Monday, December 31, 2012

you are accepted

"Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Many… have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification… drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. 

"Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude… 

"Much that we have interpreted as a defect of sanctification in church people is really an outgrowth of their loss of bearing with respect to justification. Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons…"  

--Richard F. Lovelace, quoted by Tim Keller in Center Church.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

on the incarnation


Below is a lightly edited excerpt from the second section of Athanasius' writing, On the Incarnation, written about AD 320.  

"The Divine Dilemma and Its Solution in the Incarnation"

Now He [the Word] entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. 

He saw the reasonable race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father's Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in their corruption.

He saw that corruption held us, because it was the penalty for the transgression. 

He saw how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. 

He saw how unfitting it would be for the very things which He Himself made should disappear.

He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them. 

He saw their universal bondage to death. 

All this He saw.

And He pitied our race.  He was moved with compassion for our limitation, and was unwilling that death should have the mastery. Rather than have His creatures perish, and the work of His Father for us come to nothing, He took to Himself a body, a human body even like our own.

He did not choose merely to become embodied or merely to appear.  Had that been so, He could have revealed His divine majesty in some other and better way.

No, He took our body, and not only so, but He took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin, without the agency of human father.

He, the Mighty One, the Maker of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. 

Thus taking a body like our own, and because all our bodies were subject to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. 

This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished. Having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, death was emptied of its power for men from that time onward. 

This He did that He might make incorruptible those who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the giving of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. 

Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

the cradle, cross, and crown


At the center of the history of redemption is a cradle, a cross, and a crown.  

All of the Old Testament, from creation to the fall of the first Adam, from the calling of Abraham and God's purposes for Israel, and including all the prophets, spoke in preparation and in foreshadowing of the Coming One, the last Adam, the God-man who would make all things right.  

"When we could not come to him, he came to us."  The truth of the incarnation is vital to the gospel: unless the Messiah would be both man and God he could not accomplish what he needed to accomplish.  He must be infinitely strong to save (God) and he must be a perfect Substitute for us (fully human).  Then his death could be a full atonement, a completely gracious redemption.  We could not come to him unless he came to us.

This is the center of history: the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. An accomplished salvation at his initiative.  A Savior in every sense of the word.  

Now in the New Testament the Apostles proclaim that Jesus is risen and ascended with all authority.  And they explain all that this means for us who believe.  This gospel announcement is proclaimed now to all nations until Christ returns.  And he will visibly establish his glorious reign in the new heavens and new earth. 

Lack of understanding all these implications of the gospel leads to so many of our problems.  Tim Keller writes, 

Most of our problems in life come from a lack of proper orientation to the gospel. Pathologies in the church and sinful patterns in our individual lives ultimately stem from a failure to think through the deep implications of the gospel and to grasp and believe the gospel through and through. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts and our thinking and changes our approaches to absolutely everything. When the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look unique. People will find in it an attractive, electrifying balance of moral conviction and compassion. D. A. Carson writes the following: The gospel is regularly presented not only as truth to be received and believed, but the very power of God to transform (see 1 Cor 2; 1 Thess 2:4; [Rom 1:16–17])… One of the most urgently needed things today is a careful treatment of how the gospel, biblically and richly understood, ought to shape everything we do in the local church, all of our ethics, all of our priorities. (--Tim Keller, Center Church)


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

the first rejection


"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)

In my reading recently I pondered this passage in 1 Peter...

"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and 
whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.' So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,' and 'A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.'  (1 Peter 2:4-8a ESV)


Being born in a stable was just the first of many rejections.  Jesus was born in a barn, and born into poverty.  This is part of the humiliation that the Son freely accepted as he left his Father's side and emptied himself of glory to enter our world. 

Now I'm not saying that the inn keeper knowingly rejected this holy family and the long-awaited Child.  Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary were just one of the many displaced families looking for lodging during the hectic census.  But this humble beginning was the first of many rejections of the Messiah, whereby God's Son, who deserves first place, took last place.

The rejection and humiliation of Christ did not just take place at the cross, but by all that preceded it, as well.  Jonathan Edwards noted that Jesus' private life before his ministry was one of humiliation, given that he was the Son of God working as a common laborer...

