Sunday, April 30, 2006

pope fiction

From ...

Pope Fiction (Scene From)


An old gas guzzling, dirty, white 1974 Chevy Nova barrels down a stretch of road in Italy. In the front seat are two men -- one white, one black -- both wearing cheap black suits with thin black ties. Their names are Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield.

Having just left a life of crime, Vincent and Jules are looking for redemption, so they're "shopping around" for the right religion. This week they're examining Catholicism, and are en route to Vatican City. [continue]

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

brokeback to the future

Brokeback Mountain caused quite a buzz in the Christian blogshere - I wonder what the release of Brokeback to the Future will do?

the pope pod

Apparently the Pope is now using an iPod. But I'm suspicious, this guy reminded me of MC Hammer.


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does god repent?

James Spurgeon does an excellent job of handling an apparent contradiction in Scripture regarding the topic of God repenting. Based on Ex 32.7-14, can we really say that God changes His mind? Read here for more.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

apologetics on the other side

In The Church on the Other Side, Brian McLaren argues that much of what passes for apologetics today is ineffectual. Here are his supporting points:

Circular Reasoning – McLaren reasons that the argument to defend the Bible by saying, “the Bible says” just doesn’t work. I agree yet I want to be careful not to jettison the Bible. Without it we will be caught up by false doctrines and teaching that follow the imaginations of evil men. We must also be careful (as Randy B. has warned) not to find Scriptures that fit our stories.

So what are we to do? We are to show up in the lives of others with power and we are to explain this amazing power with stories. The stories we tell, may be direct from Scripture, they may be our life stories, or they may be parables. In all cases we need to not teach more than the Bible teaches and ultimately, point to God and His Word.

Defensiveness – the issue here is that our apologetics are defensive. And worse, too often the only visible use of apologetic is to argue theological details with other believers. We need to get out of our buildings and into the streets with a cause for people to come to Christ.

Combativeness – this flows from the above. We see people as enemies rather than students, clients, or patients. So in addition to sitting back and being on the defensive, we react as if attacked (although there are times that we are attacked). Our objective toward the opponent is to either beat them into submission or increase the space between us. If we saw them as a partner rather than an opponent, then we would more likely come along side of them and help them in their journey.

Worldliness – I like this one. In this age we tend to handle the Bible as a textbook or some sort of encyclopedia. While it is certainly worthy of dissection and study that fills a lifetime, we often forget its nature. It is letters and stories and poems and … much of it is to be read as a whole rather than the verse by verse analysis we make of it. I think we underestimate its power when we relegate it to textbook status.

Distraction – McLaren states that, “apologetics got distracted from hunting tigers to chasing field mice.” As we work through the truth of God’s Word, we must remember to always keep our compass toward Christ. In Becoming a Contagious Christian, we are reminded to watch out for smoke screens. That is, we are to be prepared to answer real life questions but to ensure we always ultimately come back to the purpose of our conversation. It is too easy to get caught in argument for argument’s sake.

Dishonesty – do not exaggerate the claims. I agree that we should not exaggerate the claims but if we stick with what Jesus said, I don’t see that as a risk.

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more kermit

You know, I am still laughing at that Kermit picture. The doctor's line should be the opening line to any course on the doctrine of election:

"Have a seat. What I'm about to tell you might come as big shock."

It's the old, "on one side of the door is written, 'whosoever will' and on the other side, 'chosen from the foundations of the world'."

Why is it that the guy on the second side pointing out that particular sign takes such a beating?

get your community's attention

In the article, How to Get Your Community's Attention, Rick Warren writes;
It didn’t used to be this hard. In the earlier part of last century, this wasn’t as much of a problem for churches. The church was usually the biggest building in town, the pastor was often the most educated and prominent person in town, and the church program was the social calendar of the community. You automatically had everyone’s attention.
I agree. Times have changed and the method for presenting the Gospel has changed. BUT - there's more to this. The method has changed from that which was employed by those described above. For me, the above was not right for that time either. The change, then and now, is to present the power of the Gospel as Christ and the Apostles did. Not based on earthly credentials but based on heavenly power.

The Kingdom of God is the power to change lives. It is only in this that the message can be seen and heard.

Warren continues;
Written into the bylaws of Saddleback Church is this sentence: "This church exists to benefit the residents of the Saddleback Valley by providing for their spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, and social needs.” Our objective is to minister to the total person. We do not limit our ministry to so-called “spiritual” needs only. People cannot be compartmentalized. Their needs spill over onto each other. And we believe God cares about every part of a person’s life.
Again I say an "Amen" and a "But". The above is absolutely right if it results in a power Gospel and not a social gospel - start meeting the needs of people and they will want to know the source of that healing. If it is from human "goodness", then we can give them nothing. If it is from God above, we can point them to the Giver of Life.
People are ... looking for freedom from fear, guilt, worry, resentment, discouragement, and loneliness. … If your church is meeting these kinds of needs, you won’t have to worry about pressuring people to attend.
When the Kingdom of God is at work people will show up. Ultimately it will be to join or to persecute - but they will show up.

Monday, April 24, 2006


At first I thought, "hmmm, aside from some of the uglier stereotypes, that looks pretty accurate." At least an accurate reflection of how I think the average American sees the world. I was tempted not to post this due to some of the cruder stereotypes but then I saw some things in here that explain some other things going on in the world and thought it would be worth it.

Note the spelling of "civilisation" - it's wrong. So clearly this is a non-American trying to stir up trouble. It's people like this that make it tough for us all to get along.

Then note that there is no Middle East. I think this part is a true reflection of the typical American worldview (at least prior to 9/11) and that view fuels the reasons why we have failed policies there (wherever "there" is).

Do you see anything else in this that I am missing?

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bad news for kermit

And I thought I was having a tough time...

Oh - I guess I should explain I found this in some "ice breakers" for teaching on the Doctrine of Election.

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A. writes in Four Short Thoughts;
Solitude: If solitude means only to be alone, then it is of only a little use to us. To be of great use to us, solitude must mean to be alone with God. For many of us, this being alone, either with ourselves or with God, may not come naturally, it must be learned. Learning how to be alone with oneself may be difficult, but learning how to be alone with God...this may be the process of a lifetime. And I have to believe that it is worth every effort made.
And then expands on that in A Thought From Solitude...

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more predestined than you might like

In the course of leading us through an excellent study on 2 Pet 3, Sergey reminded us at small group last night about a text that is often partially quoted but rarely completed, Pr 16.4, The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

The following is mostly excerpted from RC Sproul's Essential Truths of the Christian Faith.

The Reformed view holds that, left to himself, no fallen person would ever choose God. Fallen people still have a will and are able to choose what they desire. But the problem is that we have no desire for God and will not choose Christ unless first regenerated. Faith is a gift that comes out of rebirth. Only those who are elect will ever respond to the gospel in faith.

