Drinking Deeply

Saturday, September 30, 2006 at 9:27 PM

The unity of God

One thing I love about singing Christian songs is that if they are scriptual, they are a great source for meditations upon God. Of course, that's even a stronger argument for memorizing Scripture, since our songs are not infallible.

But anyways, I was thinking through a song I greatly enjoy (Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder) and I came across this verse:
4. Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God
And that got me to thinking about God and His wrath and His justice and I realized that sometimes I tended towards a view of God that seemed to partition His justice apart from His mercy and grace. I'm not saying that this song does it, but that sometimes I do it.

Sometimes the picture I have (simplified and exaggerated) is of God the Father being a consuming fire and deciding that He was going to cast me into the deepest pits of Hell and Jesus going, "Hey, don't do that, take me!" and Jesus is the loving son appeasing a wrathful father.

And in doing this, I forget about the unity of the Trinity. That though they are three different persons with different thoughts, roles, and relationships to one another, they are one in mind and purpose. Jesus prays for us to imitate the Triune God in John 17:11

11Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Because they are one in mind and purpose, there is no picture of a wrathful father and a loving son, but rather they are both people who hate sin and love sinners (the elect ones in this context). It is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all affirming the will of the Father, which is/was/will be to many sons for glory. The Son dies for them, and the Holy Spirit regenerates them and works in them, all according to the Father's purpose and plan.

It's a love before the foundation of the world, a love while we were still sinners, a love that will not let us go. It's an unchanging love based upon the unity and immutability of God. Nothing can seperate us from the love of God.

Let us love and sing and wonder

Labels:

Links to this post

Friday, September 29, 2006 at 11:20 PM

Obedience and delight

Sometimes when I read the OT I'll come across an interesting law or command. It may be on not boiling a goat in it's mother's milk. It may be on not weilding an iron tool upon an altar. It may be not taking of a fruit of a tree.

With all these commands I'm always prompted to ask, "Why did God command this? Why does God say that?" And of course, it's certainly not sinful to ask that question. In fact, Jesus broadens the application (well, actually reemphasizes the already broad application) of a great deal of the OT law in his sermon on the mount. We do not only obey the letter (exactly what it says), but we obey the intent.

Yet, there is a way that it does become sinful. When we use our interpretation of "intent" to disregard the command itself. When we say "well, God didn't really mean it like He said it," it actually means this. And "this" is complete speculation.

Sometimes, we obey even though we don't know exactly the reason why God said a command simply because God said it. As slaves of Christ, God's command should be our delight to obey, whether we know why He's commanding it or not. We aren't "conditional" slaves, demanding to know every single reason why God says something and what He's doing, but we are slaves of Christ.

Deuteronomy 29:29 is often used by me in many contexts, but I think it's perfect for this one:
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.
We don't know why for some of the questions of the Lord. But you know what? It doesn't matter. If it's secret, then it's secret and it belongs to God. But the things that are revealed through the 66 books of the Bible are breathed out of God Himself. They belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

This is where true obedience lies. It's obeying even when we don't know exactly why, but trusting the Lord, that He has purposed our good and His glory in all things. It's freely confessing "I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know what you demand of me, and that's what I'm going to do, no matter what happens. I'm going to walk by faith. God, have mercy on my soul."

John Calvin, in his commentary on Genesis 3:1 says this,
Very dangerous is the temptation, when it is suggested to us, that God is not to be obeyed, except so far as the reason of his command is apparent. The true rule of obedience is, that we being content with a bare command, should persuade ourselves that whatever he enjoins is just and right. But whosoever desires to be wise beyond measure, him will Satan, seeing he has cast off all reverence for God, immediately percipitate into open rebellion.

Labels:

Links to this post

at 5:21 PM

Praising God in vengeance

Psalm 149
5Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
6Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
7to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishments on the peoples,
8to bind their kings with chains
and their nobles with fetters of iron,
9to execute on them the judgment written!
This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the LORD!

Links to this post

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 8:07 PM

en arche ein ho logos

One of the major blessings of a university experience has been the opportunity to take biblical languages. The last two years I was dabbling in biblical hebrew. Finally, this year, I've got the chance to take New Testament Greek. Booyeah I say.

It's so interesting taking biblical languages. It is always necessary to defend the authority of the translations we have against those who claim that the Bible is corrupted in transmission and so on, but it's so cool to see bits and pieces of what exactly I miss when I'm reading the English translations. Different word plays, emphasis on different words, various language tricks with the word order, wow just mind blowing.

Just on Wednesday, the professor pointed us to the Lord's Prayer, and it was quite cool to look at the emphasis of the different verses.

Not that the English languages are wrong, but there are things that are lost in translation, emphasis that can be drawn out and reflected upon. Cool beans.

Now I just hope I'm able to put enough work into it so that I can actually learn something and not just have it be knowledge that puffs up!

Labels:

Links to this post

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 at 9:28 PM

Rebuking the sinner within

I came across this passage while I was reading the Word today and I thought it was worthwhile enough to share. (Not that other parts of the Word aren't "worthwhile," but that this passage hit me so closely I wanted to share)

I don't know if it's American culture, Asian culture, or my own personal sinfulness, but I've always (even though I'd deny it at times) believed in part in the inherant ability and power of man.

I had gotten through 18 years hostile to God, rejecting Him implicitly if not explicitly. I had lived by "my own" (as I believed at the time) power. I was "smart." I knew math. I could do math problems (especially contest problems) really well. Most things were pretty natural. Even when it came to foreign languages, I could always fake it and take cues from body language and context and guess at what people were saying. I was, to the best of my knowledge, good. Boy was I wrong.

When I became a Christian some of that changed, but some of it did not. I was now a "student" and had to fulfill my "student's calling." How was I to fulfill the student's calling? Simply by being the best student I could of course! I was going to study like crazy, please my parents, please myself and thus I would glorify God with my studies of course!

But anyways, I was reading my Bible and came across this passage.

Psalm 147
:10-11
10His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
And I started thinking. God's delight is not in the strength of the horse, the legs of a man, the academic accomplishments, the monetary value, or anything, but the LORD takes plaesure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Of course, the self-empowered culture demands that I qualify that statement with a, "but that's no excuse to be lazy." (which is just a sinful assumption that now that we've been given grace we can now be lazy, as Paul points out)

But it wasn't the grade that I got on my paper that glorifies God. It wasn't how much or how little effort I put into studying for that exam, it was the fear of the Lord, the faith in Jesus Chrst, the hope in His deliverance. Boil things down, it wasn't what I got, but how I got what I got. Was I working in faith? Living in faith? Walking in fear of the Lord and not of man?

Do I find my value in Christ and Christ alone and have my work be a natural joy and fearlessness that flows out of that or am I terrified that if I don't do well enough I won't be able to glorify God?

Yike.
1Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant,[a] and a song of praise is fitting.
2The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6The LORD lifts up the humble;[b]
he casts the wicked to the ground.

Labels:

Links to this post

Monday, September 25, 2006 at 11:48 PM

Christ our surety

I've heard the statement that "Christ is our surety" a few places. When I looked up the definition, I grew to love it.

According to Webster:

3
: one who has become legally liable for the debt, default, or failure in duty of another

Precious Christ! Our failures, our debts, our defaults against the sovereign, righteous, and holy God. Stamped with paid in full by the life and death of Jesus Christ. My life His and His life mine.

Wow.

Labels:

Links to this post

at 10:21 PM

Nephilim!

Genesis 6
1When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not abide in[a] man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years." 4The Nephilim[b] were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
Someone once mentioned to me that maybe the "Nephilim" were fallen angels, or even possibly aliens from out of space. Genesis 6 certainly gives us a lot of questions. Who are these "sons of God," who are the Nephilim which seems to be a plural derived from naphal which means "to fall"?

