A Forgotten Jewel of Creation

ying-yang 5

“God created the world in such a way, so that some things are hidden and some things are revealed.”  I have never forgotten that statement.  It was made by Dr. Wetmore, one of my college professors. He was referencing his drawing on the board of a circle with one half darkened and one half lightened.  There was something very intriguing about what that statement meant in the real world.  It seems to me to be a miracle of creation almost entirely overlooked, although it is the sum of all creation itself;  a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

God has done an amazing balancing act by creating the universe in such a way that an unregenerate person, and a regenerate person (regardless of intellectual level) can look at the exact same creation and come to utterly opposite conclusions.  I believe we take this creative achievement for granted.

For instance, imagine that I gave you a can of play-dough and told you to form something that ten people would say was a random shape and another ten would say was a masterpiece of technical complexity and precision.  God did this on the grandest of all scales, on such a razor’s edge of perplexity, that it can confound the wisest of worldly wisdom, or be perceived by a child.

We can even see the evidence of this incredible balance on different levels.  We can look at the sheer volume of creation.  One person will say that size is irrelevant; others that the size ratio of a person to the mountains, sun, moon and planets were purposeful, reflecting the sheer power of the Creator over and above miniscule man, and therefore is extremely relevant.  One person can look at the aesthetic beauty of creation; it’s snow-capped mountains, sunsets, flowering blossoms, peacock feathers and more, saying that it is a random act of mindless evolution, while another person sees the incomparable artistic mind of a creative Creator. When looking at the technical complexity of life, one person sees a blind watchmaker throwing the cogs of time + matter + chance into a pile until it makes a machine, while the other sees the awe-inspiring design of a superior intellect.  Even on the philosophical level, one sees fatalism and meaninglessness while the other sees God’s metanarrative of displaying His glory in all things.

God’s balance in natural revelation is not limited in its effects by differing levels of human intelligence.  From the simplest of minds to the highest of mental capacities, the balance created by God becomes the watershed issue for all worldviews.  One can look to the left and watch the brainiac four horsemen of New Atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and see the best intellectual defense their worldview can offer.  Or one can look to the right and see Douglas Wilson, D.A. Carson, Ravi Zacharias, and Al Mohler and see an equally intellectually stimulating defense of the theistic worldview.  The uneducated are also split along these lines.  All human understanding wilts under the weight of perfectly balanced perplexity.

Based on the known biblical command that all are to repent and believe on Jesus (Matt. 3:2), it might seem at first glance that it would have made things much easier for God to have given more visual evidence for his existence; to in essence “tip the scales” in favor of natural revelation.  But to believe so actually betrays an ignorance of God’s revealed purposes in Scripture.  God did not design the cell in all its complexity, format space-time, and instill the beauty of music, only to forget that He had made his creation just half as God-declaring as He had meant to. The balance is just as much a creation as the creation that it contains. The word “ambiguous” can not even be used here.  For to Christians it is not ambiguous at all, but rather the “heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)  But the unbeliever draws an opposite conclusion.  This is amazing in itself.  There is no fuzzy line.  People are convinced either one way or the other.

Another amazing aspect of this balance, is that it is not divided up into things that are God-declaring and those that are not.  The balance is contained within all parts of creation, from the blade of grass to the fiery star.  There is no hum-drum molecule.  Hum-drum molecule?  Can you make a hum-drum molecule?  Can you make anything ex nihilo?  The balance is maintained in the heavens, in the plant cell, in the weak and the strong force, in chemical reactions and in the bumble bee.

To discover God’s purpose in this, we need look no further than to the One who sustains all creation by the word of His power.  When Immanuel came, he did not come down in a flash of divine lightning, but in a dirty stable.  He did not have a tatoo labeling him as Messiah, but only a trusty family lineage.  He did not come to liberate the Jewish nation from Roman occupation, but to bring the spiritually dead to spiritual life.  His kingdom was not of this world, but instead He had no place to lay His head.  His explanation of the kingdom of God did not come in a 10-step plan or a how-to guide, but in parables.  Jesus explained to His disciples the reason for His veiled speech in Matthew 13:10-17:

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.

15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Paul echoes the reality of this purposeful blindness in 1 Corinthians 2: 6-8:

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But God, in his freedom and justice still holds accountable those who deny Him in general and special revelation.  Paul addresses this in Romans:

Romans 1:18-21

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Romans 1:28

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Romans 2:5

5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God gives a testimony of Himself in creation and the gospel, but those to whom it is hidden refute their conscience which is a witness against them (Rom. 2:15). Their hard hearts are ever darkening, clinging instead to the false idol of self, or some created thing outside themselves which will free them to their debase desires.

“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption… The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves… For myself… the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation… sexual… [and] political.” — Aldous Huxley in Ends and Means, 1937.

However, to those unmeritorious creatures for whom God has freely chosen to reveal Himself, the mind is awakened from its spiritual slumber to see the plain reality of God in both general and special revelation.

Ephesians 2:1-7

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

We see examples in the Scriptures of God opening and closing people’s understanding.

Acts 16:14

14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

Exodus 4:21

21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.”

Deuteronomy 2:30

30 But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.

Daniel 2:30

30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

Matthew 16:17

17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

Luke 10:21

21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

A student is not greater than his teacher.  If the Son of God praised His Father for hiding these things from some and revealing it to others, according to the counsel of his own will (Eph. 1:5), we too should praise God for this amazing and often forgotten jewel of creation; and with an outpouring of humility we should bow the knee and thank God that in His mercy He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.  For He says,

Exodus 33:19

19 …I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

and again,

Romans 9:16

16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

And so we look up from our new birth, and in joy to the mountains and the seas and the heavens above, and say with the Psalmist,

Psalm 148

1  Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!

