Drinking Deeply

Monday, October 31, 2005 at 11:11 PM

A brief reflection on Halloween

One thing that I really dislike about Halloween is how much it promotes greed and want in the kids. Many of the kids today at the Hallelujah night (our church Halloween "alternative") were there simply for the candy. We were asked to put together a 5 minute skit on the character of Esther, and we did. The kids would be like "oh cool" and then just sit there. Eventually the candy came out and they would all cheer. At one point we had to threaten them "you're not going to get candy unless you listen." I am not really a big fan of something like that.

Yet, in one sense, I would rather the kids be in a church asking for candy rather than on the streets by themselves (and my belief in the sinfulness of man prevents me from thinking "oh it's just an innocent night). At the same time, I would rather not have a night that promoted all this greed and want at all. But yet our culture has popularized it so that the children expect it. Where is the solution to this? At least with Christmas, one can make an emphasis on the giving without expectation. With Halloween, that opportunity really isn't there.

On the final hand, I would have to say that if I were a parent, I would see trick-or-treating with my kids to be one very golden opportunity to get to know the neighbors and build relationships (not that I wouldn't be seeking opportunities elsewhere, but all the parents will be out with kids at least. We could walk around and have extended conversations in an enviornment that normally would not come about).

But the whole pretending to be ghosts, vampires, satan and the like I am very uncomfortable with. Satan really exists, and to pretend like he's some cartoon character will lead us unknowingly to think that he doesn't exist, and that is all the more dangerous.

Why not have churches do an outreach night on Halloween? Walk around knocking on doors just to say hi to our neighbors, introducing the church and ourselves, with no expectation of candy? That would be awesome, but I don't think the kids would buy it.

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Sunday, October 30, 2005 at 11:52 PM

A good discussion going on at my xanga

So I usually leave my Christianity oriented thoughts on my blog, and random stuff on my xanga (though, since who I am is defined by being a Christian, it's not like I can keep them separate), all of a sudden one of my posts ranting about the Christianity downgrade collected a lot of comments.

You should check it out:

The first post.

The follow up (opinion gathering)

Leave your comments here or there. (OR! According to my logic class, you can do both!)

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Friday, October 28, 2005 at 11:45 PM

Judge lest ye be judged (3)

Another typical "don't judge me passage" is Romans 14, which is entitled by the ESV "Do not pass judgment upon one another"

Romans 14
1As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Oftentimes v. 4 is cited (or the entire passage is): "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

The key to understanding this verse is in defining the term "pass judgment." It's very easy to say to someone "stop judging someone" thinking that this passage applies, but this passage isn't exactly about the judgment that we use when we talk about "an opinion based upon evidence" (or even, an opinion not based upon evidence!).

If we understand this verse as "don't pass judgment. Don't say something is better, or worse, don't view someone's faith as weak or strong," then we're stuck, for the whole passage is about not judging someone whose faith is weak. In that sense, Paul has already judged someone's faith as weak (they abstain from foods that the Lord has sanctified and made clean... so on). He knows that a proper interpretation of the Lord's commandments allows him to eat these foods, but some abstain because they don't have that interpretation. In that sense, their faith is rightly judged as weak.

So what does "pass judgment" mean then? I think the key lies within the first verse:

1As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

1st:
Paul is asking them to practice proper judgment in discernment over seeing if someone's faith is weak. This is important later in the passage as well, where he is telling the church at Corinth not to cause another to stumble. How are they to know what stumbles someone without practicing discernment and judging if their faith is weak in one area or another?

2nd:
The passage starts off "welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions." Contrast "welcome him" with "passing judgment" and we see immediately that the context of judgment in this sense is breaking fellowship.

Paul is saying, "there are some things not worth breaking fellowship over. These people have a weaker faith, and they think they're still glorifying God in abstaining from some meats. You know better, but don't let your greater knowledge make you withhold fellowship from them. God is working in them too. They will be upheld because God will uphold them."

Notice the key is that the person weak in faith thinks it's glorifying to God. They are convinced by Scripture that it is glorifying to God. However, if the person is being sinfully unrepentant about something, basically that they know it isn't glorifying to God but engage in it even after rebuke, they cannot protect themselves from proper judgment (in terms of church discipline a la Matt. 18) by this verse.

In short, this verse does not say that it is wrong to say (or think) that someone is of weaker faith, in fact, it is necessary to practice proper discernment (Might I point us back to Matt. 7?) in determining who has weaker faith in order that we might not cause them to stumble. In this verse, passing judgment is contrasted to welcoming them, so passing judgment in this sense is most likely seen as equivalent to "withhold fellowship from."