Well, just a few days ago I read Geerhardus Vos' treatment of this passage and he makes some amazing points that settle it clearly for me.

1) This period is marked by an increase in wickedness and evil upon the land while the good does not seem to do anything more than retreat. The wickedness of man was great and the intentions of his heart was only evil continually. (let's set aside the "and the LORD was sorry"+God is immutable question).
5The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them." 8But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
2) There are two lines of people here, one of them is the Cainites, decended from Cain and into Lamech who begins polygamy and declares his independence from God. The other is the line of Seth, which emphasizes itself in Enoch, who walked with God and was no more.

3) Thus we understand verse 2, "the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose" to mean that the people decended from the line of Seth (sons of God) are falling away and intermarrying with the line of Cain. They are the sons of God because they were part of God's promise and people, the "daughters of man" mean that they are men and nothing more, in contrast to those who were not only men, but also sons of God.

This nicely explains the increase of sin and wickedness, the falling away of God's people, and whole "Nephilim" issue rather neatly.

I thought that was pretty cool.

Links to this post

Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 7:06 PM

Teach the children!

Deuteronomy 6
4"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Sometimes people think that catechizing their children is wrong. Like it's akin to "brain-washing" which is very bad, because it prevents them from excercising their own independent thought or something.

Unfortunately, Scripture teaches us to teach our children the ways of God all the time. Verse 7 says we are to talk of them when we sit, when we walk, when we lie down, when we rise. We are to bind them on our hands, on our heads, written on the doorposts and our gates. In short, everywhere we go, we are to be living and breathing God, and our children are to be the same!

Speaking of brain-washing, living in this world, we are either going to be positively influenced by our surroundings or negatively influenced by them. And it is Satan who is the prince of this age.

Eph. 2
1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
There is no neutrality here. Either we teach them the truth or we allow them to learn error from everyone else. Original sin has not only made us all guilty (so that we rightfully deserve death), but it has defaced the image of God (so that we no longer even desire good). It's not like children under the age of 5 (or whatever some "age of maturity" is) somehow aren't hostile to God. The only reason why they appear so innocent is because they are physically unable to rebel against Him, though spiritually they do so with every thought (without faith it is impossible to please God, the natural man does not submit to God's law, it cannot).

So as we grow up, I would recommend, encourage, and even command that people be given systematic theology, either via catechism or reading through basic books. People need that interpretive lens, that truth that does not come from our own hearts but from outside of us.

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Now, this isn't a Promise (capital P), but it certainly is Wisdom. Train up a child in the way he should go (while he is still young!). What way should he go? In the ways of the Lord, not turning from the left or the right of them. I'm not saying that this is going to save them automatically, but it certainly is a parent's responsibility. It's not the church's to do this, but the parents.

So should we catechize and teach systematic theology our children? Yes. Even before they've read the whole Bible? Yes!

Just because they are young doesn't mean they can't understand. And just because they can't understand completely doesn't mean it's wrong that we try. Did we learn by having someone teach us only what we understand already or learn by having someone stretch us by blowing our minds with the glory and majesty of God in His Gospel?

Related: A cute story and a prayer request

Links to this post

Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 8:05 PM

Reading Deeply

Together for the Gospel has a few excellent posts. There's one quoting William Still on going to college. I'm just going to quote the whole thing, since it's short.

"Every autumn I have a spate of letters from fond parents, teachers, guardians, and monitors, appealing to me to follow up on such and such a youngster who is away from home at college for the first time, and who has to be hunted, followed, shadowed, intercepted and driven to Christian meetings. I have scarcely ever known this desperate technique to work. I understand the panic of parents and guardians, but it is too late then to try high pressure tactics. Prayer, example and precept, in that order, are the means of bringing up children and young folk in the faith. Nor will high pressure tactics and brainwashing techniques avail when young folk have gone off on their own. Some young folk, alas, will have their fling and sow their wild oats, and come at last to heel, sadly, like the prodigal son. It is where Christians pathetically put their trust in external techniques and artificial stratagems that young folk go astray. Nothing takes the place of the realism of holy living and secret wrestling before God in prayer for our youngsters. We must commit them to God so utterly that we dare not interfere or tamper with their precious souls."

(William Still, late Pastor of Gilcomston South Church, Aberdeen, Scotland)

A week or so back, cent went on vacation and had a bunch of sidekicks guestblogging. Well, they came up with some pretty good stuff. Check out this post on sacrifice vs. obedience and this one on "Christian" superstition.

Justin Taylor links to an excellent and thought provoking article on Christian counseling and the Ambiguously Cured Soul. His commentary on it was very good.

Godward Thoughts makes a spot on observation on Jacob's wrestling with God. He writes,
If we see this struggle primarily as Jacob trying to get something out of God then we have missed the point. This passage is about God getting something out of Jacob. What God was getting out of Jacob was for Jacob to cling to him in order to bless him. God is faithful and just to complete the work he has started in us, and one of the main works He does in us is to get us to stop placing confidence in ourselves and to place our trust in Him.
Read the whole thing.

A friend of mine does some thinking on a Christian and the law. His blog as a whole is fairly cool and filled with great links as well.

Calvinist Gadfly laments the state of modern day preaching. And gives some solutions
Exegetical laziness is epidemic among many Evangelical pastors. Sloth, says Vanhoozer, is one of the interpreter’s sins. This is indicative that the flock-feeding elder has lost a genuine trust in the effectiveness of the Spirit and Word.

Why this laziness? I will submit to you two significant reasons:

1) If elders do not have a working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, how do we expect them to exegete God’s Word in any meaningful depth? (And there is absolutely no excuse for them not to know the original languages with the embarrassing cornucopia of language resources available).

Non-exegetical preaching results in the flock being fed pablum.

2) Pastors wrongly assume, or underestimate, that their flock are not interested in in-depth exegesis of lexical-grammatical, historical-literary explanations. Some time in their ministry a sheep must of come up to them and lamented hearing the meanings of Greek words, grammar, etc. And given the dispositions of many pastors today who tailor their preaching to assuage the concerns of their sheep, they have watered down their Biblical preaching (And indeed, many “Reformed” preachers are not immune from this).

Read the whole thing.

Dan Phillips posts on "Doomed evangelism." Moses knew his cause was lost, but he went in anyways. Most interesting post.
God's glory—not redemption, nor any other concomitant good—is the center of history, the center of the Bible, the center of everything.

It should be the center and focus of our evangelism.
He also posts on prayer, echoing what I said earlier in my post, but in a far clearer manner.

Christianity Today has a very fair and accurate article of the rise of Calvinism in modern day Christianity. w00t w00t I say.

John Macarthur continues his blogging ways by pointing out that God choose ordinary unschooled men to shame the strong. He doesn't choose you because you're strong, but He chooses you because you're weak, that He may display His glory.

Bookwise, I'm still chugging through the few books I mentioned earlier. I finished "Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. (Scroll down)" It was a good read, about who Christ is and what He did. Very insightful. It's free online and a quick read. I read it in a few hours. This paragraph on the wealth of God was particularly great.
But, strikingly, the New Testament describes the wealth of God not mainly in terms of what he created and owns, but, mainly in terms of the glory he has from all eternity. Repeatedly we read of “the riches of his glory” or “his riches in glory” (for example, Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27). If God were only rich because he made and owns all things, he would have been poor before creation. But that means he would have created out of need and would be dependent on his creation. But that is not the picture of God we find in the Bible. God did not create to get wealth; he created to display wealth—the wealth of his glory for the enjoyment of his people (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

(p. 83-84)
Also reading "Hand Me Another Brick" by Charles Swindoll. A leadership book based off of the character Nehemiah. Useful in some regards, but for the most part "eh." It's not bad.

