Monday, December 12, 2005

Into the World

True believers are in the world but not of the world. We are chosen out of the world to be with Jesus. What does that entail? Must we distinguish between things of the world and heavenly things in our daily lives, or is it more about our mindset than our physical participation in this world?

In a nutshell, we are participants, but not adherents. We live here, but we are not permenant residents.

  • We use the things of the world and engage the world in ways it can understand. But we do not hold the values, perspectives, philosophies, or attitudes of the world.

  • We can be citizens of countries, nations, tribes, families, or communities in the world. But we operate as visiting citizens or ambassadors from another place. We hold our primary citizenship in God's Kingdom.

  • We get involved in the issues and politics of the world, but only in the interest of a more powerful coming kingdom.

  • We enjoy many of the things this world has to offer. But we do so as if this will not bring fulfillment, and we see it as pale to what we truly own from above.

  • We own things in this world with the knowledge that we do not really own it. But what we truly own from above no one can see it or touch it.

  • We use the things the world highly values as if they hold little value to us. However, what we highly value the world does not value.

  • We work to please God, and in so doing commend ourselves to men. But we do not work to please men, because we are from God. And for this men will hate us.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Forgiveness or Travesty

Emperor Trajanus Decius published an official edict on January 3, 250 that every Roman citizen should sacrifice to the Roman gods. This would serve to unite a divided kingdom, encumbered by economic, political, and military crisis. Due to this edict, many Christian believers suffered imprisonment and execution.

Decius eventually died fighting the Goths in June of 251 and the persecution ended. But after that time a controversy arose within the Christian community. Apparently, some believers avoided persecution during the time of Decius' edict by either sacrificing to false gods, or stealing the necessary papers that proved that they did. Now that everything has settled down, they want back into the community.

This caused a schism in the Church. Some imprisoned believers gave pardons to mass groups of returning believers. Some pardons were faked. Some believers were in a quandary due to their feelings about friends and relatives who had died refusing to give in to authorities, and refusing to deny Jesus. What would you do?

The problem may be in how we look at the issue.

  • The problem is not a legal one. They tried to answer the question: "Should we forgive people who deny Jesus?" The answer would set a precedent in how to deal with situations like this. The final answer was "Yes. If Peter can be forgiven and even retain a position of leadership, then these people should be afforded no less." The problem with this conclusion is that the answer doesn't apply to the unrepentant or the unbeliever. You can't forgive someone for denying Jesus, who doesn't believe nor wants to. You can't forgive someone who thinks they did the right thing in denying Jesus. You can only seek for their repentance by working with them or asking God to grant it to them. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

    So then, how would you know? You can't, unless there are real relationships that can reveal this. It is a relational problem, not a legal one.

  • The controversy surrounded the role of forgiveness. But is that really the issue? Maybe it is partly the issue. But I believe to be the bigger issue is about value. How valuable is the name of Jesus? How heinous is denying him? Does it require more understanding to repent of, than a desire to return to the fold? Obviously, many of the believers who returned were later martyred for their faith, so they may have understood very well what they had done.

  • Last, in our context we see the issues differently than they did. In our context of religious freedom, we move too easily in and out of the Christian community, easily accept the faith (like joining a health club), and easily hold our beliefs too often along side competing belief systems. Because there is little consequence for these actions in our culture, we are often too quick to answer in the affirmative when discussing forgiveness.

Do we really understand the anguish unfaithfulness really causes?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Why is There War?

Nobody really desires war. Most people hate war. In fact, many people really don't struggle with war because they would never imagine engaging in it. My generation and younger are probably the first where the majority of people are not military. So we have a harder time understanding it than previous generations. However, I would hope we can form a biblical understanding, even if it is different from each other.

People engage in war because conflict in this world is inevitable. As long as people ignore God, allow envy in their lives, or take what is not theirs to have, war is necessary. And this is true whether the war is between nations or at the community level. (James 4:1-3) This is why we have police, guards, soldiers, locks, security systems, etc.

