Issue #85

The Doctrine of God, Reject the Idol of Happiness, Why Do Christians Make Such a Big Deal about Sex, and more...

Issue #85
Photo by Sandy Millar / Unsplash

Listen and Learn 🎧

The Doctrine of God | Jen Wilken, J.T. English, and Kyle Worley 🎧 →

The season of the “Knowing Faith” podcast is all about the Doctrine of God. This episode is the introduction. Wilken, English, and Worley talk about what a “doctrine” is and what it means to study the Doctrine of God.

The Doctrine of God, often called “Theology Proper,” is to know what God is like, his attributes, and how he acts in the world.

Questions Covered in This Episode:
– Why does the doctrine of God matter?– What is a doctrine? When we say the “doctrine of ______,” what are we saying?– How do we come to doctrine? (Bible, history, experience, etc.)– What role does community play in doctrine?– What are some of the crucial issues in considering the doctrine of God?

Explore the Scriptures 📖

Four Things Creation Teaches Us about God | Daniel Darling 📃 →

A. W. Tozer famously said that what comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. In my view, if you want to cultivate better thinking about God, there’s no better place to start than the creation account in the book of Genesis.

Continuing on from the Doctrine of God, what can creation teach us about God?

1. Creation reveals a God who is not like us.

Sometimes we act like we want a God we can reduce to our size, a God who overlooks our flaws and blesses our indiscretions. We want a God we can shape and shift. But is this really what we want? A God who is limited by our limitations, a God who is subject to our fears and captive to our whims? When we whisper desperate prayers in the night, when we plead with God at the bedside of a loved one, when we pray over our children, we’re praying to a God we need to be big, a God we can trust is managing the world we can’t control. Down deep in our souls, we don’t want the cheap plastic gods of our age but an all-powerful God who is bigger than the problems we face and can defeat the things that haunt us.
2. Creation reveals a God of order and beauty.


3. Creation reveals a God who is personal.


4. Creation reveals a God of the beginning and the end.

When we think about God, we learn about him from the scriptures as well as from creation. When we stop and think about creation, we learn about God. All that it takes is to truly stop and meditate on what his works tell us.

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Consider Another Perspective 🤔

Reject the Idol of Happiness | Relevant Magazine 📃 →

I remember the phone call and the subsequent conversations that forever changed my life vividly.

“It’s my time to be happy.”

It was my father’s voice, giving me one of the reasons he was leaving my mother after nearly 30 years. My father was walking away from his job and marriage in the pursuit of happiness.

I would love to say that my experiences at the hands of “happy” are unique, but over the past year I have watched “happy” break apart multiple marriages, damage churches and shatter families.

The idol of happiness—the idea that the chief goal of life is to find happiness as we define it—is one of the most pervasive heresies among American Christians. We chase the American dream because we think it will make us happy.

Happiness is our idol. Why are we not pursuing holiness with the same passion with which we are pursuing happiness? How have we come to allow ourselves to put more trust in a fleeting emotion than in a God who says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness … Blessed are the poor in spirit … Blessed are those who mourn”?

Happiness is a perilous thing. It focuses our attention on ourselves and how we are feeling in the moment. But moments change. People change. Happiness will not hold. It’s a season—a side effect of when things are going well and your dopamine levels are up. Happiness is great to enjoy in the moment, but to spend a lifetime chasing it warps it into the idol we have made it out to be.

Happiness is not something to pursue. Holiness is something to pursue.

When we pursue holiness, we will find joy. Happiness is momentary. Joy lasts because joy is rooted in the hope that God is sovereign and has promised us new creation.

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

How Can I Learn to Receive Criticism? | John Piper 🎧 →

The question Pastor John Piper is addressing:

Hello, Pastor John. Thank you for this outlet to ask my question. I’ll get right to it. I think too much about what people think of me. In particular, when people criticize me, I really take it to heart. I know I should focus on Jesus. But I fail. Sometimes I cannot sleep as I think about what people said about me. It is worst at work. I really take my office job to heart and cannot deal with it when my boss criticizes anything about what I do. I might look cool and stay calm and polite, but I wilt inside. What can I do to overcome this feeling of hurt? How can I focus on Jesus instead of myself?

Piper’s answer is typically pastoral and breaks down the problem helpfully. He identifies four types of criticism that we might receive.

1. There is criticism that is deserved and is given in kindness and goodwill.2. There is criticism that is deserved and is given in harsh and demeaning ways.3. There’s criticism that is not deserved and is given in kindness and goodwill. It’s a real mistake; it’s just an honest mistake.4. There is criticism that is undeserved and is given in harsh and demeaning ways and may have real ill will behind it.