“Christ's humiliation in some respects was greater in his private life than in the time of his public ministry. For in his public ministry there was many manifestations of his glory in the word he preached, and the great miracles he wrought. But the first thirty years of his life he spent among mean, ordinary men, as it were, in silence, without those manifestations of his glory or anything to make him to be taken notice of more than any ordinary mechanic, but only the spotless purity and eminent holiness of his life, and that was in a great measure hid in obscurity so that he was little taken notice till after his baptism.”   (--Jonathan Edwards, "History of the Work of Redemption, Sermon 16," Yale online)

Then he was rejected by his own people (John 1:11), by his siblings (John 7:5), by his home town neighbors (Lu 4:29), by the religious professionals (Lu 5:21), by disciples who found his teaching too hard (John 6:66), and by the political leaders of the nation (John 11:50).  All of this culminated in the ultimate rejection, the despised cross of public execution (Phil 2:8).

The humiliation of our Lord Jesus is a core part of the gospel that we embrace: the Cradle, the Cross, the Crown.  His incarnation is inextricably linked to his atoning death and to his resurrection and reign. We believe it, and we willingly go to him who is still outside the favor of this world, and we openly identify with him who was, and is, rejected...

"So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured."  (Hebrews 13:12-13 ESV) 


reflection on Newtown

I appreciate especially Pastor Joey Newton's comments about halfway through...
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Saturday, December 8, 2012

what brings the glory down

Finished reading James MacDonald's Vertical Church.  The church is first and foremost about God's glory and manifested  presence.  People should sense this, and even the outsider "...falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you." (1 Corinthians 14:25)

The Pillars of a vertical church (what brings the glory down):


  • Unapologetic Preaching
  • Unashamed Adoration
  • Unceasing Prayer from God's people
  • Unafraid Witness by God's people

A couple of final quotes...

On relational evangelism: “The power of the gospel is not in the relational capacity of the witness but in the message itself.  Friendship evangelism, lifestyle evangelism, relational evangelism—all of it flows from our desire to avoid what cannot be avoided.  I will say it again, if you are not willing to be the aroma of death to those who are perishing, you can’t be the aroma of life to those who are being saved.  The idea of having conversations with a person for months or years to ‘earn the right’ to talk to him or her about Jesus betrays an elevation of the role of human persuasion in evangelism that just doesn’t square with the Gospels or the book of Acts.  Now, I’m not talking about enemy evangelism.  Of course we should be kind and live a life of integrity and be sensitive to the Spirit about when to speak up boldly, but bottom line, it’s not about you.”  (James MacDonald, Vertical Church, p. 248)

Summary and conclusion“The problem in the church today is that we treat God’s glory as a by-product and the missional activities of the church as the primary thing when the opposite is what Scripture demands.  We don’t proclaim the gospel and feed the poor and shepherd the flock in hopes that God’s glory will be the by-product of those activities.  We seek the revealing of the glory of God through the methods He prescribes so that His glory is revealed in the church.  When that happens, the lost are converted, the poor are fed, the saints live in unity, and much more, all as by-products of God’s manifest presence in the church.”   (James MacDonald, Vertical Church, p. 300)

Read Tim Challies' helpful review here, which points out some evident weaknesses of this book.  



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

theology as worship


We should only speak about God when we speak from and through him.  Theology should be formed as a fire within us...

"Religion, the fear of God, must therefore be the element which inspires and animates all theological investigation. That must be  the pulse-beat of the science. A theologian is a person who makes bold to speak about God because he speaks out of God and through God. To profess theology is to do holy work. It is a priestly ministration in the house of the Lord. It is itself a service of worship, a consecration of mind and heart to the honor of His name."

(--Herman Bavinck, Inaugural Address at the Free University of Amsterdam, 1902.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

the folly of the Lord


O Simplicitas 

An angel came to me
And I was unprepared 
To be what God was using.
Mother I was to be.
A moment I despaired,
Thought briefly of refusing.
The angel knew I heard.
According to God's Word
I bowed to this strange choosing.

A palace should have been
The birthplace of a king
(I had no way of knowing).
We went to Bethlehem;
It was so strange a thing.
The wind was cold, and blowing,
My cloak was old, and thin.
They turned us from the inn;
The town was overflowing.

God's Word, a child so small,
Who still must learn to speak,
Lay in humiliation.
Joseph stood, strong and tall.
The beasts were warm and meek 
And moved with hesitation.
The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd:
The stable set apart,
The sleepy cattle lowing;
And the incarnate Word
Resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
The folly of the Lord,
Wiser than all men's knowing.

