Archive for category Theology

5th Grade Thanksgiving

If it is from God, it is good.
If it is good, it is from God.

This is a video of thanksgiving to the Lord God Jesus Christ for everything loved by the 5th grade at Bryn Athyn Church School, November 20, 2009:

This was presented to the whole school after chapel on the Friday before Thanksgiving.


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Tell Everyone, “Taste and See!”

Fig Tree

Please help me. This Sunday (11/15/2009), at the Society Building (600 Tomlinson Rd, Bryn Athyn, PA 19009) between 12 and 3 p.m., you have the opportunity to participate in an important experiment.

I believe that doing good deeds—“benefactions”—while not the highest form of charity, is nevertheless necessary for the introduction of new people to the Lord’s church. The Lord’s disciples wanted to know when He would come again, and in response He said, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:29-31) This is explained in the doctrines: “When a new Church is being created by the Lord, the good of the natural shows itself first of all, that is, good in external form together with the affection belonging to it and with truths.” (AC 4231) “Good of the natural” is not just the natural good we are born into, but rather is that good we do because of spiritual principles. So as the church is created (as a community, or within an individual) a vital step is doing of good on the natural plane, from a spiritual principle—doing good, not just to “be nice”, but as an act of worship of the Lord and love to the neighbor.

I believe that we cannot evangelize merely by sharing truths. Truth must be wed to good, like oxygen to blood, and so to be heart and lungs to the larger world around us, we must offer not just doctrine, but opportunities to bring doctrine to life. More than once the Lord described the growth of His kingdom using parables about inviting people to a feast, and eating represents making good a part of your life. So it is my theory that the world will be much more receptive of the Lord’s new revelation if it is presented hand-in-hand with opportunities to serve the neighbor. We must not only share the truths of the church with people, but invite them into the life of the church right from the start. Is it a coincidence that the emerging generations of young people in our increasingly “vastating” world say they believe in God but reject churches because they don’t seem to do any good?

Our doctrines say loving the neighbor is serving the good in others. When asked “who is the neighbor”, the Lord didn’t say the person left in the ditch was the neighbor, but the good Samaratan who stopped to help. This Sunday, we have a chance to support a group of Good Samaratans in a natural, powerful way. In developing nations in Africa and elsewhere, people are dying of AIDS. In many of their villages and towns, there are local caregivers who help relieve their pain, help prevent infection, assist with household needs including childcare, etc. Many of them are children themselves. World Vision supports these good Samaratans by providing them with kits of basic supplies that are cheap in this country but dear in theirs.

This Sunday, as an experiment in outreach, as a good deed of charity, as an act of worship, the Bryn Athyn Church and Charity in Action are inviting you to invite everyone you know to help us assemble 1,000 of these kits for World Vision. It takes only a few minutes to assemble a kit, plus maybe one more minute at the end for you to add a personal note of encouragement to your caregiver’s kit. I did this myself a year ago, and can report that the Lord does indeed reward good behavior with delight.

So tell everyone. I hope to see you there.

[This is also appearing as this week’s “Pastor’s Box” in the Bryn Athyn Post. For additional information, see my previous post about this event.]

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Two Hearts

Angel and Devil on Homer's ShoulderMost of the time, we’re unaware of having two wills, because our good and evil selves often agree on what to do, each for its own reasons.

This is not directly taught in the Word (as far as I know), but it’s a logical inference from other teachings. For instance, True Christian Religion 596 (among other places in the doctrines) describes spiritual temptation as combat between our two wills:

…[A] struggle ensues between the internal and the external man, and the victor then controls the other.

The reason why a struggle then ensues is that the internal man is reformed by means of truths, which enable him to see what is evil and false; and these truths are still in his external or natural man. First, therefore, there is dissension between the new will, which is above, and the old will, which is below. Since it is dissension between wills, it is between the pleasures of either, for it is well known that the flesh opposes the spirit, and the spirit the flesh, and the flesh with its lusts must be tamed, before the spirit can act and the person can become a new man. Following this dissension of the wills, a struggle, known as spiritual temptation, takes place.

And New Jerusalem 193 (among other places) says that these days few people experience much spiritual temptation at all:

Since to-day faith is rare because of the absence of charity, the church being at its end, few people nowadays experience any degree of spiritual temptation. As a result it is hardly known what spiritual temptations are and what purpose they serve.

So putting the two together, it seems that many people very rarely experience a conflict between their higher and lower selves. No conflict must mean agreement. And this is actually a good thing, I think. Imagine if every minute decision of every day of your life caused spiritual warfare to break out in your mind! There would be little break at all from spiritual suffering. So here’s an example: this morning I got in my car and drove to the pastor’s office. Why? Well, I think my selfish will (kickin’ it old-school, I might even say my “proprium”!) figured my reputation and wealth might take a hit if I just stopped showing up for work. Besides, my evil will likes it when people think I’m doing a good job. At the same time, I believe, the new will that the Lord is growing within me, based off of my conscience, wanted to drive to work this morning because it loves serving the Lord and other people as a pastor and preacher. It was excited to get to work on things like my proposal for Austin and the next Living Courageously sermon. Now, if the two wills disagreed, then I would have to have duked it out inside myself. Some mornings, that does, indeed, happen, when my evil self decides it can blow off work because it’d rather play video games and eat stromboli all day. But today, I happily got up, got dressed, and drove off to the office without a tinge of internal struggle. This week’s task for people doing the “Living Courageously” program is to regularly ask “Why did I do that?” This is in observance of the fact that the Lord mercifully works with us through these mixed motives of ours. E.g., see Secrets of Heaven 4063:

When people are being spiritually remade (“regenerated”) the Lord keeps them in an intermediate kind of good, a good which serves to introduce genuine goods and truths. But once those [genuine] goods and truths have been introduced, the intermediate good is separated from them. The spiritually reborn person has an affection for spiritual and heavenly matters since these give one feelings of delight and blessedness, whereas the affections of the person who is not spiritually reborn are for worldly and earthly things, and these things give him feelings of delight and pleasure.

…Since therefore our states of life have to be changed so drastically we are inevitably kept for a long time in an intermediate kind of good which partakes both of worldly affections and of heavenly ones. And unless we are maintained in that intermediate good we will no way let heavenly goods and truths enter us.

By the way, if you haven’t, yet, you should check out the Living Courageously program.

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