Drinking Deeply

Friday, March 31, 2006 at 12:40 AM

Some questions for thought

Prompted by some conversations with some friends.

1) What is so essential about the doctrine of the Trinity?

2) If it is so essential, why isn't it included in our evangelistic presentations in Scripture? I'm not talking about the 4 spiritual laws (which have its own problems), but I'm talking about Acts 2, Acts 17 and the like. An alternative answer would be to demonstrate the doctrine of the Trinity apparent within Acts 2 or Acts 17 (giving us evidence that we should be able to find it within the other evangelistic presentations)

3) What are some other doctrines that are "essential"? And what does it mean to be "essential" anyways?

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Thursday, March 30, 2006 at 1:41 AM

Sharing the Joy

So over the winter break I had the chance to be a counselor for our youth group winter camp. During that time I had 3 kids, all 10th and 11th graders. While/Since I didn't agree too much with the speaker and his emphasis, I spent a lot of time talking to them about all sorts of things, necessity of Scripture, what that means, the nature of sin, the nature of man, essentially as much of a systematic as I could squeeze in there. We talked about the doctrines of grace, of God, of His glory, and all sorts of things, worship, communion, baptism, prayer...

But anywho, so winter camp ended and I went back to Stanford, wondering how much of an impact it would have. It certainly left a great impact on me (and has given me a great desire to serve youth in that manner... it was sheer joy to listen to their growing convictions and thirst for the Word). So I prayed for them. I knew for all of them that was most likely the first time they've really heard about sin, God's nature, God's glory, and God's grace hammered repeatedly, so I prayed. I tried to keep in touch via AIM and email, but I guess they were just busy. I kept a prayer card for them, updating it once.

But, miracles of miracles, I had the chance to talk to one of the kids today, as we wrapped up prayer meeting (as I am now in Naperville). He mentioned to me about how I talked about this radical change, from the root, this new heart and a replacing of a heart of stone, a raising from the dead, and he was like "yeah, one day, when I was reading my Bible... it happened, and I broke down and wept, I don't know why, but now I know I just want to read and read, 15 minutes like I used to do isn't enough. It's hard though, I forget a lot." And I could not begin to tell you how much joy those words brought to my heart. So many times I considered putting the prayer card away, thinking "well, anything that's done is done," and so glad now that I didn't. So yeah, praise God for repentance He has worked. Praise God that He allowed me to be part of that story, and praise Him that He allowed me to see this glimpse of what He's doing. PTL

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006 at 1:07 PM

Book Review: Don't Waste Your Life

I just finished John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Life."

Within the pages of the book John Piper examines what it means to live a life not wasted. He begins with addressing the irrationality of existentialism and skepticism and turns to proclaiming the glory of God. How do we live a life not wasted? Simple: We live to glorify God. We live to delight in God. He spends some of the book trying to show that the two are actually one, then turning to practical applications of what that entails.

It is not about being loved (made much of), but rather it is about loving God. This life we live is not for ourselves, but it is lived for the God who bought us at a price.

"We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is."

From that definition, John Piper launches into an examination of what that entails: Boasting only in the cross, magnifying Christ through pain and death, living a life of risk for God, loving our neighbors by making their love God, living to prove he is more precious than life, living a life of faith at the workplace, at missions.

All in all I found this an excellent book. Piper grounds his theology in Scripture through the first few chapters, and the practical application show us that theology is not a dry thing left for those who have nothing better to do, but rather is necessary to all of life, especially in how we live it. I found particularly convicting his usage of a warfare metaphor, how Christian life should be portrayed as warfare, involving strategic usage of our resources (good stewardship), an long term planning idea, and a refusal to compromise. Too often, Piper declaims, our statement is "there's nothing wrong with it, I can excercise my Christian liberty" when it should be "How does this glorify God?" I think he's absolutely right, and it is especially true in my own heart, when there are many things that I can get defensive about and say (and believe I can prove) that nothing is wrong with it, but as to setting forth God's glory... probably a little bit more difficult.

There was one thing I was not a big fan of, and that was his continual emphasis upon God being our delight. While I do agree with his discussion on how it should be one and the same as seeking God's glory, it seems that Piper errs a bit when God being our delight is most of what he talks about. If he balanced his terminology a little bit more I would be a lot more at ease, but as such, one can always remind one's self that "making God our delight" was the same thing as "glorifying God" and things would be ok. I am merely concerned that people will come away with a anthro-centric view of things by picking and choosing when it seems Scripture is much more explicit about God's glory being the chief end of man rather than man's delight in God (Eph. 1 is far and away the clearest example of this).

Whatever the case there was some that jumped out in particular.

His chapter on making Christ known in the workplace was particularly convicting. Do we face trials and deadlines like unbelievers? Do we idly waste our God given time like unbelievers? Do we act day in and day out like unbelievers? So true! And my first instinct, of all things, was not to repent, but was to say "wow this will be very applicable for me in the workplace!" Instantly my heart was cut. Did my christian life not really begin until I got a job? Was I unable to be a Christian witness while I was in school? Couldn't I take those very points and apply them to the way I react to exams, to homework, to relationships with friends and classmates?

Do I react to finals and homework like an unbeliever? Or rather, do I work at it as if working for the Lord, seeking to magnify His glory? Do I trust His sovereign provision no matter what grade I get or do I get stressed out to the point that I procrastinate in order to flee from my duties like I am prone to do? Do I work for God's glory in such a manner that people are willing to come to me not only with questions regarding spiritual matters but also questions of understanding of what was discussed in class? Do I operate under integrity?

I was simply cut to the heart, longing to set so many things right, but not knowing where to begin. Praise God for His glorious grace in spite of my failings, His gentle leadings (and sometimes harsh rebukes) that bring me closer to Him.

To live is Christ and to die is gain. Soli Deo Gloria

My recommendation: Own it

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006 at 1:44 PM

Thoughts from John Piper

The youth of today are so used to asking "what's wrong with it?" when they've missed the big question, "How does this glorify God?"

