Wednesday, December 31, 2008
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8, 9 - ESV
"What exactly is the "gift" (v. 8) of God?
Arminians have often appealed to a point of Greek grammar that they believe makes it impossible for "faith" to be the gift to which Paul refers. The NASB translation is more explicit at this point, rendering the verse as follows:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."
The word faith, Arminians argue, is feminine in gender, whereas the pronoun translated that ("and that not of yourselves") is neuter. Had Paul intended to describe "faith" as the gift, he would have used the feminine form of the pronoun. To what, then, does the word that refer? What is the gift of God?
Some point to the "grace" (v. 8) by which we have been saved. But the word "grace," like "faith," is also feminine in gender. Therefore, if "that" which is not of ourselves cannot refer to "faith," far less can it refer to "grace," which has the added liability of being even farther removed in the sentence from the pronoun "that." So what is Paul saying? What is the antecedent of "that"?
Clearly the "gift" of God is salvation in its totality, a salvation that flows out of God's grace and becomes ours through faith. From beginning to end, from its inception to its consummation, salvation is a gift of God to his elect. Consequently, that faith by which we come into experiential possession of what God in grace has provided is as much a gift as any and every other aspect of salvation. One can no more deny that faith is wrapped up in God's gift to us than he can deny it of God's grace. All is of God! Salvation is of the Lord!"
Sam Storms, Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election (2007, Crossway Books), p. 71
- web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
- RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
- email (subscribe to receive by email)
- iCal (download an iCalendar file)
- mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
- print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
9. You find a piece of paper labeled “My Wil” which says, “leev Awl 2 Kat”.
8. Ball of yarn playfully tied into a hang-mans noose.
7. Has taken a sudden interest in the wood chipper.
6. As the wind blows over the grassy knoll in downtown Dallas you get a faint whiff of catnip.
5. You wake up to find a bird’s head in your bed.
4. Cyanide paw prints all over the house.
3. You find a stash of “Felines of Fortune” magazines behind the couch.
2. He actually does have your tongue.
1. Seems mighty chummy with the dog all of a sudden.
"He showed how long-suffering He is. He bore with us, and in pity He took our sins upon Himself and gave His own Son as a ransom for us – the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for sinners, the Just for the unjust, the Incorrupt for the corrupt, the Immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except His righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! – that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked!"
Monday, December 29, 2008
Christianity Today's editors have already compiled their list of the top ten news stories of 2008. Only a few of them have theological overtones, so I decided to take a stab at the top ten theology stories from the past year. My criteria, borrowed from the news list, are admittedly subjective. What theological events, books, and debates shaped evangelical life, thought, or mission in 2008? You might recognize a few of the stories from previous Theology in the News coverage. Here is my list in order from least to most important.
1. Publishers make 2008 the "Year of the Study Bible."2. The Shack enthralls readers, angers theologians.
3. Victory for traditional marriage carries a cost.
4. Conservatives launch Anglican Church of North America.
5. Peter Enns leaves Westminster Seminary.
6. Critics respond to dialogue between evangelicals and Muslims.
7. Leading evangelicals issue a "manifesto."
8. Evangelical Free Church of America revises its statement of faith.
9. Roman Catholic bishops revisit inerrancy compromise reached at Vatican II.
10. Northwestern College faculty and staff struggle over school's direction.
Collin Hansen is a CT editor at large and author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. To read the whole story
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.
We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.
Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.
This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.
It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.
There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.
I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.
Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.
How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.
To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
Where does you tax money go?