9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

A FLY ON THE WALL: THE GOSPEL COMES TO ATHENS

[The following is a short story based on Acts 17.]

A FLY ON THE WALL:  THE GOSPEL COMES TO ATHENS
by Charlie Kelly

“Foolish boys.  It is a shame they cannot see how ridiculous they look,” mused Demetrios. Sitting on the side of a steep grassy hill, he watched two young Athenian boys wearing blindfolds begin wrestling each other, while four of their companions cheered them on.  Demtrios watched as the two blindfolded boys stretched out their arms, their fingers slowly searching through the warm breeze for their opponent.  The small crew slowly, and unintentionally migrated down the hill as their game continued.  “The blind do lead the blind,” mumbled Demetrios, trying to suppress a hint of jealousy.  Even the day’s coming sunset seemed to remind him that the carefree days of his youth had disappeared forever into the quicksand of time.  Surely the gods mocked his fleeting mortality even as he pondered it in disgruntled fashion.

A sudden rush of air brought the smell of fresh bread.  Looking off to the left he saw one of the local women selling bread to other women who had gathered to sell and trade goods.  “Work to eat.  Eat to work.  What is the point of it all?”  Demetrious stood up, brushing himself off and began sauntering towards the group of women to view the trinkets of the day before hearing his name called from over the hill.  “Demetrios!  Do not think you can hide from me, my friend.”

“Ah, Dionysius.  Surely you are coming to tell me your newest plan to waste my time,” retorted Demetrios.

“Not a waste of time,” replied the approaching Dionysius.  “But perhaps we could make some money to waste.  How about this?”  Dionysius pretended to pull a die from out of thin air, and handed the smoothed marble cube to Demetrios.  Dionysius continued in a mock whisper, “I have shaped this common looking die so that it will usually land on a certain side.  I’ve been trying it out on Alexandra all afternoon and I’ve figured it works about seven times out of ten.”

“Fooling your sister isn’t the same as fooling a professional gambler,” replied Demetrios.  “Besides, no jester’s dice will overcome the determining will of the gods, should they decide to play the trick back on you.”

Dionysius retorted, “You have determined to spend too much of your time at the Areopagus, where you and your determined group of philosophers determine to fill your hours discussing what is already determined.  I, however, am determined to fill my coffers before you see me again.”

“Do you tell these jokes to Poseidon while you are fishing with your uncle?” said Demetrios sarcastically.

“Always so serious and glum, Demetrios.  But I am determined to bring you around,” replied Dionysius.

Demetrios sighed deeply, then replied, “I will make a deal with you Dionysius.  Come up with me to the Areopagus now, for the evening talks, and then if you can speak intelligibly with me about the topic, I will waste a few more of my remaining hours of life with you; as if I have not already thrown away enough over the years.”

“It’s a deal then,” replied Dionysius as they both began walking the short distance to the Areopagus.

“You act as if I’m not an educated Athenian, Demetrios.  I may not worry myself with philosophy as much as you, but I should get some sort of credit for listening to my teacher’s constant babbling.  I had to parrot back to him some poetry by Aratus of Soli.  Would you care to hear me prove myself?” Dionysius remarked proudly.

“It would be nice to hear something of substance from you for a change, Dionysius,” replied Demetrios.

Dionysius picked a tall stalk of grass, stuck it in the corner of his mouth and continued, “Very well.”  He cleared his throat and recited in a tone intended to impersonate his teacher, “From Zeus let us begin; him do we mortals never leave unnamed; full of Zeus are all the streets and all the market-places of men; full is the sea and the havens thereof; always we all have need of Zeus….”  Dionysius paused, having lost his thought.

Demetrios quickly intervened, “For we are also his offspring…”

“Ah yes, I remember now,” interjected Dionysus.  He continued, “For we are also his offspring; and he in his kindness unto men giveth favourable signs and wakeneth the people to work, reminding them of livelihood.”  Dionysus bowed towards Demetrios, quite proud of his recitation.

“Well, you almost managed to quote it all.  Just like you almost manage to be serious about Greek philosophy,” said Demetrios while shaking his head.

“At least I’m named after a god, that ought to be worth something.  Besides, I always get lost on that part about being Zeus’ offspring.  Probably because it seems the most ridiculous idea of them all.  If I ever start throwing lightning bolts, I’ll take my god father more seriously,” said Dionysus.

He continued, “Besides, I’m fairly sure Agapios is my father, not Zeus.  And whereas Zeus would probably trade me in for a fine looking bush, my real father swears he would give his own life for me, and he certainly has given up much to teach me a new trade.  That is surely the father I would rather have.”

“Indeed Agapios has done much to keep you from becoming a fisherman like himself and your uncle,” Demetrios replied.  “I am also sure that he would give even his life for you; but that is why you must educate yourself, Dionysius.  You must be worthy of such sacrifice; for no father will lay his life down for a known fool.”

As they approached the Areopagus, they noticed an unusually large crowd stirring.  Demetrios saw his friend Aesop and came near to him asking, “Why all the commotion?”

Aesop replied, “Does it ever take more than a new speaker to garner fresh attention?  One of the teachers met a Jew in the marketplace today.  He has finished speaking at their synagogue, and the teacher is bringing him here to have him explain his strange teachings.  I personally find it quite amusing that we Greeks like to spend our time listening to those who, being notoriously unschooled in thought, preach their foreign divinities.”

