Letters from Theophilus

" A Blog About Practical Theology. "


More Amazing Quotes...

­­“An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” – Tim Keller
“When we cannot see God’s hand, we must trust God’s heart.”
"The branch of the vine does not worry, and toil, and rush here to seek for sunshine, and there to find rain. No; it rests in union and communion with the vine; and at the right time, and in the right way, is the right fruit found on it. Let us so abide in the Lord Jesus.” –Hudson Taylor
"We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding." –Billy Graham
"Though the light shines on things unclean, yet it is not thereby defiled." –Augustine
"Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays." –Andrew Murray
"The greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon divine grace." –Brother Lawrence
"Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell." –C.T. Stud
"Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn." –Charles Wesley
"By perseverance the snail reached the ark." –Charles Spurgeon
"If I leave behind me 10 (pounds), you and all mankind bear witness against that I lived and died a thief and a robber" –John Wesley
"Nobody seriously believes the universe was made by God without being persuaded that He takes care of His works." –John Calvin
"God cannot be comprehended by us, except as far as he accommodates himself to our standard." –John Calvin
"Salvation is from our side a choice; from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest by the Most High God. Our accepting and willing are reactions rather than actions." –A.W. Tozer
"The devil is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still." –A.W. Tozer
"We must meet the uncertainties of this world with the certainty of the world to come." –A.W. Tozer
"They gave our Master a crown of thorns. Why do we hope for a crown of roses?" –Martin Luther
"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” –Augustine
“An atheist staring from his attic window is often nearer to God than a believer caught up in his own false image of God.” -Martin Buber



A Garden filled with provision, and a creator filled with manifest love was not enough for them. A simple choice in the form of two trees was placed in the center of that garden: they could choose His way or theirs. A promise of life was all around them - they experienced it, touched it and tasted it daily. A promise of death was also spoken - if they chose to leave this life of perfect provision and go their own way.

Ever since Adam and Eve lost their faith in God, He has been busy drawing people back into faith-full relationships with Him. This faith is not some abstract reality… some truth we profess once to obtain a reward -not of our earning- in some world far away. No, this faith may possess some of these elements, but it is so much more. 

This faith is a relational trust that is lived out in our everyday decisions. It is a choosing within the garden of our hearts: His way or ours. We are Adam and Eve… and as we blame them for the destruction we see around us in our world, we must equally blame ourselves. It was you and I back in that garden just as it was you and I, earlier this week, making the same choice at another tree.

His way or ours?

In my relationships, when struggles arise and arguments surface....when I’m tempted to use force or manipulation to have…my way.

In my needs, when I struggle to keep from stepping back into that habitual failure that has me captivated by it’s alluring beauty, because it offers something -I believe at the time- that He does not…

In my self-image, when I struggle to maintain first impressions and replay countless conversations in my mind kicking myself for saying that one thing…or I find myself soaring in the clouds because of someone’s appraisal or plummeting to the depths of Hades because of someone’s disdain instead of finding my identity in His eyes and through His grace…

In my moments of trial, when I struggle to believe that anything good could come of this situation and anxiety wreaks havoc upon my soul, when my loss of sleep is affecting my functionality because of the perplexities of my plight and peace seems like a distant impossible reality because I don’t believe He’s truly in control…

When I'm not trusting His Provision or His Character...

When I'm blinding myself to His Glory and Grace...
When I'm busy worshiping at the idol of some lesser god in the form of materialism, individualism, consumerism or any other -ism...
When I choose my way and not His way...
I may attest to all the right beliefs and think I hold them in my heart, but in these moments, and countless more like them, what good are my beliefs doing me? Am I really believing? Am I really walking in relational trust? Do I really have faith in God? No! I do not! Not in this area of struggle! And in these moments and countless others like them I hear Him calling us back to this simple faith… this simple choice: His way or ours?


Waxing Poetic...

Dear Reader,

Everyman, in his own mind is Bonhoeffer, Luther and Paul. I see myself in them…in their writings; in the leaving of the old and searching of the new, in the forsaking of tradition for tradition’s sake, and the pursuit of a higher calling; in the rejection by their religious groups and in the acceptance by God alone, by faith. These were men who were hated in their time by many, yet from their time to now, they have become a light to so many more. They cannot be judged by any man; God alone is their sovereign. Our only view of them should be their motives... not their mistakes. When we see through actions and mistakes and catch a glimpse of the heart of someone, we are less apt to judge them. This is a lesson to be learned.

