Trouble Seeing Orange

While some Sunday schools still use the old flannel boards most have updated to newer methods and curriculum. One of the most prominent is Think Orange’s curriculum, Orange 252. A large number of churches have started using it across the country. There are some great advantages, ideas, and tools that come along with the curriculum. The Parent queues application is a mobile app that is synchronized with the current place in the curriculum and gives parents ideas regarding things to talk about after church and during the week to help reinforce what is being taught. The curriculum focuses on an application per month so anyone new can come in at any point and not feel like they are missing something because they are not joining in the middle of a story. Finally when you pick up your child they have a handout which goes over what they talked about in Sunday school and which gives ideas for questions to ask your kids around the dinner table Sunday night or some activity you might do during the week.

You may have noticed that the tools focus on encouraging parents to get involved with what their kids are learning. They even encourage the leadership of children’s ministries to invite parents once or twice during the year to a meeting to encourage them to be involved with what their children are learning. These strategy meetings with parents make a good point; parents have much more time with their children. The strategy documents states that Parents have about 3000 hours with their children while the church on average only has about 40 hours. It is true that we have more time with our kids and it is also true many parents may be a little too hands off leaving everything up to their church on Sunday morning. Much can be learned from this but we must be careful to not overstate it. As children grow up they start questioning and look outside the family away from their parents for confirmation of truth and direction. Also children should be attending mid-week youth bible study groups. Parents should also consider summer bible camps which increases the time to over 250 hours. Still much less time than parents have which is why parents still need to be engaged which is rightly pointed out by Think Orange.

Well, I’m not really color blind but I do see some point of concern here with what Orange focuses on. The first thing that I noticed was a focus on application instead of a focus on the bible passages. The orange curriculum does have bible passages and a key verse for each week but the focus is on the application as demonstrated by the curriculum plan in the comparison below. Further you will notice that some of the applications are not necessarily terms you will directly find in the bible though you may find the concept. For example Integrity and Initiative aren’t terms you would find if you ran a search on the bible. But if you want to talk about these topics you can find verses that have something to say about these topics or applications. In a sense you are being given fish but not necessarily learning how to fish or how to read the bible and explore what it is saying and how it applies to you. Also the bible is an iterative story, God reveals Himself progressively through the history of God’s interaction with His people recounted in the bible.

Gospel Project and Orange 252 TOC Comparison

The next thing I noticed was that the “applications” in Orange were basically the same as what I had seen on posters at work or in the halls of public schools. Many of the “applications” you will find in your “Corporate Values” training or our “School Values” posted in public schools. This did give me pause because it reminded me of what Nietzsche had said. After he pronounced that God was dead he understood that there was no longer a transcendent standard, no longer any morals and therefore to keep society from imploding the philosopher and scientist had to “determine the true hierarchy of values”.

God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? … Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.

All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

There is a difference between values and morals. Morals define or delineate what must be done or what must not be done. Values simply place importance on a particular characteristic which typically moral or ethical behavior are the more beneficial courses of action that make up that value. For example “Honesty” is a valuable characteristic because it means you are trustworthy. But this does not challenge us like saying “Do not bear false witness”. I can say I’m generally an honest person but have I ever said something untrue to get ahead or to protect myself from consequences, have I ever bore false witness? Well yes, I have, and so I have broken God’s law. Another aspect of “Values” is that they always phrase the characteristic in positive terms whereas in the bible the law often phrases morals in negative terms. For example values will say be “Generous” but the bible will say “do not withhold from your brother” or “bring the full tithe and hold nothing back”.