***Edit*** John Piper is addressing this passage in his last message here I agree with him completely and do see that I placed undue emphasis on the "witholding fellowship" when it's clear that despising the brother is another issue here.

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at 1:19 AM

Judge lest ye be judged (2)

So I haven't had the time to post other thoughts so I thought I might just summarize my thoughts on Matthew 7 before moving on, some because some people might be too lazy to read the articles, some because I think Frank's comment was insightful where he said:

" And sometimes we don't even need to do the judging... usually scripture does a pretty good job of that."

I think this is an important thing to notice. In fact, we never need to do the judging. It is God who is judge. We are merely vessels through which He shares His judgments in granting us illumination of Scripture to convict us, and to share with those around us. Scripture does a complete job of judging us and finding us guilty. We read, and if God opens our eyes, we find ourselves condemned of all the law claims. We can also read, and if we so choose, we can find everyone else guilty as well. This is why Jesus talks about judgment.

In context, Matthew 7 comes right after Jesus' words on how we've committed adultery in our hearts, we've committed murder in our hearts. The truth is, to God, we've all broken the law, and are all under condemnation. Thus Jesus isn't saying "don't judge people" in a universal sense simply because he has just finished quite possibly the most judgmental section of the Sermon on the Mount. All have fallen short!

Instead, if we look at the context, we see that Jesus is speaking against hypocrisy in judging. He is actually answering the possible question "well, if we're all guilty, how are we to treat other people? How are we to judge?"

The answer is fairly clear from the text: We are to judge only after judging ourselves. We are to judge only after inspecting ourselves, because we know that the same Law that we use to judge others, is capable, and in fact, used, to judge us.

This is why Jesus says: "3Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

Verse 5 is important: first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's. We judge ourselves first, and this will allow us to see all the more clearly to rebuke and correct (with grace as always) when necessary.

A few caveats about this:

1) One does not need to be perfect before rebuking someone. A rebuke from a murderer, is still, (if biblical), binding upon our consciences. The purpose of the "judge self first" idea, is that often we cannot put together a biblical rebuke if we are being hypocritical. But that doesn't mean it never happens. It is rare, but not impossible. Plus we still have the whole "God uses broken jars of clay" idea, where God uses us as His tools, even though we are sinful and broken. Sometimes that tool involves godly and gracefilled rebuke.

2) When rebuking someone, we must always keep in mind the Law-Gospel dichotomy. With the Law comes death, and without the grace that is extended through the Gospel, we are doing those we are rebuking a disservice.

3) Though oftentimes it is necessary to present the rebuke in kinder terms/tone, the force of the Gospel should never be diminished. If a person is offended by the Gospel, then they are offended by the Gospel. If they are offended by me, however, then I've done them a grave disservice and should be rebuked in turn.


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Wednesday, October 26, 2005 at 1:55 AM

What am I anyway?

So someone linked me and described me as a Reformed Baptist.

This came as quite a surprise, not because I didn't know that Reformed Baptists existed (they do, and many of the blogs I read and link to are Baptist), but mostly because I simply cannot tell the difference apart from the infant baptism thing (and now, I think I'm firmly in the infant baptistism camp, convinced that I could convince myself if I didn't agree with it). But I never really talked about infant baptism, at least, not that I know of.

It's also funny because the church that I go to, that I pretty much "came to faith" in (maybe one of these days I'll share my story), and the fellowship that I visit (because I have time) are all Presbyterian, though in all honesty I wouldn't be able to point someone to specifics in the messages that distinguishes Presbyterian from Baptist.

Well, there is my favorite joke about how my fellowship are very much the "Frozen Chosen" I guess that's Presbyterian.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005 at 4:56 PM

Judge lest ye be judged (1)

Sometimes I hear the cry "don't judge them" or "don't judge me" or "stop judging" and so on.

Most of this comes out of the verse in Matthew 7:
1"Judge not, that you be not judged. 2For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

They take this to be a complete prohibition against judging people, but what exactly does judging mean?

Dictionary.com defines it as:
to form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration

But yet, throughout that Gospels, we see Jesus forming opinions of the Pharisees, (you hypocrites!) of Peter (get behind me Satan!). We see Jesus ruthlessly pointing out sin (woman at the well in John 4). We see him overturning tables and the like. Clearly he has formed judgments of all these people and have found them wanting and deficient. So much so that it is in need of rebuke and harsh correction.

So what does judging mean then? I was going to post a multi-part series on what judge not, lest ye be judged means, how it fits with the church and judgment in the church (Romans 14), and talk about church discipline (1 Cor. 5/Acts 5).