You can steal to have, you can work to have, or you can work to give.

Loving one's neighbor entails desiring that God and His glory be their chief and only passion and desire.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006 at 11:51 AM

Why I stay at CCMC

The question was posed yesterday: "Why do you stay at CCMC? Why don't you join that Bible believing church down the street?"

That was the question on the table, and I think that's a question that people wanted answered. I had an answer for myself, but I wanted to hear what other people were going to say and missed my opportunity. Before I forget, here is my answer.

I stay at CCMC because:

1) I made a committment to the local church when I accepted Christ as my savior and lord. Now, I may not have realized that at the time I did so, but looking back at the time, and looking now at Scripture, I know what I am called to, what I am called out of. This picture includes the local church, and that body is embodied by CCMC for me now. In short, I'm here because that is where God called me out, and that is where I've been called to.

2) I have a picture of the last days in Revelation 7, that one day people from every nation, tribe, and tongue will bow down at the feet of Jesus and worship Him. Together.
9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."
And I see this, and I think: We can start this process here. On Earth. With CCMC. We can start this process even though it's long and difficult because we know of the the "already but not yet" concept. We can start it because we've already been promised it, and even though we may fail here on earth repeatedly, we know that we will one day achieve it. That though we may never get every nation tribe and tongue under CCMC, we can branch out and start reaching out to different nations, different tribes, different tongues, different generations.

3) I see the hope in the future generation. From the few kids that are willing to sit down and discuss theology, to those that just long for true preaching, to those who are still so excited about everything that they just can't help but share who Christ is and what He means to them to everyone around them. I see this hope and I long for them to be nutured and nurished, and I see them getting that (in part, as with any church) at CCMC. I see myself being a part of that, praise to God, and I see myself called and led to have a burden for them, to pray for them, to love them and to serve them, though it is one I have not properly shouldered.

4) I see the hope in the older generation. I see the few willing parents who have faithfully served me, loved me, and encouraged me. I see the many willing parents still encouraging one another and serving one another. I see the parents who are willing to be that bridge across generations, across tongues, because they share the same calling as we all do, to partner in the Gospel, in the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, for His glory alone.

5) I do not see willingly breaking the body of Christ as a biblical alternative. I will not say "since I do not speak Chinese, I do not belong, I need to worship somewhere else" I will not say "Since you don't speak English, you don't belong, you need to worship somewhere, sometime else." I do not see that as a viable alternative.

Now, those are the reasons I stay. Here are the reasons that would cause me to leave:

1) Poor preaching. I'm not talking about style. I'm not talking about dryness, about songs we sing. I'm talking about content. Is the sermon Biblical? Or is a passage read and used as a launching point for something completely unrelated? Are passages taken out of context? Can the congregation, at the end of the message, say "Amen" if the pastor closes with "Thus saith the Lord" ? Is God's glory being proclaimed faithfully and biblically? Is His Word treated with reverance? Or do we come to it playfully, joking, mocking, flippantly, as if it weren't the source of our salvation and entire livelihood?

2) Losing the Gospel. Are we compromising for the sake of numbers? Are we maintaining our identity as followers of Jesus Christ and the Words He has spoken through the Book He wrote? Or do we partner with Baal? Watering down our services, watering down our Gospel for the sake of numbers? Are we ashamed of the Gospel? Or do we believe it is the power of God for all who are being saved, to the Jew and then the Greek?

3) Being asked to. I realize that I do not see eye to eye with a lot of people on a lot of issues. I fear many of them have been enough to split churches in the past, and I am fully convinced by Scripture that I am right, but am open to correction from Scripture. I do hope that a mutual devotion to the Gospel is enough to maintain the unity of the body, but it is entirely possible we can disagree on what the Gospel is, and what that means, what devotion means and how that's lived out. If that happens, and I pray it doesn't, then being asked to leave will probably be the result if reconciliation cannot happen.

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Friday, March 24, 2006 at 5:38 PM

Thoughts

It seems that my time spent in the Word is proportional to how much work I have. When I get busy, I realize more the urgency of my need to be spending my time soaked in the Word, but during times when I have large chunks of free time (these last two weeks for example, and I fear this coming week), I tend to put it off, saying that I could do it later, that my time would be better spent "fellowshipping" and such.

But yet, what can be more important than communion with the Living Water through the Living Word? What can be more important than diving into the very Oracles of God? What indeed?!

How frustrating. I feel like Israel in the OT. Times of peace and prosperity were always times that led to apostasy and a falling away, it is only when the persecutions came that the people turned to the Lord.

Prone to wander Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.

Here's my heart O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above!

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Thursday, March 23, 2006 at 5:38 PM

Reading Deeply

Tim Challies puts up a post on the study of history. It was informative and convicting.

He gives us a number of reasons:

God Tells Us To, To Understand The Present Climate, To Understand the Future, To Understand Providence, To Understand Error, To Understand People, To Understand Endurance

Convinced me.

Wayfaring Pilgrim puts up an amazing post on the church and social action. Convicting.

Doxoblogy puts up a post on confronting error. He ends on this note:
Further, being confrontational is not just for the sake of confrontation. The purpose of confrontation must always be for the preservation of the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is God's truth entrusted to the Church. It is our duty to keep it pure and unmixed with the leaven of error.
We owe this much to our God.
Evan May puts up a post on apostates and evangelism. A lot of very informative thoughts to a lot of questions I had been thinking about. Take a look. He also put up an excellent post on corporate worship and how it fits into the church. Good stuff!

Worship Matters puts up an impressive post answering the question, "how do we receive encouragement." Reminds me of an earlier question I had raised. A good response.

The Potter's Clay
put up an excellent quote on a Christian approach to affliction. Simply amazing.

Haven't been reading, had finals. Hope everyone is doing well.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006 at 10:55 PM

Not really what I was thinking of...

So I've noticed a lot of blogs that are named after much loved passages in the Bible. Of course, my blog title had always been sort of modeled after the idea of Jesus being the living water and my desire to drink deeply, but for fun I decided to look up Biblegateway to see what came up.