Romans 7:7 – What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

1 Timothy 1:9-10 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

The law is necessary; not only for those that believe but for those that do not as well. While we don’t necessarily expect non-believers to follow the law this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell them who God is and what His Law requires. Children going to Sunday school as well as the average guy on the street need to know about God’s law and need to be called to repentance. It is part of the gospel because there is no real good news without the bad news of the reality of our sin. Especially in this day and age what is right and wrong is being redefined and people no longer see themselves as sinful. If all we say is “believe in Jesus and you will be saved” the world as it is now just scratches its head and says “saved from what”. We live in a very different time where people do not believe that humanity is inherently sinful.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9  4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Its not wrong to phrase things in a positive manner nor to speak of the benefits of a characteristic but if that’s all we do then we are missing something. We are missing out on God’s command to meditate on His Law presented through His word in the way that He has given it to us. Not only this but the word of God should be at the forefront not just some anecdote to back up some topic we have interest in or have chosen to address. God has told His story so that He can communicate His purpose for the world He created and His purposes for us whom he created. If we just focus on the application then are we not focusing on “what do I get out of it?” on the benefits for ourselves. We loose our focus on the Almighty Loving Creator God and fail to see who He is and what His feelings are.

Our action should flow more from implication than application.  Having a growing understanding of who God is and who we are from accounts in the Bible and considering God’s response. Asking how does God feel about what happened and then how should I feel and respond. The application flows from a love of God and His word. But children and youth also need clear instructional teachings in scripture.  In younger years learning who God is, His creation, commands, covenants (promises) and continuous fulfillment, and the gospel (sin, death, resurrection, repentance, faith and grace). Learning how to navigate the Bible.  In teen years (12+) learning how to interrogate scripture and apologetics.  Also learning core doctrines such as the inerrancy of scripture, original sin and the sin nature, Penal Substitutionary Atonement,  Jesus Exclusivity as the only way, God’s designed complimentary male and female gender distinctions, the conscious eternal torment of hell, and the Pre-eminence of God’s Kingdom over human culture to name a few (Driscoll, The Supremacy of Christ and the Church in a Postmodern World | Desiring God).

I’m not necessarily saying to drop or adopt this or that curriculum for children and youth however whatever curriculum a church goes with they should keep these concerns in mind. With any curriculum there may be blind spots that a church will have to make up for to varying degrees.

Should the Church have Closed and Is It Time to Reopen?

My friends daughter said “dad why are they closing churches, no one gets sick in church” a simple child’s faith but it gave me pause so I can’t judge a pastor that has decided to keep their Church’s doors open during the Covid-19 Wuhan Flu outbreak in opposition to state orders.  I don’t know if the Spirit called him to stay open or not. God will judge and we may be able to infer something from the results.  If a word is from God one should expect the results to bare fruit.

I believe that the church is a miraculous place that God made for us. Yes God is everywhere and you can meet Him at home but the church is set apart and sometimes home for many can seem much less so, hence God created houses of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13, Psalm 122:1, John 4:21, 1 Tim 2:8).

In the beginning while the world was getting a handle on this outbreak of the Wuhan Flu suspending some ministries and moving to online services makes sense. However I don’t know if the church should have completely shut its doors with the staff doing web streams from home. Jesus said “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations” This is a command which seems hard to fulfill if the doors are locked to everyone no matter the circumstance.   Scripture also command in Hebrews 10:25, “Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.”  As part of our Christian witness and neighborly duty we need to be flexible to meet requests of those in authority to fulfill Roman’s 13. But at some point and some degree we also have to follow what Peter said “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide”.  There is a tension between Romans 13 and Acts 4.  Now after the recovery rate has been determined to be 99.6% and the at risk groups are more clear there should be ways the church could open up a bit more with safety measures while at risk groups watch from home or from cars in parking lot services. Read more of this post

The Law is Part of the Gospel

Over the past year Andy Stanley has made headlines calling for the church to “unhitch itself from the Old Testament” and now more recently stating that the ten commandments do not apply to Christians (Commandments Don’t Apply).  Many of us scratch our heads wondering how he has come to these conclusions.  Apparently much of this comes from an interpretation of Act 15 in which the early church leaders met to discuss circumcision and dietary commands and there application to gentiles.  Emergent authors have also pointed to this passage.  In his book Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell references Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 in which Jesus talks about the authority to loose and bind granted to the apostles and further he references this passage, Acts 15, as being an example of church leadership in community exorcising their authority to loose and bind.