“Here they come now.”  Aesop motioned towards a small group of people making their way towards the crowd.

In the middle of the approaching group was a worn and haggard looking Jew. Even though he appeared to be physically scarred, he seemed to walk with purpose.  Demetrios and Dionysius watched curiously as the Jew marched past his escort and onto the hill of the Areopagus.

Andreas, the philosopher who had accompanied the Jew, introduced him as the man Paul.  He then posed the initial question, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.”

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Not being able to contain himself any longer, Demetrios shouted out, “Why not kill yourself now, and demonstrate this resurrection power?  Also, my dead grandmother was quite a good cook; why don’t you have your god raise her, and we’ll have a feast!”

But Dionysius, with uncharacteristic zeal replied to Paul, “We will hear you again!”

Demetrios’ glance towards Dionysius was one of simultaneous amazement and disdain.  But before Demetrios could begin his scolding, Andreas announced to the people, “Perhaps those of you interested in this unknown god, as I am, can walk with us as I return Paul to his dwelling for the night.”

Dionysius began walking towards Paul and his companions.  “Surely you cannot be serious about going,” remarked Demetrios.

“I feel compelled to talk with him, Demetrios.  I have never felt so compelled,” replied Dionysius.

Before Demetrios could reason with him further, Dionysius slipped through the crowd in the direction of Paul.  Demetrios made his way through the crowd until he saw Dionysius and several others walking and talking with Paul as they left the Areopagus.

Thoroughly disgusted, Demetrios decided to mull over the evening’s events as he began his trek to the beach, where he often secluded himself to think and talk to the gods.  He shuffled slowly, giving a moment’s pause to eye the altar to the unknown god as he went.

His walk was so slow and methodical that an hour later Dionysius had caught up with him before he reached the beach.

“I thought I’d find you coming this way,” said Dionysius.

“Have you pledged your allegiance to your unknown god, even though you are too lazy to learn about those on Mt. Olympus?” retorted Demetrios.

Dionysius continued, “You should come back with me, Demetrios, and hear what this man Paul has to say.  What he teaches is different from…”

“I do not have any interest in the Jew’s strange teachings, Dionysus!  Nor do I feel drawn to learn any more about his leader, whom he claims was magically raised from the dead.  Your peddling of that Jew’s religion is beneath you Dionysus, and any other educated Greek of a good name.  But then perhaps that is half your trouble, Dionysius.  The gods use wisdom in this world to shame fools such as yourself.  They surely mock you even now.”

“Jesus is his name, Demetrios,” Dionysius continued.  “He is the Son of God, who has come to take away the sin of all the world, even extending to us Greeks.  Paul says that through this Savior’s death…”

“Oh, the aroma of his death is surely on you, Dionysius!  That I do not deny.  Look, I cannot understand how you can find merit in such foolery,” interjected Demetrios.

“He did surely die as if a malefactor, but unjustly so, for he had done no wrong,” replied Dionysius.

“If this Jesus were a god man, he should have saved himself and proved it,” countered Demetrios.

“But that is just the point, my dear friend.  Paul said that his purpose was not to save himself, but to save all who would repent and believe.  …And I have, Demetrios.  I have repented and I believe.  Paul teaches that having done so, I am guiltless before God, and if I should die even now, I will be with the Lord in paradise,” explained Dionysius.

“Away with you and your crazy Jew teachings!  It is folly to all thinking Greeks,” snarled Demetrios.

And with that Dionysius slowly stopped, as Demetrios marched forward toward the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach, which was now coming into view.

Demetrios walked alone in the night onto the beach; the full moon’s light piercing the sky.  He came to the tide’s edge and stared off into the moonlit horizon.  Then looking to his left, he could see the lights inside the houses on the cliffs.  He knew people were gathered there, which made him feel all the more alone in the night.

He realized he had been gripping the die that Dionysius had given him all the while he had been walking so intently down from the Areopagus.  He opened his fist and gazed at the die in the moonlight.  His feelings towards Dionysius and the Jew grew only harder by the sight, and with a loud cry he cast the die into the deep.

He sat down on the sand, staring out at the darkness.  The ocean breeze that had blown so mightily, seemed to give up its impetus.  All fell silent except the rhythmic crashing of the surf.  The clouds began to roll over the moon, and the light began to fade, even as a deathly chill set in that Demetrios seemed to feel to his bones.

Published in: on March 18, 2009 at 8:15 am  Comments (8)  

Logos :: The Word

Definition

The word “logos” in Greek has an extraordinary range of meanings — the
heart of which is both “meaning” and “reckoning”. Hence, it may refer to a
“word” or a “thought” or a spoken phrase or an idea or that which conveys
something which, to the hearer, is meaningful and, thus, can move them
.

There is a annual ritual in my neighborhood.  As sure as the flowers are to bloom every spring, so also, seniors from the local high school are sure to graffiti local road signs.  Usually the message relays the fact that the “class of ‘0(insert current number) rules!!!”

However, the local furniture plant on my road closed recently due to the bad economy; therefore much more blank space on the sides of the building have been made available to would-be graffiti aficionados.  While driving home recently I noticed the annual declarations had made a turn for the vulgar.  Someone had painted a large curse word, namely the “F-word,” on the side of the closed plant.  Although I usually take time to notice the local vandalistic verbiage, this word caught my attention longer; as it probably would for most people.  Week after week I would drive by the plant, every time being irritated at the sight of the profanity.  I pondered what hoops I would have to jump through, if I were to get permission to cover it over myself.  Sure enough, someone beat me to it and painted purple boxes over the letters of the curse word.  They ignored all the other words and slogans, but they covered over the curse word.

