Drinking Deeply

Friday, June 30, 2006 at 11:37 PM

Submission

One thing that has always surprised me was how the classic egalitarians (those who believe in the general equality in all relationships and roles between men and women, contrasted with complementarians- those who believe that God created men and women different, with distinct roles for them to fulfill) twist some parts of Scripture to make it fit their interpretations.

Here's a classic example, it may not be true of all egalitarians, but it's something that crops up a lot. It just annoys me how Scripture is so clearly twisted, and it's a trap that Christians seem to fall for a lot.

Ephesians 5:22-24 states:
22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Now, after reading this passage, the interpretation is pretty clear with respect to women.

Wives - you're called to submit to your husband just like the church submits to Christ.

Does this teach headship? Absolutely. Now, the classic argument has been, "but wait, you need to read this in context! v. 21 says that Christians are to be 'submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ,' so therefore husbands are also to submit to their wives in the exact same way. This text doesn't teach headship, but equality."

Not only does the example of Christ and the church contradict those statements, (When did Christ submit to the church?) but a further reading of the very context being appealed to makes the interpretation clear. What does the rest of Ephesians 5 and 6 say?

Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church.
Children obey your parents.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters.

So unless we're willing to take v.21 and say that parents should also submit to their children, and masters to their slaves, we must understand v. 21 to be our overarching verse for the next few passages. Christians, submit to one another, and this is done by having wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters.

Now, we can (and should) discuss how a husband is to love his wife (giving up his life for her), and how parents are to love their children, and how masters are to love their slaves, but that does not change the fact that Scripture is clear here. Wives are to submit their husbands. That's Scripture's teaching and to oppose it is to oppose God.

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at 11:19 PM

Proverbs 1:Wisdom's Call (13)

Coming up on the end of Proverbs 1. That's good because I want to start something else soon (and I'm running out of things to say!)

Wisdom goes on to describe the wicked and the consequences.
29Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
30would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
31therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
I think I've already discussed everything that this passage brings up.

In short -

Those that reject Wisdom will get what they want. They will have the fruit of their way, getting what they deserve (calamity). They, being openly rebellious, have hated knowledge, have refused God, have despised wise counsel.

What more can be said? This is how a non-Christian is portrayed. They're not "generally nice people." They're not "lost souls looking for direction." They've rejected wisdom. They've rejected the call of Wisdom, who walks in marketplaces and is there in the public. They're hostile to God, and it is only by a complete change by God that they're able to come to the throne of grace to begin with .

That said, as Christians, we're still called to proclaim the Word. To be that personified wisdom to them, calling out to them, warning them of the judgment to come. Being open about who we are and sharing wisdom, that pearl of great worth, that light that cannot be hidden.

Then if they still turn and reject God, their condemnation is just and we can wash our hands of their blood.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006 at 12:14 PM

Revisiting Tithing

I was reading through Malachi and came upon this passage. I've previously posted on tithing before, but this passage was so rich I was sad to have skipped over it before, so I decided to do a post on it.

Malachi 3
8Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions. 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
Within this passage we see a link. Because the Israelites have robbed God, because they refused to bring their whole tithes in, God has punished them. They are needy and need rain for their crops (v. 10). Their crops that exist are getting devoured by locusts (v. 11a) and their vines have failed to bear fruit (v. 11b). Surely all these things would make an excellent excuse not to give. "God, we're needy right now, we can't give the whole tithe. We have no money, no crops, no firstborn."

But God makes it clear in this passage that the curses have come as a result of their lack of giving. And now God is calling them to give completely, give all the tithe, and so put God to the test. He will respond as He has promised, opening the windows of heaven and growing your seed, rebuking those who attack you. Nations will turn and recognize that they are blessed by God, and yours will be a land of delight!

So if you're in need. If you're struggling for finances. If you wonder how you're going to pay the next monthly bill, put God to the test. Acknowledge that all of what you have is God's, and 10% (or more!) given to the church is a sign of that. Skip the next movie you want to see or the next expensive meal you want to eat out, and give. Give to those who labor spiritually among you and deserve their wages.

So here's the call: Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.

And here's an interesting link.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006 at 8:58 PM

Proverbs 1: Wisdom's Call (12)

Proverbs 1
24Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
26I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
28Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
v.28 gives a chilling conclusion to this curse. "They will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me."

1) People will end up calling out in their calamity. When the last day comes, every tongue will confess and every knee will bow that Jesus Christ is Lord. Before that day, God will break people down, those who've turned their backs upon Him and He will bring calamity and disaster upon their heads, and they will turn and plea for rescue and deliverance. They will seek the Lord diligently. A desperation call. but...

2) God will not answer. God will not be found. Even though they will call, even though they will seek dilligently, God will not be found. He will turn His back for once and for all. "Depart from me, for I never knew you." And there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. And God will laugh. God will mock.

What is the only thing we can say in response to this? Seek the Lord while He may be found.

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Monday, June 26, 2006 at 7:55 PM

Reading Deeply

Solo Femininity put up an excellent post on testing and how we respond to it. Check it out.

Jollyblogger posts on predestination and marriage. I love talking about predestination and I love talking about marriage. He combines the two! Who'd have thunk?

Even though Douglas Wilson is still in that weird state where a lot of people say that he's really bad, I've liked a lot of what he's had to say. Check out his latest post on hospitality.

Dan Phillips challenges us on how we do Christianity. Is it “I think God is like...” or “The Bible says...”?

Mark Dever in the Together For the Gospel blog challenges some basic assumptions that underlie preaching. Are we assuming the Gospel and seeking relevance or seeking the Gospel and assuming relevance?

Consider what you and I will do to the Gospel message in our churches if we continue to change the "presentation" of the Gospel until we begin to get a response.

Pursue faithfulness and relevance. Know that the Gospel is always relevant. NEVER assume the Gospel.

Finally, Reformation Theology gives us some quotes to ponder. Take your time while reading this!

Bookwise, I've been reading Darwin's Black Box. It discusses the biochemical challenge to Darwinian evolution, claiming (and defending well) the claim that there are irreducible complex systems that exist at the foundational basic level which cannot be explained by evolution. An insightful and captivating read! I would highly recommend it for all people, even if they're not interested in biology at all, since evolution is so prominent in society today.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006 at 7:39 PM

Proverbs 1: Wisdom's Call (11)

After giving the promise of understanding, of a pouring out of Wisdom's spirit to those who turn at her rebuke, she gives the consequences of not turning and not listening to wisdom's call

Proverbs 1
24Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
26I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
If you don't turn to Wisdom when she calls. If you don't listen to her, if you don't seek her, then the consequences of not having Wisdom is exactly a lack of what Wisdom promises back in v1-4) no wise dealing, righteousness, justice, equity, prudence, discretion, understanding, or guidence.