Economist M. Stanton Evans writes: "The principle beneficiaries of the money absorbed and dispensed by government are not poor blacks in ghettos or Appalachian whites or elderly pensioners receiving Social Security checks...The major beneficiaries, instead, are the employess of government itself--people engaged in administering some real or imagined service to the underprivileged or, as the case may be, the overprivileged ...the gross effect of increased government spending is to transfer money away from relatively low income people -- average taxpayers who must pay the bills--to relatively high income people--Federal functionaries who are being paid out of the taxpayer's pocket...the two richest counties in the United States are...Montgomery County Maryland, and Fairfax County, Virginia--principal bedroom communities for Federal Workers in Washington D.C." Ronald Nash, referring to the statement of the prominent black economist Walter E. Williams, that in 1979 the U.S. was spending $250 billion annually "just to fight poverty," responds: "Had this amount of money been distributed equally to all families below the poverty level, each of them would have received an annual payment of $34,000."
- M Stanton Evans and Walter E. Williams quoted by Ron Nash in Economic Justice and the State
Sunday, December 28, 2008
“God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.
“Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.
“Sinners – men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners – and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.”J.I. Packer, “Introductory Essay,” in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (London: Banner of Truth, 1959) 4-5.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Concerning this verse, C. H. Spurgeon once wrote:
"A help that is not present when we need it is of small value. The anchor which is left at home is of no use to the seaman in the hour of storm; the money which he used to have is of no worth to the debtor when a writ is out against him. Very few earthly helps could be called "very present": they are usually far in the seeking, far in the using, and farther still when once used. But as for the Lord our God, He is present when we seek Him, present when we need Him, and present when we have already enjoyed His aid.
He is more than "present," He is very present. More present than the nearest friend can be, for He is in us in our trouble; more present than we are to ourselves, for sometimes we lack presence of mind. He is always present, effectually present, sympathetically present, altogether present. He is present now if this is a gloomy season. Let us rest ourselves upon Him. He is our refuge, let us hide in Him; He is our strength, let us array ourselves with Him; He is our help, let us lean upon Him; He is our very present help, let us repose in Him now. We need not have a moment's care or an instant's fear. "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.""
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg 217
The question is, "Are you a child of God?". Once you become a child of god you become his heir. The father will never abandon anyone who is his child, he will never kick them out of his family and he will never disinherit them. It cannot happen, it will not happen, as Packer says "our hope is not a possibility, ( something that depend on us, our ability, our doing something) but is a guaranteed certainty!"
Friday, December 26, 2008
I am always at the manger, and yet I know that mere incarnation cannot save; always at Gethsemane, and yet I believe that its agony was not the finished work; always at the cross, with my face toward it, and my eye on the crucified One, and yet I am persuaded that the sacrifice there was completed once for all; always looking into the grave, though I rejoice that it is empty, and that ‘He is not here, but is risen’; always resting (with the angel) on the stone that was rolled away, and handling the grave-clothes, and realizing a risen Christ, nay, an ascended and interceding Lord, yet on no pretext whatever leaving any part of my Lord’s life or death behind me, but unceasingly keeping up my connection with Him, as born, living, dying, buried, and rising again, and drawing out from each part some new blessing every day and hour.
Horatius Bonar, "Not Faith, But Christ"
Thursday, December 25, 2008
1 Corinthians 15:58
Just think, if Christmas didn't really happen, if God didn't really become human, if Christmas is just some kind of nice story, then the joy of Christmas, all the partying and celebrating is only temporary but the suffering of this world is permanent.