Once that’s broken down, Piper gives us tools for dealing with criticism, and I think, for understanding how we ought to give criticism too.

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Read and Reflect 📖

God’s Intention Was a World Full of Diversity | Steven Bryan 📃 →

Although they are told to fill the earth, they are placed in the limited domain of a garden. In both art and popular imagination, the garden appears as a kind of bucolic paradise with unbidden abundance that the first humans simply receive. Had they not rebelled, we assume, they would simply have stayed put, enjoying the largesse of the God-planted garden in perpetual leisure. It is thus easy to forget that the command to fill the earth predates the fall. Here, perhaps, our imagination needs reformation.

Given that God places the humans in a garden that he tells them to tend and situates the garden on the earth that he tells them to fill, the command to fill the earth is not a summons to leave the garden but to expand it. The contrast is not between paradise within and the barren waste beyond, but between the cultivated and not-yet-cultivated portions of creation, the whole of which God pronounces “good.” The garden is formed by God and given to humans as a model for their creative cultivation of the whole.

The fact that the humans are called not only to cultivate the garden but also to expand it is fundamental to a theology of work. However, it is important for another reason as well. The term cultivate is slightly misleading, as it tends to suggest a purely agrarian shape to the divine mandate. Not so. As the humans multiply, they begin to interact with the created world in a variety of ways. They farm, but they also hunt and herd. Some lead settled lives, while others, such as Abel and Abraham, are described as pastoralists, living in tents and moving as rainfall and grass conditions required. At the same time, those who settle are not all farmers. Some build cities. Others begin to work with metal. Still others become poets or musicians.

However rudimentary, these varied pursuits and patterns of life represent the emergence of cultures. Nothing in the text suggests that these alternative ways of life are a consequence of the fall.

Christianity Is True ✝️

An Underrated Proof for Jesus’ Deity | Erik Manning 📽 →

One of the most common objections to Christianity is that the deity of Jesus was invented by later Christians long after the first century. No early Christians believed Jesus was pre-existent, let alone God. It was only until 325 AD did the council of Nicea declare him to be God. There's an underrated passage in 1 Corinthians that disproves this notion.

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Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

Why Do Christians Make Such a Big Deal about Sex? | Rebecca McLaughlin 📃 →

There might be no bigger point of conflict between Christianity and the wider western world than the topic of sex. Rebecca McLaughlin is one of the best and most sensitive Christian writers on religion and culture.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful short story Zikora begins with a woman in labor. As the story and the labor progress, we see Zikora texting the father of her baby. He was her long-term boyfriend who abandoned her when she declined his proposal—not of marriage, but of abortion. “I’ll take care of everything,” he’d said. She’d told him she was stopping birth control and thought he was on board. But he had said they’d miscommunicated:
“Kwame,” I said finally, in a plea and a prayer, looking at him, loving him. Our conversation felt juvenile; an unreal air hung over us. I wanted to say, “I’m thirty-nine and you’re thirty-seven, employed and stable, I have a key to your apartment, your clothes are in my closet, and I’m not sure what conversation we should be having but it shouldn’t be this one.”
We find out later that Zikora had had an abortion at age nineteen. She was pregnant by a guy she’d met in college. “I don’t do commitment,” he had said, “but I didn’t hear what he said,” Zikora recalls, “I heard what I wanted to hear: he hadn’t done commitment yet.” In the first century, poverty and fatherlessness often led to infants being left outside to die. Today, they are the biggest drivers of abortion—which is often less the flower of a woman’s so-called right to choose and more a bitter fruit served up to women who feel like they don’t have a choice.

These are the stories we don’t often hear. The stories of death driven by despair.

In some ways, the divorce of sex from marriage that we’ve witnessed in the twenty-first-century West is not unprecedented. Some form of commitment-free sex for men has been a feature of most societies throughout history, and women have borne the consequences: social, emotional, and physical. But Jesus locates sex in the one-flesh union of marriage between a man and a woman and gives it spiritual significance. This makes sense of his hard words about adultery and other forms of sexual immorality. Sex is not just a pleasurable act. It isn’t even just a means for having kids. It’s an expression of a one-flesh unity, made by God to picture Jesus’s love for us.

For More:

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It collected every kind of fish, and when it was full, they dragged it ashore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw out the worthless ones.
— Matthew 13:47–48 (CSB)

Joel Fischer

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