This post is based on the idea, of why it is that lines connected into certain shapes, and sounds made with the mouth, can compel us as human beings… to anger, tenderness, hate, delight, tears, love, nostalgia, inspiration and action; even to the giving of our own lives.

The most obvious answer is that words represent ideas.  Words are not random or meaningless.  If they were, they would not have the impetus that they do.  But it is the reality that they represent, their pathos, that gives them their power.  Words are a part of language, which is the guardian to the world of meaning.  No one has within their grasp any truth or meaning apart from that which was communicated to them.  Whatever you think, feel, or know was communicated to your mind, body or spirit from outside of yourself;  whether it came from your human nature, a scholar, or a society; it was imparted to you via that instrument’s language.

Language is powerful because the human mind is instinctually compelled to interact with the transmission of ideas that is encapsulated within words.  All these ideas interact with our worldview; where we then judge them.

God’s gift to humanity of a “high form” of language is a wonder to behold.  Language, much like mathematical systems, heralds the obvious proofs of a Creator with an incomprehensible intellect and a magnanimous nature.  Although animals, which are not created in the image of God, can have linguistic ability, mankind’s communicative abilities are unrivaled among creatures because they reflect the “image of God” engine that runs in the mind of humanity; creating, destroying, loving, hating, and desiring that which transcends itself.

Language is a vehicle.  Whether it is good or evil depends upon the payload that it carries.  Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those that love it will eat its fruit.”  James 3: 9-10 says of the tongue, With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Language is in the very nature of God and therefore existed before humanity.  We see language as a part of the relationship in the Trinity.  In Genesis 1:26a it says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'”  Part of being made in the image of God, is the ability to communicate with words.  We are built to be able to communicate with God and each other, reflecting how God communicates with Himself.

The decisions we make in regards to God’s spiritual words depend on whether we are dead or alive in our spirit.  To the unregenerate man, the Word of God is the most repulsive abhorrence.  To the man who has been brought to life in his spirit, they are the bread of life.  2 Corinthians 15-16 says, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

It was with the power of the Word that God created all that has been made.  In rapid fire succession we see the Scriptures testify in the book of Genesis, “And God said…”  In Hebrews 1:3 we see that “he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”  So we see from the Scriptures that God not only created the universe by the power of His Word, but He even sustains its current existence by the very same Word.

God’s creation communicates back to Him by the way of unspoken words.  Even though we all know that rocks and mountains do not have literal vocal cords, they declare by their sheer existence the splendor and glory of God.  Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

God has always spoken to mankind.  In the garden of Eden he spoke with Adam and Eve.  After humanity’s fall into sin, he gave his Old Covenant laws.  In His law He communicated to His chosen people a proverbial mirror, showing His standard of holiness and our inability to maintain that standard.  Then, in Christ he spoke to us the Word of Life.  Hebrews 1: 1-2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

It is the Word of God that still brings dead things to life.  We see this in the story of the dry bones, found in Ezekiel 37: 1-10.  “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”

Throughout the Scriptures we see God bringing things from death to life, by the power of His Word.  The gospel of Mark testifies to the story of Jarius’ daughter, “Taking her by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking…”

In John 11 we again see Jesus’ Word bring life.  “When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.'”

In Acts 13:48 we see the Word of the Lord bringing life to dead souls.  “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed,” [emphasis mine].

So the gift of language that we enjoy and employ is a reflection of our linguistic Creator.  And even in our greatest uses of it, we are but boys and girls engaging in wordplay with our steam-engine slogans and caboose conversations; in comparison to the momentous power of the ultimate Word, wielded by the true Conductor that created and sustains the world in which we play.  The Scriptures say in Hebrews that the Word that he wields “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The greatest gift ever given was the Word made manifest in human flesh.  John 1 speaks of Him when it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  At the end of His prayer for all those who would believe, in John 17, he summarized his message of reconciliation, “‘I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’”

Thanks to the Word that was sent to us, that off-key chorus of conversation that resonates our sinful world with “F-words,” slander and salacious speech; will one day tune into the perfect, melodious harmony of the hosts of heaven whom “day and night they never cease to say,

‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!'”

Published in: on February 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm  Comments (1)  

The Eternal Metanarrative

God created the current global financial crisis because He did not want me to sell my house.

Sound ridiculous?  I believe that statement is true.

I do not believe that is the only reason why He created the global financial crisis, but I believe it is one of the innumerable reasons.  Some might say that it is nonsense to infer that in any way, God would have created such a large-scale event for such a globally insignificant purpose.  But I believe God is sovereign, powerful, omniscient, and providential enough to do it.

Most Christians would accept this truth, when presented with it on a smaller scale.  They might agree with the following hypothetical situation:  Timmy walked into the grocery store, because God wanted him to both provide for his family’s needs, and to have a divine appointment with Bob, with whom he would share the gospel.

I would say that most Christians would agree with that scenario.  There are certainly plenty of evidences of those situations in the Scriptures.  One such example would be when Jesus fed thousands with a few loaves and fish.  This was to satisfy their immediate hunger, but was also to show miraculous evidence of his divinity.  We do not tend to question God’s ability to interweave a handful of events together.  However, people often encounter a roadblock when they allow their mind to enlarge the logical possibilities of what this means on a global scale.  I suggest that the Scriptures give evidence, that God not only interweaves intermittent events by the handful, but that all events, great and small, are interwoven in His providence.

The providential purposes of God extend from the infinitesimal to the universal.  If we could see them all, some might appear trivial, but the small parts make up the whole.  We would see purposes acted out on personal, community, regional, national, global, historical and universal levels.

