Monday, June 30, 2008

religious tolerance

Here's a big surprise, not everyone who professes to be Christian really is. The New York Times reports that, "although a majority of Americans say religion is very important to them, nearly three-quarters of them say they believe that many faiths besides their own can lead to salvation." The article acknowledges that "many Americans ... hold beliefs that might contradict the doctrines of their professed faiths."

I'm a simple minded man. If one holds beliefs that is in contradiction to the core of what one claims to believe, then it seems to me that one doesn't really believe what is claimed. Or perhaps this person has abandoned absolutes as a possibility leaving us able to claim anything without really meaning it.

The survey concluded that "70 percent of Americans affiliated with a religion or denomination said they agreed that “many religions can lead to eternal life,” including majorities among Protestants and Catholics. Among evangelical Christians, 57 percent agreed with the statement, and among Catholics, 79 percent did. Among minority faiths, more than 80 percent of Jews, Hindus and Buddhists agreed with the statement, and more than half of Muslims did."

Oddly, 20% of those identifying themselves as atheists said they believe in God. Huh?

I see this as just another data point reinforcing the fallenness and deception that has gripped our world. Unorthodoxology thinks this "less exclusive view of God" is "amen" worthy. Perhaps there is a play on words there that was wasted on me but his limited commenters also seem happy with the news.

For those that fit into the category identified in this survey as religiously tolerant, here are some kind words from Francis Schaeffer in A Christian Worldview:

How do we obtain salvation? Salvation is obtained by faith in Christ, plus nothing.

  • John 3:15, 16, 18 We have used these verses a number of times, but they are worth looking at again to see how clearly Christ says that salvation is received by faith in Him, plus nothing.
  • John 3:36 John the Baptist emphasizes that salvation is through faith plus nothing.
  • Romans 3:9-20 By the deeds of the law — that is, by good works — no man is or can be just in the sight of God.
  • Isaiah 64:6 Even our best works are not good enough in the sight of the holy God. Even when the outward acts are good, who can completely untangle all the mixed and complex motives which move us?
  • Galatians 3:24 God never gave the law (the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, or any other commands) as though salvation would come through the keeping of it. As far as salvation goes, each of God’s laws shows us that we need Christ.
  • Romans 2:1-3 Men do not even keep their own made-up norms, by which they judge others.
  • Acts 16:30-33 Just as moral good works cannot save us, so also religious good works cannot save us. Baptism is a sign of salvation, not the basis for it.
  • Romans 4:9-11 It was the same in the Old Testament. Abraham put his faith in God. Circumcision came later. Religious good works cannot save.
  • Romans 9:6 Not all the Old Testament Jews were true spiritual Israel. Neither today will church membership in itself save. Salvation is indeed ours only on the basis of faith in Christ, plus nothing.
  • Romans 9:30-33 Those Jews who were not true spiritual Israel were those who tried to come to God on the basis of their religious and moral “good works” instead of by faith.
  • Galatians 2:16 Salvation is never on the basis of any kind of good works.
  • Romans 3:21-26 Good works cannot save us, but faith in Christ will. The word “freely” in 3:24 means “gratis.” There is no cost to us.
  • John 8:24 There is only one way of salvation. If we do not accept Christ as our Savior, we remain under the judgment of God.
  • John 14:6 There are not many ways of salvation. There is only one way to come to God the Father. There is no way to come to God the Father except through Christ.
  • Acts 4:12 It is faith in Christ or nothing.
The basis is the finished, substitutionary death of Christ. The instrument by which we accept the free gift is faith. Faith has a double significance: it is believing God’s promises, and it is the empty hand which accepts the gift without trying to add humanistic religious or moral good works to it.


From out of ur ...


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providence redux

As a Calvinist, I am often approached with the question, "how much control does God have?" I tend to read into that question more of a statement, i.e., "if you only realized that you are saying God had complete control, you would change your mind." Which is interesting because the more I understand just how in control God is, the more convinced it is true and cannot be any other way.

John Piper posted today a list of examples from Scripture of God's providence.
  • “I have commanded the ravens to feed you there” (1Kings 17:4)
  • “The Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah” (Jonah 4:6).
  • “God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered” (Jonah 4:7).
  • “I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants” (Exodus 8:21).
  • “He summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread” (Psalms 105:16).
  • “He gave them hail for rain” (Psalms 105:32).
  • “He spoke, and the locusts came” (Psalms 105:34).
  • “The Lord will whistle for . . . the bee that is in the land of Assyria” (Isaiah 7:18).
  • “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).
  • “Even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:41).
  • “He removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21).
  • “Even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (Mark 1:27).
  • “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
He then quotes excerpts from the Heidelberg Catechism.

What do you mean by the providence of God? (Question 27)

The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.

What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence does still uphold all things?
(Question 28)

That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from his love; since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move.

the cross and sin

"The grace of God reveals One who loves us so much as to have made Calvary possible, but who hates sin so much as to make Calvary necessary." ~ T.S. Mooney


“Q: Who has truly pondered the weight of sin?

A: The one who has truly pondered the weight of the cross.”

~ Anselm of Canterbury, quoted by Micahel D. Williams in Far as the Curse is Found


where's brian head welch?

Savemefrommyself“Unlike most people, I had a childhood dream to become a rock star that came true. I was able to do what I wanted to do, go where I wanted to go, and buy what I wanted to buy. Unlike most people, I gave all this up - my music, my band, my career, everything - when I had an encounter with God.” ~ Brian ‘Head’ Welch, formerly of KoRn.

Today Brian is living at his orphanage in India. More details available by Paul Del Signore.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008


Not all is as advertised ...

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See more ...

proper trusting

The Christian life is built upon the foundation of (1) facing who you really are and (2) trusting who Christ truly is. Everything you do will be shaped by the degree to which you act on the blessings that are yours in Christ.

If you only look at yourself and carry around a load of guilt, you will hide, excuse, blame, rationalize, and cover up your shame rather than enjoy the freedom of confession and the joy of forgiveness. You will not enjoy the lasting fruit that comes from following the wisdom that is already yours in Christ! Instead, you will reduce the Christian life to a simplistic list of rules and behaviors that never touch the real problems, and you will be blind to the gaps in your relationship to Christ. ~ Timothy S. Lane & Paul David Tripp, How People Change

Saturday, June 28, 2008

jesse jackson ... oh noooooo ...

“What Barack Obama has accomplished is the single most extraordinary event that has occurred in the 232 years of the nation’s political history. The event itself is so extraordinary that another chapter could be added to the Bible to chronicle its significance,” declared Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. of Chicago.

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360 degrees

From Common Errors in English:

When you turn 360 degrees you’ve completed a circle and are back where you started. So if you want to describe a position that’s diametrically opposed to another, the expression you want is not “360 degrees away” but “180 degrees away.”

mahaney on god's holiness

Adrian Warnock recently posted this sermon on The Holiness Of God by CJ Mahaney. The key point is that the "holiness of God has been neglected to our detriment." I didn't relate to much of the joking/story-telling (probably because you "had to be there") but the message is essential.

I found it to be informative, correct, and inspirational. At the same time I want to demonstrate some fairness by saying Mahaney overstepped when he said, "I believe all attributes of God need to be understood in light of the holiness of God. And that the starting point for understanding any attribute of God is the holiness of God. So I don't believe we can just isolate mercy and love and faithfulness on their own. I believe it's a holy mercy. I believe it's a holy love. I believe it's a holy faithfulness. I don't believe we can understand who we are apart from the holiness of God. And I believe the more we understand God's holiness and the more we understand our sinfulness, the more we appreciate the grace and the mercy of God."

