Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Could Cause This?

The cause of all of this must be infinite in power, knowledge, and glory. What sustains of all of this must be mighty, sovereign, and loving.

Psalm 19:1
The heavens are telling of the glory of God ; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Luke Plagiarized

I found this to be a very cool fact about the Gospel of Luke.
"Stephen Farris has shown that the Greek of Luke 1-2 is filled with grammatical and stylistic nuances not found with the same frequency elsewhere in Luke, or in a sizable selection of other ancient Greek writings surveyed, but that make good sense as a very wooden, literal translation of Hebrew or Aramaic into Greek. Farris emphasizes that these features are not the kinds that lend themselves to conscious imitation by one who might want to give his writing a biblical flavor, because they involve the frequency and usage of various prepositions, articles, adverbs and adjectives rather than the more readily reproducible vocabulary or parts of speech. Luke therefore most probably relied on earlier tradition for these chapters."
In other words, there were already writings about Jesus available at the time of Luke writing his Gospel. This emphasizes Luke's care as an author and the closeness of his and earlier writings to the events of Jesus' life.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Atheism Remix

the campus church - atheism remix from the campus church on Vimeo.

A great video to watch, if you've got 80 minutes. If you don't then watch it in two sittings like I did. The first 4o minutes are a fantastic presentation and argument put forth by Dr. Mohler. The second 40 minutes is a Q&A that I found to be very informative and comforting.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Martyn Lloyd-Monday: No Vestige of Hope

I took two weeks off because I had all four wisdom teeth pulled. Back up and running now, and to kick it off with a solid quote from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones about how there is no hope outside of Christ.
"Let me assert it very dogmatically; there is no hope whatsoever for this world apart from our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you found any? I say again, search your newspapers, your books on history, philosophy, poetry, science; go the complete round; where is there any vestige of hope? There is none. But God has purposed to restore all things in Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the only way."
-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
-An Exposition of Ephesians 3: The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

Monday, November 09, 2009

Martyn Lloyd-Monday: How To Hunger & Thirst

A fitting post for my birthday since Martyn Lloyd-Jones was probably the most influential author that I read after leaving a life of sin and deception. The following quote has been a favorite of mine for a long time. He is expounding on the opening progression of the sermon on the mount
"I am poor in spirit; I realize that I have no righteousness; I realize that face to face with God and His righteousness I am utterly helpless; I can do nothing. Not only that. I mourn because of the sin that is within me; I have come to see, as the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit, that blackness of my own heart. I know what it is to cry out, 'O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?' and desire to be rid of this vileness that is within me. Not only that. I am meek, which means that now that I have experienced this true view of myself, nobody else can hurt me, nobody else can insult me, nobody can ever say anything too bad about me. I have seen myself, and my greatest enemy does not know the worst about me. I have seen myself as something truly hateful, and it is because of this that I have hungered and thirsted after righteousness. I have longed for it. I have seen that I cannot create or produce it, and that nobody else can. I have seen my desperate position in the sight of God. I have hungered and thirsted for that righteousness which will put me right with God, that will reconcile me to God, and give me a new nature and life. And I have seen it in Christ. I have been filled; I have received it all as a free gift.

Does it not follow inevitably that, if I have seen and experienced all that, my attitude towards everybody else must completely and entirely changed?"
He inevitably arrives at the conclusion that seeing our own emptiness and God's fullness should change our treatment of others. In other words, inward change is the only way to true outward change.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Calvinism Resources

While I do not normally promote that I am a Calvinist like some kind of badge, or enjoy using labels that can bring confusion, I think some of the following resources would be helpful to any Christian thinking about the topic.

First, a great place to start is with J.I. Packer's introductory essay to John Owen's, "The Death of Death in The Death of Christ,". Not only will this give you an accurate account of the origins of the 5-points of Calvinism, but Packer makes a solid and winsome argument for Calvinism. I would not, however, recommend Owen's book for a beginner which is why I have provided a link to the introduction.

Next, after establishing the history and basic framework of Calvinism it would be good to read two well studied men debate the finer points of Calvinism. In the book, "Debating Calvinism," I found many of my knee jerk objections to Calvinism made by Dave Hunt and then promptly destroyed by Jame White. This is a fantastic read for people on both sides of the fence.

Now, by this point you are either going to be strongly against, leaning toward, or convinced. If you are either of the two latter then, "The Sovereignty of God," by A.W. Pink would be a great book to read next. Pink is exhaustive, scholarly, but very easy to understand. I suppose this would be good if you are still strongly against Calvinism but open to hearing one of the most lengthy arguments for its main foundation.

After this much reading you are either going to walk away from Calvinism or agree with it and want to know more. It is at this point I recommend J.I. Packer's, "Knowing God," due to its rich content and laymen level of reading. This was probably the most influential book in my life as it dealt with my ignorance and many questions about God. The book is not a treatise on Calvinism, however Packer's Calvinistic convictions are quite obvious throughout the pages of this wonderful book.

