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Showing posts from December, 2015

Our identity: God- or me-centered?

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This is the first post in a series exploring God, Freedom & Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered Culture by Ron Highfield, professor of religion at Pepperdine University. My thanks to Dr. Gary Deddo for recommending this book. I'll be summarizing its key points. I solicit your comments as we proceed. To read other posts in this series, click on a number: 2, 3,456, 78910111213.

Within Christianity and without, debates rage over questions related to ethics: How should we live/behave? On what do we base our answers? Incarnational Trinitarian theology, following the Christo-logic of the biblical gospel, answers these questions by pointing to the related topic of identity. Why identity? Because that is where Scripture takes us, in line with the truth that we humans tend to live (behave) in accord with our sense of personal identity.

With respect to identity, the gospel declares that our true, God-given personal identity is found not with…

Cosmic Christmas

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And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. (Revelation 11:19-12:2 KJV) So begins a section in the book of Revelation, which according to T.F. Torrance (in The Apocalypse Today: Sermons on Revelation), offers "a panoramic view of world-history...from the perspective of the Kingdom of God" (p. 90a). He continues:
We look right into the Temple of God in Heaven and see something of the eternal purpose of God, and the way in which He works out the redemption of mankind throughout the ages. (p. 90b) How is this redemption accomplished? How do the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of God? It begins wit…

The praxis of forgiveness

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This is the 15th and concluding post in a series reviewing the book The Shape of Practical Theology: Empowering Ministry with Theological Praxis by Ray S. Anderson. For other posts in the series, click a number: 123456789101112, 1314.

We conclude our exploration of Anderson's book on practical theology (what he refers to as theological praxis) with a review of key points in his chapter on a practical theology of forgiveness (the praxis of forgiveness). When it comes to living out incarnational Trinitarian theology in the crucible of the "real world," there is, perhaps, no more important and challenging topic than this. Anderson comments:
Being a Christian means not merely being forgiven but being a forgiving person. Forgiveness is not only a spiritual grace but a human virtue, to be experienced and expressed as a mark of graceful living. (p291) Unfortunately, several misconceptions exist among Christians as to what true (biblical) forgiveness entai…

Universal salvation?

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Sometimes I'm asked, "Does GCI teach universal salvation?" My typical reply is this: "It depends on what you mean by universalism." To clarify GCI's teaching on this topic, I recommend the short video below in which William Paul Young (author of The Shack, Crossroads, and Eve) shares a perspective that, in general, aligns with what GCI teaches. For another Surprising God post on this topic, click here.

Advent, Christmas and Epiphany

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As we enter the new church year (in accordance with the Western-Christian liturgical calendar), our worship is focused on three joy- and hope-filled reminders of God’s lavish love:

Advent(meaning coming) reminds us that, in love, God has come, is coming, and shall come to us in the person of Jesus, our Savior. Advent services are held on the four Sundays preceding Christmas(meaning festival or mass of Christ)---the celebration of Jesus' incarnation and birth on December 25 (and, in some traditions, for a total of 12 days).

Following Advent/Christmas comes Epiphany(meaning revealing), which reminds us that the Savior of humankind is none other than Jesus of Nazareth---the Son of God incarnate; God and humanity (two natures) united in one person. Epiphany services typically are held the Sunday prior to the day of Epiphany (which falls each year on January 6). These services focus on the revealing of Jesus to the world—typically highlighting either the visit of the Magi to honor the i…