Matt Chapin

Experiencing the Grace of God Through Children

A couple of weeks ago I spent three days in the hospital.  I was not there for any pain I was in, nor illness, but to accompany my wife as she gave birth to our baby girl Hannah.  The timing of Hannah’s birth, born February 26, could not have been more perfect for God to shower us with this blessing, as Hannah is actually the birth of our second child, the first being stillborn at twenty two weeks on March 1, 2012.

When we lost Samantha Grace on March 1 of last year it didn’t take us by surprise, as my wife’s water prematurely broke at 18 weeks, without any conceivable reason why.  Dr.’s could not explain it, and we were advised of the most likely outcome, the death of our first child.  Yet we held out hope that a miraculous God could put his healing hands in the womb to bring Samantha’s body to a point of being strong enough to be born outside the womb, and then hopefully survive on modern technology.  However, those prayers went unanswered, or at least answered in a way that didn’t meet our deepest heart’s desire.

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The pursuit of knowledge in the Christian life

The more I read the Old Testament the more I am amazed at how consistent it is with the message of the New Testament.  Over the last couple of weeks I have been reading through Proverbs, a book known for its claims on how pursuing God’s wisdom leads to a well ordered, and profitable life.  Solomon, the author of most of the book of Proverbs, placed a high value on the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.  In fact in several places the two words seem to be used interchangeably.  In our culture today there are people who put Christians down for their perceived lack of knowledge.  To these people Christians do not have enough “evidence” or are maybe behind the curve on claims to truth.  To them Christian beliefs are outdated, or do not apply to our modern culture.  However the Bible claims the exact opposite. 

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Expanding our Circle of Friends in the Church

The church has become a master at niche marketing.  From the kind of music style you want in your worship service, to whether you prefer a small church or large.  There are also things like Stephen Ministries, a ministry designed to train people to be good “helpers”, for lack of a better word, in coming alongside a person to help them through a period of grief. 

If you want a small group experience there is one for almost any place you are at in your “spiritual journey”.  For instance, some churches have “seeker” small groups, new believer small groups, high school small groups, single adult small groups, men’s groups, women’s group, recovery groups, motor cycle groups, MOPS, and “young at heart” groups.  One of these options is most likely available to you.  If I have left any group out that you attend or know about, I apologize.

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Bell's "Wonder" Misses the Mark

 

This week I caught Rob Bell’s new video titled “Rediscovering Wonder”.  I’ll save you the suspense and let you know there is nothing wonderful about it.  In fact it has left me to wonder if his message is an attack against those in the church who disagreed with his premise in his previous book, Love Wins, when he put forward that God’s love may be so big, he would allow people who are in hell a second chance at salvation, thus adopting the Universalist views on the afterlife.

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Is the Church too focused on the youth? Part 3

To most effectively reach our culture with the truth we must get back to the fact that “true spirituality covers all of reality.” (Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, 19)  Schaeffer explains this well:  “When I say Christianity is true I mean it is true to total reality-the total of what is, beginning with the central reality, the objective existence of the personal infinite God.  Christianity is not just a series of truths, but Truth-Truth about all of reality.” (Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, 19-21)

Sadly many Christians today do not hold this view, but it must be encouraged and taught.  The battle for a biblical worldview is not confined to younger generations.  The evidence is too broad to suggest postmodernism, religious pluralism, or “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” is part of a new generational thing.  Therefore, Christian leaders and pastors must encourage and emphasize how parents need to take greater responsibility for there own spiritual life, and of their families. 

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Is the Church too focused on the youth? Part 2

There are greater points of similarity between the Barna Group and what Smith call’s “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”  George Barna himself commented on the results of the Barna Group survey concluding  “most Americans consider themselves to be Christian and say they know the content of their Bible, (yet) less than one out of ten Americans demonstrate such knowledge through their actions.” ( www.barna.org. “Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years”, March, 6, 2009) 

As for the Millennial generation Smith researched he came to a similar conclusion stating “for most U.S. teenagers, their claims to religion’s importance notwithstanding, religion actually appears to operate much more as a taken-for-granted aspect of life, mostly situated in the background of everyday living, which becomes salient only under very specific conditions.” (Smith, 130) 

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Is the Church too focused on the youth?

