Sunday, December 24, 2006
These puppies and I just wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas!
My wife is an avid Christmas fan, and it makes for a very exciting time around our place!
We have been listening to Christmas music and Christmas sermons by John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, and John Piper, all of which are highly recommended and very encouraging as we grow closer to God and each other in this most celebrated Christian Season.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
That you must have an ugly website, if you are a church, or christian organisation? I spent some time surveying blogs and christian/church websites (from an unspecified region) today.
What I found was an inverted relationship. It seems the better theology the church had, the worse its website was. From colours that hurt the eyes, to broken links... why can't we have art and theology?
Oh well, I'll have to do something about it in my own case.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
The Universe, created by our Saviour and Lord, is one of the greatest edifices proclaiming His praise, “The Heaven’s declare the glory of God. And the firmament shows His handy work” (Psalm 19:1).
“In the beginning, was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn. 1:1-3).
Interpreting the Biblical Account of Creation
There is a popular illustration, “Back in my Father’s day, it took six days, driving during the day, to get to Toronto”. This serves to illustrate that in any language, any given work can have two or more meanings depending on context. In the case above, the word day, means, 1) a generation, 2) a literal 24 hour day, 3) the daylight portion of the day.
The illustration is not overly difficult for an English speaker to grasp, but it introduces the question, “What is interpretation?” In the movie, “The Interpreter,” Nicole Kidman works as a UN Interpreter and acknowledges the difficulty of her job, saying a misstep, a wrong word in translation, could lead to disaster. She was a translator, taking a foreign language, explaining the original meaning of the speaker by using an English word or phrase with the same concept.
Matthew 1:23 conveys the idea succinctly, as the Evangelist quotes Isaiah’s prophecy, “You shall call his name Immanuel” which is interpreted “God with us” (KJV). Some new translations, write, ‘translated’, in place of interpreted, to show the modern English idea, helping to better interpret the passage to modern ears.
The Science of Biblical Interpretation
The science of Biblical interpretation is called “hermeneutics”, named after Hermes, the messenger god of Zeus. The concept being that the interpreter of Scripture is not doing anything to introduce novelty, not to input anything, but simply proclaiming the Divine oracle to humanity.
The divine oracles clearly guide us into an account of how, Jesus Christ created the world. Beginning with the idea that, “by faith we understand that the worlds were formed by the word of God…” (Heb 11:3):
I. In the Beginning
The process was divine fiat:
“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. Now Earth was without form and void and darkness covered the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light (Gen. 1:1-3). “Then God said…. Then God said…. Then God said etc.,” (vv 6,9,11,14,20,24,16),” and it was so…. And it was so…. etc.,” (vv. 7, 9,11 et all).
“by the word of God the heavens were of old and the earth standing out of water and in the water” (2 Peter 3:5). “He commanded and they were created” (Ps. 148:5).
God made the earth and everything in it by divine fiat. That is by His Word. He spoke and it was so; “Thus the Heavens and Earth were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work” (Gen 2:1). The process is complete. The mechanism for the origin of each aspect, from inanimate planets and processes, to fish and fowl, according to Scripture is direct command and response. No intermediate or proximate process is mentioned in Scripture.
The timetable for this creation is given as well, “God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day and the darkness He called Night. So there was evening and morning, the first day.” (Gen. 1:4,5). The Hebrew word for “day” can mean a number of different things, as does the English word, seen in the illustration above. In both languages, its meaning is determined by context.
The Hebrew word, 'day' is actually used 2000 times in the OT, giving a marvelous sample from which to determine Biblical context. The overwhelming majority of times it means a common ordinary ‘day’. Outside of Genesis one, we get this information to help us understand the context:
1) Whenever (ie. In all cases where) the word ‘day’ is used with a numerical adjective, some 400 times; it always means a literal day.
2) Whenever (ie. In all cases where) the phrase “evening and morning’ are used apart from day; they always mean a literal day (38 Times).
3) Whenever either ‘evening’ or ‘morning’ is used with ‘day’ some 23 times each; they always mean a literal day.
4) Whenever the word ‘Night’ is used in context with Day, 52 times, it always means a literal day.
Now not one, not two, not three, but all these are present in the Genesis account. There is a deliberate, calculated intentionality here, foreseeing any possible future arguments to the contrary.
In other words there is no additional way the author of Genesis could have possibly been any clearer in presenting six, regular, 24 hour days! But there is also a Biblical commentary to help clarify this further, as if to slam the door shut on debate. In the 10 Commandments, a rather literal text, we read the rational for the Sabbath, and the only rational for a seven day week, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth” (Ex. 20:3).
II. Natural Factors
All is not accounted for by simple intellegent design however. There are factors such as appearent disteliology, suffereing, and brute ugliness, that make an edenic creation seem mythical. But the Bible, being true history and not a story, has accounted for these things and provides an adequate explanation for these things.
1) The Fall: “Cursed is the ground for your sake:... Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth” (Gen. 3:17,18). The NT reveals, “…the creation was subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20).
