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Monday, December 25, 2006

Eternity Shut In A Span: A Story That Never Ends

The Gospel of Luke 1:26-33; 2: 1-20


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. - Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV




Old Testament Fullfilled


Jesus In the Psalms of David


Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem". - Luke 24:44-47 ESV

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. - Galatians 4:4-5 ESV



May we never tire of hearing it; the mystery of eternal God becoming man...


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. - John 1:1-18 ESV


The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.' - John 1:29-30 ESV


Our King has Come. Joy to the World...


"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found."

- Isaac Watts, Joy to the World



And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son." - Revelation 21:6-7 ESV


Merry Christmas - Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon




Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Danger of Folly: The True Extent and Effects of Sin


"Many a man may see his portrait here! The spendthrift hacks away his estate and falls into destitution and disgrace. The drunkard cuts at his health and strength, his family comfort and household peace, and when he has finished his mad work, he drops into ruin, through his own folly. The man of low, debauched habits, is chopping, with fearful effect, at his own body and soul, and will, ere long, rue the lusts which hurl him into disease, agony, and death. There are other fools beside the man in the woodcut, who are lopping off the branch which holds them up. It is base ingratitude when men are malicious and cruel to those who are their best friends. Wives and parents often have to feel sharp cuts from those whom they lovingly support and are anxious to preserve from ruin. Shame that it should be so!
Self-righteous reader, you are ready to join with us in any censure which we may pass upon the madness of the sins we have just hinted at; but permit us to ask you, whether you yourself are not photographed in our picture? You are resting upon the bough of good works, and yet, every day, your faults, imperfections, and sins are rendering it less and less able to bear your weight. It never was a firm support, and if you know yourself, and are candid enough to confess your shortcomings, you will at once perceive that it has become, in the judgment of conscience, a very frail dependence, quite unworthy of your confidence. Had you never sinned, and, consequently, never made one gash in the bough, we might tolerate your trusting to it; but since you have cut at it again and again, and it is ready even now to snap beneath you, we pray you, leave it for a surer resting-place. All reliance on self in any form or shape is gross folly. Feelings, works, prayers, almsgivings, religious observances, are all too feeble to support a sinful soul. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid—Jesus Christ the righteous." "Whosoever believeth in him is not condemned." " He is able also to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Trust Jesus and he will never fail you."


- Charles Haddon Spurgeon




I ran across this article in the blogosphere. It is an excerpt from C.H. Spurgeon's (1834-92) tract publication, Sword and the Trowel. As I read, I was reminded of how often we tend to forget how severe our sin nature really is. For example, I recently ran across an article where a preacher said that it was "not his intent to focus on right thinking, but right living". A noble sentiment indeed, however it will fall very short of accomplishing anything. How exactly is one suppose to live right if he doesn't think right?! If I believe that 2 is 3 and 3 is 5, would I be able to solve the mystery of 2+2? No, because my thinking is out of joint; therefore my ability to come to the right answer to the equation is impossible. It amazes me how we overlook the fact that scripture points out time and time again that sin does not just effect us morally, it effects us noetically (on matters of the intellect as well). Sin makes us irrational, illogical, and at times, down right stupid. In fact it is at this point where the moral decline begins. May we recover a full understanding of the doctrine of sin. No man, apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, can think clearly enough to bring himself out from under the power of sin. Only Christ can accomplish this for him.


For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. - Romans 1:21-23 ESV

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. - Romans 1:28-32 ESV

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:2 ESV






Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanks...For Nothing?!



"Love must carry with it a 'Thank you', not just in a superficial or 'official' way, but being thankful and saying in the mind or with the voice, 'Thank you' to God." - Francis A. Schaeffer


Here, in western culture, holidays have a tendency to take on strange twists. These twists seem to always end up perverting or distorting particular holidays, leaving them wanting for real meaning. Let's take our current holiday, Thanksgiving , for example; what is the real meaning of this holiday? If this question is posed to the general public, you will be met with a multitude of answers. Not only will there be lots of answers, but the point of view from which said answers come will be diverse in their concept. Some would tell you it's a religious holiday, while others would say no. Some would say it has to do with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower-- once again, others would say no. Then there is the generic, non-offensive go-to answer: "This is a day about giving thanks or being thankful for what you have". This one we can all agree on. Regardless of religious background, political views, or social status, all can and should be thankful for what they have, right?

However, this generic answer to the question, when pressed upon or looked at a little harder fails to suffice. After all, to whom or what am I giving thanks to? A student at the elementary school where I teach asked me a very pertinent question in regards to Thanksgiving: " I know that I'm supposed to be thankful, but to who?". His ignorance about the holiday tradition (he was from another country) allowed express his ignorance in a beautifully honest fashion. As he tried to join in the festivities, he found himself in a dilemma. We are always telling the children at large when someone does something nice or good for you, say thank you. Now, it appeared to him, that we were telling him to say thank you without anyone being there as an object of gratitude. He asked the question as if the whole thing sounded silly to him; he would be correct. It is silly. I suppose we could tell him to thank goodness, but there is one small problem-- goodness is nothing without a being or object from which it is produced. In other words goodness is not self-existent. It cannot create itself. Even a seven year old who hasn't quite yet bought into the western way of thinking can see that!! Our first problem of the modern day "genericism" of the holiday (as well as many others) leads to our second problem.


