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Jason Newman • May 28, 2020
I used to play golf all the time. I had a couple of buddies who liked to play, and so I played a few rounds a month with them. I quickly learned a few things about golf.
Golf can be described as having three different parts or components – driving, irons, and putting. After a few rounds I learned that my irons game was decent, and I could putt so-so. Driving was awful! Most rounds if I drove the ball straight twice in a row, I thought it was a successful round. My driving issues will be the subject of my next post. Today I want to talk about how I improved my putting.
The set of clubs I bought was not cheap but it was not expensive either. It came with just an ordinary looking blade putter. I never could get a feel for how to hit the ball. It would either be too hard or too soft. I would practice and practice, but it did not matter. I finally decided that it was an equipment problem.
Putters come in all sorts of designs and shapes. But there are basically two styles -- blades and mallets. The one I had was a very narrow blade and the balance was not good. I also did not like the offset as the handle transitioned to the blade itself. So when we would come to the green, I started begging my buddies to let me try their putters out.
Two of them had mallet putters. And one of them had a center-shafted mallet. I started sinking putts when he would let me use that putter! It was the most amazing thing ever! I went home told Debra that I had to have a new putter!
Going to the store, I found that I had even more choices. This revolved around the putter face. Did I want an insert or milled face? I putted a few balls using the different options. Found a balata insert I could sink any putt with! At least in the store! So I bought it! My success was not “every putt” like I bragged to my buddies when I was in the store. But there was a marked improvement in my accuracy on the greens. Which of course made golf a lot more fun. And I got a lot less ribbing from my golfing buddies!
So what does this have to do with being a better theologian? In our two previous posts, we talked about time with God, and then the time it talks to learn the language. (You can see that even in this post. It took time to play golf and it took time to learn the parts of golf.) But in theology just as in golf there comes a time when you must look at the equipment you are using if you are going to get better.
Let's start with the Bible you use. I am neither a KJV-only person nor am I KJV-basher. If you were raised on the KJV then use it. But if you were not, then I suggest that you use something else. I am a big fan of the ESV, but there are lots of good translations out there. The bigger issue is this: read the Bible! Whichever translation you use put your eyes on the text regularly!
The next issue is print or electronic. Again, I am not against or for either. I use both, I like both, I see advantages to both. If you go with print only, then get two of whatever translation you like. One that is just a plain bible. The other needs to be a study bible. The plain one is for devotional reading. I have found that the references and footnotes can sometimes be distracting from hearing the Holy Spirit in the text. Someday soon I will do a post on evaluating a good study Bible.
If you are going electronic, this where things get interesting. Again -- you have options. If you are going to just read the Bible, then YouVersion is an acceptable option. Lots of people and churches use YouVersion. It has reading plans for themes. It has reading plans put together by your favorite authors. If you go that route – then be faithful in your reading!
But Gospel Lighthouse has invested in helping you study the Bible to the fullest. With the Logos Bible Study platform, you can do anything from reading the Bible, to studying the original language to reading your favorite author. But just as I had to learn how to play golf, I had to learn the different clubs, and parts of the game, so Bible study is the same.
And you can get better. And Logos software can make you better. Are you willing to learn? There are training videos on our Facebook page. Faithlife has a YouTube channel devoted to training. And you can always just ask me!
Next week we will learn how I fixed my issues with driving the ball from the green. And how that relates to being a better theologian.
Gospel Lighthouse Church • May 19, 2020
A few years ago, Debra taught me how to crochet. If you have never picked up a hook, it is quite an interesting enterprise.
First, crocheting has its own language. For beginners (like me) it reads something like this:
· beg = beginning
· ch = chain stitch
· ch sp = chain space
· dc = double crochet
· dec = decrease
· inc = increase
· mc = main color
· rep = repeat
· rs = right side
· sc = single crochet
· sl st = slip stitch
· st = stitch
· tr = treble crochet
· ws = wrong side
Then those terms are written out something like this:
Round 1 RS: Start with yarn A. 4ch then join with sl st to form a ring. 3ch (counts as a dc). 2dc into the ring, then 1ch. *3dc into ring, 1ch* rep 2 more times. Sl st to join. Fasten off yarn A.
This pattern will get you the pic that is at the top of the page.
But learning the language is just the start. The first real problem in crocheting for me is the discipline of keeping the stitches the same size. If you are making granny squares to join together, it does no good to have the same number of stitches if the squares are not the same size. Likewise, if you are making a blanket or a scarf and the stitches are not the same size then the piece will be narrower or wider at points instead of a uniform shape.
And then the second problem arose. It takes time to make anything with a crochet hook. And I am not talking just a couple hours. I am talking days – if not weeks – to finish a project.
I spent hours doing the same thing over and over. Doing several rows of work – only to find that I had dropped a stitch and had to pull it all apart. Or that I had not maintained my tension on the yarn and that there was a bunch of loose stitches right in the middle of the blanket. You have to pull the pattern apart to that point and redo it all again to make it look right.
