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Academically Excellent, Christ-Centered.

A Blog from the Director of Spiritual Formation

I was just thinking...

Do I have to thank God for evil?

November 17, 2017
By David Monreal

“In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB)

There are verses that cause us problems because they are hard to understand. Then there are verses that give us grief because they seem so straightforward. Does the Bible teach that we must be thankful for everything that happens in our lives, whether good or bad? Must we thank God for the cancer diagnosis? Must we give thanks for the miscarriage or the birth defect? If our house burns down should we not be upset or sad, but rather grateful?

Another familiar passage can easily be misunderstood. Paul writes, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God…” (Romans 8:28) Does this mean that we should deny evil? Should we look at tragedy and say, “Really, you must not see this as natural evil or caused by sin, because all things are good”? Are we to deny the reality of evil and see everything only through the lens of goodness?

It is understandable how people could misinterpret these verses and misunderstand how they apply to the Christian life. Let me illustrate what I believe the Bible is saying through the very familiar story of Joseph found in Genesis 37-50. In jealousy, his brothers conspire to kill him but decide to sell him into slavery instead. He is carried off to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. His master’s wife tries to seduce him, when she is rebuffed, she accuses him of trying to rape her and Joseph is wrongly imprisoned. He is left to rot for years completely forgotten. Several years later he helps interpret the dreams of two men, one man is executed and the other is restored to his previous post as Pharaoh’s cupbearer. For two years he is forgotten until Pharaoh has a dream no one can interpret, then the cupbearer remembers Joseph and he is summoned to interpret. There would be seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine.

Overnight, Joseph becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man. He guides Egypt to store food during the prosperous years to have supplies during the famine. When his real family runs out of food, they come to Egypt hoping to buy some. Inevitably, they stand before Joseph not realizing who he really is! Joseph confronts them, but not in the way we might expect. “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5) If one were to stop reading the story here, he might think that Joseph overlooks their evil actions. Does Joseph not think what they did was sinful and wrong? Later he confronts his brothers saying, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

What do we make of this? First, Joseph recognized that what his brothers did to him was evil. The intent of their actions was to do harm to him. However, God is so big and powerful, that He uses the very evil that they (and others) committed to accomplish His will. God’s hand of Providence was guiding even the evil they intended, to accomplish His good purpose. Joseph did not need to deny evil or pretend that the sins committed against him were actually good. It was wrong. It was sin. It should not have happened. He did not have to embrace evil or be thankful for it.

Secondly, in the midst of suffering and struggle, he could see God’s good hand guiding and using those events for His glory and for good through Joseph. It was God’s good purpose to permit these things to happen. He could be thankful for this! In reflection, he could see that his life was not “a series of unfortunate events.” He could see that life was not random and meaningless. (That does not mean he figured this all out while he was going through it!) He could call evil out for what it is. He could also see the hand of God working in and through his circumstances. While he was suffering, he remained faithful. He clung to God in the dark dungeon. Life is not easy, yet he could reflect on all God’s good purposes and be thankful. Not thankful for suffering and evil, but thankful that God was at work through it all.

As Christians, we can be both realistic and optimistic. We should fight against injustice and call out evil for what it is. We do not have to ignore evil or pretend it is not real. Nevertheless, in all circumstances, we can remain grateful that God has a purpose in suffering and He means to use it for good.

Why be part of a church?

October 02, 2017
By David Monreal

Dear Judah Family,

I realize that some of you may have no idea who I am so let me reintroduce myself. My name is David Monreal and I serve here at Judah Christian School as the Director of Spiritual Formation. I also have the privilege of teaching the 7th and 8th grade Bible classes. About every three or four weeks (sometimes more), I will post a blog on the Judah website.

So, what’s been on my mind lately? Honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about church. By that I mean, why do I go? Why do I bother? Why do I think it is important in the life of a Christian? Why make it a priority to “go to church” every Sunday? Here are my top 21 reasons in no particular order. I will keep each reason brief.