Gratitude v. Greed

Because we have taken away the object of gratitude (God), we are left to replace it with something else. So the holiday gets marketed as a day to give thanks for the things that you have. But wait a second; isn't this suppose to be a holiday about giving, rather than receiving? After all, it is Thanks-GIVING. Unfortunately, due to slick marketing campaigns and our ever increasing drive to have more, it has become thanks-with-a-vengeance:

"I'm thankful for all the stuff I have and I'll be damned if anyone is gonna take it from me. After all--I've earned it...is it Christmas yet?"

I think back to the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth. The Pilgrims did not have much at all. If not for the Hand of Providence bringing them to safety and non-hostile natives who taught them how to survive in their new home, they surely would have perished, as many others did. So they first gave thanks to God for providing; allowing them to survive the perils and struggles of the journey and settlement, which in turn caused an out pour of gratitude toward their fellow man. You can't have the latter without the former. Paul gives insight to this fact in his letter to the Romans:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. - Romans 1:21 ESV

Francis Schaeffer comments,

The beginning of men's rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart. They did not have proper, thankful hearts--seeing themselves as creatures before the Creator and being bowed not only in their knees, but in their stubborn hearts.

This is the sad truth we must confess. Without the true object of gratitude and affection being in place, the ideal becomes twisted as we begin to look for our own gratification. Do we still give? Absolutely; but that doesn't come cheap. We also expect something in return--whether accolades or gifts--we're not just giving something for nothing. Gratitude has it's price. Every year, the Thanksgiving holiday kicks off what has become known as "debt season". More people go in debt in America beginning this time of year due to the fact that this is the week when most people begin their Christmas shopping!! We spend most of our time and energy looking past Thanksgiving to get to the sale rack. I am reminded of this year's fanatical must have item, the Playstation 3 (PS3). People have been standing in line for days on end, while others have lost their lives (literally) to get their hands on this "precious" item. Why? Only to buy it for a ridiculous price (I believe the going cost is about $500), then turn around and sell it for a even more ridiculous price (last I heard, one had been sold on ebay for approx. $15,000)! Do you know how many people you could feed with that kind of money? How many children do you think you could buy clothes for? Futile thinking--Darkened hearts...

True Freedom From Want

Even sadder still is that the sentiment that we see in western culture is also the prevailing trend in much of western theology as well; consumerism is the order of the day. I can't begin to count how many times I've been flipping through the channels, stop on a Christian station and hear a "minister" telling his audience something to the effect that it's "not the Christian's destiny to be poor" or that "Christians are supposed to be rich". Statements like these are appalling. Logically speaking, if that were the case, then how do you explain the story of the Rich Young Ruler? If what these preachers are saying is true, then why did Jesus tell him to sell everything he had and give to the poor--shouldn't he have been allowed to hang on to that stuff? The West makes up a small percentage of the Christian community worldwide. The rest of the Christian population in large worships in what would be considered by most impoverished conditions. Yet, these are the places where the Gospel is truly thriving; coincidence? Hardly. Let's see what Scipture has to say on this issue:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - Philippians 3:7-9 ESV

Here it is clear to see that Paul is telling the believers in Philippi that there is no possession more important, nothing that we should be more grateful for than the gift of faith in Christ. And again he says,

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. - Philippians 4:6 ESV

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:11-13 ESV


Matthew Henry says of these passages,

"We must join thanksgivings with prayers and supplications; not only seek supplies of good, but own the mercies we have received. God needs not to be told our wants or desires; he knows them better than we do; but he will have us show that we value the mercy, and feel our dependence on him...Pride, unbelief, vain hankering after something we have not got, and fickle disrelish of present things, make men discontented even under favourable circumstances. Let us pray for patient submission and hope when we are abased; for humility and a heavenly mind when exalted. It is a special grace to have an equal temper of mind always. And in a low state not to lose our comfort in God, nor distrust his providence, nor take any wrong course for our own supply. In a prosperous condition not to be proud, or secure, or worldly. This is a harder lesson than the other; for the temptations of fulness and prosperity are more than those of affliction and want."

In short, we have fallen short. We have begun to see things in a backward manner. The question that we must be able to answer is, "Can I thank God even in the leaner, darker times?". We must also remember that God is not obligated to bless anyone (Christian or Non-Christian) with monetary wealth or possessions. Besides, what could possibly be worth more than the price paid for my salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ? This is where my gratitude should ultimately lie. All that being said, I am not saying that it's wrong to be thankful for our material blessings. Indeed, we should be. But we must remember to keep everything in it's proper order and perspective. This is also not an attempt to demonize Thanksgiving. I'm not the "Holiday Nazi" as some would say. I just think that it is important that we redeem this wonderful holiday by being thankful for all things and all situations, both good and bad. It is God who orchestrates those for our ultimate good. All of this is in hopes that giving thanks will not just come once a year, but it will become a vital part of our spirituality and lifestyle before the watching world. May your gratitude for the Savior compel you to share gratitude with others around you, seeking to lead them to the Person to whom all thanks, glory and honor should be given.