The elect choose Christ, but only because they were first chosen by God. As in the case of Jacob and Esau, the elect are chosen solely on the basis of the sovereign good pleasure of God and not on the basis of anything they have done or will do (Ro 9.10-12, 16). This leaves us with the frustrating point of predestination, i.e., God does not choose or elect to save everybody. He reserves the right to have mercy upon whom He will have mercy. Some of fallen humanity receive the grace and mercy of election. The rest God passes over, leaving them in their sin. The nonelect receive justice. The elect receive mercy. No one receives injustice. God is not obligated to be merciful to any or to all alike. It is His decision how merciful He chooses to be. Yet He is never guilty of being unrighteous toward anyone (Ro 9:14-15).

God declared that He loved Jacob but hated Esau. Predestination is double. The only way to avoid the doctrine of double predestination is to either affirm that God predestinates everybody to election or that He predestinates no one to either election or reprobation. Since the Bible clearly teaches predestination to election and denies universal salvation, we must conclude that predestination is double. It includes both election and reprobation. Double predestination is unavoidable if we take Scripture seriously. What is crucial, however, is how double predestination is understood.

Some have viewed double predestination as a matter of equal causation, where God is equally responsible for causing the reprobate not to believe as He is for causing the elect to believe. This is called a positive-positive view of predestination.

The positive-positive view of predestination teaches that God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to work grace in their hearts and bring them to faith. Likewise, in the case of the reprobates, He works evil in the hearts of the reprobate and actively prevents them from coming to faith. This view has often been called “hyper-Calvinism” because it goes beyond the view of Calvin, Luther, and the other Reformers.

The Reformed view of double predestination follows a positive-negative schema. In the case of the elect, God intervenes to positively and actively work grace in their souls and bring them to saving faith. He unilaterally regenerates the elect and insures their salvation. In the case of the reprobate He does not work evil in them or prevent them from coming to faith. Rather, He passes over them, leaving them to their own sinful devices. In this view there is no symmetry of divine action. God’s activity is asymmetrical between the elect and the reprobate. There is, however, a kind of equal ultimacy. The reprobate, who are passed over by God, are ultimately doomed, and their damnation is as certain and sure as the ultimate salvation of the elect.

The problem is linked to biblical statements such as those regarding God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. That the Bible says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart is beyond dispute. The question remains, how did God harden Pharaoh? Luther argued for a passive rather than an active hardening. That is, God did not create fresh evil in Pharaoh’s heart. There was already enough evil present in Pharaoh’s heart to incline him to resist the will of God at every turn. All God ever has to do to harden anybody is to remove His restraining grace from them and give them over to their own evil impulses. This is precisely what God does to the damned in hell. He abandons them to their own wickedness.

In what sense did God “hate” Esau? Two different explanations are offered to solve this problem. The first explains it by defining hate not as a negative passion directed toward Esau but as simply the absence of redemptive love. That God “loved” Jacob simply means that He made Jacob the recipient of His unmerited grace. He gave Jacob a benefit that Jacob did not deserve. Esau did not receive the same benefit and in that sense was hated by God.

The first explanation sounds a bit like special pleading to get God off the hook for hating somebody. The second explanation gives more strength to the word hate. It says simply that God did in fact hate Esau. Esau was odious in the sight of God. There was nothing in Esau for God to love. Esau was a vessel fit for destruction and altogether worthy of God’s wrath and holy hatred.

You can decide which explanation you prefer but in the end, God is Sovereign - He has made everything for its purpose even the wicked. But thank God that for us, He is patient and does not want any to perish. Let us move to repentance and live lives worthy of His call, i.e, making our salvation sure (2 Pe 3.8-9, Phil 3.12, 2 Pe 1.10).

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

antique shopping

Big day today - Barb and I went antique shopping near Kaiserslautern (Euro Antiques, Ramstein Antik-Centre, Luc's Antiques, and Freddy's Antiques) . We had a great time, saw some cool stuff, and managed not to spend anything ... well almost, we got a small amount of Polish pottery (collecting that stuff is like a cult for the American women here).

I needed the time with her. She brings refreshing into my life. I have been feeling very frustrated lately. If you read this blog, you know we are preparing to move to the US at the end of June. Last week we went to the US for some house hunting. It was successful in terms of finding a house but I am tired both physically and emotionally from the trip. We looked 30+ houses, tons of furniture, cars, etc.. It was just a bit overwhelming to make a large purchase decision like that compounded by the time zone effect on our sleep.

Anyway, the house is great but of course it is at the upper end of our price range. I got back this past week to find that the interest rates had gone up. Then yesterday our landlord went through our current place and is claiming a large amount of damages. Some were caused by us and I was prepared for that but most were pre-existing or a result of poor quality materials/workmanship in the building leading to early failure. So there's that to deal with...

I also had a work surprise this week. One of the guys working for me is going out of work effective immediately for an indefinite period of time so I have to come up with a plan to cover his work (high travel type of work).

On top of all of this, I have to support some items at church that frankly my heart just isn't behind. I suppose they are right to do but I would have pursued a different path if I was staying here longer. Now the effort is one that I'm not really aligned to and because of the above, I simply do not have the time for.

I feel I need some cheese to go with all of this whining. So where is this going, ah yes, it was really good to have some time with my best friend today. She is special and can make me smile in any circumstance. I am blessed to have such a wonderful life partner.

So now I am off to thank God for her. I also need to read 2 Peter. My friend Sergei will be leading our small group Bible study tomorrow and he has high standards when discussing the Bible. I love him for that.

It's the last one for Julie and him before they move to Pennsylvania. We will miss them greatly. Fine ... now I'm getting sad again ... I better go read and pray.

another canadian blog

My friend Shannon now has her own blog. I like her so I'm sure I will like her blog. Pay her a visit and make a comment.

Now I just have to get my dad and Wince's dad to make a blog. My dad because he is an email forwarding junkie - one of those guys that likes to email everything that he finds interesting on the internet (those of you that know someone like this understands what I'm talking about) and Wince's dad because he is one of those guys trolling the blogs of others and commenting like a mad man - as opposed to just blogging like a mad man.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

rapture index

This is too good. If Randy B. ever gets his own blog, I'm sure he will want to reference this regularly.

The Rapture Index has dropped by one point today to 155. While oil supply/price is up, volcano and drought activity are both down a point. But for you pre-tribbers, a 155 index is still well above the required 145 for a "fasten your seat belts" rating. Get ready folks!

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randy b blog

At risk of providing extra-biblical revelation, Randy B. - GET YOUR OWN BLOG.