But if Christmas really happened, and God really became a human being at Christmas, and He broke into this world to redeem us, then the suffering of this world is only temporary and the joy of the new heavens and the new earth and the city of the living God along with all the angels who rejoice is permanent!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
9. "It's so cold, Tom Cruise is making a movie about a plot to assassinate Al Roker"
8. "It's so cold, Starbucks is selling antifreeze macchiatos"
7. "It's so cold, MSNBC employees gathered around Keith Olbermann's giant head for warmth"
6. "It's so cold, Bernie Madoff was defrauding Eskimos"
5. "It's so cold, this morning it took Joe Biden 40 minutes to defrost his hair plugs"
4. "It's so cold, O.J. led an armed raid to retrieve his space heater"
3. "It's so cold, Apple just introduced something called the iScarf"
2. "It's so cold, Iraqis are throwing snowshoes at President Bush"
1. "It's so cold, Santa said, 'Screw Christmas,' and took off for Rio"
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg 63
I pray that all who read this will take this truth into your heart and allow it to comfort and strengthen you. May you know the wonderful Savior Jesus Christ this Christmas. Merry Christmas from the
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Global warming has stopped. Carbon dioxide emissions have not decreased. And climatologists the world over are taking notice. A 231-page report that documents skepticism of climate change alarmism dropped this month citing the views of some 650 prominent international scientists. The document, an update from a 2007 U.S. Senate Minority Report that cited 400 dissenters, directly challenges the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body warning of calamitous climate outcomes if greenhouse-gas emissions are not substantially reduced.
Among this new batch of dissenters are some former members of the IPCC, who have since come to disagree with the view that global warming is man-made. "Global warming has become a new religion," Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever announces at the document's outset. "I am a skeptic." Similar sentiments echo throughout dozens of other skepticism-laced statements included in the document. Japanese scientist Kiminori Itoh, a former IPCC member, dubs the inducement of fear over warming a "scientific scandal" and says that people "will feel deceived by science and scientists" when they learn the truth. Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association goes one step further in decrying the message of advocates like Al Gore: "It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don't buy into anthropogenic global warming."
Incomprehensibly. We shall be wise to remember this, to shun speculation and contentedly to adore."
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg 58
Monday, December 22, 2008
9. Grind a few up and give it back to your in-laws in a bag marked “Lawn Fertilizer”.
8. Donate to the local airport for use as air liner wheel blocks.
7. Use it as a base for flower arrangements.
6. Give one to your boss and tell him it’s a life preserver.
5. Carve the presidents faces in it and submit as a science or art project.
4. Send one to the junk mail company with a note asking them to take you off their list.
3. Use it as building material (this is actually what the ancient Egyptians used to build the Great Pyramids).
2. It’s colorful, use it as a yule log.
1. Keep one under your pillow for Homeland Defense.
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg 54
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Jonathan Edwards “An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity”
Saturday, December 20, 2008
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg.53
Friday, December 19, 2008
Despite the predictability of characters, setting and plot of apostasy lit, and despite the grating self-assured stance of its author protagonists, apostasy lit is one of the most valuable genres for those who, despite all the potential pitfalls, actually take their Christianity seriously. What's more, apostasy lit is valuable for those Christian parents who care for their children and hope that their children embrace and not run away from the faith. Among the many potential teaching moments apostasy lit provides, two stand out: the warning against sternness or harshness and the warning against creating a stifling environment. And herein lies the lesson that should not be ignored by readers of apostasy lit. If harshness and sternness coupled with a stifling environment are what make a piece of literature apostasy lit, then those two may be guilty of causing the apostasy in the first place.Read the whole thing.
9. We three politically oppressive patriarchs.
8. I’m dreaming of a racially diverse Christmas.
7. I saw mommy suing Santa Claus for harassment.
6. Rockin’ around the recycled, flame-retardant artificial Christmas tree.
5. All I want for Christmas is a dental plan.
4. Chestnuts roasting on an environmentally-friendly fuel source.
3. Rudolph the endangered and exploited specie.
2. We wish you a non-sectarian holiday.
1. Frosty the snowperson.
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg.215
Thursday, December 18, 2008
A coalition of pro-choice organizations has sent Barack Obama and his transition team a document titled “Advancing Reproductive Rights and Health in a New Administration,” which has been posted on the president-elect’s website.
The document “urge[s] the next President to articulate and implement a vision for a new, commonsense approach to the nation’s and the world’s pressing reproductive health needs,” and outlines the actions they would like to see him take toward that end — including improving access to abortion worldwide, increasing funding for comprehensive sex education and defunding abstinence-only programs, pushing for the Freedom of Choice Act, and appointing pro-choice judges and government officials.