Now it is time to place all this information within a solid framework . The best book for this is, "Systematic Theology," by Wayne Grudem. This is yet another rich resource of scholarly information put into the language of the laymen. Grudem also has lectures available in the iTunes store podcast section to couple the reading of his book with lectures he has given on each chapter.

Finally, a shorter and less "classroom" like approach to the broad area of theology. John L. Dagg's, "Manual of Theology," is a wonderful resource for concise and readable chapters on theology. I describe Dagg's writing as more devotional or conversational than Grudem. Both, however, are very helpful in dealing with biblically defining and defending Calvinism and other theological issues.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Quit Using Facebook/Twitter To Glorify Yourself

I have been growingly concerned with how much boasting and pride I see on facebook and twitter, and have been wanting to write about it for a while. After reading Psalm 5, I think I know how I want to proceed. First and foremost let me say that I struggle with this all of the time, so this entry is convicting me as I write it. Facebook and twitter are a means of people "seeing" me, so it is incredibly easy to do things that draw attention to myself instead of God. That is why I try to recite a verse to myself before doing an update or post...

Matthew 6:1
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

This always echos in my mind when I read over so many facebook and twitter updates. Many Christians make it their aim to practice their righteousness in order to be seen. As you read this I hope you feel the conviction to stop or the caution to steer clear. Now, verse 2 makes it very clear that what Jesus is saying is applicable to what many of us do in the public arena of the social web today.

Matthew 6:2
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Jesus warns us like this in three different ways: when we give to the needy, pray, and fast. I'm sure you may want to object at this point and say, "How does anyone do this on facebook or twitter?" Well, it is actually quite common and very easy to fall into. Someone makes sure to mention how they are using their Saturday to give to charity (give to the needy). Someone makes sure to mention how early they have to get up for a prayer service that only a few people attend (prayer). Someone rails against a certain food or form of entertainment because they abstain (fast). Reading over these I'm sure you can think of a time you or people you know have done this. Now, this became more urgent to me when I read Psalm 5.

Psalm 5:5
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.

David makes it very clear that what Jesus is talking about is not just something we do horizontally to those around us, but it is something vertical toward God as well. But what does it mean, "shall not stand before your eyes"? What it means is that when you are boastful you align yourself with the evildoers that God hates, which is exactly what Jesus says in Matthew 6. He says over and over, "Do not be like the hypocrites". So you are not just turning toward man to boast, you are removing yourself from the presence of God and standing in the way of sinners (Psalm 1:1). This is why Jesus repeated this warning three times and in three different ways. Reading over this has helped and convicted me, I hope it helps you as well.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Jesus is the Center of History

Taken from, "Vintage Jesus," by Mark Driscoll, the following quotes are about the impact Jesus had on history. My favorite quote, by far, is the one from Napoleon.

Stephen Neill:
"He who says 'Jesus' says also 'history.'"

H.G. Wells:
"I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history."

Philip Schaff:
"No great life ever passed so swiftly, so quietly, so humbly, so far removed from the noise and commotion of the world; and no great life after its close excited such universal and lasting interest."

Kenneth Scott Latourette:
"As the centuries pass, the evidence is accumulating that, measured by His effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet."

Napoleon Bonaparte:
"I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Suffering Brings Steadfastness

Just today I was discussing how trials bring about our good with a friend of mine. After I got home I realized that James already wrote about this in an incredibly clear manner...
James 1:2-4
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
What an sweet and comforting truth! We are to count it all joy when we suffer because it produces steadfastness. The reasoning here is just awesome. James tells us to be joyful when we meet trials because we already know that when our faith is tested we become more steadfast. He is rooting this on previous knowledge and experience, hence him saying "for you know". The reason this can be said to any Christian is because every new convert goes through the trial of persecution. It does not necessarily have to be grievous persecution, but it will not doubt come. So from the very early days of our faith, we have been tried and our faith has grown and increased steadfastness is the result. So, Christian, fuel your joy with the knowledge that every trial has made you more steadfast. James concludes his thought on being steadfast in verse 12...
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
More emphasis on how remaining steadfast is linked to our joy. We will be blessed and receive the crown of life if we remain steadfast. Despair is a wild spiral down from this glorious truth, and joy is a lifted head of steadfast faith.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Work out your own Salvation?

Sanctification is often an illusive idea for Christians, myself included. Too often people run to one extreme camp or the other. Some become legalistic, placing heavy burdens on the shoulders of Christians, over emphasizing rules, good habits, and being "holy". Other people stress grace and God's mercy rather than attempt to define any principles at all in fear of sounding legalistic. When this subject came up in my counseling class today, I immediately thought of Philippians 2:12-13
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
When you first read this is sounds very strange. Work out my own salvation? What does that mean? I thought it was God who saves! A careful reading illuminates what sanctification looks like.