I would that I could leave behind a legacy such as these. What accomplishment of mine will I be remembered for? Eloquent words? Passionate pursuits or revivalist revolutions? A well-examined faith that has discipled untold millions? No. Not for me. I will accomplish no significant thing lest it be by God’s hand. When I hold the pen, my fingers tremble. When I’m given a choice, my ideals crumble. When I’m faced with life, my faith waivers. There is nothing to ground me and steady my aim, save the gospel. There is no good in me, save this cracked imago dei that helplessly wants to do good, only to be overthrown, time and again, by evil. There is no hope for greatness! No, not in myself. If I look elsewhere, I see great men who have shaped history, but they were scoundrels in their own right and fell shorter than any of us like to imagine possible for our heroes. So if hope is not to be found within or without me, what then is left? Where is greatness to be achieved? Where is love to be practiced? Where is perfection to be reached? Nowhere else... save Christ.

This is the good news, that Christ uses the imperfect to bring about His perfection. He works His reconciliation through those of us who are not yet fully reconciled. He brings His message of salvation through those who are still being saved. Just as He loved us when we were unlovable and had mercy upon us when we deserved His righteous wrath, He now chooses us to be His representatives of reconciliation. Oh mystery of mysteries! To what do we owe this great privilege? Christ! And what then do we owe Him? All! Then the weakest and most beggarly of us join humbly in the ranks of Bonhoeffer and Luther and Paul. For He sees us through the cross as loving, perfect, honorable and righteous, and it is in that power that we may stand happily in His presence, and by His power alone, work out His will in this sphere. If we receive any honor it rightly goes to Him, for all we have gained has been by His power alone.

So If I stand in His presence, may it be by His power alone. If I write, may it be His hand that steadies mine. As I face life, with its decisions and struggles, may it be by His grace alone that I am left standing in my faith. And in that glorious day, all our great works will turn into dust in the light of His grace, and I will be no different from Bonhoeffer and Luther and Paul, as we all - the strong, the tempted, and the weak - stand as one in Christ, vindicated by his earthly rejection, forgiven by His horrific suffering, and made alive by His glorious resurrection!

In His Grip,


Amazing Quotes

Here are some amazing quotes from my reading so far this year...
"The blessing of mission is ours while the burden of mission is God’s." -Jonathon Dodson
The Four G's : -Tim Chester

1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves
"All of us are living out the story of our lives and to often we do that unconnected to the meta narrative of our Creator God who has brought us into relationship with Himself through Jesus, and is redeeming his creation even now." -Rick McKinley

"Jesus: the One exposed, ravaged, ruined and resurrected for us." -Tullian Tchividjian
 "An idol is when we turn a good thing into an ultimate thing." -Caesar Kalinowski
 "To be a person of truth is to live before God in the reality He created rather than to settle for illusions, even those of our own making" -Lael Arrington
"God is the expression of the very thing we seek in each other... What we have sought, what we have tasted in part with our earthly lovers, we will come face-to-face with in our True Love. The incompleteness we seek to relieve in the deep embrace of our earthly love is never fully healed." -John Eldridge
 "The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?" -Martin Luther
"It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God." -Thomas Merton  
"He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter" -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
"Are we responding to the love of Jesus concretely and consistently in our love for one another?" -Brennan Manning
"Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love." -Martin Luther King Jr.
"Our static, self-centered structures are "heretical structures" because they embody a heretical doctrine of the church. If our structure has become an end in itself, not a means of saving the world it is a heretical structure." -John Stott
"In reality the only call in the Bible is the call to the way of the cross, the way of service, sacrificial love and suffering." -Tim Chester
"We ought not to grow tired of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed." -Brother Lawrence
"I want to prepare like an evangelical; preach like a Pentecostal; pray like a mystic; do the spiritual disciplines like a Desert Father; art like a Catholic; and social justice like a liberal." -Mark Driscoll
"The god of whom no dogmas are believed is a mere shadow.  He will not produce that fear of the Lord in which wisdom begins and therefore will not produce that love in which it is consumated….There is in the minimal religion nothing that can convince, convert, or (in the higher sense) console; nothing therefore which can restore vitality to our civilisation.  It is not costly enough.  It can never be a controller or even a rival to our natural sloth and greed." -C.S. Lewis  


Integrative Theology: Our Need For ORTHOPATHY

Dear Reader,

The term "Theology" literally means the study of God, deriving from the Greek word theos, meaning 'God', and the suffix -ology from the Greek word logos meaning "the character of one who speaks or treats of [a certain subject]", or simply "the study of a certain subject". Saint Augustine defined theology as "reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity."