I agree with (and love) every aspect of the above except the base premise that holiness (substitute love or any other attribute) should not be singled out above the others. The point that Mahaney makes regarding the need to understand God's attributes in light of holiness could be said for each of His attributes. It is impossible to attain a clearer understanding of God if not considering who He is in light of all He is. As with Mahaney, "I don't believe we can just isolate mercy and love and faithfulness on their own" but nor can we isolate holiness.

That caveat aside, this is a wonderful lesson. He speaks to individuals who are unable to grasp the grace of God but can become secure in the love of God by helping to understand the holiness of God. We can only understand the depth of the grace and of the love of God to the degree that we understand the holiness of God.

I particularly appreciated his comment regarding those that see the meanness of God in the Old Testament but a loving God in the New ... I have some close friends struggling with this very point. Some, as Mahaney notes, have a distorted view seeing Jesus as the friend/lover restraining the judgement of the angry Father.

Alright, enough note taking ... sit back and enjoy.

Warnock extracted the following as Mahaney spoke about God's punishment of Adam.

I don't in any way believe that that was too harsh. He was warned. God made every provision ... When you sin, you forfeit any claim you had to human existence, because the purpose of his life and Eve's life, and our lives was to represent the holiness of God. I don't believe it's unjust for God to take away the gift of life that he gave freely if it wasn't used for the purpose for which he gave it. Because when we sin, what we are saying is—we are not just making a mistake—we are saying no to God's law; we are saying your law is not good; we're saying—God, your law does not cut it, I'm not under your authority; my judgment is superior to yours; I'm defying and opposing you, who in reality I owe everything to.

The amazing thing is not that God has judged people in the Bible; it is that God has not judged everybody.

I have seen some people teach on holiness and they almost seemed happy some people were going to hell.

God does not delight in sending people to hell ... His judgment is not like our temper that flares up in an instant.

As soon as that apple hit Adam's lips and Eve's lips, they should have been wasted immediately, but God was merciful . . . justice was delayed so that grace might enter history.

The issue is not why does God punish sin, but why does he permit the ongoing rebellion of man?

know thyself ... and god

Symphony of Scripture brought my attention to this YouTube video of John Piper on the knowledge of God and of ourself.

“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” ~ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

On the topic of knowledge, Piper just posted Knowledge Increases Mystery. While this may seem to be a contradictio, I think it makes a lot of sense. Piper notes that "God is more honored by worship that rises from what we know about him than by worship that rises from what we don’t know about him." He then builds on Jonathan Edwards' Essay on the Trinity to explain that, "the benefit of increasing mystery this way (rather than by means of preserving ignorance) is that what we do know gives direction to what we don’t know. We do not wonder if the mystery contains a sinister God, because what we do know directs us away from that speculation."

Friday, June 27, 2008

english errors 101

I guess because I work in a global environment or perhaps because I happen to be a genius (not) ... but for whatever reason I am often asked about English phrases. Very often I learn something from my foreign friends, e.g., Polish and polish are two words that are pronounced differently and have different meaning solely based on whether or not the first letter is capitalized.

That aside, from time-to-time I will post a "learning" that I find interesting. Most of it will come from Washington State University's website.

Today's lesson FLESH OUT/FLUSH OUT:

To “flesh out” an idea is to give it substance, as a sculptor adds clay flesh to a skeletal armature. To “flush out” a criminal is to drive him or her out into the open. The latter term is derived from bird-hunting, in which one flushes out a covey of quail. If you are trying to develop something further, use “flesh”; but if you are trying to reveal something hitherto concealed, use “flush.”

worship like the NBA

I've had this sense before ... what if worship was like an NBA game?


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interview with satan


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Thursday, June 26, 2008


Today's theological word of the day ...


The theological position in which the gifts of the spirit have ceased after the apostolic era; gifts such as miraculous healings, tongues, and prophetic revelations. It is to be contrasted with continuationsim (i.e. the gifts are operative after the apostolic age). Though there are some variations in modern views, the consensus agrees that the supernatural elements described in the NT have been done away with in the life of the church.

... I'll add the caveat that most cessationists still believe that God intervenes in creation but not as witnessed in the Apostolic age.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

christian feedback

I haven't read The Shack (but it's on my wish list). Since it was recommended to me, my eyes/ears were attuned to critique both positive and negative about it. Unfortunately, just as with any other topic Christians discuss, I was impressed with how far we are from the Bride that Christ desires. David Burchett however offers some wonderful advice that while written in regard to critiques of The Shack, these can be refashioned into some really good general principles for all of us.

1) Be careful about disparaging The Shack’s author, William P Young. Please be cautious about assigning motive to a person you don’t know from Adam’s and Eve’s first house cat. ... Mr. Young apparently was deeply wounded by Christians who should have protected him. I don’t believe Mr.Young set out to write a book that would rock the evangelical community. Apparently he didn’t even write the book with the thought of being published. It was originally written for family members to help them deal with their pain. It doesn’t seem that he set out with sinister motives to undermine theological orthodoxy. He is a fellow wounded traveler trying to reconcile his woundedness. When his theology goes astray I am suggesting that we gracefully point out those areas and don’t attack Mr. Young. Defending truth with grace is always the most effective tactic. But our passion for truth too often makes grace the first thing we jettison.

2) Be careful how you share your concerns with others. When I read comments like “Are these people just blind to heresy?” I cringe. Because you reinforce the feelings of so many people that are moved by this book. They have experienced a Christianity that is judgmental and sometimes downright mean. If your heart is to be a guardian of truth you will damage that worthy desire by harsh criticism of those who are touched by The Shack.

3) Be prayerful about why this book has connected so surprisingly with millions. I think I know some reasons why this book is resonating with so many. Those of us raised in the desert of legalism are desperate for the cool, refreshing waters of grace. Those of us who have been wounded by other Christians want more than anything to believe that Jesus does love us and our experience is not how it should be in the church. We need guardians of the truth of God’s Word but we also need those guardians to be shepherds that care and not just condemn. Some of the articles have been so stern that I felt like I would be sent to after school detention when the writer was done. That doesn’t help a wounded believer. Jesus said to both feed and take care of His sheep.

4) Dogmatically telling people to not read the book may not be the best approach. If we know one thing about the law it is that telling us not do something generally inflames our sin nature. If someone wants to read the book give them thoughtful cautions and then discuss how they felt about the book later.

5) Don’t automatically decide you won’t read the book. If you don’t want to contribute to Mr. Young’s income then go to the library and check it out. Why should you consider doing that if you believe the book is off base? Because of a principle that I harp on over and over. When people open spiritual doors we should have enough sense to go through them. Instead we tend to slam those doors and then go knock loudly on doors that are closed. Obviously this book is connecting. There is a deep spiritual hunger in America. If a fellow believer or seeker comments on the book it will do little good to look down our spiritual nose and let them know the book is all wrong. The next question will be this one. “Did you read it?” If the answer is no that will be the end of debate for most that are touched by this book. Because it is an emotional book they will disconnect from your concerns if you did not even have enough intellectual curiosity to read the book. Instead I would suggest you read it and then engage the reader. You will be able to get through some pretty intimate doors that this book opens and have a great discussion of truth and grace.

6) Be aware that God is doing just fine. I have seen some pretty dire warnings about this book. One of the critiques that I read often is that the book makes God small. Aren’t we also making God small by being so concerned about the possible damage done by this book? God can, will and is using this book. I agree the theology gets shaky at times. But the truth is that The Shack is causing many people to think about things they have never considered. Some are willing to try again after being deeply wounded. Shouldn’t we be praying that God will use us to come alongside these souls as they search and seek the truth?