War is a given. So it would be wise to not be too alarmed, nor let our hearts get weighed down in this world. For many things will happen. And our faith is not dependent on what we perceive as good. (Matthew 24:6-14; Luke 21:34) Instead, bind those who are wounded--physically and emotionally, share the hope of salvation with the world--enemy or ally, be faithful to Christ--serving one another in grace.

War is war. It is necessary. Soldiers who become Christians are never asked to lay down their arms by any follower of Christ in Scripture, nor by Jesus Himself. (Luke 3:7-14; Acts 10; Matthew 8:5-13) In fact the endorsement by Paul and Peter of the wicked Roman government is that they do God's will in this world to stem back evil. (Romans 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-17)

What I want—no more war—is irrelevant.
Who I trust—God or man—is relevant.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Christianity Versus Commitment to Christ

Barna Research recently released a study on Christian Faith Commitment. The study revealed that American Christians are more devoted to being called Christian than actually practicing any biblical applications of principles. Barna says:

“For starters, it appears that most Americans like the security and the identity of the label ‘Christian’ but resist the biblical responsibilities that are associated with that identification. For most Americans, being a Christian is more about image than action. Further,” he continued, “researchers and those who use research data must be careful how they portray people’s spiritual commitment. Such descriptions are greatly affected by the way in which commitment is measured.”

In an earlier study, Barna observed the trend that people who demonstrate a high-level of faith commitment tend to be less associated with local congregations in the traditional sense—especially in the northeast. He even wrote a book about this, titled, Revolution. In his assessment of this trend, Barna believes that a new form of church experience is emerging.

However, in my previous analysis, I was not so sure this was a good thing. In fact, it demonstrates our staunchly individualistic style of faith rather than our commitment to Jesus Christ. We would presume to "design" our Christian experience rather than commit or "covenant" ourselves together as local communities. We desire to segment ourselves into groups of similar-maturated individuals, rather than engage in the hard work of committing to each other's maturity as a community—together only because of the blood of Jesus, not maturity level, the rituals, or the lack of rituals.

I believe this latest study confirms some of my suspicions, although I am not sure Barna would agree with me. I see a good and bad trend in the Christian world. The good side is that people desire to find ways of experiencing God that don't always fit man-centered, prescribed, encounters. On the other hand, protestants have always been individualistic in American culture. Some of the fruit of this attitude is constant splits, denominational births and deaths, and drifting from grace to law.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Nature of Evil

I wonder sometimes if our current culture understands anything about evil. We are often content with seeing life as a series of events or bad decisions. But who discusses evil? When evil is ever mentioned, it is poo-pooed as old fashioned, or worse, superstitious. Why? Maybe because we will be confronted with our own moral failure. Maybe it seems too harsh, today, to be considered evil. Maybe we've replaced personal responsibility for inanimate objects or circumstances (i.e. guns or tough times).

However, I've come to the conclusion in my lifetime that:
  • evil can not be negotiated with.

  • evil can not be accommodated.

  • evil will not be ignored.

  • evil always hates what is good.

  • evil calls what is good, evil.

  • evil is not a circumstance, feeling, or thing.

  • evil is an attitude, and an act of the will.

  • evil loves darkness.

  • evil hates light.

  • evil loves lies.

  • evil hates truth.

  • evil always corrupts.

  • evil never purifies.

  • evil always places hope somewhere other than God.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Gifts for Good

I am in the process of reading a series of articles pertaining to our spiritual gifts. Of course the usual encouragement to find our gifts and put ourselves in the position to use our gifts is ever present. But there are some things I still am not sure about, but know it is popular for many Christians to believe.

