:12, NLT).

In this reading I realized something about myself, I take my salvation for granted. The truth is that salvation does for us the same thing God is describing in these passages from Isaiah. We were all once disgraceful because of our sin. There was no need for anyone (even God) to give me a second thought. Yet still, he did think about me. He thought about me while hanging on a cross. And because of that, I now have glory in God.

I had always known what happened, and just took for “I’m a Christian and that what God does for me.” The honest truth is that God does this for everyone. Not just me and other Christians, but even people who don’t believe in a Him. But the thing that really gets me (God has been working on this in me recently), is that he does this for his enemies and people who actively work against Him. The people who fight against God can still be saved by His redeeming grace if they simply put their faith in Him.

God is calling us back to a place of glory. He wants to bestow great blessings upon us and make us a shining light for all people. But he can’t do this until we choose to come back to Him. The people of Israel were taken away from their homes for 40 years in order to teach them this lesson. God teaches us this same lesson today. When we fall away from Him, life gets much more difficult and dark. But when we come back, He pours out the blessings!

So if this is you today, I pray that you recognize what is going on and make the changes you need in order to come back to Him. He desires to be close to you. So come back to Him.

 

Also in this Series

Love Came Down (Isaiah 57-59)

Book of Isaiah

Sorry about my infrequency of blogging. I have had a pretty stressful last few weeks that ended with my worship ministry being shut down. It has been a hard process to go through, but it has made me realize my need to lean on God. If I had not had Him, things would be much worse for me today. My hope is to finally finish up this study we started in April!

Adultery is a strong word. I’m sure there are some that are shock that adultery was the (real) first word in this post. But God uses this word to describe what the people of Israel have done. They committed to being His people, and He would be there God. However, time-and-time again, these people follow there own wants and desires and often leave behind God altogether. God says to His people, “You have put pagan symbols on you doorposts and behind your doors. You have left me and climbed into bed with these detestable gods. You have committed yourselves to them. You love to look at their naked bodies.” (57:8, NLT). He goes on to push them to realize that their new idols are worthless in comparison of Him. Yet still God offers one thing that can save His people for His wrath. If they are truly repentant, He will spare them from such pain. “I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far” (57:18-19, NLT).

When we follow our own paths, one thing will always remain in our relationship with God: false worship. False worship could possibly be one of the worst things we can get into as worshipers, because mostly likely we don’t recognize that it has happened. God tells them, “You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do You really think this will please the Lord?” (58:5, NLT). The reason we are doing anything matters more than the act of worship we are participating in. If you do it, so you can get something out of it, it’s not true worship. You give everything to God expecting nothing in return. That’s how you please God the most. He goes on to say, “this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do no hide from relatives who need your help.” (58:6-7, NLT). God calls the Israelites to come back to Him, and cease their false worship. This comes with the promise that they will be able to come back to Him, and receive the inheritance they were promised.

Sin is very problematic. There is no way to truly convey what it is that sin does to us. I’ve become quite fond of a phrase I’ve heard, “sin doesn’t make you bad, it makes you dead”. God have a very honest message for His people during this section of reading. “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hand are the hands of murderers and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption.” (59:2-3, NLT).  That’s what sin has done, and the Israelites were feeling exactly that through the Exile. They were cut off from God geographically, and spiritually because of the choices they made. But all the people that were repentant still haven’t seen much salvation, but God promises to come to earth and rescue all that are repentant. “The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.” (59:15-16, NLT).

Friends, we have all had problems following God, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Sin causes us to do some crazy things. We could leave behind a God who has done far more than we deserve, when all He asks is that we seek Him. We can suddenly decide to hate Him, or His people. We could chose to leave Him altogether and change religions, or decide there is no God at all. We could decide that our faith in Him is based on a certain act, like saving a loved one from a sickness. We say things like, “God, if you could bring my wife out of this, I promise I will go to church every week and spend time in the Word everyday.” We could decide that we know better what makes a sin, so I will decide what is right. But is this really glorifying to God?

Time after time God offers salvation to the repentant, the truly repentant. All we have to do is recognize our sin, and that we cannot overcome it. God is the only one that can save us from the path we have set for ourselves, all we have to do is ask. I have heard countless people make the claim that they are too forgone for God to do anything with them. “Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.” (59:1, NLT). This means you could have run as far away as you can. You can be as dirty as you can get. But God will still come to you, if you are truly repentant. Sin doesn’t have to keep you dead, you can come to life through Jesus Christ.

 

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 115-118

 

Also in this Series

Is Anyone Thirsty? (Isaiah 54-56)

Book of Isaiah

 

In their sin and disobedience, Jerusalem became shameful because it was not bearing fruit for God. They openly rejected His ways and teachings. So God, in His righteous anger, decided to punish His people for disobeying. However, in today’s reading, God promises that when they return to Him, He will gladly take them back. He will bless them with abundance they have never known. They will no longer have to suffer through the shame and disgrace brought on by their disobedience. “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood.” (54:4, NLT). He makes a promise to them that will last forever, just like He made with Noah. “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I  swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken.” (54:9-10, NLT). No enemy will ever overcome them, so long as they remain faithful to God’s way of life.

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or mink — it’s all free!”  (55:1, NLT). God offered the Israelites a gift that they would not have to pay for, they simply needed obedience. He tells them to feed off of Him. Physical food would only feed their bodies, but they need more that simply eating bread and meat. They need God’s word to live off of as well. He knows that unless they seek after Him, just like they will seek after food everyday, the Israelites will have problems keeping their end of the covenant God wishes to renew with them. He tells them that His word produces fruit, and it will prosper where ever He sends it. He wishes to give it to the Israelites so they can become fruitful again. He reminds them that they cannot understand His mind. “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (55:9, NLT). Men cannot understand all that God knows and thinks. Our minds are small and feeble in comparison to His. There are times where God calls His people to do things they don’t understand. He reminds them that the  proper way to behave is in obedience to Him.

God shows His people how obedience to Him gives greater glory and blessing than following the will of man ever will. God picks two classes of people in Israel to speak directly about, eunuchs and Gentiles. He says that so long as they obey God, He will give them blessings beyond anything they could receive by man. “Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’ And don’t let the eunuchs say, ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.'” (56:3, NLT). God is not going to allow people who truly seek after Him live with the shame that these people groups have to live with. “I will bless those eunuchs who keep my Sabbath days holy and who choose to do what pleases me and commit their lives to me.” (56:4, NLT), “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.” (56:6, NLT).  “For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people of Israel (56:8, NLT).

Just like in the days of Isaiah’s writing, God cares for His people today. He wants to bless us, and see us prosper. He doesn’t want to see us harmed, or have to suffer. Yet we constantly choose to disobey Him and have to live with the consequences of that decision. In order for us to have better in our lives, we have to seek God first. Whether that means for you, the first thing you do in the morning is study the Bible, or you have to go find one of those WWJD bracelets for a constant reminder. The point is that God has to be our first priority. While Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness after his baptism, he became hungry. The devil tried to convince him to turn a rock into bread so that way he could eat and be filled. But Jesus knew better. He turned and quoted Deuteronomy to the devil, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, NASB). We have to realize that we need God more and more. It is not enough to make sure our physical needs get met, and only give God whatever prayer we say before dinner time. We live because God allows it. His word sustains us. We can only grow and hunt whatever food we eat, because God allows that to live. We should seek after Him first. This is the way we align ourselves in a right manner. We cannot be distracted by other directions, because God is our primary objective. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB). We won’t have anything to worry about or anything else to need, if the very first thing we look for in our lives is God.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 112-114

 

Also in this Series