2) The Flood: “All the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened…. the waters prevailed exceedingly on the whole earth, and all the high hills were covered…. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping things and birds of the air” (Gen. 7:11,19,23). “The world that then existed perished” (2 Pet. 3:6). This radically changes the interpretation of the observable facts, because the creation only dimly reveals it original order, and the geological and hydrological factors mentioned would have cataclysmic effects.
III. Ethical Factors
Not only is the creation so changed as to barely be recognizable for its origional intention, without the corrections of the natural factors, but there is an even more serious matter-the Human condition.
Man’s intellect rejects this interpretation of the facts in nature and himself: “For this they ‘willfully’ forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old,… by which the world that then existed perished being flooded by water.” (2 Peter 3:5-6). Romans one closes the door on hope for the natural intellect to accept the ethical implications of special creation, they, “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
This is purely ethical. There is no epistemelogical, or physical barrier to discovering this truth, but man needs to be shown his moral rebellion against it.
Summary and Conclusions
Therefore the Biblical doctrine of Creation, is: 1) that God created the Universe in six literal days, and all very good. 2) That sin entered and radically changed much of the good in creation physically; including an apparent dis-teleology (futility). 3) That the flood destroyed the world that then existed, radically and permanently changing the appearance and facts of the earth around us. 4) That sin also caused an ethical dilemma that ethically dissuades man from admitting the facts as God sees them. 5) that despite all this there are enough vestiges in creation, especially if interpreted in light of the above to show both the evident Intelligent Design of the Earth, and mark the Character of the Creator, and to reveal our duty to glorify Him.
The only solution for those who cannot grasp this, is salvation. They must become covenant keepers, as I noted in my last post.
The Church and Revelation
Here is the role of the church, which leads well back into the series I had begun to write. According to I Timothy 3:15, the Church is, "The pillar and grounds of the Truth". We are to proclaim, or "preach the Word, in season and out of season" (2 Ti. 4:1), because "it pleased God, by the foolish means of the message preached, to save those who believe" (I Co. 1:21).
Through this the ethical blinders can be removed and redeemed man can glorify God, as he was created to do.
Q: What is the Chief purpose of humanity? A: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
The Laws of Physics
Biblical creation is fundamentally in agreement with science. Science repeatedly affirms design. The fictional Star Trek character Scottie is famous for declaring in his lovable brogue, “Ye canna’ change the laws of physics!”
Astronomy, biology and archeology’s claims and recantations are in constant flux and theories leap from one extreme to another on a regular basis, but there are two scientific principles which have never been contradicted through centuries of experimentation and theorization.
1) The Conservation of Energy Principle
Sometimes expressed as the First Law of Thermodynamics, when speaking of energy:
The conservation of energy principle is one of the foundation principles of all science disciplines…. Energy can be defined as the capacity for doing work. It may exist in a variety of forms and may be transformed from one type of energy to another. However, these energy transformations are constrained by a fundamental principle, the Conservation of Energy principle. One way to state this principle is "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed". Another approach is to say that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant1.
We understand this as fundamental to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, that energy and matter are in principle one (E=MC2).
Both the Steady State Theory, once popular (events occurring outside of space), and the ruling Big Bang Theory (events occurring outside of time), are in clear contradiction of this Law of Science. The Bible on the other hand says that God, after instituting Time, Matter and Space (Gen 1:1), “ended His work” (Gen. 2:1) and now conserves the system (Col. 1:17) in perfect harmony with the Laws its author Superintends.
2) The Law of Entropy
Sometimes expressed as the Second law of Thermodynamics, again when referring to energy:
A measure of the disorder of a system…Since entropy gives information about the evolution of an isolated system with time, it is said to give us the direction of "time's arrow" . If snapshots of a system at two different times shows one state which is more disordered, then it could be implied that this state came later in time. For an isolated system, the natural course of events takes the system to a more disordered (higher entropy) state2.
The evolution of any system is always downward. In harmony with the First Law, the second maintains all the Energy of any given system, but teaches that it always moves to disorder from order, without outside stimulus. The Universe as a whole is dying and has been since its origin. If it was eternal, it would now be dead. This proves the temporal origin of the Universe and the need for a source that is infinite in energy, infinite in information and a “sufficient” not just possible cause for the Universe.
The Bible of course affirms all of this, “In the beginning God” (Gen. 1:1). The God of the Bible is infinite, personal, creative and sufficient to be the cause of the Universe we experience. Additionally the Bible tells us “The heavens will vanish away like smoke and the earth will grow old like a garment” (Is. 51:6). Time’s arrow is indeed pointing down. Some outworkings of this principle of entropy are good and natural, (ie friction, digestion etc.) and some the result of sin: “The creation was subjected to futility… by Him who subjected it in hope” (Rom. 8:20). That is as a result of sin, this principle is fatal, so that even death is a part of its cycle, “to dust you shall return” (Ge. 3:19).