I dedicate this post to all my friends and loved ones...thank you.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy... - Philippians 1:3-4 ESV



Derek Webb - Thankful





HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

For the Freedom of the Saints: A Reformation Day Reflection


“Theology, not morality, is the first business on the church's agenda of reform, and the church, not society, is the first target of divine criticism.” - Michael S. Horton


489 Years ago today, the world was changed forever. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg Chapel, I don't imagine that the events that followed were what he had in mind. As I reflect on the events of the Reformation and the legacy that it has left not only on the church, but the entire world, I've come to the conclusion that the sacrifices made by these Godly individuals that were raised up has been greatly diminished and underappreciated. Also lost within history is what these men were truly seeking to find and accomplish by their actions.

What They Were Seeking

As we sift through historical accounts, we see much talk about the Five Solas (Fide, Gratia, Christus, Deo Gloria) and Calvinism's TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverence of the Saints). This causes us many times to become way too obsessed with the theological jargon. It becomes like a finger pointing at the moon; we begin to concentrate too much on the finger and we miss all of the heavenly glory! In short, we find ourselves seeking out the seekers instead of seeking what they sought; falling in love with a system rather than the savior.

What the reformers were trying to discover was the unabashed truth of God's word, not through the authority of the Church, but through the Scriptures themselves. They all too well understood what had been lost in the during the Medieval era: It is the Bible that defines the church, not the Church that defines the Bible. The Holy Scripture, as reveal through the Old Testament writers, Christ and the apostles, shapes who we are. Forerunners to the Reformation, such as Tyndale and Wycliffe, realized this as well. This led to the biggest impact that the these men had, not just on the Church, but the World.


What They Accomplished

Luther and Calvin picked up were Tyndale and Wycliffe left off. Realizing that the truths of Scripture were not just for the clergy's eyes and ears alone, they set out to liberate the Gospel, by delivering it into the hands of every man, woman and child. All Christians were a part of the sainthood- a kingdom of preists. All men were to serve to the Glory of God alone, regardless of there position or vocation in society. And the only way that one can come to know God was through Justification in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ- not of our own righteousness. The implication of these central themes of Reformation Theology caught fire throughout all parts of Europe and eventually led to the establishment of Western Civilization by way of the Puritans. Needless to say the accomplishments were not without their failings at certain levels, but we can definitely see as we now stand in the present that these acheivements of their time, as well as the years that followed brought about great undertakings in all walks of life by men and women who had been changed by the evangelistic efforts of these biblically based principals. The liberation of the Gospel from the confines of a stingy, power-hungry clergy helped to set the world free by allowing the Gospel of Christ to spread in a most rapid fashion by putting it in the hands and hearts of the common people.


Reformed, and always Reforming

One of the biggest problems facing the Church in modern times is the lack of interest in its own history. It is important understand that God did not stop working in his Church at the end of the Book of Revelation. He has continued to work throughout history, up to the current day, and will continue to do so until the end of days. This is why a survey of the history of the past helps us to better understand where we need to be headed. The idea of reform is continual; we are always to be about the business of constantly seeking out the truth of God's word to safeguard us against error and heresy. The Church will continue to have its enemies as long as she is on this earth. Ungodly men and women will continue to attempt (and at times succeed) in creeping into our congregations and with the intent to spread another "Gospel" or a "New Law". This is where we must take a cue from our past. Every individual who confesses themselves as Christian should not take the Bible for granted. Search it to find out what God says in his word. Take advantage of the opportunity to study his Word freely and bury deep within your hearts. Sola Scriptura- Scripture alone is the authoritative Word of God. We must hold fast to it if we want to seek true reform and conformity into likeness of Christ. We must never forget that faith comes by hearing the word of God as made manifest through Jesus Christ. And if Christ has freed us, then we are free indeed...

Happy Reformation Day!!! Reformata, Semper Reformanda




Derek Webb - Lover (Pt. II)




Soli Deo Gloria,


Shon


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Calvinist, Interrupted: The Debate That Never Was (A Deconstruction of Ergun Caner's Theology)


"A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's Truth was attacked and yet would remain silent." -- John Calvin



My original plans for blogging this month have been altered, due to the recently cancelled and much anticipated debate on Baptists and Calvinism to be held at Liberty University on October 16, as well as the outlandish comments made by one of the would-be participants on the Anti-Calvinist side of the argument, Ergun Caner. To be sure, I was definitely disappointed to hear that the debate had been called off. I’m aware of the fact that there has been a resurgence of interest in Calvinism within the Baptist community as of late, and being originally from a Southern Baptist background (now Presbyterian), I was encouraged to hear that this would be the topic of discussion.

All was at peace in my world. Though a little disappointed, I would live. No biggie; we live to debate another day. I wasn’t upset or anything. Then Caner made this statement in an online interview:

Q: DIDN’T YOU SAY THAT CALVINISTS ARE WORSE THAN MUSLIMS?

