Tuesday, December 2, 2008

30 pieces of silver

Jesus was bought and sold unto death for 30 pieces of silver.
At the going rate silver is roughly $0.28/gram. A Roman coin weighs about 4 grams.

That means Jesus was sold for about $34 according to today's market.

It would be laughable if it wasn't so evil.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A great old quote

From Augustus Toplady to John Wesley:
I do not expect to be treated by Mr. John Wesley with the candor of a gentleman, or the meekness of a Christian; but I wish him, for his reputation's sake, to write and act with the honesty of a heathen.
That Wesley we all worship... Hmmm.. Best to reconsider the record.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Snuffy grubby kid noses

How are the elect called? How is it made so plain a reasonable salvation to our veiled and stupid hearts? How is that dreaded wicked mankind shown the truth?
Answer: by the Spirit of God.
Well yes, that is true, but how exactly?
The answer again: He uses instruments, namely people. He makes Himself known by the spreading of the gospel- Romans 10:14 "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"
So God, in choosing to call someone, sends them the gospel message, by someone else. We are active participants that God uses in His Holy glory to save others. Not that anything or everything depends on us, for God is the one who saves, but we are used by Him, we have the pleasure of participation.

This was all of the sudden clear to me by a facebook comment: "wiped sniffly noses today, tomorrow looks to be more of the same" And this verse came to mind-
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 "Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal."

Just as God works through the preacher reaching out, He works through the mother wiping up. God has put loving mothers who train their children up in a Godly way in the lives of the children to save them. Acts 17:26 "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live"
How are these children elect? Because God has put a godly woman in their lives to take care of them. The small everyday ordinary burden of cleaning up after a bunch of unappreciative kids is actually becoming the gift of a heavy incredible supernatural eternal life to them. The love a mother shows them echos the love of God, and in seeing it in her, they see Him. They are elected and saved because she is tending to these ordinary daily chores.
These daily ordinary trials to mom are building up an eternal relationship with God and an eternal glory for her family. Glory be to God.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Acts 2:38-39

Peter replied, "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.
The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The two wills of God?

The old scholars and theologians called it the two wills problem.
The first will is seen most clearly in verses like Deuteronomy 28:63 "Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess." He shows mercy only to those he wants to Rom 9:18, makes non believers harden, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, Exodus 4:21, blinds eyes so people will not see Him John 12:39. this is talking about death and eternal destiny, not just for witholding blessings- Joshua 11:20 "For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses. " 1 Samuel 2:25 "... for it was the LORD's will to put them to death."
vs
Will 2, which often looks like this: 1 Timothy 2:3-4 "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. " John 3:16 For God so loved... and of Matthew 27:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." and of course Ezekiel 18:23 "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? "

Some might be tempted to think God's will is to save which is only thwarted by His greater will to condemn. God has two different wills in opposition, but somehow He is not schizophrenic. This is just not satisfactory enough. It doesn't have that ring of truth to it.
Likewise, we cannot go to the Arminians for help, because they are much worse off, asserting that Gods will is to save but never to condemn; He would never do anything against 'free will' so we are safe in minimizing all the passages in the first will. Write it off as a mystery.

Is there no hope to resolve this deadlock? I think the answer is in seeing the difference not between two near equal and opposite wills, but by realizing one is an expression of the character of God and the other the action of God. In fact you need both to see clearly.

Take the case of each working alone. Say for a moment we had insight into Gods actions but not His character. In that case we would not know what kind of God we worshipped. We would see Him damning the wicked and declaring that only some would get mercy, but we would think Him cruel and unapprochable. Certinally He could not be trusted to be loving like a father. If on the other hand we had a record of His character but not His actions He would be a weak powerless God. He would not be God at all.

Sure, at first it looks like a paradox at first glance, but notice that there is a difference between Gods nature, how He feels, and His actions. The difference is not between His permissive, persuasive, effectual, continual will, but it is better seen as the difference between His nature and His decrees. His feelings and His actions.
Romans 9:22-24 gives us the answer to why He would do this. "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?"
He gives us insight into His character we never would have otherwise.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

For God so loved the...

What? World yes but what does that mean? Does that mean he died for every man? What else does John say about the world?
John 18:20 I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret.
John 12:19 So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
John 14:22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"
John 7:4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world."

So the world clearly does not mean every individual, this is really obvious in John 12:19 because clearly everyone in the world did not go and follow Christ. So now what does the passage mean?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dilemma of suffering

Is posed like this: Suffering exists and God is all good.
1. Either God is not good and so He allows suffering or
2. God is not all powerful and cannot stop it.

Or stated another way: how can God allow suffering? Yes, I quite agree that this is the most profound thing we can ever ask ourselves. How could God allow some stupid grubby greedy finite created filthy sinful worms to cause Him so much grief that He would be torn apart on the cross? How could God permit that we would hurt Him so on that dark day? That is truely the right question to ask. Let us join with the stupid atheists in pondering it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Prayer

There was a former preacher of mine that used to rail against how stupid it was that people would pray for a parking spot so they wouldn't miss class or an appointment. His message was that God does not care about little useless things like that when He has to deal with cancer.
Oddly enough, this kind of preaching is actually very very destructive.
Why? Because it reduces God to the size of your judgement.
How big is God really? Isn't he so big that everything to Him is a little problem? Isn't cancer or world hunger, or world peace, or a world war only the size of a parking spot problem to Him?
God is the greatest thing in the world, so much larger than everything in the universe all together that it is silly to limit God's likes and dislikes to your own.
In prayer we come into His presence. A presence larger than our feeble minds can understand. In the words of Nebuchadnezzar, the whole of man is nothing before Him, and He does his will on Earth and Heaven.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Enter by the narrow gate

Jesus said that the way is narrow and few find it. Maybe we should say that none find it, but before we do, what is Jesus saying? Is he saying we need to walk the narrow way? Act good? Be well?
Jesus said that He is the gate to the sheepfold, that anyone else who comes in is a thief or a robber.
Enter by the narrow gate, Jesus is the gate..
Jesus is a making a claim to his exclusivity!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Problem with the Church of Christ leadership

I was warned as a child not to delve too deeply into the Bible. Much later, a CoC teacher summarized the attitude thusly: do not search after wisdom too diligently, lest you become blinded by too much light. Take as an example Solomon who pursued wisdom and ended up destitute in his age, like Icarus, he got too close to the sun. Yes, they are actually teaching not to read the Bible too much, or seek after the things of God too much. Strangely enough they have a very good point, keeping away from too much Bible IS good for everyone's protection. How could that possibly be good you ask? Not long ago a former Church of Christ minister and elder, a great scholar and gentile, dedicated man said with grave concerns: "I hope I have done enough for heaven. I hope God forgives my sins." This is what happens to people who are too serious about the Church of Christ.
I refute the notion that we should abstain from pursuing God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, entirely and passionately with everything ounce of energy I have. If I come off as hating the CoC or being too radical that's not too hard a price. There is no life apart from Christ, and there is no boundary to how much we should seek after Him. We must know Christ, we are called to know Christ. Only recently have I been able to see the way out of this problem.