Kind of sucks eh? But the picture gets worse, because the natural consequence of a person not governed and guided by God is made clear.
26I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Now note, this laughter isn't that nice chuckle "oh hey, that was funny." This is a laughter of scorn. This is a laughter of mockery. Steve Hays over at Triablogue calls certain passages "taunt-songs." Songs sung in rejoicing over the death of the unrighteous. This is what Wisdom will do. This is what God does (see Psalm 2). God will laugh when calamity comes.

Some things that we can draw from this:

1) The rejection of God (Wisdom) has very real consequences, even though it may not appear so at the time.

"I will laugh when terror strikes you." It's not an "if terror strikes," but a "when." Now, we may go back to my original post about the context of Proverbs and ask "well, it's not a bunch of exact cause and effect rules, there's no guarentee that terror and calamity will strike." Now, that's true that most of Proverbs are not cause and effect rules, but here God is speaking directly in the personified form of "Wisdom," and thus we do get the "cause-effect" sense. Wisdom will lead to life, and rejection of wisdom will lead to calamity and terror. This may come in a flash. The passage describes it as a "storm" or a "whirlwind." Both of these are natural disasters. Here today, gone tomorrow.

2) There will come a time when God will no longer suffer our rebellion anymore.

Know that this calamity does not come by causes outside of God's control. No, God being the sovereign Lord is the one who forms light and creates darkness, is the one who makes well-being and causes calamity as Isaiah 45:7 states:

I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

This calamity, this disaster will come not by "natural" causes working independantly of God, not as a result of the natural laws laid down by a watchmaker, but will come about by God's sovereign act.

In Paul's speech in Athens(Acts 17) states after a clear presentation of the rebellion of the people:
30The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
And that is the message that wisdom gives. The time to turn from our blindness is now, before it's too late, before judgment comes and Wisdom laughs and mocks us in our suffering.

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at 4:16 PM

Lord's Day 15

Q. What do you understand by the word "suffered"?
A. That during his whole life on earth, and especially at the end, Christ sustained in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race. This he did in order that, by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice, he might redeem us, body and soul, from eternal condemnation, and gain for us God's grace, righteousness, and eternal life.

Q. Why did he suffer "under Pontius Pilate" as judge?
A. So that he, though innocent, might be condemned by an earthly judge, and so set us free from the severe judgment of God that was to fall on us.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006 at 9:08 PM

The Gospel and questions

An excerpt from an email I sent off.

One thing I've learned about answering questions about the Bible, it's origins, how reliable it is, interpreting it, and so on:
The dominating thing to remember through all of this is that ultimately it is God through the Gospel that will grant them life. It will not be how many questions you're able to answer, or even if you can prove God exists or not, but it is simply the Gospel. Paul writes in Romans 1:
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Don't ever be ashamed to share the Gospel. They will always have questions, and even if you can answer them, they can come up with more. Their questions are merely marks of the sinful rebellion (hostile to God) that we ourselves once had. It is only through God's sovereign action upon their hearts that will open them up to know the Lord and honestly seek Him.

I myself have often gotten bogged down in Q&A and stuff like that, it's always a trap.

Don't get me wrong, Christianity has all the answers and non-Christians have none. But it isn't the answers that will convince them, it's God. Pray for them, because ultimately whether or not they become Christian is not up to them, but it's in God's hands. God has mercy on whom He'll have mercy, and He hardens whom He'll harden.

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Friday, June 23, 2006 at 9:33 PM

Keeping the Sabbath

Exodus 20:8
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
How do we apply this? Does it simply mean we don't do any work on Sunday? Spend the whole day at church fasting and praying instead? Don't go biking or running or do anything that requires a bit of physical exertion?

Isaiah 58 gives us an excellent picture. The context is that God (through Isaiah) is rebuking Israel for it's negligence of the Sabbath day. (v.13-14)
2Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
Israel was seeking God, was delighting to know God's ways. But they were doing it in a hypocritical way. As if they were a nation that did righteousness. No, God responds not only to the prayer, but to the entire person. As Proverbs 28:9 states:
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,even his prayer is an abomination.
3'Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Israel had turned away from hearing God's law and now they want to fast to regain God's favor? Yet even in the day they fast they're seeking their own pleasure. They oppress their workers.
4Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
Israel! You're faking it. Does this please the Lord? No!
6"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[b] go free,
and to break every yoke?
7Is 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?
God wants a day of rest, not only for you, but for your workers, for those who are oppressed. A day for feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the naked.
8Then 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.
9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
12And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
That is what is honoring the Sabbath. That is a fast that pleases the Lord. And this is what will bring God to turn and shower down blessings upon you.
13"If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14then you shall take delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

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Thursday, June 22, 2006 at 4:40 PM

Proverbs 1:Wisdom's Call(10)

Moving along (at our snail's pace), we arrive at the promise of Wisdom to those who hear:
20Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
21at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
23If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
v. 22 left us with a question: If Proverbs (and thus Wisdom) was all about giving discretion, teaching righteousness, and all those great things, why is it that people run from it, why is it that the simple love being simple, the scoffers delight in scoffing, and fools hate knowledge? (and these three phrases seen to describe common characteristics of one general group of people, rather than three)

v.23 answers that in presenting the promises of Wisdom:
23If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because this wisdom begins with a rebuke. What is this rebuke? The one that's stated in v. 22: "You're simple and you love being simple. You're a scoffer and you delight in scoffing. You're a fool and you hate knowledge." And the call is simple: turn! Stop doing that! Seek wisdom, stop mocking, love knowledge.

And the promises are so clear and awesome. If you do turn. If you do repent at the rebuke, then:
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
I love that phrase "pour out my spirit to you." Like in abundance. Overwhelming. A spirit of wisdom in abundance. Wisdom is calling to us. Come, turn, and hear and I will pour out my spirit to you!