The first thing to note is that we are commanded to work out while God works in. This is helpful in that we are limited to an outer work. You can not sit down and change your own wicked heart, it is God who does that. In other words, God must work in for our salvation so what we can work out our salvation. Hence the word "for" squeezed in between the two. Paul is saying "work out your salvation because God is working in you". He is not saying, do this so God will work in you, he is saying do this because God works in you. Imagine, right before the word "for" the question "Why?".

The second thing to note is the different words Paul actually uses. The word he uses for "work" is a different word and aspect than the word for "works".

  • The word for work in the Greek is κατεργάζεσθε which means cause, perform, work out. It is a 2nd person plural present imperative which means Paul is using it as a command to the Philippians. He is essentially saying, "Hey, you all, do this."
  • The word for works in the Greek is ἐνεργῶν which means do, be effectual, be mighty in. It is a present active participle which means Paul is saying this is something God is continually doing.

Paul is not saying that we do some work outwardly and God does some work inwardly and it is a mutual effort from both parties like a three legged race where two people are tied together. The work being done by both parties is different in substance (one is outward one is inward) and different in aspect (one is commanded one is continual). So Paul is saying that we are to outwardly show what God is continually doing in us. Think about that for a minute. We are not outwardly working to be saved, we are outwardly working because we're saved. Remember that word
"for" squeezed in between the two statements?

This setup is pivotal in never boasting because any outward work is based on the continual inward work that God is doing. Realizing that God is continually and inwardly working on us is the only way we will achieve the attitude that Paul prescribed: "with fear and trembling". Once you grasp this truth, that God is mightily and continually working inwardly on your heart, then you will fearfully and reverently attempt to work outwardly to show this. In fact, Paul uses the same word for the final
"work" as he did when he said "works". This means we will do mighty and effectual things for God's good pleasure as an outpouring of the continual mighty and effectual work being done in us. Is there still a tension here? Yes. But this sheds light on the inter-workings of sanctification that hopefully fuels the fearful outworking of our salvation.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Martyn Lloyd-Monday: Why Does God Allow War?

In his book, "Why Does God Allow War?", Martyn Lloyd-Jones grapples with a common question posed to Christians and people of faith. However, he does not even begin to answer the question until the second to last chapter. The book is only 126 pages long, but he is careful to place man and God in their proper context before attempting to answer a difficult question. This excerpt is worthy of note:
"It is only as we suffer and see our folly, and the utter bankruptcy and helplessness of men, that we shall turn to God and rely upon Him. Indeed, as I contemplate human nature and human life, what astonishes me is not that God allows and permits war, but the patience and the long-suffering of God. He suffered the evil, perverse ways of the children of Israel for centuries; and now for nearly two thousand years He has patiently borne with a world which in the main rejects and refuses His loving offer, even in the Person of His only-begotten Son. The question that needs to be asked it not 'Why does God allow war?' but rather, 'Why does God not allow the world to destroy itself entirely in its iniquity and its sin? Why does He in His restraining grace set a limit to evil and to sin, and a bound beyond which they cannot pass?' Oh, the amazing patience of God with this sinful world! How wondrous is His love!"
He reminds me of Paul in this little exchange. So caught up in the love of God and the view of man's helpless estate he does not even let the question take root. Similar to Paul, meditating on all that God has done causes him to cry out in praise rather than cynically question.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What's The Difference?

On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, opposing the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. To commemorate this historical moment I would like to highlight his very first thesis.
1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
This reminded me of something I wrote about the difference between confession and repentance:
Confession and repentance are no doubt related, but they are in fact, very different. Confession is the acknowledgment of a wrong while repentance is the sorrowful turning away from the admitted wrong. Too often in Christian circles we accept/offer confession without repentance. This leads to pattern behavior and passive justification of the wrongs repeated. One starts to think, "Well I continue to confess how cruel I am, so I need not make any adjustments. At least I'm confessing to being a cruel person." Without repentance we are merely self loathing parrots who repeat practiced lines that get us crackers in the form of pity while never changing the dirty newspaper in our tiny cage.
In light of what Martin Luther started with in his 95 Theses, it should not surprise us that 500 years later the Catholic church still emphasizes confession over repentance. You do not go to your Catholic priest to repent, you go to confess. While the Catholic church no longer sells indulgences, the heart of the matter remains: Confession vs Repentance. Martin Luther was right to start with a life of repentance in his refutation.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Do You Possess Yourself?