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witnessing to the world

Hemant, the eBay atheist, writes why he is addicted to Christian media. The summary:
Christianity works best for non-believers when we hear stories that sound like something we would see or do. Joel [Olsteen] tells me to not be dishonest by telling a story from his college days (Hey, I went to college, too!) and then supports his message with a story from the Bible. Dobson tells me I shouldn’t be dishonest because Proverbs 6:16-19 says so (as he does in the April issue of Charisma). Period. Who would I be more inclined to listen to?
Punkt! We should ever compromise the integrity and truth of the God's Word. We should not apologize for speaking of it nor shy away from it. Yet we best communicate via stories - Jesus did. Truth should be woven into the fabric of our communication and we should always be pointing toward Christ. Compassion should mark our lives and yet we should stand out as different and as one upholding a new covenant standard. Storytelling in this manner and purpose is powerful.

Hemant's summary continues:
On a similar note, the conference advertising and the Christian TV shows show people who seem so contrived and *not* like the people I’d see on a regular basis (Can anyone else imagine Benny Hinn or Jan Crouch at your workplace?)… It’s a different world. And if you want me to join you, you have to appeal to me. That’s not even close to happening.
Reinforcing that we do not need to be different just for the sake of being different but that the difference should be "Christ and Christ alone". I'm sure the Hinn/Crouch approach works for some. I personally have trouble getting over the style differences. But if that's who they genuinely are, then God bless them - so long as they stay true to God's leading in their lives.

Being an ambassador for Christ should on one hand change every aspect of our being yet on the other hand, I am still who I am - perfectly designed for the purpose, place, and time that God has placed me. I desire to be all things to all men but only as God leads. I want to do all this for the sake of the Gospel.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became mas one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but nunder the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Co 9.19-23 ESV)
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Monday, April 17, 2006

centered sets

I referenced the centered set in the previous post so I thought that should come with some explanation. And as always, if someone else has already said it better, I feel no need to rewrite it. This is from Bill Jackson's The Quest for the Radical Middle:
1. Fuzzy sets describe groups that have no organizational center. A group of little league parents might perceive themselves as a group in that they have a common interest, but no core values define their existence.

2. Centered sets describe groups that have joined together a common center articulated by core values. People in a centered set want to go the same place and generally agree on how they will get there and who will lead them. There is a lot of latitude for collegial disagreement on non-core issues and flexibility in forms.

3. Bounded sets describe groups that not only have banded together around a common center, but that have also clearly defined rules about beliefs and practices. The number of people who can get in the group becomes narrower because the parameters are more defined.

John (Wimber) explained that from the beginning he intended that the Vineyard be a centered set of like-minded churches... John also taught that historically groups couldn't remain in centered sets forever because the rules that determine the insiders and outsiders will eventually have to be defined. His desire, however, was to keep the Vineyard a centered set movement for as long as he could.

In order to evaluate trends and views emerging in the movement, (Wimber) generally chose to let them alone until they could be studied biblically and examined for long-term fruit. In describing this philosophy he used the analogy of growing a bush. It is a temptation to trim a bush back too soon before a gardener knows what he has. This means letting the thing go for awhile, thus having to endure a period when the bush looks messy and untrimmed. Then, when the course the branches are taking is clear, that which is unwanted is trimmed back. This allows for more growth in the rest of the plant.
In Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues, Paul Hiebert contrasts bounded sets with sharp boundaries to centered sets that have boundaries but the emphasis is placed on that which centers the set rather than the boundaries around it.

Characteristics of bounded sets are:
  1. The category is created by listing the essential characteristics an object must have in itself to belong to the set.
  2. The category is defined by a clear boundary...The central question, therefore, is whether an object is inside or outside the category.
  3. Objects within a bounded set are uniform in their essential characteristics - they constitute a homogeneous group.
  4. Bounded sets are essentially static sets.Bounded sets, as we use them in the West, are ontological sets. They have to do with the ultimate, changeless structure of reality, which is defined in terms of unchanging, universal, abstract categories.
  5. Emphasis is placed on determining who's in and who's out of the clearly bounded set. In contrast to bounded sets, centered sets are a groupings of things "on the basis of how they relate to other things, not what they are in and of themselves".
Characteristics of centered sets are:
  1. A centered set is created by defining a center or reference point and the relationship to that center.
  2. Centered sets do not have sharp boundaries that separate the set from those outside it. The boundary emerges automatically by the relationship of the object to the center.
  3. The variables of centered sets are membership and distance from the center.
  4. Things headed away from the center can shift and turn toward or away from the center.

trading up history

In The Church on the Other Side, Brian McLaren argues that we will be "trading up history".
We will trade in our private histories for one grand, shared history.
I don't think I agree. Or more precisely, that may or may not come true but I do not agree that it is a good thing. I believe McLaren is saying that it is good.

Christians should be story tellers. Each believer should be able to tell His story, ones own story, and our story. Each of these would be long or short depending on the context of the conversation. The longer version of His story would include the Church. The "our story" would be the story of a specific community of believers.

McLaren properly sees the strengths and weaknesses of the myriad of denominations and groups and is suggesting that we should focus on the larger narrative and celebrate the richness of the whole. I agree but I would tell about that in His story. I would not jettison the benefit of the local community's story. It seems that we are sharing these stories to draw someone into the Kingdom. If they are already "in", then we are telling the stories to move them closer to the center of a given community. Since I am coming from a centered set perspective, I do not intend that to mean at the exclusion of others. I simply mean that to better see the future, it is helpful to understand the past. I believe that having vision for the future will increase ownership and involvement. I do not think this will work well if the vision is too nebulous, i.e., the larger Church rather than the local community.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

rapture letter

I'll just let this one speak for itself ... for all you eschatology nuts, this should provide a lot of fun ...