What does it mean? The very next verse makes it clear: "I will make my words known to you." Now, it's not like they didn't already know these words. They certainly had heard it since Wisdom was calling in the streets, speaking in the markets. No, this "know" is a deeper know, a clarity, an understanding and application. People like to talk about "heart" vs. "head" knowledge. I personally don't. I would prefer to make the distinction between real knowledge and nothing. If you're not living it out, how can you actually say that you know it? Thus this isn't just a cognitive knowledge, but a knowledge that is lived out in wisdom, in practicing righteousness, justice, faithfulness, and discretion. It is this that will be poured out upon us if we turn at Wisdom's reproof.

So we have two responses yet again. We can reject this and say "we're good enough, we're not stupid, we can make it." Or we can turn, hear, submit and obey.
22"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
23If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006 at 1:10 PM

Reading Deeply

There is always far too much good stuff floating around. Here's what I've liked the past few weeks:

Reformation Theology posts on Martin Luther and the certainty of truth. It also posted an excellent response to a question on Calvinism.

Team Pyro churns out another pile of good stuff. This one is on unanswered questions in the Bible and the need to know. Check it out.

Shepherds' Fellowship (where John Macarthur sometimes blogs!) has a few excellent posts. One by Phil Johnson on what is wrong with the emergent church. And another one on pragmatism, and why it's a threat to churches today.

"Evangelism does not require salesmen, but prophets. "

The question of gender roles and the like have crossed my path again. Here is an excellent post on 1 Timothy 2:12 regarding a book "Women in the Church." Read the whole thing.

Along similar lines, Al Mohler sounds the call for biblical manhood and womanhood.

Vincent Cheung is still working through his commentary on 1 Peter. Here he addresses the fear of God.

Bookwise, I just finished Mark Dever's "9 Marks of a Healthy Church." An excellent and insightful book, packed full of insights and Scripture. Within it, Dever lays out 9 marks that the modern day church have neglected and needs to be restored:

These are:
1) Expositional Preaching
2) Biblical Theology
3) The Gospel
4) A Biblical Understanding of Conversion
5) A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
6) A Biblical Understanding of Church Membersip
7) Biblical Church Discipline
8) A Concern for Discipleship and Growth
9) Biblical Church Leadership

As a side note, he lays out "ideals" here and for the practical side of it, check out his other book "The Deliberate Church."

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006 at 2:40 PM

Martin Luther

The past quarter, I had the blessing of taking a religious studies class on the life and thought of Martin Luther. We read Luther, talked Luther, joked about Luther. It was truly a huge blessing. Come on, how many classes are you able to take at a fairly liberal university where you're able to discuss different aspects of the Gospel, of faith and works, of salvation and justification? Yeah, that was awesome.

Well, here are some reflections:

Luther was obessed about one thing: The righteous will live by faith. Every aspect of everything that he was doing was focused around this one central point.

1) He hated anything that would come between man and salvation through faith, and thus was extremely harsh with those who taught or believed anything that would put a stumbling block in front of people. This did not only include the Roman Catholic Church, but also included the Anabaptists, one of his disciples, and Zwingli, another prominant reformer. Times when Luther would call them spawn of the devil were common (though it must be admitted that we live in a very different world today, and what seems harsh to us now was normal for the times).

2) He had a wholistic approach to life. Even though Luther was concerned about man's relationship with God primarily, he understood that Scripture was not just something to be studied, but one that needed to be practiced. He had strong opinions on how we are to submit to our authorities, how we are to excercise our Christian freedoms, how we are to raise our children, how we are to love our spouse, and desired to men everywhere be able to live out their lives in faith.

3) He was a pastor. Ultimately, even though he comes across as a harsh man, reading how he served his people, his heart for the lost, his desire that people everywhere be able to ascribe to God the glory He deserved really caused me to see him in a different light. His discussion on God's sovereignty in the Bondage of the Will was not a positive presentation "I'm right," but a negative one, intended to defend the power and authority of God, and the idea of justification by faith alone.

4) He had a really cool wife. She seemed to be exactly the type that he needed. Though he originally married to spite the pope and the demons, he eventually grew to love her and raise up a number of children with her. She was strong willed enough not to bow to his fits, yet loving enough to keep him in line and take care of him.

In the midst of one of his bouts of depression, she came in wearing all black. Surprised, he asked if someone had died and she responded that from the way he had been acting, it seemed that God had. He arose and went forth. How cool is that?!

5) Luther had his flaws. He believed, to his death, in the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper. (That's what caused the split between him and Zwingli) He thought it was appropriate for believers to marry unbelievers. He oftentimes would, in a desire to hit a topic close to home for his hearers, take a passage that seemed only tangentally related. The passages would eventually get there, but it seemed ironic for someone who believed so much in the authority of Scripture would do this.

All in all, it was quite the blessing to be able to read all of Luther's basic theological writings. His Freedom of the Christian, Bondage of the Will, Temporal Authority, and Estate of Marriage were all very notable, and all things that I often times wondered about. It's good to know there really isnt' anything new under the sun.

For those random readers who are still in college, if you have the opportunity to take a class like this, do it. Definitely the best class I've taken here at Stanford.

**Edit** Some of Luther's works can be found online at monergism.com

Notable works: Bondage of the Will. 95 Theses. Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Concerning Christian Liberty.

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at 2:10 PM

Proverbs 1:Wisdom's Call(9)

Ok, enough of the mistitling. Why can't I just call it what it is? A walk through proverbs 1:

Proverbs 1
20Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
21at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
Last time I posted on this (oh so long ago!) I pointed out that wisdom was in the streets, wisdom was availible. Wisdom was accessible. Wisdom was not insight and divine illumination into the future, but rather wisdom was discernment and spiritual maturity, recognizing good from evil and doing the right things.

With that introduction, we have to face the ugly reality. Just because wisdom is accessible doesn't mean that people want it.

Wisdom's cry begins with v. 22:
22"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
The truth of the matter is that there are people that will hate the gospel, that will love being simple, will love being stupid, and in fact, will mock those who have wisdom. Not everyone is like Cornelius who feared God and prayed continually even when he had not heard of Christ yet. Most are like those in Thessalonica who were jealous and followed Paul to Berea to stop him from preaching.

I received a letter in the mail the other day calling for missionaries to Asia. It pointed to the 10-40 window and said of those who were unbelievers, explaining their commitment to idols, temple worship, the occult. They do this because "they sincerely seek forgiveness of sins."