First of all, the idea that we need to "find" our gift is interesting to me. Not because it is worthy of much thought, but because it is so strange. Granted, the gift of the Spirit was always preached, and there seemed to be a need for people to understand it. However, the manifestation of the Spirit empowering believers in different areas was simply evidence of the Spirit's work among God's people. It was obvious. And, it was only addressed in Scripture in the context of why and how we use those gifts. Not much, if at all, is addressed concerning finding our gifts.

Maybe someone can make the argument that since Paul wrote in Romans 12 that we need to serve with whatever gift we have, that it implies that in order for one to do so, one must know what one's gift is. I am not sure about that. What if that passage simply means that the natural action we take after spending our time renewing our minds and serving the body of Christ will be to use our gifts in the process.

Additionally, the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 addressing the various gifts in the Church is offering a similar explanation from the perspective of exhorting people to stop valuing gifts more than their purpose. Rather use the gifts they have to edify and build up the Church. In other words, using our gifts to serve one another should be the natural result of understanding who we are in Christ (renewal of mind).

This idea is carried over in Ephesians 4 as well. Paul is saying that our gifts (or rather our differences) are necessary to help the Church grow and mature. They should be a source to perpetuate unity instead of division. The ultimate goal being that a change in mindset should be occurring, and as a result, the whole body of Christ will serve and grow. This brings us to an interesting problem.

When we view our spiritual gifts from the perspective of our current culture, we naturally have to separate our spiritual gifts from our natural talents and abilities. There is some truth to this, but it can be a problematic, because all our abilities and talents are, well, spiritual. God made us and endowed us with gifts at birth. On the other hand, Jesus did do something new when he conquered death according to Ephesians 4. He spread gifts to men. So in a since, we are given something new as a result of being in Christ, but that doesn't matter. In Christ all that we do is colored by Christ.

For instance, if I am a civil engineer by trade before becoming a Christian, that doesn't change after I become a Christian. But that trade becomes a holy work of God, because of Christ. I no longer see civil engineering the same way anymore. I rather see the will of God in my work, in how I work, and in what that work is suppose to be like. I can see this trade's true intent; its true nature from the perspective of a Christian reference point.

So, what difference does that make? A lot. From a less developed perspective, a person may value seeking out their gifts as the best way to serve God effectively. In fact, in one article the author went so far as to say that if we serve where we are not gifted, we will not produce any fruit. I bristle at that thought. The only reference in Scripture to fruit-bearing in our lives is what Jesus said about our abiding in him (John 15). The act of abiding in Jesus (finding our sense of meaning, purpose, and sustenance in Jesus) is the main reason we bear any fruit. It is not about fitting our gifts to our ministries. If we abide in Jesus, no matter what we do, we will bear fruit. Therefore, maturity in Christ as we serve each other is what will bear fruit.

Finally, I've seen people produce great results from doing a gifts inventory, and working in a ministry they enjoy—even when they didn't know Christ. But the results, or rather fruit, is all about what God is looking for, not what we are looking for. I want to be very careful about this. It is about what God is looking for, not what we are looking for. The New Testament is very clear. Don't spend too much time assessing your gifts. Spend your time renewing your thought patterns; submitting them to Christ. And as a result, serve your fellow believers and help your neighbors, so that they too can be transformed by Christ. You can't help but be empowered by the Holy Spirit when you do these things. Be filled with the Spirit, not methodologies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Social Justice

Social justice means different things to different people. But generally speaking, most people who advocate for social justice do so in opposition to poverty, hate, sexism, racism, economic oppression, and authoritarianism (not necessarily totalitarianism). Conversely the same advocates would be in favor of equality for people of different cultures, sexual orientations, or religions. They also would favor more government control over equal distributions of wealth, over access to goods and services, and over the behavior of citizens (as long as it doesn't violate individual freedoms of speech).

In the mind of a social justice advocate the problems of mankind stem from being out of step with nature, being greedy, and being religiously dogmatic. These things are enemies to their plan of redemption. In some of their minds, we are products of evolutionary processes, so the goal of mankind is to get back in harmony with the natural. This means sexual revolution, preservation of the environment, the end of national borders (and war), and the proliferation of rights. Additionally, the practice of religion is to be seen as the experience of either culture or healthy lifestyles -- not as truth claims.