Then I stumbled upon these two articles, covering a little bit of what I wanted to talk about with Matthew 7. I think I'll leave them as thoughts. I would like to talk about church discipline in the near future (thus the title of post). Stay tuned.

To Judge or Not To Judge: Part 1, Part 2

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at 4:36 PM

Sing-along

This is cross posted from my xanga. Someone mentioned that it was a good thought and I figured "well, I should share it"

~~~~~~~~~~~

So over the course of the last few weeks, I've picked up an interesting habit of singing to myself when I'm by myself. Not just softly, or under my breath. I'm talking belting out hymns in the worst rendition of Come Thou Fount you can imagine, and I've discovered (rather, confirmed) that the whole idea of "learn by experience" is silly and wrong.

I have no idea whether I'm singing well or singing poorly. I have no idea how to improve, or even if I am improving. I am completely blind to the tones, pitch, words, lyrics, harmony. There really is no chance for that to improve if I'm just going to sing to myself. I need someone to teach me. I need people to criticize me and correct me.

I remember one time my freshman year one of my friends mentioned to me that when I sang it sounded like I was in pain.

While I was incredibly embarrassed, I really honestly have no idea if that was still the case.

I guess I'm thankful I have a roommate that's got pitch, tone, and everything, and is more than willing to patiently bear with my poor singing and correct me, teaching me those foreign things like "intervals" and "rests" and everything.

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Monday, October 24, 2005 at 11:15 AM

Vision Summer School Thoughts (8) - Reflection

All the posts in this series are done. Read them here

~~~

I think I've posted all that I wanted to on the Vision Summer School thingamajig.

Some concluding thoughts on the matter:

1) Getting to know and serve alongside brothers and sisters for weeks was a blast. Sharing meals together and serving one another and praying with one another. Simply awesome.

2) The kids were very cute. The Korean moms were really awesome too. Their heart of service in spite of the language barrier and their willingness to mass produce amazingly good food was quite the blessing =)

3) That said, in reflection, I had a really rough time at Alaska, for a couple of reasons
a) Overwork - Other people were able to run on 3 or 4 hours of sleep consistently. I was not. My teaching, planning, and interactions swiftly went downhill after the first week. The lack of a weekend to rest was disappointing to say the least. Saturdays were the worst, having to wake up at 5:30 for a prayer meeting and then going on an all day excursion (in the interests of hanging out) rather than having a day of rest and rejuvination. Sundays thankfully were much lower key, having a full day to rest and an evening to plan. We were also expected to help plan for the revival and retreat and hang out with kids to build relationships. With the overwork, quiet times, prayer, meditation, reading Christian books, my typical staple of things that have built my relationship with God, all went down the drain. If it wasn't for the revival challenging my views, I might have not grown over the summer at all. Ugggg

b) Revival - I've already spoken about this a lot, but to put it short, having to defend my views and feeling like I was part of something that just wasn't right was very difficult for me. I felt like a jerk a lot of the times. I also feared greatly for the message conveyed to the students. ::sigh::

c) Spiritual deprivation - The teaching at Alaska was ... very weak to say the least. Most messages were along the lines of 1) read passage 2) tell story 3) talk about how story relates to passage. I will say that I was unable to learn a single thing from any of the messages. (This, however, must be qualified by the fact that I did not go to hear Chris, our youth director, speak because I always helped the children's). I guess I went to Alaska under the assumption that the teaching was ok, if not similar to that of KCPC (simply because people from past years had gone and no one complained). Boy was I wrong. The church was very seeker-driven, a big proponent of the Purpose Driven Church, the theology was ... well since they never actually looked at the Bible, I can't really make a call on their theology.

The worst thing that ever happened was that one week the head pastor went up there when there was a combined service (youth and KM) and shared "the Gospel according to Steve Jobs" (well, that's what I called it) where he basically summarized what Steve Jobs said at Stanford's graduation ceremony. Basically "do good" "want the best" "strive for it" This shocked me to say the least. No scripture. No Bible. Just a pep talk from a secular authority (well, I don't know if Steve Jobs is a Christian, but the talk was given in a decidely unChristian setting with no references to Christianity/God/Bible/Jesus at all).

There were no Bible studies. We had devotionals in the morning, but as we got worked worse and worse, these got shorter and shorter, and eventually people just stopped going. Yeah, my fault on these as much as anyone's.
4) Some Q&A

Would I go back?

Under a lot of conditions, one of them being a worldview shift of the entire church.