As much as I agree with the need for missionaries and evangelists (being that it is grounded in the Great Commission), it is important to recognize a Biblical truth: There are those who will hate the message even after hearing it. The world isn't filled with people who long for and want to get to know God, to put their faith in Christ, but rather the world is filled with people who hate God, who are enemies with Him, who know the truth and deny it. The world is filled with the people who would crucified Christ all over again for the message he brought. Their condemnation is just.

And as was ours.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006 at 8:31 PM

Lord's Day 14

Q. What does it mean that he "was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary"?
A. That the eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal God, took to himself, through the working of the Holy Spirit, from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, a truly human nature so that he might become David's true descendant, like his brothers and sisters in every way except for sin.

Q. How does the holy conception and birth of Christ benefit you?
A. He is our Mediator and, in God's sight, he covers with his innocence and holiness the sinfulness in which I was conceived.

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at 4:29 PM

The image of God

So yesterday I was thinking, "you know, there are a lot of times when people appeal to the image of God in saying why we should love our neighbors, why we should do this, why we should do that, but I can't really think of a place in Scripture where the argument "They're made in God's image, so you should..." is ever used."

Today I woke up and I was reminded somehow of the appeal to God's image in the prohibition of murder in Genesis 9:6

6"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

Now, in one sense, to even be angry at a brother we're guilty of committing murder (per Christ's instructions), but does that apply to not loving our neighbor?

Personally, I don't like the idea of saying that we should love our neighbors because of the image of God. It seems to ascribe a worth to one's neighbor that they posess in and of themselves. Now, of course, the image of God isn't something they posess in themselves, (as birth comes by God's grace), but in another sense, it kind of is. I would much prefer to say "love your neighbor, because God said so." Or maybe "love your neighbor, because if you say that you love God, yet hate your neighbor, you're lying." Both of these statements put our relationship with our neighbor not just on the person-person level, but extends it to God-person.

Thoughts?

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at 12:43 AM

Is this a compelling verse for infant baptism?

1 Cor. 7
12To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?(Emphasis added)
Paul is responding to a concern that someone is defiled by their marriage with an unbeliever (presumably they were converted after marriage for Scripture is clear about being unequally yoked). What he says blows me away. Don't divorce them, because the husband or wife is made holy. Their marriage is still legitimate, their children are likewise also holy.

Of course, we cannot understand "holy" here to mean "saved," because v. 16 makes it clear that we don't know if the unbeliever will be saved or not. But yet they are (present tense) "holy" or "sanctified" (NIV, NASB). Somehow, someway, their marriage sets apart their children and their husband or wife in a manner distinct from the rest of the world.

I see a direct association between this concept of being set apart in a physical way and being part of a church community. Being part of a church does not save us, but it does set us apart. Can we go from there and make the argument that baptism, being the entrance to the covenant community of the church, should thus be open to the entire family of believers?

As a side note, what do we make of the "I, not the Lord" phrase? Should we treat this text as uninspired?

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 7:56 PM

Proverbs 1:Wisdom's Call(8)

Proverbs 1
20Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
21at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
Continuing our search for manhood in proverbs, we leave the warning against listening to sinners and hear the flip side. Don’t be stupid! Seek wisdom!

The passage begins with a very simple point: Wisdom is available. Wisdom is accessible. Contrary to what some religions and philosophies teach, wisdom is not inaccessible except through some secret ritual or a spiritual high, wisdom is in fact calling in the streets, in the marketplaces, at the entrance to the city. Wisdom exists and is available.

Now of course, this begs a difficult question, “What exactly is wisdom?” Is it a knowledge of all that will transpire? Is wisdom the same thing as knowledge? Is all knowledge accessible? Or is it something else entirely?

To find our answer, we only need to look back at the original intent of Proverbs and understand how the intent of proverbs drives the intent of our personified wisdom.
1The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth--
5Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

So we actually have a limited “yes” to many of those question. Proverbs (and by implication, our personified wisdom) exists for understanding, instruction, discernment, and guidance. But we do have one thing that the proverbs (and wisdom) doesn’t tell us. Wisdom doesn’t tell us the future. Wisdom doesn’t tell us how things are going to work out. Wisdom gives us guidance, gives us insight into how they might work out, but there are not guarantees here. Maybe we’ll all be dead tomorrow. Wisdom does not tell us if that is true or not, but wisdom does tell us how to live our lives so that we might glorify God, even if we were to die tomorrow. Indeed, this concept is echoed elsewhere in Scripture.

Deuteronomy 29
29"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Wisdom is what is revealed to us. Wisdom is available. Wisdom exists so that we may “do all the words of [the] law.” Don’t spend your days searching in vain for “the will of God.” He has told you what is asked. He has given you what is required. He has provided for (in the Scriptures) how we are to go about seeking Him. Seek Wisdom!

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Sunday, June 11, 2006 at 3:30 PM

Justice and Joseph

Sometimes the doctrines of grace trap me. I’ll be facing a trial or something and wonder, “Hmm, God is sovereign, and I do trust Him to bring me out of this, but how do I act?” And I sit and think and think and sometimes I can’t come up with an answer. Or maybe I’ll have an answer but then I’ll forget it.

I’ve been reading through my Bible (Genesis) and I’ve come across the story of Joseph. I have always greatly enjoyed the story of Joseph (though Tim Challies has just read a commentary that discusses the story from Judah’s perspective ).

Genesis 39
1Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.
And one thing that drew me in particular was Joseph’s actions in the midst of the injustice. He is sold into slavery by his brothers, and turns around and becomes a faithful and trustworthy servant of his master, entrusted with all the household of his master except his master’s wife.
19As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, "This is the way your servant treated me," his anger was kindled. 20And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.
The wife lusts after Joseph and when he doesn’t respond appropriately (and that’s a great thing to think about as well, maybe my next post between the proverbs 1 posts), she frames him and he gets thrown into jail.

Yet in jail, he is faithful with all things and was put in charge of all prisoners because the keeper trusted him! How amazing!

But one thing that struck me was his response in the midst of this injustice. Not only does he faithfully fulfill God’s calling for him as a slave and later on as a prisoner, he also does not take advantage of the opportunities that probably abounded. If he were in charge of everything at his master’s house, he probably had more than ample opportunity to take a lot of food and money and run, but he didn’t. If he were in charge of the rest of the prisoners, he probably would have many opportunities to break out and flee into the night, and who could fault him? He was there unjustly, framed for something he didn’t do. The courts of law didn’t do God’s work. Weren’t they supposed to uphold God’s justice like Paul says they do in Romans 13?

