Monthly Archives: December 2008
I return briefly to the predominate theme that I often pursued on this blog, and I will allow to go dormant again.
I listen, when time allows, to sermons from different churches, different pastors. Many are quite edifying and Christ exalting. Others, I sadly find less so. I come away with some overarching observations, some quite disturbing, based not so much on any one individual sermon, but more on an overarching methodology that gives birth to some common themes.
I recently listened to a substantial portion of a sermon by Perry Noble wherein he stated repeatedly that “God is trying…” and that “God tries….” In the context of this particular sermon, this rhetoric was used to describe God’s ‘attempts’ to get peoples attention, specifically Herod’s in the case of the aforementioned sermon, so as to draw them to Himself. I appreciate and applaud the evangelical zeal found in the sermon (even though the pastor did not correctly interpret the text and read his own ideas into it), but I have extreme reservations over a pastor, or anyone for that matter, saying ‘God tries’ .
My reservations are not a case of putting too fine a point on peripheral or merely illustrative rhetoric. When we talk about our Redeemer, about God almighty, we need to be careful and accurate about the words we use out of reverence to a Holy God. We need to thoughtfully weigh our words and thoughts about God in light of Biblical revelation, especially when one is an under-shepherd charged, along with the elders in the church, with guarding and feeding the flock, the body of Christ.
What then is the problem with saying “God tries?” To try infers potential of failure. To say that God tries is to infer potential of failure in God almighty, that His will may be thwarted. If such were true, then His will could be stunted and I can have no absolute confidence in that God. That truncated God, a God who tries, (and apparently failed in Herod’s case in the context of the sermon) is not the sovereign God of Biblical revelation.
Again, I make specific reference to a particular sermon, but I have heard this same rhetoric, this – I hope unintended – reference to a limited God, on other occasions and by various individuals. Where does this conceit come from, this idea that God is somehow limited by our choices? It goes back to a humanistic theology, a strain of Christianity that permeates much of the landscape of American ecclesiology. Beyond the errant inferred limitations placed on God, I find sometimes a subtle redefinition of the Gospel. Before I continue, I want to make something perfectly clear. I am not calling into question motivations or authenticity of faith of any particular personality. I am not going to bash any particular individual. However, I will not shy away from bringing the hammer down on what I strongly believe is theologically dangerous methodology.
What of this subtle distortion of the Gospel I mentioned? It is a distortion that comes on the heels of a confusion between felt needs and true spiritual need. It is a blurring of two aspects, the simple proclamation of the faith delivered by the apostles, repent and believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sin and the perceived benefits of salvation which is the meeting of the felt need for significance, the felt need for purpose, the felt need for happiness. I could go on, but I think the point is clear that there are many felt needs we all would want to write in on the sign-up sheet for salvation. The danger in pandering to felt needs is this: our felt needs are not necessarily reflective of our true need before a holy and righteous God. We may, based upon certain evangelical exhortations, approach God and request transformation so that our felt needs for self-esteem, security, and significance are met, for example, but quite miss the real need for forgiveness of sin. So many evangelical calls offer forgiveness along with the thinly veiled and inferred promise that God will fix all your problems and meet all the felt needs of an unregenerate heart, but often what is missing is a clearly defined call to repentance.
What also I find at times offered is a devalued grace, a devalued Gospel. A friend told me of an evangelical outreach to which he was invited to participate. This outreach was aimed at sharing the Gospel with disadvantaged kids. It involved taking these kids hunting and then sharing the Gospel with them afterwords. I appreciate and applaud the hearts desire to share the Gospel. However, one of the things these kids were told was that Christianity was the easiest club in the world to join. Further, I have heard on numerous occasions that I need to try Jesus because He is the best deal going . I have heard Christ offered as a sixty day challenge. The lost, the unregenerate, are apparently invited to try this Gospel thing out, kick the tires and take it around the block a few times. If it doesn’t work for you, you can drop it off where you found it. The Gospel has been reduced to a product that is marketed to consumers. I have read time and time again people in ministry, church planters and pastors, affirm that the church has the best product in the world, but we just are not marketing it as effectively as Disney markets their product. Quite frankly and without regard to the good intent of those who engage it, that methodology, that reduction of the Gospel to a product to be marketed, to a pill freely dispensed, makes me want to vomit. What is missing from these bold, creative evangelical marketing ploys and vision casting is a robust theology of the Cross. The cost of the Cross is rarely given it’s due. Showing clips from The Passion of the Christ or Braveheart from huge screens suspended over an enthralled audience is not a replacement for faithfully proclaiming the Gospel of repent and believe. What kind of Gospel are people being drawn to when the church feels it needs to compete with Hollywood to make the Cross attractive? The Cross is not, nor has ever been, a pill easy to swallow. But you know what, God in His mercy and grace, and in spite of well-intentioned, but often confused methodologies, will draw the lost, the unregenerate to Himself and redeem them by His blood that all glory, all honor, and all praise be to Him. Christ will build His church.
