Home At Last

In more than five years of looking for a Church family, I have seen every form of doctrinal rot, stained-glass masquerade, neglect (if not outright ostracism) of those in dire need of encouragement and worse. I’ll be honest. I despaired of ever finding a group of people who could honestly look me in the eye and say, “You’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, and to pretend otherwise robs Jesus of His glory in covering our brokenness. So, let’s be broken together, and lean, together, on Jesus.” My search is over. Lanier Hills Church – Duckett Mill Campus is truly the perfect church for people who aren’t. That motto greeted me on a sign as we drove onto the campus for the first time, some four months ago. I did the Spock eyebrow and wondered if it could be true. I was, I admit, completely skeptical, but we’d been invited by a guy I had already decided I liked, and who, if he was comfortable here, was at least a signal I wouldn’t be theologically incompatible with the doctrine preached. (Bud Harris) We walked in with the kids, and were immediately greeted, warmly. The children’s director was nowhere to be found, but no matter, whomever was at hand was happy to guide us. It seemed a little scattered and hectic, but there were self-deprecating smiles and an obvious joy flowing from those who helped. I began to think, “these people don’t really do ‘high-church’ very well… this is a good sign.” We settled in for the service. The music was enthusiastic and fervent, if a little different from what I normally enjoy. That might have bothered me more in the past, but I’ve grown up a little, and I was determined not to let it get in the way of worship for me. (It’s since grown on me quite a lot, to the point that I’ve joined the worship team to play Guitar/Bass and sing in the choir, but I get ahead of myself.) Sermon time. This, generally, has been my Achilles heel, my stumbling block. I have a history of being ‘that guy’ who nitpicks sermons and wants to be sort of a doctrinal policeman, bulldogging the details. I had a definite tendency to turn...

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God is Love

“God is Love”… What do we mean by this? Our typical understanding of that phrase, “God is Love,” is littered with preconceived notions and assumptions about what that “love” is. We know what that word means, right? We’re adults, most of us are married, some have kids, we know “love.” Well, perhaps not. It certainly doesn’t mean the mushy, flighty infatuation we’re inflicted with as kids. Nor is it solely the stoic, stubborn commitment we married folk discover after a few years of putting up with each other’s idiosyncrasies. *grin* Before I start, a hat-tip to Wayne Grudem and his Systematic Theology for guiding this post. This is essentially a distillation of his chapter on the subject, with my emphasis and understanding thereof and some borrowed wisdom from other parts of that book as well. Also, I have to credit John Piper for his keying me into the joy and desire for God as the crux of Christian life. As always, the ultimate glory belongs to God, without whom I would have neither the insight nor the desire to write things like this. Firstly, literally so, God’s Love predates creation. It is a continuous, self-sacrificing, active seeking after the benefit of others that existed in the Trinity before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24) It is also eternal, and reciprocal. Jesus loves the Father just as the Father loves His Son. (John 14:31) This continual seeking of one after the happiness of the other is on full display in God’s (the Trinity’s) interactions with mankind. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 ESV) Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1-7: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, […] and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great LOVE with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved!—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the...

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Battling Unbelief & The Problem of Evil

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV) Do you trust God? That, really, is the heart of the gospel. Can we, knowing our failure, move past and accept his forgiveness, allowing him to free us from slavery to our sin? He is not the source of our failure to change. We are. We fight against him, not wanting to relinquish the identity that our sin grants, not trusting God to -really- forgive. We look for the catch, wait for the other shoe to drop. So very many people, Christians and seekers alike, suffer from an inability to trust, and it isn’t hard to understand why. Our world, and our lives have conditioned us to be suspicious. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” Robert Heinlein is famous for writing.[1] People troubled by the problem of evil have a different angle on this question, though, that must be addressed: “Can I trust God?” The problem of evil, at its core, consists of and is driven by this question. It is not some moot philosophical musing meant for erudite minds who converse via elevated, scholarly prose pregnant with references to the ideas of much smarter men. It is a question we all must ask ourselves, and a question I have been asked, via the vehicle of the problem of evil, on countless occasions by tortured seekers trying to understand the mind of God. Before delving into the answers my research has uncovered, I believe it prudent that we first define some terms, particularly the broad assumptions of the problem of evil itself. The problem of pain can be boiled down to a non-sequitur in syllogistic form: · God is Good · God is all-knowing and all-powerful · Evil Exists It is a non-sequitur because the conclusion, that “evil exists,” does not follow from the premises. This is the simplest form of the problem of evil, and on its surface there certainly does seem to be a problem! Each of these statements can be, and generally are, accepted as axiomatic, with very little investigation into what each statement really means. So let’s explore each of...