If salvation depends on being baptized correctly and staying saved by good works then salvation is ultimatly a works based theology. And if you tell someone that they have to stay saved then of course people will ask 'how'? Well, the answer comes, avoid sin. How again? An elder board is appointed to answer that. What kind of sin? The minister preaches on that. There is no definitive answer to this because that's not how you are saved or stay saved, so the fighting starts. Elders spend meetings arguing on how harshly they should censure their members sin. Churches split, members become upset at being singled out and leave. From top to bottom the problem with the Churches of Christ boils down to the problem that man cannot keep his salvation and everyone knows it somewhere in their heart. As a result all the offices in the church are perverted. Not every person fits this perfectly, and it doesn't mean they are in any way bad people- it just means they are trapped people. Trapped by the necessity of their own vigil.

The problem with Elders
Who should watch over a church living by the rules? The men best able to keep the rules of course. Men who are really really good at not sinning are the chief cornerstones of leadership, they sin like any human, but their sins are small and less frequent than others. Their job is to purge the congregation of sins. This is an act of kindness and necessity from their point of view, if you have to keep your salvation continual rebuking is the safest course of action, so as not to condone sin. Fear sets in as being the purgers of sin. Fear of not being good enough for heaven, fear of being judged harsher as a teacher, fear of letting others slip away. They are the father in the family they set the tone for how the church will think and feel.

The problem with Ministers
In a group where self discipline, dedication, and abstinence from sin is king who better to show the world and the congregation the virtues than the man who dedicated his vocation to preaching. Who is his boss? A group of law keepers dedicated to purging the church who couldn't even be bothered to take up the holy vocation of ministry themselves. The main problem here? Isn't it obvious?

The problem with Members
They are conditioned the moment they set foot in the door not to follow after God, but to please Him by following the rules. Alas, too often they succeed at getting rid of the worst sins and a pride sets in.

Why churches can't teach repentance

Do you wonder what happened to the doctrine of hell? Why nobody preaches damnation of the reprobate? Why churches can't bring themselves to mention or teach on repentence?
I will tell you.
It is because Ariminians think they have to woo people into the building. Give them the good news, comfort them, placate them, never demand they get serious about sins. The reason is that if we take away the stumbling blocks, make the roads straight, more people will join us. Yet Jesus talked about hell 3x more than heaven, showing us how really dreadful it is we do not have the moral courage to preach bad news before good news.
Once we adopt the concept that God saves we are free to warn them honestly again, trusting that God will use the warning to awaken their hearts, and that they will normally reject us anyway. Jesus is the rock of offense, and we are not in the business of flattering men with notions of how good they are. We are in the business of praising soverign God. To God be the glory.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Free Choice passages?

In the bible there is an abundance of passages that talk about how man needs to choose God. Why?
Because God wants us to experience the pleasure of choosing him. Of inviting Him into our lives, and acccepting his rule. God wants you to use your freed will for His sake. He has given you yet another good thing to have, to use to glorify Him with. He wants you to taste the fruit and enjoy it.
Satan on the other hand convinces you that you must make a go of it alone, and suddenly this good gift God has given you becomes a crushing burden that works better to suck the life out of your life than any other weapon he has. Nothing is better for Satan than to turn a true joy into a dreadful specter.
Thats why God has given us passages assuring us He is the author and perfecter of our faith, so we can have the joy return to us. So we can freely and clearly see what justification and sanctification are all about.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Punishment that fits the crime

Why did God punish Adam so severely in the garden for such a small thing? That is the wrong way to think about it, God demands perfect obedience, and any deviation from this should be punished. When you tell your children not to stab each other with a knife you expect them to obey you. When you tell them to refill the dogs water bowl and they defy you its the same principle at work, they are guilty of selfishness and wanting to do their own thing. They are exposing their inner thoughts and heart to you, and at that moment you get a clear insight into how they feel about you. Their deed is almost irrelevant at that point because with that attitude they will just find other ways to express their feelings. God is therefore just in punishing disobedience no matter how small.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Personal Note- Calvinism and the Gospel

For perhaps the first time I am going to mention myself in my blog as something other than the authoritative voice.

For a year or so I have been turbo charged to study the word of God, to open it and believe it and plunge into it with an energy I have not before seen, it is a zeal that comes from God in Christ. Theology, systematic, biblical exegesis, you name it. This blog attests to my burning desire to study, original sin, the particular calling of the elect, the perserverace of the saints. Calvinism in so many words. I am admittadly obsessed with Calvinism. But it doesn't feel like some guys thoughts.
Today I found this, and it makes perfect sense. This is that lense that brings it all into focus:

"I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor." from http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm

It is not some philosophy, it is the good news, the great news! The news of eternal undying preexistant love. Have you ever felt this gospel? Has it ever taken hold of you? Has God stooped down and tore you from the earth, hacked away the roots of sin while you kicked at Him to stop? Come to Him, ask Him, offer yourself as an offering. Give your mind to this doctrine which Satan tries so hard to keep from you.
For me it started at Romans. Once I became convinced God was going to ensure my salvation I realized it didn't make sense that He would keep me unless He had always intended to keep me safe. And not only that, but by bring me to a place that I would be saved.
God brought me inevitably to a place that I would be saved. He arranged the conditions that my heart had no other answer but Him. He does the same for all of His children whom He is pleased to call.
Hand over your fears like I did. Embrace "calvinism" to find there is no greater joy than the gospel. Don't even take my word for it. Take God's.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

John 3:16-21

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will will be exposed.
What does God say? The verdict is that men are dark, they love the darkness and they hate the light. He says that while they could come into the light, they won't, they will not, for they do not want their deeds to be exposed. But the good news is back in verse 16, God loves the sinners anyway inspite of that, God has given a way for them to have eternal life, by believing in Jesus. God has not allowed all men to perish, but has guarenteed and assured that His elect have a way to come into his presence. Jesus blood.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hell's Revulsion from Genesis 3

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The concept of hell is so disgusting to us, the idea that for a mere finite amount of time on the earth we would be faced with eternal agony on account of a handful of sins is so wretched we never talk about it. You don't hear it in church. But look for a moment at the origin of this disgust for hell, it is plainly obvious in here, God tells us the consequence of eating the fruit would be thus: we would be like God.
We think ourselves good. We think we are holy. We wonder how anyone would dare go over our heads and punish us with hell when we would never punish ourselves. 'God, that is clearly not what I would do. And since I am the most important thing in creation, you need to obey. I go where I want, when I want.'
Is not absolute will the way God thinks of Himself? We certinally did acquire a knack for being like God in thought when Adam sinned in the garden, but all it has really amounted to is unbounded and infinite hubris.