A: Yes, absolutely. For a small portion of these people, just daring to question the Bezian movement is heresy. They will blog and e-mail incessantly. I call it a “Calvinist Jihad,” because just like Muslims, they believe they are defending the honor of their view. They can discuss nothing else. I have even had a few call for my head! Dr. Falwell and I have laughed about it, because they are so insistent, and they miss the point completely. There are plenty of schools to which the neo-Calvinists can go, but Liberty will be a lighthouse for missions and evangelism to the “whosoever wills.” Period. The difference is, Muslims know when to quit - for these guys, it is the only topic about which they can talk.

Oh no…Tell me he didn’t just say that. But, he did. I’ve come to find out that Ergun says a lot of things.

Since I am what you would call a “Calvinist”, I will be the first one to tell you in a very plain manner that Dr. Caner has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. His rhetoric and speak is what can easily be defined as ignorance on fire. Lesson 1: Never get your Calvinism from a non-Calvinist (more on that later). He shouts, he screams, he talks in circles; Caner never makes a rational point—he only draws attention to himself and stirs up the emotions. But we all know that emotional responses to things can be very misleading. I want to make it clear from the start; I have no problems with people who do not subscribe to the Calvinistic (Reformed) school of thought on the issues of predestination (election and reprobation). I have friends and family who themselves do not. However, I do encourage those that do not to search the Scriptures to find out whether or not these things are so. This brings to my major point of contention with Caner—not once have I seen him responsibly handle Scripture or draw from the texts of the Sacred Word to make his case. For that matter, he can’t even properly handle texts outside of scripture! He makes an attempt to use a quote from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on Romans 9 as a proof text for his stance against the idea that God elects some and reprobates others:

Just some food for thought, from the 1859 sermon by Charles Spurgeon entitled JACOB AND ESAU.

“Why does God hate any man? I defy anyone to give any answer but this, because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer, divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, sovereignly — it is the same thing — created that man, with no other intention, than that of damning him? Made him, and yet, for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you, that is all I can say: you deserve pity, that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever.”
CITATION: Charles Spurgeon, Sermon: JACOB AND ESAU (January 16, 1859)

I read recently that I “turned Romans 9 upside down.” Well, then I stand in good company … with Spurgeon … against those who embrace reprobation.


He may indeed stand in good company, but he doesn’t rightly belong there. Caner is obviously confused. Here’s the rest of what Spurgeon said in that sermon—in its proper context:

Right before this passage, Spurgeon says,

"Now, I say if the character of Jacob, be as I have described it, and I am sure it is—we have got it in God's word—there was, there could have been nothing in Jacob, that made God love him; and the only reason why God loved him, must have been because of his own grace, because "he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy." And rest assured, the only reason why any of us can hope to be saved is this, the sovereign grace of God. There is no reason why I should be saved, or why you should be saved, but God's own merciful heart, and God's own omnipotent will. Now that is the doctrine; it is taught not only in this passage, but in multitudes of other passages of God's Word. Dear friends, receive it, hold fast by it, and never let it go."

And right after he states,

"You are quite right when you say the reason why God loves a man, is because God does do so; there is no reason in the man. But do not give the same answer as to why God hates a man. If God deals with any man severely, it is because that man deserves all he gets. In hell there will not be a solitary soul that will say to God, O Lord, thou hast treated me worse than I deserve! But every lost spirit will be made to feel that he has got his deserts, that his destruction lies at his own door and not at the door of God; that God had nothing to do with his condemnation, except as the Judge condemns the criminal, but that he himself brought damnation upon his own head, as the result of his own evil works. Justice is that which damns a man; it is mercy, it is free grace, that saves; sovereignty holds the scale of love; it is justice holds the other scale. Who can put that into the hand of sovereignty? That were to libel God and to dishonour him;"

As we can see, Caner conveniently forgot to complete the thought. He does indeed turn Romans 9 upside down, as it has been so aptly stated. The text could not be any more direct; even including Paul’s answer to the expected objection by those who may reject the idea of God’s sovereign choice in the salvation of souls:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son." And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call-- she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory--even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? –Romans 9:6-24 ESV


As can be clearly seen, when held up to the light of Scripture, the mantra of “those who elected were selected” is crushed under the weight of the passage. The appeals to the “whosoever will” statements and an isolated exegesis of John 3:16 don’t help to make the case either. In the beginning of the Gospel of John, we find:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. –John 1:12-13 ESV

In using scripture as its own interpreter, let us see the consistency in statements made by Christ himself:

Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." –John 3:3-8 ESV


There you have it; so much for our decision in the salvation process. Now here is Caner’s key “whosoever” text—in context:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God." –John 3:16-21 ESV

In other words, reprobation and condemnation is the default state of man as a result of his inherent sinful nature, unless he is granted the grace of regeneration and faith by the Holy Spirit. As John the Baptist testifies a few verses later,

“A person cannot receive one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” –John 3:27 ESV


So from all that we have seen in Scripture, the “whosoever” that Caner wants to appeal to are only those whom have been given the gift of the divine and supernatural light to see the truth. As Jesus affirms:

"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil." He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. –John 6:63-71 ESV

And again:

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." –John 8:42-47 ESV

And just in case you are still not sure:

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers…I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. –John 10:2-5; 14-15 ESV

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. –John 15:16 ESV


Caner and others like him, who hold to their staunch anti-Calvinistic/anti-Reformation viewpoints need to take serious heed to the passages presented here. While their intent may be to attack John Calvin and the men who followed, it actually turns out to be a very vicious attack on the Word of God itself. I am astonished by men like Ergun Caner, who hold powerful positions as teachers and educators of the gospel, yet the lack of (or disregard for) knowledge for the sake of making a name for themselves by way of personal attacks and inflammatory statements is ridiculous. I don’t know about his claims of people “calling for his head”, but I’m definitely all for someone calling for his job. Teachers should be held to a higher standard due to their influence over impressionable minds and he has been extremely negligent in his duties of imparting the truth of the Word to his students at Liberty Theological Seminary. Not once has he offered a solid biblical defense for his position on this issue. My guess, is because there isn’t one.