I'm also reading Calvin's Commentary on Genesis. Definitely different from Luther's commentaries in that he is significantly more exegetical. A treasure trove. I'm looking into reading a biography of Calvin eventually. Anyone got a good one they'd recommend?

Labels:

Links to this post

Friday, September 22, 2006 at 8:13 AM

Is the "Silent Exodus" a good thing?

I've been linked in David Park's blog under the category "blogs about asian culture and faith." I don't entirely deserve that honor, but sometimes I get a hit or two from there on my stat counter. Today I followed one back and found this post: "A Silent Exodus" Leads to Freedom.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the "Silent Exodus," it's based off an article in Christianity Today that pointed out that in many Asian-American churches, there is a large percentage of people who leave the Asian-American church (and maybe church itself) after going for college. Check out the article, it's a good read.

Reflecting on it, David Park remarks, "But is it possible that exodus was a necessary thing — perhaps even, a good thing? Is it possible that when Asian Americans don’t return to the church of their youth, that could spell good things for the faith of their youth?"

I'm not really interacting with his post, but I just wanted to add my two cents here.

One reason that people leave is because they are not regenerated (yet?) and the clear testimony of Scripture offends them and repels them.

We have clear biblical evidence of this in John 6:25-71, where Jesus preaches truth (I've posted about this before). This includes talking about election. (Which, as a side note, is a good argument that the topic of "election" isn't just for those who are "mature" Christians.) What happens? Thousands leave. They leave because the Gospel has hardened their hearts.

When these people leave, we should not be ashamed. We shouldn't think that people are leaving because there is something wrong with us, or the church, but people are leaving because there's something wrong with them. It is God who has placed a veil over their eyes. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2, "we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. "

A Christian is going to be the aroma of Christ to all people through the preached truth. For some it is going to call them to life, for others it's going to call them to death. We shouldn't be ashamed of God's work in that manner.

But unfortunately, I don't think that's what is happening with the Asian-American church. I don't think that's the case because we have people dissapearing after they go to college, not storming off in the middle of Sunday service.

But can that be a good thing?

Well, some people would say, "yes, just look at what God has done through this person, or that person." I don't entirely agree with that argument. Just because God uses something for His glory doesn't make it a good thing for that person to do. We have countless examples of this in Scripture. We have Jesus being delivered up by God's foreknowledge by evil men (Acts 2:23). We have Joseph being captured and sold into slavery by his brothers, which was an evil thing (Genesis 50:20).

These actions all happened by God's foreknowledge and explicit decree. They happened so that God may be glorified. And God does accomplish His task. But does that excuse the evil or encourage the sin? To echo Paul, "Shall we sin so that grace may increase? By no means!"

No, just because something happens for our good and God's glory is not an encouragement for us to continue doing it. Rather, we seek to please God through our obedience and worship in all that happens. If we know something is wrong, we don't do it, we don't encourage it, we rebuke it and refute it.

If I may be so bold, I'd like to lay the blame down upon the churches for struggling with the "silent exodus." Now, each individual person will be held accountable for what they decide, so certainly they are not excused for leaving the church. But, if a church is doing its job right, there should be no reason that something like this should happen. If the church is faithfully preaching the Word, faithfully equipping the saints, faithfully training people up for God's glory and His worship, then the One Body, by One Spirit, in One Faith concept (which should be preached upon and emphasized) should be sufficient to bring people to joyfully stay and serve. If they aren't, maybe they're unregenerate. Glory to God. But if they are leaving in droves because of cultural differences... One day we'll be held accountable for what we do. What have we done for the bride of Christ? Jesus loved her to death.

Related Post: Asian American Church

Links to this post

Thursday, September 21, 2006 at 10:00 PM

And there was light.

2 Corinthians 4
1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes it's easy to forget the simple gospel message. Sometimes I think that I need to be able to be able to answer every question people come up to. Sometimes I think I need to put the words in one way or another to make it more "appealing" or just to get them to hear my case.

Not that those things are wrong (in some cases they are), but when they prevent me from remembering that it is before the sight of God that I'm acting, that it is His work, His Gospel, then there's something wrong. And yet Paul here reminds me of that very fact, that "even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing." He does not lose heart, and I do hope that God would strengthen me so that I would not as well.

I also love the fact that Paul remarks that it is God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness" that gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in us. This is God the Creator. Not God the "woo'er" or God the "one who pleads with sinners" (though God is portrayed in that way as well at places). But just as God says "let there be light" to the world and light happens, God says "let their be light" in our hearts, and the veil is lifted, and life is renewed. No ifs, ands, ors, or buts.

John 1
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Labels:

Links to this post

Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 8:55 PM

A few thoughts on faith

God graciously gave me the opportunity to share briefly with the junior high kids (15-20 minutes) one week. I decided to read to them Hebrews 11 and talk a little about faith (certainly can't make a whole sermon in 20 minutes, but I can try! =p).

There is so much in that passage. But here are some isolated thoughts.
1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is an assurance. A confidence. A certainty. Properly rooted, it's grounded in a solid Rock. It works (at times) apart from sight. It looks stupid to some people! All they believe is what they see. But we believe what they see, and what is holding that together as well.
2For by it the people of old received their commendation.
It's by faith (or maybe "through faith") that the people received their commendation. Even though they had done so much it wasn't their actions (the fruit of their faith) as much as it was the faith itself.
6And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Faith is necessary for anything to be "good" or "right" in any sense of the Word. Life is lived not relative to one another, not relative to your posessions, but relative to God. And a life lived without faith is a life lived without God. All you're going to get (without faith) is what you get in this life. Scary!
13These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Faith has a cost for some. Not seeing those treasures in this life, but looking forward to the greatest treasure of all, God Himself. People who live by faith are aliens, strangers, and exiles. We're no longer looking for this world, but the world to come. People who lived by faith were often ridiculed and mocked, frowned upon, but they condemned the world and sought a better country. Faith will have its cost.
32And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- 38of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Faith can result in power. God uses men of great faith to work great things for His kingdom and His glory. They moved mountains and conquered kingdoms.

But faith can also result in persecution. People are flogged, killed, stoned, sawn in two, mocked, all because of the message they brought, the countercultural life they lived.

Yet these were all people "of whom the world was not worthy." They lived their lives looking for the life that's to come, where this world is counted rubbish in comparison.

But with all of that, faith comes with the surpassing treasure of Heaven, of true joy and delight, of the greatness of the glory of God and worship. That's what we are called to live for and die for. Soli Deo Gloria

Hebrews 12:1-3
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Labels:

Links to this post

Sunday, September 17, 2006 at 10:10 PM

Help me solve a bug!

As some of you who are using IE may notice, my blog cuts off at the end of the sidebar, so it's impossible to read beyond the first post or two (or half a post if it's particularly long!)

This isn't an issue if you use Firefox though, so I guess it's yet another reason to switch to one of the best products of 2006.

To this date, I'm still horribly confused as to what's causing the trouble, and if anyone can help I'd greatly appreciate it. I wonder if it's a tag I've left unclosed or something. But I'm not great at html so I don't know what to look for.

Links to this post

at 1:31 PM

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Something I noticed as I was preparing my sermon on Joshua 2.

I sort of already knew this already, but it was something about the passage that really hit home for me. It was the continuity between the Old and the New Testaments. That all these books are written by One God, inspired by One Spirit, and thus it's called Word.