Here is a sampling of God’s complete providence in governing the world.

  • “I have commanded the ravens to feed you there” (1Kings 17:4)
  • “The Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah” (Jonah 4:6).
  • “God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered” (Jonah 4:7).
  • “I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants” (Exodus 8:21).
  • “He summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread” (Psalms 105:16).
  • “He gave them hail for rain” (Psalms 105:32).
  • “He spoke, and the locusts came” (Psalms 105:34).
  • “The Lord will whistle for . . . the bee that is in the land of Assyria” (Isaiah 7:18).
  • “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).
  • “Even the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:41).
  • “He removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21).
  • “Even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (Mark 1:27).
  • “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
  • [source]

It is encouraging to look at the world through the lens of God’s providence; to see all events, both great and small, good and evil, and know that there are innumerable purposes flowing through them; all to the glory of God.  When we do this, we begin to see the providential hand of God emerging from the often times purposeless, short-sighted view with which we are born.

Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 11:32 am  Leave a Comment  

The Electrified Chain-Links of Reformed Systematic Theology

God is a God of order. Being made in His image, we also desire order.  By our very nature, we do not like questions left unanswered or apparent conflicts.

There are times, when we are forced to accept such inconsistencies and enigmatic ideas in life.  Surely, there will be questions in theology that we will never fully comprehend, such as the hypostatic union, the Trinity, or the writing of the inspired Scriptures through human authors.  But despite the limitations our our biological hardware, we are still given a rigorous and glorious revelation of God-centered theology in the Scriptures.  However, many in the modern church have gone through a theological down-grade.  In the theology of the modern, American church, many have been taught that a great part of what the Bible has to say is an unknowable mystery.  The purpose of this post is to purport that historical, Reformed Systematic Theology (as commonly read in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology) provides Christians not only with a systematic theology, but one grounded in an empowering knowledge of the centrality of God and His glory in all things.

I. WHEN THEOLOGY DOES NOT FIT

In our post-modern society, whose influences reaches far into the modern, American church, the idea of possessing objective Truth is often looked down upon as having an air of intolerance. Ravi Zacharias tells the story of going to a post-modern museum, where the interior was purposefully designed to show an absence of purpose.  There were staircases that led to nowhere, and all sorts of other random acts of architecture.  The tour guide touted the manifestation of the post-modern (everything is meaningless and subjective) view.  Ravi stopped him, and asked him if he would answer a question he had.  “Did they do that with the foundation too?”  Of course they could not.  The post-modern view cannot be lived out.  It must pull in values from a purposeful world-view.

The kissing cousin of this view is indirectly and unknowingly taught in many churches across the West.  Even though they teach that there is objective Truth, the “parts of the whole” in theology cannot be fully understood, and are often disconnected.  Church members are never asked to connect the doctrinal dots, because if they did, they would come to conclusions that their watered-down theology would not condone.  This is the equivalent of being theologically neutered.  It is hard to find comfort and power in the Scriptures during the rough seas of life, when meditation on their truths reminds one that their understanding of the doctrines of Scripture are not an anchor, but a mystery.  For these people, the Scriptures often “sound nice,” seeming idealistic, but when it comes to the rubber hitting the road, they are stairs that actually lead to  nowhere; a book that, more often than not, says things that just don’t seem to fit together.

II.  WHEN THEOLOGY IS SYSTEMATIZED  –  INCORRECTLY

Historical Reformed theology is not the only theology that has been systematized.  Others have taken teachings from the Bible and formed systematized theologies.  The question is, which is the correct one?  Which one is derived consistently from the biblical text?

The theological system that stands on the other side of the Protestant Reformation fence is the Arminian system.  There is no doubt that it is a system.  It provides answers for the tough questions.  The problem is that it does not take in the Scriptures as a whole, and is forced to twist the obvious meaning of certain passages (such as Romans 9, Ephesians 1 and John 6, etc) in order to fit its square systematic peg into the round theological hole.

John Piper has rightly called the Arminian gospel “a lesser gospel.”  A man-centered gospel, it struggles weakly to answer questions about the origin and presence of evil, God’s sovereignty, and a host of other theological questions.  Recently, a local youth minister was killed by a person he was trying to help.  Later the young man’s pastor said, “I don’t believe God ever wants suffering, pain or death…I believe they happen because of the chaos we live in.”  This is indicative of the mindset of the majority of the modern church.  Does God really not ever want us to experience pain?  Is suffering outside of God’s plan?  Is God really seeing his creation experience things that He, the all-powerful God, does not want it to?  In this mindset, chaos is king and God must accept it’s decrees.  The removal of the focus from God’s will to man’s will, has also shifted the power from God to man; and as we all know, man is a poor substitute for God.

III. WHEN THE SYSTEM FITS THE SCRIPTURES

Although philosophical and theological points have been debated for centuries and will continue to be, the primary question that must be answered is, “What do the Scriptures teach?”

It is not enough to have a system, but we must with open minds, test the veracity of that system against the entirety of the Scriptures.  The clearest and most straight-forward reading of the Scriptures in correct context, leads to what is called Reformed theology, but in actuality is simply biblical theology.  The Reformed perspective provides the most compelling evidence.  I have created a resource with Scriptural defense of that view here.

Reformed theology does more than just provide answers to ethereal questions.  Returning the focus of God’s universe from man back to God, also moves the power from man back to the almighty God of the Scriptures.  As the Scriptures are allowed to say what they mean, and mean what they say, many questions and mysteries begin to crumble and fall.  Garden hose theology is replaced with Niagara Falls theology.  Reformed theology is empowering and full of life.  It is more than just the chain links of a doctrinal system; the Scriptures teach of doctrines with power, God’s power.

