Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Arrowhead S.W.A.T. Team

At ANBC we have invested a lot of energy in analyzing and altering how we apply theology to our work. How does a biblical understanding of the gospel find itself well applied? Applying good theology to our ministry methods has played a big role in expressing our desire for obedience and effectiveness in evangelism and discipleship. Although at times misunderstood, good methods borne from a desire for good theology has been at the heart of the work here. With that in mind, some of our staff a few years ago developed a pseudo-slogan for themselves. The ANBC S.W.A.T. Team ~ Serving With Accurate Theology. The idea being that applying good theology to ministry is a vital aspect of the work that we can all take part in.

Borrowing this idea and riffing off of Mike Rowe's S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, here are a few ideas for applying biblical principles to our work. Whether a full time missionary or a short term volunteer there are always opportunities to excel or to flounder. As Christians it behooves us to invest our energies in serving well for the Glory of God! The theme verse for The Wilds camp in NC where we recently travelled for the Tweakage Camp Conference speaks directly to this perspective.
"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory." 1 Corinthians 10:31
Serving well and with all sacrifice and for the Glory of God are good and biblical principles that we can and should apply to our ministry. Are you prepared to be a part of the ANBC S.W.A.T. Team?

  1. Rejoice always, Pray constantly Give thanks in everything. No matter the task you are given or the challenges you face, these commands flourish in the life of the obedient. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  2. What I think I deserve is not what I actually deserve. Entitlement has no place in sacrificial ministry. Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Matthew 7:21-23
  3. Everything is from God, nothing is outside of His purview and everything has meaning. This should temper our attitudes toward those roles we dislike. Romans 11:36
  4. Everything I do should be done well and for God's Glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17
  5. People matter more than things. Keep short accounts, owe no man anything, lend with no expectations. Romans 13:8, Luke 6:34-36
  6. Good enough is never good enough, applying ourselves to the greatest of our ability means abandoning ambivalence. Colossians 3:23
  7. Early is on time, on time is late and late is disrespectful. Ecclesiastes 9:10, Proverbs 6:6-11
  8. Your attitude is a reflection of your heart. Complaining is rooted in a lack of faith. Philippians 2:14, Proverbs 4:23
  9. Be a learner. Be willing to be corrected. Being spoon fed every detail of your work is not a sustainable practice moving forward. Apply yourself to learn, even when you are not being "taught". Proverbs 1:5, Proverbs 12:1
  10. Our successes are God's work and the praise for them belongs to Him. Soli Deo Gloria. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
  11. It's not that life is unfair; the sun shines on the wicked and the righteous, celebrate grace. Romans 12:15, Matthew 5:45
  12. Don't compare yourselves to others. Scripture is your mirror. Be like Christ. Galatians 6:4-6, Philippians 2:1-11

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

God is Not Jimmy Stewart

A number of times recently, I’ve heard it said that God is the perfect gentleman, He will never impose himself on you, he will always hold the door and politely wait for you to walk through. The spirit of this sentiment is noble. It draws on all of the wonderful attributes of our good Father and creates a caricature that is benevolent and kind and patient. Unfortunately that caricature looks more like the friendly, helpful and kind, fatherly persona of Jimmy Stewart than it does of God as He reveals Himself in Scripture.

The entire narrative of scripture bares out the nature and character of God. He is our Good, Good Father. The gospel of Jesus Christ begins with God and His holiness (John 1:1-18; Leviticus 11:44-45). It begins with just who God is as outlined in His Word: immutable (Psalm 102:25-27) creator (Genesis 1:1, Colossians 1:16), eternal (Isaiah 44:6), just (Job 34:12), truth (John 14:6), powerful (Genesis 1), jealous (Exodus 20:4-5), merciful (Psalm 136:1), wrathful (Romans 2:6-11), patient (Nahum 1:3), compassionate (James 5:11), omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:23-24), omniscient (Psalm 147:4-5), God is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:3-4) and triune (Ephesians 4:4-6) and holy (1 Samuel 2:2).