"Drinking deeply" returned no hits.

"Drink deeply" returned one gem, from Isaiah 66, which at the screen said:

"that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast;that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance."

whoa!

But, as with everything. Context is everything:
10"Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her;
11that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious abundance."

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006 at 11:10 AM

A passage of the Bible that doesn't fit in with my theology

ts pointed this out in an earlier post, when he asked if I believed that spirit was the same as mind and heart, and I replied in the affirmative.

He pointed me to 1 Cor. 14

specifically v. 14-15
14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.
This poses a problem for my sytem of theology for a few reasons:

A) I don't exactly know what Paul is talking about when he says "tongues" here. I have always been under the assumption that it refers to speaking in the tongues of foreigners like in Acts 2. With that understanding, it is possible to pray in a tongue without understanding it, but I am unsure if that's the correct understanding of the term "tongues."

B) I understand man as a dichotomy of parts, body and soul. There is enough biblical evidence for me to conclude that man is two parts that this verse poses a difficulty in that it seems to be drawing a distinction between spirit and mind, two words which I had viewed as synonomous.

C) Probably the biggest reason this poses a problem is that I've never read a good commentary or heard a good sermon or read a good article on 1 Cor. 12-14. On most passages, I agree with cessationalist exegesis, but there are many areas where I have a lot of questions, 1 Cor. 12-14 is one of them.

What do you guys think of the passage? And should I post the Scripture that convinces me that man is a dichotomy as well?

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Monday, March 20, 2006 at 11:08 PM

Moral Philosophy Final exam Q. 9

"Can we be required to act morally if there is no Divine or cosmological purpose? Which of the views discussed in this course has the best chance of providing a Secular foundation for ethics? Defend your answer with reference to (at least) three authors on the syllubus."

Questions for thought:

1) What does it mean to "act morally"?

2) What does it mean to "require"?

3) What does it mean to have "the best chance of providing a Secular foundation for ethics?"

Whatever the case, the truth is clear. God is the source of morality. God is the source of authority in "requiring." He is Judge. He is jury. On the last day, the Lord will come to judge the living and the dead. All other philosophies have an equal chance of providing a secular foundation for ethics, zero.

Romans 1

19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006 at 2:22 PM

Open the eyes of my heart

OPEN THE EYES OF MY HEART
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see you, I want to see you

To see you high and lifted up
Shining in the light of your glory
Pour out your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

Holy, holy, holy, Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy, I want to see you
Commonly sung song. But what exactly does it mean? When we actually sing this song, do we actually know what we're asking for? Or are we just singing it because it sounds fairly spiritual (lots of Christian-ese) and it has a good beat?
"Open the eyes of my heart."
Lots of people see this as a plea to connect the "head" and the "heart." I've already posted about this earlier, and actually referenced this very song, but I wanted to revisit it because of the second verse. To sum it up, there is no distinction drawn between a "head" and a "heart" in the Bible. The word translated "heart" is typically used as the source of the thoughts and emotions.

Where does this sentence come from?

Ephesians 1:
16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
It comes in the midst of Paul's prayer requesting that God: "give a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, (This is our "open the eyes of our hearts"), that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints."

This prayer, this song, is a request for revelation and knowledge. It isn't some anti-intellectual "knowledge" where somehow we know something without knowing about it. No, we are praying that God would teach us and grant us a knowledge of the hope to which He has called us. This hope which we are living for is the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. This is a prayer for wisdom and revelation in knowledge.
"I want to see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory"
This comes from the very next lines of Ephesians 1
19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Remember, we're asking for a knowledege of this hope. And what is this hope in? This is a hope in God, a hope in the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe. God is powerful! God is Lord! He has already demonstrated this power in raising Christ from the dead and exulting him above all power and authority. Paul has moved on in his prayer to praising God and praying that we would know His power even more .

Note this! Paul is praying, yes, but his prayer is mixed in with devotion and praise and theology. In fact, a large chunk of Ephesians 1 is simply praising God. Let no one say that theology is dry and worthless. Let no one say that doctrine only divides. It is clear that doctrine here has moved Paul to worship, and that he is praying that we would know God (knowing about God as well) even more. Our prayers should be bathed in worship, in devotion, in praising God for who He is, not just for what He has done.

Our prayer is not really to see Christ lifted up (though that certainly could be interpreted as a request for Christ's second coming) per se, but it is to know God's mighty power in working, to know even more who God is, that we might put our hope in Him.

Now as a side note before I get attacked for being too intellectual and trying to reduce Jesus to a few words put together into sentences, Phil Johnson put it perfectly when he states:
Anyway, here's the point I'm making: Some truths (many of which are capable of being expressed as propositions—e.g., "Jesus is Lord"; and "Jesus is God") are absolutely essential to Christianity itself. According to Scripture, if you deny those essential truths, you're not orthodox in any sense. See Galatians 1:8-9; 2 John 7-11.

Knowing Christ involves more than recognizing the truth of a few propositions, of course, but it doesn't involve any less. If the christ you worship is not the eternal One who is Lord of all, you don't really "know" the true Christ, and whatever religion you practice is not any kind of authentic Christianity, even if you insist that you are a Christian.
I agree completely.

What is the point of this post? Simply this: If you're going to sing that song, and you want to really mean it, live out your life like you do. When you're asking God to "open the eyes of my heart." Work at filling your heart with the knowledge about God so that those eyes have something to see! Meditate upon God's attributes. His justice, His mercy, His jealousy, His wrath, His anger, His glory, His grace, His transcendence, His personalness (emminence I think is the word), His humility, His submission (in the Trinity, and on earth to the authorities), His sovereignty.

Then, Lord willing, (and He's promised that if you will seek Him, He will find you), He will open your eyes that you may behold His glory.

Glory to God, the God of all hope, the God of all knowledge. To Him be honor and power, forever.