Psalm 27 (English Standard Version)
The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.
Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
I have a rather low-end PC that was given to me a while back. Soon after I acquired it, I installed a second hard-drive, an old 40gig, and installed Ubuntu on it. I now had a machine that could be booted to either Windows XP or Linux. Done that before on other machines over the years with different versions of Linux and Windows. Not using the Windows option much recently (plus the fact it was not licensed to me), I installed another Linux distro, Mandriva 2009, to that hard drive, over-writing the Windows partition/HD, giving me the option to boot to either of the installed Linux flavors. I really like the KDE 4 GUI. Also, Mandriva plays nice with the Intel video chipset on the motherboard. I have 3D acceleration without having to jump through any hoops. The latest Ubuntu/Kubuntu made the machine puke…video chipset issues, I presume.
I know I am speaking gibberish, another language, to most, but please bear with me.
That being said, I really like Linux because:
1. It appeals to the non-conformist in me.
2. It is absolutely free. A free operating system that is secure and robust.
4. You can download free live CDs that allow you to try the OS before installing it to your hard drive. Great tool for file recovery if your OS tanks, too.
5. It is absolute free. A free OS that is secure and robust.
6. Never had a virus with Linux.
7. A large repository of free and legal software. e-Sword I recommend for Windows or Linux.
8. It is absolutely free. A free OS that is secure and robust.
9. Less hardware intensive in comparison to Windows.
10. KDE 4 comes with much eye candy, comparable with MS Vista, but with lower hardware requirements.
11. Linux can be acquired by free download and is absolutely free. Did I mention it was free! Also, free does not mean substandard.
12. Linux can read and write to FAT 32 and NTFS partitions on the Window’s machines on your home network if you have one.
13. You do not have to be an uber-geek to use Linux. It is easy to install and use given a wee bit of PC prowess In fact, I have found most distributions of Linux to be quicker and easier to install than most any version of Windows.
14. Did I mention that it is free?
15. Again, I have never had a virus on a Linux machine. Not to say such in not possible….
16. To repeat ad nausea, it is free! There are so many free and legal and ethical alternatives to commercial software available for those who want to be better stewards of their financial resources.
In light of the above, back up your important stuff before you mess around with you machine
As an addendum, my cheap 250 gig external hard-drive, used to back up files, recently died, so I am now using this Linux machine as a backup of important files. I have gig upon gig of theology stuff, much (most) of which I have not yet read, watched, or listened to, archived on it. I also have many jpegs of the my family archived on this machine.as well as most of our CD collection, modest though it may be.
Here is a screen-shot from SUSE, another linux distribution, that gives you an idea of the optional visual interface possible with KDE 4…..not a ton of utility, but….
I have had the pleasure of engaging dialog on things of faith and science with atheist friends and family on more than one occasion. Either the conversation has centered around the evidence for a Creator, or it has centered on the foundation of morality. I am, in this post, more interested about atheism and inferred foundations of ethics and morality.
A while back, there was an advertising campaign in London, if I recall correctly, that questioned the need to believe in God to be ‘good.’
The question that should follow is this: why be good for goodness’ sake? For the sake of argument, let us assume a materialistic world-view: suppose there is no God. All that exists is matter that has collected itself into different forms by natural processes without any intervention outside of nature. This matter either created itself ex nihilo, from nothing, or has existed for eternity. Those options are all that is reasonably available to the materialist without regard to the cosmological flavor to the day.
Following that matter is all there is, then life must be a product of natural forces and processes, some inferred to be random, and is imbued with no special significance other than that found in the unimaginable enormity of the odds stacked against life rising from said undirected natural processes. We are here, to reiterate, due only to natural selection driven by random mutation and environmental pressures.
The bottom line is this: all there is…is matter. Following inexorably is death. All life ends in death and the annihilation of self, of consciousness, for the self-aware. All that remains is the decayed flesh and the memories of self carried by those who briefly remain after one departs, dies. Those memories, too, will be eventually be erased by time as will every edifice, every proud monument, constructed by the defiant, hairless ape. To assert otherwise is shear irrational romanticism, perhaps itself a survival mechanism born in light of consciousness, of self-awareness aware of death, before a vast, uncaring universe.