Another of his outrageous claims is that the view of salvation held by the Calvinist camp causes them to be impotent in terms of evangelism. Once again, his lack of knowledge of Church History rears its ugly head. Many of the greatest evangelistic/missionary campaigns throughout history have in fact come out of the Reformed and Calvinistic tradition. There’s one he should be familiar with; I believe William Carey was a Baptist and a Calvinist—that’s just one example. If anything, the doctrine of election shows us how amazing grace really is, for it shows that we bring nothing to the table when it comes to our salvation. It is all God through Christ from start to finish. It serves to humble us and drive us to make it know that we love Christ only because he loved us first. The Great Commission to preach the gospel to all men is not hampered by such belief; it is ignited.

The bottom line is this—election and reprobation are clearly taught in the Bible. But as a doctrine, its bearing on Christian behavior is indirect. God’s decree of election is secret; which persons are elect and reprobate will not be revealed before judgment. Until that time, God’s command is that the call to repent and believe be preached to everyone.


At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." –Matthew 11:25-30 ESV

For many are called, but few are chosen. –Matthew 22:14 ESV




“It is no novelty that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth as it is in Christ Jesus.” –Charles Haddon Spurgeon



Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Monday, October 09, 2006

All Those Questions--One Answer: What Martin Luther Discovered



“There is no justification without sanctification, no forgiveness without renewal of life, no real faith from which the fruits of new obedience do not grow.” - Martin Luther



It is reported that early on in his theological endeavors Luther struggled with his faith. He states that it was largely due to the fact that he had not yet discovered the grace and mercy of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Until that point, God seemed cruel to him--a God that held people accountable for things that they could not change. After all, even after he joined a monastery, he still struggled with sin. Luther was growing impatient--with God and himself. What is it that he would have to do to escape the wrath of this "ogre" of a God that he served? While studying the New Testament, Luther discovered the truth that would transform his life:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." - Romans 1:17 ESV

There it was--but faith in what? Better yet; whom?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV

From that point on Luther was a changed man. He was awakened by the Truth of God's word and he could not go back to sleep. There is much to be learned from his experience with the Word of God. The Church of the 21st Century must look back through history at Luther and the men who followed. It is only through Christ and our union with him, that we can accomplish the work before us: Seeking and saving the lost, as well as mortifying our own flesh--pursuing holiness and being crucified to the world.

Evangelists Paris Reidhead and Leonard Ravenhill explain better:




For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. - 1 Corinthians 15:21-23 ESV


I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. - Galatians 2:20-21 ESV



For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. - Colossians 2:3-4 ESV

So much of our theology of the present day is disconnected from this one central truth of the gospel; we are justified by faith in Christ alone. There is nothing that needs to be added to or taken away from this fact. Attempting to find salvation by any other means is an exercise in futility. Yet, strangely enough, this has become a foreign concept to most evangelicals of the present day. So much of what we see revolves around what we should do. I've said it before and I'll say it again: So much of what we see today in evangelism revolves around "What Would Jesus Do?". In other words, what I must do to be more like Jesus. All the while, we are forgetting the real heart of the matter; "What Did Jesus Do?" We can't heal the blind, the lame, the dumb, or forgive sins. That's what Jesus did. But what we can do is what was told to first converts of the early church by the apostles on the day of Pentecost--

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." - Acts 2:36-39 ESV

To teach or believe anything other than this is heresy. As Luther himself stated, "the doctrine of Justification is the pillar by which the church stands or falls". In our present day, it appears to be crumbling. This month's blogs (however many there will be) will be dedicated to looking back in history to the time of the reformation, to re-discover the rich theology and truths of scripture that are so desperately needed in our day. Contrary to popular belief, the Reformation is not over. May it continue until the Kingdom Comes...

Sola Fide, Solo Christus (Justification by faith alone in Christ alone)-- This is what Luther discovered. He was never the same. With the flame now lit in his heart, he would fire the shot that would set the whole world on fire. May we likewise follow in his footsteps. Christ (and him crucified) is the only thing that we need for salvation and to find peace with God.