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at 1:15 PM

Lord's Day 6

Q. Why must the mediator be truly human and perfectly righteous?
A. God's justice demands that a human being must pay for human sin; but a sinful human could never pay for others.

Q. Why must the mediator also be truly God?
A. So that the mediator, by the power of divinity, might bear the weight of God's wrath as a human being, and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.

Q. Who is this mediator true God and at the same time truly human and perfectly righteous?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given to redeem us completely and to make us right with God.

Q. How do you come to know this?
A. The holy gospel tells me. God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law and, finally, fulfilled it through God's own dear Son.

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Friday, March 17, 2006 at 4:51 PM

I will wait

John Piper pointed this passage out in a message I was listening to.

Micah 7:

5Put no trust in a neighbor;
have no confidence in a friend;
guard the doors of your mouth
from her who lies in your arms;
6for the son treats the father with contempt,
the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

7But as for me, I will look to the LORD;

I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.

I've sung the song before. But I've never actually read the context of the verse. I will watch in hope of the Lord. Why? Because I cannot trust anyone else. Brother will betray brother. Father, son, and mother, daughter. How horrible. How terrifying. But the cry of Micah is "I will wait."

8Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be a light to me.
9I will bear the indignation of the LORD
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication.

I will wait. Even though I have fallen.
I will wait. Even though I sit in darkness.
I will wait. Even though God's anger is upon me for my sin.
I will wait. Because God is my light.
I will wait. Because God will plead my case and execute judgement for me.
I will wait. Because God will bring me out to the light.

In the midst of sufferings and trials, those rightly deserved for my sins. In the midst of chastisements and punishments from God Himself, I will wait.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006 at 12:27 PM

Reflections on Moral Philosophy

This quarter I'm just about wrapping up a class entitled "Introduction to Moral Philosophy."

In it we had the chance to read some Ayn Rand, some utilitarian writers, some contractarianism, Kant, Aristotle, and various commentaries on them. It was a basic overview course rather than an indepth study on any one area.

It certainly was interesting. Some of it was entirely new to me and I found it facinating (and saddening because it felt like talking in circles). All I really learned is that it is a lot easier to ask impossible to answer questions than it is to present an impossible to defeat system of thought.

Each system of thought led me to two conclusions:

1) There are some aspects of thought here that reflect the foundational Christian morality. Indeed, God has put His law in our hearts, however imperfect we are in interpreting it.

2) I can really see how a rejection of an omnipotent and omniscient God can lead us to drawing absurd conclusions that look perfectly rational. It is saddening that this happens.

All in all, what I am most dissapointed in the class (and this seems to be true for large sections of moral philosophy) is that it seems to elevate intuition to a point where it is unquestionable. What determines if a system of thought is true or not is if it is consistent with our intuition. There is no point at which we can say "oh, our intuition is wrong on this case," but rather we are to change the system until it aligns with our intuition.

While this idea of a "conscience"-like intuition sounds appealing in some senses, I see no support from Scripture that intuition is an authoritative judge. Now, if I believe some action to be sinful , it certainly is true that it is sinful for me to do(eating foods offered to idols would be an example). But if I believe some action to not be sinful, it does not necessarily follow that that action is not sinful. (As the Scriptures testify to people who deny the truth-claims of itself and give themselves up to lusts and carnal desires)

In this case, intuition has failed. Looking at it from a non-Christian perspective, there is nothing inherantly wrong with something like premarital sex, and someone's intuition may even support the fact that "hey, you're as good as married, might as well." But yet even though our intuition may "think" this, it is utterly devoid of moral good because the meaning of an action is not derived from how we think of it, but how God sees it.

So yeah, I wish philosophy could go somewhere without deifying intuition in so many different ways. Maybe it can and I don't know.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006 at 11:27 PM

Reading Deeply

Triablogue puts up an excellent post examining the parachurch movement and insightful commentary.

Team Pyro continues it's streak of putting up amazing posts left and right. Check it out. Then bookmark their site.

Another team blog, Together for the Gospel, has a lot of excellent posts as well. Check out CJ Mahaney's post on glorifying God in sports with his son. Praise God for men like this.

Beauty for Ashes
posts an excellent thought on faithfulness in contrast to ritualism. Convicting.

Vincent Cheung
has finished another article. Recall, Repent, Return, which is, I believe, the first exposition on a section in Revelation I have read. Check it out.

Bookwise I have been reading John Piper's God is the Gospel. It's certainly excellent, especially the part where he talks about death being a gift and no longer a curse for those who are in Christ. (to live is Christ and to die is gain!). The focus of the book is to move a Christian from enjoying the gifts of salvation more than the end of salvation: true fellowship with God. I think he's right though sometimes I wonder if the terminology he's using pushes people to think that salvation is focused upon them. I know John Piper does not believe that, and a cursory reading of any of his other books will demonstrate that, but I wonder if he could have used different words. Whatever the case, the book is worth reading.

I've also been reading Growing Healthy Asian American Churches, edited by Peter Cha, S. Steve Kang, and Helen Lee. There is a lot that the book correctly points out that is wrong in the Asian American Church and can be corrected, but in all honesty there are much better books on church, as all churches face similar or identical problems that the Asian American church does. Interesting read, but for a far better treatment, I still suggest Mark Dever's Deliberate Church.

Blog of the post: Together for the Gospel. Check it out. It's by 4 very godly men, all pastors, and their playful posts show a great side as well as a compassion for the Gospel.

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at 1:39 PM

Some things to think about

1. Is it appropriate to use a lack of explicit declaration of one's spiritual beliefs in an autobiography as grounds for assuming someone isn't a believer? (I'm not talking about Christian fiction, but specifically an autobiography-like memoirs book)

2. Psalm 103 begins: Bless the Lord O my soul...

What does bless mean? I'll be honest, it doesn't fit in with my personal definition of bless right now.

3. What is one to do when asked by a non-religious person to pray for the meal?

I usually politely decline because I don't want to use it as a time for preaching at them (though Lord willing the Gospel comes through through that conversation or later), yet I feel uncomfortable interceeding with God as if they were believers.