But do all social justice advocates see the world this way. No. The ones that don't tend to have a confused overarching worldview. For instance, in advocating for free speech, is it right to call black people "n--gers"? If not, what constitutes free speech? Who decides? A person with an inconsistent worldview would not know what to do with that. However, many do have a consistent worldview.

Those who advocate social justice argue from a consistent set of principles. I know, because I was one of them at one time. Just prior to becoming an advocate, I had an inconsistent worldview about these matters. I was against big corporations, but also against unemployment. I was for abortion, but against infanticide. Then for a time I began to develop a more consistent worldview when I decided that according to evolutionary theory, there are no overarching moral absolutes, just preferences. The enforcement of preferences by power was what made things true or false. Therefore, do whatever you want, for tomorrow you die.

Being an advocate became the natural reaction, because by power I can create the world the way I want it to be: a world absent of war, poverty, or pain, but present with happiness, love, and peace. Through power, or rather revolution of like-minded people, we can create this world.

But in 1986 it all changed for me. I became a Christian. Not religious. A Christian.

I accepted a Christian worldview because I found out that Jesus was a real person that really rose from the dead. Therefore, it became apparent to me that Jesus is God who visited humanity within history. I was confronted with a new, but remarkable reality. God really is. He really made us, and we are accountable to Him. Our problems stem, not from our divorce from nature, but rather our divorce from God. We went our own way and are suffering for that decision. God chose to redeem mankind by coming in history to pay for our sins with his life.

After doing so, the message had to spread so that people everywhere can experience salvation. But in order for people to experience this salvation, they must turn to God and accept the truth of the message -- this view of the world and the solution from God's perspective. Eventually, our redemption will be complete when Jesus comes back to remake the world for those who believe. A world free from war, pain, sorrow, and sickness. A world full of joy, laughter, and incredible love. A world where Jesus our God is King-- a righteous and benevolent King -- instead of self- indulgent people or governments. A world where we will live in true peace and safety -- not in fear of the self-centered and manipulators.

This view of reality is more and more entrenched into my psyche because I find on a daily basis that it is thoroughly consistent with my personal experiences and deepest longings. And it is consistent with the suffering we experience. It is also consistent with increasing knowledge, through science and discoveries, of our origins and universal environment. Finally, it is consistent with the evidence that we all intrinsically know something is wrong, and we want to fix it. Yet we have been unable to fix it throughout all of time. We are incapable, because we are part of the problem. We need help from outside of our decaying circumstances. We need a Savior.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Do We Really Believe What Jesus Said?

When Peter told Jesus he was willing to die for him, Jesus told him he would deny him three times before the roster crows. However, Peter was emphatic that Jesus must of been wrong, because he thought he knew himself better than Jesus did.

Sadly, Peter came to a painful reality about himself and about Jesus. He did the very things Jesus said he would do. Peter discovered that in his own weakness and failure he was unable to live up to even his own ideals. And he also discovered that even though Jesus knew all about this, still loved him and called him to service. Peter came to understand that he needed Jesus much more than Jesus needed him, and that Jesus' call on his life was an act of mercy, not employment. Peter's ability was never the main issue in serving Christ, but simple submission and gratitude.

Today, we are sometimes as emphatic as Peter was. Although Jesus said he would allow the wheat and weeds to grow up together, we insist that we can make our churches "effective." We just need a "revival." Although Jesus said that in the last days, brother will betray brother, and the love of some will grow cold, we insist we can make our churches havens from fighting and division, and no one will fall away from the faith. Even though Jesus made it clear that our true home is in heaven, we build our lives here like this is our home forever. Jesus said that His kingdom is from another place, built not by human hands. But many insist that we must work to make the world a better place, instead of work to spread the Gospel of God's salvation. If we do not outright say these things, what we really believe is revealed by what we focus on and what we fear.