What are these conditions?

Email me: mcsheu @ gmail DOT com

Would I recommend anyone else to go?

Under the same conditions as I would specify above, yea,otherwise no

Didn't other people enjoy it and really grow a lot?

Yes I would say a lot of people enjoyed it. Some people built some really great relationships through Alaska. I did myself and I'm thankful for that, but the cost was quite high. With regards to their spiritual growth, that is really between them and God. I do know that God uses all things for His glory, so in that sense Alaska will be a molding ground for Him. I know that God used Alaska to change me, but that doesn't mean that I would want to recommend that to others.

What about all the friends you made?

I love them and wish them the best. It has been great getting to know them and serve with them. I pray for my class that God allowed me to teach. Maybe one of these days I'll go back and visit. I made a lot of close friends in Alaska, and strengthened a couple with those that are here at Stanford. But even with all of those, the costs are such that I would not wish upon others.

Is the church a false church then?

Depends on your definition of a false church I guess. I think there can be regenerate people there and it still being a false church. (similar to my belief that people can call themselves Catholics and be saved, while maintaining that the Roman Catholic Church is a false church)

What about all the people who made a decision for Christ at the retreat?

A decision doesn't make them a Christian. God makes them a Christian. The only way to tell if they are truly regenerate (or at least, show fruits of regeneration) is if they live it out for their lives. Additionally, numbers don't determine if something is a good thing or a bad thing. You can have a church of 30, but if you're preaching the Word faithfully, administering the Sacraments properly, and have church discipline in accordance to Scripture, then I would join it. There are a lot of megachurches that I would not join barring a miraculous repentance.

What do other people think of Alaska?

Ask them! I can provide email addresses if you're interested.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005 at 1:04 PM

Reading Deeply

1) There is a lot I want to post about. I'm trying to collect my thoughts and put them concisely and clearly (and to avoid heresy =p ).

A few posts that will be coming up:

Vision Summer School Thoughts: Reflections
Judge, lest you be judged
Discussing calvinism
A short story

2) One of my earlier posts (now removed since I felt it was unclear and unedifying) brought about an email by a brother who (strongly) disagreed with what I wrote. This has led to an enlightening and encouraging email conversation discussing divine sovereignty and free will. The emails are filled with frank and honest discussion while maintaining a tone of grace and love throughout.

This was exactly what I'm hoping for with this blog! I'm very thankful that I'm able to engage in such a discussion, and it has been greatly helpful for me in understanding other views, as well as in formulating and defending my own. If any of my readers ever has a question, an issue, or a "you're absolutely wrong" comment, please feel free to email me or leave a comment so I can email you. I see all the comments, even if it might be on ancient back pages.

3) I've been reading "Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace" by Michael Horton. It is a clear presentation of the background and theology of the Reformed church. Wow. What an excellent read. It's packed with challenging thoughts, insightful passages, and convicting Scriptures. Very readable and there are study questions at the end of each chapter as well that help the reader to digest and think things through.

4) One thing one of the onlookers in the email conversation has pointed out, which I'm thankful he has, has been:

I think this is worth bringing up because it's a point I'm pretty sure we all agree on; and this is important to keep in mind in any discussion like this one. Things get tricky when we have different ideas about what kind of thing would be grounds for "thinking you are superior". But humility is central to the gospel. Grace is central. The theological understanding that leads us to that center is instrumental--and if our theology fails to make us humble people, then we have badly misappropriated it.- Jeff R.

Amen and Amen

5) Stumbled upon a great article by Piper on the Marks of a Spiritual Leader. HT: Adrian Warnock

6) As a side note, in a lot of books I've been reading lately, I've noticed this weird obsession with Jacob's ladder. So basically in Genesis 28 Jacob falls asleep and has this dream of a ladder with angels ascending and descending on it. Jesus takes this dream and claims to be the fulfillment of it in John 1:51

So when I first read this I was like "whoa! What an obscure reference by Christ to an obscure reference in the OT!" and it really blew my mind. I love seeing those references. But then for some reason a lot of writers seem to want to share this mind blowing reference as well. It's cool, to be sure, but man, can't we come up with another example of Christ's holiness? Awells.

And if this is where you first heard about Jacob's ladder, booyeah =)

7) I was reading (for my Reformation class) the Anabaptist arguments against infant baptism. The whole "repent and then believe" thing and all, and I was like "hmm, that makes a lot of sense, there's a lot of Scripture support, and I can't think of cases where it isn't like that... hmmm" and this caused me to think about my own baptism, because, in all honesty I don't know if I actually believed in Christ as Savior when I was baptized. I knew that I should be a nicer person, that I wanted to be involved with the church, but did I know the shame and glory of the cross? I wasn't sure, so I was like "hmm, maybe I should get rebaptized...?"