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Monday, March 13, 2006 at 5:04 PM

God's sovereignty over evil

In my last post I stopped after the prayer ended in v. 20 of Isaiah 37. Today I went and read the rest of the chapter, and boy was it good!

Hear what the Lord says to Sennacherib:
21Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22this is the word that the LORD has spoken concerning him:

"'She despises you, she scorns you--
the virgin daughter of Zion;
she wags her head behind you--
the daughter of Jerusalem.

23"'Whom have you mocked and reviled?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
24By your servants you have mocked the Lord,
and you have said, With my many chariots
I have gone up the heights of the mountains,
to the far recesses of Lebanon,
to cut down its tallest cedars,
its choicest cypresses,
to come to its remotest height,
its most fruitful forest.
25I dug wells
and drank waters,
to dry up with the sole of my foot
all the streams of Egypt.

Put in simple terms, "You boasting fool! Do you think that God does not hear all these claims? You are mocking Him! You think you have done so much. You think you have cut down great trees and conquered much?"

Do not think that we can live a life that denies God and get away with it. God is God, and that means omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. There is nothing outside of God's reach and there is nothing that can stay His hand. You are nothing, but dust.

26"'Have you not heard
that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
what now I bring to pass,
that you should make fortified cities
crash into heaps of ruins,
27while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
blighted before it is grown.

Foolish man! The Lord had planned all your doing from long ago. It is I that brings it to pass and not your own hand. I am the one who is behind this, not you. I am the one who brings about that these cities fall, that their inhabitants are terrorized, that people die and cities are plundered. It is I who is sovereign here. Not you.

Even when you claim to be waging war against God, it is ultimately God who is in control here. There is nothing that will occur apart from what God has decreed. This includes every good work, and every evil deed. Your boasting is worthless. Not only will you fail to escape the wrath of God, but the very grounds of your boasting (in your deeds against the Lord) are worthless, for it is the Lord who has ordained it from the beginning. There is nothing to boast in evildoers. Not only is your evil going to be judged, but your evil has been ordained from the beginning.

28"'I know your sitting down
and your going out and coming in,
and your raging against me.
29Because you have raged against me
and your complacency has come to my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will turn you back on the way
by which you came.'

The Lord is in control of even you. The Lord knows your going out and coming in, the Lord knows even your rebellion. It is all part of what He had planned from the beginning. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. Your rebellion will be judged and you will be turned back from Israel, God's chosen people.

For a non-believer, this prophecy can easily be addressed to you. You, by your very life, are living a life in clear denial of God's sovereignty, His authority, and His universality. You are building for yourself a tower that you believe you can stand on. But know this. God is a God who sees every moment. He is one that knows your thoughts. He is one that has ordained from the beginning all your perceived victories, defeats, stands and falls. And He will not be mocked.

Turn! Flee to the cross of Jesus Christ. It is only under the shelter of His wings that there is salvation. You, by every breathing moment are storing up wrath for yourself, and it is a debt you do not want repaid. It is a wage you never want to earn. And if you believe that you're basically good, that you don't need Jesus, that He doesn't really exist, let me tell you one sobering truth. God is real, and one day, and I pray that day would come after God has opened your eyes, you will face Him. And He is painfully clear. Outside of Jesus Christ and His perfect imputation of His righteousness, His bearing of sin on your behalf, there will not be salvation, but an eternity of separation from the source of all joy, hope and delight. A separation from God.

For those who are Christians, recall that you were once like this. That you yourself have nothing to boast in. That you were once by nature children of wrath. No, it was not yourself that raised yourself from the dead. It was not you that opened your eyes. It was not you that softened your heart. It was God's doing.

Remember! It is God who has planned every moment from the beginning of time for His glory. Remember! It is God who deserves all worship. All praise. It is He who rescued you. It is He who saves you. It is He who allows you to have fellowship with Him. Rejoice not in the gifts and blessings you have today, but rejoice that your names are written in Heaven. Rejoice that you know Him and He has called you His own. Rejoice!

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Sunday, March 12, 2006 at 5:20 PM

I think this is a first

In all honesty I've never been sufficiently convinced that I could say Philippians 1:18 with a clear conscience before. Oftentimes when people would bring it up I would be like... "well is it really proclaiming Christ?"

But today I think I may have found an example. Cool.

18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

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at 3:30 PM

Lord's Day 5

Q. According to God's righteous judgement we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God's favor?
A. God requires that divine justice be satisfied. Therefore the claims of this justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or by another.

Q. Can we pay this debt ourselves?
A. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our debt every day.

Q. Can another creature any at all pay this debt for us?
A. No. God will not punish any other creature for what a human being has committed. Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God's eternal wrath against sin and release others from it.

Q. What kind of mediator and redeemer should we look for then?
A. One who is truly human and perfectly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also truly God.

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at 3:30 PM

Where is your faith?

On Friday we examined Luke 8:
22One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side of the lake." So they set out, 23and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24And they went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?"
And the question that immediately came up was, "How should the disciples have approached Jesus?" Jesus clearly rebukes them for their lack of faith (or their misplaced faith), but were the disciples to just sit there by themselves? (and a parallel passage in Mark 4 makes this even clearer)

Today I came across Isaiah 37 which I believe sheds a great deal of light on an appropriate response in the midst of trials.

To put it in context, in Isaiah 36 Sennacherib, the King of Assyria invades Judah and comes up to Jerusalem where Hezekiah, King of Israel was staying. He makes many boastful claims against Judah, saying that God would not deliver them, that the Assyrians had destroyed many a city already, and all their gods were worthless.
13Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: "Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! 14Thus says the king: 'Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. 15Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, "The LORD will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria." 16Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, 17until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. 18Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, "The LORD will deliver us." Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 19Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 20Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?'"
What does Hezekiah do?
1As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD.
Notice the posture that King Hezekiah takes prior to going to the house of the Lord. He tears his clothing and covered himself with sackcloth, a traditional sign of mourning. Was he just acting? Why was he doing this? Reading on we see:
2And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. 3They said to him, "Thus says Hezekiah, 'This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. 4It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the LORD your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.'"
What is Hezekiah mourning about? He isn't mourning because he's going to die. He isn't mourning because his line is ended, but he's mourning because God's name is being mocked, His glory unknown, and His people in danger. Now of course, Hezekiah is included in this group, but his focus is not upon his own life, but upon God's glory.
5When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, 6Isaiah said to them, "Say to your master, 'Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the young men of the king of Assyria have reviled me. 7Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.'"
Hezekiah is reassured. God is listening and God will respond.