Therefore, in order to deal with bad news from Jesus appropriately, we must first accept Jesus at His word. When we accept Him at His word, we begin to accept reality. As a result we will be able to accept our own human failings, and learn to lean on the grace of God found in Christ -- which is what is trully holding any of us up. And don't follow the way of Judas, who took matters into his own hands. He tried to atone for his own sin, and he was condemned.

Friday, October 14, 2005

What Would Church Be Like in the Future?

According to a recent report by George Barna Research, there is a new movement occurring among believers. Barna names the members of this movement, Revolutionaries. These Revolutionaries are people who don't see church as a place, or simply a group that one belongs to. They view the Church as something that you are. And wherever you are, the Church exists.

They are also looking for a deeper relationship with God than simply church attendance, and worship Sundays. They want a daily walk with God that is robust and meaningful. They shape their worldviews by the mind of Christ rather than popular opinions or group-think. Although Barna predicts that Revolutionaries will begin to drop out of traditional local churches, it will not be for the usual reasons. His report states,

Using survey data and other cultural indicators he has been measuring for more than two decades, Barna estimates that the local church is presently the primary form of faith experience and expression for about two-thirds of the nation'’s adults. He projects that by 2025 the local church will lose roughly half of its current "“market share"” and that alternative forms of faith experience and expression will pick up the slack. Importantly, Barna's studies do not suggest that most people will drop out of a local church to simply ignore spirituality or be freed up from the demands of church life... A growing percentage of church dropouts will be those who leave a local church in order to intentionally increase their focus on faith and to relate to God through different means.

That growth is fueling alternative forms of organized spirituality, as well as individualized faith experience and expression. Examples of these new approaches include involvement in a house church, participation in marketplace ministries, use of the Internet to satisfy various faith-related needs or interests, and the development of unique and intense connections with other people who are deeply committed to their pursuit of God.

I have to say that I can relate with this phenomenon. In my heart I desire to experience deeper closeness to Jesus. I also realize that local Churches tend to stifle growth for one reason or another. The local Churches' interest is sometimes worldly. The reliance on programs and current educational models to initiate transformation is sometimes too great. The faith and worship experiences are often too tied to cultural concerns. And relationships often have to fit around the activities created by too broad a group of church-goers (genuine believers, severely immature believers, and the lukewarm Sunday attenders).

Many years ago, around the 1800's there was a similar movement called the Restoration movement. The rallying cry of Barton Stone was to move away from Christian sectarianism toward a unified experience of Christian faith. The central belief was that we all need to focus more on being "Christians only." In so doing, we will restore a New Testament form of Church, like in Acts. In fact in Barna's report, he mentions that this Revolution is essentially doing the same thing.

However, with every movement of men there are always elements of, well, sectarianism. In the Restoration Movement, the seeds of this sectarianism came with some of the teachings of Joseph Campbell. The idea that we can reason our differences on biblical essentials ("Speak where the Bible speaks. Silent where the Bible is silent.") became a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the Bible is a great source of objective data on what God did and said, what Jesus did and said, and what the apostles did and said. Also it is a good source of testimony to what has happened in the past that influences our faith in the present. But, as what usually happens, we interpret what the Bible doesn't say, which leads to the differences of opinion.

If you view differences such as these as a matter of preferences essential to the work of the Gospel, then disagreements that may arise are seen as part of the process of maturity and grace. But if you view even these types of differences as threatening to the work of the Gospel -- even distorting the Gospel -- then division is likely to be the only remedy.