By Madeleine L'Engle 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

simple church

Doing a quick Kindle read of a recommended book, Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. 


Getting some good thoughts from this, and of course, Kindle allows me to underline, and then cut and paste from my clippings text file.  

About halfway through here are some key highlights:


Study findings: "There is a highly significant relationship between a simple church design and the growth and vitality of a local church."

Sadly, most churches miss this truth. They are not simple. They have not designed a simple process for discipleship. They have not structured their church around the process of spiritual transformation. And they are making little impact. 

To have a simple church, you must design a simple discipleship process. This process must be clear. It must move people toward maturity. It must be integrated fully into your church, and you must get rid of the clutter around it.

A simple church is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. The leadership and the church are clear about the process (clarity) and are committed to executing it. The process flows logically (movement) and is implemented in each area of the church (alignment). The church abandons everything that is not in the process (focus).

CLARITY

Clarity is the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people. 

Before the process can be clear to the people in the church, it must first be clear to the leaders.

Church leaders must define more than the purpose (the what); they must also define the process (the how).

People cannot embrace the ambiguous.

Determine what kind of disciple you wish to produce in your church. What do you want the people to be?

MOVEMENT

Movement is the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment. Movement is about flow. It is about assimilation.

"The irony is that we have actually grown numerically and spiritually by doing fewer programs and special events, choosing instead to focus our attention on moving people with various levels of commitment to deeper levels of commitment."

Learn to view your numbers horizontally and not vertically... Most church leaders would look at the total number of people in a particular program, such as the total number of adults in small groups. That is looking vertically. It is looking at programs to see if they are successful. Viewing your numbers horizontally is different. Someone who views numbers horizontally would... see that a certain percentage of adults moved from a worship service to small groups and then to ministry teams. The horizontal viewer would think of ways to move more people across the chart. Sideways.

For people to take your ministry process seriously, it has to be measured. For people to internalize the simple how in your church, you have to evaluate it. The cliché is true: what gets evaluated, gets done. We asked church leaders if they have a system in place to evaluate if people are progressing through their process.

ALIGNMENT

Alignment is the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process. Alignment to the process means that all ministry departments submit and attach themselves to the same overarching process... Without alignment, the church can be a multitude of subministries. In this case each ministry has its own leaders who are only passionate about their specific ministry. They rarely identify with the entire church but are deeply committed to their own philosophy of ministry.

Our research indicates that simple churches practice alignment. They intentionally fight the drift into misalignment. They insist that each staff member and each ministry embrace and execute their simple ministry process.

...alignment fosters unity. People are not fighting over the same space, resources, and leaders. Each ministry complements the others. The goal of each department is to move people [through the process]. ...this process is so simple that it can be explained in a few minutes on a napkin. Each department understands the process and is committed to it.

Decide how each weekly program is part of the process.

FOCUS

Focus is the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process. Focus most often means saying "no." Focus requires saying "yes" to the best and "no" to everything else.

Programs were made for man, not man for programs. If the goal is to keep certain things going, the church is in trouble. The end result must always be about people. Programs should only be tools.

What was once a good thing became an idol. It got in the way of their worship of God. The tool for worship became the object of worship. In many churches the original tools for life change have created too much clutter. Instead of uniting, they divide focus. The programs have become ends in themselves. 

...if you want the necessary to stand out, you have to get rid of the unnecessary.

The extra programs are what business consultants refer to as nonvalue-adding work. They did not add value to the process. The extra programs actually competed with the process because people were less likely to plug into a small group and a ministry. People only have so much available time, and the leaders decided to free up time slots for people to be able to connect to the essential programs in the process. In order to bring greater focus, even popular programs were altered or eliminated... 

View everything through the lens of your simple process. 




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

living with the end in mind


Here are some notes and quotes from Don Emerson's message on Sunday...

“A wise person always lives with the end in mind”

“'If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you will be right.' When I was 17, I read this quote and for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself; ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I have ever encountered to help me make the big choices of life.” (--Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005)

We leave lasting footprints after we’re gone by...

--Demonstrating how to handle failure.

--Investing in the lives of others around us.

--By modeling the good life of loving and obeying God.

--By showing how to die with confidence and hope.


We leave lasting footprints after we’re gone by...

1) Demonstrating how to handle failure.