8The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. 9Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, "He has set out to fight against you." And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, 10"Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: 'Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. 11Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? 12Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? 13Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?'"

The prophecy is beginning its fulfillment, but Rabshakeh (the king's messenger) continues to mock and revile the God of Israel.
14Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16"O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD."
And here is what I want to focus the main portion of this post upon. Lets walk through the prayer verse by verse.
16"O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
How does Hezekiah begin? Note the clear contrast between him and the disciples in the boat. Instead of "master! master! we are perishing!" Hezekiah begins in worship. He declares God's omnipotence, God's promises, God's authority, God's sovereignty, and God's previous works. Hezekiah begins with the focus not upon himself, but rather upon God.
17Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.
Hezekiah, in moving on to petition, is not praying for his own rescue. He is not praying because he's afraid of his life, but he's praying that God would hear the words that mock Him. Presumably "hear" means "respond in judgment" or something of that sort. Hezekiah's first and foremost priority is God's glory in defending God's name.

Now, given, the disciples probably could not have seen this for themselves. It is hard to picture a situation where the disciples could have ask God to destroy the storm because it was mocking God or something like that, but we can certainly apply it to our own lives. Are there things in life that we hate? Are offended by? Are outraged by? Are these things we get worked up over because they're wrongs against us? Against people? Against nature? Or rather, shouldn't we get worked up because of our zeal of God's Name? Ultimately the wrong is not against us, it is not against people, it is not against nature, because all these things have no value in themselves. All these things have values that are conditional, they are conditional upon a God who gives them value. The wrongs are not first against me, people, nature, but are first against God.

Why don't we kill people? Because God created us in His Image and will demand a reckoning. (Genesis 9:5-6) Not because people are worth something on their own like the humanists claim.
18Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.
Hezekiah's petition continues, but notice how he interweaves his declaration of God's power and authority through it. Prayer isn't something distinct from worship! Our prayer ought to be bathed in worship (and similarly our worship should move us to prayer.) Once again, God is not a god like those mute idols of wood and stone, no, God is a living God who will not be destroyed, will not fall, will not be mocked without eternal consequences.
20So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD."
Once again: The prayer is not for Hezekiah's deliverance. No, the prayer is for God's glory. Deliver us so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.

How big is this prayer? Glorify Your name! Someone once asked during a sermon, "What if all your prayers were answered from the last week? How much would the Kingdom of God be extended?" Are we praying for "oh, I have a midterm and I'm not prepared, help me pass so I can stay in Stanford" (though I suppose we can argue that we can make that prayer that God would glorify His Name in our miraculous passing of an exam.) Or are we asking that God would break those that mock His name, that God would reveal His glory to the campus? That God would convert sinners, raise the dead, perform miracles? That God would use His people as a sword of truth, demolishing pretensions and arguments raised up against Him. Or are we content with what we have, praying the small prayers and thinking that somehow we are furthering God's kingdom in that?

Don't get me wrong. Small prayers are not bad. In fact, if God is sovereign and watching over everything, we should be praying for all things. What is bad is if all we have are small prayers, that we never take God's perspective on things. Yes, God delights in giving gifts for His children, but don't thing that this is all God does. Don't fall for the "God is here when you need Him" trap. God is watching every moment. Continue to seek His glory. Seek Him and Him alone first. Pray that God would break the proud and bring them to repentance. Pray that the lost would seek God, that the brokenhearted would be renewed.

I confess, I am not a model of this. I do not pray as I ought. I do not seek Him first always, but I have been continually convicted in the past weeks of how small our prayers are. How much of my prayer requests are constantly "Oh I'm thinking about my future..." and how little of it is "Jesus come! Let the earth know your name and declare your glory!"

But yet, in all of this we can remember the cross. We can remember that in the midst of our failures we can come before God boldly, not because of who we are or what we've done, but because of what Jesus has accomplished on that cross, tearing the curtain in two and granting us access through His own blood to the Lord God Almighty. We can make these petitions knowing that God, who is Lord over all, will accomplish all that is asked in His Name, for His glory's sake.

So how can we apply what Hezekiah did when trials come?

1) Lament and repent - We mourn first. We mourn because this suffering and storm comes because of sin, because of the sins of Adam, because of the sins of us. We rend our hearts and cover ourselves in sackcloth, turning from the ways of darkness into the glorious light.

2) We come in worship - God is God deserving of all worship. God is God Almighty, greater than any other, it is Him that upholds the world and it is Him that maintains it. No kingdom, no storm, no problem set, happens apart from His will.

3) We come for God - Closely tied in with the above. We're not praying for deliverance so that we are better, no we pray for God's glory. We're coming before His presence so that His name will be furthered, so that His kingdom will be strengthened.

4) We come in faith - God is our Father! We, as adopted children, now have God's promises on our side. He who did not spare His only Son, how will He not also with Him, give us all things? Now, this doesn't mean that whatever we ask for is granted to us, but it does mean that whatever happens we know it is ultimately for the best. Glory to God for He has planned all things for His name's sake!

Glory to the Lord in the highest.

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Friday, March 10, 2006 at 4:12 PM

Resolved

So apparently I never posted about Resolved!

That is a mistake I must remedey immediately.

What was Resolved you ask? Well, according to their website:

Last February, the Resolved Conference included people from 25 states and 4 countries. Through expository preaching and Christ-exalting worship, God awakened hearts to enjoy His glory.