The Bible and Modern Scientific Observations in Harmony
As Creationists and interpreters of the Bible affirm the laws and observations of Science, there is much data in common with naturalistic and theistic evolutionary thinkers. 1) The apparent disteleology and yet ultimate order of the Universe, 2) the survival of the fittest preservation and mutation mechanism, 3) nature red in tooth and claw as the natural state, 4) similarities between all life, structural, DNA, etc., 5) geographical strata, 6) fossils, 7) Astronomical observations “redshift” etc.
The only difference is in interpreting the history of these observations. Does disteleology and order show that the universe, contra the Law of Entropy, is moving upward? Does the survival of the fittest through mutation, imply the entry of new development to higher and higher forms, or the sorting of existing information? Is the violence of nature, the way it has always been, or is this the result of a curse on a perfect creation? Do similarities point to a common ancestor, or a common designer/artist? Does the geological record point to billions of years or a global catastrophe? Do fossils indicate upward progression, or rapid burial of related species? And so on and so on. How can these types of questions be addressed? Not through observational science. We have a rock, or a bone, not a time stamped document.
The Ethical Lens of Perception and Interpretive Revelation
“All men” by nature “Suppress the knowledge of God”. They “exchange the truth of God for the lie”, and “profession to be wise,” or enlightened, “they become fools”. And as they reject God, so He rejects them, and “gave them over to a depraved mind” (Romans One).
All men are by nature covenant keepers, or covenant breakers. In Scripture God has given a clear testimony of Creation, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day” (Ex. 20:11). The Evangelical church has always confessed something like this:
The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience (2 Timothy 3:15-17, Isaiah 8:20, Luke 16:29,31, Ephesians 2:20).In light of the authority of the source, namely God: the Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. And frankly, it speaks of everything. Not of course that it speaks of hockey games, of atoms, etc., directly, but it speaks of everything either directly or indirectly.
The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 John 5:9). --1689 LBC
This is where the question lays, both in the lab and in the Church. How do I live in obedience to God in everything? To say Scripture is unclear, or ambiguous in these matters is farcical as it speaks with the utmost clearness. As a consequence, it is an ethical decision, to believe in Biblical creation, not a mere debate about facts.
The Interrelatedness of Doctrine
Furthermore it must be understood that this Biblical doctrine of creation, as Romans One illustrates, that God is the author and sustainer of the universe, as well as the source of all good things, is the very foundation of all religious belief. It is this that is assaulted most fiercely by the kingdom of Satan, “which worship and serves the creature, rather than the Creator”.
The Bible is not a collection of loose doctrines for one to pick and choose from as one likes. The Account of Genesis one to eleven is no separated matter, cut off from the rest of Scripture. Rather every Christian doctrine, either explicitly, or implicitly finds its source in these chapters. If we take any view but that of a literal, plain rendering, then we risk many things:
1) Any other view denies the perspicuity and accuracy of Scripture, the sure foundation of our faith.
2) Any other views necessitate the denial of the doctrine of original sin, without which the entire doctrine of atonement, which the NT directly links to Genesis 3 is abolished (Cf. Rom. 6 and I Co. 15).
3) They necessitate the denial of the flood, which Peter calls a sign of apostasy, and specifically the denial of the doctrine of divine judgment “for this they willfully deny” (2 Pet. 3:5).
4) They necessitate the denial of the curse, as the present configuration is seen as the result of God’s intentional plan and not the corruption of the same into bondage (Rom. 8:20).
5) This in turn results in a denial of God’s attribute of goodness, because he is the God that designed cancer for little children, and bloodshed as the path to perfection “all very good” (Gen. 1:31). .
6) It denies a literal Adam and Eve, necessitating a denial of the foundation for the roles of men and women in marriage and the church and implies the denial of the second Adam and directly denies the resurrection (I Co. 15: 44-49).
7) It denies the testimony of Christ is true, as he testifies that mankind far from being the pinnacle of evolution, “Have you not read, that He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female” (Mt. 19:4). If Jesus was wrong here, what else was he wring on?
In essence, by embracing even theistic evolution, we have lost, the basic confession of even the Apostle’s creed. We have lost the knowablility of truth, sin, final judgment and thus morality, the atonement, redemption, the resurrection, the institution of marriage, the goodness of God and the truth of the words of Christ for starters. These doctrines cannot be held, without a literal Genesis 1-11. But that is not to say that those who deny the Genesis account do not personally hold to these. It merely means they have no valid foundation for them any more. By virtue of ignorance, or by blind faith, they cling to these unsupportable assumptions despite their view of origins.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
A Vision for Planting
I believe that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is the hope of the world (Eph 2:11; 4:4). I have a Biblical 1) purpose, 2) mission, 3) plan and 4) model to bring hope to the people God calls us to serve.