“ … I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” (Deut. 34:4)

“The realism of the Bible is that God does not excuse sin, but neither is he finished with us when He finds sin in us …the leadership of biblical men was not in every case ended because they sinned. God knew from the beginning who Moses was. God had no illusions that here was a perfect man … God is the sovereign God who is never taken by surprise … God is not romantic concerning men.”  (Francis Schaeffer, No Little People)

2) Investing in the lives of others around us.

“ … Now Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people obeyed him, doing just as the LORD had commanded Moses”  (Deut. 34:9)

3) Living a life of loving and obeying God.

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster … O that you would choose life, so that you and your  descendants might live! …This is the key to your life.”  (Deut. 30:11, 19, 20)

4) Showing how to die with confidence and hope.

“ … Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever.” (Deut. 34:7)

“I once scorned every fearful thought of death,
When it was but the end of pulse and breath.
But now my eyes have seen that past the pain
There is a world waiting to be claimed.

Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart,
For living’s  such a temporary art.
But dying is but getting dressed for God,
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.”

(Calvin Miller, The Divine Symphony)


“Half the places at the round table were empty and among those missing were many of the best who used to sit there. And of those that were there, many had wounds and scars, and most were changed in some way from what they had been before. And he thought that the high adventure of the Grail had been a costly one.”  (King Arthur and the Quest for the Holy Gail)

“A wise person always lives with the end in mind”



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

dignity, humility continued

Blaise Pascal, in his Pensees, on human weakness and dignity...


#347. Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.  All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.

#793. All bodies, the firmament, the stars, the earth and its kingdoms, are not equal to the lowest mind; for mind knows all these and itself; and these bodies nothing. 

This last statement has sometimes been paraphrased, "We are greater than the stars, for we know them and they know nothing."

Previous post: Schaeffer on human dignity and humility.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

human dignity and humility

Francis Schaeffer, in The God Who Is There, shared a helpful diagram which illustrates the dignity and humility of humanity.  



God is our Creator, infinite and self-existent.  We share with all other creatures our creatureliness and finite-ness.  There is a great chasm between us and God in this regards.  We will never be God, who alone is necessary and self-sufficient.  This is our humility.

Yet on the side of personhood, we are very much like God.  We are made in his image (Gen. 1:26, 27).  We can think, reason abstractly, feel with complexity, plan and dream, and choose right or wrong. We can exercise dominion in the world and -- by God's grace -- create a human culture of truth, goodness and beauty.  The chasm then exists between the rest of the creatures and man.  

It is important to remember both aspects of our make-up.




Thursday, November 15, 2012

what is the church's mission?

During drive time I'm listening to What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom and the Great Commission, by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert. 

Very thankful to ChristianAudio.com for their offer of a free download on this!

Here are some popular highlights, which will give a sense of the direction of this work:


We believe the church is sent into the world to witness to Jesus by proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of all nations.  This is our task. This is our unique and central calling.

God does not send out his church to conquer. He sends us out in the name of the One who has already conquered. We go only because he reigns.

We are concerned that in all our passion for renewing the city or tackling social problems, we run the risk of marginalizing the one thing that makes Christian mission Christian: namely, making disciples of Jesus Christ.

If there are missiological implications from Genesis, their emphasis is not “go and bless everyone” but rather “go and call the nations to put their faith in Christ.”

We’d do better to speak of living as citizens of the kingdom, rather than telling our people that they build the kingdom. 

We want the church to remember that there is something worse than death and something better than human flourishing. If we hope only for renewed cities and restored bodies in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If you are looking for a picture of the early church giving itself to creation care, plans for societal renewal, and strategies to serve the community in Jesus’s name, you won’t find them in Acts. But if you are looking for preaching, teaching, and the centrality of the Word, this is your book. The story of Acts is the story of the earliest Christians’ efforts to carry out the commission given them in Acts 1:8. 


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

the morning after


On the morning after our national elections, this is what I’m thinking: the work of the church is far more important than the work of the government.

Why is this?

Jesus said his church would prevail against the gates of hell (Matt 16:18).  His kingdom is an eternal kingdom that outlasts and supersedes all governments (Dan 7:14).  The church is God’s own possession, purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). 

It is the church that can care for souls as well as bodies (Acts 2:42-47).  Wherever the church has gone, orphanages and hospitals have been established, and the outcast, the lonely and the dispossessed find a home.  

