Indelible Grace Church

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Indelible Grace Church Blog

Reflections on the Second Commandment


The second commandment says that we are not to make images of God.  Most Christians breezily believe this is one of the easier commandments to keep.  Just go through your home – no weird idols statues laying around? – check, I’m keeping the second commandment.

The story of Jeroboam tells us otherwise.  Jeroboam was the first king of the northern kingdom after Israel split in two.  He was anxious about the people going down to Jerusalem to worship God, so he built two alternative temple sites centered around these huge statues of pure gold, each depicting a bull calf.  Now you would think Jeroboam was introducing a new religion.  After all, the people were bowing down to a golden calf!

But here’s the kicker.  Jeroboam did not say these were pagan gods, but that the golden calves was the God of the Bible.  He said, “behold your God*, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (1 Kings 12:28)  Jeroboam believed the golden calves were an accurate picture of God.  This might seem ridiculous to us modern people, but in the culture of the day, it made enormous sense.  A bull calf was the most valuable animal in a farming society, signifying great worth and strength.  And rendered in glittering gold, it must have made an overwhelming impression on the worshippers – surely here is the glory and majesty of God!

The sad truth is that Jeroboam was woefully ignorant of Scripture and thus let his imagination and the culture of his day shape his understanding of God.  The question for us is this – how do we know we’re not doing the same thing?  How do we know that the God we worship is the true God, and not a golden calf?  The answer is that unless we’re immersed in Scripture, we don’t.  If we’re not constantly seeking to understand God as he has revealed himself in Scripture, then we will simply depend on our own imagination and the images popular culture gives us.  In other words, we will create a god of our own convenience and a god who serves our interests – just like Jeroboam.  And just like Jeroboam, we won’t even know.  We’ll just think the Bible is too much of a hassle to read, and besides, it won’t tell us anything we don’t already know about God – again, just like Jeroboam.  This is a sobering reality.

Here’s what this tells us about how to keep the second commandment.  Unless you’re constantly battling the false images our modern culture tells us about God, by soaking yourself in Scripture, you are breaking the second commandment.  For, as you read the Bible seriously, you will find yourself constantly surprised and stunned at who the real God is, the God who acts in Scripture and whose final revelation is Christ crucified.

"Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth." (Hosea 6:3)

* Most translations render the verse in the plural, “behold your gods, O Israel.” The original Hebrew word is “Elohim.” The problem here for translators is that this word is both singular and plural – so it can be either “gods” or “God,” depending on the context. Some translators look at the fact that there were two golden calves and so render it “gods.” But if you look at what Jeroboam says, he clearly has the God of Exodus in mind (“who brought you out of Egypt”), and so the better translation is the singular “God.” We also know Jeroboam was not creating a new pagan religion because he establishes identical feast days and priestly responsibilities as what was done in Jerusalem. (1 Kings 12:32)

Last Updated on Monday, 08 August 2011 11:16

Church at the Park 2

This past Sunday, we held our second "Church at the Park" at Palomares Hills Park. It was a beautiful day to worship God, grill meat and hang out.

You can see images from our first "Church at the Park" by clicking here.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 22:06

Skeptics Night


On July 9th, Indelible Grace Church hosted our first "Seminar for Skeptics." We rented a bar, bought everyone a drink, and held a discussion on the question – "How can a good God allow for evil and suffering?" Some might raise an eyebrow at the fact that a church event involves buying people alcoholic drinks. Our response is: first, the Bible actually has an incredibly positive view of alcohol (the heavenly banquet feast includes copious amounts of wine – see Isaiah 25:6), second, the Bible condemns the abuse of alcohol (drunkenness) not alcohol itself (this applies to all good things like sex, money, etc.), and third (and most important), we deliberately chose the venue because of its attractiveness for those who are otherwise allergic to church.