Not Come to Destroy the Law

“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. – Jesus, Matthew 5:17-18

So what is going on here?  If Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18 said that he didn’t come to do away with the law are the apostles then in Acts 15 doing away with laws?  Also in Matthew 19: 8-9 Jesus states that the permission for divorce in Deuteronomy 24 was actually a concession or an exception but was not God’s original intention.  Is Jesus doing away with the law after He said that he did not come to destroy the law?  When Jesus talked about loosing and binding was He stating that we could do away with some requirements of the law as long as we all agree on it?

I’m going to suggest something here which is very dangerous and so it will come with many warnings and qualifications.   The law of God or the commands in the bible are first comprised of or proceed from God’s immutable created and intended purposes and principles.  These set boundaries as to what is right and what is wrong, what is permissible and what is not permissible, what is required and what is not required and stand until heaven and earth pass away.  Now here comes the dangerous part; secondly the law defines penalties and protocols the objectives of which are to be more specific consequences, requirements and restrictions to align us with God’s purposes and principles or to meet the needs of a particular time and set of circumstances.  These may be some-what mutable.  For example we don’t stone unruly children,  fornicators or homosexuals, because the penalties for the children of Israel were stiffer since the promised messiah was to come from them.   The exception allowing for divorce in Deuteronomy 24 was identified by Jesus as a concession to our hard hearts and therefore was a protocol probably to avoid other more destructive sins such as domestic abuse but the optimal response is to remain married.  A contemporary example of loosing and binding may be seen in the roaring 20s with all its decadence many churches forbid drinking and dancing and over time though not specifically prohibited in scripture this started to hold the weight of orthodoxy.  At the time it was likely a reasonable response to the social problems and a good use of a binding protocol but over time became legalistic and over-bearing like the dietary laws addressed in Acts 15.

The danger here is the question; how do we tell what is a mutable protocol and what is a immutable principle?  Therein lies the rub, which is highly susceptible to abuse, misuse and destructive ideas and responses.  Some of us are getting excited… wow I always wanted to try this out and now I can because if I want to do it and I don’t really see how it hurts anyone else then it must be a protocol which we can set aside.  I would suggest that it is probably better to err on the side of caution especially since a wrong judgement could impact ours or someone else’s eternity.  Where the bible itself has specifically identified something as a protocol such as dietary requirements, circumcision, head coverings, and penalties that we recognize those as such but its better to stick with tradition and consider it a principle than to wrongly identify a command as a protocol which may be loosened resulting in negative consequences that could even impact someone’s eternity.  If Jesus did not come to the destroy the law then it behooves us even more so to do like wise.

The Law is More Necessary Now then Ever

But we need to do more than just refrain from damaging the law.  Paul made it clear in Romans that the law is necessary and even a part of the gospel.

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” – Romans 7:7

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;  – Romans 3:19

We see in the passages Romans 7:7 and 3:19 that the law is part of the gospel and actually probably the first part, for there is no good news without the bad news of our sin…  We must inform the world that sin exists and that God exists and therefore we all have a responsibility to our creator. This must of course be done in a compassionate way.  Many quote Matthew 7:1 “judge not” and say that the compassionate thing to do is to not talk about sin or point out sin, but this ignores the rest of the passage which calls us to address our own sin and point out sin and help others overcome sin.  Some also assert that Jesus only pointed out the pharisees sin and therefore its only relevant to those that are religious or Christians.  This however ignores all the prophets and judges some of which were sent to confront foreign rulers and Jonah who was sent to confront Nineveh.  In Luke chapter 3 we see John the Baptist calling out from the hills and water ways for people to repent

He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? …  – Luke 3:7

This group referenced in Luke 3:7 included Jews and Pharisees but it also included gentiles and tax collectors and soldiers.  John even rebuked the King, Herod, for adultery; having taken his brothers wife and for other sins and he was put in prison by Herod.  After which scripture says Jesus went on to continue John’s ministry; in other words calling people to repent and pointing out sin of not just the “religious” but everyone.  He even sent his disciples out to towns to call people to repent.

Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.” – Luke 3: 12-14

But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him about Herodias, his brother’s wife, and about all the evil things Herod had done, added this to everything else — he locked John up in prison. – Luke 3:19-20

In the past you could assume that people believed in sin but now we just have natural feelings which are “dancing to our DNA” and environment as Dawkins puts it… So now we tell people you need to be saved and Jesus can save you to which they respond what do I need to be saved from… Therefore making the world aware of God’s law is probably more important today then it ever was in the past. 

The Dissolution of Man

Boys are asking the question “Do I have what it takes?” The development from a boy to a man requires the answer to this question to be something which differentiates boys and men from everything else and is fundamental to the development of confidence ahiking_trail_life_usa_350x219nd perseverance in a man. With the trends in society where women require participation in every role and activity in life, out of the mistaken belief that roles and activities define a person’s significance and determine equality, as well as the recent redefinition of gender these have contributed greatly to the dissolution of what it means to be a man. Now as men have no place to differentiate themselves, no place to answer these questions I’m amazed at how so many wonder why more men leave home and do not fulfill their responsibilities, why more men are unemployed middle aged living at home with mom and dad, why more men are getting charged with violent crime…

I have been a cub scout leader for the past 4 years and my son and pack just crossed over to Boy Scouts a couple months ago.  I am very disheartened by BSA’s lack of perseverance as well as the complacency of its members and leadership which have failed to stand up against these trends.  Starting with allowing charter organizations to determine acceptance of homosexual leaders and followed by the acceptance of transgender behavior within scouts under the guise of “being more inclusive”.  Saying we want to be inclusive is really an “Ad hominem” argument or character attack asserting that those opposed are practicing discrimination.  We can accept and include people without accepting and including their behavior.  Behavior is not the same thing as race.

Worse yet the recent legal and social transgender movement is now reaching down to our elementary schools and other organizations for children.  These changes in society are promoting gender confusion in children.  In the transgender community there is a high rate of suicide, 40% have attempted suicide.  Further studies are showing that the hormone treatments and gender alteration surgeries result in a decreased life expectancy.  And of course they would… God made us male and female, fighting against God’s design for us will always have negative consequences.  To provide children with education resources or to teach children that there are other gender options is child endangerment.  As scout leaders, as public school teachers such participation is immoral even if it has been dictated by polices and laws.

The World is Coming to an End …

End of the World BillBoardOk, I admit its a sensational headline but if you are reading this then it must have caught your attention. I have heard many comment about the billboards announcing the end of the world on May 21st 2011. If you have been watching the news lately you are aware of this prediction as it has gotten much press. The prediction and billboards have been featured on CNN, FOX and the Washington Post just to name a few. There are many scoffers and some believers who are very worried and some who could care less. With all the recent earth quake activity, severe weather, economic trouble and wars and unrest around the world many are worried. Read more of this post

Bell Fails to Grasp the Weight of Infinity

The Empyrean (highest heaven), from the illust...

Image via Wikipedia

The recent release of Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins” has spawned a maelstrom of reactions in both the Christian community and the news media as well.  I have been studying the emergent church movement for the past four years and so I feel it is time to throw my hat into the ring.  There is much that can be said, so much that can be said but I wanted to focus on a specific statement rather then write a novel.  One day I would like to write a book, but not today and not necessarily on the Emergent Church either.  The title of this article is a bit ironic because no one really grasps infinity.  But that is not to say that we can’t have perspectives on infinity which do it more justice than other perspectives.  One sticking point with hell that Emergent church leaders have grappled with is the eternity and finality of hell.  Lets review some quotes.

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