Once we threw away the nature God gave us, once we rejected Him, we ejected Him from ourselves. Since He is all goodness, all love, all kindness, the source of all life, what kind of life do we have when we reject that? Worse, what if we are left with his secondary attributes (ie how God thinks of Himself) after kicking out his primary ones? Is it not a wonder that all we do are as filthy rags? Isaiah 64. Is it then not a wonder we warrant hell if the only thing good in us is what God forces into us? Ezra 7:27. Should hell surprise us when we try to destroy God as fast as possible? If it does it shouldn't. Perhaps a better approach is to ask who is man (and we know how greedy evil and sinful we can be) that you are mindful of me?

Monday, August 4, 2008

No free will in heaven

Now thats not what most people initially think of when they think heaven, yet it is what Arminians have to think, quite oddly enough. And since most people reject the notion that we become robots in heaven, they reveal themselves to be closet Calvinists.

The proof is such: are you going to lose your free will in heaven? Are you going to lose the ability to make meaningful choices? Will we all become mindless drones because we are no longer able to sin? Will God take away our humanity and instead make us like rocks or sticks that are passive instruments unable to resist anything? The answer is of course "no" - in heaven our choices still have meaning, praising God is infinitely more meaningful when we have a will of our own. Yes, even if we only make one choice all the time to love God. Just because we want to praise Him and never want to sin, doesn't mean our we are wind up dolls, or there is no point to loving God. Being in the very presence of God and enjoying His company continually will be all we want to do, and since we are in heaven we will be free do what we want all the time. Which is to praise God and love Him. In The Great Divorce C.S. Lewis said it like this: we are free to drink as we are drinking.

There is an important concept that might add some clarity here: the will to do something, and the ability to do it are different things, and they don't overlap. Distinguishing between them can add a new level of insight that can resolve the roadblock here.
Our will dictates our action, and our ability to do a thing. Here's an example: if given the choice to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast or nutritious dirt, I will pick the first one. Because I want to. In fact I will always pick the bacon and eggs and I will never pick the dirt, no matter how many times you offer the choice to me. There is nothing stopping me, I can physically grab handfuls of chunky dirt and eat it, I have the ability, but I have no desire to do it. So you see how I have freely chosen, but really, I am incapable of doing otherwise. See? It only looks like there is a conflict of choice, when we look closer we find ourselves always choosing what we want. I always do what I want, I never do what I don't want. In fact I am incapable of doing otherwise, that doesn't mean I don't have free will. Take Jesus and God for example, He always does exactly what He wants, but that doesn't mean He has no free will either. To assert that because He is Holy he is a robot is blasphemous. Jesus was sinless, and he willingly went to the cross to die for us.
Heaven is just so.

Now here is the punchline: if you accept this concept and you believe in traditional Arminism then you have a problem.

If the Bible is not lying when it promises us eternal security, and not lying when it says we must choose Christ and believe in Him to be saved, we are left with the only conclusion: Christians will never disbelieve in Jesus their whole lives, and indeed are incapable of doing so. Once you say that you have just made the statement that a person must and will believe their whole life, because if someone is destined for heaven then they cannot be destined for anywhere else. We cannot reject Christ because we don't want to reject Him once He touches our hearts. You might say we are not free to disbelieve, but it would be better to say that we are free from the tyranny of disbelief.
So in heaven our wills are swallowed up, which like a domino knocks our freedom to choose into line. Our freedom is still there, but it always point in the direction of our will, and our will points in whatever direction God wants. If you disagree, then you must contend with either sin in heaven, or a meaningless existence totally unlike everything we see to be true on earth for all eternity. You are arguing for total free will on earth, and none in heaven.
If instead, you agree that heaven will be meaningful even though the compass of our hearts will be drawn irresistibly to God, then why not Earth? Has Christ not assured your salvation already?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No Original Sin!

The idea of original sin isn't just Biblical, it's absolutely necessary to avoid a number of really strong pitfalls. Below is a list of some reasons why original sin is foundational to Christendom.
 

1. If people start perfect and gradually go bad, at what point does a person cross over the threshold into the unforgivable age, typically called the ‘age of accountability?’ If it is different for everyone then what is the average age of the population? Does a really big sin like murder when you are young count more than other smaller sins? How much sin does it take for God to finally say, "Enough!" Are teenagers liable for their sins? Are preteens? Toddlers? If the first sin committed is at age one then how is that different then a baby being sinful? 

2. If everyone starts without fallen natures then why is sin so universal? Why is every last society, man, woman, and child broken?

3. Why, if the Bible is sufficient in giving us everything we need to know, does God refuse to disclose the age of accountability? Why would He withhold critical information on salvation? How come none of the inspired writers wrote anything like this concept?
 

4. If babies go to heaven because they don't understand (or don’t knowingly commit sin) then what's to stop adults from getting a free ride on the same train? If God is willing and able to turn a blind eye to wicked creatures in one case why might He not do so elsewhere?  Since ignorance does not count against us, is all we need to forget about our sins to be saved? This is tantamount to insisting that Jesus was superfluous, and His death for our sins was merely a nice idea, not an essential event.

5. A man without original sin is a man capable of achieving salvation. But scripture does not allow us of this, instead speaking in the strongest terms of our moral inability and fallen hearts: But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Is 64:6, Eph 2:8,9) For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

4. This directly contradicts scripture: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies" (Ps. 58:3). “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). Man does not become a sinner when he sins, he sins because he is a sinner.

5. A clean slate has no need of grace. If you have no sin, then you have no Christ, for no sin means no grace. If kids are sinful then Christ may offer his grace, but if they are born free then they are born free from a need for Christ in God.