The talk began with the story of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, a 13-year-old Syrian boy who was brutally tortured and killed by security forces for tagging along with his parents on a democracy march. He sustained three gunshot wounds, multiple broken bones, including both his kneecaps, multiple burn marks, and his genitals were cut off. Where was God in all of this? The talk presented three answers:

(1) It is self-defeating to disbelieve in God because the world is full of evil, since it is only because of God that we can know there is evil.

(2) The fact that we don’t know of a reason why God would allow for evil and suffering does not mean there isn’t one.

(3) Evil and suffering is not something God hovers over and remains aloof from. But astonishingly, God enters into our suffering in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. We may not know the answer to problem of evil and suffering, but seeing Jesus dying on the cross shows us that the reason can’t be because God doesn’t love us. This is a unique resource Christianity gives us and what distinguishes Christianity from all religions – a portrait of a suffering God.


We also had a follow-up question and answer time. The questions ranged from the morality of homosexuality, the fairness of hell, the challenge of science, among other issues. These are all important questions for which Christianity has a response. However, it is important to remember that what you believe about homosexuality or evolution is not what makes you a Christian. What makes you a Christian is whether you believe and trust in Christ. That’s the core question – do you believe Jesus is who he says he is? Everything else is peripheral. We make the mistake of wanting to settle first these peripheral questions before we can believe in Jesus. But that is to go about it entirely in the wrong way. First, we ought to determine if Jesus is worthy of our adoration and worship, and only then ask what Jesus teaches us about sexuality and science and so forth.

The evening created some good discussions and we hope to host another event in the coming months, addressing the question – "How can Christianity claim to be the only true religion?"

You can listen to the audio of the evening here.

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 August 2011 12:17

Redwood Bowl BBQ Picnic

Some photos from our church barbeque picnic:

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Mercy as Social Justice

Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

As Christians, we understand that engagement with the poor is a matter of extending Christ’s mercy to the lowly. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Christ, though he was rich, for our sake became poor, so that we by his poverty might become rich. This is gospel reenactment.

But less familiar to Christians is the idea that engagement with the poor is also a matter of justice. We typically think of justice and mercy as opposed to each other. After all, don’t the poor deserve their poverty and the rich merit their wealth? The Bible says it is a lot more complex than that. Poverty, for many, is the result of laziness and immorality. But the Bible also understands poverty as a function of injustice. This is not widely accepted among Christians.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose you have two children. One is born to wealthy, highly-educated white parents who are professors at UC Berkeley. The other is born to a black single-mother on welfare struggling with a drug addiction in East Oakland. Can we predict the paths of these two children? Sadly, yes – with alarming accuracy. Why should the fate of these two children be so strictly determined simply by the circumstances of their birth? We may flatter ourselves that our station in life is largely the result of our own individual effort, but the reality is that wealth and poverty is largely generational. Which means the deprivations of the poor are fundamentally unjust. This is the profound insight of the Bible. Helping the poor is not simply a matter of mercy, but of fairness and justice. Thus you have passages like:

Psalm 146:5-7
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.

Isaiah 58:6-8
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Isaiah 1:16-17
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Without understanding the biblical framework of social justice, these verses seem to confuse upholding righteousness and helping the poor. But in the biblical worldview, all these things are connected – doing justice, correcting oppression, pleading the widow’s cause.

In the biblical understanding, pursuing justice is rectifying the fundamental unfairness that poverty inflicts on the poor. Consider Proverbs 13:23: “The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.” What is this proverb telling us? That the poor work hard but their labors are often in vain because poverty itself works against them. Unlike the rich, the poor don’t have a wide margin to make mistakes. A single illness, a few months of unemployment, a small emergency, and the family finances will go down the drain. Or consider the disparate realities of wealth and poverty in Proverbs 10:15 – “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin.”

According to the Bible, the righteous life is not simply to abstain from criminality, but to be deeply concerned with and immersed in the problem of chronic poverty. This is at the core of the Christian life.

If you would like to hear more, you can visit our Sunday School page for a two-part series on Mercy Ministry. Look under the dates Feb. 27 and March 6, 2011.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 June 2011 12:51

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