I consistently, and probably always will, struggle with patience. It is only when I think of patience in terms of choosing instead of reacting that I have any victory. The times where I lose my patience are when I view it as an emotion that I lack rather than a decision that I make. Is it an emotion? Or is it an internal choice whereby we hold our tongue and thoughts captive? Henry Scudder, in his book, "The Christian's Daily Walk," captures the idea of patience beautifully:
"A man without patience, is not his own man: he has not power to rule over his own spirit, Prov 25:28, nor yet of his own body. The tongue, hands, and feet of an impatient man will not be held in by reason. But he that is patient, enjoys himself, and has rule over his spirit, Prov 16:32; no affliction can put him out of possession of himself."
This is extremely helpful when battling impatience. Rather than waiting or striving for some unseen emotion, take possession of yourself, rule over your spirit, and have your body in submission.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Despair or Declare?

Psalm 3

v1-2 1 O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.

Is this despair? Or is it a declaration on the basis of hope? In light of the rest of the Psalm, I think it is a declaration to ward off despair. We have two options when trouble arises:
  1. Despair
    • Lose hope
    • Give up

  2. Declare
    • Take hope
    • Have faith
I believe David fights off despair through declaration to God. This admits two things:
  1. God is the answer
  2. There is hope
v3-4 3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 4 I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.

This is a past tense statement while the opening two verses are a present tense statement. In other words, David is showing why he had hope in his declaration: he recounts the past when God answered his cry. Note the progression...
  1. God his his shield (safety)
  2. Glory (adornment)
  3. Lifter of my head (joy)
Similar to the progression of the Gospel:
  1. God saves
  2. Imputes glory
  3. Our joy is the result
Basically, the Gospel is our reason to cry out to God rather than fall into despair. He has proven that He can save us, shower us with glory, and bring us joy.

v5-6 5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

Now we have another progression. David sees God as sovereign in v5 and has courage in v6. This is the practical application of the Gospel. If God can save you and bring you joy then he must be trusted with control over your life. Realizing this brings a wonderful mixture, as we see from David, of comfort and courage. He had comfort in his rest and courage against his foes. We have comfort resting in Christ and courage to face our enemies.

v7-8 7 Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. 8 Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people!

The conclusion that came from David realizing the reality of God's sovereignty and goodness culminates in v7-8. David asks to be saved on the basis of God's victory over his enemies. In other words, to recap... David is in trouble, cries out to the Lord in hope, sees that God is sovereign and good in his protection, and David concludes that salvation belongs to the Lord.

The Gospel: Man realizes his trouble > Cries out on the basis of God's victory and power > God saves

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

God Roasted Them

John Piper recently wrote about the harshness of God's punishment used in Jeremiah 29:22-23:
Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them.
Often I find myself discussing God's judgment in the Old Testament as if God answers to man. The argument men make against God's punishment is rooted in a low view of God and a high view of man, and I thought a good response was John Piper's following exposition:

I am shocked by the term “roasted.” Why such a description? It actually happened, that’s why. Nebuchadnezzar roasted them. And why did it happen? Why such an outrageous physical horror and why such an outrageous physical word used to describe it?

Because speaking false things about God and committing adultery does not feel outrageous to us. But roasting someone in the fire does. So God correlates the two so we would learn what is really outrageous in the world. Demeaning God and breaking covenants.

The combination of man's sinfulness and stupidity result in God having to use wretched punishment to send the message that man is wretched. We are so dumb and blind that we need shocked and awakened from our decrepit death. This all culminates at the cross. A hideous death for hideous sinners.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Devotions Are Boring

For a long time I have struggled with the idea of having a "quiet time" or "devotions" at the start and end of each day. Should I do a daily Bible study? Go through a devotional book? Get on a Bible reading plan to read the entire Bible in a year? A Psalm a day? A Proverb a day? Lately I have been rewarded after taking a very simplistic principle and applying it to my time alone with God. The principle is this: Study to know more, love more, and act more. It may seem too simple or too bumper sticker, but there is a logical progression in the principle. Know more comes first because until you know more things about God and His word you will not love Him or people more than you do now. Love more comes second because after knowing more you will love God and people more which will fuel acting and serving God and others. Act more comes last because it is the logical result of loving God and others more. While there is a progression here, you should not take "know more" and only focus on it, reasoning that once you know enough you can start to love God and others more. They are all three connected. Knowing more is pointless unless it drives you to love more, and loving more is meaningless if it doesn't push you to serve God and others. So if you start to study and find that after a while you are not loving more, then you are not knowing more, you are simply reading things and they aren't landing on your heart. This is why fluffy devotional books tend to collect more dust than dog ears, because it does not fill you with knowledge that leads to love which leads to service. C.S. Lewis assisted me in this principle:

"I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand."