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Surrender of Illusions (Ephesians 4:25)

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25 ESV) This strikes me as one of the most profound things I’ve ever read. In context, putting away all falsehood is a result, or a part, of “putting on” the new self after rejecting the old. I think the latter, on reflection, as what Paul implies here is not merely the eschewing of blatant falsehood but the surrender of illusions. I’ll let that sink in for a sec. So what does it mean to surrender our illusions? Well, we all have them, firstly. There is not a man, woman or child living that doesn’t tell themselves comforting stories about their environment to “civilize” their situations, their surroundings and their relationships with others. We ignore things we’re uncomfortable with and replace the truth with conveniently painted lies to make life less painful, make each breath a little easier. We “accentuate the positive” by simply focusing our attention there more firmly. How many people do you know whose lives echo the drama they see on television or in the movies, who are constantly weaving great epics around themselves? I know plenty, and I’m sure you do too. But what Paul is calling us to here is in stark contrast with this common behavior. He’s calling us to place our faith in the truth, to embrace it and not color over its rougher parts nor paint the brighter bits in neon. We’re called to put away falsehood, let go of our illusions about ourselves and our standing before God and man, BUT WHY? In this verse (and its context), I see an if-then relationship. Before we can speak the truth to each other and have it be of any use, be believable in any way, we MUST rid ourselves of illusion and live on the solid rock that is that truth. If we don’t live the truth, how can we expect people to believe the truth? In case anyone is thinking that letting go of illusions is easy, ask yourself this: what have I loved this week more than God, and how was I hiding from that truth? What sins have I...

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Don’t be afraid to be broken.

The Calling of Matthew 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matt 9:9-13 (NIV) Someone in my Sunday school class said a few weeks ago, as we were discussing the persistence of sin in the believer’s life after Justification (Romans 7), “but what happens when you try to witness to someone and they just throw back in your face, ‘you’re a sinner too, and you’re trying to tell me this?’” My response during the class was less tactful than I tend to try to be, but in my defense, I was a bit excited. See last post. I am a Bible geek and Jesus freak. “But that’s the point, that’s the whole thrust of the Good News itself! We’re broken, each and every one of us, and in desperate need of a Savior who can set us free from slavery to the desires of the flesh, which never satisfy, they only make us desire them more!” Our brokenness doesn’t disqualify us from presenting the Gospel to others. In fact, it can be a very effective tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit in getting across the deadly seriousness of our condition when we live without the Gospel. See, some people seem to think that their sin is a black mark on their walk with God, that He (and by extension, the Church) will somehow love them less because of their sin, and that their sin will diminish their social standing in the Church and with non-Christians. (The latter of these may even be true in some so-called Christian churches, but I would be hard-pressed to...

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Hi, my name is Evan, and I’m a Bible geek.

I’m also a grammar geek, Star Trek geek and computer geek. Give me a break, I grew up that way. This week the full force of my geekiness has been turned towards the Bible as I’ve discovered and started to practice the Bible study technique that John Piper uses, called “Arcing.” It’s something that feels a little bit like forcing yourself to breathe, because we do this naturally whenever we read anything, discerning meaning from language. The catch is that this technique forces you into the author’s mind to discern not just any meaning but THEIR meaning for using this or that particular word or phrase. It’s not unlike sentence diagramming, but on a larger scale and much more fruitful in terms of the information you can glean from doing so. John Piper here talks about this technique and basically says all the things I just said, but better… because he’s John Piper, and I’m Evan Weeks, and we can’t be compared in the same sentence while drinking unless you like beverage squirting out your eyes. He has a site set up where you can basically learn how to create your own arcs hands-on, using a tool they’ve built into the site. If you pay a minimum $10 fee, you get a year’s access to actually store and share your arcs with others. I’ve done it. Yeah. I’ve got an arc up there on Romans 8:5-8, because we’re there in Sunday School right now, and because that section seemed the most logically straightforward to cut my teeth on this method. I was actually surprised how much more the passage spoke to me the more I cut it apart and reassembled it noting the logical relationships between the propositions. I do feel like I need a pocket protector with a cross on it now, though. In all seriousness, I can already see that this technique is going to open windows on the will of God in ways I had never imagined. I encourage all of my friends and fellow disciples to take a look and maybe even do some learning. There’s a video series on the site detailing how to get started, as well as beginner and intermediate examples. Get to know this technique and...

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