Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiness is happiness

My daughter plays by sitting in one place and manipulating objects, because in her mind sitting leads to playing, and playing is happiness. For the longest time this is how I saw the interplay between holiness and joy. 'If I am holy, then I will be joyful' seems so very plausible because it's true that if you are holy, then you will be happy in Christ, but the very structure of the thought is harmful because it imposes the idea that holy is the cause of the effect happiness, that they are two distinct things.
Now this is a step up from Piper who starts from the wrong end "Look for joy and then you will find holiness" but even so, upon watching my kids today it occurs to me that there is an even better way to view the dynamic between holiness and joy.

My son plays by crawling around, to him mobility is not a means to an end, it is the end, the crawling itself is what brings him happiness. 
This, I think, is the superior way to view the interchange between joy and holiness- not that one causes the other, but that one is the manifestation of the other. That they are essentially the same thing.

And so, mans chief end, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever could be shortened to be Holy, just as God is holy, (1 Peter 1:15), because holiness is joy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A lesson about panic

Last night while the kids and I were in the car, but my wife was still in the house my daughter began to scream because she was convinced we were going to 'leave mommy behind' and no amount of 'no we're not, just trust me' seemed to make a difference. Once in the car the wife and I had a good laugh because Kaylie was so worked up over nothing, but then it occurred to me how very much like that we are. We too have this irrational unexplainable belief God is not going to make good on His word to go and prepare a place for us, He is not interested in coming back for us or ensuring us He is telling the truth, we are going to be left orphans- abandoned.
Man is by nature distrustful of God's promises because he is fallen. This is why we reject Perseverance of the Saints, not because it isn't biblical.

The Church of Christ monkeys with a good song

The song 'To God be the Glory' as seen here (minus verse two) is probably well known, but because I grew up in the Church of Christ we learned a different version. This is the line I heard yesterday for the first time:
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Perhaps it's not shocking to you to hear the confession of justification in this hymn, nor it is surprising to hear that a decree of God cannot be undone, which means a pardon is good for all time. But because some guy changed it I learned it this way:

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly obeys
That moment may enter the heavenly way

No pardon, no belief, just obedience (that means baptism and good works). No mention of Jesus, no respect to Him as sovereign, fit to dispense grace as He sees fit. You do what God, not Jesus, tells you, you work hard and you may just make it to heaven. Because you see, you don't enter heaven, you enter the heavenly road, the narrow way, which begins your work. In light of this last line the first stops making sense, for how can redemption be perfect unless it's complete? But no matter. Work hard and be a good person, and one day you will go to heaven.  And my wife wonders why I get mad at them occasionally.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Integrated Advent Chronology

Luke 1:5,8-9,23-24a,26-28,31,39,56 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah (1 Chron 24:10). And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth....Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty (about late September) according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense...And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived....In the sixth month (about late March) the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!...Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus"... In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah...And Mary remained with her about three months (until John was born, late June) and returned to her home.

Matthew 1:18b-21 When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

Luke 2:1,4-5,7-11,16 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.... And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child... And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, (about late December) because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord... And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

Luke 2:21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Matthew 2:1,7,11-15- "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."(this would mean they left before He was born)...Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him."... And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Matthew 2:19-21 - But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead. And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. "

Luke 2:22- And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, (Lev 12:1-4) they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

Luke 2:39a, Matthew 2:22a, Luke 2:39b, Matthew 2:22b And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord...he (Joseph) heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of their own town of Nazareth....(so) that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: "He shall be called a Nazarene."

(Note: The temple dedication is the last thing the family does in Luke's account (Luke 2:39) before returning to their home in Nazareth, and according to the law of Moses that's 40 days after He was born. It therefore seems unlikely to me that the family waited around 40 days in Bethlehem, dedicated Jesus, went home to Nazareth, then returned again to Bethlehem (for no given reason) to live there for nearly two years before the Magi reach Judea. It also stretches credulity to say the Magi took nearly two years to make a two month trip on something they were excited about; I think rather that they saw the star before Jesus was born and left in time to arrive very near the time of His birth. That they found Him in a house is not surprising, it is reasonable to assume that immediately after the census everyone fit to travel left for home, clearing up enough space for Joseph to find a house to stay in for a few days while Mary recovered. For that reason I don't think the account of the escape to Egypt should be inserted between Luke 2:39a and b. I think it much more probable that the Magi gifts financed an escape trip and Joseph and Mary were running very low on cash by the time they returned to Jerusalem. The Matthew story should be either right before or right after Luke 2:21.