7) Acknowledge that there are the things this book does well. When you go negative it causes people to get defensive. It does more harm to make people who feel abandoned or hurt by the church feel “stupid” because they don’t know as much theology as you do. If you know that much theology don’t forget the grace sections. Mr. Challis writes these words about some of the positives in the book. “He affirms the absolute nature of what is good and teaches that evil exists only in relation to what is good; he challenges the reader to understand that God is inherently good and that we can only truly trust God if we believe Him to be good; he acknowledges the human tendency to create our image of God by looking at human qualities and assuming that God is simply the same but more so; he attempts to portray the loving relationships within the Trinity; and so on. For these areas I am grateful as they provided helpful correctives to many false understandings of God.”

8) Recognize the hunger in the body of Christ. While some of the theology in The Shack is askew I would suggest that the theology of millions of people in the church is also deficient. We have done a poor job of teaching (or understanding) some of the key teachings of Scripture. Most of us get salvation. We could not be reconciled to a Holy God on our own. But then it seems to get a bit spotty. Too many of us don’t understand key theological truths like who we are in Christ, who God says we are and who God says He is. We know truth but don’t trust it. What is in our head doesn’t invade our heart. The Shack has touched the hearts of millions. The door is open for a thoughtful and real discussion. I pray that we don’t blow it.

Each point spoke to me ...

smallest small group

Somehow I missed (probably because I lived in Europe at the time) Lark News' 2003 report on the smallest small group.

WESTCHESTER — Stu Clark belongs to what is believed to be the smallest small group in America: himself.

"I meet at my house every week in the living room," he says. "I bring snacks and my Bible, and after some chit-chat I get down to discussing that week's reading, sharing my burdens, my praise reports. Then I pray for myself."

He enjoys the intimacy he has gained with himself over the weeks, he says.

"There was a lot about me I didn't know," he says. "The small group setting brings out those personal details you might not otherwise share."

He has tried larger small groups, but doesn't get as much from them.

"When you have to be social, it detracts from your real heart issues," he says. "Having other people in the picture complicates things. But I can deepen my relationship with myself much better if it's only me. There's a level of closeness you have when it's just one of you."

Stu's pastor has seen a marked difference in the man.

"He's definitely matured in his faith since starting the group," the pastor says. "I guess it's not the group size that matters, but the quality of the people in it."

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Monday, June 23, 2008

god does everything for his own glory

This post from John Piper (HT:PC) seems especially timely given my recent discussions regarding God's love.
Why should we emphasize that God loves, forgives, and saves for his own glory?

Two reasons (among others).

1) Because the Bible does.

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)

For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. (Psalm 25:11)

Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake! (Psalm 79:9)

Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name's sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you. (Jeremiah 14:7)

We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, and the iniquity of our fathers, for we have sinned against you. Do not spurn us, for your name's sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne. (Jeremiah 14:20-21)

God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)

Your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. (1 John 2:12)

2) Because it makes clear that God loves us with the greatest love.

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory. (John 17:24)

God loves us not in a way that makes us supreme, but makes himself supreme. Heaven will not be a hall of mirrors but an increasing vision of infinite greatness. Getting to heaven and finding that we are supreme would be the ultimate let down.

The greatest love makes sure that God does everything in such a way as to uphold and magnify his own supremacy so that when we get there we have something to increase our joy forever—God’s glory.

The greatest love is God’s giving himself to us for our eternal enjoyment for ever, at the cost of his Son’s life (Romans 8:32).


Zeal is a colossal waste of energy if its aim is anything other than Christ. Spirituality is a sham if Christ is not its substance. Passion, no matter how intense or well-intended, is a meaningless vapor in the human soul if it is not awakened by the beauty and splendor of Christ and has for its goal the glory and praise of Christ. There simply is no value in religious activity that is not Christological at its core. ~ Sam Storms

love gone awry

As my regular readers (both of them) know, I have been in discussion with a really great guy, Jonathan Brink, who proffers that God's dominant characteristic is love. Based on this, Jonathan defines God's other attributes. I disagree with Jonathan - not because I do not think God is love but because I think it is improper and unhealthy to elevate one characteristic of God (who is in unity) above others. I would say this regardless of the attribute Jonathan would have picked.

Linked to this idea, Jonathan recently pointed to a post, Are We Worthy of God's Love?, by Rachel Held Evans. Jonathan agrees with Evans that creation (no distinction between pre or post redemption and the context indicates pre) is worthy of God's love. Although Jonathan tells us that Doug Pagitt agrees, I do not see that Scripture agrees. The logic of the post feels a bit like an attempt to force fit the world into the aforementioned starting assumption. Nicole seems to share the concern.

Evans begins by celebrating that God loves creation. So far so good.

Evans then quotes the following from Doug Pagitt's A Christianity Worth Believing:

God loves this world and all who are in it. God not only loves humanity but created humanity as the ideal partner for bringing about all that God desires for the world. We are not working against our lesser nature when we seek to live with God; on the contrary, we are living as we were created. The joy of this proper understanding is that we no longer have to feel ashamed of our humanity. It is not a sin to be alive.

This is true but the "we seek to live with God" and "we are living as we were created" are only possible post-redemption.

Then Evans mistakenly describes the "T" part of TULIP, total depravity, as meaning we are totally evil. She doesn't understand that this is not the message of the Doctrine of Election. R.C. Sproul coined the phrase “Radical Corruption” to better articulate the “T” in TULIP. To quote Sproul:

The Bible teaches the total depravity of the human race. Total depravity means radical corruption. We must be careful to note the difference between total depravity and "utter" depravity. To be utterly depraved is to be as wicked as one could possibly be. Hitler was extremely depraved, but he could have been worse than he was. I am sinner. Yet I could sin more often and more severely than I actually do. I am not utterly depraved, but I am totally depraved. For total depravity means that I and everyone else are depraved or corrupt in the totality of our being. There is no part of us that is left untouched by sin. Our minds, our wills, and our bodies are affected by evil. We speak sinful words, do sinful deeds, have impure thoughts. Our very bodies suffer from the ravages of sin.

Perhaps "radical corruption" is a better term to describe our fallen condition than "total depravity." I am using the word "radical" not so much to mean "extreme," but to lean more heavily on its original meaning. "Radical" comes from the Latin word for "root" or "core." Our problem with sin is that it is rooted in the core of our being. It permeates our hearts. It is because sin is at our core and not merely at the exterior of our lives that the Bible says: "There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one." Romans 3:10-12

Evans then states, "I’ve always found it curious that Christians so passionately defend the sanctity of life, when so many seem to think that human beings are, by their very nature, an affront to God." Well actually, by our very fallen nature we are enemies of God. But GOOD NEWS, He redeems us. So Evans seems a bit confused here. God is really not pleased with rebellious man.

She furthers her error with. "we honor and revere new life because we know all people are created in the image of God and are…dare I say…worthy of being loved by Him and by us." Had she stopped with "we honor and revere new life because we know all people are created in the image of God" she would have been ok. But somehow, because we are created in God's image, she thinks we are worthy of love - apparently missing the Biblical fact that we are broken image-bearers and worthy of wrath. It's marvelous that God loves us in spite of that.

Evans closes with:

What do you think? Are humans inherently good (but in need of a repaired relationship with God) or inherently evil (and incapable of doing any good on their own)? I honestly don’t know the answer to this question. … But I’ve got this nagging and relentless hope that God indeed "adores His creation."

God does love His creation. We are not worthy. We are not inherently good. As she said, we are in need of repair and until then, we are slaves to sin.