But Joseph stayed. Not only did he stay, he stayed without resentment or bitterness. He stayed and was an example of that classic protestant work ethic, back before those words even existed.

But the other thing that struck me was that God hadn’t forgotten Joseph, and God does provide an appropriate way for Joseph to find his escape. No, it wasn’t glorifying to God for Joseph to escape out of prison, stealing money and food, because Joseph was called to submit to the authorities, but God would provide a way that was glorifying, and Joseph took it:

Genesis 40
9So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, "In my dream there was a vine before me, 10and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand." 12Then Joseph said to him, "This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh's cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit."
Dreams come, and Joseph hears them and interprets them for them. One is good, and the other is bad. But v. 13-15 jumped out at me:
13In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh's cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit."
“When you’re set free, remember me. I was put here wrongly and don’t deserve it.” Joseph isn’t fatalistic about things. He isn’t like “I guess God is punishing me, because God is sovereign and so I must deserve it.” He also isn’t seeking every way to escape, as opportunities would have been abundant for him. But he does seek an appropriate way to escape. He seeks escape through being released by the authorities themselves. Even in the midst of the injustice, he knows who to go to. He appeals to the authorities themselves, trusting that God will provide if it is indeed God’s will.

Wow. I thought that was pretty cool. And yet, that story doesn’t end that greatly then and there either.
23Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
But we all know how it ends. Eventually the Pharaoh finds Joseph, elevates him up to the highest position in the land and God uses Joseph to save His people.

Joseph tells his brothers:

Genesis 45
7And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Genesis 50
20As 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.
And that just leads me back to echo Paul in Romans 11

33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34"For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?"
35"Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?"

36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

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at 2:58 PM

Lord's Day 13

Q. Why is he called God's "only Son" when we also are God's children?
A. Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God. We, however, are adopted children of God adopted by grace through Christ.

Q. Why do you call him "our Lord"?
A. Because not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood he has redeemed us from sin and from the power of the devil, and has brought us, body and soul, to be his very own.

*side note* I thought the second question was interesting. I had to reread it a few times before I understood it. Thoughts?

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Saturday, June 10, 2006 at 1:33 PM

Proverbs 1:Wisdom's Call(7)

Why is it so stupid to seek after dishonest gain?
18but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.
19Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.
Verse 18 tells us that it’s stupid because these men are merely setting a trap for themselves. Though they may be plotting the murder of someone else, planning for how to spend their gain, they are actually planning their own death, their own murder. Is that because they’re going to fall into their own trap and somehow commit suicide? Not exactly, but the truth of the matter is that it is the Lord who watches over the innocent, the widow, the fatherless, the lost. Those that seek the blood of innocents are actually planning a trap not only against the innocent, but acting against God. As Psalm 146 states:
9The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Though the wicked will get away with a robbery or two, or maybe an entire lifetime of robbery and unjust dealings, we do have that final promise. Galatians 6 tells us that
7Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
So we can go back to our original point. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Do we fear the Lord? Do we see the day coming when the world will be judged? Or are we casual about our actions, thinking that we won’t be held accountable for them. When we steal, whatever we steal, be it a meal, music, a bank, time, though we may not be held accountable for it on this earth, the Lord God watches.

We’ve messed up and we all can and must confess that. We do not work as we ought. We steal from our employers. For the sake of convenience, for the sake of laziness, for the sake of covetousness, we seek after unjust gain.

Don’t be deceived. The wicked will get their due. We will get our due. If we do not cast our lives upon the cross, confessing that our works are but rags and rest in Christ and Christ alone’s completed work in life, death, and resurrection, we will certainly get our due. It is at the foot of the cross that there is hope.

My son – do not listen to sinners. Do not be deceived. Though it may look as if it’s all gain and no loss, there are consequences waiting. When you set that trap, when you seek your gain, you are setting a trap for yourself and seeking your own loss. Flee from sin and follow wisdom!

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Friday, June 09, 2006 at 4:33 PM

Reading Deeply

Speaking of reading, it's been a while since I've put upon one of these "Reading Deeply" posts.

Tim Challies has put up some great posts. Check out this one on the obligation to assume that someone is a sibling if he or she claims to be one. Certainly a topic that I've thought about and I haven't come to a conclusive decision. It was quickly followed up by a post on church discipline and how a mark of the true church is church discipline. He also has some reflections on reading that I thought were particularly insightful.

Boundless has a good post on recognizing a biblical man.

One of my friends put up an excellent post on the expectation of people to achieve by a certain age. Death to age!

John MacArthur put up an amazing post on making ministers of lay people. It's really good.

Theocentric posts an excellent post on going beyond the base essentials.

Vincent Cheung continues his series on 1st peter and makes this point on preaching.
Apply this to preaching, pastors should not begin with imperatives, but with the indicatives about the realities of Christian salvation. Do not just command the people – feed them, so that they will have the spiritual strength to obey what is commanded. Preach about the grace that has come to them, about the difference it has made in them, and about the new identity, new life, and new community that it has given to them.

Then, begin to mix in the imperatives with the indicatives. In the process, remind the people of their past foolish thinking and sinful lifestyle. Never allow them to imagine a romanticized version of the past. Remind them that they were fools and slaves under sin. Now that Christ has saved them, it is time to invest in this new life, cast away the past, and move forward with Christ.


Team Pyro posts on what kind of temperment God requires. The conclusion?
What matters is that our heart be wholly God's (Deuteronomy 6:5f.; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 86:11; 1 Peter 3:15).

Then the cut of the instrument will matter far less than the skill of the Musician.
As to books, I've been reading "Disciplines of a Godly Man" by Kent Hughes. The first few chapters are our charge. Society is filled with weak willed and weak minded men. Are we willing to have Godly sweat? Sweating through purity, husbanding, fatherhood, friendship? Through our prayer, devotional, worship life? Each chapter is on a different topic, directed towards a different discipline of manhood. Each chapter has been incredibly convicting and challenging, and the gospel is throughout. I wish I could have read it years ago.

Enjoy!

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Thursday, June 08, 2006 at 11:24 PM

Of making (or reading) books

An email I just sent off to my chat list. I figure it'll suffice as my "book recc." list for now. Of course the offer to "borrow" them isn't entirely applicable, but ::shrug::

All - One of the biggest contributions to my personal spirtual growth has been reading books. God has blessed me with an abundance of books, many of them very good. I would highly encourage you all to find a book or two to read over the summer to further your spiritual growth. What follows is a listing of the books I have and would recommend pertaining to various topics.