It is the church that has gifted teachers who proclaim eternal truth (1 Cor 12:28ff).   The church is the pillar and buttress of truth (1 Tim 3:15).   God has given many special gifts to the church whereby people can be restored and built up. 

It is through the church that God’s manifold wisdom is made known to heaven and earth (Eph 3:10).  Angels long to look into the work of the preaching of the gospel, which is the special work of the church (1 Peter 1:12). 

The church is united to the life-giving headship of Christ (Eph 1:22; Col 1:18).  God never calls the church “a drop in the bucket", as he does the nations (Isa 40:15).  God’s glory is upon the church (Eph 3:21; 5:27).  He nourishes and cherishes her (Eph 5:29).  

Churches are the golden lampstands of light in the dark world.  (Rev 1:20) 

It is churches that bring families together and bring hope and a new way to love through the Holy Spirit.  It is the church that knows and can practice forgiveness through the power of Christ.  It is the church that teaches truth not pragmatism. 

Government programs usually do not capture the hearts of people, which the love of God’s people can do.  It was the church in Czechoslovakia and in Poland that changed their governments peacefully through their own suffering.  I think of the words and works of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr., whose impact has long surpassed the works of most elected officials.  

It is the values of God’s kingdom which political candidates often use to promote their election campaigns -- values and hopes which they are largely unable to bring to pass.  This is true, I believe, of any political party, whether red or blue or otherwise.  I felt this was an important election, and I thought through the issues, and I voted.  And I will vote again.  But I'm neither gushing nor despairing today, for many very important things have not changed at all.

So, don’t be overly dismayed if your candidate lost.  Don’t be overly exuberant if your candidate won.  Political leaders are capable of much damage and much good.  But both the evil they do and the good they do is limited within the bounds of God’s sovereign plan for the nations.  

And his plan for the nations centers primarily on the advancement of the gospel.  Remember, of all that Caesar Augustus accomplished in the ancient world, he merited only one mention in Scripture: that he called for a census which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to give birth to the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 2:1).  The everlasting government of God rests upon his shoulders (Isa 9:6).

Now that the elections are over we should get back to the work of the church.  We should pray for our president and all our newly elected leaders, and respect their offices, but mainly we should be about being the church and faithfully proclaiming the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins, risen bodily, ascended in glory, and returning soon to judge the nations.   

The work of the church is eternally more important than the work of governments.

  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

happiness (joy) the goal


Edwards writes in his first notebook of Miscellanies that it is not simply the glory of God that is the end, or goal, of creation.  Rather, it is the enjoyment of the glory of God.  God eternally enjoys his glory within the Trinity.  Creation becomes an arena of God's revealed glory, specifically revealed to sentient creatures.  And it is not the knowledge of this glory only, nor the communication of it, that is the goal, but the enjoyment of it...  

#3. HAPPINESS IS THE END OF THE CREATION,

as appears by this, because the creation had as good not be, as not rejoice in its being. For certainly it was the goodness of the Creator that moved him to create; and how can we conceive of another end proposed by goodness, than that he might delight in seeing the creatures he made rejoice in that being that he has given them?

It appears also by this, because the end of the creation is that the creation might glorify him. Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed? An understanding of the perfections of God, merely, cannot be the end of the creation; for he had as good not understand it, as see it and not be at all moved with joy at the sight. Neither can the highest end of the creation be the declaring God's glory to others; for the declaring God's glory is good for nothing otherwise than to raise joy in ourselves and others at what is declared.

Wherefore, seeing happiness is the highest end of the creation of the universe, and intelligent beings are that consciousness of the creation that is to be the immediate subject of this happiness, how happy may we conclude will be those intelligent beings that are to be made eternally happy!

(--Jonathan Edwards, 1722, The "Miscellanies": WJE Online Vol. 13 , Ed. Harry S. Stout) 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

what God says to the snow and rain, and why



God thunders wondrously with his voice; 
he does great things that we cannot comprehend.  
For to the snow he says, 'Fall on the earth,' 
likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.  
He seals up the hand of every man, 
that all men whom he made may know it.  
Then the beasts go into their lairs, 
and remain in their dens.  
From its chamber comes the whirlwind, 
and cold from the scattering winds.  
By the breath of God ice is given, 
and the broad waters are frozen fast.  
He loads the thick cloud with moisture; 
the clouds scatter his lightning.  
They turn around and around by his guidance, 
to accomplish all that he commands them 
on the face of the habitable world.  
Whether for correction or for his land or for love, 
he causes it to happen.  