A Great Commission Church (Mt. 28:19-20)
*Evangelistically Motivated (As you go make disciples, baptizing them)
*Discipleship Oriented (teaching them to obey all things)
A Worshiping Fellowship (Acts 2:42)
*Apostle's Doctrine and Prayer (Worshiping in Spirit and Truth)
*Fellowship and Breaking of Bread (Fellowshipping in Unity of Faith)
Training Ambassador's For Christ (Eph 4:11-13)
*Divinely Commissioned Work (He Himself gave some… pastor-teachers)
*Equipping the Ambassadors (for the work of ministry)
Communicate the Full Council of God (Acts 20:27, 2 Co. 5:14-21)
*Create Contagious Passion for Christ (2 Co. 5:14-15, 21)
*Instill Courageous Passion for the Lost (2 Co. 5:20)
*Establish a Cyclical Pattern of Discipleship (2 Co. 5:16-19)
God has laid on my heart a picture of how to fulfill the purpose, mission and plan illustrated above. Fundamentally, I believe the twin epistles of Paul to Timothy lay out a very clear and practical model for my pastoral ministry. From these I draw my own ministry philosophy, my Biblical Mandate. Afterward, I will explain how I hope to put my mandate into practice.
The Timothy Model (The Biblical Mandate)
Prepare Leaders Carefully select spiritual leaders for the church on the basis of their giftedness, godliness, and virtue (I Ti. 3:1-13). Using great care and seeing they are both mature and proven (I Ti. 5:22).
Teach and Disciple Teach and preach principles of true godliness, to create discerning people (I Ti. 5:24-6:6). Portray the best model I can in my conduct and character (I Ti. 4:12), passing on apostolic truth in order to reproduce myself in faithful disciples (2 Ti. 2:2).
Preach and Evangelize Boldly command and teach the truth of God's word (I Ti. 4:12), through preaching to exhort, rebuke and reprove with great patience and instruction (2 Ti. 4:1, 2), understanding that Scripture is the basis and content of all legitimate ministry (2 Ti. 3:16-17). Do the work of an evangelist (2 Ti. 4:5), constantly praying for the lost and teaching the leaders of the church to do the same (I Ti. 2:1-8).
The Timothy Practice (The Mandate in Action)
Step one: Partner: Begin to build trust relationships with people in the community. Through evangelism and/or networking, establish a core of disciples to partner with me in the vision. Men and women, who are committed to evangelism and have their hearts broken for the community in which we live, to join me in praying and seeking God's direction in reaching the lost. Immediate goal of developing a small group of likeminded individuals to begin the project.
Step two: Prepare: Meet with these partners for practical training and encouragement, establishing basic doctrinal mission (as expressed above) regular times of prayer and concrete evangelistic objectives. (Grid out the community and strategize a campaign to proclaim God's love and truth to every household. Plan servant evangelism projects, gain practical tips on 'how to' appropriately and relevantly share the content of the faith etc.). Leaders for future ministry roles begin to be identified. Immediate- short term goal.
Step three: Practice: Capitalize on trust relationships. Evangelize the community; advertise our passion to unchurched Christians. Incorporating or reincorporating these two groups into reproducing units (ie. The prepare groups. Preferably under leaders who completed the first cycle). From this point, leaders who have been identified are discipled for their roles in corporate worship, evangelism leadership, etc. Short term goal.
Step four: Praise: As soon as sufficient numbers are available and a place can be arranged, gather to worship together in a corporate group; recognizing the principle that missions exist, because worship doesn't. (Prepare and practice groups continuing to operate). Leaders identified and trained, participate in worship and assume responsibility for aspects of prepare and practice group ministries. Medium-short term goal.
Step five: Produce: Successfully harvest a renewable crop of cyclical disciples who participate in praise worship, train and pray in prepare and serve in practice groups. We want to see ongoing new births and baptisms as a fundamental component of our existence. Medium term goal.
Step six: Plant: After being established as a body and establishing healthy growth and discipleship patterns, we need to move beyond our "Jerusalem" to our region… and the ends of the earth. Having met the goal of a healthy worshipping organism, being matured and nourished together, we want to reproduce ourselves corporately, as the leadership did personally, and see other Great Commission Churches planted, cooperating in local and foreign missions. This is a key component of our Great Commission purpose to be emphasized from day one. Long term goal.
Monday, November 06, 2006
(Reflections on I Pt. 1:1-2)
We are pilgrims of Diaspora, of every tribe and tongue,
As the rejects of the world, we worship You in song.
Like Israel's seed long ago, scattered throughout the earth,
As Zerubbabel led them home, You lead us to new birth.
We yet rejected by the world, yet by Your grace chosen,
You foreloved us in ages past, for us sent Your only Son.
Still enemies despising you, you called us as Your heirs,
You justified our sinful past, set us apart by Spirit's pares.
From the hopeless darkness, brought into joyous light.
Once slaves to sin's requirement, you freed us to obey.
As Moses came to Israel, from Sinai's cloudy height,
You brought a new covenant, with your help we'll obey.
The congregation swore that day, to do and to observe,
But in the weakness of the flesh, they failed miserably.
In mere human strength, we too outside would swerve,
But future grace safeguarding, peace reins perpetually.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
We need to have a certainty about the Purpose of the Church, based on Scripture. Why does the church exist?
a) The church exists to worship and glorify God.
1 Cor. 10:31—“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Heb. 13:15—“Through Him, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise.”
b) The church exists to be a repository of divine truth.