Here we go now!

Reformed Theology -

As many of you know, KCPC is part of a denomination that is confessionally Reformed. If you would like to understand a little bit more of what that means and how it applies, check out Back to Basics: Rediscovering the richness of the Reformed faith- Edited by David Hagopian. It contains 4 sections pertaining to the Reformed faith: God's sovereignty, The Covenant, The Church, and the Christian Life. It was the book that pretty much started the whole "Hey, God is pretty awesome!" thing for me. I would highly recommend it, though it is a little difficult upon first reading.

For a little lighter fare, but same concept, I would suggest Putting the Amazing Back into Grace by Michael Horton. It is very similar to the above, but less structrued and a bit easier to read. He also includes a little bit of history. It's easier to read, though not as in depth as the above. But still good.

Systematic Theology -

Who is God? Who are we? How do we get saved? Who is Christ? the Holy Spirit? How do we know God? For those who are looking for a good overview of ... eh everything, check out Vincent Cheung's Systematic Theology. It's easy to read, well written, organized, and it has given me a confidence in God's Word that I had never had before. J.I. Packer has also written an excellent book entitled Knowing God which is divided up into various chapters, each one on an aspect of Christian life and God. Excellent read (though I'll confess I never finished it the second time through).

Apologetics (Presuppositional)

How do we talk with unbelievers? Vincent Cheung's two books Presuppositional Confrontations and Apologetics in Conversation (in that order) are very good. John Frame's Apologetics to the Glory of God was also impressive and well written. All very readable.

Prayer

How should we pray? Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell discusses "what does it mean to praying Jesus' name?" Vincent Cheung (anyone see a theme running through the books I like?) also has Prayer and Revelation. Both of these books do not give a "technique" to prayer, but rather study the nature of God and our response to that, and use that to prepare and deepen our prayer.

Commentaries

Vincent Cheung's commentary on Malachi, Sermon on the Mount, Parables of Jesus, Sampson and His Faith. There's also a commentary on Job by Steve Lawson. John MacArthur does an excellent study on the 12 Apostles in Twelve Ordinary Men, a study of their failures and how God used them in the midst of that.

Roman Catholics and Mormons:

James White is an excellent apologist and deals with all the difficult texts that Mormons and Roman Catholics bring up to defend their beliefs, and follows it up with a clear and Biblical presentation of the Gospel. Check out The Roman Catholic Controversy as well as Letters to a Mormon Elder, both books I used when I was discussing things with my RC roommate last year and Mormon missionaries over the summer.

Trinity:

James White also does an excellent treatment of the Trinity and it's importance in The Forgotten Trinity. I found it eye-opening and convicting that a doctrine that was so vital and central to the Christian faith was one that I barely understood. Bruce Ware also does an excellent treatment of the Trinity in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance. That book actually gave me my first understanding of the Trinity and helped me to see the Trinity working all over the Bible.

Church :

Mark Dever summarizes years and years of biblical preaching and insight from Scripture into the Deliberate Church, on how we get from where we are to a Gospel centered ministry. Vincent Cheung does a study on preaching via 2 Timothy 4 in Preach the Word (The book is no longer in print, the link is to the book entitled "Ministry of the Word" which includes the former book "Preach the Word"). John MacArthur takes a critical look at the "seeker sensitive" (Rick Warren/Bill Hybels) church model in light of Scripture in Ashamed of the Gospel. I found myself very convicted because even though I wouldn't have identified myself with those models, there were sinful patters in my life that had come out of those models.

Sex:

John Piper and Justin Taylor are editors of a book that compiles the sermons given at a conference on Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. It examines the Biblical underpinnings of sex and marraige, responding to singleness, marraige, dealing with sexual sin, and it has two beautiful chapters at the end of the book examinging Martin Luther and the Puritan views of marraige. Yeah, it was pretty awesome and it made me want to get married.

Gospel:

C.J. Mahaney wrote what probably has been the book with the award of "most influence per page (apart from the Bible) upon me." His short examination on the Cross Centered Life has been instrumental to my sanctification. John Piper demonstrates and examines the most important part of the Gospel in God is the Gospel. He has also written a very excellent short devotional style book entitled The Passion of Jesus Christ: 50 reasons why Jesus came to die

Missions:

John Piper has written the book that has transformed my outlook on missions. What it is, our call, and how we can go about it. Check it out: Let the Nations be Glad

Philosophy and Worldviews-

How do we know God? How do we "Know" "know " anything? How does the Christian worldview pertain to ethics, cosmology, philosophy, and so on? Vincent Cheung's Ultimate Questions is good here. It was hard, but it's worthwhile. Greg Johnson gives us a picture of The World according to God. Very readable and accessible. Vincent Cheung has a pile of short essays in Renewing the Mind, Light of our Minds, and on Good and Evil and in which he presents, defends and applies the Christian worldview and it's uniquely intellectual aspects to various aspects of life. All three are very short and readable. Nancy Pearcy and Charles Colson wrote an intimidating (thick) but readable book entitled How Now Shall We Live? It looks at Biblical answers to evolution, ethics, and those basic worldview questions that plague us all. I would highly recommend it.

Christian Life -

C.J. Mahaney teaches us about Humility:True Greatness. One of the more convicting books I've ever read, and still one that convicts me every time I think about it. John Piper gave me another convicting shot in the arm with his charge to Don't Waste Your Life. Both books are of the "shoot, I need to put this book down and repent" type.

Baptism -

John Murrary has a book Christian Baptism. This was probably the hardest book for me to understand of the bunch. And I need to reread it again, I'm not sure if I understand half of it. But it gives a defense for the infant baptism position.

Miracles:

Regarding God and miracles, Vincent Cheung has written Biblical Healing which I found pursuasive. It's an interesting read for sure, whether you agree with it or not.

Non-theology:

We read C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters in small group. It was deeply insightful and poked into the sinful areas of my own heart. And if you're in the mood for a well written biography of Martin Luther, check out Roland Bainton's Here I Stand.

Of course, all these books are worthless if you're not reading the Book. So if you can only read one thing at all, read your Bibles. Forget these. They are manmade and can have things that are wrong. Scripture is God's Word. It is sufficient (by itself) for any and every good work.