6. Men can be, and are sinless.  This one goes way back to a British monk named Pelageus, whose heresy is thus:
(1) Adam was created mortal, and would have died even if he had not sinned;
(2) Sin injured Adam alone, and not the whole human race (hence no original sin)
(3) Infants at their birth are in the same condition in which Adam was before the fall;

(4) Infants, as well as others, will obtain eternal life; 
(5) Mankind neither died through Adams death or transgression, nor would rise again through Christs resurrection; 
(6) The law had the same effect as the gospel in leading men to the kingdom of heaven;
(7) Even before Christ came that there had been sinless men.
So if man is not morally culpable for his sins, even as a child, and dies, then he dies perfect.  If you believe point 3 then logically point 7 must be true. 

The idea of being personally evil and repulsive is so appalling to the flesh, to the sinful nature that it seeks to be free of original sin.  But we must suppress this desire to justify ourselves and instead insist that people are tainted to the core, and God is a merciful God to have sent the Bleeding Christ to swap our situation for His.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dr. Dabney on Foresight and Predestination

People who don't feel comfortable with the idea of God choosing us before we chose Him will sometimes argue that God looks into the future and sees how we will respond to His free offer, then makes His choice. This of course, flies in the face of Romans 9, but that aside, consider this rational argument from an 1800's theleogen:

Whether God's election of a given sinner, say, Saul of Tarsus, is based on the foresight of his faith, if God's foresight is eternal and omniscient then the outcome is certain, or else God did not see it correctly. Common sense says: no cause, no effect; an uncertain cause can only give an uncertain effect. Says the Arminian: God certainly foresaw that Saul of Tarsus would believe and repent, and, therefore, elected him. But I say, that if God certainly foresaw Saul's faith, then Saul's faith must have been certain to take place, for God cannot make mistakes. Then, if this sinner's faith was certain to take place, there must have been some totally certain cause insuring that Saul would believe. Now, no certain cause could be in the "free-will" of this sinner, Saul, even as aided by "common sufficient grace." For Arminians say, that this makes and leaves the sinner's will contingent. Then, whatever made God think that this sinner, Saul, would ever be certain to believe and repent? Nothing but God's own sovereign eternal will to renew him unto faith and repentance.

Clever isn't it? The argument is this: if God knows the future salvation of Saul with certainty then God knows that no matter what, something will happen to make Saul change his mind. But if this event causing Saul to change his mind is 100% certain then Saul is predestined by this event to change. It is far better to be predestined by God's grace and loving kindness than by some random accidental force.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Problem of Suffering

The argument goes that if God is all powerful and allows suffering then he is a mean God. Has God orchestrated our suffering as well as our glory? Is God in control? A comforting answer is to say God doesn't interfere in the world, he just lets it go where it wills, man is the author of suffering. In this typical worldview man gets the blame for the bad, but God comes out of it as a helpless non soverign old man who wrings his hands from the sky, "Oh I wish I could stop their suffering, but I promised I wouldn't bother them."
Utter nonsense.
Man suffers because man is sinful. While it is true that man does it to himself, God does permit it, uses it, guides it. He is not the author of sin, but he is in control of the universe, and all in the universe.
The wages of sin is death, therefore every sinner at any point in their life deserves death. To not recieve immediate death is wholly gracious of God. Sinners bring suffering on themselves, choose suffering any time they sin, and so earn suffering by being alive. Are you perfect? Then you are suffering. In fact, the only man ever to not sin, who therefore deserved no suffering or death at all, suffered more than anyone could possibly comprehend.
Does your ariminian viewpoint insist that God does not foreordain suffering? Does a child suffering shake your faith in God?
I see your suffering child and raise you a suffering, bleeding, broken man on a Cross who was predestined to die for your sins. By becoming sin and pouring out his life he atones for you, adopts you, declares you to be perfect and righteous.
End discussion.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

1 John 5 & Spurgeon Quote

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.

“Hearken, O unbeliever, you have said, ‘I cannot believe,’ but it would be more honest if you had said, ‘I will not believe.’ The mischief lies there. Your unbelief is your fault, not your misfortune. It is a disease, but it is also a crime: it is a terrible source of misery to you, but it is justly so, for it is an atrocious offense against the God of truth.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reason vs. Belief

One thing Christians must never fall into saying is that we don't need science, or proofs, we have faith. As if the idea of faith is in direct contradiction to the intellectual faculties we are given, and if the going gets tough in a debate we can always rely on, 'you can't tell me what to think, I am going to go on believing despite your best evidence' to bail us out.
Thats the tone that atheists and unbelievers take, no matter how irrefutable or persuasive the point, they will not let their will change their mind. We have no business trying to convence people while we have a closed and frightened mind. We have been redeemed and liberated from that kind of bondage! That is exactly the kind of attitude that got man where he is in the first place, that ultimate rebellion deep down which refuses to square with facts.
Faith is not what happens when you are out of options. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. If they were then faith and irrationality would be partners, "Oh I know Satan is trying to destroy me but I have faith that he won't. Or if he does then he won't." In the final analysis there is no faith without reason. Praise the Lord for that, and be transformed by the renewing of your minds.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Faith and Works

Justification is by faith alone, but it is not by faith that is alone. -Martin Luther
Faith without works is a faith that is dead. -James, brother of Jesus
Justification is not by anything we do or don't do. Romans is quite clear about this. And after we understand that, we can undersand that justification brings with it sanctification, with birth comes growth, with salvation comes proof. The proof is not the thing itself- a wedding ring is proof of marriage, but it is not the marriage itself. Let us never be confused about this.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Justification and Sanctification Analogy

People are born as little helpless infants at the mercy of their parents. In the same way we are born physically, we are reborn spiritually. John 3 says as much.
This is a great way to think of a Christian's progress.
Being born again is being justified and starting as a helpless baby. You did not earn birth, you did not respond to a calling, you certainly had no free will choice in the matter. Your mother decided it was time to get you out, so out of the water you came. Had you done anything other than scream when your parents fell in love with you? No again. And once you are born, welcome to the world because there is no going back to how things were before.
Learning and growing and maturing is being sanctified. Gradually we learn to walk, talk, read, run, dance, and do a million other things that we are capable of as adults. Yet, if a teenager throws a temper tantrum and acts like an infant is they are not in danger of being unborn or blinked out of existence are they? Obviously not. God is Good.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Point vs. Process Salvation

At what point in time are you saved? At baptism, before baptism, at your death? Never? Knowing the difference between the two ideas, and their logical consequences, explains everything about why Catholics and Protestants disagree with each other. For example, if you are saved by a process then it makes sense that the process goes on after you die in purgatory. If you are continually getting better and better it only makes sense that this would go on in the afterlife right? Get ready to struggle your whole life under process salvation, but on the other hand if you are saved at a point in time then you can relax, because you are already saved. What you do after you have secured eternity becomes a thing called Sanctification.