Then I read Luther's response to the Anabaptists and I was like "oh... wow... I need to repent." It really sounded like he wrote it specifically to address people like me. Go God =) So no, I'm not going to get rebaptized. Maybe I'll have a post on that in the future.

8) Tim Challies posted a brief glimpse on Early Church Worship. Cool beans!

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Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 7:09 PM

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. - John 4:23

To take some basic conclusions from this verse (they are acting more as a springboard into the post):

1) God is seeking people to worship him.

This doesn't mean that God needs us. God is perfect, He doesn't need anything. cwu posted a good post about this. But at the same time, God is seeking people to worship Him. He created us to worship Him, so that we may share in His glory, but He doesn't need us himself. He could have been perfectly content to just be. I AM that I AM is His name. He IS.

2) True worshippers worship in spirit.

What does it mean to say "in spirit"? Taken in context, it points to the idea that we must worship in "Spirit" through the Spirit. What does this look like? My best guess would be in bearing the fruit of the Spirit. We must not only say the words, but we must act them (and *shudder* feel them. I'm not a big fan of how emotional some people play Christianity up to, but I do acknowledge that there is an emotional aspect to Christianity). Reading the Bible should inspire us to deep worship, an acknowledgement of God, who He is, what He's done. Singing songs should do the same thing.

3) True worshippers worship in truth.

Just "feeling it" doesn't cut it for God. We worship in truth. If you read the context, you see that in the text, Jesus is criticizing the idea that we must worship at a specific location. Jesus rebukes this idea that worship is because of a location, but the thing he puts in place of a location isn't merely a "feeling" but also in "truth." What does it mean to worship in truth?

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. " - John 14:6

Jesus is the truth. So we worship through the Spirit and we worship in Christ? Yes of course, but what does it mean that Jesus is the truth? What else is said to be truth?

"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. " - John 17:17

God's Word is truth! Isn't Christ said to be the living Word? Of course! All of Scripture is breathed out by God. (2 Tim. 3:16) Scripture is truth. Worshipping in truth means we worship in accordance to the commandments that God has laid forth. Do we remember the false worship ascribed to God at the bottom of Mount Sinai? Exodus 32

In short, the people wanted an idol to worship. They made a golden calf and worshipped it saying, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" Were they worshipping? Yes! Moses himself says "It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear."

The results were disastrous. This was false worship and God almost demolished the entire nation of Israel, but relented because Moses spoke up (and we won't get into the whole divine sovereignty issue here, the text does say that God relents. I still believe God is completely sovereign (and active) over everything).

Thus we must worship in truth. Worship ascribed to a false God, or offered inconsistent to God's commandments are not pleasing to Him. There is example after example of harsh punishment for what may seem like just an innocent mistake in worship. But with God, there is no such thing as innocent mistake. God demands that we worship in spirit and in truth.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We sang a song on Friday that really rubbed me the wrong way, and I was like "hmm, a blog post!" I didn't mean that this blog is going to be a forum where I decry the human condition, but rather one where I share what I'm learning and urge my readers to test everything we do against Scripture (of course we will fail a great deal, but that's part of what we've become, and God's grace is enough to cover over a multitude of offenses).

We sang a song called "I will not forget you" by Waterdeep and I got to thinking about the lyrics:

(vs1) Many men will drink the rain
And turn to thank the clouds
Many men will hear You speak
But they will never turn around

I will not forget You are my God, my King
And with a thankful heart I bring my offering
And my sacrifice is not what You can give
But what I alone can give to you

A grateful heart I give, A thankful prayer I pray,
A wild dance I dance before you
A loud song I sing, A huge bell I ring,
A life of praise I live before You

(vs2) Many men will pour their gold
And serve a thing that shines
Many men will read your words
But they will never change their minds

The more I thought about it, the less I liked the song. The overarching theme seems to be "these people didn't remember God, but I did." It almost sounds like boasting. I know it wasn't intended as such, but reading it more and more, it sounds more like it. "Many men will read your words but they will never change their minds." This is absolutely true in one sense. People don't turn to God. But yet, the songwriter doesn't go on from there to praise God for His mercy and grace, but rather to promise to God that "I will not forget you."

