Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 at 10:30 AM

Daily Dereliction

When the Church loses the Word of God it loses the very means by which God does his work. In its absence, therefore, a script is being written, however unwittingly, for the Church's undoing, not in one cataclysmic moment, but in a slow, inexorable slide made up of piece by tiny piece of daily dereliction. - David Wells Above all Earthly Pow'rs p. 9

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007 at 10:13 AM

The task at hand

"What will prove to be even more momentous in the evangelical world than its engagement with the other religions...will be whether it is able to distinguish what it has to offer from the emergence of these forms of spirituality. Therapeutic spiritualities which are non-religious begin to look quite like evangelical spirituality which is therapeutic and non-doctrinal."

- David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow'rs p. 5

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Monday, September 24, 2007 at 11:42 PM

Living in the world

A friend had a question on if a Christian should take a job that may involve (upon occasion) working for someone that is explicitly opposed to the Christian worldview. (like promoting Wicca)

My attempt at a response -

Paul writes that it is pragmatically impossible to withdraw from all immoral people,for that would mean we would have to leave the world. (1 Cor. 5:9-13) It may not be exactly similar in a workplace, though I think the parallels are clear. If we were to not work for or not be involved with anything that might tangentially be related to something opposed to God, I think it might be difficult to find work.

Can we work for google that accepts money from ungodly websites for advertising? Can we work for ATT knowing that their phone lines allow ungodly businesses to be run?

And that's just those things that seem to be explicitly against God, what about all those closet atheists? That look good on the outside but their hearts are set against God? Even their deeds that the rest of the world considers good are mere idols. Can we work for a philanthropist who believes humanity is the peak of all things and thus really wants to help humans out through money, just so they can achieve their potential?

Pragmatically speaking, it seems like taking a position that would disallow working for a company that may be involved in ungodly activity is impossible. I'm not sure this would make it a sin to withdraw (though one can make the case that it is possible, though difficult, to completely withdraw, a la, the prophets of old and John the Baptist)

But is there a positive example of a man who worked for an organization that actually perpetrated evil? I think there are a few. I'll mention one that I think is clearest.

Daniel and his friends in working for Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel in particular was a right hand man, and this was a king that had captured Israel, enslaved a number of them, and taken stuff from the temple. Coupled with that, we find that the kingdom is described as a great kingdom, one that would rule over other nations (the vision of the statue). One cannot think that this was a very benign rule judging by the possession of magicians as well as their treatment of the Israelites in the beginning.

Yet in the midst of this, Daniel worked faithfully, as for the Lord in the position he was in. It seemed that once he had his first vision, he could have been released, but he accepted the various promotions that the king gave him and the Lord blessed him in his ministry.

Finally, to answer one question that arose in my head as I was thinking through this - What sort of mentality ought we to have if we find ourselves in such a position, where our work does benefit (directly or indirectly) those opposed to God?

I think there are two concepts that come into play.

1) The bible does encourage slaves to be faithful to their masters, without qualifications. It even says to serve them doubly hard if they are believers! (1 Timothy 6:1-2). This is done that they may adorn the doctrine of God (Titus 2:10). Though we are not strict slaves, I think the command to serve those who are above us is the same (we're after all, under contract). Thus I think if we find ourselves in such a position, we be faithful to our employers and do the work they give us in faith (aka, provided it's not sin).

2) Related, I think we can see it as loving our enemies. They don't deserve the work you do to benefit their business, especially since their business is opposed to the glory of God, but your love for them can be a means of 1) converting them, or 2) pouring burning coals. Either way, God wins.

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Monday, September 17, 2007 at 10:32 AM

Zechariah rocks

I've done quite a number of posts on how cool the OT is, but here's another. I was reading Zechariah today and noticed a few passages that really caused me to stop and think.

Zechariah 3
3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan [1] standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand [2] plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.
Isn't this so cool? We see Satan standing at the right hand of Joshua the high priest (not the successor of Moses, but another one), accusing Joshua. And he's standing there clothed with filthy garments. But God declares that Joshua is like a brand plucked from the fire. Rescued from certain destruction.

Remove the filthy garments and clothe with pure vestments! Iniquities taken away and replaced with righteousness (of Christ)! How cool is that?

And here's another, Zechariah 12 -
6 “On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves. And they shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.