Rapture Letters

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every decision is his

If you are still confused ... Proverbs 16.33
  • The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord - English Standard Version
  • The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD - New International Version
  • تُلْقَى الْقُرْعَةُ فِي الْحِضْنِ، وَلَكِنَّ الْقَرَارَ مَرْهُونٌ كُلُّهُ لأَمْرِ الرَّبّ - Arabic Life Application Bible
  • Жребието се хвърля в скута, Но решението чрез него е от Господа - Bulgarian Bible
  • Moun tire kat pou yo konnen sa pou yo fè. Men, desizyon an se nan men Bondye li ye - Haitian Creole Version
  • I Brystfolden rystes Loddet, det falder, som HERREN vil - Dette er Biblen pÃ¥ dansk
  • Im Gewandbausch schüttelt man das Los, aber all seine Entscheidung kommt vom HERRN - Elberfelder
  • Make your motions and cast your votes, but GOD has the final say - The Message
  • The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly of the Lord [even the events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him] - Amplified Bible
  • The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD - King James Version (the one used by Jesus)
  • The lot is cast into the lap; But the whole disposing thereof is of Jehovah - American Standard Version
  • La suerte se echa en el regazo; Mas de Jehová es la decisión de ella - Reina-Valera 1960
  • On jette le sort dans le pan de la robe, Mais toute décision vient de l'Éternel - Louis Segond
  • בַּ֭חֵיק יוּטַ֣ל אֶת־הַגֹּורָ֑ל וּ֝מֵיְהוָ֗ה כָּל־מִשְׁפָּטֹֽו׃ - The Westminster Leningrad Codex
  • Az [ember] kebelében vetnek sorsot; de az Úrtól van annak minden ítélete - Hungarian Károli
  • Í skikkjufellingum eru teningarnir hristir, en Drottinn ræður, hvað upp kemur - Icelandic Bible
  • Si getta la sorte nel grembo, ma ogni decisione dipende dall'Eterno La Nuova Diodati
  • 사람이 제비는 뽑으나 일을 작정하기는 여호와께 있느니라 - Korean Bible
  • E maka ana te rota ki roto ki te kokorutanga o te kakahu; kei a Ihowa ia te tikanga katoa - Mairi Bible
  • Het lot wordt weliswaar ongezien geworpen, maar de HERE bepaalt hoe het valt Het Boek
  • I kappens fold rystes loddet, men avgjørelsen kommer alltid fra Herren - Det Norsk Bibelselskap 1930
  • Se aruncă sorţul în poala hainei, dar orice hotărîre vine dela Domnul - Romanian
  • В полу бросается жребий, но все решение его--от Господа - Russian Synodal Version
  • Shorti hidhet që në barkun e nënës, por çdo veprim varet nga Zoti - Albanian Bible
  • Vi singlar ofta slant, men det är Herren som avgör om det blir krona eller klave - Levande Bibeln
  • Người ta bẻ thăm trong vạt áo; Song sự nhứt định do nơi Đức Giê-hô-va mà đến - 1934 Vietnamese Bible
  • 籤 放 在 懷 裡 , 定 事 由 耶 和 華 - Chinese Union Version
Got it?

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sweet sugar

If you are not listening to Sugar Fornaciari (Zucchero) you are really missing something. For iTunes biography here and albums here. My all time favorite - I Lay Down (Ali d'Oro) with John Lee Hooker.

good restaurants

The world's 50 best restaurants have been announced. I have not been to any of them. Strange - because I have sampled a lot of restaurants. Oh well, for what it's worth, here's my top 10 (not in any order):
  1. McDonald's
  2. Hardee's (best intro)
  3. Wendy's
  4. Fuddrucker's (pretty good intro)
  5. T.G.I. Friday's
  6. White Castle
  7. Outback Steakhouse
  8. my mom's house
  9. my wife's house
  10. Tammy C's place (lacks web page)
Ok - try them and let me know what you think.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

predestined to hell

I dedicate this to icf tech boffin ... it's copied from James Spurgeon at Pyromaniacs on the question of "does God predestine anyone to hell?"
[using] the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession of 1689 and the Philadelphia Baptist Confession of 1742. I found the following on God's eternal decree which I have cut & pasted here adding only the three numbers found in parentheses to aid in the breaking down and understanding of it. The wording varies only slightly from one document to the next.

God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby (1) neither is God the author of sin, (2) nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; (3) nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

... think about the nature of God for a minute. He is omniscient. His knowledge is infinite and unchangeable because it is perfect. He never learns for he has always known it all. God is also omnipotent. He has all power and that power is infinite so that his power can never be increased nor diminished. There is no limit to what he can do. God is also all-wise. His wisdom is perfect. He never takes even a second-best path. All of his choices, decisions, decrees are eternal and they are perfectly wise. In fact, his decrees are the wisest of all choices.

Omniscience + omnipotence + all-wisdom = complete sovereignty

So this God of whom we speak has decreed all things, according to historic Calvinist (I would say "Christian") teaching, whatever comes to pass. He has done so freely. He has done so unchangeably. That he has done so freely and unchangeably are necessary conclusions stemming from those three atributes of God which I noted above. The all-wise God never has to re-consider and the all-knowing God never receives new information which he has to process and the almighty God does nothing by outside compulsion. All this leads us to the inevitable conclusion that his decrees are eternal.

Does this decree, this sovereignty, this predestination, extend to who is saved and who is not? The answer: Yes, it does. Does this mean God predestines people to hell? Yes, it does. But let's look at that in the light of the statement and see what it is we mean by that.

I noted in the above statements three clauses that I call "exception clauses" though that might not be an accurate name for them. Whatever you want to call them, they help head off many common objections to the stated doctrine and add clarity to what is meant by it.

1. God Not the Author of Sin

The first one is this: ". . . yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin . . ."

However God is sovereign, it is in such a way as to not make God the author of sin. Let us say that the relation of God and his decree to sin is not efficient, but permissive. God does not commit sin, nor force anyone to sin. God does allow free creatures to sin, but that only for his greater purpose, and God will punish that sin—justly.

2. No Violence Done to the Creature's Will

Now to the second clause. However God is sovereign, it is in such a way as to do no violence to the will of the creatures. ". . . nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; . . ."

Those individuals, then, who we say are predestined to hell, are predestined to go there in such a way as to do no violence to their will. Let's make that clear. God does not force them or coerce them to sin. He does not make them evil, nor does he make them commit evil. Their evil choices and actions are free.

3. Liberty and Contingency of Second Causes Established

Now, let's look at the third clause. However God has decreed all things, whatever comes to pass, it is in such a way as not to take away the liberty of secondary causes. ". . . nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

Those individuals, then, who we say are predestined to hell, are not predestined to go there without sufficient cause. If they are to go there, and if God has decreed from eternity that they will go there, he has done so because there is a cause or a reason for them to go there. The cause is their sin and their guilt. Their liberty in sinning and in accruing that guilt is not taken away from them. I say again, their liberty is not done away with. In fact, quite the opposite, it is established. God decreed that those who go to hell would do so freely and with sufficient cause—because they are guilty.

However God has decreed all things, whatever comes to pass, it is in such a way as to not take away the contingency of secondary causes.

Contingent means dependent on or upon something uncertain. What is uncertain in this context is only uncertain to us, for nothing is uncertain to God.

Those individuals, then, whom we say are predestined to hell, are not predestined to go there "no matter what." Rather, God has decreed that they should go there because they are guilty and because they reject Christ. Their liberty in rejecting Christ is not taken away from them (again) but rather established in the decree. God's decree that they should be sinners, guilty, and condemned, was passive, not active. It was permissive. He allowed it to happen. He allowed them to do it to themselves.

In other words, God decreed that they would go there because they freely sin and reject Christ, and for that reason. In fact, all those who freely reject Christ, God has decreed from before time that they will spend eternity in hell. Rather than undermine God's justice, this establishes God's justice. The causes of their being damned (that of freely sinning and freely rejecting Christ) are just as necessary (and just as certain) as the end result.