Certainly God is long-suffering, His patience with our rebellion is beyond comprehension in light of His perfect holiness. But is it really true that He is the kind of cardigan clad, slipper shuffling, gentleman that will never impose Himself on us? Is God really stuck waiting to see what we will do? The idea suggests that we have some innate ability to obey Him aside from His work in us (Ephesians 2:8-10). Let’s look at just a few people in Scripture and ask them if God imposed on their lives.

Not only does God impose His will on the entirety of humanity in their death, but on Noah in His commands to build the Ark, occupying decades of his life. (Genesis 6:13)

Joseph’s brothers treated him horribly, threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. (Genesis 37:12-36), near the end of this narrative we hear Joseph affirm that this was God’s work; “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people.” (Genesis 50:20). God imposed Himself on the life of Joseph through the actions of his brothers, and further imposed on the lives of the brothers to achieve His purposes in the life of Joseph. Notice in particular the word “planned” (“meant” in some translations), it is intention not reaction. God didn’t simply use the evil for good, he planned it for good.

God spoke directly to Moses from the burning bush, gave him specific commands to be obeyed and expected them to be followed out, in spite of Moses reluctance. (Genesis 3:4 - 4:17)

God worked His will in the life of Pharaoh to achieve His will. God actively hardened the heart of Pharaoh, imposing on him intentionally for His own ultimate glory. (Genesis 9:12)

God applies judgement on the life of Abimilech by sending an evil Spirit to bring tension between he and the lords of Schechem. God’s active interference here is in His work to achieve His will. (Judges 9:22-24)

Samson desired a Philistine woman as his own and returned to his parents and demanded they retrieve her for them, their reluctance was understandable. What they didn’t understand, as revealed in v. 4 is that this desire came directly from God. Samsons desire for this woman was rooted in God’s work to have an occasion against the Philistines. To achieve His own will, He imposed a passion on Samson. (Judges 14:1-4)

Hophni and Phinehas
God's imposition in the lives of the sons of Eli was in His giving them over to the hardness of their hearts. "..they would not listen to their father, since the Lord intended to kill them." (1 Samuel 2:25). God had plans for them, as rooted in the disobedience of both they and their father. His intention was to kill them, and as such, closed their ears to the scolding of Eli.

God brought Job to the attention of Satan for the purpose of bringing Glory to Himself through the suffering of Job (Job 1:8-12; Job 2:3-7). This is not in contradiction to God’s goodness, nor does this make him any more or less a “gentleman”. When the nature and Character of God is understood as scripture presents it—central to the narrative, there is no need to strive to protect God from His own public image.

God sent a great fish to consume Jonah in his disobedience, this for the purpose off achieving His ultimate will for Jonahs life - that he go to Ninevah and preach. (Jonah 1:17)

God struck Paul blind for the purposes of achieving his ultimate conversion. (Acts 9:1-19)

These are just a few of the many, many examples of God imposing His will on humanity. Throughout Scripture and with intentionality. We must be wary not to create a god to meet our personal design. But please don’t misunderstand, we must examine the entire narrative of Scripture as we consider the core of it’s purpose is revealing the nature and character of God. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) nor does He cause anyone to be tempted to sin (James 1:13); but these truths must be held in tension with the truth that the steps of man are established by God (Psalm 37:23-24).

Through the entirety of Scripture we see over and over again, the supreme majesty (Hebrews 1:3, Psalm 145:5), ultimate power (Psalm 62:11, Job 26:14, 1 Corinthians 6:14) and complete authority (Romans 13:1-7, 2 Timothy 3:16) of the God of the Universe. We, very clearly, see through creation (Genesis 1), the awesome greatness of God (Ephesians 1:19, Revelation 11:17). God exercises His perfect will in spite of our sinfulness, and this is something we will never completely comprehend (Proverbs 20:24; Romans 9:21-24).

Certainly we must also remind ourselves regularly, that even as the redeemed we are not our own (Romans 8:9). We have been purchased and belong to Him.

I think this quote from the second book in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia sums up the situation very nicely.
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” ― The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
If anything, we should desire God's sovereign hand in our lives, left to ourselves we will always choose sin (Matthew 6:24). We do not need to squeeze God into a cardigan and slippers in order to satisfy our definition of what good is. Scripture adequately defines God in His goodness. He has an intentional plan. We must simply believe or not.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths” Proverbs 3:5-6