Does anyone else see the clear parallel between this and the covenant with Abraham, where God has a smoking pot and a flaming torch pass between the pieces of the animals that Abraham cut up?
Genesis 15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give [3] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
Makes me wonder if there is additional imagery to the Genesis 15 passage.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007 at 12:39 PM

Contra-conditional Love

Pastor Eugene made an excellent point today. God's love for us is not "unconditional," it's "contra-conditional."

He doesn't love us as we are, but He loves us in spite of who we are.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 11:17 PM

God gave the growth

I had the pleasure this past week to start listening to some of Douglas Wilson's sermons on biblical courtship. I think he's right, but that's beside the point of this post.

As I was listening to his sermons, I was incredibly surprised at his preaching style. He stumbled over his words, he stuttered at times, one time he even lost his place. For some reason, after reading his blog and his books I always thought he was polished and well reasoned and a powerful preacher, akin to John Piper or John MacArthur.

But no, he was just some ordinary sounding guy expositing Scripture, giving the plain meaning and simple applications. And it was good, solid, biblical preaching. And then I was like, whoa, what a testimony toward the glory of God. Here was a guy who doesn't sound stupendous, probably wasn't a great presence in person, but who God had clearly blessed with a wisdom and insight, who God had blessed by multiplying his ministry through the preaching of the Word.

May the Lord grant us simple and faithful Bible preachers who just preach the Word and trust the Lord!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 12:12 AM

Book Review: Battling Unbelief

John Piper wrote Future Grace a number of years ago in an attempt to clarify how we fight for salvation in our faith.

Just this past year, he collected the application chapters and reworked some of it and put together Battling Unbelief. This is a short book which goes after many of the major sins that plague sinners (of which I am quite a member). Anxiety, Pride, Misplaced Shame, Impatience, Covetousness, Bitterness, Despondency, and Lust make up the major targets that Piper pursues in his encouragement for us to fight for faith.

There was a great deal that I appreciated out of this book. I nearly covered it in notes because I wanted to understand what he was saying better and more clearly. Piper makes clear that no one sins out of duty, but we sin out of a misplaced belief that sin will make us happier in some way, thus, going back to the whole Christian Hedonism, he points out that the solution is to find our joy in God. What an excellent reminder.

Another excellent point that he makes throughout the book is that we don't just have "faith," and that's it, but we actually have faith in something. Over and over, Piper brings up the promises of God and the Word of God as the proper direction that our faith looks to. A great reminder that it isn't sufficient just to "believe," but we believe something, that God is a good God, that He provides, that He is our rest, that He is our provider, that He is our ultimate joy. We don't just have faith in Christ, but we have faith in what Christ is. I loved that and it was quite encouraging to read.

Those major points said, there were a couple flaws that I simply could not get over. Over and over Piper emphasizes that we must have faith in "future grace." I must say I'm just not convinced. It seems to be a distinction (future vs. past) that is unnecessary and confusing. I think if you deleted all references to "future grace" and replaced it with a phrase which Scripture actually uses, the book would be far better. Maybe "the promises of God"? It seems that Piper himself, in a commendable effort to remain biblical, actually puts forth encouragements to battle sin through faith in "past grace" making for excellent chapters but undermining his major contention.

Of chief example in this is his answer to the question "how do we forgive a brother who has wronged us?" He brings up a not quite so convincing reason about how Jesus died for their sins against us and finally, it seems with a resigned sigh, he remarks that in reality we must forgive others because we ourselves have been forgiven. Well, duh right? But it takes him most of that section to get that far, while it seems like he putzes around a little too much when it seemed that that answer (forgive as we have been forgiven) was so clear and emphasized so much in Scripture.

Another area where I was just flat out confused was his terminology. Not only the "future grace," part but this one phrase that he repeated over and over again. Piper writes that "the heart of biblical faith in Jesus is coming to him for the satisfaction of all that God is for us in him." To which I respond, "what? huh?" I know Piper is a precise guy. I know he writes things for a reason. But what does this mean?