I do not know Evans. I sense she is asking honest questions. My concern is the conclusion she and others may (or have drawn). To quote one commenter, "in the end, we must be worthy of God's love, because that love is lavished upon us often." Wrong. How about referencing the Bible instead of this feel-good, humanistic philosophy?

Unorthodoxy thinks, "Humans aren't inherently good or inherently evil. We inherently are. ... No one is worthy of love. It is not earned. It is only given." Of course the Bible tells us a bit different than that. We are unworthy of love but we are loved. And even better, once redeemed, we are really worthy of love - in Christ.

even more on the gospel

Jim Meredith writes the following.

But what is, precisely, the Gospel? I am reminded of a verse I learned years ago:

“You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day, by the deeds you do and the words you say. Men read what you write, distorted or true; now tell me,what is the Gospel according to you?”


One of the ... organizations of which I am closely associated has adopted what it calls, “three story evangelism”, or good news from three different perspectives… God’s, mine and yours! Obviously the most important story is God’s, He is Creator, Sustainer, God-in-the-flesh-Man, Savior, Lover, Pursuer, Friend, etc. Anything that is permanent, lasting and good, God is. There are not enough adjectives or names in one’s vocabulary to ever describe Him adequately. But we each one want to talk about him – “our story” – when we are in love with Him, because we always want to talk about the person or thing with which we are in love! ... Then there is “your story”. What is or is not happening in your life as you respond (or fail to) to God’s story? And God’s love story is no more succinctly summarized than John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him, might not perish, but have eternal life.” Such a verse showing up in placards at sporting events,billboards, etc. is bound to be trivialized and may escape being included in “my story” or “your story”, but it is true nevertheless, and is the essence of God’s story. Candidly put, Jesus alone is the story.


Jesus is forever the bearer in the fleshof God’s story. He did “write” the gospel by his deeds and the words he said! Jesus simply is the Gospel. He brought good news and an invitation forus to return to Him: “Repent (do anabout face; stop going your ‘death’way; follow me the Lifegiver) for the Kingdom of Heaven (the only real Kingdom that has eternal life and hope and happiness) has arrived!”

(An amplification of Matthew’s story, Chapter 4:17) Jesus demonstrated God’s forgiveness for human failings and doing life “my way”, gave hope for eternal life through the then unheard of resurrection of his body from death back again to life, and relentlessly invited (not coerced) all to follow Him. And all of this was neither in mathematical nor doctrinal equations. For those religious leaders of His day, the man Christ had little good to say:“white washed tombs”… “blind leading the blind”… “searchers of Scriptures who have ‘missed’ that it is all about me!” Jesus lived God’s story; He “was” the story; and He told His story in relevant parables so that common folk like you and me could understand. We should do no less.

Trekker, there is a lot of ferment today about what is preeminent in proclaiming the Gospel. Is it proclaimed best through “Four Spiritual Laws”?(The Pharisee’s certainly had more than four laws, so we are ‘making progress’.)Is it proclaimed best through a set procedure of doctrinal propositions? Maybe. I believe the Gospel is proclaimed best when we reveal God as a relentless lover (the prodigal son will always be one of the greatest stories ever told because it is really all about the Father’s love, not the son’s sins), not as a cruel, demanding law giver and taskmaster. Today, as 2000 years ago, Jesus offers a reserved place in the Kingdom of God to all who will “receive Him” (check John’s story, Chapter 1,vs. 10-13), follow Him (not self or self-serving creeds about Him), continue to love Him and love each other.

Expectations are simple and straightforward. Live and tell “His story”. Then “your story” is His story. Lovingly invite others into the family! Trekker, let’s become good storytellers. What are your parables, your metaphors, the deeds you do and the words you say? Storytelling will trump arguments every time. That’s why the Lord did it; that’s why we love a good story; that’s why we can be included in the greatest story ever told!

TULIP revisited

Ok listen, I'm a "Calvinist" and I post many jokes about Calvinists so I'm declaring that I'm qualified to poke fun at those who are not. So, no need to beat me up for this one just in from Reformed Voices.

On a serious note I found this timely because I am beginning to engage with some "emerging" types. I formerly thought predisposed, judgmental, lack-of-facts thinking was reserved for the Evangelical camp. I am now finding that Emergers are like other people, they do the same thing.

I have to laugh (or cry) because this has been one of the constants I've seen in my nearly 30 years as a believer. We too often become what we hate. And this isn't just in the big stuff. I remember how we prided ourselves in the early days regarding proper attire for "church" meetings. We weren't like those stuffy religious types who confused their faith with their apparel. They were pharisees and we were normal (well, even better, we were cool - and that was pre-Apple Mac). But it wasn't too many years into it before it was clear that we also had a church uniform. It was easy to spot us and we even mocked those that dressed different.

Ah these emergent kids ... they like us refuse to learn from the mistakes of those that have gone before.

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the gospel

To grow in your passion for what Jesus has done, increase your understanding of what He has done. Never be content with your grasp of the gospel. The gospel is life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than any diamond. Its depths man will never exhaust. ~ C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life


Saturday, June 21, 2008

piper on god's schizophrenia

I align with this line from John Piper, "as a hearty believer in unconditional, individual election I rejoice to affirm that God does not delight in the perishing of the impenitent, and that he has compassion on all people."

This is from Are There Two Wills in God? Piper opens the piece with this ...

My aim here is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God's will for "all persons to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4) and his will to elect unconditionally those who will actually be saved is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election therefore does not contradict biblical expressions of God's compassion for all people, and does not nullify sincere offers of salvation to everyone who is lost among all the peoples of the world.

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rambo jesus

Nakedpastor delivers again ... I know Christians that act like this ... but I also know Christians that presume many Christians that wear certain labels act like this. I don't know which group bothers me more.


lloyd-jones on reconciliation

God never leaves us in a negative position. God does not merely forgive us our sins. It is possible for somebody to forgive you and yet to feel rather distant towards you ... Forgiveness is only the negative aspect and God never stops at that. God always goes on. God is never satisfied with anything less than reconciliation. ~ Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones - "Romans 3:20 - 4:25: Atonement and Justification"


Our theological word of the day ....


(Latin regenerare, “to reproduce”)

The doctrine of spiritual renewal, otherwise known as being born-again. According to Titus 3:3-7, in his mercy God saves us by washing away our old nature through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life, as verse 7 states. There is some controversy as to when regeneration happens in the ordo salutis (order of salvation). Calvinists assert that regeneration happens before faith; Arminians believe it happens after faith evidences itself.

i'm a piper heretic

Oh no ... it finally happened (I suppose it was inevitable) ... I read something from John Piper that I disagree with. Who is the man in Romans 7? I'm with Warnock (and Virgo and Lloyd-Jones) on this one.

the books have been opened

Well, the books have been opened and the data analyzed ...

I can't explain it ... talk to this guy ... but what's spooky is I bet a lot of folks think like the above.

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macarthur on theology

Our theology must be biblical before it can be systematic. We must start with a proper interpretation of Scripture and build our theology from there, not read into God's Word unwarranted presuppositions. Scripture is the only appropriate gauge by which we may ultimately measure the correctness of our doctrine. ~ John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles


There's a cool on-ling thingy called wordle ... here's what it did with the text from my current blog page ...

the environment

We recently concluded a series of discussions in my small group regarding the environment, dominion, etc.. It was great in that I learned some simple facts but mostly it challenged some stale thinking I had. In the end however I'm not going "green". On the other hand, I like some of Mark Heath's thoughts and will certainly be making an effort to be a better steward of God's wonderful creation.

It seems that the consensus is that global warming is real and man-made, although every now and then I come up against skeptics (some more believable than others). To be honest, I'm not sure I really need to know. Most of the "good for the environment" things you can do have merits of their own irrespective of whether the planet is in immanent peril or not.