And finally, there were my big clumsy hands. They did not like holding an E-4 hook, they much rather hold a J-10. And my big fat fingers did not like handing the corresponding thinner yarn for the E-4 hook, it liked the thicker yarn that goes with the J-10 hook.
What has learning to crochet have to do with being a good theologian? Well for starters, theology has its own language as well. Look at this list of terms. They are basic to understanding the Christian faith.
Just like the abbreviations for the stitches mean nothing until you put them in a pattern so those words mean nothing until you start to give them biblical, theological, and philosophical content. And then as much a Southern Baptist and a Pentecostal might agree on in regards to the Trinity they have differing views on sanctification and election.
But that is the real issue for most people. Just like it takes time to make crochet stitches the same, so it takes time to understand those terms and the various nuances they can have.
That just leads to the second problem that keeps people from learning theology. When people start doing theological reflection, they come to a place where there are loose places in their theology. And they have a choice to make. Either they pull it apart and rebuild it tighter or they just leave it loose. If they do not do the work of pulling it apart they wonder why certain parts of their lives are messy or continually falling apart in one area.
And then there is the big hands problem. People do not want to train themselves to think differently. Or critically. Or holistically. Or biblically. Just as I fumbled with the different size hooks and yarn, so people fumble about as they start to learn theology. I had to put the effort into training my hands to hold the hook and yarn.
And that is the second thing it takes to be a good theologian. Effort. Learning anything new takes effort. Becoming adept takes even more effort.
Are you going to put forth the effort?
Gospel Lighthouse Church • May 15, 2020
Today is the letter “F”= I am FAVORED of God. Scripture reference is Job 10:12..You have granted me life and favor . And your care has preserved my spirit.
Again with all that is going on right now in the world, it is easy to get anxious and worry what is going to happen....but we have to remember God is in control and if we have our lives his in Christ, He will take care of us. I like in Psalms 30:5 it says For His anger is hit for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night But joy comes in the morning.
Take heart that nothing happens outside of His knowing and this too shall pass. What the enemy meant for evil God is and will turn around for good! Put your faith and trust in His plan and enjoy His favor.
God bless ❤️🙏🏼
Gospel Lighthouse Church • May 14, 2020
One of the reasons I hear people say that they are not theologians is that they do not have time to be a theologian. They do not know enough about the Bible. And that is a true statement as far as that goes. But it misses the bigger issues of life…and not just whether you are a theologian or not.
One of my favorite episodes of Little house of the Prairie is one of the early ones. There is a blizzard coming in and Pa Engle ties a rope from the house to the barn. I can remember the first time I watched it all those years ago, “Why is he doing that? It just seems silly.” But I had watched enough TV to know that the plot would unfold soon enough.
As the blizzard rolled in, Pa Engle gets caught out in the barn. It is dark, the snow is coming down so hard that he cannot see the house. It is the rope that is tied from the barn to the house that saves his life. I think this a wonderful picture of our lives today.
Many of us have lost our way spiritually. We are in a blizzard of doing to many things. Or we are in a blizzard of being anxious about the uncontrollable nature of life. Some of us multi-task so much that we do not even know we are multi-tasking. We are over-scheduled, tense addicted to hurry, frantic, preoccupied, and starved for time.
The quarantine has brought this to the surface for a lot of people. Having their busy schedules disrupted, and now having free time – not being able to go places or keep adding more activities—they suddenly have found they were addicted to doing.
Christians are no different. They listen to sermons and read book. But they have no impact on their daily life. We read passages like “ Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30, ESV) But we have never experienced that at a real-life giving level.
We teach new Christians to have devotions and quiet time. Normally this consists of a few moments each day of reading the Bible, praying, perhaps reading from some devotional book. Along with going to church on Sunday and maybe being involved with a small group, we hope that will be enough to get them out of the blizzard of their lives. IT WON’T BE ENOUGH!
Over the next few posts, I am going to outline ways and reasons why every Christian should be growing spiritually and theologically. But I want to start with something that is so simple you may dismiss it out of hand. But is a simple little phrase “Practicing the Presence of God.”
That exact phrase is never used in Scripture but is a deeply scriptural idea. At the core it means to discern or develop habits of discerning the awareness of God. Look at these familiar passages of Scripture
♦ Abide (John 15:4–5)
♦ Love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37–40)
♦ Set your mind (Romans 8:5–6)
♦ Walk by/keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25)
♦ Set your heart (Colossians 3:1–2)
♦ Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
♦ Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
♦ Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
♦ Run with endurance/perseverance (Hebrews 12:1–2)
♦ Submit/offer yourself up (Romans 12:1–2)
♦ Press on (Philippians 3:12–14)
♦ Dwell on (Philippians 4:6–8)
♦ Remember God’s faithfulness and provision (Deuteronomy 8:2–3)
Notice that all of those require some sort of action. That is where the word “practicing” comes in. The key truth is that all of life can be lived in the presence f God. Nothing is to ordinary or mundane. But as those verses show us (and our lives re-enforce to us) practicing the presence of God does not happen automatically. It takes trust. It takes time. It takes training.