One thing that really blew me away was the name of God as "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

Other names of God were like El Shaddai, Elohim, Adonai, YHWY, YHWY Yirah, and so on. And each name has a meaning we can dig into. Lord Almighty, God, Lord, Is/Am/Will Be, God Provider, and so on.

But when we come to a name like "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" God names Himself in relation to people. That He is God of Abraham. He is the God that Abraham worshipped. And Abraham was His. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a name that takes all those attributes of God, His holiness, His greatness, His sovereignty, His goodness, and makes it personal.

God wasn't just a God who has dropped a book out of the sky with a list of rules. But God was a personal God, a God who called people out of a world of sin and death. He called them for Him, so that they would enjoy Him and glorify Him forever. His plans weren't just world conquest (though that was certainly part of it!), but it's world worship.

And so I think of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and I realize that by His grace, I may now call Him, God of Mickey. Kind of funny sounding I must admit. I'll settle for Father.

Labels:

Links to this post

Friday, September 15, 2006 at 9:10 PM

Reflections on a summer's internship

A letter I just sent off to my church, reflecting on interning. Names deleted for their privacy:

This summer I had the blessings to be able to intern with CCMC as their youth intern for two months. I'm not too sure where to begin, so I guess I'll start with what I did. For the most part, I helped out with the junior high FNF ministry. I ended up leading a small group of guys for a number of weeks (most of the time 6th graders, but one week 8th), and I ended up speaking a few times before the youth on Psalms 130 and 144. One week I also helped them organize a skit night. I also helped xxxxxxx a little bit with summer camp, putting together the morning devotionals for the youth. I ended being a camp counselor over a group of junior high boys. I helped xxxxxx put together his presentation for his parents and and teens workshop as well as his Sunday School. He was the brains, I just acted as an additional two hands for him. I also spoke a few times on Sunday before the youth. Three times at Lincoln and once at Willowbrook. Through all of this, I had the opportunity to meet on a regular/semi-regular basis with both xxxxxx and xxxxxxxx to work with them on their projects or just to chat and pray. Unofficially, being the “youth intern” also seemed to make me more available to the youth, so I've had the opportunity to meet with a number of the youth on an unofficial basis, just to read the Word together, chat, hang-out, or whatever. The Bible study/sleepovers where we studied through the whole book of Galatians was a huge blessing.

Reflecting on it, this summer has been a source of tremendous blessing. It was a blessing in so many different ways, but I'll try to list some of the main ones off.

1. Working closely with the parents that are volunteering their time for FNF. Sometimes as a student/kid, it's easy to take all the sacrifice that the small group leaders and youth directors and everything make for granted. I had the blessing to be able to talk with and work with the parents who made such sacrifices and it convicted me and encouraged me to no end. Each week the kids would be ...kids. And each week the parents came in, sacrificed their time, sacrificed their work, that these kids may know God and treasure Him to the fullest. That was just awe-inspiring. It was generally a thankless job for them, yet they would do it. The kids would be loved, love back a little, but then move on. And there would be another group of 6th graders who bounced off walls to train up. Well, the parents may never see the fruit themselves, but their treasures are definitely in heaven.

2. Working closely with xxxxxxxx in particular. I was glad that he asked for help with his workshop and Sunday school program, mostly because I quickly realized how much I had to learn from such a man. I am doubly amazed that you paid me to help him and work with him. That truly was a delight and a joy to do. Money for it felt like I was stealing. (But being the cheap college student I was, I accepted it)

3. Speaking before the youth has definitely challenged me and blessed me in so many different ways. Too often I have come to the text with an assumption that I wanted to say this or that, and too often the text has said, “but I'm saying this.” Praise God for His living and active Word! The practice of preparing a sermon is often time consuming and challenging, and I have discovered a newfound appreciation for my pastors, whom sometimes I was just far too critical of in the past. May God grant me humility! I don't know how xxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxx, and the rest of the people who speak regularly do it, but I have been challenged to pray for them on a more frequent basis. They're doing the work of Jacob and wrestling with God in His Word, begging for Him to bless them so that they may faithfully shepherd the flock. Truly, even being up there every week to speak is a victory in itself.

4. Finally, one of the greatest blessings has been working with the kids. From random conversations after church, to Saturday afternoon Bible studies to questions emailed to me, it has been awe-inspiring to see what God has been doing here at CCMC in the youth. I see the truth of Paul's statement, “I planted, Apollos watered, it was God who gave the increase.” Each one of the parent volunteers contributed a piece, the other leaders contributed, the youth director contributed, I guess I contributed in a sense, but ultimately it was God working in us and through us to transform others. And being used as an instrument of God (however crooked I am), was a delight and a joy.

Some suggestions for the future of this internship program. I am of the understanding that the internship program is to provide an opportunity for those who are considering full time ministry to explore that possibility in a church setting, to get a “taste.” To that end, I think it worked marvelously for me, but there are some things I might suggest for the future.

1. An encouragement for personal spiritual growth. Maybe asking the youth intern to read a book on church and give a written review/report of their thoughts on it. Or maybe just giving them a “homework” essay or something to challenge their thinking and encourage the faithful inspection of Scripture. After all, ministry isn't ministry if it isn't grounded in the Word.

2. An explicit encouragement for the rest of the staff to take advantage of the youth intern. This may already be happening, but if it's not, I would encourage it. I was greatly blessed by the opportunity to work with xxxxxxxx, and I consider that one of the biggest blessings of the summer. I think it would greatly benefit future interns if they had an experience like that. There's no need to demand them do something “spiritual,” even just helping type up notes, or something that they can do while working for/with an older believer would be of benefit.

3. The explicit order to work with one of the staff in preparing a sermon. It was great getting to speak a few times, but looking back at it, I feel like I was mostly just ...groping for a sermon. I think this is mostly my fault because of my pride and lack of foresight, but in hindsight, it would have been nice to work with xxxxxxxx or xxxxxxxx or xxxxxxxxin preparing at least my first message, so that I could pick at their brains and how they prepare a sermon, what they look for in the text and so on. It may be beneficial for all parties involved for something like that to be more explicit.

4. An explicit statement regarding the church that the intern can read over and discuss with the youth director. Getting to sit in on meetings was great, but I didn't understand how the meetings fit in to the larger picture of how the church was run. If there was a paper that detailed “oh we have these people in this committee, they do that. This is why we have Friday night fellowship for the junior high” and so on, it would be an excellent resource for the intern to help understand how a church is organized and run, and why. He could (and probably should be encouraged to) further discuss it with the youth director to deepen that knowledge and help him form personal (and Scriptural) convictions about church.

5. May I also suggest that if it is at all possible, the pay for this internship be increased? The only reason I suggest this is that I know there is always a lot of pressure from parents and peers to be “building a resume” or “start a career” over the summer, and while I don't think someone should be interning with a church for money, it would certainly alleviate parental and personal concerns of being an “unproductive member of the household” if the pay were a little higher. Just a thought.

All in all, I have to confess that if it wasn't for this internship, I probably would not even consider coming back to CCMC after my senior year of college. As is clear to all, the church is a place filled with sinners, and CCMC is no different. There is always the lingering sense that people are about to fight over something and the church will split for once and for all. There hasn't been a regular pastor (though xxxxxxxx has been very faithful and stable as an acting pastor, I have the impression that there have always been questions about that). The leaders of the youth group all seem very tired at times, the English ministry was tiny and sometimes felt cliquish. I could go on, but I mention those things only to contrast what I was thinking before this internship to after.