Conventional wisdom at the moment claims that Christians don't care about the environment because of their eschatology - Jesus is coming back and he'll clean up the mess for us. Maybe there is a little of that, but I'm not sure for two reasons.

First, the reason many Christians don't talk a lot about "the environment" is because we have a different name for it. We call it "Creation", and can be found singing about how wonderful it is almost every week at church. In fact a healthy doctrine of seeing our world as God's creation entrusted to us as responsible stewards should be all the impetus we need to cause us to work against those things that destroy our environment.

Second, I think the reason so many Christians care so little about environmental issues is nothing to do with their eschatology but rather because of syncretism. We have made it possible to mix Christianity with secular materialistic consumerism.

I also just read Virgil Vaduva's take on some environmental issues and I agree with his viewpoint.

As Christians we believe that we are entrusted by our Creator with a planet we need to watch over and maintain for our children and grandchildren; we need to be the kind of "environmentalists" that God wants us to be, to love and care for the world we live in, but not do so by allowing Communists in Gore clothing to manipulate us as they are attempting to do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

the name of jesus

Speaking of the characteristics of God ... Nicole does an interesting analysis regarding how the name of Jesus appears in the Bible.


John MacArthur posts today on Thinking Biblically. This is a call to discernment which is a good encouragement at all times for all Christians everywhere. I will add two comments:

1) Discernment is not the first step nor the last. That is, it starts with a life-changing touch by the Holy Spirit, a knowledge of some Truth, repentance, etc.. But more, our life does not end with discernment, it is about living Christ-like, day in and day out, moment by moment.

2) The second point builds on the first. I know discerning people our are not Christ-like. They discern all but themselves. Actually that's too harsh. Sometimes they fail to discern the time, that is it may not be the right time to confront a given issue. More often they fail to discern the bigger picture. I suppose I want to say that their use of discernment is not very discerning. Can one say that?

For the purpose of his post, MacArthur did a fine job with his definition: "Discernment — the ability to think biblically about all areas of life — is indispensable to an uncompromising life." In a larger context I might have used the phase "think and act" over "think". I also prefer "Christ-like" over "biblically" - while these may seem the same I think the implication is great.

reformed website scandal

Dr. Charles Hollingsworth, senior pastor, Liberty Baptist Church in Battle Creek, MI, has been caught in a reformed website scandal. His undoing is thanks to Covenant Eyes, a web browsing monitoring software designed to "fight internet temptation". I fear this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are likely many more like Hollingsworth. These men need help. They surf the internet endlessly. They are compelled yet filled with shame. And I suspect their number is growing.

The full story here.

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spurgeon on revival

Ah ... the quotable C.H. Spurgeon. Here he speaks on revival. I like his words. Some are slinging these as warning to the Lakeland happenings. I don't know about that. But regardless the words are timeless and true.

Every attempt at revival of religion which proves a failure,—and fail it must without the presence of God,—leaves the Church in a worse condition than it was before; because, if it should prove a failure, from the want of any stir at all; then God's people fall back into their former lethargy, with an excuse for continuing in it; or if a false stir be made, a reaction follows of a most injurious character. I suppose the worst time in the Christian Church is generally that which follows the excitement of a revival; and if that revival has had no reality in it, the mischief which is done is awful and incalculable. If no excitement shall come at all, the mischief is still as great; God's people, being disappointed, have little heart to listen to further exhortations to future zealous action, become contented with their Laodicean lukewarmness, and it becomes impossible to bestir them again. If a revival should apparently have success and yet God be not in it, perhaps this is even worse. The wild-fire and madness of some revivals have been a perfect disgrace to the common sense of the age, let alone the spirituality of the Church.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

wrath and love

Let us not trifle with God or trivialize his love. We will never stand in awe of being loved by God until we reckon with the seriousness of our sin and the justice of his wrath against us. But when, by grace, we waken to our unworthiness, then we may look at the suffering and death of Christ and say, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the [wrath-absorbing] propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). ~ John Piper, Fifty Reasons why Christ Came to Die

From Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, "Only he who knows the greatness of wrath will be mastered by the greatness of mercy. The converse is also true: Only he who has experienced the greatness of mercy can measure how great wrath must be. For the wrath of God arises from His love and mercy. Where mercy meets with the ungodly will of man rather than faith and gratitude, with goodwill and the response of love, love becomes wrath."

John Stott uses this concept in The Cross of Christ.

"We saunter up to God to claim His patronage and friendship; it does not occur to us that He might send us away. We need to hear again the apostle Peter's sobering words: 'Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your reverent fear' (1 Pet 1:7). In other words, if we dare to call our Judge our Father, we must beware of presuming on Him. It must even be said that our evangelical emphasis on the atonement is dangerous if we come to it too quickly. We learn to appreciate the access of God which Christ won for us only after we have first seen God's inaccessibility to sinners. We can cry 'Hallelujah' with authenticity only after we have cried 'Woe is me, for I am lost.' In Dale's words, 'it is partly because sin does not provoke our own wrath, that we do not believe that sin provokes the wrath of God'.

We must, therefore, hold fast to the biblical revelation of the living God who hates evil, is disgusted and angered by it, and refuses ever to come to terms with it. In consequence, we may be sure that, when he searched in His mercy for some way to forgive, cleanse and accept evil-doers, it was not along the road of moral compromise. It has to be a way which was expressive equally of His love and of His wrath. As Brunner put it, 'where the idea of the wrath of God is ignored, there will also be no understanding of the central conception of the Gospel: the uniqueness of the revelation of the Mediator'. Similarly, 'only he who knows the greatness of wrath will be mastered by the greatness of mercy'.

...If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to His, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely 'hell-deserving sinners', then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before."

There is an inevitable collision between Divine perfection and human rebellion. There's an enormous gulf between God as He is and us as we are. Neither our sin nor our guilt alone is what separates us, but also the Divine reaction towards guilty sinners. God's nature demands that He express his holy love without compromising his holiness, and his holiness in judging sinners without frustrating his love.

The idea that God is Holy is foundational to Biblical religion and sin is incompatible with his holiness. Closely related to Gods holiness is his wrath, which is his holy reaction to evil.

good news

Good news for Jews ... giraffes declared kosher. Yep, both the meat and milk of this cloven-hoofed, cud-chewin' beast is kosher. I bet that's good news to someone ... except the giraffe.

Monday, June 16, 2008

justice and love

Nicole pointed me toward John Piper's Fifty Reasons why Christ Came to Die. I had planned to read it while on vacation but just couldn't wait. This excerpt from at the beginning of chapter 1 is great. If the rest of the book is anything like this I am in for a treat.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Galatians 3:13

God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Romans 3:25

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

If God were not just, there would be no demand for his Son to suffer and die. And if God were not loving, there would be no willingness for his Son to suffer and die. But God is both just and loving. Therefore his love is willing to meet the demands of his justice.

gospel jazz

We do not need to jazz up or somehow enhance a weak gospel. We need to faithfully teach and preach the biblical gospel and see to it that identifiably faithful men will take the unadulterated gospel to the next generation. That is how to grow a church biblically. ~ Steve Martin, p. 310, Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry


kids' rock

This is great ... Kids' Rock by Tim Hawkins.


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incommunicable attribute - omnipresence

From Wayne Grudem, Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine (173)...

Just as God is unlimited or infinite with respect to time, so God is unlimited with respect to space. This characteristic of God’s nature is called God’s omnipresence (the Latin prefix omni- means “all”). God’s omnipresence may be defined as follows: God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places.