IV. EXAMPLES OF THE EMPOWERING GOD-CENTEREDNESS OF REFORMED THEOLOGY

I will mention just a few examples here.  For a more thorough look at the empowering effects of Reformed theology, see John Piper’s comments on the section found at the bottom third of this web page.

An important idea to seeing God’s sovereignty over all things is what John Piper calls, “The Best of All Possible Worlds.”  Here is a description of this idea:

“…the best of all possible worlds, means that God governs the course of history so that, in the long run, His glory will be more fully displayed and His people more fully satisfied than would have been the case in any other world. If we look only at the way things are now in the present era of this fallen world, this is not the best-of-all-possible worlds. But if we look at the whole course of history, from creation to redemption to eternity and beyond, and see the entirety of God’s plan, it is the best-of-all-possible plans and leads to the best-of-all-possible eternities. And therefore this universe (and the events that happen in it from creation into eternity, taken as a whole) is the best-of-all-possible-worlds.” [source]

That in itself is empowering; to know that even looking out at the wickedness, evil and suffering currently present in this world, that this is the best way it could possibly be for God to glorify Himself the most.  To think that if there was less evil and human suffering, things would be better, is to focus on man.  But to realize that God is glorified in the demonstration of His justice, through the punishment of the wicked, and He is glorified when His saints trust solely in Him during times of trials, puts the focus on God.  I am empowered as a Christian in saying, “No, chaos, you do not have the upper hand on God.  For even in your rebellion you are unwittingly fanning the flames of God’s glory.”  To the evildoer we can say that even in his rebellion, he is committing, as Charles Spurgeon used to say, “a species of obedience.”

John Piper tells the story of counseling a young married couple.  The wife was still currently in an adulterous relationship, and unwilling to leave it.  Piper looked at the woman and told her plainly, “If you continue in your adultery, …you will go to hell.”

The modern church-goer might cock his head and lift an eyebrow at such a powerful remark.  How can he say that to her?  He can say that to her because of the biblical teaching known in Reformed theology as perseverance of the saints. Many of the statistics that say that “x” amount of Christians are leaving the church at a certain age, or are now denying the deity of Christ are seen with a Reformed eye.  We know that people are not stepping in and out of salvation, as if Christ’s finished work on the cross can be manipulated, but that they have gone out from us, because they were never of us.  Throngs of false-converts exist in the modern church, and will one day stand before the Judge of the universe and call Him Lord.  But He will tell them, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.”

Reformed theology allows one to stand secure in the knowledge of their salvation.  We know we could somehow merit the loss of our salvation, inasmuch as we merited the initiation of our salvation; namely, not at all.

When a Reformed person looks at the worst criminal element society has to offer, they are empowered with a sense of humility.  Reformed theology teaches the radical depravity of mankind.  I know that there is nothing inherently in them, that was not inherently in me.  It was simply the grace of God that my flesh was not allowed to more fully express its unimaginable evil.  It is not that I have somehow succeeded where they have failed, but instead I can say with meekness, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”  To God alone be the glory.

Reformed theology does not struggle with the question of Jesus having paid for all sins, apparently except for the sin of unbelief of some.  For the Scriptures teach, that those for whom Jesus died – he paid for all, not some of their sins; making their salvation not just possible, but actual.  The is to the glory, not of man, but of God’s grace alone.  “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16)

These are but a few examples.  In a general sense, Reformed theology brings us to a place of humility.  We humbly bow with a extreme sense of gratefulness, knowing our salvation is not because of anything in us.  We humbly and gratefully bow at the feet of the sovereign God, for whom all things will work for His glory.   We do it all in joy.  He is our joy, and we will glorify and enjoy Him forever.

Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 11:59 am  Comments (3)  
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Multiple Intelligences and How We Can Use It to Raise Our Children Up in the Fear and Admonition of the Lord

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. ~Proverbs 22:6

Surely we all agree on the ends, but how are we to discover the means of fulfilling this biblical command?  How do we train up our children?  Is there a sure-fire, cookie-cutter method we can use?  Or are differentiated methods based on talents, abilities and tendencies necessary to achieve the optimal outcomes in our children’s lives?

We are commanded by God through the Scriptures to train our children in such a way that when they are older they will not depart from God’s path.  The purpose of this post is to show that there is needed diversity and variety in the ways of raising our children.  We can best train them, by utilizing, not ignoring their internal hard-wiring.

I am not referring to utilizing their original sin nature; for we are to train them in the way that we hope for them to operate after having been regenerated by the Savior.  Matthew Henry says as such in his commentary:

Train children, not in the way they would go, that of their corrupt hearts, but in the way they should go; in which, if you love them, you would have them go. As soon as possible every child should be led to the knowledge of the Savior.

We should seek to train up our children in all sorts of ways; especially in ways that they learn best.  Deuteronomy 6:7 speaks in a proverbial way of coming at this task from all angles:

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~Dueteronomy 6:7

The theory of multiple intelligences, developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, and long-known in the educational realm, has profound relevance in the area of training our children in the way of the Lord. Multiple intelligences are not new, having existed as long as mankind; but our understanding of them has improved.

For an explanation of Multiple Intelligences, I would like to use Thomas Armstrong’s article on Multiple Intelligences.  Here are some appropriate excerpts:

“The theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at
Harvard University. It suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, is far too limited. Instead, Dr. Gardner proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These intelligences are:

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spacial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self-smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Dr. Gardner says that our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence.”