Something about this sounds very wrong. "I will not forget You. I will praise You." Now given, I could have easily italicized the "You" over and over, but notice who is doing the action. I am giving to God. I am praising God. What exactly does this song teach us about God? It sure claims that we can do a lot for God. In fact, it claims that we can even give a sacrifice that God cannot give! This borders on an explicit contradiction to Scripture.

Let us remember that all our good works, even our worship and sacrifices are "good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."(Eph. 2:10) We also have explicit areas where sacrifice is given by God for God: Joel 2:14-16

12
"Yet even now," declares the LORD,
"return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13and rend your hearts and not your garments."
Return to the LORD, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the LORD your God?

Our worship isn't just about a song. It isn't about our emotions. It isn't about how much we enjoy the beat. Worship's value is found in the thing we're worshipping: God. It is ascribing to God the highest value. It has value only as God gives it value. Let us long to make our worship pleasing to God by worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005 at 12:16 AM

Reading deeply

I'm looking for a good blog title for these types of posts.

A short recap of reading material:

Stumbled upon an interesting post demonstrating positions on infant salvation by Steve Hays.

Doug Loughery has an excellent ... post/article/link? on a presuppositionalist conversation.

Stumbled upon an excellent article from ages ago (well, my years) on the value of preaching. Yup, it's pretty high.

The above article was linked by Milton Stanley of Transforming Sermons. He combs the blogs with a fine toothed comb to find some of the most insightful posts on sermons and sermon topics. Check it out, it's worth your while.

Blog of the post would have to be Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds. Always filled with relevant, insightful posts on current events, he is able to constantly point one to holding a biblical worldview and using it to evaluate all that goes on in the world.

Outside the blogsphere, I've had the blessing to be reading parts of Martin Luther and John Calvin. Have I said that these two are excellent theologians? They drip Scripture. Check them out sometime.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005 at 2:05 PM

But he, seeking to justify himself

But he desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus... Luke 10:29

So over the course of the past week or two, I've had the blessing to be able to read Luther and Calvin on justification by faith. This was what separated them from the Medieval Catholic Church and that's what should separate Christians from everyone else today. Mormons, Buddhist, Catholic, Atheist, the list goes on and on.

But that reading brought something to my mind today, something that I'd like to share.

It isn't really a scriptural argument, but rather a reflection.

Now of course, much can be said of the context, in fact I heard a very interesting sermon on how the situation ties into Martha and Mary, but that is another topic for another post.

But the phrase got me thinking. Why did the Pharisee seek to justify himself? What was he looking for? Of course, the response I thought of was that the Pharisee was seeking to prove himself to Christ. To give an excuse for why he did what he did. He wanted affirmation that his correct response was properly lived out, and he wanted affirmation from Christ before the watching crowds. He wanted Christ to say "yup, you got it right, you're the model." It wasn't just enough that Christ said that he got the response correct, he wanted more.

This got me thinking about my personal life these past few weeks. Sadly enough, it has been very short on the fruit of the Spirit, and very high on the "But, desiring to justify himself...I said..." Very little has service been for God, but service has been for the sake to prove myself to the world. I do have a living faith. I do do this.

Too quickly have I forgotten the simple truth: "man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."

Look, I'm not saying that I don't want to be doing good works anymore, but just that, upon examination of my reasoning for what I have been doing, I have found it wanting, deeply wanting.

Always reminded of the cross. Never forgetting.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,

The great unchangeable I AM,

King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005 at 5:37 PM

Rethinking Memory Verses: Matthew 18:19-20

Matthew 18:19-20 reads

19Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

Typically this verse is used to encourage people to gather together to pray with the mentality that "hey, there is Scripture that says we should gather together so that God will give things to us."

Of course, no one really says this, though this verse is often quoted approvingly in that context.

But what does Scripture say? Matthew 6

6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Clearly we aren't only called to congregation prayer (nor are we only called to prayer in secret). So what does the verse mean? A simple examination of the context gives us the answer:

15"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[f] in heaven. 19Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."
The context is instead church discipline! If a brother sins against you, tell him his fault in private. If he listens, great, if he doesn't, take one or two witnesses. If he doesn't listen take it to the church. If he doesn't listen to the church, treat him as a Gentile or a tax collector. Treat him as an unbeliever.

Why are we able to do this? To physically cast someone out of the church?

Because Christ is right alongside us when we are gathered. He exacts discipline along with us. The "bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" is an echo of Matthew 16:18-19
18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Here, Christ is clearly talking about the establishment of the church (we will leave aside the topic of the abuses of this verse by both Protestant and Catholics). On this rock I will build my church. Along with the church are the keys and the power of binding and loosing. This is church discipline clear and simple. When we are gathered, we have the power to cast out and to bind.