This gets to the root of what I am attempting to say, but from a different perspective. Lewis is basically saying that deeper issues like theology and doctrine, rather than shallow inspirational fluff, cause you to think, study and know truth about God. In other words, if you read about God's omniscience it will land deeper in your life and heart due to the very depth of the topic demanding your attention and thought. This will help stir embers of love and zeal instead of the flash burn from an inspiration-a-day calendar that says "God knows more than you, so trust Him". Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, or practices with reference to your devotional time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Martyn Lloyd-Mondays

Everybody picks a day of the week to have a theme. My favorite author/preacher is D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones so I'm going to have Martyn Lloyd-Mondays. The following is taken from his third volume, "The Unsearchable Riches of Christ," of his eight volume Ephesians set. The reason I pick this quote, which may seem outdated, is that it is quite applicable today in light of the logical positivism that so many people hold to.
One of the surest signs of a Christian understanding is that we see through the utter folly of Victorianism and Edwardianism, with their utterly false optimism. They believed that the world was advancing and developing and progressing quite inevitably. With Tennyson they sang about the coming of 'the Parliament of man' and 'the Federation of the world'. The twentieth century was expected to be marvellous, all as the result of secular knowledge, especially scientific, and education and culture. As regards the Bible they would hold on to the ethical, moral teaching of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount. But, of course, they were too clever, they were too scientific, to believe in miracles or the supernatural. As long as we taught everyone the 'ethics of Jesus' all men would embrace and love one another and there would never be another war. We do not hear so much about that now, and of course it is not surprising. After having experienced the horrors of two World Wars, and in the light of what is happening in the world at the present time, there is little evidence to suggest that we have arrived at the golden era in which men, having achieved sanity as the result of education, turn their swords into ploughshares. The evidence points to an almost opposite conclusion. The foolish vapid optimism of the Victorian and Edwardian periods, which lingered on to 1914, and which some tried to revive even after 1918, presents rather a pathetic aspect today.
If you change a few words, dates, and names, this is something that is precisely accurate to today. Like a sniper preacher, shooting from 50 years ago, the doctor is right on target even today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Christians and Halloween

With the annual celebration of Halloween just around the corner it is important, as Christians, to respond in a balanced way. Too often the public Christian response to things like The Da Vinci Code, The Golden Compass, or Halloween is imbalanced and reactionary.

The balanced view of anything that is not explicitly listed as a sin in God's word should be a redeeming view. When I say, "redeeming view," what I mean is to assume an attitude of undaunted hope in Christ's ability to redeem not just people but the culture. An example of the church having a redeeming view is when thoughtful books and discussions were had in response to The Da Vinci Code. Rather than overreact and respond in fear, some Christians responded in hope knowing that Christ could use the popularity of Dan Brown's book to edify his body and make his name known. Having this attitude shows the gospel in a practical way. The church looks at something that is not giving God glory and redeems it so that it can. This is what the gospel does to sinners. It comes at someone who is not giving God glory and redeems them so they can.

Friday, October 23, 2009

God is Better Than Evil?

In his book, "The God I Don't Understand," Christopher J. H. Wright has a chapter entitled The Defeat of Evil. In it he addresses the tension between God's sovereignty and the existence of evil. When he said the following, it illuminated something to me:
"God demonstrated his sovereignty by showing that he can take what is done as an existing evil in the world and use it to bring about his own good purposes. God remains good, and God remains sovereign."
Wright was using the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers to show that God can use existing evil to bring about his good purposes. This immediately made me think of the Gospel. The central element of the Gospel message is an evil that took place as part of God's good purpose to save sinners. This was just the beginning of what started to become clear to me. Evil, at its core purpose, seeks to corrupt, take over, and destroy whatever it sets its sights on. Like a disease it seeks to destroy us from the inside out. Now this is where it gets really cool. God is better than evil at its goal of inward takeover and destruction. He showed this perfectly when he defeated death by using death. In other words, God defeated evil through evil. He, in a sense, corrupted evil from the inside. So God is better at what evil attempts to do than evil itself. He does this same takeover/destruction with the Gospel. He destroys sinners from the inside out; the old man dies and a new one is born in his place. What a glorious and life giving takeover the Gospel is!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Book Review: I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

"I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist", by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek is a book that attempts to make a systematic case in defense of Christianity. I say, "systematic," because they go to great lengths to build their case in the proper order with each chapter building off the last. In other words, if you want a book where you can hop around from chapter to chapter, I would not recommend this book.

My summary of the book is as follows. It is a well crafted scientific, philosophical, historical, and textual argument for Christianity. Starting with a defense that truth about reality is knowable and working all the way to evidence for Christ's resurrection, their argument is like a snowball rolling down a large hill, getting larger and larger as it goes. While reading this book I felt like I was watching a wise cracking lawyer lay out fact after fact reinforcing his case, growing more and more confident as he goes.

My two criticisms of this book are what I would call the "sassy" tone the authors sometimes have. It comes across as slightly arrogant and would probably turn off some skeptics who read this book. My second criticism is Norman Geisler's insistence on grinding his "free will" axe in the last two chapters. To those who think views on free will do not affect the Gospel, I put forth Norman Geisler's Gospel presentation at the end of this book as exhibit-A.