1 Tim. 3:15—“I write so you may know how to conduct yourselves in the church, which is the pillar and support of the truth.”
c) The church exists to provide a context of loving fellowship with one another for the purpose of mutual edification (Eph. 3:16–19)
Eph 4:12-16—“for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, to the
building up of the body of Christ”
d) The church exists as a training center whereby people can grow through the application of
teaching and the utilization of their spiritual gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12–14; Eph. 4).
1 Pet 4:10—“As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another”
e) The church exists to be a light in this dark world, for the evangelization of the lost (Matt.
5:13–16; 28:19–20; Titus 2:11–15).
Matt 28:19-20—"Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey all things whatsoever I have commanded you"
Knowing why the church exists, we need to ask what it consequently, ought to do? Can we set practical goals that relate to the above purposes?
I believe the Biblical goals of a healthy church are set to reflect the purposes above. They may be summarized as serving 1) worship, 2) fellowship, 3) spiritual growth 4) and evangelism.
All our goals must aim at one of these "Core Practices". All else is superfluous. But how can we know if we have done these in an excellent way? Does the Bible only speak in theory? What kind of benchmarks does one look for?
I recently read a summary of Paul's instructions to Timothy in the twin epistles that bear his name, regarding his pastoral oversight of the church. Paul "was not advising Timothy to seek success; he was urging him to pursue excellence".
Godly Leadership, (Ti. 1:5-9, I Ti. 3:1-7),
Leaders who are above reproach, devoted to their wife, temperate, gentle, respectable, just, devout, hospitable, lovers of good, able to teach, not self-centered or self-willed, not quick tempered or pugnacious, not contentious, free from the love of money, good managers of their own household, men with a good reputation among unbelievers—and mature believers, not recent converts. From that platform of godly example, they teach the Scripture and lead their people to Christlikeness (Ti. 1:9).
Discipleship, (Eph. 4:11,12)
The ministry of developing deeply spiritual friendships focused on teaching biblical truth, applying Scripture to life, and consequently learning to solve problems biblically –reinforced by godly examples. This involves time and personal involvement. (Jesus ministry to His own disciples is the biblical model). It must also include restorative discipline (Mt. 18:15-20).
Outreach, (Acts 17:6, 5:28)
The church built by Christ will have a strong emphasis on evangelism, beginning with its own community and extending to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Concern For One Another, (Heb 10:24,25)
The "one another" passages (eg. Ro. 12:10, 16; 14:13; 15:5, 7, 14 to name only one epistle's list) put into practice will result in a caring, sensitive, and loving church. When spiritual gifts (cf. Ro. 12:3-8; I Co. 12:4-11; and I Peter 4:10,11) are properly exercised in that context, the members will produce a community conformed to the image of Christ.
A Commitment to the Family, (Mt. 19:4-6)
Helping our people to develop solid marriages and sturdy families by teaching husbands to love and lead their wives (Eph. 5:25), wives to submit to their husbands (5:22), children to obey their parents (6:1), and parents not to exasperate their children but to nurture them in the Lord (6:4).
Biblical Teaching and Preaching, (I Ti. 4:11, 2 Ti. 4:2)
D. Martin Lloyd-Jones once proclaimed: "…I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian church today is true preaching;…[and] obviously the greatest need of the world also." (Ro. 10:13,14,17).
A Willingness to Change, (I Co. 9:19-23)
Someone has said the last 7 words of a church are, "We've never done it that way before!" We must be willing to grow and adapt and try new things. Stagnation can be fatal to the church. However, we don't need to "abandon the centrality of the word of God, the primacy of preaching, and the fundamentals of biblical truth in order to be fresh and creative."
Worship, (Psalm 150)
This is the church's—and the individual Christian's—highest priority (I Co. 10:31). Worship is all of life, not just corporate services, but certainly including them (Heb. 10:25). Using the regulative principle (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), we need to worship God in Spirit and in Truth (Jn. 4:24, Deut. 4:2, 12:32, Rev. 22:18-19).
Monday, October 16, 2006
So Karmyn woke me up a couple of days ago and said, "There's a man outside the window with a gun."
"Well," I said, "We are in Virginia".
"Do you think I should call the police?"
"I think you should step away from the window"
So we are doing well, and the squirrels are bugging us less. So all and all a good day.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Now we know of course that all of the decay is the result of sin and the curse, and in this verse we see a glorious parallel. From the moment of birth, we are under sin: "For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5 NLT). That means from the moment of conception we are "sold under sin" and we are corrupt in mind and body, we are "accustomed to doing evil" and on the inevitable decline to dissipation, depravity and damnation.
I have been reading in First John, and I was really struck by this particular idea from the third chapter:
28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have
confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.29 If you know that He is
righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that
we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us,
because it did not know Him.2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has
not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we
shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.3 And everyone who has this
hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 2:28-3:3 NKJV).