These two ideas of salvation are not just a little different, they are a lot different. You will read wildly different results out of the Bible depending on which one you read into the Bible. If you hadn't guessed already, believing in process salvation is very damaging. The issue is thus: If salvation is a process then you have earned heaven as your reward. Did God help you? Did His grace give you a boost? It matters not, you did the work you share in the rewards. Salvation is something God owes you. Even if he started the good work and you continued in it you are still owed by him. The more you do the less room you leave for God- the more works, the less grace.
Process salvation of course flies in the face of Romans 3:21+. Paul says the law and being obedient to it was meant to bring us to an understanding, not to perfect us. When the engineer who makes cars tells you the F-150 you are driving is not intended to be a boat would you doubt him? Yet we doubt God when he tells us why he gave us the law.
Yet the worst thing here, the biggest causality to believing process salvation is in losing the concept of Sanctification and the ability to trust and rely on God.
If once saved not always saved then you better be on guard, because you could lose it at any moment for any reason. Worse, you might not even know you lost it, the line between winning it and losing it is totally invisible, and God has not told you where it is. How much adultery is acceptable? Does God indeed demand the perfection from the sermon on the mount? Good luck. Trusting God is out because he has explicitly turned you loose, it's up to you to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

All the passages in the Bible about Sanctification must then necessarily become about justification, even when it doesn't make sense to do so, as in Heb 10:14. God's promise in Deut. 30 is life or death serious, and you won't even realize the meaning in Deut 30:6, so concerned will you be with your part in the deal.
The alternative is to accept that you are saved at a point in time. Accept that He has already secured salvation. Never will he leave you, never will he forsake you. A much better way to live your life.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On Redeemed Will

If God has predestined us, why should we be baptized? If God has made us for eternal life and secured us, why do anything at all? Why evangelize? Won't God save people anyway? Why bother helping? Why do anything really?
This is a valid question, but not a difficult one to answer. We have previously established that the natural man has enmity to God, and is free to choose how much evil he wants to revel in, but what happens to the elect? The opposite of the reprobate: we are free to choose as much good as we like. Remember at no point does man lose freedom of choice, but his will to choose is enslaved at all times. Either to God or to sin (Romans 6)

In John 2 Jesus is at the wedding feast of Canaan and has the servants fill the jugs with water, even though he could have done that himself. 2 Kings 3:14, if God is all powerful then why do anything, surely he could have won the battle without human intervention? What do these verses teach us?

That God wants and encourages our participation. He enjoys it. He graciously allows us to toil alongside of him, even though he could do it all himself. Think of your infant son helping you fix the house and you will have the idea. A father does not benefit when his son hands him the needed tools to work on the car, he could just as easily grab the tools himself, but he chooses to let his son experience it with him. He is training up his son and showing him while accomplishing his will.

So God has allowed us to share and enjoy working with Him. Not to bring Salvation to ourselves, salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps 3:8), but to choose Him back, and practice choosing him, and participate in it. God chose us before we were able or wanting to choose him, and is willing that. If we do a bad job of it we still go to heaven if we do a poor job, God has guarenteed us, but if we do a good job we are rewarded for it. This is the clear meaning of Philippians 2: Work out salvation with fear and trembling for it's the Lord who works in you. God is allowing you to share in your sanctifacation, but he is the backstop for you.
In essence He has redeemed our wills from darkness to light. He does not cancel them or undo them, they are still us, our decisions, our mind, but he guides them. Think of a train on tracks, it is our train to go fast or slow or backwards, but He has decided what tracks we are on and where we are going. It is a very great joy to participate in a project with Him, by Him, and through Him.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Election perverted

There is a simple illustration that humans readily understand when studying Romans 9 and election: babies are chosen by their parents. When a loving couple decides to have a baby is it because of any good or evil thing the baby has done or will do? No, it is because the parents want to love the child. The fact that we understand this but attribute all sort of fatalistic wicked characteristics when it is applied to God proves how depraved the human condition is. Much like how we choose our babies, God has chosen us. It is an apt comparison, and a great way to understand how God loves us.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Contradictions in the bible

There are a few things that one must believe when studying the Bible. The inerrancy of scriptures is one of these things. If the scriptures contradict themselves then they are not perfect. If they are not perfect then they are fallible, written only by weak men, and are useless to save. Therefore to say that the scriptures contradict themselves is like saying God is all powerful and at the same time not all powerful. It just does not work.
Nevertheless some people like to play fast and loose with the scriptures, and give it the old "rapture" treatment when they come upon something horifically complex. When the going gets tough they turn their brain off and walk away. They then comfort themselves with the phrase, "Well God can't be expected to make the Bible perfect, there are things we cannot understand and the God is one of them." If that is so why study the Bible at all? Take Romans 9 and election as an example. There we see that God has personally chosen people irrespective of their deeds before their birth to receive his grace. How do we reconsile this with the passages that tell us God wants all to be saved? Do we give up? Do we write it off?

Never!

Romans is very clear, so we must start by accepting that, regardless of how much we may dislike the concept. Yes, even if we really really dislike it. Next we must ask ourselves if there is any other place in the Bible where the concept 'God wants all men to be saved' exists in a clearer context, because if there isn't then we have a contradiction and it's time to fall back into irrational faith, but if there is a passage then we can make better sense of the problem.
After looking we find Rom. 5:18, 1 Cor. 15:22, and 2 Cor. 5:14 all talking about "all men" being Christians, and we have our explination for the rest of the times we see the word all. Like 2 Peter 3:9 when it says God desires all men be saved. In light of the other three verses we see it is talking about Christians.
This is, I think a tough business. Its not easy to totally disregard what you want the Bible to say in favor of what it actually says. It's not easy, but it's essential.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On Election

I earnestly desire that everyone know the blessed truth of election, it is not a doctrine that condemns man; it is a doctrine that brings us comfort. It allows us to be truly humble and truly thankful; it shows us that God is all powerful and all wise. It continually reminds us that he has secured our salvation. What great joy this is! His strength is now our strength, not vice versa.
Of course the first thing into the mind upon hearing this is not the value of election but the protest, “How can a loving God ensure my doom in hell without my say in it?” I will explain it, but know that that is the wrong way to think about grace- election is a one way street, it is an escalator that only goes up. God does not push people into hell, he pushes people into heaven. God has chosen some people to be Christian despite their hearts, otherwise there would be no Christians, and the other people get exactly what they want.