However, the overall good in this book completely overshadows my two criticisms. I would recommend this book to anyone, whether you are a Christian looking for solid arguments to defend your faith or if you are a skeptic who thinks you've got enough proof to reject Christianity. This will be a book I reference often.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

John Calvin : 500 years

We are celebrating the 500th birthday of John Calvin in our children's ministry at Clifton Baptist. I thought it would be a good time to outline the opening of Calvin's, "Institutes of the Christian Religion". First I would like to quote his self proclaimed purpose in his address to King Francis I of France.
"My purpose was solely to transmit certain rudiments by which those who are touched with any zeal for religion might be shaped to true godliness. . . . The book itself witnesses that this was my intention, adapted as it is to a simple and, you may say, elementary form of teaching."

Take note of the pastoral care that John Calvin had as the purpose behind writing this book. Second, notice his humility in calling what I consider to be one of the greatest works ever written as an, "elementary form of teaching."

The Knowledge of God and That of Ourselves are Connected
  • How are they interrelated?
1. Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God
The idea here is that without an honest and true view of ourselves we will never aspire after God. It is the knowledge of our sinful estate that makes us discontent. Discontentment will almost always lead to searching. Since God is the antithesis of our depraved state He is alluring to us. The phrase, "irresistible grace," takes a deeper meaning in light of this. Could a starving man resist a warm meal?

2. Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self
It is only by looking at the original painting to truly be able to scrutinize a replication. Basically, we need to see God as He is, perfect and holy, to scrutinize our imperfect and wretched existence. We must view the source to understand or examine the product. We are not just bearers of God's image, we are His creation.

3. Man before God's majesty
Man can not truly grasp the severity of his sinfulness until he compares himself to God's majesty. Not only will he not grasp his sinfulness, he will not be deeply affected by it. Knowledge of sin does not equate a deep sorrow over sin.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tim Keller on Miracles

In his book, "The Reason for God", Tim Keller has a chapter entitled Science Has Disproved Christianity in which he addresses criticisms of Christianity based on the false conclusion that science has disproved God/Christianity. The first question Keller discusses is, "Aren't miracles scientifically impossible?"

"It is one thing to say that science is only equipped to test for natural causes and cannot speak to any others. It is quite another to insist that science proves that no other causes could possibly exist. . . . There would be no experimental model for testing the statement: 'No supernatural cause for any natural phenomenon is possible.' It is therefore a philosophical presupposition and not a scientific finding."

In other words, you can not in one swing say that science only tests natural causes and in another conclude that this means no supernatural causes exist. It would be like taking a metal detector to the beach and stating that there are no non-metallic substances on the beach based solely on the fact that you are unable to detect them with your instrument.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Gospel in Psalm 2

Psalm 2

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

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.

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.

The Gospel:

- Man is sinful and rebels against God (v2)
- God judges man (v4)
- He raises up a King (v6)
- The King is God's Son (v7)
- His heritage will be the nations (v8)
- Those not in submission will perish (v12)
- Those in His refuge are blessed (v12)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Prodigal God Resources

The Prodigal God is by far one of the best books I have ever read. If you want a fresh but biblical outline of sin, man, and the Gospel, then this book has what you need.

Mark Dever: "This brief exposition is unsettling and surprisingly satisfying. Like seeing something as familiar as your own home, or your own self, with new eyes."

John Piper: "The Prodigal God is vintage Keller - biblically faithful with a fresh angularity. That is, Keller seizes a great truth and comes at it from an angle and with language that help us see it in new ways."

Keller has now put together a 6 week sermon series designed for churches and small groups to go through along with the reading of the book. The official site has the sermon audio for free, but you can also check out the store to pick up the leader guide, DVD's of the sermons, and the books. I highly recommend this book and plan on using this for my own small group.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Meaning of the Millennium

An Evening of Eschatology
The Meaning of the Millennium
A Conversation with John Piper, Doug Wilson, Sam Storms, and Jim Hamilton

On September 27, 2009, Desiring God and Bethlehem College & Seminary hosted “An Evening on Eschatology” at the Downtown Campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

Premillennialism (represented by Jim Hamilton): The return of Christ happens before (pre-) the thousand-year reign of Christ, which is a reign of the risen Christ on the earth.

Amillennialism (represented by Sam Storms): The return of Christ happens after the thousand-year reign, a reign that occurs in heaven, in the intermediate state, and not upon the earth. Those who have died in faith and entered into the presence of Christ share his rule and reign during the current church age in which we now live.

Postmillennialism (represented by Doug Wilson): The return of Christ happens after (post-) the thousand-year reign, which corresponds to the Christian age, and the reign of Christ from heaven leads the church to triumph by and through the gospel to such an extent that the Great Commission will be successfully fulfilled, and the Christian faith will pervade all the cultures of all the nations of men. All Christ's enemies will be subdued in this way, with the exception of death, which he will destroy by his coming.