Once again, this is true, even if we just take into consideration God's omniscience and God's omnipotence. Does God know the end from the beginning? Yes, he does.

Is God able to choose the end, working it any way he wants? Yes. God chooses the beginning, the middle, and the end and works it all after the counsel of his own will—any way he wants to.

If God has chosen this universe, out of an infinite number of possibilities, including its past, present, and future, and in his wisdom decreed that it should be, should we question that wisdom?

Once again, nothing about God's decree makes him the author of sin, does violence to the will of free creatures, or takes away the liberty or contingency of secondary causes.

Now, didn't we already know this?

So man falls by divine appointment, but he falls by his own fault. We can then say that it happens because God allows it. God permits it. God is the first cause in that it would not happen without his permission and that leaves God as first cause, but man at fault.

So the damnation of the wicked depends upon the decree of God, the predestination of God, in such a way that the cause and matter of it are found in the wicked themselves. It is by divine appointment, but it is so by man's fault.

So let's ask and answer the question: Does God predestine some people to hell, no matter what? No. God predestines those to hell who sin and reject him. Their damnation is just and the fault of it is their own.

Let us repeat that the relation of God and his decree to sin is not efficient, but permissive. God does not commit sin, nor force anyone to sin. God does allow free creatures to sin, but that only for his greater purpose, and God will punish that sin—justly.

Does God predestine some people to heaven, no matter what? Again, no. God does predestine some to heaven, but only through means.

1 Corinthians 1:21 (KJV) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Romans 10:14-17 (KJV) How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

God has predestined no one to heaven in a way which does violence to the individual's will.

God has predestined no one to heaven in a way that takes away the liberty of secondary causes, or the contingency of secondary causes. In fact, the opposite, God has decreed that a multitude which no man could number would go to heaven and that they would go there through the means of the death of Christ, the preached gospel, their faith in Christ and that gospel, and the finishing work of the Holy Spirit in them. Without those things, they would not go to heaven.

In the final analysis—those who go to hell, do so according to God's decree and because they reject Christ. Those who go to heaven, do so according to God's decree and because they come to Christ for mercy (by God's grace alone).
I hope you enjoyed this. I for one need to go now to thank God for His great mercy in choosing ... I truly did not deserve it.

baptism's needed

Here's this week's assignment, go out there this week and find someone who hasn't been baptized and get them baptized. If you haven't been baptized, then get baptized. If you have been, then maybe it's time for a re-dunking.

Whatever, we have to get this trend turned around. What will the world say if we do not?!?!? (please note the sarcasm)
Rite of baptism trickles away
Falling birth rate, rising secularism driving the trend

By Cathy Lynn Grossman

Every month there's a cheering, weeping, air-horn-tooting celebration at First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Ark., when the Rev. Rod Loy immerses new believers in the baptismal tank.

“This is a sign that someone understands the ideas of sin and Christ's sacrifice and willfully chooses to be a lifelong follower of Jesus,” says the pastor. “So we celebrate it big.”

For believers, baptism is modeled on their savior, who the Bible says waded into the water to consecrate himself to God.

They may be sprinkled, washed from a flowing pitcher or immersed, as faith rituals vary. But all forms point to beliefs: rebirth in faith, salvation from sin, acceptance of God's promises and charges.

For parents who bring a baby before their church, baptism is a pledge of their faith, a shield against evil, a wrapping of communal arms around a defenseless soul.

For Christians of all denominations, “even if they never darkened the door of a church any other time in their life … there's a tendency to hold onto this life-cycle marker,” says the Rev. Paul Sullins, a sociologist at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Yet, this Easter, the holy day of resurrection, statistics find Americans slowly drifting away from the ancient baptismal ritual. [more]
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

spurgeon and the evil tobacco

I just fell more in love with Charles Spurgeon. It seems he and I have a lot in common. I am now fully out of the closet - a cigar smoking, Calvinistic, Charismatic! I repent of none of these.

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who is elected for what?

Great post from James Spurgeon at Pyromaniacs. He must have read icf tech boffin's comments on this blog.
Here's the Bible model:

Out of ten people that God created, all of them willfully chose sin and rebellion against God. They chose sin. They chose death. They chose judgment. Hell is their free choice. They willfully sin and therefore they willfully go to the place where sinners go. Unconditional election is where God says, "I am going to over-rule the decisions of five of them and in my grace I am going to change their hearts and their natures so that they will turn to me in repentance and cling to me in faith." The other five God leaves to the consequences of their own choices which were freely made. In no case does God violate the free volition of any of them. All ten get what they want. In the case of five of them, God simply changed their nature and their wants. Five get justice. The other five get grace, their just judgment being poured out upon Christ as their Substitute.

God did not choose among innocents which ones he would save and which ones he would damn. God chose among the guilty which ones he would save and the rest he left to just (righteous) condemnation. We adamantly hold to unconditional election unto salvation. At the same time we adamantly reject any model which portrays an unconditional election unto damnation.
Click here for the entire post.

mclaren on colson on macintyre and hauerwas

Brian McLaren quoting Chuck Colson on the Gospel:
Alasdair MacIntyre observes in Difficulties in Christian Belief that ... "Where the Christian community is incapable of producing lives such as those of the saints, the premises from which it argues will appear rootless and arbitrary." But a Christian community that produces love and beauty is a witness that cannot be denied ... We must first be people who live out the Gospel. [Stanley] Hauerwas writes, God's truth is credible to the world only when it sees a community shaped by the truth ... If the Gospel is to be heard, it must also be seen.
The blogsphere continues to be filled with critique. It's difficult to read much of these and get a sense of "love and beauty". Rather the emphasis is on exposing error.

A friend of mine accused me of having a blog theme that was skewed toward the Kingdom of God. While I'd like to be balanced, if I had to have a "leaning", this is certainly the one I would choose. I'm saddened because many blogs have a leaning of exposing error and my perception is that these have the largest readership and are read in a very serious way.

I think confronting error has a place and that it would be wrong to omit it but I do not think that confronting error should be in our list of "acceptable themes". There - I've just done my confronting error piece. I hope my theme hasn't shifted.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

bob evans lent

Barb and I are in the US to do some house hunting and I took her to my favorite restaurant for breakfast today. I got the usual Homestead breakfast but as I'm sitting there, I see it -a special omelet that Bob Evans advertises with this tag line, "try something new for lent". I thought lent was about giving up something but the Bob Evans spin has just put them a notch higher in my favorite restaurant list.

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disciple or executioner

Henri Nouwen wrote that as Christ rode into Jerusalem to announce the good news, that He "knew that He was going to put a choice before them: Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner?" As His disciples living the life of the Kingdom, I think our lives should demand a reaction from those around us. It should cause those that meet us to ask more about Jesus or reject us because of Him.