To begin, we must go back to our creation. In the garden of Eden mankind was given the gift of being able to choose things just as surely as he was given the ability to walk around and talk. Do we want eggs or cereal for breakfast? Man can pick which one he likes, that power is still with us, it would be idiotic or insane to dispute this. The fall of man did not alter the fact that man can choose, what it did change was our desire to know and love God. After sinning man ran from God, and if there was to be a relationship it would only happen if God pursued us.
This distinction between the ability to chose and the desire for God is critical, it shows us that man is still responsible for picking hell for himself, even though he loves it and will always pick it, it is still his decision. The ability to choose is powerless next to the desire, or stated another way mankind fundamentally hates God and loves sin and will use anything in his faculty to express this, including voting for an eternity apart from God. What this means is that since we love sin and can still choose we are free to choose sin, how much, where, when. Our nature has given our free will the power to say 'No' to God, but never Yes. This is the verdict that Jesus came into the world but men loved the darkness.

There is no question that this is an uncomfortable doctrine, because it is hard to accept the idea that man is so throughly corrupted by sin that there is no corner of it that does not have sin in it, but if you reject it then you at the same time reject the need for Jesus. If there was in the heart of man some little spark of total righteousness, some little kernel of uncorrupted goodness, then there would be no need for Jesus, and instead of sending his son God could have planted that seed in your heart, he could have blown that spark into a raging fire, but since things were so extreme that He sent His Son, it is proof we are rotten to the core, proof there is not one part of us that sin doesn't have influence over.

But we do know Jesus promised salvation to those who believe, and we do know that those who confess the name of the Lord will be saved. How do we square this with that last concept?

It's very easy, if you are a Christian ask yourself: what about me made me accept Christ while someone else in exactly the same circumstances rejected Him? You can either answer 'something' or 'nothing'. I'm smarter, more clever, more handsome, wiser than my neighbor. Answering "I don't know" is the same as saying "there is something different about me, I am not sure I know what it is, but it's there." Or, if you answer with 'nothing' then you admit that you are no different than your neighbor, but you chose God because God chose you. And there it is, the sweet doctrine of election. The doctrine that says the only reason I picked him against my normal desires is because he picked me and gave me a new heart ahead of time. To accept the doctrine of election is to say that God has loved me with an eternal passion that will never falter or fade, begun before I even arrived on this earth.

This is the best news that someone could hope to hear.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Superceding Grace

There is a principle at work in the concept of Grace that I don't think I have heard anywhere but is true- when you decide to evict something out of your life and replace it with God's love that something stays gone. Jesus said this about the man with demons Mat. 12:44, that when he filled the man the demons would be gone forever.

Something interesting happens when you couple this with what John the Baptist said: He must increase and I must decrease. Our longing is that God grow us closer to Him by removing our old sinful nature. When you do you see that the more you give over to God the more he gives you his nature. The more you hand over to Him the more joy, peace, patience, the more you experience freedom and real living like you were meant for. After you have given it up you look back and find that what you were holding onto was nothing at all. You made a free trade upward, Gods Grace for nothing.

Look at how justification works. A man walks the earth believing that he can save himself, that he is good enough to go to heaven. Of course he is just fooling himself, he doesn't really have the power to disarm God and claim heaven for himself anymore than he has the power to fly through space, but his "house", his inner soul is so cluttered with this thought that God has no room to pour his grace in. What happens when he stops being stubborn and irrational, and accepts that he is powerless and wicked? God pours into him grace and understanding of who Jesus is. And what exactly did the man give up in the interchange? Nothing! Control was an illusion, he gave up his state of mind, all he did was give up thinking something foolish. Once he gives it up being irrational that man finds that God has replaced it with something incomparably better, forever, and that there is no going back to the old way.

What else can we give up to God to have replaced with Grace? Try works based living (santification). To admit that we are again good enough to keep the law, to do a good enough job that God will be pleased with us is an illusion, just as silly as believing we can save ourselves. But admit this to God and what happens? When you make room you see that his grace superceded the old way of living and thinking That space that was your pride becomes humility, Grace rushes into the void of your soul. Admit you are powerless to not only save yourself but keep yourself saved and you will find God right by your side, his spirit indwelling you to peace and comfort. Again what have you given up in this transaction? Exactly nothing at all in retrospect. And what have you gained? Something beyond all comfort, the faith and trust and knowledge that He who saved you will be making sure that you are saved until the end.

What next? Justification, sanctification belong to the Lord is there anything left? What else can we hand over to God and trade in for Grace? Our wills. And once we give them up we see that they too will be replaced by Grace. Yes I do mean our free wills. Give up the power to save yourself and accept justification. Give up the power to do a good job with your life and get sanctification. Give up the power to guarentee your own salvation and get eternal security. Give up all of your power altogther and be totally filled with his Grace.

Uh oh. Wait a minute, it looks like we just accidently backed into predestination- that aweful doctrine that says that God knows you, loves you, and has always planned to save you. It looks that way because we did. You might be thinking that we went too far with this principle, but did we? Can you ever have too much Grace in your life? Didn't think so.

Carefully consider why are you saved and someone else isn't? Is it because you are more intelligent than someone else? That you are more rational? That you have a quality that makes you better than other people? Well maybe, but then again maybe that's just silly because it's your pride asserting control. Maybe there is nothing in yourself at all that made you choose God that someone else who hates God doesn't have. Let go of the fact that you are not better than someone else and you will be filled with the matchless grace, the grace that saved you even though you were not worthy, did not desire it, and did not love God once upon a time. Then you will see that you are not saved by who you are but by who God is.

There are other ways to arrive at this theology of course, but the point here is that once you empty yourself completely you give up the idea of your control and you get back joy. Predestination is the theology that gives us the deepest insight into the Love God has for us, it shows us clearer than any other how much love the Father has lavished on us. The more you give up, the more you are filled up, even all the way, even unto predestination.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Jesus curses the fig tree

 Jeremiah 8:13- "The LORD declares "I will surely snatch them away, there will be no grapes on the vine and no figs on the fig tree, and the leaf will wither; and what I have given them will pass away."
This bears a remarkable resemblance to what Jesus was quoting in Matthew 21 when he withered the fig tree. In Jeremiah God had declared that the nation was to go into exile for being fruitless and wicked, it's destruction was imminent because it was not faithful to it's master. In Matthew, the Jewish gospel, Jesus effectively makes a claim to be God when he passes judgment as God would. It is not a coincidence that during the triumphal entry Jesus makes this claim of power, and statement that this bitterly wicked generation demanded would be destroyed.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pharaoh and Egyptian Slavery