Now, I've enjoyed my time and have been so tremendously encouraged and blessed by all these faithful parents and the way God has been growing the youth that I am seriously considering the possibility of coming back to CCMC after my senior year of college. I am not sure what I would be qualified for (if anything), but if the opportunity arose, I certainly would strongly consider it. I mentioned that I was considering full-time ministry, and this internship has done nothing to dissuade me from that path, so over the course of this next year I am going to be exploring different possibilities for how I may continue to pursue that track. Maybe that means seminary, maybe it means an internship with another church, where they can teach me at a seminary level while I serve them, maybe it means an internship with RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) where they'd drop me off on a college campus to assist the pastor there and learn from him. I now would add to that list, maybe it means coming back to CCMC and serving in whatever capacity you would have me while possibly taking classes at Trinity or via the internet.

The one negative, and this is mentioned for the sake of completeness, is the taste of church politics. I was quite surprised at what happened in the fallout with the “hazing” issue, and some of that is my fault, but I can't help but be bewildered at the actions of the members of the Bride of Christ. I sense that though issues arose out of one incident, there is a lot of baggage that we've brought to the table that need to be brought under the Lordship of Christ and the light of His Gospel. How true Christ's statement that He came into the world to save sinners! We're not righteous, not by a long shot. But glory to God, He has saved us, redeemed us, and now equips us with His Spirit for the building of His body, sanctifying us both individually and corporately.

I do hope and pray that you would continue the internship program. It has been a great blessing for me and I pray that it has been a blessing for others as well.

For His Glory and By His Grace,

Mickey Sheu

Labels:

Links to this post

Thursday, September 14, 2006 at 4:15 PM

Adam's curse

The punishment of man consists in toil unto death. Not labour as such is a penalty, for man had been placed in the garden to dress it and keep it. But painful labour, death-bringing labour is referred to. This applies to labour in general, but the form in which the curse puts it is derived from the most primitive form of labour, that of tilling the soil. At the same time, this brings out the idea that man must henceforth labour for the most necessary food. His will be a veritable struggle for subsistence. In the sweat of his face shall he eat bread, and 'bread', perhaps, instead of meaning food in general, has reference specifically to food produced from the soil, in contrast to the more easily procured earlier nourishment, the fruit of the garden.
Biblical Theology - Geerhardus Vos p. 44 Emphasis in original

Whoa.

Links to this post

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 at 7:49 PM

Shall we wait for the Lord?

I was thinking about this concept of "waiting for God" in prayer. It has become rather popular in some circles to speak of prayer as a "conversation" between us and God, and instead of speaking to God in prayer, we should sometimes instead "wait for the Lord" in silence, hoping that He will speak to us.

Closely related to this idea is the concept that God answers specifically prayers of guidence with a feeling of peace regarding decisions.

Regarding both of those beliefs, I'm not entirely convinced that they are supported by Scripture. Of course, since I'm taking a "negative" posture, it is entirely possible that there are passages in Scripture that do support these views, and I just cannot remember them.

Still, a small voice?


Regarding the first idea of "waiting for the Lord" in silence. There are two passages that come to mind. First is the "small, still, voice" with Elijah in 1 Kings 19:12, and second is the "Wait for the Lord!" cry in Psalms.

As a side note, I'm not saying that we shouldn't "quiet our hearts" though I do think we should do this not by trying to empty our minds, but rather by meditating upon the attributes of God. But that's another post. (Is the phrase "quiet our hearts" in Scripture?)

Regarding the small, still voice (KJV translation), it seems to me that God is not saying, "Oh come out and pray for a bit, and I'll speak to you." God is already speaking to Elijah as can be seen by the context and is using what is outside as a demonstration of His power and His workings. Check out this post by centuri0n which was very informative. So we can acknowledge that there really isn't any support for the idea of "waiting for God" in prayer here at least.

The other passages that come to mind are those referring to "Be still and wait for the Lord!" in the Psalms. A quick search on Biblegateway for the phrase gives us this search. The context of all these texts are times of persecution, suffering, pain. It's certainly not prayer. It's a command for times of distress. "Don't avenge yourself. But be still and wait for the Lord!"

Psalm 37 is particularly clear on this point (but the rest of the Psalms have similar contexts) so I'll quote it for you:

7Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

8Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

10In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Be still! Do not fret yourself when the wicked are propserous. Be still! Don't think to take God's justice in your own hands. Continue to pursue righteousness! It's definitely not, "be still and wait for me when you pray, because I will speak to you." Laying aside questions about the sufficiency of Scripture (which, in my mind, discourages such prayer), I don't think there is an encouragement for such prayer in the Bible.

God gave me "peace."

I'm not saying that God isn't also a God of peace. That He, as one of His gifts, does not give a supernatural peace in times of trial to His people upon occasion.

I'm not saying that the Christian life shouldn't be marked by peace and contentment in all things, plenty or in want.

I am saying that I don't think Scripture teaches that we should seek a specific feeling of "peace" regarding a specific decision as a confirmation that the decision is indeed "God's will."

Philippians 4:6-7
6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, with everything, pray with thanksgiving to God. When you do this, the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It's not "when you aren't anxious about something, then you know it's God's will for you." Instead it's "don't be anxious! Pray!" When you do pray, God's peace will guard you. Thus, instead of hoping for some supernatural feeling of "peace" to guide our decisions, we rest in peace, no matter what happens. Peace should accompany all that we do.

I'm not saying that we won't be discontent if something's wrong. God has given His Holy Spirit which guards us and, by His empowerment, protects us from evil. But we shouldn't be hoping for some supernatural feeling of "peace" in order to guide our decision-making. It almost feels like we're trying to fleece God.

As to what should guide our decisions, the answer is easy. Scripture, faithfully interpreted and applied.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God[a] may be competent, equipped for every good work.
All Scripture is profitable... that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Psalm 19:7-11
7The law of the LORD is perfect,[a]
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
8the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
So let's listen to God where He's spoken clearly already. Let's trust Him at His Word. Let us cry, like David says in Psalm 130, "I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,and in his word I hope;"

Links to this post

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 at 9:24 PM

New Perspectives and Douglas Wilson

**edit - please see this post first. It's a retraction. The below post remains up as a reminder that I, of course, am not infallible.

If you didn't read Douglas Wilson's post I linked to earlier, you should read it. It was really good.

Well, I was sharing that post with a friend and was reminded that a lot of people were very concerned with the whole New Perspective on Paul. Since Douglas Wilson distances himself from that group, but other people lump him in with them (or in with another group, the Auburn Avenue, which is ... related?), I was reminded of an email from a friend which asked me what I found objectional in NT Wright's formulations of justification.

Admittedly, I haven't read enough Wright to have a comprehensive view of everything. But the few articles I have read, one of them was clear enough on the affirmations and denials to leave me rather concerned. My (edited) email response is below. A lot of people are also very concerned.

My opinion on Douglas Wilson is far more positive. I don't seem him in the same group with NT Wright and the New Perspective at all. Wilson's views seem completely orthodox (of course, that's my opinion), but there are some beliefs on the side that I wonder about. I have read large amounts of his blog as well as his answers to a written exam from his presbytery. He is very clear with his words, what he affirms and what he denies, and why. w00t w00t for that man I say. His blog is always a delight to read, though he does post so much sometimes I lose hope and just hit "mark all as read" if I miss a week. His views on the covenant and the sacrament are much higher than mine, though I do see where he's coming from (at least in that "I'm only twenty but think I know everything" sense). I think Luther would like him.

If anyone has anything to add regarding why people are so concerned about Douglas Wilson's views I'd really appreciate it. Much of the criticism I've read that are leveled at the AA group don't seem applicable. If anything, I guess we could level the guilt by association charge.