There are a number of different perspectives on theology and many diverse doctrinal stances held by many different and sincere Christ-followers around the world. The Bible says to "...speak the Truth in Love..." We must strive to understand good theology and truth as God reveals it to us. Sometimes, though, people hold the truth in pride, arrogance, and unloving attitudes ("Our way is right... yours is not..."). This creates "classism" within the Body of Christ. It creates a "Who's in, who's out" mentality. This is neither healthy, nor in alignment with God's heart. Conversely you may have a heart of gold and love people, yet have a warped understanding of truth. We need both Truth and Love... together they are powerful and attract people to Christ.

Throughout time, Theology has been studied and engaged in various ways. In ancient times, the stories and ideas of who God was were passed down and preserved in narrative (story) form. The stories were discussed among teachers and people, along with their meanings and life-applications. Today, many people attend seminaries to pursue degrees in Theology as a form of education. In these settings Theology is often studied in a systematic way within sterile, classroom environments. Where the ancient Eastern mind would explain God through stories, poems and art, our modern Western explanations often break down the whole of theology into finer pieces (called doctrines) to study. Where a Western mind looks for lists, "bullet-points," and definitions to understand theology, the Eastern mind would look for pictures and applicable illustrations pulled from life. Both of these approaches to theology have their benefits.

What I am seeking to understand, teach, and live out an "Integrative" or "Practical" Theology.

I call this "Integrative" for 3 reasons:

1) Theology should be both Systematic and Narrative, integrated together seamlessly

2) Theology should be integrated with our lives... not just a system of beliefs we have agreed to in our minds, but beliefs that have been fully accepted at a heart level and begun to work themselves into our daily lives (Orthodoxy > Orthopathy> Orthopraxy)

3) Theology should be integrated with the whole of Scripture (a balanced perspective, where the doctrines are all in alignment with one another... we must learn to view any doctrine in light of all scripture)

Before we go on, let us define 3 words:

Orthodoxy - "Right Beliefs, sound doctrine, comprehending the truth about God... occurs in your head/ mind"

Orthopraxy - "Right Practices, good behavior, living out the ways of God... Occurs in your hands/ mouth/ body"

Orthopathy - "Right Feelings, pure emotions, having a heart after God... Occurs in your heart/ soul/ emotions"

The Bible requires not only that we speak truly about God (orthodoxy) and obey Him (orthopraxy), but that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Doctrine is never an end in itself. The purpose of doctrine is to teach us to love God rightly. Obedience is never an end in itself. Obedience is always the overflow of a heart that finds its satisfaction in God rather than idols. In this way of looking at things, orthopathy is just as fundamental as orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

There are Christians who are all "head-knowledge." Though they may understand deep truths, their lives produce little fruit. Their heart is not 100% after God and their relationship is anemic. They see Christianity as a series of logical propositions and agree to these by mental assent.

There are Christians who are all "heart." They mean well and pursue God with all they are. However, they are easily misguided by false teaching which can lead to a loss of the strong affection they have for God. They also live out of their beliefs, but those beliefs may be as easily pulled off track even though their intentions are pure.

There are Christians who are all "hands." They do many great things for the kingdom, but they often feel they are justified by works. Some of them have very little doctrine. Many of them do their works out of wrong motivations (someone's approval, working for salvation..etc).

We need to be integrated Christians who study the word of God diligently with our heads, believe it with pure motives and an overwhelming, passionate love for God in our hearts, and live out of those realities everyday with our lives.

Many Christians find themselves believing all the right things and trying to do all the right things and still feeling miserable. It is a heart condition. When your heart is overflowing with love towards God, obedience and discipleship flow easily from our heart to our hands because our motives are pure and our hearts are right. When you accept the truth about God (doctrine) in your heart (not only your head) and choose to believe it as more than a simple abstract logical truth, but as an applied emotional belief, it becomes transformational instead of just informational. In other words, it is important for your head, hands and heart to be right... and all 3 support one another.

I would love to hear what you think...

In His Grip,