When the Hebrews were enslaved in Goshen, when God sent Moses to perform wonders and miracles so that Pharaoh would let them go, there was a conflict that is often missed when studying the story in the American culture.
Very often we think of this story in terms of slavery versus freedom, which is not surprising considering that our revolutionary war was fought for freedom, and our civil war over slavery; but that often eclipses the greater conflict, which is between God and Pharaoh- life versus death.
Just ask yourself what did Egypt want with them? Ramses wanted the Hebrews so that they could personally design and build his burial tomb, he wanted his own army of servants so he could kill them, bury them alive, and work them to death inorder that he could go to the afterlife as a god. The culture of the Egyptians was death worship, death focused, death obsessed. Life for them consisted in amassing a huge fortune, having a horde of slaves build your mausleom, and buring them all alive in it. It need not be said that a life focused on death is no life at all.
So God sends the plagues that kills comfort, kills crops, kills livestock and foodstuffs, kills people to a killing and death centered culture. How ironic. God was calling his people out of death and into life. This is why He is called the God of the Living. It means more than he is alive right now, it also means he wants you to have life. And today he calls us out of more than slavery to sin and misery, he calls us out of death and into Life. Only now he doesn't bring death to us, he brought it to himself to show us our love, and to show us there is nowhere we can go that his love won't persue us. His justice and wrath was spent on the cross, we face it no more. His grace was not however, it is ours forever.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A salvation metaphor

Let's pretend you are an empty cup.
In the sink the water is running from the spout. Let's name that water the Love of Christ, once it is in the cup call it grace, once it wets the outside of the cup call that works.
You have four options:
  1. You put the cup under the stream of water, and it will be filled with grace. Once the water reaches the brim it will overflow unto works, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Works (holy living by the rules in the bible) become a by product of Grace.
  2. You fill it with water, and then remove it from underneath the stream once it is full. People who oftentimes do this begin to shake their cup to get works out of it, until of course it runs dry, at which point they become bitter, rule bound, and rigid, mostly because they have lost so much of their grace. Grace saves us, they will say, but you can lose your salvation unless you get to work. Soon you will forget about grace altogether because so long as you are wet on the outside you are going to make it. Starting in grace continuing in works.
  3. You turn the cup upside down and put it under the water spout. No grace can get in, but you are throughly wet on the outside with good works. Obviously since water is rushing over you and you are wet, everyone thinks you are saved. But you're not. Good people don't go to heaven.
  4. You leave the cup alone and it remains empty.
For lack of a better vocabulary, let's call case number one protestantism, number two catholicism, number three good people, and number four atheist jerks who are, if nothing else at least honest.
The point of this is that once you start in grace, grace sanctifies you. It is the unending love of Christ that transforms your heart, from start to finish. A protestant is tempted to say "God started it, God works it, God will finish it, it belongs to God." Or you could say that since he started pouring before I got there he will go on pouring after my vessel disintegrates, to Him be the glory. Never confuse the water that comes out (that man looks at) with the water that goes in (that only God sees). Coming out it's called sanctification and going in it's called salvation.
How can someone who is a useless Christian jerk get to heaven? Because you are confusing the two. I think I can lose grace after accepting Christ into my heart. Confusing the two. I think.. there see? Thats the problem, I. I want, I'm confused, I don't like, I reject this model. I don't believe in eternal security and God producing sanctification by grace. Ok feel free not to, but at any time you can put the cup back under the fountain, accept security, accept peace, and accept your best life now. Grace is not like salvation in the sense that it is "one and done" - its a fountain. Feel free to drink eternally from it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Once saved always saved?

There is a very big issue in Christianity that profoundly impacts the way people think about nearly everything. It is the question: Once saved am I always saved? If I accept Jesus can I turn around and reject him, or will I be with him forever no matter what?

To be sure, there are a good number of verses that can make this issue look very confusing:

John 15:3 - He who continues in my love will be saved.
Romans 11:22 - Continue in his kindness lest you be cut off
(plenty more like this)

And on the other hand..

Hebrews 6:4-6 -impossible to be brought back, as they would be crucifying Christ again
John 10:28 - Nobody can snatch you out of God's hand
Romans 8:38 - I am convinced nothing can separate us from the love of Christ
(and plenty more like this too)

John 10:34 clearly says the scriptures cannot be broken (or contradict themselves). What to do?
Firstly, put the two choices to the test. Go on and see what happens when you accept that you can lose your salvation. You will begin to wonder when exactly can salvation be lost- how much sin does it take? Why did God set the bar and then not tell me where that dang bar is? Why does God say salvation is a gift when clearly I am earning it for myself? How do I go about losing my salvation officially? This last question will typically be answered "The only sin that works to erase your salvation is to deny Christ." Try telling that to Peter.
Saying my free will is in control of my destiny sounds okay until you start practicing it, at which point you will start taking on all kinds of weird ideas. You can't save yourself at first, but get over that initial hump by having God give you a little grace, and it's more than possible to keep your own salvation from then on out. Nobody can stop me or help me, my power to sin and die is greater than Gods power to save and keep me safe. I am stronger than God. Sin is stronger than forgiveness, death stronger than life. I will never disown my earthly son, no matter what he does he will always be my son, but God doesn't work like that.
See? Weird. But it's more than absurd- it's harmful. It leaves you nervous, looking over your shoulder, fearful of God's justice poised to strike. You better see a priest and take confession, just to be sure, because if you die with sin on your conscience it could go ill for you. This thinking goes back and pollutes your view of salvation, it puts your heart back in prison, it robs you of trust in God. It's actually legalism and Judaism packaged up in nice Christian wrapping paper deceiving you. Belief in yourself like this doesn't let you experience the bottomless endless powerful love of Christ. As a result you will read the parable of the prodigal son and get angry on behalf of the older brother rather than awe at the fathers mercy for the unrighteous. You will judge others, trying to stamp out their belief in security because you don't feel it yourself. You will flog yourself for not meeting the standard. You may even acknowledge the idea of grace with your mind, but never let it into your heart.
On the other hand eternal security makes you eternally secure. As a result you never worry about displeasing or hurting God, you don't fear he will take his love away from you. You know he loved you even when you were his enemy, that leaves you free to ponder how much more will he loves you as his son. After all, God is not like man that he would change his mind, his love isn't here today gone today- it's everlasting. The trust and joy and peace and comfort that is found in eternal security cannot be described, it can only be felt. It's like marriage, or being a parent, or being in love, you can read about it understand it mentally, but you must see it for yourself. It is pure joy beyond all comparison to know that in the whole world God picked you, formed you, planned you, and takes great pride in you. When you accept this truth for yourself you will feel like you have never really lived before.
One ideology leads to joy, the other leads to... grumpiness. Hopefully it is clear now that the fruit of 'doing it my way' is fear, and that since perfect love drives out fear and God is love this theological idea is not from God. We see that we can never lose our salvation.
Now all that's left to do is reconcile the apparent discrepancy between the bible passages. The contradiction comes in that the bible teaches you that you need to continue in salvation to be saved, so naturally people think that means you have to persevere until the end. But where did it say you have to do this alone? Or do it yourself, or by your own power? I am convinced that God who has begun a good work in me will see it to the end. For not I but Christ lives in me. The verses that teach you will be saved in the future mean what they say and no more: you are not in Gods heaven yet, you do not behold him face to face yet, you see things as though through a dirty window yet one day you will see clearly, and that day has not come. Yet. All this will happen in time. God will complete the work he has started in you in the future, you are his masterpiece unfolding before every ones eyes, his flower blossoming for everyone to see, and he has something more in store for you. He has adopted you, assured you, secured you, and when he is finished his work on earth in you, he will call you home to him in glory with words of affirmation: well done good and faithful one. See how those verses, those arguments that inspired dread now overflow with promise and love? This is the power and promise of Christ - never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.
Oh how indescribably wonderful it is to believe that with your whole heart!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Luke 15 thought