Well, here's the email regarding NT Wright. The friend also sent me this link. A commentor on my blog also left this comment
If you are interested I heard him give an interview on the subject of that book to a Lutheran pastor on the radio. You'll find it here:

http://www.kfuo.org/Issues_ETC/ie_05_25_06.htm
I found the interview very helpful. Heh, enough digressions. The email!
I just read the article you sent to me. There is much I agree with there, and I think he makes an excellent point that the Gospel isn't primarily about justification, but it's primarily about Christ. Upon a cursory reading of relevant passages, I think he caught something there that I've missed. That said, I do think that justification by faith alone is still at the heart of the Gospel, and that's something NT Wright doesn't quite agree with. he's kind of iffy on it, and if I'm allowed to take a cheap shot at him, I wish he were not as "scholarly" qualifying everything so much that I no longer know what he's saying. It definitely took 2 readings to understand why he didn't agree with imputation, though I do commend his adherance to his conscience in faithful exegesis of Scripture. I still think he's wrong though.

I just started reading a little bit on Wright, but one article I did read (attached) is what causes me to question his views on justification. The issue I have with NT Wright is specifically with his view of "imputation," which he leaves off in the article you sent me. He nuances it a great deal, but from my understanding, he doesn't believe that Christ earned righteousness (and salvation) from God (or if Christ did, we don't share in it through faith). Namely, he denies the "double" aspect of imputation.

I think biblically, Scripture speaks not only of our sins imputed (placed upon) Christ, but also of his righteousness imputed onto us. Christ is spoken of as the Second Adam, and as our representative head, He earned righteousness, and we, in Him and by His works, share in that through faith.

What concerns me when NT Wright leaves out the second half of that equation (and thankfully, he affirms the first), is that the question is "where does righteousness come from?" Is it Christ's works or mine that are the grounds for righteousness now? I haven't done a lot of reading, but my first impression (especially from how evasive he seems about the topic) is that NT Wright would say "well, mine, worked out
in faith by the Spirit."

That's what concerns me a bit, and that's what I'm reading up on now. Let me know what you think.

Links to this post

Monday, September 11, 2006 at 8:02 PM

Vengeance is Mine declares the Lord

Today, while I was inside a restaurant, a car backed out of a parking spot, hit my car and sped off.

No one was hurt or anything, but the car is a little sadder looking now. Front fender is a little damaged.

Thankfully, a concerned passerby took down the license number and make and color of the car and called it in. The police quickly found the car and brought him in for questioning.

I couldn't help but think of this passage.

Romans 13:1-5

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

The Lord has instituted the governing authorities for the peace and protection of the land. It is appointed by God to reward good and punish evil. In this way, the man will get his reward on this earth. Sin has it's consequences in this age and the age(s?) to come. Justice will be served.

There is a lot to be thankful for. No one was hurt. With (I'm sure, but Lord willing) a little bit of work, insurance will cover the costs of the repair. The governing authority, as grounded in secularism as it is, still works.

I was even reminded of so many different truths. The reality of our depraved nature (we try to get away with our sins, as if no one is looking), the graciousness of God (someone was looking and concerned enough to take down relevant info), the temporal aspect of all things (that car is just a hunk of metal, no matter how much money and time we spend on it), the joy in knowing God and resting in Him and not His gifts.

Yet another reminder of Romans 8:28

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Labels:

Links to this post

at 4:32 PM

Reading Deeply

An older post from Triablogue on justice and forgiveness. Makes the acute observation:
"The kinder and gentler approach to the assailant was decidedly unkind and uncharitable to the victim.

Frequently, justice is the most merciful course of action. Nothing is crueler than misplaced compassion."
Indeed. God is a God not only of mercy and grace, but of justice as well.

John Macarthur has a blog now! Check out the new Pulpit Live blog/magazine. Currently working through a series on the impact of secularism. Check out his post on proper Bible interpretation.

Jollyblogger responds to Adrian's response to Dan Phillip's response to Adrian's response to Phillip's original post. Yeah, it's kind of convuluted. But I think Jollyblogger hits it right on the head. He asks why some charismatics are seeking an "experience of God" when we all agree that God is omnipresent, and so we actually experience God all the time, whether we are concious of it or not. I think he's right when he closes with:

Similarly, what we are to pursue is not spiritual ecstasy, but Jesus Christ Himself. And we ought not to make spiritual ecstasy the mark of a true experience with Jesus. Nor ought we to expect that spiritual ecstasy will necessarily follow great spiritual victories. Remember what happend to Elijah after his great victory over the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18-19.

Now, if you want to talk about an experience of a kind of settled joy that characterizes the whole of a Christian's life, I can accept that. I believe that joy is a fruit of the spirit that can even be present in the midst of sorrow. What I am arguing here is that this super duper intensified experience of joy that takes the form of spiritual ecstasy is not normative in the Christian life, and is not to particularly to be sought.

Amen. (Check out the comments section as well, start at the bottom and go up, convient for coming back, but hard to jump right in)

Over at girltalk, there was an excellent post on delighting in the blows of God's fist. I see this as nearly the perfect of how we delight in God's presence in plenty and in want.

This guy gets it right. Imonk posts a criticism of Joel Osteen. Read the comments as well, especially his response to the common defense, "but God is using Joel for His kingdom." Spot on.

Why is Joel so popular? " 'Your Best Life Now' sounds a lot more interesting than 'take up your cross and follow me.' "

Finally, here is a most excellent post by Douglas Wilson on Active Obedience as a Thematic Structuring Device. I'll be honest, I have my reservations about the New Perspective on Paul, but I have not had any issues with Douglas Wilson's views thus far. At least, none beyond the normal range of "Oh, that's kind of iffy" that I kind of have with almost everyone. If you don't read any other posts linked on this post, read that one.

Bookwise, I've finished Bondage of the Will, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, and I've started, "The Cross He Bore", good and short. Maybe I'll post some thoughts on it later. Also reading Crime and Punishment (apprently the most read classic novel) as well as Biblical Theology and The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes. Both very solid. Biblical Theology in particular has been a delight to read and study.

Blog of the post is Light of the Word, by Benjamin Oetken. He just started his blog recently and I've had the blessing to be able to talk with him a bit via AIM and gmail and I've enjoyed his posts. His last one is particularly solid. Keep blogging bro!

Labels:

Links to this post

Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 11:32 PM

Attributes of God (17)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 17: The Contemplation of God-

w00t! Last chapter. Took a little longer than I expected, but it's been really good.

Well, the last chapter was essentially a reminder of all that's come before, it was a “let's step back and think about God for an instant.” It was also a call for humility. Even though we had just gone through all these different attributes of God, it was by no means exhaustive. Lots and lots of good quotes here.
From this most feeble and faulty contemplation of His attributes, it should be evident to us all that God is, first, an incomprehensible Being, and, lost in wonder at His infinite greatness, we are constrained to adopt the words of Zophar, "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." (Job 11:7-9). When we turn our thoughts to God’s eternity, His immateriality, His omnipresence, His almightiness, our minds are overwhelmed.
So true! God is incomprehensible. Not that we can't know God at all, but we can't know Him completely. We've just skimmed the surface of the attributes of God, and even the smallest taste of them leave us bewildered in amazement.