The miracle of Salvation is being "born again"; "whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (italics added I Jn. 5:1). From the moment of our "New Birth" we are no longer on the trajectory and inevitable, we will become "like Him". We are becoming, not dying, our spiritual muscles are strengthening, our consciences are being built into a nervous system that overcomes sin, minds being sharpened in the truth and spiritual life, the abundant life, the joyful life is more and more ours! Now "it has not yet being revealed" exactly what this will look like in the end, just as none of us knows how far we'll age, or whether we'll grow frail in this way, or that, we know it is inevitable that we will die. But in Christ, we have this hope, that although we don't know how exactly we'll look, or to what extent we shall see it in this life, but we will live eternally free from sin!
Thursday, September 28, 2006
"You can't see that the United States is responsible for all the evil in the world because you can see so many dictators and so many bestial acts all over the world now. .... There is something in the human heart, the international human heart, that is evil," ( italics added: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060929/ap_en_ce/film_oliver_stone).
Sometimes the world seems to convey a message to the church, which we need to revive. The Scriptures are very clear:
[A]ll people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. 10 As the Scriptures say, “No one is good— not even one. 11 No one has real understanding; no one is seeking God. 12 All have turned away from God; all have gone wrong. No one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their speech is filled with lies.” “The poison of a deadly snake drips from their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “They are quick to commit murder. 16 wherever they go, destruction and misery follow them. 17 They do not know what true peace is.” 18 “They have no fear of God to restrain them.” (Rom. 3:9-18 NLT).It is neither Bush, nor the US, nor poverty, that is the "root" cause of evil, terrorism and suffering in the world. The root cause is sin, and while the symptoms may be treated by wise statecraft and charitable works, we must be cognizant of the desperate need to get the gospel to every creature, making disciples, teaching them to follow Christ in all things (Mt. 28:19-20).
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Liberalism—which says not all the Bible is inspired and inerrant.
Relativism—which says there is no absolute truth.
Evolutionism—which denies the creative acts of God as Biblically recorded.
Radical feminism—which promotes political correctness and redefining of the family.
Universalism—which would say all religions are equally valid.
Extreme Calvinism (http://sermons.trbc.org/20060917_11AM.html).
Now we say Amen!
Um, can anyone name an extreme Calvinist in the evangelical church? Can we document a threat that is on par with Liberalism, Evolutionism, Universalism as a threat to the faith? I have, as a student at a SBC seminary and a member of an SBC church, heard these warnings over and over.
…every and any form of Calvinism is somehow dubbed as hypercalvinism in the SBC. The term is seldomly defined and ambiguously defended. Wise voices such as Adrian Rogers, Danny Akin, and Paige Patterson have warned about the dangers of unchecked hyper-Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention. Now, where has it been documented and clearly noted where the “unchecked hyper-Calvinism is in the Southern Baptist Convention? With all the “white papers” being written by professors at seminaries and all the sermons being preached against hyper-calvinism in the SBC, one would think that they could provide the names of leaders or proponents of hypercalvinism in the SBC. But has one name been given? No. Not one (http://strangebaptistfire.com/2006/05/15/sbc-the-presidency-and-hypercalvinism/).
Having researched the issue, I believe that this is true. That these warnings are truly aimed at any and all forms of Calvinism, through lack of knowledge and historical misunderstanding. While it is not vital to me, whether one claims to be Calvinist, or Arminian, It is vital that our gospel message be Biblical.
I don't think that it is right to summarily dismiss a massive part of the evangelical church as a threat to the gospel, because of a name. To that end I have included an extent quote from a Calvinist website that lends clarity to the conversation:
- that God is the author of sin and of evil
- that men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect
- that the number of the elect at any time may be known by men
- that it is wrong to evangelize
- that assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith
- that men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do
- that God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others
- that the children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned
- that God does not command everyone to repent
- that the sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone.
- that the true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church
- that the Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church.
- that no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority
- that the grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men
- that saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination
- that only Calvinists are Christians (Neo-gnostic Calvinism)
One of these "Calvinists", was also one of the greatest soul winners the world has ever known, Charles Hadden Spurgeon. He replies to these same accusations in this way:
This doctrine, stern as it may seem to be, does not oppose the consolation which may be rightly derived from any other truth of revelation. Those who hold the free-will theory, say that our doctrine, that salvation is of the Lord alone, and that he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, takes away from man the comfort derivable from God's goodness. God is good, infinitely good in his nature. God is love; he willeth not the death of any, but had rather that all should come to repentance. "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto me and live." Our friends very properly insist upon it that God is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works; that the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy; let me assure them that we shall never quarrel on these points, for we also rejoice in the same facts…. Do I not, again and again, assert the universal benevolence of God—the infinite and overflowing goodness of the heart of the Most High? ….There is not the slightest shadow of a conflict between God's sovereignty and God's goodness. He may be a sovereign, and yet it may be absolutely certain that he will always act in the way of goodness and love. It is true that he will do as he wills; and yet it is quite certain that he always wills to do that which, in the widest view of it, is good and gracious. If the sons of sorrow fetch any comfort from the goodness of God, the doctrine of election will never stand in their way ( Election, No Discouragement to Seeking Souls: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0553.htm).