The Obama website is accepting comments on this document. Click here to read it and to give your opinion.
It is hard to believe that while my wife and I are desperately doing everything we can to make sure our baby, at 23 weeks, survives and continues to grow in the womb for the next few months, there are others who in this country actually have abortions at this stage.Think for a minute about what James writes above. What is the difference between the baby growing inside Brandy Grant's womb, and a baby growing inside the womb of a mother undergoing abortion. (In the time it takes you to read this post another baby will have been killed.)
The difference comes down to one word: want. Few words carry more power in the world today than these: I do not want this child at this time.
Listen to John Piper address this issue:
. . . in a world without God, the will of the strong creates (or nullifies) the personhood of the weak. . . . And the awesome thing is that we endow her will not just with sovereignty over her unborn baby, but with the authority to define it: If she wants it, it is a baby, a person. If she does not want it, it is not a baby, not a person. In other words, in our laws we have now made room for some killing to be justified not on the basis of the rights or crimes of the one killed, but decisively on the basis of the will, the desire, of a stronger person. The decisive criterion of personhood and non-personhood, what is right and wrong, what is legal and what is illegal, is the will of the strong. Might makes right. Might makes personhood. Might makes legal. This is the ultimate statement of anarchy. It is the essence of the original insurrection against God, and against objective truth and right and beauty.
No culture can survive this kind of anarchical thinking indefinitely. Part of the remedy is to spread the truth: Might does not make right. Desire does not define duty. Wanting does not create worth. All of us know intuitively that if someone desires our destruction, that desire does not justify our murder. We know this. We should say it over and over again.
In the ancient world, adoption was a practice ordinarily confined to the childless well-to-do. Its subjects, as we said earlier, were not normally infants, as today, but young adults who had shown themselves fit and able to carry on a family name in a worthy way. In this case, however God adopts us out of free love, not because our character and record show us worthy to bear his name, but despite the fact that they show the very opposite. We are not fit for a place in God's family; the idea of his loving and exalting us sinners as he loves and exalted the Lord Jesus sounds ludicrous and wild - yet that, and nothing less than that, is what our adoption means."
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg.214-215
I wish that I could get this truth deep down into the hearts of every Christian I know. The realization that God did not choose you and adopt you into his family because of something that he saw in you. But out of His great love and grace he took you and I out of the gutter of our sins, despite the fact that we were guilty, ungrateful, proud, and defiant sinners and gave us a place in his family. What a God! What a great Salvation!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
God is saying, “Reach out to Me, I’m going to walk through this with you and I’m going to sustain you. No matter what, no matter where you are or what you’re going though, I am with you.” When you get blue, when you feel depressed realize that God is not through with you, He is not letting you go, He’s right there with you because he loves you unconditionally.
Listen to God speaking to you right now, right where you sit, receive His word:
1. “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).
2. “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Psalm 56:13).
3. “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1).
4. “I cry out to God most high, to God who fulfills His purposes for me. He sends from heaven and saves me rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends His love and His faithfulness” (Psalm 57:2-3).
5. “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of You among the peoples. For great is Your love reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (Psalm 57:9-10).
In order to make you blues go away:
1. Realize everyone gets depressed sometime. No one is immune! It's OK.
2. Face your emotions. Don’t let them control you — they will drain you.
3. Uncover the root. Get your eyes off yourself. God didn’t fail you.
4. Dethrone your feelings. Feelings are to follow what we think and believe. They are not to lead.
5. Remember God’s grace. It is by grace you were saved, it’s by grace you stand.
6. Focus on God’s sovereignty. God is in control of my life.
7. Rest in God’s purpose. God is at work in you.
Are you depressed? Is there something or someone you’re trying to fix? Are you trying to control your world or the world of others? Are you ready to trust the only one who can do all these things? If you are God can make your blues go away.