C. H. Spurgeon -
The proper study of the Christian is the God-head. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the doings, and the existence of the great God which he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go on our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, amid that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought "I am but of yesterday and know nothing." (Sermon on Mal. 3:6).
Would we be rightfully humbled before the Almighty!
He is an all-sufficient Being. He is all-sufficient in Himself and to Himself. As the First of beings, He could receive nothing from another, nor be limited by the power of another. Being infinite, He is possessed of all possible perfection. When the Triune God existed all alone, He was all to Himself. His understanding, His love, His energies, found an adequate object in Himself. Had He stood in need of anything external, He had not been independent, and therefore would not have been God. He created all things, and that "for Himself" (Col. 1:16)
God is sufficient for Himself. Nothing we do adds to Him, even blogging, even talking with one another, we're not doing a work for God. Here was a mind blowing line:
He makes use of means and instruments to accomplish His ends, yet not from a deficiency of power, but often times to more strikingly display His power through the feebleness of the instruments.
What a humbling picture of being used by God!

Remarking more on the sufficiency of God, Pink turns to remark on the sufficiency of God not only for Himself, but for us as well.
Yea, the Christian, when in his right mind, is able to say, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cutoff from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Hab. 3:17,18).
Once again, the prayers of the Bible humble me repeatedly. Am I satisfied in Him? Or only in what He gives to me in this world?

Finally, Pink closes with what seems customary, a reflection on God's supreme sovereignty.
A creature, considered as such, has no rights. He can demand nothing from his Maker; and in whatever manner he may be treated, has no title to complain. Yet, when thinking of the absolute dominion of God over all, we ought never to lose sight of His moral perfections. God is just and good, and ever does that which is right. Nevertheless, He exercises His sovereignty according to His own imperial and righteous pleasure. He assigns each creature his place as seemeth good in His own sight. He orders the varied circumstances of each according to His own counsels. He moulds each vessel according to His own uninfluenced determination. He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. Wherever we are, His eye is upon us. Whoever we are, our life and everything is held at His disposal. To the Christian, He is a tender Father; to the rebellious sinner He will yet be a consuming fire. "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Tim. 1:17).

Labels:

Links to this post

at 9:32 PM

His Love Can Never Fail

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had the blessing to sing songs with brothers and sisters this evening.

This song blew me away:

His Love Can Never Fail

1. I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread;
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
'Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go, But oh, I know my Guide.

Refrain
His love can never fail, His love can never fail,
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.

2. And if my feet would go astray,
They cannot, for I know
That Jesus guides my falt'ring steps,
As joyfully I go.
And tho' I may not see His face,
My faith is strong and clear,
That in each hour of sore distress
My Savior will be near.
Refrain

3. I will not fear, tho' darkness come
Abroad o'er all the land,
If I may only feel the touch
Of His own loving hand.
And tho' I tremble when I think
How weak I am, and frail,
My soul is satisfied to know
His love can never fail.
Refrain

©2004 Christopher Miner Music.
I long for this type of faith. As someone very aptly remarked when presented with the lyrics, too often we come to God begging for answers, "God, just let me know what I should do. God, I need help with this." Certainly, those requests aren't wrong in themselves, but this song challenges us right there. Are we content with what God has revealed? If He is silent, would we be ok with that?
I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread;
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
'Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go, But oh, I know my Guide.
My God and my Lord! Give me this faith! Give me this trust! That I would follow You, through darkness and through light, trusting You because You are my sure Guide!
And tho' I tremble when I think
How weak I am, and frail,
My soul is satisfied to know
His love can never fail.

Labels:

Links to this post

at 8:52 PM

Singing about Jesus makes me think of Limited Atonement

Today I had the blessing to join College Church's college group for "After-Hours" a time to get together with brothers and sisters in Christ and fellowship. Today we had the blessing to discuss various songs and sing them together. Each song was from RUF's hymnbook and I must say I was very impressed and blessed by the theological content of the songs as well as the music.

One of the songs we sang (The Love of Christ is Rich and Free) was just packed with meditations upon Christ's love and what that means for believers.

And I just couldn't help but think how powerful God's love was, that it redeems me, seals me, binds me, and can never be removed.

And I just couldn't help but be amazed at such a love. So rich, so free, and dare I add, a love that is no respector of "free" will. Left to my own will, I would have surely rejected such a divine gift! As would we all, if it were left up to us. But praise be to God, His love is so great that it overcomes even our hardness of hearts.

What does this have to do with limited atonement? Simply that "limited atonement" is "definite atonement." This love of God, so rich, so free, saves. It doesn't make potential to save, but it saves. So either we're left with universalism (God loves everyone), or we limit the atonement. Not because it's limited in power (certainly Jesus could have saved everyone if He wanted), but because it's limited in application (Jesus doesn't save everyone.)

If you're a math geek like I am:

1. If Jesus loves X (a person), then Jesus saves X
2. If Jesus doesn't save X, then Jesus doesn't love X (contrapositive, equivalent to 1)
3. Y is not saved.
4. Jesus doesn't love Y.

The stronger we see Jesus' love, the stronger the argument for a limited atonement.

Labels:

Links to this post

Saturday, September 09, 2006 at 10:25 AM

Living and Active

Hebrews 4:12

12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Over the course of this summer, I've had the opportunity to speak before a group of kids several times. I've talked on Psalm 130, Psalm 144, Joshua 1:1-5, Joshua 1:6-9, Hebrews 11, and 2 Kings 22-23/Nehemiah 8-9/Acts 2.

Each and every time, I've wrestled with the passage. Sometimes I felt like I "got it" and was able to give a message that said what the passage said, sometimes I felt like I missed the boat, I was trying to say what I wanted to say and that's all that came out.

One thing that I've discovered, is that the Word really is living and active (Like I needed personal testimony to establish a fact that Scripture tells me =p). I'm not saying that it changes it's meaning to suit us or to meet us where we're at, but that it is never just words on a page, it's always accompanied by the Holy Spirit. It cuts and judges me! There have been a number of times where in the course of preparing the message, I've just been so convicted that I have to stop and go for a prayer walk. There have been a few times, where the in course of reading the passage aloud during the course of the sermon that I'd get cut. I do hope the people listening were as convicted as I was, and I wish I was convicted more often.

There have been a number of times where I've sat through the jr. high service, and the message (though directed at the jr. high kids) would just cut me to the heart. The message was always simple, 20 minutes or so, but it'd be packed with truth and accompanied by the Spirit. My goodness.

Send revival, start with me.



Labels:

Links to this post

Friday, September 08, 2006 at 8:08 PM

Book Review: Jonathan Edwards: A Life

Written by George Marsden, this book was a tome, with 640 pages (including nearly 100 pages of footnotes), this book followed Jonathan Edwards from birth through school, through life, writings, theological battles, and into his death.

Simply put, it's hard to do the book justice. I found myself entrapped by a book that put me right over Edward's shoulder. The research was so well done and the chapters so well written that it was hard to put the book down, I felt like I was walking around the 18th century. Marsden does an excellent job of showing Edward's focus, good side, bad side, victories, and defeats. Definitely a book worth reading.

I don't know what else to say. Read the book. Definitely going to be reading some more Edwards in the future.

My recommendation: Own it

Labels:

Links to this post

Thursday, September 07, 2006 at 8:02 PM

Attributes of God (16)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 16: The Wrath of God-

Coming up on the last few chapters of the book. It certainly has taken a little longer than I anticipated, but has been a pleasure as well.

This chapter was on the Wrath of God, it opens with this line:

It is sad to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or at least they wish there were no such thing. While some would not go so far as to openly admit that they consider it a blemish on the Divine character, yet they are far from regarding it with delight, they like not to think about it, and they rarely hear it mentioned without a secret resentment rising up in their hearts against it. Even with those who are more sober in their judgment, not a few seem to imagine that there is a severity about the Divine wrath which is too terrifying to form a theme for profitable contemplation. Others harbor the delusion that God’s wrath is not consistent with His goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts.