The fact that God is Lord of space and cannot be limited by space is evident first from the fact that he created it, for the creation of the material world (Gen. 1:1) implies the creation of space as well. Moses reminded the people of God’s lordship over space: “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it” (Deut. 10:14).

a. God Is Present Everywhere: Yet there are also specific passages that speak of God’s presence in every part of space. We read in Jeremiah, “Am I a God at hand, says the Lord, and not a God afar off ? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord” (Jer. 23:23–24). God is here rebuking the prophets who think their words or thoughts are hidden from God. He is everywhere and fills heaven and earth.

God’s omnipresence is beautifully expressed by David:

Whither shall I go from your Spirit?
Or whither shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. (Ps. 139:7–10)

There is nowhere in the entire universe, on land or sea, in heaven or in hell, where one can flee from God’s presence.

b. God Does Not Have Spatial Dimensions: While it seems necessary for us to say that God’s whole being is present in every part of space, or at every point in space, it is also necessary to say that God cannot be contained by any space no matter how large. Solomon says in his prayer to God, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain God; indeed, he cannot be contained by the largest space imaginable (cf. Isa. 66:1–2; Acts 7:48). While the thought that God is everywhere present with his whole being ought to encourage us greatly in prayer no matter where we are, the fact that no one place can be said to contain God should also discourage us from thinking that there is some special place of worship that gives people special access to God: he cannot be contained in any one place.

We should guard against thinking that God extends infinitely far in all directions so that he himself exists in a sort of infinite, unending space. Nor should we think that God is somehow a “bigger space” or bigger area surrounding the space of the universe as we know it. All of these ideas continue to think of God’s being in spatial terms, as if he were simply an extremely large being. Instead, we should try to avoid thinking of God in terms of size or spatial dimensions. God is a being who exists without size or dimensions in space. In fact, before God created the universe, there was no matter or material so there was no space either. Yet God still existed. Where was God? He was not in a place that we could call a “where,” for there was no “where” or space. But God still was! This fact makes us realize that God relates to space in a far different way than we do or than any created thing does. He exists as a kind of being that is far different and far greater than we can imagine.

We must also be careful not to think that God himself is equivalent to any part of creation or to all of it. A pantheist believes that everything is God, or that God is everything that exists. The biblical perspective is rather that God is present everywhere in his creation, but that he is also distinct from his creation. How can this be? The analogy of a sponge filled with water is not perfect, but it is helpful. Water is present everywhere in the sponge, but the water is still completely distinct from the sponge. Now this analogy breaks down at very small points within the sponge, where we could say that there is sponge at one point and not water, or water and not sponge. Yet this is because the analogy is dealing with two materials that have spatial characteristics and dimensions, while God does not.

hold me

Hold Me
(John Barnett)

Father, You’re so good
Father, You’re so wise
There’s healing in Your hands
Compassion in Your eyes
And what is to become of me?
I’m captured by Your love
You touch the deepest part of me
I just can’t get enough

You are everything to me
I come like a child
Lift my arms like a child
Oh hold me
Hold me, right now

the answer to everything

This cartoon reminded me of someone I know ... actually, it reminds me of almost everyone I know. Most of my friends are very passionate about some small number of things. For me it's small groups and community. Almost any time I speak with someone, the solution to whatever we discuss is small groups. I was thinking about another friend who has found help framing everything about God using the term love. I have another friend with whom every conversation circled back to the Doctrine of Election/Grace. And so it goes.

I like my friends. I like that they have passion. Even if it makes us looks silly.

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Today's theological word of the day ...

French egal “equal”

Theological position which believes that the Bible does not teach that women are in any sense, functionally or ontologically, subservient to men. Women and men hold positions in society, ministry, and the family according to their gifts, not their gender. The principle of mutual submission teaches that husbands and wives are to submit to each other equally. Promenade egalitarians include Doug Groothuis, Ruth Tucker, William Webb, Gorden Fee, and Linda Belleville.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

incommunicable attribute - eternity

Another wonderful characteristic of God is Hie eternity. That is, He has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in His own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet sees events in time and acts in time. Time does not limit or change God. Wayne Grudem writes clearly on this in Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine (168).

Time has no effect on God’s knowledge. He never learns new things or forgets things - He always knows perfectly, i.e., He knows past, present, and future equally vividly.

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God Is timeless is seen in Psalm 90:2: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Similarly, in Job 36:26, Elihu says of God, “the number of his years is unsearchable.” He always exists. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8; cf. 4:8).

God’s own being does not have a succession of moments or any progress from one state of existence to another. To God himself, all of his existence is always somehow “present".

For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done
saying, “My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose.
(Isa. 46:9–10)

God somehow stands above time and is able to see it all as present in his consciousness.

Even so, God sees events in time and acts in time. Paul writes, “when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4–5). God observed clearly and knew exactly what was happening with events in his creation as they occurred over time. We might say that God watched the progress of time as various events occurred within his creation. Then at the right time, “when the time had fully come,” God sent forth his Son into the world.

It is evident throughout Scripture that God acts within time and acts differently at different points in time. For example, Paul tells the men of Athens, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed...” (Acts 17:30–31). This statement includes a description of a previous way in which God acted, God’s present way of acting, and a future activity that he will carry out, all in time.

Indeed, the repeated emphasis on God’s ability to predict the future in the Old Testament prophets requires us to realize that God predicts his actions at one point in time and then carries out his actions at a later point in time. And on a larger scale, the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation is God’s own record of the way he has acted over time to bring redemption to his people.

We must therefore affirm both that God has no succession of moments in his own being and sees all history equally vividly, and that in his creation he sees the progress of events over time and acts differently at different points in time; in short, he is the Lord who created time and who rules over it and uses it for his own purposes. God can act in time because he is Lord of time.17 He uses it to display his glory. In fact, it is often God’s good pleasure to fulfill his promises and carry out his works of redemption over a period of time so that we might more readily see and appreciate his great wisdom, his patience, his faithfulness, his lordship over all events, and even his unchangeableness and eternity.


Here's our theological word of the day ...


Theological position held by many Christians believing the Bible teaches that men and women are of equal worth, dignity, and responsibility before God (ontological equality), but that men and women have different roles to play in society, the family, and the church (relational distinct roles). For the complementarian, these roles do not compete but complement each other. Prominent modern complementarian are Tomas Schreiner, Wayne Grudem, and John Piper.

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the larger story

Only as we see our story enfolded in the larger story of redemption will we begin to live God-honoring lives. Lasting change begins when our identity, purpose, and sense of direction are defined by God’s story. When we bring this perspective to our relationships, we will have a dramatically different agenda. It will take the principles and commands of Scripture and use them as God intended. We will see how each principle, promise, and command finds its meaning and fulfillment in Christ. Separate them from Christ and they lose their God-intended meaning and get hijacked by other agendas. ~ Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands



While I don't share the degree of concern regarding the 'target' to whom this particular quote has been reapplied, I certainly agree with the quote itself.

Pushing aside important [doctrinal] differences makes the church more energetic about a moralism focused on man than true piety focused on God. This in turn creates a pragmatism, and eventually a relativism, that will destroy the love of truth and with it the sense of oughtness that gives perseverance to righteous action. ~ Tom Nettles

We most be very careful to sort out what is foundational and to not compromise that. Of course even what constitutes the basics seems to be up for debate these days but surely something fits that category and whatever it is, it should not be compromised.

With that said I should add that the converse of the quote is also true. A piety toward God that does not result in a love for His creation demonstrated through good words and deeds leads toward legalism. This ultimately results in a lost focus on our true love Himself.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

the problem with religion

Here's a good word from Tim Keller to Christians regarding the problem with religion.