Friday, December 2, 2011

25 Advent Prophecies

Leading up to Christmas I am leading my family through the famous prophecies about Christ and what they mean. I thought it would be good to keep a record of them here.

Day 1 - Genesis 3:15 - "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."  From this we learn the Messiah will come from the sperm of a woman, but not of a man. He will hate evil, and crush Satan underfoot, but it will cost Him dearly.

Day 2 - Job 19:25 - "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth." The messiah would be a fellow man, a brother, come to save us from misery and bondage. He lives even now, eternally, and will one day come down to earth to deliver us.

Day 3 - Genesis 12:3,7 - "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed...Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." This prophecy shows that the messiah would own the land of Judah, come from Abraham, and bless all the nations of the Earth.

Day 4 - Numbers 24:17 - "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth" The Messiah will be a king from Israel. He will utterly crush His enemies and those who oppose Him.

Day 5 - Deuteronomy 18:18-19 - "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him." The messiah will be a prophet, who sees God face to face like Moses did, and will pass on His words to us. He will have the full and complete authority of God, such that anyone who questions Him questions God.

Day 6 - 2 Samuel 7:12-14 - "I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.'" From this we learn a great deal about the Messiah. He will be a son to God, come from the line of David, sit on the throne as a King of a kingdom that will never end (for it will never be taken away, as He will not die). He will be punished by God for sins, by flogging, but God will never take His steadfast love from Him.

Day 7 - Psalm 2:7-8,12 - "I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession...Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him." The messiah will be one who is not merely a Son of God, but begotten by Him, sharing His essence, nature, and traits.  He will own all that God owns, with the very might and strength of God, and demand worship and obedience of all the nations of the world as is fitting for God. Yet just as the Lord is a shelter to those who trust in Him so will the messiah be to His people.

Day 8 - Psalm 16:10 - "For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption." The messiah will not be abandoned by God to the place of the dead, He would be raised up from the grave before His body would decay.

Day 9 - Psalm 22:7-8,14-16,18 - "All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!... I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet...they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots" The messiah would be mocked by many, and delivered to death by them. His limbs would be pulled out of joint, His strength will run out, and He would thirst. They would pierce His hands and feet, and use gambling to decide who gets His clothes upon His death.

Day 10 - Psalm 41:9 - "Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me." The messiah would be betrayed by a close friend.

Day 11 - Psalm 68:18 - "You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there." When the Messiah would ascend He would release the captives He loves and take them to God, so that He would dwell among them.

Day 12 - Psalm 110:4 - "The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."The Messiah would be a priest, but a priest like Melchizedek, that is, righteous, just, a king of peace. He would have an unending priesthood that continues forever because He Himself will never die.

Day 13 - Psalm 118:22 - "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Although the messiah would be rejected by those of His own people who ought to receive Him (priests, scribes, holy men), He would nonetheless become the foundation of salvation.

Day 14 - Isaiah 7:14 - "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." The messiah would be born of a mother who was a virgin, and He would be 'God with us.'

Day 15 - Isaiah 9:1-2,6-7 - "But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined...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." From this passage we know the Messiah would minister and be from the land of Galilee, where there was darkness of understanding. He would be a light, the son of God given to mankind, and not only so, but a King, an ever lasting help (an advocate with the Father) God Himself, establishing peace. He would be of the line of David to assume his throne, and He will hold it forever. This is a certainty, and God will do it.

Day 16 - Isaiah 25:8 - "He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken." By His work and rule the Messiah would forever put an end to the sting and sorrow of death. To His people He will give eternal life.

Day 17 - Isaiah 35:4-6 - "Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert" The Messiah would perform miracles, opening the blind eyes of those who cannot see God, unstopping deaf ears of those who could not hear Him, making strong the legs of those who were incapable of coming to Him. He would make them alive again, bringing them new life.

Day 18 - Isaiah 42:1-3 - "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice" The Messiah would continually delight God, and would not seek His own or demand justice, but He would continually submit to God in all things. He would be gentile and loving, faithful to show them the mercies of God.

Day 19 - Isaiah 50:6 - "I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting." The messiah would submit to torture and would neither dispute nor resist it.