I actually don't quite fully understand the power of the binding and loosing, because the verse does seem to imply that all members of the body of believers, when they are gathered (2 or more), have the authority of binding and loosing, while it would seem like that authority is given only to the elders in my conception of it, though then again, I can't think of a place where the authority of casting out is given to just the elders. We do have the epistles that tell them to cast the unholy one from among you, which is written to the general populace.

Interesting thought.

So in short: Don't use that passage to support prayer meetings, it's about church discipline.

**edit**

As a side note, I think after thinking it through I agree with the comment that wyu left that this verse is still applicable for prayer meetings. Christ's presence is with us always (even when we are alone), and so it is with us in two or three. The issue I was addressing was that this verse is commonly used to support (and encourage) prayer meetings, when the context of the verse is about church discipline (I really don't understand the other comment at all, if it's trying to rebuke me, to correct me, or to encourage me...) rather than prayer. I still stand by the "don't use this verse to support" in the sense that the encouragement for prayer meetings isn't in this verse, rather it is in all those verses that actually are about prayer.

Though I must say I never saw the "two or three witnesses" in terms of preventing hypocrisy (seeing as it seems that Matt. 7 is supposed to be our guard against hypocrisy, and it precedes the first confrontation), rather I see it more as "on the testimony of two or three witnesses a matter is established" in the OT law.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005 at 10:39 PM

Rejoicing in God's providence

So I was about to put up a post detailing how awesome God's providence was after so and so happened. All these little fluke coincidences that seemed to have come together so that things worked perfectly out (and it felt like God was enabling my incompetence or something).

Then I thought, "wait a second, if I say that I believe firmly in God's complete sovereignty over everything, why should I just rejoice over God's sovereignty over today rather than any other day?"

Psalm 113:
2Blessed be the name of the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore!
3From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the LORD is to be praised!

Why not praise God that today happened exactly as God planned? Why not indeed!

Praise God for this day, when it seems specifically evident that God's hand was over it! Praise Him also for those days that may not be as evident! Pray that God may soften my heart that I may see and acknowledge His hand in everything, normal and unusual alike!

Song of the moment: Caedmon's Call - Table for Two

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Friday, October 07, 2005 at 2:38 PM

More reads

Steve Camp (I think he's this month's featured blogger or something) has an excellent post on every Christian's duty. Excellent read

Carla Rolfe read that entry by Steve Camp and decided to do a 34 part series on the verses cited. I would link to them all, but might as well just link to her blog, since it is an excellent blog. Check it.

Over at Anti-itch medication, there is an excellent post on squashing Christians. Wow.

At Renewed Day by Day, Lydia has posted an insightful post on a conception of marriage as a calling rather than a goal.

In books, I've had the blessing to be reading The Enduring Community by Brian Habig & Les Newsom. This book is a look into why people aren't satisfied with the church and an examination of what a church's purpose is and what that means for us as part of the Church. In seeking to answer the question, "What role could the local church play in my spiritual well being?" they've come up with a very biblical and insightful (not to mention convicting, considering my circumstances) view of the local church, the Universal Church, and the Kingdom of God. I would highly recommend it. Here's a link to an excerpt.

For the blog of today, I've been very blessed by Dustin's Staying Current! which recently has been going through a small devotional style blurbs through pieces of the book of Romans. Dustin is also a member (pastor? I'm not sure) of Bridgeway Bible Chruch which has a pretty useful website.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005 at 11:34 PM

Rethinking memory verses: Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9 reads:8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Today at prayer meeting, the person leading it brought out this as a devotional to set up the night, but this time we read through the context and he shared something that really blew his mind away, and it blew mine away as well. I want to share it with you, my readers.

The traditional (and I say traditional very loosely as "how I originally saw it") interpretation of this has been to say "well, God is ultimately in control. While we may plan all these things together, we can trust that God is sovereign, even when bad things happen."

Of course, this interpretation is completely consistent with Scripture. We have the story of Joseph in Genesis 50: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." with Joseph just trusting completely in God and looking back and saying that God's plans were good even though great evil befell him. We also see it in Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. " which basically makes it clear that though we may plan our way, it is ultimately God who establishes what we do and everything."

So nothing is inherently wrong with that interpretation. It won't lead us to a false theology, it won't lead us to denying justification by faith alone or anything like that, but the interpretation is not consistent with the actual intent of God by the verse, and for that reason it is necessary to dive a little deeper.

Examining the verses in context we see in Isaiah 55:1-13

1"Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.