(Job 37:5-13 ESV)

Friday, October 26, 2012

what union with Christ means


We await salvation from Christ 
because he makes us,
ingrafted into his body, 
participants not only in all his benefits 
but also in himself.

If you contemplate yourself, 
that is sure damnation. 
But since Christ has been so imparted to you 
with all his benefits 
that all that is his is made yours – 
that you are made a member of him, 
indeed one with him – 
his righteousness overwhelms your sins; 
his salvation wipes out your condemnation; 
with his worthiness he intercedes 
that your unworthiness may not come before God’s sight.

Surely this is so: 
We ought not to separate Christ from ourselves 
or ourselves from him. 
Rather we ought to hold fast bravely with both hands 
to that fellowship by which he has bound himself to us.

Christ is not outside us 
but dwells within us. 
Not only does he cleave to us 
by an indivisible bond of fellowship, 
but with a wonderful communion, day by day, 
he grows more and more into one body with us, 
until he becomes completely one with us.

(John Calvin, from The Institutes of the Christian Religion)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

shelter-seeking trust

Herman Bavinck on the relationship between faith and assurance (or certainty, as truth relates to us)...


"Faith is certainty and as such excludes all doubt. Whoever is stricken by guilt and crushed and honestly seeks refuge in Christ is already a believer. To the degree that he exercises a shelter-seeking trust he also possesses an assured trust.  How else would a sinner convicted of his own guilt ever dare to approach God and evoke His grace unless in the depth of his heart, without being consciously aware of it himself, he shared in the certainty of faith and the hope that the Father of Jesus Christ is merciful and great in loving kindness? ...

"The assured trust is thereby included in this shelter-seeking trust. And both develop together. The stronger the shelter- seeking trust becomes, the stronger becomes the assured trust.  And if the latter is small and weak, we may confidently conclude that the first too is needy and incomplete. Faith, therefore, does not attain certainty regarding itself through logical reasoning nor through constantly examining itself and reflecting on its own nature. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason hardly helps to establish our certainty. But certainty flows to us immediately and directly out of faith itself. Certainty is an essential characteristic of faith; it is inseparable from it and belongs to its nature. ...

"Just as the Israelites in the desert were healed not when they looked into themselves but when they looked up at the raised snake, so the believer becomes sure of his salvation when he expects it not from his faith but through faith from God's grace.  ...

"It doesn't rest on human reasoning, but on the Word, the promises of God, the gospel, which poses no conditions but only proclaims that everything has been accomplished. All we have to do is enter into that accomplished work and rest in it for eternity.  ... 

"The priests or the guardians of the spiritual life only granted believers the right and the freedom of spirit to believe as the end product, the fruit of a series of good works or genuine inner experiences. Faith was separated from its object—the grace of God in Christ—by a long list of activities, and it was duty-bound to constant examination of and reflection on its own development. Seeking in vain within itself and in the tossing waves of experience that which it could only find outside of itself in Christ, faith lost its certainty. By its very nature and essence faith can find rest in nothing but a word from God, a promise from the Lord. Any other ground makes it shaky, because it is human and therefore shifting and unreliable. Only a word from God can give life to our souls and provide an immovable foundation for the building of our hope. When all human things obtruding between God's grace and our faith are eliminated, and when our faith fastens on God's promises directly and immediately, then faith will be certain and unshakable."

--Herman Bavinck, The Certainty of Faith

Saturday, October 20, 2012

no other stream -- do not dare not to dare



"If you're thirsty, you may drink.”

They were the first words [Jill Pole] had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. 


Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man's. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.


“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.


“I'm dying of thirst,” said Jill.


“Then drink,” said the Lion.


“May I - could I - would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.


The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.


The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.


“Will you promise not to - do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.


“I make no promise,” said the Lion.


Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come  step nearer.


“Do you eat girls?” she said.


“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.


"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.


"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.


"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."


"There is no other stream," said the Lion.


(C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, chapter 2)

[The phrase "do not dare not to dare" comes from a similar scene in The Horse and His Boy, chapter 14:] 


Then Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh, and trotted across to the Lion. 

“Please,” she said, “you're so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I'd sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.”