Blood of the Lamb


And the LORD answered me:"Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie.If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. "Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. - Habakuk 2:2-4 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,

Shon








Saturday, September 30, 2006

Simul Justus et Peccator (at the same time, Justified and a Sinner): The Glory of God in a State of Love and Trust


"It doesn't get better once you've seen the light; you wake to find that the fight has just begun." - Derek Webb





Saint and Sinner




It's funny what you can learn about yourself in 24 hours when given the right circumstances. For me, Friday afternoon was the right circumstance. I discovered that in spite of all that I've learned about love and relationships (in the general, as well as particular sense of the terms), there can be a serious disconnect between what I say and what I do. I took my current status and situation in this particular relationship for granted, greatly disregarding the need for trust and understanding. Needless to say, I hurt her deeply. If I had to describe it (without going into great detail for the sake of the other person's anonymity), it was the equivalent of waving a loaded gun in someone's face who was still healing from a gunshot wound. In short, I'm an idiot. We have spent some time getting to know one another better, which makes my actions at that point in time all the more condemnable - I should have known better. So the big question is: Knowing what I know, why did I do what I did?! The song above helps to answer that question - "A saint and a sinner is what I am"!


From Hubris to Humility

When one has been in Christ a while, it's easy to become complacent and forget that the peace that we find in Christ is only the beginning of the war. The moment that we forget this, we open ourselves up for attack. We begin to think that the smoothness and ease by which things may be happening in our lives and relationships is due to our choices and our initiative. Nothing could be further from the truth. We begin not only to take for granted the gifts of God by grace through faith, but the very Giver of grace himself. We take lightly that idea of sanctification being a process and begin to see it as a package deal. We get it all twisted around; we may be saved at once, but the sanctification takes time - a lifetime to be exact. None of us will ever be completely free of our sin nature this side of glory. We must remember that every temptation and fire trial that we come out of is only by the grace of God. The same goes for the other side of the coin; every act of hard Providence that we go through is wrought by the grace of God as well. It is through these moments that we learn what God truly desires as he softens our hearts and conforms our will to His own. There is no way that a relationship between two flawed, fallen, and sinful individuals can work apart from God's grace and a realization of the atoning work of Christ that was already done for them (no matter how "spiritual" they may be). After all, if it didn't work for Adam and Eve (given their set-up), how do we honestly expect to fair in our own endeavors?

Revelation and Repentance

I'm actually thankful for these "growing pains" in our relationship that have manifested early on. I have learned not to begrudge God's sovereignty—these things always happen for a reason. This, by no means, excuses my behavior. This isn't the last time that I'll mess up, that much I can promise, and I'm sure she'll have her moments as well. We've had our "disagreements", but I can honestly say I felt this one as much as she did, if not more. However, through this hard lesson, God has been gracious enough to show me where I need growth--Love. Come what may in this relationship (or any other), I will need to be reminded of the fact that I'm not perfect and neither is the other person, yet I still must love accordingly. It is only by grace and grace alone that she’s in my life to begin with and I should treat and cherish her like gift of God she has been to me; for putting up with me.

So the next big question is, "what happened after the fallout?"

Well, after I came out of "idiot mode" and began to contemplate her anger toward what I had done, I asked for her forgiveness for "losing my damned mind", as she put it; some things just aren't appropriate -- I know that now. I also had asked for God's forgiveness as well. I actually did that on the way back to her room before I asked her, and that he would keep me safe while I did it. Contrary to popular belief, she is a lot more gracious and mature in her anger than initially perceived...even more so than myself, I must admit.

God is good...even when I'm not. I pray that he continues to grant me grace and strength to overcome the feelings of guilt, shame and doubt that can be a hindrance in the pursuit of learning how to love, as well as being loved in return; may he continue to heal her hurt and anger towards me as well. I care about her intensely and would hate to lose her companionship behind a momentary lapse of discretion.

Give me the strength in my actions to match my heart, Lord. Amen.


I'm adding this last song because...well, it just needs to be here. If she ever she's this, she'll know why.


Reputation





For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within meSo I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. - Romans 7: 14-25 ESV


"Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly...Pray boldly--you too are a mighty sinner." - Martin Luther


Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 ESV


“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” - C.S. Lewis

“Love is doing what will enthrall the beloved with the greatest and longest joy. What will enthrall the beloved this way is the glory of God. Love means doing all we can, at whatever cost to ourselves, to help people be enthralled with the glory of God. When they are, they are satisfied and God is glorified. Therefore loving people and glorifying God are one.” - John Piper


And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. - Philipians 1:6 ESV



If we are faithless, he remains faithful--for he cannot deny himself. - 2 Timothy 2:13 ESV


“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” - C.S. Lewis




Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon





Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Evangel Lies: Heart Matters...Doesn't It?!

“There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who believe they are sinners, the sinners who believe they are righteous.” - Blaise Pascal

Watch. Listen. Observe...





I've already dealt with Joel Osteen's ability to mingle truth with grave error in a previous post, so I won't be dealing with that here. But what can definitely be seen here is how when you get the truth of the Gospel turned around (emphasis on works rather than faith), it plays out to its rational conclusion.