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg.210
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
To the discouraged, life seems like an endless spiral. You get caught in waves of negative emotions spinning out of control, going nowhere. But God Has not forsaken you. He has a specific purpose for you life and no matter how black the circumstances or how empty the heart, God is committed to finishing His work in you. “The children of Your servants will live in Your presence: their descendants will be established before you” (v.28).
Because depression heightens our feeling of fear and insecurity we need to lay hold of the truth of God’s enduring work in our lives, “He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil.1:6).
Truth we need to know to make our blues go away:
1. The finished work does not depend on you. What He started He will finish.
2. You cannot fix yourself. This is hard for most people to come to grips with because we still want to believe that we can fix ourselves or that we can save ourselves.
3. You can not make yourself better. We work very hard to change ourselves and think that while it takes God to save you we can make some positive changes.
4. You cannot control your world or the world of others.
5. But you can trust the one who can! You can rely on the fact that God will complete everything that concerns you, everything His great love has purposed for you.
Depression builds an emotional wall that is difficult but not impossible to cross when we are depressed or when we feel alone and abandoned. But even when we feel abandoned, God is there. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is in the fire. He is in the flood. He is in the dark night of the soul. No matter what He is not a delinquent Father, God can not and will not abandon His children, in that you can trust.
Indeed, what is more Christmasy than the creed?:
I believe in. . .one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten of His Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
very God of very God,
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
and was made man.
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg.209
Monday, December 15, 2008
“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the works of Your hands They will perish but you remain...” (Vs. 25-26). When I affirm the truth that God is the undeniable sovereign of the universe and the undeniable sovereign of my life, then the vision of my life changes from the narrow distortions of my mind to the wide horizons of His mind. Regardless of how much your mind and emotions want it not to be true, God is sovereign. We fight this truth because we are controllers, we want to run the show, make all decisions, chart our own course, determine our own destiny, be the captain of our ship, master of our domain, have I quoted enough self help nonsense? You are not in charge, you will never be in charge, you are finite, God is infinite.
No matter how deeply I believe that my depressed feelings are justified or my self-protecting opinions are right, God is the only one who is right, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa.55:8-9). I think that we can rest assured that our thoughts will never rise to the level of God's thoughts and our ways will never rise to the level of His ways. God calls us to humble ourselves and lay all of our treasured opinions at His sovereign feet because He alone is truth, He alone is wisdom, He alone is right. “But you are always the same, and your life never ends” (v.27).
In the wake of Blagojevich's arrest, many Americans are left wondering once again how intelligent people can do such stupid things -- especially when they've achieved the pinnacle of power.Read the whole thing. He closes in this way:
The answer comes down to pride.
I now realize that every human being has an infinite capacity for self-rationalization and self-delusion. Those who serve in public life are faced with enormous peer pressure and don't always take time to stop and think carefully about what they're doing.
Sometimes -- absorbed in accumulating political power -- they're not interested in stopping to think. But as I learned firsthand, self-obsession destroys character. It has to.
Tragically, America is continuing to rear its young to become not only self-obsessed, but obsessed with personal power. Quaint-sounding virtues such as courage, honesty and prudence -- historically considered the elements of character -- are no match for a society in which the exaltation and gratification of self becomes the overriding goal of life.
If Blagojevich is guilty, the best thing that could happen to him is to be tried and convicted. He's going to have to reach rock bottom -- just as I did -- before he will be able to escape his own prison of pride, self-delusion and self-righteousness. But that's a transformation we can never accomplish on our own. I can vouch for the fact that human pride is simply too strong.
Lewis was right: Pride is a spiritual cancer. And the only cure, for any of us, is to stop looking down and to look up. The cure can only be brought about in someone who has come to realize that the will and power to do good and not evil comes from God alone.