“For example, if you’re teaching or learning about the law of supply and demand in economics, you might read about it (linguistic), study mathematical formulas that express it (logical-mathematical), examine a graphic chart that illustrates the principle (spatial), observe the law in the natural world (naturalist) or in the human world of commerce (interpersonal); examine the law in terms of your own body [e.g. when you supply your body with lots of food, the hunger demand goes down; when there’s very little supply, your stomach’s demand for food goes way up and you get hungry] (bodily-kinesthetic and intrapersonal); and/or write a song (or find an existing song) that demonstrates the law (perhaps Dylan’s “Too Much of Nothing?”).”

Here are some charts that demonstrate multiple intelligences.  Two of the charts include a ninth category; that of Existential intelligence (“Deep-Thinking intelligence”):

Because our academic culture most prizes logical/mathematical and verbal/linguistic intelligence, many children have unnecessarily lowered self-esteem.  This is not to say that we should puff up children to believe they are something they aren’t, but we should allow our children to excel and take pride in their own type of intelligences.

With this knowledge, we have the ability to foster that which God has instilled intrinsically.  These intelligences are reflections of our humanity; having been made in the image of God.  We should allow our children to discover their gifts and then as parents we are to train them up in the way of the Lord, by fostering the redeemed qualities of their gifts.

In an unregenerate person, the gift of visual/spatial intelligence might be seen in forms such as illegal graffiti, graphic illustrations, or even refined degenerative art forms (see “ecce homo“, by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin).  However, the redeemed qualities of this intelligence creates things that bring glory to God.  It may be a montage of pictures of God’s gift of creation, a mosaic of a biblical scenes, or for those so gifted, refined redeemed art forms (see “ecce homo“, by Antonio Ciseri).  For verbal/linguistic intelligence – not Henley’s Invictus, but Longfellow’s Christmas Bells.  For existential intelligence – not the work of Richard Dawkins, but the work of Jonathan Edwards.  On and on it goes; we are to nurture the redemptive qualities of whatever intelligences our children possess, to the glory of God.  Nurturing the redemptive qualities of their particular intelligences is training them up, in their own abilities, in God’s way.  It is taking the gifts God has given to them, and using it (that which comes most natural) to guide them down the path of godliness.

All these intelligences are gifts from God, and come from God as a imperfect reflection of his own characteristics.  By training our children in the redeemed qualities of their gifts, we teach them of the One who gave the gifts, and of His ways.  We open their minds to the One who is the interpersonal Counselor; the God-man who became bodily incarnate, to whom we sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs; whose literary masterpiece is the Holy Scriptures, and who has numbered the hairs on our head and the stars in the sky; who created all of nature as His handiwork, day to day pouring out speech, and night to night revealing knowledge; who has painted the truest sunset and whose color palate overflows the boundaries of the visible spectrum; knowing all things – who can instruct Him?  For He was there when the foundations of the Earth were laid; the First and the Last, the I AM; who through Him, and to Him, and for Him are all things.

He has given our children His image.  And it is not a single gem, but a crown of jewels.  Let us polish them all, to reflect glory onto the Giver of all good gifts.

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 10:08 pm  Comments (8)  

Dying With Confidence Because the Veil Has Been Torn

Tori’s great aunt passed away this morning.  She was a godly woman.  Never having any children of her own, she adopted all her many nieces and nephews as her “children.”  There was never a time when I entered her home, and did not see her magnifying glass and large print Bible lying open on the table.  She was a genuine prayer warrior, devoting time every day to intercede on the behalf of others.  Even as she lay dying in her hospital bed, she bowed her head and asked God to bless her glass of water.  Many others saw her good works, and gave glory to our Father who is in heaven, for them.

In the time of the Old Testament, God gave his people specific directions on how to build a Temple.  In this Temple, His glory would reside in the inmost room.  This would be the place where offerings would be made to atone for the sins of the people.  There were divisions in this temple.  The outer court was the court of the Gentiles.  There was the court of the women, then the court of Israel, and then the court of the priests.  After this came the place that was most revered, the Holy of Holies.  God’s Shekhinah glory, (his manifested presence) dwelled in this inner chamber.  The only one who could ever go into the Holy of Holies, was the high priest, and that, only once a year.  Anyone else who entered would immediately die, just as anyone who touched the Ark of the Covenant.

The people did not have direct access to God.  Even the Temple itself, and the sacrifices did not remove the people’s sin, it simply “covered” it; it was a symbol of the Messianic sacrifice that was to come.

2,000 years ago, when Jesus reached the pinnacle of his earthly ministry, the Scriptures reveal the following:

24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour [4] when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. [5] 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

The Death of Jesus

33 And when the sixth hour [6] had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. [7] 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he [8] breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son [9] of God!”

Mark 15: 24 – 39

Notice again verse 38.

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

When Jesus died on the cross, there was no longer any barrier between the Holy God and his people.  Jesus instantly became the bridge between the presence of God himself, and the people for whom He died.

I thought about that, as I reflected on the death of little Annie May, Tori’s great aunt.  That feeble, frail, suffering, ninety-four year old woman, left her earthly tent; and stepped out as the redeemed, blood bought bride of Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Lamb that was Slain…  and because 2,000 years ago, Jesus’ death tore the veil – and “now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, Annie May entered into the Holy of Holies, the Shekhinah glory, the presence of God Himself.

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 6:57 pm  Comments (1)  

They Rage, but in Vain

The elections of recent weeks has sparked an increase in boldness of those who resist God and His Word.  There is an ever-increasing visibility of radical agendas, and openess of rebellion against all things Judeo-Chrstian.