Osteen said that he believes that Jesus Christ is the way to obtain salvation, however, it is not his job to "judge another person's heart"--only God can do that. It may sound okay at first listen, but it doesn't answer the question. Even the caller noticed that he sidesteps the issue!! Larry King asked him if he thought that someone who didn't believe in Jesus Christ could obtain salvation. HE SAID HE "DIDN'T KNOW" (even when he was asked about an atheist). As a matter of fact this is about the only thing that we can be sure of from what he presents as an "answer"; he doesn't know. Yet somehow in all of that non-judgemental unknowing, he is certain of the fact that the people of India "love God", even though (once again) he "doesn't know much about their religion". Well, shouldn't he? After all, if a person does truly love God, and Osteen claims to believe that Jesus is the only way to obtain salvation (at least, that's what he said), then by all logic, his surety of the salvation of the person or persons in question should rest on the fact that they have a personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior--not because they have "heart". Salvation is not granted by giving it the old college try; it relys solely on the justification of faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Some may see this as Joel-hatin' or Lakewood bashing. It's not. This is written out of the deepest concern for the theology that is being disseminated from one of the notable pastors of our day, who shepherds one largest church congregations in the country (if not the largest). That being the case, one may wonder how I, a lowly blogger, can criticize a minister of his stature? How is it that I can be so sure that he has somehow gotten the gospel wrong?

This is how:




sdrawkcab lla si gnihtyrevE! Forget what you've heard--It's WHAT you're hearing:


**So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. - Romans 10:17 ESV


Besides, he brought the nail and coffin; so, I'll bring a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29).



The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. - Genesis 6:5 ESV

The heart is deceitful above all things,and desperately sick; who can understand it? - Jeremiah 17:9 ESV


And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. - Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3:3 ESV

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6 ESV



“Two kinds of persons know Him: those who have a humble heart, and who love lowliness, whatever kind of intellect they may have, high or low; and those who have sufficient understanding to see the truth, whatever opposition they may have to it.” - Blaise Pascal





Sola Scriptura. Sola Gratia. Sola Fide. Solo Christus...


Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Years Later: Hard Lessons on Terrorism, Evil and the Sovereignty of God


"In the fury of the moment, I can see the Master's hand; in every leaf that trembles and in every grain of sand." -Bob Dylan

I would like to think that after several years have past, I could put some distance between the events of September 11 and the anniversary by which it is now memorialized. Is it because it was a terrorist attack? Is it because I was a witness to the horrific event? Questions like these can go on forever. But whatever the case may be, every year seems like last year--always fresh as if no significant time has passed at all. I know that I'm not alone in this. Everyone has their stories. We can remember like it was yesterday.

Not only do the memories remain, but the questions remain as well. The peculiar thing that always seems to happen is, that for most, it's not so much a philosophical line of questioning, but a moral and spiritual one:


How could someone do something so evil?
Is there any hope for a human race that can produce this kind of corruption?

As the questions continue, they come to an inevitable conclusion:

If there's a God, why didn't he do something to stop this?
If God is so loving, why did he let all of those innocent people die?
If there is a God, why is there so much evil in the world?

I have heard various answers given by those in the camp of religion and faith. In many of the interviews and press releases, however, these answers seem to contradict and often times leave us lacking any real substance to hold on to. They also have a tendency to fall into two totally different lines of reasoning.


Judgment

This first camp tends to think that God has done these things because he is angry with America. I remember hearing several prominent religious leaders spouting rhetoric about God taking down our "hedge of protection" due to the fact that we kill babies and we allow gays to marry. I think this is pushing too far to one end of the spectrum. I do believe that God can bring calamities and disaster as signs of judgment. He is God and he does what he pleases (Psalm 115: 3), just as he did in the days of Noah. But to single out a particular group of people's sins over my own is downright pharisaic and fool-hearted. If God did indeed use 9/11 as a way of judging America for its sins, I better make sure that I include myself in that bunch as well!! Jesus warned of this kind of thinking when two terrible disasters of his day had occurred:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." - Luke 13: 1-5 ESV

When catastrophe hits, it is not our job to try to guess as to why they "had it coming". R.C. Sproul summarizes it this way:

We often ask the wrong question; we become concerned with why it happened to them. What we really should be asking is 'why didn't it happen to me'?

Jesus reminds those who are throwing accusations at the victims of those dreadful acts that instead of contemplating the sins of others, contemplate your own. If I believe that someone deserved it, I can best believe that I deserve it all the same (if not more). It is not our job to know why. As Deuteronomy 29:29 says:

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.


Denial

On the other side of the isle, we have our second camp. By using the word denial, I don't mean that those who fall into this category are delusional, but that they deny or limit the extent of God's activity in such catastrophic events. The best example I can give is from a couple of conversations that I had today, where each person stated that they were told by the leadership in their churches that God couldn't possibly have anything to do with something so evil--so heinous. This logic falls all the way at the other end of the spectrum. Also, much like its counterpart, it too is seriously flawed. While the other side believes that God acts in a heavy-handed manner, the denial camp would say that God loves his creation (people, in this particular case) and he would never do anything to harm to us. A beautiful sentiment, to be sure, but a survey of the Sciptures will point us to a very different conclusion :

"Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. - Job 2:10 ESV

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? - Lamentations 3:37-38 ESV

Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it? - Amos 3:6 ESV


These are definitely some of the harder sayings in Scripture in terms of God's involvement of evil. Verses like these may even leave many angry and unable to accept the idea of God's sovereignty if this is what it entails. But we must be careful. As John Piper states:

The evil that Satan causes is only by the permission of God. Therefore, Job is not wrong to see it as ultimately coming from the hand of God. It would be unbiblical and irreverent to attribute to Satan (or sinful man) the power to frustrate the designs of God.