Download: Audio / Video

Thursday, October 15, 2009

John Piper: 30 years of ministry

John Piper's testimony & story of 30 years of ministry: click here

His passion for preaching and spurring fellow believers on to joy in their salvation was a goal he had 30 years ago. He still, even today, continues to set his sights on this goal.

His candidate sermon is just as powerful as his preaching today, although his voice pitch is a little different, the passion and the sincerity is still there.

Listen to his candidate sermon: click here

Friday, September 25, 2009

Philosophy of truth?

Do you need a philosophy of truth before speaking about what is true and false? And if so, does said philosophy of necessity need a foundation that is, in and of itself, truth? Pilate asked a question of Jesus that strikes at this quandary...

John 18:38 Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"

How would you answer Pilate's question?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Reminder of Rescue

Whenever God tells the children of Israel not to fear because He rescued them from Egypt, it is a reminder of two things. The first is a reminder that they were once slaves and are now sojourners. This reminder humbles and brings low. Slaves are owned and do the work of their master. That ownership has been broken and they are now sojourners doing the work of God. So their ownership changes along with their direction, existence, and work. The second is a reminder that God is the one who rescued them and now leads them. This establishes a position of thankfulness, reverence, and fear. It also gives reason to have no fear of what God asks them to do. He is the one who not only now owns them, but is the one who freed them from a seemingly impossible situation. Why fear anything once rescued? Why doubt the leading of the one who blessed you? As Christians, we can think in the same way. The one who rescued us from bondage is the one who now leads us. Why fear persecution or trials being owned by Almighty God? Fear only the one mighty enough to save you. No longer slaves to sin, but now sojourners in a foreign land. Follow Christ, and do His bidding. For confidence, boldness, and peace, look to these reminders.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Taste of Vomit

We pick and chisel at sin, thinking if it be less frequent that we've had some type of victory. Not that sin would cease in this life, but that our salvation would be made sure by a distaste and disenchantment with our most favorite sin. O that Christ would sweeten our tongue making sin taste like dung.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You Are Dying

If we would remind ourselves daily that we are dying then we would see through the veneer fog of the present and press forward for what is eternal, for what is to come.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Death Was Necessary

Jesus coming changes the need for death as punishment commanded so often in the Old Testament. He died the ultimate death and underwent the ultimate punishment. So the death, genocide, and stoning of the Old Testament should make us look to Christ. I'm sure the men and women of Israel looked forward to a time when all the death and killing was no longer necessary. God warned Adam that death would be the result of sin, and so it was. The Old Testament doesn't make God a tyrant, it makes Him someone who honors His word. And in honoring His word and promise, Christ came, removing the need for death and providing a way to defeat death. This makes Christ all the more beautiful. He is the answer, He is the fulfillment, He is the ultimate solution. So when people question God's goodness because of what happened in the Old Testament, they are ignoring glaring facts: death was the necessary result of man's actions and God was keeping His word. And secondly, Christ came as a gracious solution to man's problem.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Fear Evil

To admit evil exists only to use it as a reason against God's existence must be a truly frightening position. In one quick swoop a person claims something dreadfully awful exists with no context of ultimate good to place it in. What sort of horrendous fear must slowly grow deep within those who affirm evil yet deny God? It is like saying, "There is deadly poison all around me, and that's proof there is no antidote!" At any moment evil can touch you, and what is your antidote? Well you just claimed there isn't one. You better walk lightly on the thin ice of life.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Conquerors or Cattle

In a discussion about entertainment on Tim Challie's blog, a commenter said the following (I edited slightly):

"I only have to work 38.75 hours a week. When I come home I have my meals made for me and my house cleaned. My clothes are laundered. I have music played for me and books read to me. The only thing I really do is chew my own food and bathe and type on a computer. I’m only a brain and a pair of typing hands. In comparison to just about anyone from any civilization across time, I’m a cow, coddled and fat."

The person who made this comment was obviously using hyperbole, but the more I read it, the more it became unsettling. It reminded me of a sermon by John Piper where he reflected on how he was initially worried that in ministry he would primarily encounter Christian men who ran their homes like over bearing dictators. He was shocked to find the opposite problem in what he described as, "A remote control, a bag of potato chips, and feet propped up." This was alarming to me when I heard it, but with just a glance at America and I knew it was true. God help us... help us to be different, courageous, and diligent. Are we conquerors or cattle?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Explain Evil?

To seek an explanation for an evil event is a natural response, but it is passively an attempt to legitimize evil itself. Rather than weep and mourn as we should, we seek an answer with the commonly asked question, "why?". Lets pretend for a moment that a satisfactory answer could be found. Upon finding it would it not deepen the wound by stating, "Ah, see, this terrible thing can be explained away." It would kill compassion and numb every emotion directed toward evil. Mourning over an evil would seem foolish and would be denigrated by the sought and discovered explanation. But the plight of man has been and will be, till Christ returns, to seek to legitimize and explain away evil, especially our own.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Supernatural Fact

"Astronomers now find they have painted themsevles into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact."