1.  God commands it. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

2.  To be the “Body” of Christ we must be with people unlike ourselves (family doesn’t count). (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

3.  It was the practice of the early church to gather every Sunday in honor of the resurrection. Every Sunday was Resurrection Sunday! (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2)

4.  Collectively, the church is the “Temple of God” the place where His presence dwells in a special way. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

5.  We are called to corporate worship, which we cannot do if we are by ourselves or on the golf course. (Colossians 3:16, cf. Ephesians 5:18-19)

6.  We collectively come under the hearing of God’s preached word to be equipped for ministry. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

7.  We come under the care of elders/pastors. (Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:1-3)

8.  It is through the local church that we celebrate the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30)

9.  We are protected from false teaching and heresy through the oversight of the elders/pastors. (Acts 20:28-32)

10.  God commands us to minister to one another. (see all the “one another” passages in the New Testament. You cannot do those alone. https://www.challies.com/articles/one-another-the-bible-community/ )

11.  If we are not connected to a local church, who is going to pick us up if we fall? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Galatians 6:1)

12.  Who is going to confront you if you are involved in serious sin or pursue you if you wander away from the faith? (Matthew 18:15-17; James 5:19-20)

13.  It is within the Body of Christ that we pray for each other and confess our sins to one another. (James 5:13-16)

14.  Who will share with you when you are in need? (Galatians 6:10; 2:10)

15.  It is through the ministry of the church that we are called to live outside of ourselves and pursue the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

16.  It is within the Church family that we learn compassion, generosity, mercy, and forgiveness. (Colossians 3:12-15)

17.  It is the elders of the church that teach us sound doctrine and call us back into balance when we start to major on the minors or fall into theological error. (Titus 1:7-9)

18.  The church is an outpost of God’s kingdom and a foretaste of heaven. (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:9-10) The church is God’s “called out” ones.

19.  It is within the fellowship of the local church that we sharpen one another. (Proverbs 27:17)

20.  We need others to preach the gospel to us to remind us of God’s grace and forgiveness. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

21.  God has rescued us from our sins and placed us into the Body of Christ so that we will minister to each other. (Romans 12:4-8)

Can you think of other reasons to be a part of a local church? Let me know!

The entire New Testament presupposes that as a believer we will be a part of a local church body. It was never conceived that, as a believer, we would not be a part of a local church. All of the books of the New Testament were written to churches or collections of churches. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto (and Tim Hanks had Wilson). What is more important to our spiritual life than being an active part of a local church for worship, evangelism, and discipleship?

One final thought, our choices and priorities speak volumes to our children. If our spiritual life is a priority and they see us worshipping and serving in the local church, it will impress upon them that pursuing God is central to our lives. If our children don't grow up being a part of a local church, they will understand the concept of Christianity they learn at a Christian School, but they will not see the reality of Christianity that is only found with God’s people in the life of the Body.

Word of the Day - Propitiation

April 13, 2017
By David Monreal

Word of the Day – Propitiation

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2 ESV emphasis added)

Huh? What does that mean? Great question! I think that some words are so important and so precise that we do well to learn them rather than just try to rephrase it using other words. “Propitiation” is one of those words! As we celebrate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, this is a word I encourage you to add to your vocabulary (If it is not already there, of course!).

The ESV Study Bible notes define it this way, “Propitiation (Gk. hilasmos) here means ‘a sacrifice that bears God's wrath and turns it to favor,” and that is also the meaning of the English word ‘propitiation.’” Some translations will use the phrase, “atoning sacrifice” which is an approximate translation of the word. However, the word is much more vivid and graphic than this translation gives.

Some people do not like the word because it implies that God is a “God of wrath.” But, in fact, this is exactly what the Bible does teach. Before we go too far, let us answer the question, what is God’s wrath? God’s wrath is his righteous anger and judgment over sin and sinners who sin. When we think of wrath, it is usually in connection to sinful anger. However, God is perfectly just and His anger over sin is always completely accurate, righteous, and proportionate. He will only give people what they deserve in judgment and no more.

The Apostle Paul writes, “…among whom we all once lived [Paul includes himself and all his readers!] in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:3 ESV note and emphasis added) Left to ourselves we were also under the just judgment of God and would receive the due penalty for our sins!

The Bible often talks about the cup of God’s wrath. Psalm 75:7-8 state, “but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” (ESV) Interestingly, Jesus used this exact imagery in the Garden of Gethsemane. “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39 ESV emphasis added) What cup was Jesus referring to? He was about to experience the undiluted wrath of God being poured out upon Him for sin! All of the punishment that you and I deserve for our sin, He bore on the cross on our behalf! Consider this; Jesus saved us from God, for God, so we could be with God!

As horrific as the physical beating was for Jesus, that was not the true horror and anguish of the cross. The true anguish was Jesus experiencing the full penalty for sin to pay for all those throughout human history that will ever place their trust in Him. 100% of our punishment was concentrated and poured out on Christ while He hung on the cross! This is why he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” THE ONLY TIME JESUS DOES NOT CALL GOD “FATHER” IS ON THE CROSS! Why? Because, in some mysterious way, that goes beyond our full comprehension, He was experiencing the separation over sin that would be ours, if He had not taken our place. Therefore, the wrath that we deserve was turned aside and poured out on Jesus instead.