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at 1:05 AM

Proverbs 1:Wisdom's Call(6)

Proverbs 1:
10My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
11If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse"--
15my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
16for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
17For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
18but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
19Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.
Thus far we’ve noticed that the passage is not talking just about the unjust murder of someone in order to steal their goods, but it’s actually talking about seeking after unjust gain. What type of gain is this? Gain that is unearned. Gain that is someone else’s and not yours. This gain, when we take it, is unjust. There are no excuses here. “He has plenty” “He wouldn’t mind if he knew.” What we are talking about is simply theft and not loving our neighbor. This is flat out wrong.

In contrast, when we are tempted to follow these paths, by our friends or our lazy and sinful selves, the call is clear:
15my son, do not walk in the way with them;hold back your foot from their paths,16for their feet run to evil,and they make haste to shed blood
Don’t do it. Don’t walk in their ways, hold back your foot from their paths. The warning is actually a little broader here. Originally all that was said was that we shouldn’t “consent.” We shouldn’t give approval, we shouldn’t agree with them. But here the call is to avoid walking in their way. Don’t live like the sinners. No, I’m not advocating a complete break from society, but the question is, “can outsiders tell that we’re different?” The charge here seems to advocate a marked separation in pattern of life at least. Psalm 1 says almost exactly the same thing:
1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
Don’t walk in the counsel. Don’t stand in the way. Don’t sit in the seat. Don’t put your foot on their path. Don’t follow evil.

Yes, it is possible to discern good from evil. It is possible to mark out something (or even someone) as sinful and something as not. These passages are clear. There are wicked, sinners, and scoffers. There aren’t “morally neutral” people. There are cases where it is not appropriate to withhold judgment on whether something is good or bad. Unjust gain is wrong. Spiritual maturity is actually being able to recognize this right from wrong. Hebrews 5:14 says:
14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
We’ll eventually get to that passage, but for now we’ll just say that this discernment is a mark of spiritual maturity.

Continuing, why are we to avoid the way of the wicked? Why are we to avoid the life of sinners?
17For in vain is a net spreadin the sight of any bird,
v. 17 is interesting here. What is it saying and what does it have to do with people wanting to waylay strangers? “In vain” means useless. What is a net spread in the sight of any bird? Solomon must be talking about a trap. What is he saying about trying to set a trap to catch a bird that’s watching you? It’s “in vain.” It’s useless, it’s stupid. No bird is dumb enough to fly into a trap that it sees being laid out. In the same way, it’s stupid to waylay strangers. It’s stupid to seek after unjust gain.

(continued)

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006 at 9:09 PM

A story

At the beginning of the year the FiCS guys were in difficult straits (as opposed to dire straights). There existed one small group leader and three guys who were interested in small group. The leader and two of the guys were graduating at the end of the year. So we started off kind of... interestingly. One person couldn't make it the first week, a different person couldn't make it the second. All the while we (officers,staff, Sunday night prayer group) prayed. What was going to happen next year? What was going to happen this year? Would attendance shrink to two, with not enough guys to keep people interested?

I'll be honest, I prayed for growth hoping for and expecting numerical growth. There were a couple guys that seemed interested and wanted to come out. One person even came out two weeks. But week in and week out the same 4 guys were there to study the Word of God.

But looking back at that, that was exactly how God answered. The same 4 guys, every week. In a year where we didn't have a pastor. Where the church committment had dropped drastically. Where people were struggling with EE projects, MCAT studies, and the like. Week in and week out it was the same 4 guys.

The Word was preached, and the Lord gave the increase. Not one that I had exactly expected. But that growth that we can only see as the sovereign act of God. People were awakened to thirst for the Word, to want to come to small group. It wasn't a "oh my friends are coming I should go too" (though that was part of it), but it was the "Hey, I want to learn about God, when's small group?"

So praise the Lord. Next year the two seniors will be returning as co-terminal students (no that doesn't mean they've got cancer or something), one as a small group leader, the grad student will be in S. Korea with the army, and I... well, I'll be here blogging as usual =). The freshmen men joined us halfway through spring quarter, doubling our size but maintaining that thirst. We've all stepped a little bit further, reached a little bit higher, and have grasped that little bit more that reminds us: "The righteous will live by faith."

Psalm 106:

1Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?

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Monday, June 05, 2006 at 11:44 PM

Proverbs 1:Wisdom's Call(5)

Been a while, but I wanted to at least finish up Proverbs 1 before moving on. I'm still thinking about manhood and what that entails. Someone requested a book on "The Trinity/Marraige/Dating/Relationship Book of Everything by Mickey Sheu." Maybe I'll do a blogpost =).

Proverbs 1:

10My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
11If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse"--
15my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
16for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
17For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
18but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
19Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.
Previously we've talked about a few things: How the book of Proverbs was general rules for living rather than guarenteed "if-then" statements. How the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom, not some simple "God loves me" statement. How obedience to the teaching of one's parents (and that pertaining to the Lord) was important and necessary. And how our adornment was not in the worldly things like clothing or physical appearance, but rather in the obedience of the laws of the Lord.

We read this passage and we're like "ok great, that's cool. Don't go and murder people. Got it, next!" and I'll be honest, that's what I usually do. I've been reading the book of Proverbs, one chapter a day, 31 in a month (if the month is short I double up) and it's so easy to briefly read something and move on. But this desire to go through Proverbs 1 has caused me to stop for a moment and read it again, except slowly, and it only serves to convict me. How have I been so blind to the richness of the message God has left me? How often have I treated these words with casualness?

The passage opens with our warning:
10My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
Don't listen to sinners when they are "enticing" you. Not that all people who are sinners are completely and absolutely wrong about everything (as it would be clear that the son would have no reason to listen to his father), but don't listen to sinners if they entice you. If they try to draw you into their pattern of thought and their way of life and away from God.

The next few verses say:
11If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
But this passage isn't just talking about murder. Murder is easy to avoid. No, the passage is talking about a much broader concept, with murder just an example.