Sad indeed, but the chapter aims at correcting that and taking discussion and thoughts of the wrath of God, like all thoughts, captive to Christ.

Pink makes a number of excellent points on this note, first observing that the wrath of God is freely revealed in Scripture (Deut. 32:39-41), that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. As a side note, I’ve heard that as well as the claim that Jesus spoke more about hell than about heaven, and most about money. I’m not entirely willing to take these claims on his personal confession (since I don’t know if he looked it up himself or is just repeating what someone else repeated), but has someone actually looked it up and figured things out? I should do that some day.

Another point is that the wrath of God is as much a Divine perfection as anything else, seeing as God is perfect in every way! What a simple reminder, yet one that is often needed.

How could God be the sum of all excellence if he didn’t hate what was impure and vile? Yike. How true. The wrath of God is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It’s the real and active demonstration to those who rebel that God is the Lord. It’s revealed from heaven.

Pink gives some well said advice regarding how we should respond to the wrath of God.

First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God’s detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God’s abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely are we to realize its heinousness. Second, to beget a true fear in our souls for God: "Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28,29). We cannot serve Him "acceptably" unless there is due "reverence" for His awful Majesty and "godly fear" of His righteous anger, and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that "our God is a consuming fire." Third, to draw out our souls in fervent praise for having delivered us from "the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10).

So true for myself, for all my talk and bluster about longing for true worship, it’s hard to consciously think of the wrath of God. His ways certainly are higher than mine!

And who says Calvinists can’t do evangelism?

Then flee, my reader, flee to Christ; "flee from the wrath to come" (Matt. 3:7) ere it be too late. Do not, we earnestly beseech you, suppose that this message is intended for somebody else. It is to you! Do not be contented by thinking you have already fled to Christ. Make certain! Beg the Lord to search your heart and show you yourself.

Labels:

Links to this post

Tuesday, September 05, 2006 at 2:40 PM

Is God the author of sin?

Often when discussing the sovereignty of God, a calvinist is quick to affirm the sovereignty of God but deny that He is the "author of sin." Through this post I would like to examine the question and put forth my answer from Scripture as an unashamed "yes." Most of this is directed towards those Calvinists who already reject libertarian free will, since there's more ground cover first if you don't.

First, we need to clear some ground. The phrase "author of sin" doesn't actually show up in our Bibles, so we need a definition that people agree upon.

M-W Online dictionary defines "author" as:
1 a : one that originates or creates : SOURCE authors> authors> author of this crime> b capitalized : GOD 1

1 a sounds like it's pretty much what any person would say "author" means. Is God the "originator or creator of sin?" is thus our question. A similar question would be, "Is God the author of evil?" or "Is God the author of Satan?"

Isaiah 45:7 states (KJV):
7I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
"But wait," you may say, "all the other mainstream translations (ESV, NIV, NASB) all say 'calamity' or 'disaster.' And the Amplified bible translates it "evil" but adds a footnote that says, "Moral evil proceeds from the will of men, but physical evil proceeds from the will of God!" How can we justify "evil" when so many other translators disagree?

Well, basically, I disagree with those translations, and I'd like to show why I think "evil" is proper here, or if it's not proper here, it's certainly implied by the verse.

Well, to begin with, we can note that the hebrew word being translated "evil", ra, does denotes wickedness, evil, wrong, misery, distress as well as calamity, so it certainly isn't wrong to translate the word "evil." What we actually translate the word as is actually determined by context.

So what's the context? The context of the passage is God declaring through Isaiah that he will use Cyrus as God's instrument of judgment, and proceeds to defend the usage of Cyrus (a pagan king) as such an instrument of the Lord. What's God's defense of His actions here? Isaiah 45:
5I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Notice the big emphasis upon "I am the Lord, there is no other." There is none besides Him. There is no other power. Notice God declares that he forms light and creates darkness. Most people assume that darkness exists by "necessity" because darkness is just where light is not. But here God is saying that He created both. Can we thus understand the passage in a figurative sense, that God is claiming that he creates all things? Yes, absolutely. God is saying that there is no other power in this world. Cyrus is His instrument, because everything is God's creation, everything is from God and for God.

God here presents Himself as the sole power here. He declares that there is nothing like Him. No other god. No other power. It isn't a battle between the forces of light and darkness, but it's God who reigns in all things.

So returning to our original statement. Even if the translation is not properly "evil" (and I'm unconvinced it can't be), the statement, "God created evil" is certainly implied by the passage.

From there, it is a simple matter to use the same argument that God is the sole power and thus author of all things to concluding that God is also the author of sin.

Let's propose some objections:

1) God being the author of sin is contradictory to His character.

We must be clear that being the author of sin/evil does not make God a sinner or God evil. On the contrary, God is good in all that He does, so it must be good for God to create evil, for God to create sin. To this we must confess that God's ways are higher than ours, and it is our sinful nature that prevents us from properly giving God the glory for all He does.

Nowhere in the Bible does it claim that God is not the author of sin or evil. If it did, we'd probably have a real contradiction on our hands =p. Thus it is entirely consistent with Scripture to say that God is the author of sin.

2) You're being a rationalist, prove it from Scripture.

The charge of a rationalist applies only to those who conclude that Scripture is irrational because it doesn't match up to one's picture of what reason is. To them, the cross is foolishness. For us as Christians, however, reason is one of the means by which we derive faithful interpretations from Scripture. After all, it is perfectly logical to understand that Buddhism is wrong from Jesus saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the light" without needing Jesus to also say "Buddhism is wrong. Hinduism is wrong. etc." This is why the Westminster Confession of Faith states in I.IV:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture
But even with discarding the objection, we can still go to Scripture and come up with explicit examples where God sends evil spirits:

Judges 9:23, 1 Samuel 16:13-15, 1 Kings 22:19-23,

We also have explicit examples of evil being credited to God's account:

Genesis 50:20 ("it" is in the feminine, matching only with "evil"), Job 2:10 (In crediting God with evil, Job did not sin with his lips), Acts 2:22-23

3) God doesn't create sin or evil, God permits it.

But where does evil come from? And what does it mean that God "permits" something? If we affirm that God is the principal and only power in this universe, how can God "permit" something without actively willing it? Is evil something that God "bears with" and "allows" or is it something that God is actively working to His glory?

Ephesians 1:11 states that we have been "predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." God works all things according to the counsel of His will. And nowhere in the Bible is the accusation brought before God "you've created evil! This is unfair!" and God saying, "hold on here, I didn't create evil, you're wrong. I use secondary means to do evil." No, in the case of Job, in the case of Isaiah, in the case of Paul, God says, "who are you to question me?" He doesn't back away from the issue, but He affirms it and then asks, "So what?"

4) You're undercutting the hope Christians have. How can they hope in a God that creates evil?

Isn't this the real source of our hope? Not only does God make daisies out of dung, but God is also using the dung for His glory? This is our hope, that for those who love God, "all things work together for good." Not just a "God can use this," but a "God caused this, for His glory and for your good."

The bigger our picture of God's sovereignty is, the greater the hope we have. How can we not rejoice in a good Lord that sustains all things for His glory and our good? Satan cannot even blink an eyelash without God working in Him, how can we think Satan can do anything to us?

Romans 8:
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[h] against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[i] 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,

"For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Related reading:

Theocentric - Shall we attribute sin to God 1, 2, 3
Rebecca Writes - Authoring Sin
Vincent Cheung - Author of Sin
Martin Luther - Bondage of the Will
John Piper - Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained That Evil Be?, Why I Do Not Say, "God Did Not Cause the Calamity, but He Can Use It for Good."

Links to this post