The second chapter of Psalms speaks of God’s response to this carnal hostility.  God shows us the consequences of their actions and His final justice in all things – good and evil.  Notice God’s response to their attempts?  He is not exactly intimidated.  How does the God in this passage mesh with your view of God?  The God of love and mercy commonly associated with the New Testament and the God of relentless righteousness of the Old Testament are one.  Our understanding of God, based on the Scriptures, teach us of His mercy and His wrath.  They are both equally admirable.  To take either away is to break the first of the Ten Commandments and make a god in our own minds to suit us.  We should rejoice in all of His divine attributes.

It is reassuring to see the confidence and might of our God in the face of rebellion.  And He is our God when we take the advice of the final verse; taking refuge from His wrath, in the One who bore His wrath 2,000 years ago.

PSALM 2

2:1 Why do the nations rage [1]
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break [2] them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 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.

Published in: on November 14, 2008 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Ezekiel 18 :: The Soul Who Sins Shall Die (and it does not please God)

I was doing some Bible reading this morning, and I came upon Ezekiel 18. This passage has caused me some discomfort because of the way it, at first glance, seems to cast God in the light of having to do something He doesn’t want to do; and it doesn’t jive with my knowledge of God’s sovereign will (His Will of Decree; not His Will of Command). Let me quote you the part of it I am talking about.

The subtitle of this chapter in my Bible (ESV) is “The Soul Who Sins Shall Die.” It (as you might expect) is a message from the LORD through the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Israel about how God will punish people individually for their sins and reward people individually for righteousness. This is opposed to the current thought of the time that a Father’s sins would cause punishment to come upon his son; and a son’s sin would cause punishment to come upon the Father. God says, no, I will deal with each one individually.

And then there is this part, which was at the source of my conflict: (verses 31-32) “Cast away from you all transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

And so you see what appears to be God having to do something he doesn’t desire to do. It seems that if God sovereignly caused it to happen, it doesn’t make sense that He would say it doesn’t bring Him pleasure.

I asked God to help me understand it. Do you ever do that with certain Scripture passages or ideas? I do. I hate apparent inconsistencies. They bother me. And since I know God is always consistent – I ask for help to reconcile things I don’t understand. I believe when we pray and ask God for wisdom in regards to His Word, He is faithful to help us; insomuch as our finite minds can be helped.

So I went to the computer to try to look up some commentary for this struggle. I felt like I was being led to specifically check John Piper’s resources. So I went to http://www.desiringgod.org, searched for Ezekiel 18; and of course, was taken to a sermon of his from 1987 on this very subject (and yes it had audio AND text; so I got to listen to it.) It dealt with this very issue.

And so, if you also would wonder how a God who is infinitely free, can never be backed into a corner, and does ALL things according to the pleasure of His will, could say that He does not take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, then I invite you to see the same resource I have.

Before I give the link, let me also throw out there this verse which seems opposite, but as we find out is not. Deuteronomy 28:63, “And as the LORD took delight in doing you good, and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you.”

Here is the link, but let me give you a bit of advice before you check it out. The text of the sermon that is given is an abbreviated version edited for reading. The audio sermon is MUCH better, especially with the final explanation. So, what I would suggest is opening up the “listen” link (NOT THE EXCERPT, BUT THE REGULAR SERMON) and then skip the marker (there is no time marker) ahead to the final quarter of the sermon. Listen to the final 1/4 of the audio sermon. The whole sermon is good, but if you want to get right to the answer, check out the final 1/4 of it. The verbal answer is more elaborate and passionate than the written text answer on the page, although they are equally true.

Are you ok with having a God who can be backed into a corner and be dependent on men? If you are, then maybe Ezekiel 18 doesn’t bother you. If you know that is not the nature of God, and therefore it does bother you – you will enjoy this.

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[Originally written March 3, 2008.]

Published in: on November 11, 2008 at 8:44 pm  Comments (2)  

Warnings Against the Adulteress

I just wanted to post about this briefly (at least my part will be brief). But I need to do it in two parts.

I – When I see a story like this one about the Governor of NY resigning because he was caught using prostitutes, I have to be careful not to think self-righteously. That is not to say I don’t judge. I am commanded to by Scripture. But with humility I know “There but for the grace of God go I.”  And what he was caught doing outwardly, I and all men have been guilty of in the heart, according to Jesus in Matthew 5.

II – But I wanted to post this scripture that so perfectly reflects this circumstance.  It is the visual that usually comes to my mind when I think of the adultress.  It is from Proverbs, chapter 7.  When you read it, and get to the consequences towards the end – I feel bad, knowing that this is what has befallen the Governor of NY.  The Scriptures are so true, and accurate to describe this as it is.  And it is another reminder that there is “nothing new under the sun.”  All sin is just the same sin recycled through the lives of mankind.

6 At the window of my house
I looked out through the lattice.

7 I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who lacked judgment.

8 He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house

9 at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.

10 Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.

11 (She is loud and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;

12 now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)

13 She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:

14 “I have fellowship offerings [a] at home;
today I fulfilled my vows.

15 So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!

16 I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.

17 I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.

18 Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!

19 My husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.

20 He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home till full moon.”

21 With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.

22 All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer [b] stepping into a noose [c]

23 till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life.

24 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
pay attention to what I say.

25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.

26 Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.

27 Her house is a highway to the grave, [d]
leading down to the chambers of death.

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[Originally written on March 13, 2008.]

Published in: on November 11, 2008 at 8:39 pm  Comments (1)