6"Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12"For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

Examining the passage we see a few things that are contrasted. We see someone coming to buy and eat without money contrasted with someone who is wasting their money on things that do not feed (v. 1,2). We see exhortations to listen and live (v. 3) remembering the promises of the Lord when we do turn and repent. (4,5). Finally we see another contrast in v. 7:

let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Comparing this to v. 8-9 we see something that really is mindblowing:

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The contrast isn't between God and us as God being smart and us being lowly, so we should trust God, but rather it is between God and us as God being good, and we being wicked and deceitful so we should repent!

God's thoughts are not our thoughts. For He is all good and awesome. We are wicked and depraved. Our thoughts and ways can never approach God's in terms of goodness and purity (as the heavens are higher than the earth...). What a horrible story.

But it never ends there for those whom God has called, for v. 10-16 read:

10"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12"For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

God's promise is that He will accomplish His will, through His Word. It doesn't return to Him empty but accomplishes exactly what He has set forth for it. If it is God's will, He can tear down all our wickedness and replace our hearts of stone with a heart of flesh so that we might seek Him once again! Additionally, we see that God's Word acting on our hearts brings us to bear fruit. What once was a source of thorns (our hearts), will be transformed into the cypress. What once was a brier will come up myrtle. These good works, these fruits, ultimately point to God, and ultimately point to God's promise for eternity!

Do you see the echo of Eph. 1?

13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

We have the Word! So that we bear fruit (being sealed with the Holy Spirit), and this is a guarantee of our inheritance!

What beauty! What joy! We, who are wicked, horribly below God in our thoughts, can now be considered heirs for God's glory? How great Thou art!

Come! Let us buy and eat with no money. We are bankrupt, but if we recognize that, it is a sign that God has already begun His miraculous work in us. Let us seek Him while He is near. Let us dive into His Word, which will accomplish His will for us! Let us seek to bear the fruit of the Spirit, humbling ourselves in an acknowledgement that none of it comes from us, and all of it comes from God.

To God alone be the Glory!

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Monday, October 03, 2005 at 4:43 PM

How great their faith

Phillip Johnson posted a brief article detailing the last few days of a man and his wife during imprisonment in a Japanese camp right before they were rescued. What a story. Read it.

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Saturday, October 01, 2005 at 11:51 PM

John Colet's Convocation Sermon

so who's John Colet? He is a pre-reformer, a humanist (which isn't anywhere near what today's humanist looks like). He strove and begged for the reformation of the Roman Catholic Church during the times of the abuses that drove Martin Luther to post his historic 95 Thesis. I had the pleasure to read his Convoction Sermon (I dont' know what that is) delivered to some clergy and bishops where he called for transformation and reformation. He said something that really struck me.

He pointed out was Acts 6 (this the ESV):

2And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.

This really struck me. If those who were called to wait on tables need to be "of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom." Who ought I be? Not even worthy to wait upon tables!

Something else that John Colet pointed out was the fact that it wasn't that the Apostles thought that waiting upon tables was below them (as they had surely heard Christ's very own words when he talked about how the greatest must become a servant to all), but that they felt that it wasn't good to give up preaching to serve tables. What great value placed upon the Word of God! May it be that I would seek to wait upon tables so that those gifted in preaching would be freed to preach boldly! May it be that we as a community wouldn't expect our "servants" to do everything service related, but would rather delight in serving them, so that they might do a greater work of preaching the Word!

God grant me humbleness to serve and realize that I am not even qualified to wait upon tables, but still strive to serve as best as I am able so that those gifted in preaching would be free to preach, rather than they being forced to serve because no one else is willing to.

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at 3:30 AM

Some idle amusements:

Some random stuff that has crossed my path:

The shirt I will never get, but will always want. (HT 9digits)

Today Stanford had it's activities fair, where all the different clubs set up booths and such to let kids know that they exist and stuff. FiCS has always been with the other religious life groups, catholic, protestant, buddhist, jewish... though this year we bumped into "rational thought" which was basically a skeptics association. Welcome to Stanford's list of religions! *chuckles* at least Stanford recognized that they were "religious" in their denial of all religions =P.

Have I mentioned enough that I greatly enjoy reading girl talk, where the daughters of CJ Mahaney (and their mother) gather to share their wisdom on living biblical womanhood? Yeah, I want to marry someone like them =p. But I've been blessed by their blog, even though a lot of it is geared towards the female gender. Sometimes they have something amusing.

Oh, and I guess I want to drop a blog shoutout to a friend at Stanford, who has been kind enough to link my blog in her blogroll (though I am surprised that she even found it!). Hello Tina!

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