J.I. Packer, Knowing God pg. 206-207
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The word prodigal means recklessly extravagant or having spent everything. Keeping these definitions in mind, Keller delves into the well-known parable of the Prodigal Son to get at the heart of the gospel. Instead of focusing primarily on the younger brother, whose sins are obvious, Keller explains how the story highlights the sin of the older brother, the conventionally moral son. His careful examination of the story, its context, and audience, and his applications make this short book a perfect introduction to the gospel or a corrective to anyone who misses the meaning of grace and is still trying to obey his way into heaven.
Review from Worldmag.com
Friday, December 12, 2008
"I've seen enough bloodied heads to know that someone had to get this stupid trend under control," said bill co-sponsor James DeWalt.
Worship banners, which worshipers in charismatic churches wave during song services, now fall into the same category as knives and baseball bats. Streamers, which DeWalt says are "basically another form of handheld mace or medieval war instrument," will be considered weapons of opportunity. If someone is injured "during the act of worship" by a banner pole or streamer, the bill says, it will be considered a misdemeanor.
Local churches vowed to fight the classification.
"We're doing nothing wrong," said Randy Quandt, pastor of Fountain of Life, the largest charismatic church in the city. "If you sue us for whacking someone with a banner pole, you have to sue cheerleaders for hitting someone with a pom-pom. It's ridiculous."
His church keeps a nurse on hand for the "occasional scrape" resulting from their worship style, he says. •
As Reported In Lark News
I hated the idea, ‘in it the righteousness of God is revealed’ . . . according to which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.
I lived without reproach as a monk, but my conscience was disturbed to its very depths and all I knew about myself was that I was a sinner.
I could not believe that anything I thought or did or prayed satisfied God. I did not love, nay, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.
Certainly, and with intense grumbling (perhaps even blasphemy), I was angry with God and said, ‘As if it were indeed not enough that miserable sinners who are eternally lost through original sin and are crushed again by every calamity through the Ten Commandments, God Himself adds pain to pain in the gospel by threatening us with His righteousness and wrath!’
At last, meditating day and night . . . by the mercy of God, I gave heed to the context of the words, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’
Then I began to understand that the righteousness of God is . . . a gift of God, namely by faith . . .
Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.
An entirely new side of the Scriptures opened itself to me . . . and I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the loathing with which before I had hated the term ‘the righteousness of God’.
Thus, that verse in Paul was for me truly the gate of paradise."
What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ is not preached.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
"What the Arminian wants to do is to arouse man's activity: what we want to do is to kill it once for all---to show him that he is lost and ruined, and that his activities are not now at all equal to the work of conversion; that he must look upward. They seek to make the man stand up: we seek to bring him down, and make him feel that there he lies in the hand of God, and that his business is to submit himself to God, and cry aloud, 'Lord, save, or we perish.' We hold that man is never so near grace as when he begins to feel he can do nothing at all. When he says, 'I can pray, I can believe, I can do this, and I can do the other,' marks of self-sufficiency and arrogance are on his brow."
C. H. Spurgeon
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
A group of us went out to celebrate Mike Giordano's 50th birthday. We went over to Outback Steak House and raised a glass of wine to honor Mike. I'm back in the room typing this and then off to bed. meetings begin at 9am. This has been excellent so far and I'm looking forward to what I'll hear tomorrow.
Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion. They weaken the cause of true Christianity...But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved. False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching that is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin.
- JC Ryle, Warnings To The Churches
"Bad theology will eventually hurt people and dishonor God in proportion to its badness." - John Piper (A Godward Life Volume Two, pg. 377)
"Compare Scripture with Scripture. False doctrines, like false witnesses, agree not among themselves."
In a few hours I'm going to walk around the Mall of America which is huge and has an amusement park in the middle of it.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
So I was loading up the last of the animals last week when I walk past my neighbor Roger, the Molech-worshipper. He looks up and says "Hey, looks like rain."