There's a lot of talk regarding the Lakeland 'scandel' but I heard one today that tops that.

The ultimate scandal of Christianity is in this: that God is merciful to the undeserving, to sinners, to those who have no merit but the merit of Christ to plead, and no argument but the humble, believing cry, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner.' ~ Alistair Beg, What Angels Wish They Knew


what a friend i've found

What A Friend I've Found

What a friend I've found
Closer than a brother
I have felt your touch
More intimate than lovers

Jesus, Jesus
Jesus, friend forever

What a hope I've found
More faithful than a mother
It would break my heart
To ever lose each other

Written by Martin Smith ©1996 Curious? Music UK


PunchlineThis simple cartoon by NakedPastor reminded me of the time I was sitting at my friend Randy Clark's church in St. Louis in the mid-80's. David Ruis was speaking. It wasn't so interesting. Nothing funny was happening. I hadn't been drinking. But suddenly I fell out of my seat onto the floor laughing.

I couldn't stop. I didn't want to do that (no one else was). It was if someone was tickling me and I couldn't resist. I somehow knew it was God. I asked Him to stop. I was laughing so hard tears were in my ears, my side was hurting, etc.. I asked Him again and again.

He said, "No - you need to lighten up and I won't stop until you really agree."

I did.

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Today's attribute of God is His unchangeableness (or immutability). God is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and he acts and feels differently in response to different situations.

Psalm 102 contrasts things that we may think to be permanent such as the earth or the heavens to God.

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you endure;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You change them like raiment, and they pass away;
but you are the same, and your years have no end.

(Ps. 102:25–27)

Again Wayne Grudem sheds some good light on the topic (Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine, p163) [emphasis mine].

God existed before the heavens and earth were made, and he will exist long after they have been destroyed. God causes the universe to change, but in contrast to this change he is “the same.”

Referring to his own qualities of patience, long-suffering, and mercy, God says, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). Here God uses a general statement of his unchangeableness to refer to some specific ways in which he does not change.

James reminds his readers that all good gifts come ultimately from God “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). His argument is that since good gifts have always come from God, we can be confident that only good gifts will come from him in the future, because his character never changes in the slightest degree.

The definition given above specifies that God is unchanging—not in every way that we might imagine, but only in ways that Scripture itself affirms. The Scripture passages already cited refer either to God’s own being or to some attribute of his character. From these we can conclude that God is unchanging, at least with respect to his “being,” and with respect to his “perfections” (that is, his attributes or the various aspects of his character).

The great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck notes that the fact that God is unchanging in his being is of the utmost importance for maintaining the Creator/creature distinction, and for our worship of God:

The doctrine of God’s immutability is of the highest significance for religion. The contrast between being and becoming marks the difference between the Creator and the creature. Every creature is continually becoming. It is changeable, constantly striving, seeks rest and satisfaction, and finds this rest in God, in him alone, for only he is pure being and no becoming. Hence, in Scripture God is often called the Rock....

The definition given above also affirms God’s unchangeableness or immutability with respect to his purposes. “The counsel of the Lord stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:11). This general statement about God’s counsel is supported by several specific verses that talk about individual plans or purposes of God that he has had for all eternity (Matt. 13:35; 25:34; Eph. 1:4, 11; 3:9, 11; 2 Tim. 2:19; 1 Peter 1:20; Rev. 13:8). Once God has determined that he will assuredly bring something about, his purpose is unchanging, and it will be achieved. In fact, God claims through Isaiah that no one else is like him in this regard:

I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, “My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose” . . .
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.

(Isa. 46:9–11)

Furthermore, God is unchanging in his promises. Once he has promised something, he will not be unfaithful to that promise: “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?” (Num. 23:19; cf. 1 Sam. 15:29).

Friday, June 13, 2008

is god narcissistic?

We have been taught that WE are the center of His universe. We have been shown verse after verse that talks about His love for us. Which is, of course, true, but there is context for that as well… We believe that God cannot possibly love God most - that would be narcissistic. And yet, could God be holy, if He placed infinite worth on anything but that which is infinitely valuable?? Namely Himself? ~ Nicole Sagert

a jealous god

From Sam Storms today ... this is excellent and fits well with my continuing posts regarding the nature of God. Here we can see that love and jealousy work together, they are not contradictory, nor is one above the other.

In fact, if I had any disagreement with Storms it would be that at one point in this he elevates jealousy above other attributes (using words such as primary and defining). God's attributes are in balance and in unity with each other. I believe Storms holds them in balance but I resisted the urge to edit his language to one of more balance. I resisted for the sake of those that want to contend some other characteristic might be His defining characteristic. I think every attribute of God is so awesome that anyone could easily argue that any one of them is the primary, most wonderful, defining, whatever one. We must resist that. We must step back and marvel in the beauty of the unity and integration of all that defines God.

Now ... to Stoms' piece.

The Jealousy of God in the Heart of a Human
(2 Corinthians 11:1-2)

"I feel a divine jealousy for you," says Paul, "for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2). There is much in this passage to note, but here I want to focus solely on the "divine jealousy" that fills Paul's heart.

This statement in v. 2 might more literally be rendered, "I am jealous for you with God's own zeal" or the jealousy that comes from God himself or, perhaps, my heart is filled with a jealousy that is just like God's.

Whoah! God gets jealous? Are you kidding? No, I'm deadly serious, and so is God. Consider just a few texts that affirm this remarkable truth.

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me" (Exod. 20:4-5; emphasis mine).

Or again,

"for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Exod. 34:14; emphasis mine).

Here we see that the primary reason for worshiping God alone is the fact that God's name is Jealous! In the ancient world one's name was not merely a label or a tag, but a declaration of one's character. Thus, in the very depths of God's divine character burns the fire of jealousy. Jealousy is central to the essence of who God is. Jealousy is at the core of God's identity as God. Jealousy is that defining characteristic or personality trait that makes God God. Whatever other reasons you may find in Scripture for worshiping and serving and loving God alone, and there are many of them and they are all good, paramount among them all is the fact that our God burns with jealousy for the undivided allegiance and affection of His people.

Consider also these texts:

"Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy" (Num. 25:11).

"For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God" (Deut. 4:24).

"You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth" (Deut. 6:14-15; cf. 29:20).

"They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger" (Deut. 32:16; cf. 32:21).

An especially interesting text is the following passage from Ezekiel.

"He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy" (Ezek. 8:3).

The Israelites had placed an idol of some sort at the entrance to the north gate of the temple. Literally, it reads "the jealousy that provokes jealousy", a reference to the passion that this object ignites in God's heart. "Look," says the Lord, "look at that abominable statue which draws away the hearts of my people. They are loving it, not Me. They are bowing down to it, not Me. I am red hot with jealousy, for I will not stand for anything or anyone to come between me and the devotion of my bride!"

The pervasive presence in Scripture of this remarkable truth is simply undeniable. I encourage you to read 1 Kings 14:22; Ezekiel 16:38,42; 23:25; 36:5ff; 38:19; 39:25; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 78:58; 79:5; Joel 2:18; Nahum 1:2; Zephaniah 1:18; 3:8; Zechariah 1:14; and 1 Corinthians 10:22.

God is an emotional being. He experiences within the depths of his being genuine passions and affections. The fact that we balk at the suggestion that God is jealous indicates that we have a weak, insipid view of the divine nature. Absolutely fundamental to God's being God is the presence in his nature of an inextinguishable blaze of immeasurable love called jealousy.