To put it another way, if we stick with the denial position, we will find ourselves in a place without hope. For if God has not ordained catastrophic events within his Providence and Sovereign will, then he is not God and all is lost. This would be the only rational conclusion that we could come to. The verses above, while they are indeed hard to swallow, should ultimately bring us comfort. Even as evil seems to run wild, we should take heart in the fact that God is there and he is working all things for good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

As Christians, it is times like these-- Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, etc. -- that we should be even more about the business of seeking to persuade the lost through the Good news of the gospel. We should remember Jesus' words to his fellow country men: "Unless you repent of your sin...". This should make us profoundly grateful for the grace that God has shown on us by giving us his son, and should compel us to share the message of Christ with others so that they too may partake of the goodness and mercy of God through the sacrifice of his son. If these events should teach us anything it should be this--

No matter how long, life is always too short. We are never guaranteed tomorrow. The aim of every man should be to seek the Lord while he may be found; because sometimes...


Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. - James 4:13-14 ESV


"To the ones left behind
Who are picking up the pieces
Of planes, bombs and buildings
Of innocence and evil
When the news, the noise and flowers die
And you still wake up alone
There's a God who knows every tear you cry
And this world is on his shoulders."

- Sandra McCracken, Age after age


This post is dedicated to all those who were lost in the events of 9/11/01 and their families. Your heroism and bravery will never be forgotten.


Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How to Kill and Be Killed 101: The Pursuit "Happiness" Defined.

Amen and Amen.

Q. What is the chief end of man?

A. To glorify God and enjoy him forever. - Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1

"You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you." - St. Augustine

"God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him." - John Piper

"Real love for God means that he must be the only thing that matters to you. He must be your greatest happiness. You are to love him as your absolute Lord and Master. You love everything about him, and you have no desire for him to be any better than he is. You want his will to be done in you so much, that you will do it no matter what it costs you. You want his will to be done whether it is prosperity or suffering, whether it is life or death. You rejoice in him in all things, and you love to obey him - even if it means you suffer the worst thing possible: death. In short, when you love God, you make him the greatest pleasure of your life." - Walter Marshall

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. - Psalm 27:4 ESV

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. - Psalm 37:4 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. - Matthew 6:33 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,

Shon

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What Exactly is Postmodernism (and why should we care)?

"What exactly is Postmodernism?"

This is the question that I was asked recently after a friend of mine read the "mission statement" of this blog.

"Why should we care so much about what the 'Postmodern' world/culture thinks about God, Jesus or whatever...that's a matter of personal belief and preference."

The truth is that postmodernism/postmodern thought can be a hard thing to define at times. Much of this (I believe) is due to the fact that it is an extremely convoluted worldview by nature; at least, in the "popular" sense, that is.

This is a question that plagues many. Others really don't care. But for the Christian, it is important to realize what cultural contextuality and faith have to do with one another; what impact one should have or not have on the other--where they should meet and where they should divide. After all, a quick survey of scripture will show that Jesus and the apostles were always engaging the culture of their day with the gospel. Shouldn't we be following that example? Shouldn't we be aware of the advantages and disadvantages that said context may have?

Since I'm still making sense of it all my self, I've decided to leave the definitions to the professionals (although they would probably hate the term). David F. Wells, professor/author of the book,
Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World and John Piper, pastor/author of Desiring God, do an excellent job of defining postmodern thought (Wells) and explaining the nature of its effect--specifically on the Church (Piper).

These are interview clips for their upcoming conference. As always, enjoy:


David F. Wells - Postmodernism Defined



John Piper - The Nature of Postmodernism




A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow'r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

That word above all earthly pow'rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still:
His kingdom is forever

-Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"




Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How To Kill and Be Killed 101: Death of the "Innocent" Man

One of the major stumbling blocks for many Christians (and non-christians alike) is what has become to be known as the "Innocent Man" problem. The logic usually goes like this:

"I know that you need to believe in Christ to go to heaven. But, what about the innocent native in Africa (or some other far off place) who's never heard the gospel; are you telling me that if he dies, he still goes to Hell?! I can't accept that--if God is love, then I can't believe that he would send someone to hell without ever giving them a chance to believe..."

However valid the question may appear to be, it is faulty on many different levels when held up to the light of Scripture. The clip below is of a preacher who shares his experience in the mission field and how he came to understand this by the grace of God. He does an excellent job of presenting the truth of God's Word up and against the humanistic "gospel" that is so prevelant in our day. It also has a warning against a grave error that can potentially be made by all who share the gospel: Putting too much emphasis on what we do and not what God does through us. We must always remember that we are merely runners--never to attempt to improve on God's justice but to reflect His glory.

The preacher in this clip is not named, but his words are true. If anyone recognizes his voice, please let me know. Enjoy:






For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. - Romans 1:18-20 ESV


as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.""The venom of asps is under their lips.""Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.""Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.""There is no fear of God before their eyes." - Romans 3:10-18 ESV


What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- Romans 9:14-23 ESV


And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." - John 6:65 ESV


Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon

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