Whether you choose to identify with one camp or the other, let us focus on what is most important, being biblical. Preach the gospel. But please apply reason to this debate and lets be careful not to call our great Baptist missionaries (William Carey 5 point Calvinist), our modern evangelistic role models (Bill Bright 5 point Calvinist), and our Baptist heroes of the faith (C.H. Spurgeon 5 point Calvinist) enemies of the gospel.
Neither John Wesley, nor George Whitfield, were enemies of the gospel, though one was Arminian, and the later Calvinist. This is an important issue, that should be talked about, debated and settled in each of our minds, but lets do it based on the Bible, instead of on baseless accusations of ignorance.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
This is a Hebrew Biblical passage.
When the Pharisees began to conduct business at the Temple, Jesus quoted this passage to justify his cleansing of the temple.
"For My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer." (Isaiah 56:7). The Hebrew letters above the south entrance of Temple Israel's Riverbend synagogue spell out this message for all to see (http://www.tidayton.org/).
Wikipedia notes: "According to halakha Jews should—and men must—pray three times a day; ideally with a minyan. Although prayers can be recited anywhere (except in nonhygienic or immodest environments), the synagogue's primary purpose is to facilitate this communal prayer." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synagogue).
Jesus disciples received the Holy Ghost in the upper room where, "they all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 2:14). The early church regularly gathered, and "continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).
Paul wrote 1 Timothy as a handbook on how we ought to "conduct [ourselves] in the house of god" (3:15), that is the church. In chapter 2 he writes, "I desire that men (plural) in every locality pray lifting up holy hands" (I Ti. 2:8). We are to make "supplications, prayers, intercession and giving of thanks" for all men (2:1).
I can't think of the last time I heard of a well attended prayer meeting of a local church anywhere. I wonder why this is so radically missing in our evangelical scene? I wonder if it is a sign of our spiritual depth (or lack thereof)?
I have become more and more convicted of the need to have a more regular and effective prayer life personally. As I have begun to put this principle into practice I have felt closer to God, sinned less and worshipped more. I wonder what would happen if our churches did this together in greater numbers?
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Community exists everywhere in our culture, from the traditional sports and clubs to the new wave of web groups. It has been said that in the "post-modern", culture, community is paramount. If the church is to reach this generation for Christ, then she must become the community par excellence of our time.
Only through community, the argument runs, can the gospel be effectively shared. Only through community can discipleship advance. Is this true? Is this Biblical?
Certainly there is a great deal of truth in the claims of today's post-modern pundits. Christian post-moderns still believe in some absolutes, so we can say that. Facebook is the most talked about thing in the college generation. Belonging to the "cool" e-groups is all the rage. People do tend to be more effectively ministered to by those they trust and are in relationship with. Whether it is in trusting the messenger enough to listen intently to the gospel, or to let someone know our struggles and allow ourselves to be discipled.
Biblically, we see that the Church is a Community. We are the e!kklhsia, that is "the gathered. The Church is a "body" that functions together (I co. 12:12). It is a place that cares for the poor and orphan (Jms 1:27). So the church should excel in community.
Evangelistically, we know the culture is desperate for community, and they should see this in us, as Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Mt. 5:16).
Equal to this opportunity, is the great danger presented. An experienced and effective evangelist warned me, "What you draw people with, is what you draw them to". It is very possible to veil the gospel and create "community-Christians", as happened in the earliest church in Acts (More will be explained on this later).
Theologically, the danger of relational redemption is most concerning. The community theologians tend to emphasis the loss of relationship in the fall, and the fundamental need to be restored to "relationship" with God. But there is little to no mention of sin and atonement. Is a person saved, by joining the community, or by repentance and faith? That is not to say that all "community" efforts drop the gospel, but there is a tendency to minimize it.
Further, communities tend to gather around all sorts of things, imitating the world, instead of creating true biblical community. This leaves us with the fundamental challenge, "what does God teach about biblical community?"
Monday, September 18, 2006
It is the sine qua non of Americana to enjoy, "Life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness". Liberty University, carries the motto: Knowledge Aflame.
Biblically I am struck by the passion of Paul, seen in his prayer on behalf of the Phillipian church, "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment….being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Christ Jesus, to the glory and praise of God" (Phil 1:9,11). King David told his son Solomon, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding" (Prov. 4:7), and so "when you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and you will not stumble" (v.12).
The Christian life is vitally tied to knowledge. The type of knowledge Paul prays for is e=pivgnwsiV (epignosis), meaning "precise and accurate knowledge". It is this knowledge that allows us to be "filled with the fruits of righteousness".
Essential to Evangelism
The only evangelism that can succeed is an evangelism that gives the hearer precise and accurate knowledge of their condition, along with the atoning work of Christ the Creator. This is what God meant, when He inspired Paul to write that He "desires all men to be saved, even to come to the knowledge of the truth: (I Ti. 2:4). We are to come to –the—knowledge of –the—truth. Salvation is Truth oriented, not emotion, not work, not action, but faith from the knowledge (e=pivgnwsiV) of the truth. Jesus said, "You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you at liberty" (Jn. 8:32).