May propitiation not only be a word in your vocabulary, may it be the reality of your life! He is risen! He is risen indeed!

I leave you with the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns.

And Can it Be?
by
Charles Wesley (1738)
 

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love Divine!
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Why Choose a Christian Education?

March 01, 2017
By David Monreal

When I was new in ministry, I quickly learned how sensitive people are to the issue of school choice. I would have people come up to me regularly and ask, “Are you against homeschooling?” or “Are you opposed to public school?” Never mind the fact that I had no children and I was single! I thought that maybe this was a local debate only with this particular church. Boy was I wrong! I was also pretty naïve to how emotionally charged this topic could be. At the last church that I served as Pastor, my children were at the Christian School, my Discipleship Pastor Homeschooled his kids, my Worship Pastor sent his children to public school, and my youth pastor had one child at the Christian school and the other two at public school! Unfortunately, people found reason to be critical with each of us for our personal choices.

Repeatedly, I would be asked my opinion regarding which school choice was best and consistently I gave the same answer. “I am not ‘anti’ anything. I am not against homeschooling nor am I opposed to parents who send their children to public school. I am personally, for my children, pro-Christian school.” Every parent needs to make a decision based on what he or she believes is in the best interest of that child. Further, every child is different. Where one might thrive in a certain context another child may flounder. I cannot say what is best for all children; I need to prayerfully consider what is best for each of my children. God has given me the responsibility to nurture and encourage the spiritual development of each of my children in addition to providing for all of their physical needs. I also need to wrestle with the question, “Do I see this time in their lives as primarily a time of equipping for a life of ministry or primarily a time of being a missionary?” Of course, it is always both, but which one do I want to emphasize? Again, these are questions that each parent needs to weigh and consider before the Lord and come to some personal convictions as to how the Lord is leading her or him.

All of our children have been in Christian School since preschool. I would like to share with you some of the reasons my wife and I have chosen to have our children at Judah Christian School. Here are six of our reasons for this decision:

1.  We wanted our children to be taught every subject in harmony with biblical truth. All truth is God’s truth and nothing that is true will contradict what God has said. The beauty of a Christian school is that from the youngest grades until graduation they are seeing how God and His Word fit together in this world.

2.  In their formative years, we wanted their learning to be from a Christian Worldview. Everyone has a set of presuppositions that shapes and informs their decisions and their understanding of the world. Some non-Christians are more open and tolerant towards Christianity but others are becoming increasingly hostile to Christ and His Word. The intention at a Christian school is to have faculty and staff who believe and live out a Christian worldview.

3.  We wanted our children to be challenged daily to do everything for the glory of God as their ultimate goal. There are many competing values and goals in the world, but as believers, our chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (A1 Westminster Shorter Catechism) A Christian school provides an environment where this goal is encouraged. Left to ourselves we are prone to be self-focused. An environment like Judah’s reminds all students that they are not living for themselves or for the moment, but they are living what is most important.

4.  We wanted an environment where Christ and the gospel are infused into every subject being taught and it does not seem odd when my children bring up Jesus. One of the great things about a Christian School is that there is a freedom to talk about Christ without apprehension or fear. Not only can the students express their beliefs without worry of being asked to tone it down or not proselytize, but also the teachers can actively call students to turn and place their faith in Christ alone.

5.  I hope to increase the probability that my children’s closest friends and biggest influences are fellow Christians. Paul reminds us, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33) In 2 Corinthians 6:14 he adds, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” The imagery is of two oxen that are tied together by a yoke and are pulling in the same direction. Often this is applied to marriage or dating, but I think it applies to ones closest friends as well. Your best friends know your heart and influence your choices. I want to maximize the possibility that their closest friends will be godly kids.

6.  I want to surround my children with godly men and women who are able to notice when my children are straying from Christ. My goal is not to just have good kids. My goal is not just to keep my kids away from drugs, alcohol, and sexual immorality. Of course, I want those things for my children. Above all that, I want my children to know they are loved by God and love God in return because of Christ. School is a big part of a child’s day. Some weeks the teachers see my children more than I do! I may not see early signs of trouble or my children straying. My prayer is that other Christians will see what I might miss and let me know.

Again, these are some of my personal reasons that have persuaded me to send my children to Christian School. I know I only get one shot at raising my children and I want to do all that I can to see that they walk closely with Jesus their entire life. I want to take advantage of every opportunity available. Thanks for reading!

Dave

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