-Robert Jastrow

For the record, this man was not a Christian, but an agnostic.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Common Problem

The common bond between all men is that we eventually die. Every part of us fights against this fact; hospitals, medicines, doctors, etc. Man does everything he can to sustain life and prolong the time before death. So man has a common problem. But doesn't every problem have a cause? If so, what is the cause for this shared problem? And also, doesn't every problem have a solution? If so, what is the solution for this common problem?

Monday, June 01, 2009

An Accurate View

Without an honest and true view of ourselves, we will never aspire after God. It is knowledge of our sinful estate that makes us discontent. Discontentment will almost always lead to searching. Since God is the antithesis of our depraved state, He becomes alluring to us. The phrase, "irresistible grace", takes on a deeper meaning in light of this. Could a starving man resist a warm meal?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Finished Product

As some of you may know, I've been messing around with graphic design for a while and have been attempting to get t-shirts printed at threadless

You may remember my entry, "Experimenting with Graphic Design", where I showed the process of sketching, inking, scanning and vectorizing. The following is the result of that work and is up for vote for 5 more days.

Shuttle-Cock - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tim Keller Defends Belief in God

Tim Keller is a wonderful speaker and thinker, you'll not regret watching this.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Expect Evil?

Our existence is subordinate or imperfect in comparison to God's existence. If all that we see is inferior and flawed, evil and suffering should not be so alarming. Yes, it should still upset us, since that is no doubt part of its purpose. But it, as they say, "comes with the territory". If we acknowledge that our existence is imperfect and corrupted then we should come to expect horrific things to happen. We should also look forward with hope to a time when nothing is tainted and all is made new.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

3 Simple Questions

Is it wrong to tell someone something you believe to be false? Is it also wrong to withhold something you believe to be true? How then, can you charge a person of faith with hatred for merely what is good according to the way you answered the first two questions?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We Long For Wrongs Righted?

Why, when someone acts in a way we deem, "wrong", do we feel they must be judged and punished accordingly? Some might say that it is an effort made to help safe survival of man to progress. But at its core, judgment and punishment are wanted and bring some satisfaction to the person longing for them. Seeing a criminal judged and punished does bring some feeling of safety, but primarily we feel better because order has been restored; a wrong has been exposed and condemned by what we judge to be a proper and right response. This commonality exists because it is stamped on all of us. A great wrong was committed and a great response has been offered. We all need Christ, and to pacify our sense that a wrong needs righted in ourselves we look to others to find satisfaction in their wrongs exposed, judged, and punished.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Actions vs. Words

Men see meaning in your actions as much as they hear meaning in your words. We should strive to make sure both meanings match and compliment each other rather than one destroying the other. How often do we empty the Gospel almost as soon as we've finished proclaiming it?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Idolatry = Hatred Part 2

I was asked if hatred toward God in the realm of idolatry and disbelief is witting or unwitting, the following was my answer:

I think in a general sense, it is unwitting; general disbelief or other religions that someone might be raised to believe. But I think there are specific actions that are wittingly hateful toward God and His law, repetition of sin that deep down we know is wrong or intentional rebellion against things we naturally perceive to be wrong (ie: lying, stealing, etc.)

Ultimately it is all hateful because it is the opposite of love. When a child disobeys their parents because they get caught up in the excitement of eating a cookie because it is their favorite, they aren’t actively hating their parents, it is more passive, but hate is still present. In that moment their love for their parents isn’t as strong as their longing for the cookie. But when a child intentionally does something because they want to disobey and the cookie is just a means to disobey, that is active hatred. In other words, something can entice you to disobey, but a lot of the time the act of disobedience itself is what’s enticing. The two are different in the realm of passive vs active, but they are both carried out in the absence of love. If someone is enticed by disobedience, they are being tempted to stand in opposition to the law maker. What could be more hateful?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why I Hate Religion

Mark Driscoll says it better than I could...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sketching Tips

I was having trouble sketching for my lastest WIP, King Pong, and a simple sketching trick helped me out. I was struggling with the size of each part of the sketch maintaining what I was sketching from.

First, get a ruler and create a grid of squares over what you are sketching from. Then make a grid, larger if necessary, on the paper you will be sketching on. This allows you to have smaller frames of reference for each piece of the sketch and makes increasing the size of the object a lot easier. Note the difference in size in the following sketch:
(you can click the images for larger versions)

Second, once your sketch is satisfactory, go over just the sketch not the grid with ink.

Third, get yourself a nice eraser, and once the ink is dry, erase your sketched grid.

Fourth, scan your image, make it black and white, up the contrast once or twice, and if you have Illustrator, do a live trace. I did a live trace, and then printed it out because sometimes on certain spots the ink is too weak and it needs to be re-inked so you can re-scan the image and get a better live trace.

Finally, add color.