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what about the "I"

Much to my surprise, I was accused of not accepting the "I" in TULIP ... I think RC Sproul in Before the Face of God (vol 4) summarizes the point well.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” [John 6:44]
... the Reformed or Augustinian doctrine of predestination is grounded in the fact that humanity is so depraved in fallenness that, apart from the irresistible grace of God, no one could ever turn to Christ. Jesus made this clear.

First, we notice that Jesus said “no one.” This is a universal negative statement. It does not mean that some cannot come unless the Father draws them. Rather, it means absolutely no one can come unless God does something first.

Second, we notice that Jesus said “can.” Remember the difference between can and may. Can means “is able,” while may means “has permission.” Jesus did not say that no one has permission to come to him. Rather, he said that no one is able to come to him. This is the doctrine of total human inability.

Third, we notice the word unless. This introduces an exception. Apart from this exception, no one could ever turn to Christ.

Finally, we come to the word draw. Some have said that draw only means “woo” or “entice.” They agree that human beings are so sinful that no one is able to come to Christ apart from God’s grace, but they say that God gives grace to everyone. God’s grace has a limited effect, however. It does not force people to come; it only woos them. The final decision rests with the sinner.

This interpretation of John 6:44 is impossible, however. In James 2:6, we read, “Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” in Acts 16:19 we find, “They…dragged them into the marketplace.” The same Greek word is used in all three verses. Obviously, mere enticement is not in view here.

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, a standard scholarly work on New Testament Greek, tells us that the word translated draw in John 6:44 means “to compel by irresistible authority.” It was used in classical Greek for drawing water from a well. We do not entice or persuade water to leave the well; we force it against gravity to come up by drawing it. So it is with us. We are so depraved that God must drag us to himself.
I'm not sure why my earlier statements appeared to have contradicted this but just in case, I'm saying it now, I'm ok with the above. Now judge me how you want regarding right or wrong but please don't say I'm on both sides.

schaeffer on revolution

Never wanting to miss an opportunity to quote Francis Schaeffer, here is an excerpt from The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century. I think it still applies.
...the church today should be getting ready and talking about issues of tomorrow and not about issues of thirty and forty years ago, because the church is going to be squeezed in a wringer. If we have found it difficult in these last years, what are we going to do when we are faced with the real changes that are ahead?

We already are ... losing many of our young people, losing them on every side. ... these young people ... are smart enough to know that they have been given no answers. They have simply been told to believe. Doctrines have been given them without relating them to the hard, hard problems which these young people are facing. ... they have not been given reasonable answers to reasonable questions [and] they have not seen beauty in the Christian group they were in. This matter of “beauty” is related to the orthodoxy of community...

One of the greatest injustices we do to our young people is to ask them to be conservative. Christianity today is not conservative, but revolutionary. To be conservative today is to miss the whole point, for conservatism means standing in the flow of the status quo, and the status quo no longer belongs to us. ... If we want to be fair, we must teach the young to be revolutionaries, revolutionaries against the status quo.
I don't know about you but I am worn out by the organization we call church. In that, I do not find the Kingdom. On the other hand, I find life in community with believers searching for real answers to real questions and in that, experiencing God breaking into our every day lives.

I have lost the way (once again) in my longing to find rest in a broken and contrite life. I hunger for more solitude and simplicity - a place where I can focus all of my attention on my living Savior. I hunger to find real answers in Him and to watch Him demonstrate His transforming power in my life and in the lives around me. And I believe that out of that quietness, revolution comes - His Kingdom comes.

confidence and the kingdom

This morning's prayer is a personalized form of a paragraph from Dallas Willard's, "The Divine Conspiracy".

Lord, our confidence in You places us into a living union with The Kingdom Among Us. Our union with You allows us to now be part of Your conspiracy to undermine the structures of evil, which continue to dominate human history, with the forces of truth, freedom, and love. We quietly and relentlessly align ourselves with these forces, wherever they are, because we know what is cosmically afoot. To "overcome evil with good" is not just something for an individual effort here and there, it is actually what will come to pass on this earth. The power of Your resurrection and Your continuing life in human beings assures of this.

Let Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!

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guard your underwear

As I scanned the news this morning in Cincinnati I read this and thought I would post a warning ... keep an eye on your underwear.

Man Gets One Year for Stealing Undies

By Associated Press
April 7, 2006, 9:18 PM EDT

MENOMONIE, Wis. -- A 25-year-old man convicted of stealing hundreds of pairs of underwear was sentenced on Friday to one year in jail for his second conviction of stealing panties. [more]

This guy has stolen over 800 pairs of underwear. While the article lacked the details, it was clear that these could not have been all of mine because it did not mention a warehouse big enough for all of that ... however he could have sewn them together to form the worlds largest circus tent.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

house hunting in cinci

Ok the kids (or is it kidz) should almost be in Romania by now for the Youth Compass service project so now it's time for Barb and me to head off to Cincinnati for some house hunting.

Deo Volente!

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guard your grillz

Ok boyz - better guard your grillz ...

Feds try to seize suspects' fancy teeth

Government lawyers tried to remove and confiscate the gold dental work known as "grills" or "grillz" from the mouths of two men facing drug charges.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

what's up with whosoever?

Since I've been accused of too much KoG, in an effort to compensate, I'll continue to beat this doctrine of election drum a little more.

Here's a well written post by centuri0n (part of teampyro) on his personal blog:
... when John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world", it is saying "in this way God loved the world". The phrase is anticipating some action which demonstrates God's love; it is not a phrase which describes the scope of the action but the purpose or intent of the action.

Now, before we go on, think about this: "For I loved my family so much that I worked 7 days a week in a coal mine." The love of my family was my purpose; the scope of my action is inside a coal mine. The coal mine is where the work is done.

In exactly the same way, John 3:16 goes on "that he gave his only Son". God's love for the world was the purpose of giving the Son, right? Nobody questions or denies that, I think. But is that the end of the sentence?

Of course not: the sentence ends "that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Think on it: the Son was for the purpose of God's love, and also for the purpose of giving eternal life to the ones who believe." There is no way to make the words here say "for the purpose of giving eternal life to the whole world".

In that, the advocate for something other than limited or particular atonement generally hangs the rest of his argument on one English word: "whosoever".

[so] what's up with "whosoever"? It's like a universal translation in John 3:16, so all appeals to the Greek have to account for a somewhat-broad section of translation committees agreeing that the right translation of "hina pas ho pisteuwn" is "that whoever believes".

Let's start with the dictionary meaning of "whoever": "whatever person : no matter who -- used in any grammatical relation except that of a possessive". And that's fair enough, right? There's no reason to debate the fact that anyone who believes shall not perish but have eternal life. I believe that; any arminian would believe that. No questions asked."Well, hang on there you crypto-presbyterian pseudobaptist," ... "You're a 'calvinist', right? It's your view that none of the non-elect are able to believe. In that respect, you do not mean 'whoever' – or 'whatever person'. You mean only the ones God has already chosen. This verse doesn't say, 'only the ones God has already chosen': it says 'all that believe' – or as the translation committees have translated, 'whoever believes'. Those are not the same thing."