Essential to Sanctification
The Christian must rely on the Truth, to pursue his "liberty". Jesus prayed to the Father, "Sanctify them by Your Truth. Your word is Truth" (Jn. 17:17). For this reason, "study diligently to show your self approved unto God, a worker, who does not need to be ashamed, correctly dividing the word of truth" (II Ti. 2:15).
Be free from slavery to sin, "since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in the knowledge according to Him who created him" (Col. 3:9b-10). If you want fruit, water the root.
Monday, September 11, 2006
whykrbl Belonging to Baruch
whyrn /b Son of Nariah
rpsh The Scribe
I recently translated and researched this seal for a Paleo-Hebrew class assignment and I found it a real uplifting spiritual experience. "Ah!?" Says the reader, "you are crazy!" But give me a chance to explain. Sometimes it is easy to get into the habit of thinking of Biblical persons as characters from a story, or perhaps a television show. But we need to keep in mind, that they are real, living, breathing, historical personages, like Napoleon, or Charles Spurgeon. Here we have a concrete piece of evidence, helping us not only to understand the reality of this historical figure, but also to know him a little better and provide commentary to our understanding of Jeremiah's ministry.
Baruch, the Son of Neriah
As a student of the Bible this Seal is a really cool find. In 1975 some archeologist discovered about 200 clay pieces called "bullae":
Bullae are lumps of clay which were attached to documents and impressed with a seal. From the shape of its Hebrew characters (which vary throughout history) scholars date the collection to the 6th century BC, the time of Jeremiah. Within this collection are two bullae believed to have belonged to Baruch, and Jerahmeel (http://home.att.net/~kmpope/SealofBaruch.html).
In the Society of Biblical Literature Forum, Lawrence J. Mykytiuk writes:
The bullae made from Baruch's seal read, "Belonging to Berekyahu, the son of Neriyahu, the scribe." Jeremiah 36:32 almost exactly matches this identifying phrase with "Baruch, the son of Neriyahu, the scribe." (http://www.sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleId=292).
This means we are looking at a belonging, a tool of one of the Bible's most exciting prophetic periods. The book of Jeremiah gives a treasure trove of information regarding the owner of this 2700 year old artifact. Through the difficult years of Jeremiah's ministry God supplied Baruch as a faithful companion whom we see first appearing in Jeremiah chapter thirty-two (cf. 32:12).
Baruch served as Jeremiah's Personal Secretary, actually writing the words of what we know as the Biblical book of Jeremiah (Jer. 45:1).
He was more then a mere scribe, as we can see him oberating as an agent for Jermiah's business affairs (cf. 32:12-15).
Evidently he had a great deal of real, or perceived influence over the prophet as his enemies accuse him: "Baruch the son of Neriah is inciting you against us to give us over into the hand of the Chaldeans, so they will put us to death or exile us to Babylon (Jer. 43:3).
Baruch, was very important in Israel:
Here the title "scribe" does not just describe a general occupation. Especially on a personal seal or bulla, as in this instance, it is an official, governmental title granted to a very high official in the royal administration. Doubtless after his seal was made, Baruch fell out of royal favor; he allied himself with the prophet Jeremiah, perceived by some to be a pro-Babylonian traitor. Still, having borne such a title, Berekyahu/Baruch would have easy access to the official workspaces of his former colleagues, where Jeremiah 36:9-19 places him (http://www.sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleId=292).
This certainly leaves the reader with a greater appreciation of the ins and outs of Jeremiah's ministry, his methods and his contacts. Perhaps the son of a High priest and the son of a high official (cf. 51:59), had a childhood friendship.
Baruch's life ended, scholars believe, in Egypt, after we last hear of him in Jer 43:6-7, being carted off during the invasion if Jerusalem.
When we look at his seal, we are brought to "know" that Jeremiah and his companions were real, historical people. There message was presented in History, and we need to heed their words as real words, from the prophets and servants of God, coming to us almost 3000 years later:
Hear the word, which the Lord speaks to you… (Jer 10:1)
It has been said that North America, and especially Western Europe is now living in a post-Christian culture. What does this mean to the mission of the Church? For many it means it is time to abandon the Kirk. It is time to have spiritual places that are pit stops on the journey. Places where people can define god in their own way.
Others say, we may keep the Church, but it must change its character. It has obviously failed. And it has failed because it is no longer relevant to the culture. We must change the church, to conform to the post Christian gestalt we find ourselves ministering in. No longer can we "preach" in the traditional sense. Oh, we can Narrate a story, as long as it is relatively short and incorporates video, music, drama. But, we must never "preach at" people.
There are other solutions, but in the end of the day, there is one foundation we must be bound to, Jesus Christ:
With the Lord’s authority let me say this: Live no longer as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. But that isn’t what you were taught when you learned about Christ. Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness—righteous, holy, and true (Eph. 4:17,18,20-24 NLT).
The solution for the church's woes, is to stop living as the "hopelessly confused". There "must be a spiritual renewal" in the "thoughts and attitudes" of ourselves and those we try to reach.