Being a good theologian (or Christian for that matter) is not about knowing Greek or Hebrew or knowing who Gregory the Great is. Those things are good to know, and well worth knowing. But the start and end of all theological reflection, its purpose, and its aim is to know God.
Start there and you are on your way to becoming a great theologian.
This phrase is not original to me. It was coined by a monk named Brother Laurence in the 17th century. His book is available in Logos Bible Software https://www.logos.com/product/7994/the-practice-of-the-presence-of-god. It is also available on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Practice-Presence-God-Brother-Lawrence/dp/1614279683
Gospel Lighthouse Church • May 14, 2020
Today is the letter “E” = we are ENRICHED in everything. Scripture reference is 1 Corinthians 1:5.
In my bible it talks about Paul was reminding the Corinthians of the privileges that are theirs in Christ. When we come to Christ, He loves us so much and wants us to succeed, He enriches us with spiritual gifts, establishes us on a secure foundation, and equips us with everything needed for a godly life.
We have to do our part though.... with any relationship it cannot be one sided, one giving all and the other taking all! One day we all will stand in front of God and give an account and none will be able to say they were never given the opportunity to have a relationship with Him! I say this to encourage us all to dig deeper in Gods word and spend more time with Him. He WILL give you what you have need of. Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened! Luke 11:9
Gospel Lighthouse Church • May 13, 2020
Today is the letter”D” for DELIVERED.....scripture reference is Colossians 1:13
When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior we are delivered out of the darkness of our sin to walk in His light. He says He will never leave us nor forsake us, so we have a companion throughout our new life. He is an awesome God! Praise Him today! ❤️🙏🏼
Gospel Lighthouse Church • May 12, 2020
Today is the letter “C” for chosen....We are personally chosen by God. Scripture is Ephesians 1:4
Another good scripture is from 1Peter 2:9 and it says But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Today receive His gift of being chosen and choose today and every day forward to walk in His light! You never have to be entangled with the darkness of your old life!....but you have to make that decision because the gift has already been forwarded to you!
God bless and have a beautiful day in God!! ❤️🙏🏼
Gospel Lighthouse Church • May 07, 2020
Today we will use the letter “B” ....we are BLESSED by the Lord in all things.
I know with everything going on right now it may be hard to see the blessings, but I promise God is in total control and if we are united with Christ, He will provide our needs and keep us protected. So today, rather than focusing on the news and all that’s going on....turn your focus on God and choose to see the blessings in your life. In fact if you would, post a blessing below 👇🏻....mine is definitely waking me up this morning and my family 😊❤️ have a blessed day everyone....Jesus loves you 🙏🏼
Gospel Lighthouse Church • May 06, 2020
Starting today I want to share scriptures that define our identity in Christ and what it truly means to BE IN Him!! I’m going to use a letter from the alphabet each day...(using from our church bulletin)
So today is A = I am ABLE to do all things through Christ. Scripture reference is Philippians 4:13
What is something you struggle with? In your prayer time confess that “thing” to God and then speak the answer which is I can do ALL things through Christ, not our strength but His!
Be encouraged you are not alone and God bless! ❤️🙏🏼
Gospel Lighthouse Church • May 05, 2020
At some point in the course of study you will ask the question, “Am I a Theologian now?” Here is a short answer…yes, you are. Every one of us is a theologian. Even an atheist is a theologian. The little old lady living down the street is a theologian. The ten-year-old asking questions is a theologian. Why is that? Because every one of one us has thoughts and ideas of God. Every one of us has thoughts and ideas on how those things affect our lives. That makes us all theologians.
The thing that separates us in these classes from the little old lady down the street is simple. And profound at the same time. We are actively thinking about and ordering our thoughts about God and the Christian life. So in that sense, as you progress through this Couse of Study, you already are and are becoming even more of a theologian.
Theology can be defined as: A religious belief system about God or ultimate reality. Theology commonly refers to the ordered, systematic study or interpretation of the Christian faith and experience of God based on God’s divine self-revelation. Theology also seeks to apply these truths to the full breadth of human experience and thought. So with this definition, every time you write a paper or preach or defend the Faith, you are a theologian.
With that in mind, I would like to make a recommendation. Read, read, read, and when you are done reading, read some more. Obviously, somewhere along the line, you will preach and teach and witness , but it starts in a place of expanding how and why you speak about God. I can hear some of you saying, “That is easy for you Jason. You have all the books and the resources” We will discuss that in future posts.