Most of us have seen or felt or been on the receiving end of human jealousy that is destructive and sinful and ugly. We naturally recoil from the suggestion that God might to any degree be tainted with such a terrible flaw of character. But to say that God is jealous certainly does not mean that he is suspicious because of some insecurity in his heart. This kind of jealousy is the result of ignorance and mistrust, features that are utterly absent from the heart of God. Neither does it mean he is wrongfully envious of the success of others. Jealousy that is sinful is most often the product of anxiety and bitterness and fear. But surely none of this could be true of God. Sinful jealousy is the sort that longs to possess and control what does not properly belong to oneself; it is demanding and cares little for the supposed object of its love.

But as J. I. Packer explains, "God's jealousy is not a compound of frustration, envy, and spite, as human jealousy so often is, but appears instead as a . . . praiseworthy zeal to preserve something supremely precious" (Knowing God, 153). Divine jealousy is his zeal to protect a love relationship or to avenge it when it is broken. Jealousy in God is that passionate energy that provokes and stirs and moves him to take action against whatever or whoever stands in the way of his enjoyment of what he loves and desires. The intensity of God's anger at threats to this relationship is directly proportionate to the depths of his love.

This is no momentary or sporadic or infrequent or occasional burst of anger or minor irritation in the heart of God. This is no passing twinge in God's mind. This is the incessant, intensely persistent burning in the heart of the infinitely powerful, uncreated God. In the ancient near east, the word for "jealousy" literally meant to become intensely red, a reference to the effects of anger on one's facial complexion. Jealousy in God is not a "green-eyed monster" but a "red-faced lover" who will brook no rivals in his relationship with his people. Let's look briefly at the two primary ways this jealousy is expressed.

First of all, God is most jealous for his own glory, fame, and honor. He desires above all else that his name be preserved and promoted and he will act quickly and powerfully to vindicate his glory. "The jealousy of Yahweh," writes Ray Ortlund, "is his profoundly intense drive within to protect the interests of his own glory (Ex. 20:4-6; Ezk. 39:25), for he 'will admit no derogation from his majesty.'" (Whoredom: God's Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology) [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996], p. 29, n. 15).

Second, God is also jealous for the devotion and wholeheartedness and loyalty and love of his bride, his people. Just as a husband cannot be indulgent of adultery in his wife, so also God cannot and will not endure infidelity in us. What would we think of a man or woman who does not experience jealous feelings when another person approaches his/her spouse and threatens to win his/her affection? We would regard such a person as deficient in moral character and lacking in true love. John Calvin explains:

"The Lord very frequently addresses us in the character of a husband . . . As He performs all the offices of a true and faithful husband, so He requires love and chastity from us; that is, that we do not prostitute our souls to Satan . . . As the purer and chaster a husband is, the more grievously he is offended when he sees his wife inclining to a rival; so the Lord, who has betrothed us to Himself in truth, declares that He burns with the hottest jealousy whenever, neglecting the purity of His holy marriage, we defile ourselves with abominable lusts, and especially when the worship of His deity, which ought to have been most carefully kept unimpaired, is transferred to another, or adulterated with some superstition; since in this way we not only violate our plighted troth, but defile the nuptial couch by giving access to adulterers" (Institutes, II.viii.18).

In summary, the fire of divine zeal will consume and destroy and leave in a pathetic rubble of worthless ash, anything and everything that we have built or worked for or given our hearts to or relied upon that in any way or to any degree detracts from the glory of his name or threatens the purity of his relationship with his bride, the Church.

And it is this very jealousy, this same divine and godly zeal, that now fills the heart of Paul as he contemplates the dangerous path down which so many of the Corinthians appear to be walking. It is this jealousy that alone accounts for the passionate appeal that is to follow. In Paul's case it is a "mixture of love, outrage, and fear: love for the Corinthians manifest in deep concern for their spiritual well-being; outrage at their fickleness, the ease and speed by which they have been seduced; fear for their future if they do not repent and return to the Lord" (Carson, 85).

Yes, our God is a jealous God in whose heart burns a passionate love for his people, a love that will forever labor to win our full affection and unqualified devotion.

in christ

On " Christ at Colossae" (Col 1v2): Remember... whatever geographical location you call home that you are in Christ. They are true simultaneously. You do not live in Christ only while you are at church, on your knees, or in a home group, then return to being simply in your city when you leave that more holy atmosphere. Your 'in-Christness' is not simply a heavenly reality that obtains only somewhere up there. You are in Christ even when you are in sin, although the reality of the former ought to progressively diminish your experience of the later. ~ Sam Storms ; The Hope of Glory




There's a great post by Steven Lawson at Ligonier Ministries entitled Resolved. Lawson writes:

Edwards began his Resolutions with what he desired to be the driving force of his life -- an all-absorbing passion to pursue the glory of God.

"Resolved: that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory and to my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved: to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved: to do this whatever difficulties I meet with, how ever so many and how ever so great."


What is the glory of God? The Bible speaks of it in two ways. First, there is His intrinsic glory, the revelation of all that God is. It is the sum total of all His divine perfections and holy attributes. There is nothing that man can do to add to His intrinsic glory. Second, there is God's ascribed glory, which is the praise and honor due His name. This is the glory that man must give to God.

For Edwards, to be resolved to live for God's glory means to exalt His most glorious name. It means to live consistently with His holy character. It means to proclaim and promote His supreme greatness. This is the highest purpose for which God created us.

Why did Edwards place this resolution first? He understood that Scripture places the glory of God first in all things. Edwards was gripped with a transcendent, high view of God. As a result, in writing his "resolutions," he knew he must live wholeheartedly for this awesome, sovereign God.

Thus, Edwards intentionally chose to "do whatsoever I think is most to God's glory." Here is the interpretive principle for everything in life. You want to know what God's will is? You want to know whom to marry? You want to know what job to take? You want to know what ministry to pursue? You want to know how to invest your resources? You want to know how to spend your time?

There it is! Everything in life fits under this master theme. Anything out of alignment with this principle pursuit is in dangerous territory. Sometimes our decisions are not between right and wrong. Sometimes they are between good, better, and best. These are sometimes the hardest decisions. Edwards said that he would not live for what is merely good. Nor for what is better. He purposed to live only for what is best. Whatever is most to the glory of God -- that is what is best!

Edwards believed that God's glory was inseparably connected with his "own good, profit, and pleasure." Whenever he sought God's glory, he was confident that it would inevitably yield God's greatest good for his life. The glory of God produced his greatest "pleasure." So it is with us. Would you know unspeakable joy? Abundant peace? True contentment? Then pursue God's glory.

With unwavering determination, young Edwards chose this first resolution to mark "the whole of my duration." As long as he was alive, this was to be the driving thrust of his life. He must always live for God's glory. He would never outgrow this central theme. He must never exchange it for a lesser glory.

Also, Edwards' believed that his commitment to God's glory would bring the greatest "good of mankind." By seeking God's honor, the greatest advantage would accrue to others. Thus, living for the glory of God would lead to the greatest influence of the Gospel upon the world. Souls would be converted. Saints would be edified. Needs would be met.

Would you have maximum impact upon this world? Would you lead others to Christ? Would you live for eternity? There it is! Live for God's glory.

No matter what, Edwards resolved to live for God's glory despite "whatever difficulties I meet with, how ever so many and ever so great." Regardless the cost, despite the pain, he would pursue God's honor. Even if it meant persecution or poverty, his mind was made up, his will resolved. He would pay any price to uphold the glory of God, regardless of the hardship that awaited him.

This is my challenge to the next generation: Would you seek the highest goal? Would you know the deepest joy? Would you realize the greatest good? Would you cast the widest influence? Would you overcome the greatest difficulties?

Then make this first resolution of Jonathan Edwards your chief aim. Be resolved to live for God's glory.