On January 13, we invite you to join with us at RESOLVED 2006.

Sponsored by John MacArthur's church, Grace Community Church, they had Rick Holland, John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, and C.J. Mahaney, and guest Carolyn Mahaney speak 10 sessions. To put it simply, it was awesome, and here is why:

1) Sound Biblical preaching - Many of the texts were very familiar: The Narrow Gate, The Binding of Isaac, Ephesians 1, The Prodigal Son. Some were not: Psalm 93, Jesus' anointing at Bethany. All of them were approached in a manner where true biblical principles were drawn out of sound biblical interpretation. Verses were not taken out of context, passages, if referenced, were properly interpreted. Our application flowed directly from the text. The interpretations of the texts were not new and innovative. No, they were old and archaic, because they were interpretations that were faithful (as best as the preachers were able) to God's interpretation. When each sermon was over, there was a distinct sense that they could have said, "thus saith the Lord" and the congregation could respond "amen."

2) Reverance for the Word - Closely related to the above is the approach of reverance to the Word of God. Don't get me wrong, all the preachers were great people, laughing and joking, and it was so cool to see them act as... humans. But when the Word of God was opened all humor dropped away. Not because the text removed all the fun out of the atmosphere, but because God's Word was treated with a holy reverance. There was no casual joking around the Word of God. Instead, the laughter and the joking dissolved in the midst of passion, lamentation, joy, and grace. God's Word was being expounded, and it had a profound effect upon the entire group, both preacher and listener alike.

3) Refuting error and Christ-centered - Every message incorporated pointing out why the passage was so important, addressing the dangers of forgetting about it, what has been happening in the evangelical world today, and so on, at the same time each message demonstrated what a Biblical perspective and the issues are from the text. Finally, each message focused in upon Christ, the center of our worship and the center of Scripture. The cross was painted in every message, and it was shown how evident God's grace was, in all of Scripture: Old and New Testaments, Wisdom, Psalm, Historical Narrative, and so on.

4) A true revival-like atmosphere - I'm not talking about the emotion filled, slowly played songs with the lights dimmed on repeat, I'm talking about a room of thousands of people, eager to hear God's Word, eager to discuss what they have been convicted about, encouraged in, reminded of, a group of people that, when John MacArthur's hour long message on the Prodigal Son stopped, wondered why instead of turning for the exits. It reminded me of Nehemiah 8

Would God bring a day that we would all stand from early morning to midday to hear the Word of God!

5) Deepened relationships and encouraging talks- Through the 6 hour drive down to LA (one way), the nights and days spent together, the conversations over meals, the times spent walking around, sitting there and reading, playing cards, all in the midst of the biblical preaching, the hard questions, and the encouraging discussion, I was blessed to be able to strengthen and deepen relationships with people that I had known (some of them well I would say) and listening to them, hearing their burdens, sharing mine, hearing testimonies, and basically fellowshipping, living in devotion to the Apostles' teachings and the fellowships, to prayer and the breaking of bread. It was all in all an amazing experience. It was particularly sweet to hang out with Wesley, whom I got to know in Alaska, just to catch up and see how he has been and be encouraged and blessed by how God had grown him.

Would I go again next year? Absolutely. Am I planning on buying the DVDs and holding "watching a sermon from Resolved" parties? Yup. Did I feel God was glorified, Christ magnified, and Scripture pronounced? For sure.

So that was Resolved. It was convicting, encouraging, blessing, and Christ-centered.

Oh, and here's a picture of me captivated during a message. Near dead-center staring as if frozen. Yup, that's me.

Oh! And you should come next year. Whoever you are.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006 at 9:37 AM

Lord of rest

So have you noticed that I like to start sentences with "so"? I find that interesting. As someone who is taught never to do that, being unable to introduce a topic in a different manner is daunting to say the least.

But anyways...

So I had gotten a bit less sleep than usual two nights ago (Tuesday night), woke up early and managed to make it to my 9am class. That was near a miracle in itself. After class was over at 11, I decided to take a short nap because I had small group in the afternoon and if I stayed up I'd probably not be able to think straight at all.

I plopped down at around 11:15, set my alarm for 12:30 (planned to skip lunch) and fell promptly asleep. I woke up refreshed and energized, and then I thought "Oh no, I must have slept for like 3 hours and missed small group!" so I grabbed my phone (alarm) and looked at it.

It was 11:30.

I was like "whoa!" And then I was like "WHOA!" And then I promptly went back to sleep, overjoyed that I was already fairly rested and eager to get more. I woke up at 12:30 and basically... had a good day. It was supposed to be really stressful small group, writing an essay, finishing up a problem set, preparing for an exam... yadda yadda, but after that nap? It was good.

I thought that was simply awesome. Praise the Lord, our God of rest, not just the physical rest that we have on our Sabbath, but the unending rest that we now find in Christ, our Savior and redeemer.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you

**
sidenote- just stumbled upon those gem: Relax from the stresses of life

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006 at 3:29 PM

How's war been?

1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
2 Cor. 10:3-5
3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Ephesians 6:10-20
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Matthew 16:18-19
18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[c] in heaven."
Sometimes I wonder if it would be more appropriate to refer to our Christian "walk" as a "war." Not that this is a battle which we do not know the ending to, but to highlight that it is an active and agressive battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world.

Who will go?

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006 at 7:25 PM

Faith Alone

The thing that distinguishes biblical Christianity from all other religions in the world is the concept of faith alone.

The alone, which was as central to the Reformers' doctrine of sola fide as the faith aspect, refers to the fact that justification is through faith apart from works.

So far apart from works, that works presents no merit upon which we are justified (or seen righteous) by God.

To put it in a mathematical term, most religions present a picture of "Earn x% righterousness" and you will be saved (be it salvation, or a good resurrection, or your own planet). This x% ranges from epsilon>0 (take the first step) to 50% (positive karma) to 100% (perfection).

Now, in one sense, Christianity presents a requirement of 100%. Be perfect, as the Lord God is perfect. He who sins against one area of the law is guilty of the whole. And so on.

