Theology Matters But I Wonder How God Defines Theology

From time to time I will hear someone say (or see someone write) this is “why theology matters.” Generally, the person is pointing to an example of someone whom they believe to be a “messed up” or confused person, and they are concluding that the person’s views of God necessarily lead to the mistakes the person has made. From that perspective, if only the person believed all the “right” things about God – had “good” theology – then they would not lead such a questionable life.

AW Tozer gives us great wisdom when he writes that what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. There is great truth to the fact that what we believe impacts how we live. And what we believe about God has tremendous impact on how we act, speak, and live. If it doesn’t, then there really is no point to having any faith in a god or in the nonexistence of a god. And, we can see in all aspects of humanity that one’s beliefs give birth to one’s values and these give birth to one’s actions.

Because of all of this, people often conclude “theology matters.” Theology, the study of God, is a huge topic. Theology often is discussed in terms of one’s doctrinal views on such topics as soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), eschatology (the doctrine of end times), pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit), and various other “-ologies.” And, for many, the idea of keeping sound doctrine (Titus 1:9Titus 2:1) becomes a premise-based understanding of what comports with the bible and such “-ologies.” There becomes a set of facts and concepts one must agree with about God to be a “good” Christian and to lead a good life. Theology itself isn’t a biblical term and I personally wonder what God thinks of when He thinks of theology. I definitely think it is worth asking Him.

I think a view of theology that looks to facts, reasoning, and theories alone misses God’s heart. First, I’ve known many people, including myself and many biblical heroes, who seemed to have “sound doctrine,” yet they lived messy lives. Second, as soon as we think we have God all figured out, both in our lives and in biblical accounts, God throws us curve balls. Because God’s ways are different and higher than our own, I believe that as soon as we place God in a tidy factual box we are in danger of making ourselves gods who have God fully figured out. Many great theologians have quite different perspectives on how God works and they all typically have sound biblical reasoning for their disagreements. Third, concluding that great faith is based upon one’s intellectual or factual grasp of Who God Is has the potential of leaving out the less studied, the less academically inclined, and those whose personality gives a greater focus on feelings and intuition. I don’t think God judges his children based on their intellect or intellectual understanding (alone) of Who God Is.

Finally, God is always inviting us to know Him intimately and personally (yada in the Hebrew and ginosko in the Greek). This isn’t an invitation solely to know facts or premises about God; rather, we are invited into an intimate relationship with God (facts, experience, feeling, and intuition), in whose image we were created. He seems to long for us to know His character of goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience, love, mercy, wrath, justice, and more. It’s like God wants us to know Him like I long for my wife to know me – not just my measurements and preferences, but how I feel and think in a variety of circumstances and settings and how I experience life and love and liberty. God created us not only to know, but also to be known, and He longs to be known intimately as well.

Is it possible a focus on how God saves or a list of facts about God as derived from Scripture is not at all what God is asking us to “know”; instead, is he longing for for us to know the love and kindness that compels him to save? Is He hoping we will capture his parental heart to see His children ask Him for advice and help? Does God really care if we have a perfect understanding of His sovereignty, or is HIs heart yearning for us to be more like Him in his compassion for all creatures? And, when we do this, will we be truly studying and knowing God – having a good theology – that will manifest in a more godly life? Is this the basis of knowledge that will lead to godliness (and greater discipleship of the nations)? The answer seems somewhat obvious to me.

Welcome to FJ Ministries

FJ Ministries was born out of a vision God laid on the hearts of Bryan and Tara Riley.  Our Mission of F.A.I.T.H. is “Families reaching families as Avenues to the Nations, Igniting passion for God and compassion for people, Teaching and training God’s Word and character with Hearts and hands revealed.”  We long to live by faith in all that we do.  Colossians 2:6.  We hope God will enable us to reach families and show them that they too can participate in the Great Commission.  May our heart’s passion be for God and for serving others and in so doing encourage others to the same passion.

FJ were the two letters God gave us individually on July 26, 2006, in Kona, Hawaii, as we prayed over what our ministry should be and had memories flood our hearts in prayer.  For Tara, FJ was “for Jim.”  Jim was a friend of Tara’s during her teenage years who had a heart for God and missions.  He had gone to Haiti as a young teenager and wanted to see that ministry furthered.  Unfortunately, for reasons only God truly knows, Jim decided to end his life.  In the wake of the grief over that loss, Tara told God that she wanted to do whatever it was God had planned “for Jim” to do.  As we prayed together about what our ministry was to be, God reminded her of that promise.

For Bryan, FJ was “finding Jubilee.”  Jubilee was our first “child.”  We were both in school, without any income, but we saved to buy a poodle.  Her name was Jubilee and we paid $400 for her.  Ten days after we received her, she died in an accident.  It happened on the day our niece, Corissa, was born, as I rushed to see her birth.  I walked out of our apartment, and Jubilee was frightened by something and tried to jump from my arms.  As I tried to catch her she flipped head down onto a concrete sidewalk, suffering a fatal head injury at the tender age of 13 weeks.

Jubilee also is the year God told the Jewish people to rest for a second year of Sabbath, letting the land lay fallow, the slaves be set free, and all debts be forgiven.  It was to occur every 50th year (following the seventh of seven Sabbath years).  Leviticus 25.  Unfortunately, the Israelites never had the faith to obey God in this precious gift of His grace and failed to follow His command regarding the Year of Jubilee.

Just as we are given the greatest gift of eternal fellowship with God through the tragic death and resurrection of Jesus, we have seen how God has resurrected these tragedies in our lives to take us into an even greater life together in and through FJ Ministries.

We hope that through a ministry of international missions, missional living, and living to bless others, we can teach others about entering God’s rest and Jubilee–that God would increase all of our faith and bring us to unity and to the fullness of our gifts so that the world may know that Jesus is their salvation.  Romans 12, John 17.  Jesus taught that “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:24-26.  We now know that the deaths God reminded us of as we prayed about God’s ministry for us, and our own willingness to die to our desires, will produce many seeds in the lives of innumerable people, thus bringing God glory and showing that Jesus is the reason for our hope to all the world.

After God gave us this ministry we began talking about FJ and realized that FJ also stands for such things as Families in Jesus, Forgiveness in Jesus, Faith in Jesus, Faith and Joy, Following Jesus, Finding Jesus, Finding Joy, Fellowship in Jesus, Friendship in Jesus, Friend of Jesus, Faithfulness and Joy, Family Journal, Freedom Journey, and so on and so on.  He has already begun multiplying His work in our hearts.  We pray that He will begin doing the same for you and your family.