Poem by Mark
The story begins with a boy gone bad
Faces in the audience light up
The boy takes full advantage of his father,
An ancient kindly man,
He wants the inheritance- everything
Faces grimace.
An upstart someone says, horsewhip him!
Teach him some manners!
Some young men smile
But they all wait eyes fixed on the face of Jesus
The father lets him go after giving everything
The whole inheritance: the gold, the silver
The favorite horse, the treasured cloak, the ring
Faces show surprise
His fathers a fool someone whispers.
The sons a cheat
But they bend forward to hear
He spends it all on prostitutes
Wine, gambling, the best hotels, loose living
An old man looks down at his friend and winks
He should have invested it he says, that’s the wise way
But this one’s a fool the other says
Heads nod in agreement
Soon the boy hits bottom, nothing left
He ends up slopping pigs
Faces flinch, stunned
But some smile
He got what he deserved an old man says
This is a good story
But then the boy remembers home
The feasts, the plenty, the laughter
He sits and weeps, his head in his hands
He decides to return home and ask for a bed in the barn
Someone laughs
A twist! He says
Faces show intrigue
The boy comes home hands gritty, legs scarred
He is penniless, ragged wasted- a scarecrow
Listeners are laughing now
Revenge they think!
The disowning
But no!
The old man sees him on the road from his chair on the porch where he has sat waiting each day
He recognizes the walk The long hair, the shoulders
He jumps up and stumbles out to him
His heat thumping, his eyes wet
He runs to the boy while the boy stands there, his head down
The old man gathers him into his arms and
He holds him long
so long
And he weeps!
Faces are stern now, their eyes slit
This father’s a fool they murmur
But still they wait
The boy beings his speech but the old man has suddenly gone deaf
He throws a cloak over the boy’s rags
Pulls off his last and best ring
Slides it onto the boys finger
And begins calling for servants
Kill the fatted calf he shouts, we’ll have a feast!
Faces are hard now many shake their heads
A bitter elders son refuses even to speak to his lost brother
He stomps off angry cursing
Some faces nod, but most are gray
Their lips pressed white their eyes aflame
And sons stand up to go
Nothing has gone right in this story
They stalk off
A bad story one says
Stupid, says another
Not one of his best
But some from the crowd linger
A prostitute
A tax collector
A thief
A liar
They glance at Jesus furtively and wait,
Then they approach slyly, slowly
And one by one fall at his feet
And weep
For joy

This is how God has chosen to portray himself to us. A kindly loving old man who no cruel word or deed can turn away. A worried father who refuses no request, who asks for no grovelling, who keeps no history, and who gives no lecture.
Utterly without dignity.
We see the same God being flung to die on a trash heap outside the city of peace, without one single display of power or shred of dignity left. God himself was left to suffocate alone to bring his children back.
Now, that's not all there is to how God has communicated Himself, God is not weak, nor will He be mocked, but the parable is astounding, and we ought to be astounded. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Crown of Thorns

In Genesis, in the garden, both the snake and Eve ate the apple and brought judgment on themselves, while Adam brought judgement on himself and all of nature. God had put Adam in charge of the Earth, and when its master Adam fell, nature, being subordinate to man, fell too. Nature herself became chaotic, digressed into survival of the fittest, and into a life of power struggling misery alongside with mankind. Worst, nature had rebelled under mans orders from God, but went one step forward and rebelled against man. It was a just punishment, so as Adam sowed would he reap. God would allow him to see just where the attitude of "me first" led.
That day Adam ate God told man that since he sinned the ground would produce thorns and thistles. He would struggle by the sweat and pain of his brow to eat his bread. No longer would it be in harmony with its caretaker, no, from then on nature had gained the rebellious quality man had: to fight everything and establish dominance over anything. Was he hungry for power? So would it be. Was he in conflict with the will of his Master and Lover? So would nature be.
It was not only a fallen society now, it was a fallen world that Adam and Eve had chosen.

Fast forward to the time of the crucifixion, and what do we see? The soldiers are twisting thorns into Christs brow. We see a clear picture of nature rejecting her creator. Man's curse had not only separated man from God, but all Earth from God and the Earth from man. Yet, in the same moment that God made peace with man he retook his throne over all his creation. He settled the score with man's dominion and man himself. By becoming man and submitting to God he amended the mistake from the garden so long ago.
Such great love.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The problem with Rapture Theology

The problem with the dispensationalism mentality is most clearly shown when a dispensationalist encounters verses that say things like the stars will be darkened, the moon will be turned to blood. They ask "what do I think it means?" and then take the easy out, "It sounds like nuclear war, so that's what it must be." without finding similar language in Isaiah 13, 34, Ezekiel 32, and Joel 2, or Peter's explanation in Acts 2.This is an unfortunates bedrock of dispensationalist theology: it too quickly writes off all the difficult passages as futuristic before attempting a real effort to understand them. It makes complex scripture digestible for everyone by throwing out the hard parts that require intense study. It oversimplifies. The rapture people don't bother to check where else that kind of language happens, they don't try to use one verse to explain another, it's just faster to ask what I think it means and then answer the question. As if we come to the bible to study our words.
Studying something written 3,000 years ago across the globe in another language and culture is difficult, and we must suppress the urge to get rich quick, because although the Bible is not easy to understand, it's rewarding.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hell is the place where reason is not

This actually explains a great deal about the people who go there.