So, I don't put much stock in movements of men, though I take them seriously. It exposes a desire deep inside ourselves, crying out for a Savior. However, I believe that no matter what happens, God will direct its happening to bring about the results He desires. The Gospel does not, nor never did, depend on us. It will not take good men, great men, or bad men to bring about what God desires. It will only take God, and those He chooses to use for His purposes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Palm Sunday: Poll-Driven Christianity

From first glance, you might get the impression that this article is about the evils of seeker-sensitive church services, or you may get the idea that this is about christianity that seeks to fit into the worldly culture by compromising. Well, this is not the case.

I don't have any particular problem with seeker-sensitive churches or practices per se. I don't even have a problem with music or forms of religion that seem worldly. But there is a problem of worldliness within individual christians like me.

You see, using the things of this world is quite different than lusting after the things of this world -- as if the things of this world will fulfill us and make us whole. A musical beat or chord of sound is neither good nor bad. But attributing magical power to these things, or using it to preach a false message is bad. The battle against worldliness is not about the forms, but the evil desires from within that seek satisfaction outside of God.

Palm Sunday should serve as an example to us. This is the day where Christians commemorate the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem just before his death. (Matthew 21:1-16) At that time Jesus rides into Jerusalem riding on a donkey in fulfillment of Scripture. (Zechariah 9:9)

The people cut branches (traditionally palm branches) and placed them on the ground for him to tred on. This was done in honor of Jesus. The people are shouting "HOSANNA! To the Son of David!" and so forth, in anticipation that he was the king who was prophesied about; the coming Messiah they had hoped for.

But the people eventually became less enthusiastic. They could not decide whether they believed the religious leaders or this Jesus. (Is he really the Messiah they were waiting for?) If polls were taken in those days like today, we might report that his popularity was beginning to slip percentage-wise. Eventually, the crowds turned against him, and demanded is public execution on a Roman cross. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied that he even knew him. All of his disciples fled from him.

And the reason this happened is not all that complicated. Jesus was not popular with the right people. You know what I mean. For many of us, we live this tightrope everyday. If we are in high school, being on the wrong side of the "Alpha" girls, the cool, or the popular is socially disasterous. In college as a student, it may be a fraternity or sorority, or a popular viewpoint. Or as a professor, their peers or popular culture. In the work world, it may be a boss, a particular group of co-workers, or the organizational mindset. In families, it may be our parents or our family's religious affiliation. In society it may be a racial or political group. It doesn't matter what group of people we are afraid to displease, our well-being can be severly affected by the approval of that group.

Considering how we deal with Jesus, our motives are generally the same when we deny him in word or deed. We are afraid of people. We are afraid of what others might think of us. We believe that other people hold the key to our happiness and fulfillment. We are essentially cowards.

So what is the solution? Admit it. Then gaze upon the cross where Jesus is hung with nails. Notice the empty tomb. Rejoice that he made a way. Pledge your alligence to Jesus as God and Savior. And never let go of him to the very end. (Galatians 2:11-21)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


The recent events with hurricane Katrina and Rita have gotten many people into the spirit of compassionate giving. People are clammering to help those in need. But the popular media reports these needs incessantly. The popular media reports news that is always negative and unrelenting. We are often motivated by more than compassion these days. From the perspective of Jesus, all this should cause us to pause and consider some important questions.

Luke 22:24-26

What does it mean to offer help to someone in need? Does it mean they owe a debt of gratitude for my magnanimous offer? Does it mean I deserve a certain level of respect from people? Does it mean that I am good? Does it mean that I genuinely love that person? Does it mean I just want to solve a problem to make life more enjoyable for me?

Do I become that person's master? Does it imply that I am a better person than they? Does it mean I am smarter? Does it imply that they need me? Does it mean there is something I need?

Is helping someone giving me something to do? Does my self-worth become enhanced? Does it help me feel better? Does it make me more spiritual? Does it reveal who I really am?

Can the action of helping be a magic charm? Does it cause God to be more on my side? Does it mean I'll receive more blessings? Does it mean I'll become richer? Does it mean I'll experience what it is to be poor?