V. 19 makes clear what this passage is talking about:
19Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.
No, what the passage is talking about is not just murder. It would be so easy to not listen to people when they ask us to help them kill someone else. Ok, maybe it would be easy to say no to someone who was like "let's go get some unjust gain for ourselves!" But what about more subtle cases of unjust gain? What about those cases where it's not "greed" so much as... "convenience"? A friend of mine mentioned this to me and it was so incredibly convicting. If we're supposed to be Christians, distinct from the world, why do we steal music like the world does? Why do we steal software like the world does? It was something that cut straight to my heart. Sure it's easier just to borrow a friend's copy of Microsoft Office instead of buying my own (or using an alternative software). It's certainly really easy to download movies and tv shows online illegally for our personal entertainment. It's not "greedy." I'm not trying to acquire wealth for the sake of aquiring wealth. But what I'm trying to do is to circumvent the established order because I think something else is right according to my standard. "Oh, those musicians make a lot of money already, a few songs are nothing." "Why do they charge so much for photoshop? It's not that good?" "Everyone else does it, it's not a big deal. In fact just last week (insert name) offered to burn me an illegal copy of Office 2000."

(to be continued)

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Sunday, June 04, 2006 at 4:29 PM

Goats and Milk

Discussing a few verses with a friend over an email list, we got the question "What about that verse that says not to cook a goat in it's mother's milk?"

My initial response, his words in italics, and my second response.

Exodus 23
; Exodus 34; Deuteronomy 14;

Well, our first answer is that we ought not to cook a goat in its mother's milk because God has commanded it that way. As God is righteous and just in all He does, the origin and our obedience of this law is righteous and just by definition, as we have no higher standard to appeal to.

So our first application is: we should obey that law because God said so. Don't cook a goat in it's mother's milk.

At the same time, it is appropriate to dig a little deeper and ask "does this have a general principle we can also apply?", much like Paul does in 1 Cor. 9 when he points out that the law's statement about not muzzling an ox while it is treading grain is not only directed toward those who own oxen, but also to establish a general principle about workers deserving his wages.

Now, the general principle I personally think also applies (and one that I am merely speculating upon. Not saying that "this is the Law"), is simply that we ought use things that were meant in a positive way (mother's milk should nourish the young goat) and not in a negative one (a mother's milk should not be used to cook the young goat). Yes, it is appropriate to cook a goat in something else, and to eat it in fact, and eat the mother while we're at it, but I think the statement serves as a caution not to take something that was meant for a positive thing and use it in it's unintended form. It may be more of an efficient use of materials, but I think it's clear that God isn't exactly concerned with "efficiency" as we might define it (Personally, it'd probably be really efficient to me if God gave me that sinless body right now. It would make interpersonal relations so much easier)

Unfortunately, I cannot really think of a good example for "today" (as I do not own any goats or mothers) that involve things that are morally neutral. All I could think of was using medicine to overdose and kill someone... but that's not really a morally neutral thing.

that's actually a very good speculation, my only doubt is that such a broad and important message would be summarized in how you cook goat. I'm surprised you say there's not many modern day examples of breaching that principle of not taking something meant to nourish for destruction. Maybe I'm just cursed to seeing the dark side of life, but it seems like that is ALL we do. The media, that's supposed to nourish our minds, used to condition us to a sick image of how the culture is supposed to be. Courtesy, supposely nourishing relationships, used as an excuse to stay apathetic to the people around us. I'm sure when God created fuel to provide warmth for us he didn't intend it to be used to destroy the earth (I should be talking, ethan I-drive-everywhere kung). growing up, the blessing of a chance to learn maturity, we end up learning to treat our friends with deceit. and when God gave us the ability to love, we use it to trash our lives and our relationship with Him. so what are you talking about Mickey, we take anything, anything, that is meant for good and turn it into something negative. we're creative like that.

maybe it's easier to just not cook goat in its mom's milk

Yes, we can take the "let's just do this" route. That was exactly the route that the Pharisees took. They looked at that verse and they said "there must be something wrong with eating meat and milk at the same time" and they laid down the kosher laws. But that's just as stupid. God doesn't demand just an outward conformity, He wants the heart.

Tears came to my eyes as I read what you wrote because your words cut so deeply into my own heart as well. While we can discuss whether or not that specific verse supports all those things you talk about, I think we can all agree that being a good steward of the gifts God has given, being thankful, loving our neighbor, and so on, are all things that are explicit all throughout Scripture. You're absolutely right, "we're creative like that" or maybe, put more appropriately, "we are stupid like that." How can we take what was given to us by the righteous and awesome God and trash it like that, spitting in the face of our holy judge?

God is holy and righteous, and we're called to be perfect just as He is. And He doesn't accept these imperfections. His eyes are too pure to look upon evil. And we know that on the last day every wrong will be set to right, every sin paid for and every punishment laid out by our Judge. Moses says to not murder, Jesus takes that verse (which we all obey perfectly well thank you very much) and says "when you are angry, you're guilty of murder." Who could stand before the Holy God?! No, not one.

But brother, the story thankfully doesn't end there with us being crappy people and deserving the wrath of God, thought that's part of it. We, even as Christians, can and must look repeatedly to the cross of Jesus Christ, upon which the sins of God's people are laid and paid. The wages of sin are death, but through faith in Christ and His work on the cross, those wages are paid out on Christ, and Christ's complete and perfect righteousness is laid upon us, so that now when God looks upon His people, He see's Christ. That is what allows us to stand. That is what allows us to live.

But not only are we set right with God right then and there upon the cross though faith, renouncing works, God has also given us His Spirit , by which we are continually convicted of our sins. This is where faith meets the road, we are conformed to His image, and life begins anew. This is our day to day struggle. Our fight with the sin within, where no one can hold us accountable but God and us. And this is the promise we have to hang onto, the promise that God is working, even today, even in us, and He will keep us. You know yourself. I know myself. If it were up to us to keep ourselves in God's good graces, we would fail miserably over and over again. But because of Christ's death, because it accomplishes all that God sets it to do (which is save God's people), it is God who will sustain you.

So look upon your life and see the darkness. Recognize it. Don't just brush it off and say "well, I'm not as bad as " don't brush it off and say "well, I'm obeying all these rules, it's fine." Recognize it and turn and see God's holiness. See how righteous God is, that He would demand the complete and utter destruction of the Caananites because they were impure. See His rightful wrath against the ungodly and realize that we are exactly the same. Flee to the cross where Jesus died. Cry out for mercy, renounce all works of your own to get to God and ask for forgiveness. And find the rest that is promised to all who believe. That we, who were once hostile to God, can now find peace with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Trust that God is working in you, that He will finish what He has begun, and that if you are one of His, you will not be lost.

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