“Dearest daughter,” said Aslan, planting a lion's kiss on her twitching, velvet nose, “I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours.”

“Now, Bree,” he said, “you poor, proud frightened Horse, draw near. Nearer still, my son. Do not dare not to dare. Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true Beast.” 

“Aslan,” said Bree in a shaken voice, “I'm afraid I must be rather a fool.”

“Happy the Horse who knows that while he is still young. Or the Human either…” 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

the ten commandments

...from a Christian, Spirit-filled perspective (from Dan Mock's sermon today):


With that in mind, that the 10 commandments are a result of intimacy with God, I want to refocus them for you from a Christian, Spirit-filled perspective:

When you love me with your whole heart:

1. You will delight in me alone because I AM your All in All.

2. You won’t need pictures or statutes or anything else as a surrogate for me in your worship because I fill your mind, your heart and your imagination with my steadfast love.

3. You will treat my name as sacred because my name is the most special word that crosses your lips.

4. You will spend a whole day with me each week because you trust me enough to know that I’ll provide you with everything you need through the other 6 days.

5. You will honor your father and mother because you know that that relationship is a tangible representation of our relationship.

6. You won’t murder because you see my handiwork and the vestiges of my image in everyone.

7. You won’t commit adultery because you know that that relationship is also a tangible representation of our relationship. Just as you delight in me alone, you delight in your spouse alone.

8. You won’t steal because you trust, as your Provider, that I meet all your needs.

9. You won’t lie to your neighbor because you know that I delight in the truth.

10. You won’t covet your neighbor’s possessions because you are completely satisfied in me and with me.

--Dan Mock, BCF sermon 10/14/2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

today's quotes


“For when death had entered into the human race through man’s disobedience, it was fitting that life should be restored through the obedience of man. When the sin which was the cause of our condemnation had its beginning from a woman, it was fitting for the author of our justice and salvation to be born of a woman. Since the devil, when he tempted man, conquered him by the tasting of a tree, it was fitting for him to be conquered by man’s bearing of suffering on a tree. And a good many other things, when we consider them carefully, show the inexpressible beauty of our redemption, thus accomplished.” 

(Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo

“No matter how many strong enemies plot to overthrow the church, they do not have sufficient strength to prevail over God’s immutable decree by which he appointed his Son eternal King.”  

(John Calvin, quoted by Eric Alexander in The Supremacy of Jesus Christ in John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

why the universe is comprehensible


Newton’s law of gravity says that the force of attraction between two objects is proportional to the product of their masses divided by the square of the distance between them.  But these words do nothing more than describe the equation: 

F = G{m1m2}/d2 

That is, the law itself is a mathematical expression. The whole of nature appears to be built out of mathematical Legos! You may ask why my verbal statement of the law isn’t just as good as the mathematical equation. Couldn’t the maths be nothing more than shorthand — just a convenient way to write down the law? 

Actually, no. To be meaningful, the verbal statement has to include words such as ‘is’ (implying an equality), ‘proportional’, ‘product’ and ‘squared’ — mathematical language which demonstrates that the law is essentially mathematical, not verbal. 

The fact that the structure of the physical cosmos is fundamentally mathematical is really strange — because mathematics is entirely a construct of the human mind! 

When I was a child it was popular to build ‘cat’s whisker’ or crystal radio detectors — simple non-powered devices that could pick up the invisible radio waves that filled the room. Success depended on establishing a sensitive contact between a natural mineral crystal such as galena and a thin metal wire (the ‘cat’s whisker’) and was often a matter of luck. So why is the human mind able to ‘tune in’ to the cosmos in such a remarkable way by using the ‘cat’s whisker’ of mathematics? Is it, like the crystal radio signal, just a matter of luck? Or is there some reason why conscious thought connects us so perfectly with the physical structure of the universe? 

I need hardly point out that the hypothesis of God provides a ready answer. If God created the universe and the laws that govern it; and if man is made in the image of God as a rational, intelligent being; then it is clearly possible — even necessary — for man to ‘think God’s thoughts after him’ (Kepler) and ‘know the mind of God’ (Hawking). If God is a mathematician, man will also be a mathematician. 

But if there is no God, and man is an accident of evolution, there is not the slightest reason why we should be able to make sense of, or even recognize, the mathematical structure of the universe.

--Edgar Andrews, from Who Made God?  

Photo above from thebrickbible.com