"Well, hang on there you crypto-presbyterian pseudobaptist," ... "You're a 'calvinist', right? It's your view that none of the non-elect are able to believe. In that respect, you do not mean 'whoever' – or 'whatever person'. You mean only the ones God has already chosen. This verse doesn't say, 'only the ones God has already chosen': it says 'all that believe' – or as the translation committees have translated, 'whoever believes'. Those are not the same thing."

Well, you're right in that this verse does not say specifically, "in order that all the ones God has elected from the foundation of the world." It says that the believers shall not perish. In fact, it says all the believers shall not perish. That's mighty strong talk if you ask me.

But mighty strong in what way? For the Arminian, what this verse also does not say is, "in order that all the ones who consider the options and choose based on free will shall not perish". To get there, you have to adopt a reading of the participle "pisteuwn" which changes the word from descriptive – that is, indicating a class based on a characteristic – to a word which is prescriptive. It also places a larger connotation on this word than is warranted by this verse, this passage, and frankly the theology of the book of John.

The strength of this passage is the scope of assurance it is offering. Jesus is discoursing with Nicodemus, and in speaking to this Pharisee he first gives an example of God delivering the Jews (and only the Jews) from the curse of the snake bite in the desert. But then Jesus says, in the same way when the Son of man is lifted up anyone (not just Jews) who believes in Him shall have eternal life.

The scope of salvation here is radically different than what Nicodemus is expecting, but it is also not the salvation of every person or even the atonement-in-potential for every person: it is the assurance that those whom Christ will save are saved in fact and saved without any doubt.

And those who are saved are the ones who believe – both Jews and Gentiles alike. One doesn't have to do grammatical contortions over the word "world" here to get that: one has to simply read the passage as it comes, in the manner which Jesus delivered it, and see the method of reasoning He was using with the Pharisee Nicodemus.
In my camp on spurgeon on calvin post, icf Tech Boffin is arguing that I must "believe that God actually created 1000000s of people throughout the history of humanity, with the specific premeditated plan of condemning them to eternal damnation in Hell?" This is the old pro-life v. pro-choice argument. That is if you are a pro-lifer, than the other side isn't "pro-choice", they are "pro-murder". If you are a pro-choicer, the other side isn't "pro-life", they are - well, you get the point ...

So as Wince wisely points out, the right way to look at this is to invert the question. This is about Christ's definite atonement. There is no chance that He died for no one and there is no chance that he died for everyone (we are not univeralists). In this Bible, there is in fact, no "chance" - only grace!

struggling with the "L"

For those of you struggling with that "L" in TULIP, here's great article from Blog and Mablog that delves into just how much freedom we actually have.

Thanks Randy B. for the tip ... now go get your own blog!

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christian drinking jokes

HT: Todd Rhodes

Baptists, Liquor Stores, Etc.

Liquor Q. What’s the difference between a Presbyterian and a Baptist?

A. Presbyterians will speak to each other in the liquor store.


Q. Why do you take 2 Baptists with you when you go fishing?

A. Because if you take only one he’ll drink all of your beer.


Q: What do you call a Presbyterian drinking Mountain Dew?

A: A Hyper-Calvinist


Q: What did the Calvinist say after being struck by a bus?

A: “Sure glad that’s overwith.”


Q. Do you know why Baptists don’t drink?

A. Because it could lead to dancing.


A minister, a priest, and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What is this? Some kinda joke?”


And finally, for the emerging crowd...

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rick for dummies

I see this as the next hot coffee table book. Get it! All of your friends will be talking about you.

HT: TheGeoffRe(y)port

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

camp on spurgeon on calvin

Steve Camp posts on C.H. Spurgeon's comments on John Calvin ... wow - what a lineage. Here's the teaser from Sprugeon - I love it ... and yes Tammy, they even believe in the "L". :-)
[T]here is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation.
Check out Camp's post for the details.

velvet elvis

Rob Bell, of NOOMA fame (or infamy depending on your perspective), hit on the "what is the Gospel" question in his new book Velvet Elvis:
The point of the cross isn't forgiveness. Forgiveness leads to something much bigger: restoration. God isn't just interested in the covering over of our sins; God wants to make us into the people we were originally created to be. It is not just the removal of what's being held against us; it is God pulling us into the people he orginally had in mind when he made us. This restoration is why Jesus always orients his message around becoming the kind of people who are generous and loving and compassionate. The goal here isn't simply to not sin. Our purpose is to increase the shalom in this world, which is why approaches to the Christian faith that deal solely with not sinning always fail. They aim at the wrong thing. It is not about what you don't do. The point is becoming more and more the kind of people God had in mind when we were first created.

It is one thing to be forgiven; it is another thing to become more and more and more and more the person God made you to be.

Let me take this further: If we only have a legal-transaction understanding of salvation in which we are forgiven of our sins so we can go to heaven, then salvation essentially becomes a ticket to somewhere else. In this understanding, eternity is something that kicks in when we die. But Jesus did not teach this. Jesus said that when we believe, we have crossed over from death to life. God always has been and always will be. And when I enter into a relationship with God through Christ, I am connected with God now and I will be connected with God forever. For Jesus, salvation is now.

I need a God for now.

I need healing now.

I need help now.

Yes even greater things will happen someday.

But salvation is now.

This now leads to another danger of embracing only one dimension of salvation. When faith is defined solely in legal terms, the dominant idea often becomes "inviting Jesus into your heart", a phrase that is not found anywhere in the Bible. That doesn't mean it is not legitimate; it just means that we have to be careful that we don't adopt ideas that come with it that aren't what God has in mind. The problems come when salvation becomes all about me. Me being saved. Me having my sins forgiven. Me being reconciled to God.

The Bible paints a much larger picture of salvation. It describes all of creation being restored. The author of Ephesians writes that all things will be brought together under Jesus.

Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker.

This has huge implications for how people present the message of Jesus. Yes, Jesus can come into our hearts. But we can join a movement that is as wide and deep and big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems. God's desire is to restore all of it.

The point is not me; it's God.

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jesus on ice

As part of our mutual admiration society (ok, well at least I admire him) or perhaps simply a cheesy way to build traffic to our sites, I would like to reference you to Wince Brack's excellent photo of what Jesus might have looked like on ice. Apparently Wince has some Canadian in him.

Here for original post of the walking on ice business.

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piper on the gospel

Bill's contribution to the "what is the gospel?" discussion is this quote from John Piper;
... all the saving events and all the saving blessings of the gospel are means of getting obstacles out of the way so that we might know and enjoy God most fully. Propitiation, redemption, forgiveness, imputation, sanctification, liberation, healing, heaven - none of these is good news except for one reason: they bring us to God for our everlasting enjoyment of him.... And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God.
This is yet another excellent take. My only add, in case it is not obvious, is that this experience of being closer to God is available now - along with all of its implications.