As much as modern day philosophers may try to dispel postmodernism as a rational and coherent worldview, postmodernism has yet to pass from the realm of cultural acceptance.  Perhaps the greatest evidence for postmodernism as a socially acceptable philosophy in America can be identified through purveying our religious landscape.  Some may define America’s general religious beliefs as being “Pluralistic”, but sociologist Christian Smith interprets this phenomenon as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”.( Smith, Soul Searching, 162)  The aim here is to provide analysis for the church regarding this religious perspective which is so pervasive in our culture, and offer some ways to combat it.

Author’s Christian Smith and Barna Group President David Kinnaman, have written and done extensive research on the religious views of today’s youth.  Smith’s book Soul Searching, launched in 2005, targeted the Millennial’s (ages 13-17), also known as Generation Y.  Two years later Kinnaman’s book UnChristian was released.  His research covered those, who in 2007, were between the ages of 16-29, whom he refers to as “Mosaics and Busters”. (Kinnaman, UnChristian, 18)

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a Law before THE LAW

As Passover and Easter are fast approaching I have been reading the account of God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from the yoke of Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  My purpose in doing this has been to go back to the root, the foundation of Easter, for it is rooted in the Passover, and the Passover, finds it root in the Exodus.  Reading the book of Exodus these past couple of weeks has just been awesome!  God has taught me much about himself through studying this book.

One I would like to share with you is the Sabbath.  On Friday I participated in my first Shabbat dinner.  Shabbat is the Hebrew word for Sabbath, meaning a day of rest.  It was such a wonderful occasion for me to participate, as I gained a new appreciation for this weekly Jewish custom.  For instance, one of the duties of the father at the Shabbat dinner is to say a blessing over his family, starting with the wife first, quoting Proverbs 31 as his blessing over her.

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Israel: Elected by Grace

A popular political debate which has been prevalent for centuries revolves around the question of what the future holds for the Jewish people.  For Christians and Jews this is a question that goes beyond politics.  The debate is a matter of theology too.  With the latest political uprisings in the Middle East, the questions of how peace will be accomplished in that part of the world go on, as well as what the future holds for Israel.  Despite all the enemies, hateful messages, and acts that have been brought against Israel throughout their history, God has always preserved for himself what the Bible calls a “remnant”.

A “remnant” is a small part of something that remains after the rest has gone.  In anthropological terms a “remnant” is an isolated group of people surviving from a culture or group. The “remnant” is a significant aspect of God’s relationship with Israel as it is representative of his covenant relationship to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not on any basis of works done by these patriarchs, but because of God’s gracious election. (Romans 11:28)

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Jesus: The Hope for Israel

Genesis 32:28 records the conclusion of the wrestling match between Jacob and the angel of the LORD.  The angel tells Jacob his name will “no longer be Jacob, but Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and you have overcome.”  The name Israel means he struggles with God and the previous two blog entries demonstrated the history of the nation of Israel struggling in their relationship with God, and with men.  Although hermeneutically the text of Genesis 32:28 tells us that Jacob himself did overcome the battle with the angel of the LORD, I do not think it is farfetched to understand this verse as a prophetic utterance about the future of Israel.

Historically Israel has struggled greatly, and this has been going on for millennia.  Though there have been times of great hope, faith, and survival, there have also been times of great hopelessness, faithlessness, and oppression.  Today Israel is threatened repeatedly by Iran.  A nation who openly professes they would like to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth.  The peace and security of Israel is a matter which will not be resolved anytime soon, nor by any current political arrangements.  Whatever kind of peace arrangements accomplished through modern day politicians will be temporary.  This is not to mitigate the importance of striving for peace, for peace benefits many, but rather to understand that the real program for long and lasting peace for Israel and its neighbors is one that will be accomplished by the word and hand of the Lord. The question becomes how will Israel overcome?

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General
I'm a former coffee house manager, turned barista and coffee afficianado, who currently is pursuing an M.Div at Talbot School of Theology.  I am a critical thinker who seeks to be engaged in the culture, while blending faith into life.