Finally, and this is really a flaw not in John Piper, but rather in the sinful human beings trying to categorize and battle sin one at a time. One of my pastors remarked that the book of Proverbs seems so random because life is so random. One moment we deal with lost, anxiety, pain, another moment we deal with greed and pride. Thus, though this book does an admirable job of listing off steps that we can take to battle sins, some of the examples seem rather stretched and forced into those categories, though the chapters itself were quite good. Unfortunately, we are far too stupid to be able to understand our own sin quite so easily, but I'm sure as I grow more and more I'll do better at this.

All in all, this was a good and very useful book, though I must say the flaws, though probably not major, are enough to make me wish I had a different book that made similar points. Piper has a way with words that I have not managed to find quite anywhere else.

Buy a copy if you're interested, though I think Future Grace (the bigger version) may be a better bet if you'd get as confused as I did with some things.

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Friday, September 07, 2007 at 12:32 PM

Sovereign Mercy Logo

The past week me and a friend embarked upon a quest. We would search high and low, questioning everything, discovering nothing, finding little but having much. We needed a logo for a church we attended.

After much discussion, we came up with a logo, along with a line below it. It is embedded on the business card we created for our beloved pastor. Check it out.

What does it mean?

The overall character is Chinese for King, Lord, or Sovereign.

Why?

1. The name of our church is Sovereign Mercy Church, and we believe that the Gospel of Christ is revealed and received not by the free will of man but by the sovereign act of God, so that no one may boast. God is our sovereign, ordaining and effecting all things that come to pass.

2. Christ is the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ Jesus is Lord. We look forward to the day when the will of God will be done on earth, just as in heaven.

3. All who confess that Christ is Lord will be saved. We are Evangelicals, proclaimers of the Good News, that Christ is King and all who follow Him will be saved. We long to be a fulfillment of Isaiah 52:7, proclaiming to Zion with beautiful feet, "your God reigns!"

Our logo is composed of 3 parts, nicely fitting in with the name of our church.

1. Sovereign - The top bar represents God standing and ruling from on high.

2. Mercy - The connecting piece is the cross, the representative of what Christ has done on our behalf, bearing the cross that he might bring us to God. This is mercy, bringing Heaven down to earth.

3. Church - We are here on earth, the church, and we are bridged to God only by the grace of God through the mercy of Christ.

Below the logo is the line, in red, "follow me."

This is a quotation of Jesus Christ, whose words are recorded in Mark 1:17 and Matthew 4:19 addressing his first disciples.

1. Not just an invitation, but a command - This is a call of Christ to follow Him. To walk in His ways and obey His commands. It is a call to discipleship, with all its costs.

2. A lifelong journey - Following Christ is not just a decision, but a life. We abhor the idea that one can be a carnal Christian, professing Christ but not living it. We recognize that the inward transformation of God's sovereign mercy on our hearts will have an outward effect in our love for God and our neighbors.

3. A sovereign act - In God's sovereign mercy, Peter and Andrew could no more deny Christ's command than Lazarus could disobey Christ's call to come out. Once again, we are pointed back to the name of our church, Sovereign Mercy.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007 at 9:09 AM

Interpreting prophecy

Something I'm sure everyone else noticed long ago, but I just did when I was reading the introduction to Isaiah.

I realized that the books of prophecy (or at least most of them) weren't really letters to the general church, dealing with one specific time and problem, but actually a recording of various occurrences and visions that happened during someone's ministry.

Looking back at this, it makes a lot of sense. Like the book of Daniel isn't like the book of Galatians. It's a recording of history. We follow Daniel and his 3 friends as they are captured, proven faithful, proven faithful again, and then we see Daniel receive very specific prophecies at various times. In Galatians we hear Paul writing one letter to deal with a very specific problem, and even though there is history, it's history meant to establish a point in Paul's epistle.

Similarly, Isaiah is composed of many different segments, each one dealing with a different situation at a different time. And that's really cool. But it's also really annoying, because it's incredibly hard to figure out what really prompted each segment, and how the segments should be divided. *cracks open a commentary*

Oh, and how did the introduction to Isaiah tip me off?
1:1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
I was reading this and I noticed that Isaiah states that it's the vision he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. But it also states that it was in the dates of all these kings of Judah. For some reason I had always just assumed that these were simultaneous kings. (which could plausibly be true, given that there was two nations at the same time and sometimes fighting within the kingdom) But when I realized that these were all kings of Judah, the light bulb clicked and I understood.

Hooray for the Holy Spirit, which opens eyes and gives light!

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