Are my deepest needs fulfilled when I help a needy person? Does my anxiety for the future subside? Does it mean I'll be at peace? Does the person I help become fulfilled? Does it mean that the emptiness I feel can't be filled by anything on this earth?

What is the true path of love?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

What I've Learned From Job

After reading Job I was given insights into my personal struggles and suffering in general.

  1. Just because I am suffering doesn't mean it's because I sinned.

  2. Although it seems God's promises to me have failed, they won't in time. If it seems that God has abandoned me, it doesn't mean I should abandon Him. I will hold to my integrity.

  3. Being accused of doing evil or wrong, or if someone just feels I am wrong, doesn't mean I have to agree in order to keep the peace-- especially when I honestly believe I haven't done wrong. I will hold to my integrity.

  4. If my conscience is clear, it doesn't make me innocent. If it is defiled, it doesn't make me guilty either. God is the one who justifies.

  5. God doesn't always give men what they deserve, because His purposes are beyond our tracing out.

These are the situations where I know my integrity can be tested:

  1. I lose a promotion, respect, or friendship because I refuse to participate in wickedness.

  2. I am afraid to be honest about what I believe, because I may risk being abandoned.

  3. I maintain my innocence even when every one around me confesses to a particular sin.

  4. I maintain my guilt, when every one around me believes what I've done is okay.

  5. I wait on God even when people, Satan, or bad thinking patterns try to convince me to feel shame when I go through suffering.

  6. I try to trust that God loves me when I suffer or feel abandoned, and I can not perceive God's presence.

  7. I chose the hard path even when I have the opportunity to use wicked means to achieve my ends; and while integrity, honesty and trust in God seems like it's not working or that it gets in the way.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Why Design is Important to God

The ultimate thought: God is the original designer. And if you think about it, His Son, Jesus, was a carpenter. Being God in the flesh, he represented an aspect of God in his profession. He is an artisan. He didn't simply chop wood. He was a craftsman, and a skilled artist like Bezalel.

The Bible begins with this notion in mind. God created everything. Therefore, a big aspect of God's character is His creativity. He invented design. In Jesus, he honored creativity and design in his original profession.

So what has happened with that realization? I don't mean the debate over evolution and intelligent design, or musical styles in the church. I am talking about people who should know better, Christians, and how they view art, design, and creativity from a worldview construct. Why do many believers often relegate creativity, aesthetics, and well-done design to an optional annoyance? Beauty is seen as less important than function, which is more a philosophy of utilitarian thought rather than Christian thought. What has happened?

Mind you, I know that there is a movement among a younger set of Christians and among so-called emergent churches. I am aware that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ take seriously the role of creativity in worship "services" and in worship music. There is even a movement towards a more market focused church, using market research, good brand strategy, and graphic design to reach people that the church has recently struggled to reach.

But I am concerned by the general lack of understanding about this aspect of God from a theological perspective. Just because a church decides that creativity is important, and they produce artwork or emotional services, doesn't mean that they understand creativity as an essential aspect of God's character and His will. Is it because it doesn't make sense that God gave us the ability to appreciate beauty, and He created everything to appeal to that aspect in our character? Is it because Satan was so successful in marring our God-like image that we simply don't value the less concrete aspects of ourselves? Maybe it is because we just don't value those things that we can't see, taste, touch, or hear? (After all, they don't make something happen like money or effort does.) Maybe we really are utilitarian thinkers.

But I have to admit that there are some who get it. They see aesthetics, design, and creativity in all aspects of their worship, career, and relationship with God. They see God as multifaceted and unpredictable. Yes, He is predictable in the way we need to understand Him; after all He is the Great Mystery. (He heals people, but He doesn't always heal someone the same way. He loves everyone, but we experience that love differently. He calls each of us to His side, but His call is different for different people. He doesn't change His mind, but He responds to our wills.) These people understand that creativity and the enjoyment of beauty is not an option, but a necessity.

I pray that we can all have this insight. (Eph. 3:14-21)