Day 20 - Isaiah 53:3-7,9-11 - "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.... And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities" Perhaps the longest and most comprehensive account of the messiahs work in the Scriptures. Although innocent and sinless, God would place upon Him all our sins. Just as the lamb is sacrificed to atone for sins so would the Messiah be. He would be counted among the wicked disobedient and there killed, buried in a rich mans tomb. Yet although He would be cut off from the living He shall have children, by adoption, those men and women He brings to God, and God will count them as righteous, by justification.

Day 21 - Ezekiel 37:24 - "My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes" The messiah will be a good shepherd to God's people, and will cause the people to obey God by changing their inner disposition.

Day 22 - Hosea 11:1 - "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." The messiah, the Son of God, would come out of Egypt while He was still a baby.

Day 23 - Zech 9:9 - "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." The messiah would be righteous, having salvation, and He would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey in humility.

Day 24 - Micah 5:2 - "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days." Although He would exist long before Bethlehem existed He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah.

Day 25 - Luke 1:31-35,50-51,54-55, 2:4,7 - And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, (2 Sam 7:14, Ps2:7) and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High (Is 9:6) And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, (2 Sam 7:12)and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (Is 7:14) And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God...His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever (Gen 12:3).... And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (Micah 5:2) because he was of the house and lineage of David...And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Lying to your Children About Santa

I realize that I'm in the minority (as far as I can tell I'm in the extreme minority here) among baptists for doing Santa with my kids. From most other people I hear something very similar to "I don't want to lie to my children, so I tell them Santa isn't real."
Set aside that St. Nicholas (in dutch, Santa Claus) was very likely a real guy, who at one point put gold coins into stockings so their poor owners would have enough money to pay their dowry and could avoid a life of prostitution. Set aside also the celebration of that spirit, like what everyone is actually aiming at, even non-believers, that that kind of action is good and should be celebrated, and emulated.
Set it aside, I want to point something out something more important about the idea of Santa.

All things that really matter are non-corporeal: love, joy peace, patience, goodness, our souls, these things have no real physical manifestation. As a consequence, they must be comprehended by way of analogy. Take God Himself for example: being utterly other than time, space, and matter (this is what is meant by the world Holy, it means He is so very other) results in us being unable to understand Him. (The Reformed thinkers called these communicable attributes because God is communicating them to us)
For example, how do we understand God when He says He's a Father? By understanding earthly fatherhood and relating it upwards- because God has decreed that we have kids and could experience that for ourselves, we are able to get a glimpse of God Himself. Indeed this is what Jesus says "If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much greater does your Father in heaven?"
And I'm arguing from the greater to the lesser here, if God, the highest end of our knowledge, demands we approach Him via analogy, and we care for our kids, then would it really make sense to deny our children this learning platform when we appropriate it for ourselves? Are you concerned about lying to your children about Santa? You might want to rather be worried about being a hypocrites before God.

All that to introduce the argument that if you sat down and try to explain to children in the highest terms the concept of Christian generosity and the necessity of loving your brothers and sisters and ensuring their well being because they are fellow believers, the kids are going to tune out, because they are concrete thinkers, and have not yet moved to grasp such lofty ideas. If however you provide them a concrete example then they may be able to latch onto it and understand it. For us then Santa is the real manifestation of Generosity and Christian Love. It's a simplification by way of concession, but it's not a lie. It's an object lesson. When they get older the notion of a physical Santa will be improved to see that while these attributes are embodied in Santa who acts as an example for us, they are not exclusive to him.
They are learning with their hearts now, and heads later.
So if it's lying to your children to tell them Santa is real then the subject matter expert witness in court is lying to the jury because he is not telling them everything just as it is. In fact simplifying anything for matter of explanation is a lie. Which means you had better cancel your kids Sunday morning Bible classes at your church and have them in with the adults or face the sin of lying to them.

Lastly, let's just be honest and admit that any child who grows up, falls away, and offers that line for why they don't believe in Jesus is putting up a pitiful excuse. "My parents lied to me saying there was such a person as Santa, they must therefore have lied to me about God. I do not believe in God." What they are saying is "Unless my parents could explain God perfectly to me they were lying to me." Tis nonsense. 
And this is why we will do Santa for our children on Christmas morning.

Orthodoxy Chapter 5 - The Flag of the World

So it’s beyond question that our world is a fairy tale, but there’s also no denying that something is seriously wrong with it as well, becau...