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the challenge of jesus

From N.T. Wright's The Challenge of Jesus:
Bearing God's image is not just a fact, it is a vocation. It means being called to reflect into the world the creative and redemptive love of God. It means being made for relationship, for stewardship, for worship - or to put it more vividly, for sex, gardening and God. Human beings know in their bones that they are made for each other, made to look after and shape this world, made to worship the one in whose image they are made. But like Israel with her vocation, we humans get it wrong.

We worship other gods and start to reflect their likeness instead. We distort our vocation to stewardship into the will to power, treating God's world as either a gold mine or an ashtray. And we distort our calling to beautiful, healing, creative many-sided human relationships into exploitation and abuse. Marx, Nietzsche and Freud described a fallen world in which money, power and sex have become the norm, displacing relationship, stewardship and worship. Part of the point of postmodernity under the strange providence of God is to preach the Fall to arrogant modernity. What we are faced with in our culture is the post-Christian version of the doctrine of original sin: all human endeavor is radically flawed, and the journalists who take delight in pointing this out are simply telling over and over again the story of Genesis 3 as applied to today's leaders, politicians, royalty and rock stars. And our task, as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to the world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to the world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to the world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion.

...God intends to do through us for the wider world that for which the foundation was laid in Jesus. We are to live and tell the story of the prodigal and the older brother; to announce God's glad, exuberant, richly healing welcome for sinners, and at the same time God's sorrowful but implacable opposition to those who persist in arrogance, oppression and greed. Following Christ in the power of the Spirit means bringing to our world the shape of the gospel: forgiveness, the best news that anyone can ever hear, for all who yearn for it, and judgment for all who insist on dehumanizing themselves and others by their continuing pride, injustice and greed.
I'm sure this has been posted before and in many places but again, I love how God is making it more and more clear to me why and how we are to live lives of the Kingdom.

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preach the gospel

As I plumb the depths of the Gospel and the ways that we are called to demonstrate and proclaim it, I found this excellent quote by St. Francis of Assisi.
Go out and preach the Gospel by all means possible, and if you have to... you can even use words.
I am more convinced than ever that as Jesus was to Israel, the Church is to be to the world (short of the once-and-for-all sacrificial death on the cross). And that His life, demonstration and proclamation of the Kingdom, is our model for living. This spans from the great miracles to the humble, sacrificial life (even death). I think the Gospels are called that because they encompass Jesus' model for us - which is more than the wonderful promise of eternal life with the Father for those that receive His forgiveness and follow His leadership.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

the "never happen again" lie

I need to show off how "global" have become these past few years. There's a big lie being propagated by my American friends that 01:02:03 04.05.06 happened last night and that it will not happen again ... well, it will happen again, next month in fact, for people outside the US where the day comes before the month. So on May 4, it will once again be 01:02:03 04.05.06 - I just had to expose this ... it is very important.

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tale of three kings

I first read A Tale of Three Kings about 8 years ago while going through a dark night of the soul. God spoke powerfully to me through those words and saved me from much personal injury and probable injury to others. I just re-read it (2 hours if you are a slow reader) and concluded that I should re-read it every year.

It is not filled with great theology. It doesn't completely penetrate the richness of the Biblical account of Saul, David and Absolom. And, for those of you that hate writers that "fill in the blanks" where the Bible doesn't actual speak, you will hate this book.

But, if you are a man in authority or under authority, you will at some point relate to each one of these kings. Gene Edwards writes in such a way that causes you to realize that you are not always the "good" king that you think you are. His style sneaks up on you and the surprise is both wonderful and sobering. This little book is a must read. I would summarize it but it in itself is a summary.

Certainly if you are someone struggling with opposition, you absolutely must read this study in brokenness.

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jesus walks on ice

I don't know why but I still find myself amazed at the amount of energy fallen man puts into disproving the Bible ... too bad for Peter that Professor Nof wasn't there to clue him in ...

Jesus may have walked on ice, not water:


Apr 4, 2006 — By Jim Loney

MIAMI (Reuters) - The New Testament says that Jesus walked on water, but a Florida university professor believes there could be a less miraculous explanation — he walked on a floating piece of ice. [more]

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church helps you live longer

Study: Churchgoing Can Add Years to Your Life

A new study finds people who attend religious services weekly live longer. [more]

Based on this data, if I convert to "three to thrive" (i.e., Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night), I could add almost 10 years to my life ... hmmm, wonder if eating a Hardee's thick burger after each service cancels that?

why healing?

Rich Nathan in his March congregational email outlines why the church needs to recover the practice of healing.

"And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction." - Mt 10.1

Why do we need to practice healing?
1. Healing is a sign that God's Kingdom has broken into this world in Jesus. The coming of Jesus was more than an event that made the forgiveness of sins possible. Jesus' coming included the forgiveness of sins – but forgiveness does not exhaust the meaning of his coming. The coming of Jesus was more than an event that opens up heaven for all who trust him. The coming of Jesus was more than great ethical teaching, more than the formation of a new community called the Church and more than a model of how we are to live.

In Jesus of Nazareth, the world experienced (and continues to experience) the dawning of a new age, the age of forgiveness, the age of God being with his people, the age of healing. This new age was prophesied about in the Old Testament and sought for millennia. But in Christ, a new age for our universe has begun. Healing is demonstrated evidence that this claim by Christians is not an empty boast but a verifiable fact!

2. Healing demonstrates the compassionate heart of God. Where is God when we suffer? Does God care about our pain? Is God really a loving, kind father in heaven? Over and over again, we see the heart of God demonstrated in the healings of Jesus. From Luke 7:12-15, when Jesus heals through his people, we know what God is like – kind, loving and compassionate. (God visits His people! and the response is to glorify Him)

3. Healing is a frontal assault on a non-supernatural world-view. We live in a world that does not expect any break in the inevitable chain of cause and effect. God is simply not an anticipated factor in someone getting well. We believe in medicine, in therapy, and in the body's own curative powers, but God breaking in and healing? No way! Healing is a major assault on our worldviews that wall God out.

4. Healing demonstrates God's concern for our total persons. God is not just interested in religion or churchgoing. He is interested in our schools and political systems and recreation. And God is not just interested in our souls; he is interested in our bodies as well! As one Christian leader put it, "There is no atom in the universe over which God doesn't say, 'This is mine.'"

5. Healing welcomes people back into community. When we are sick, we become isolated in our homes, in hospital rooms, and in wheelchairs. Illness often cuts us off from normal interactions, from work and from friendships. Healing opens the door to recovered relationship.
I cannot add to this.

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