This picture of salvation should (and does!) lead us to despair, "Then who can be saved?!"

The answer is etched into our hearts as Jesus replies, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

We, who are guilty of the whole law, must confess that we're stuck at that 0%, we are unable to even take that first initial step. But the beauty of faith alone, is the fact that God has provided all 100% of that salvation through Jesus Christ, who lived that perfect life and purchased salvation for the elect. This includes the step from 0% to epsilon% and so on (through sanctification) up to 100% (at glorification).

God does not require (for us) that 100% because Christ has fulfilled it. And our sins, which were deserving of wrath, have been punished upon Christ as well.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006 at 4:07 PM

Lord's Day 4

Q. But doesn't God do us an injustice by requiring in the law what we are unable to do?
A. No. God created human beings with the ability to keep the law. They, however, tempted by the devil, in deliberate disobedience, robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.

Q. Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
A. Certainly not. God is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge God punishes them now and in eternity. God has declared: "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law." 2

Q. But isn't God merciful?
A. God is indeed merciful but also just. Divine justice demands that sin, committed against God's supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty eternal punishment of body and soul.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006 at 11:31 AM

Take, Kill, and Eat

Why is eating so different? What does it mean? Why was it an issue? What does it mean anyways? Do we eat pig simply because God changed His mind and now we're able to?

Of course not, the dietary food had an explicit reason, in fact one that is still binding upon us today.

The scene is the early church. Here, God decides to reveal what the prophets had fortold long ago. The good news. Salvatioin has come to the Gentiles. Meet Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile. He has a vision from God and is told that God has heard his prayers. Send people to go meet Peter. Acts 10:1-8

The second main character is Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, a God-fearing, law-keeping Jew. He has a trance and sees the heavens opened and God tells him to kill and eat. Peter, protesting, states that it would be eating something common and unclean. And God says "What God has made clean, do not call common." Acts 10:9-16

The greatest player here is God. Do you see God's sovereign plan here? He has planned this. He places Peter, in the city with Cornelius, and starts the ball rolling with visions and dreams and commands. People are moving, God is working, and He is revealing His plan for the ages.

And then the men sent by Cornelius come and find Peter. God commands Peter "Go with them without heisitation," and Peter obeys. Upon meeting Cornelius, God starts to grant Peter understanding. He states, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me." Acts 10:17-29

Cornelius explains his vision and command from God, and Peter presents the Gospel. He tells of the ressurected Christ, and the Holy Spirit comes to the Gentiles. They are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Acts 10:30-48

So how does this passage answer our question? What happened here that was so significant?

First off, realize that the subject matter of eating clean and unclean foods was of great importance to the Jews. It was what God had ordained to set them apart from the Gentiles. In Leviticus 11, God lays down the laws about clean and unclean animals, and then gives us the reason in verse 44-45
For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
These laws were God's way of setting off the Israelites as His chosen people. They were to be clean and set apart (Consecrated) through this mechanism. What happens in the NT? Christ, upon His death, died and abolished the dividing wall of hostility and brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.

God was talking about killing and eating animals, but Peter makes the connection with being clean and associating with Gentiles. The light of understanding is starting to shine through for Peter. Previously he would not have associated with Cornelius, because he was a Gentile, and therefore unclean and common. But Paul knows that the food represented something deeper, his identity as a member of God's people, but now God was abolishing that on the outside. No longer was the people of God to be distinguished by what they ate. Now that salvation had come to the Gentiles as well, that line was now blurred.

Yet, the OT Law is still very relevant. God's commands for us to be consecrated because He is Holy is still applicable, simply applied differently. Now, as Christians, we were to be seperate from the world in other actions. We were to come out from among them, not sharing fellowship with darkness. We were to eat and drink to the glory of God, something that no non-Christian can do.

So next time you sit down for a meal and say grace, don't just thank God for providing the food that nourishes our body, but thank God for providing His Son that rescues our soul. It is through that death that we are even able to enjoy this food, it is through His abolishment of the dividing wall that we are made clean, it is through Him, and Him alone that we may be saved.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Thursday, March 02, 2006 at 3:26 PM

"Greater sin"?

John 19:11
Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin."
Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death...
For a long time I had always wondered what it meant that some sins were "greater" or "lesser" than another. I thought, "If the wages of every single sin is eternal damnation (James 2:10), then why would some be greater or less than others?"

Then in a car ride on the way up to (or from) Resolved, a friend mentioned that it was just because some sins will have a greater immediate impact upon our relationship with those around us, like if you betray a friend, you're going to feel some of the effects of that sin in this life, but if you think prideful thoughts, it might not have an exterior impact upon your relationships with others.

I think that makes sense.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006 at 3:52 PM

Reading Deeply

Posts of the week.

Jim Martin posts on the dangerous work of playing it safe. Be bold! Speak up about what you truly believe. To heisitate when souls are at stake is beyond dangerous.

Together for the Gospel reminds us of how our work should be viewed in a long term perspective.

Team Pyro encourages us to encourage our pastors! (via C. Spurgeon)

Douglas Wilson has two excellent posts, one on the importance of remembering Christ in the midst of success, and another on "how are Arminians saved?"

Doxoblogy shares the guiding principal behind Calvinism.

Cerulean Sanctum points out the dangers of perfectionism in our Christian walk.

James White's daughter shares what exactly is wrong with Brokeback Mountain. A high school junior. Praise God for people like this.

Theocentric522 shares with us why Church history and a knowledge of heresies is so very important.

In the comments section of one of my previous posts, two people had (are having?) an excellent discussion. I find it fruitful and encouraging. Check it out.

Nathan White tells us why Calvinists have such a poor reputation.

Haven't had much time for free reading lately, but if you're interested you can check out Vincent Cheung's latest commentary on John 3: Born Again.

Oh, and Triablogue has a new facelift. Check it out. (Like they needed more readers =p)

For a blog to check out, head over and visit Aspiring Girl, she's cool.

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