To read the rest of Noah's blog click here
"People at the grocery store would smile at me and say, ‘I’ve heard about you,’" he says. "Some even talked about things I’d done in my past."
But it wasn’t until he dropped into Pine Grove Christian Fellowship one Sunday that he realized his old college roommate, pastor Pete Lancaster, was using him in sermon illustrations.
To read the rest click here
First, fatherhood implies authority. The Father commands and disposes; the initiative which he calls his Son to exercise is the initiative of resolute obedience to his Father's will. "I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." (John 6:38;17:4;5:19;4:34).
Second fatherhood implied affection. "The Father loves the Son." (5:20; 15:9-10).
Third, fatherhood implied fellowship. "I am not alone, for my Father is with me." (16:32; 8:29).
Fourth, fatherhood implied honor. God wills to exalt his Son. "Father.... glorify your Son." (17:1; 5:22-23).
All this extends to God's adopted children. In, through and under Jesus Christ their Lord, they are ruled, loved, companied with and honored by their heavenly Father. As Jesus obeyed God, so must they." J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pg 205.
If you are a believer in Christ you must let these truths to sink down into your heart, believe them, embrace them. The love the Father has for the Son is the same love He has for all His children. Authority, affection, fellowship and honor, what privileges belong to God's children, what a testimony to his grace.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Fifth You have to Remember The Grace Of God
Just like the children of Israel we easily forget God’s delivering grace in our lives. All of a sudden our redeemer becomes our neglector. Instead of singing, “How Great Thou Art” we say, “God Where Art Thou?.” The psalmist remembered God’s grace, “The Lord looked down from His sanctuary on high, from heaven He viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death” (Psalm 102:19-20). The history of Israel is one of God continually delivering his people, being gracious to them.
The apostle Paul reminds us that before we came to faith in Christ we had to “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). We were completely lost and undone as far away from God as you could be. There was nothing in us that would cause God to save us, we were dead men walking. "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5)
It’s good to remember the pit that God brought you out of. It’s good to remember the undeserved grace of God that overshadowed my hell-bound life and made me His child. It’s good to remember that I’m written on the palm of His hand and my name is engraved in the book of life. It’s good to remember that I’ve been given His precious Holy Spirit to indwell me and reveal the Son to me. If the cloud of depression darkens your vision of His present grace, remember His past grace and look for his future grace.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
John Calvin believed that prayer is not an academic problem, but a precious gift and the essence of Christian life. Therefore his theology of prayer is very practical. In his Institutes, Calvin defined prayer: “the communion of men with God by which, having entered the heavenly sanctuary, they appeal to him in person concerning his promises in order to experience… that what they believed was not in vain.” He also said that it is “a communication between God and us whereby we expound to him our desires, our joys, our sighs, in a word, all the thoughts of hearts.” Calvin saw prayer as given for man that he might lay hold of divine riches.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Fourth You Have To Dethrone Your Feelings
Admit it or not most of us live life under the tyranny of our feelings. If we feel good, life is good, if we feel bad, life is bad. Even the way we treat one another (the quality of our relationships) is often determined by how we feel. We can cause a lot of problems when our feelings are running the show.
Notice what the discouraged Psalmist did after admitting his despair to God, “But you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; Your renown endures through all generation” (v.12). Can you believe this? To my knowledge his emotion had not changed. He still felt depressed and overwhelmed with life. But he did a strange thing. This discouraged believer stepped over his gloomy feelings and chose to bless the Lord. Was this hypocritical? NO! The psalmist revealed that God “will respond to the prayer of the destitute; He will not despise their plea” (v.17).
God hears the praise of the depressed. He knows our hearts, he feels our pain, he understands our humanness. God never turns away from our praise even when it is filtered through a heavy heart. You have to dethrone your feelings, you cant allow your feelings to rule your life. You have to choose to praise God, you have to choose to offer up a sacrifice of praise. What makes it a sacrifice is that it is an act of the will not based on the emotions.