So then, we courageously exhort one another, given what ultimately lies before us, to be good for goodness sake. Again, why? How can anything be called evil, or good, in light of mere insensate matter being the ultimate arbiter? Do we call the actions, the effects, of tornadoes, chipmunks, and supernova good or evil? No, we do not. In a materialistic context, we can only say we prefer one action over another. We can only say some things are better for the functioning of society than others. Common good of society becomes the arbiter of good and evil. Again, why? Why should I care about the common good of society? Pragmatism, utilitarianism fail here. Who decides what is the common good? Society, a majority? What about societies with differing standards? Why should I, as an individual, even care about the common good? Is survival of the species the most important moral imperative? The earth, the universe, does not care on whit if humanity lives another moment or a thousand millennia. To state otherwise is, again, unabashed, irrational romanticism. Ultimately, there are no consequences for behavior if one can get away with it. Death is the common leveler and materialism is the ultimate reducing agent of morality.
The bottom line is this: humanity has no intrinsic value if we are only products of blind natural forces and process; there is no firm foundation for morality. Atheism, in its reductionism and when honestly examined, places a value on humanity that is tenuous and at very best utilitarian. The question that follow is this, who, or what, imbues us with this utilitarian value? Progressive, secular, egalitarian, compassionate societies in the west engage abortion on demand, infanticide, and euthanasia. Do you remember the circumstances that bought about the death of Terri Schiavo?
I can’t let others off the hook. Just any theism won’t do. Pantheism -belief in a impersonal ‘all is god, god is all’ – , foundational to much of New Age spiritualism, and deism – belief in an uninvolved, impersonal ‘watchmaker god’-, what many embrace, acknowledged or not, in actual function, are really in little better, if any, condition to provide intrinsic value to humanity. Too, what of that errant offspring of orthodox Christianity, the progressive Universalist, those who assert that eventually all go to heaven? Essentially, this is just a weak-kneed flip-side to atheism. In some respects, I would love for Univeralism to be true, but if so, there would be no accountability for moral actions if there is no punishment, no retribution for evil, no justice. Here is an undemanding god of love, but without the absolute holiness of the triune God. Is Stalin in heaven with the god of Univeralism?
Also, I absolutely do not infer that atheists are better or worse than theists in their ethics and behaviors. All I am saying is that their moral foundation is, consciously or not, second-hand, pirated, derived from that which they have rejected. Also, I do not infer that belief in God equals high morality in practice. People obviously act in opposition to what they profess to believe all the time. That many have done evil in the name of religion does not invalidate the assertion that a personal, transcendental God is foundational for morality.
It is only the fact that mankind, even in our fallen state, is created in the image of the personal, holy Triune God of the Old and New Testament that we find any intrinsic value and worth.
I want to end on the following, on the day before Christmas, with these words from an earlier post:
As profound and foundational are the doctrines of the trinity and the physical resurrection of the Messiah, and absolutely in no means do I intend to diminish their import, it is the incarnation of our Savior that leaves me most breathtakingly at a loss for words. That Christ, fully almighty God, immutable and fully in transcendence over creation, Who spoke into existence, ex nihilo, the natural order, should step out of eternity and condescend to take on flesh, a sinless human nature, and, out of love, subject Himself to a fallen creation, leaves me wanting for words. Christ, God almighty, His incarnation realized by His conception and virgin birth to Mary, was obedient to Father God to the point of death on the cross to provide propitiation for sin and, after defeating death, will for eternity forward, walk with us as we behold His cross-scarred body. Here we find incomprehensible truths that followers of the Messiah will feast on for eons.
How unbelievable is this grace to the ears of those who think that God grades us on a curve. How odd to the ears is this grace to those we engage some sort of concept of karma. How unbelievable is the transcendent God is to those who engage a the fuzzy self-deification of new-age, neo-pagan pantheism. How daunting and unbelievable is the true, utterly independent and omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God of the Bible to those who engage those strains of liberal protestantism who travel with the impotent, dependent god of panentheism. How simply unbelievable it is to so many that we simply cannot approach and commune with the absolute holy God of creation on our own devices, on our own righteousness, but only through the cross of Christ.
Here is hope for a broken, sin ravaged world: Repent, acknowledge and turn away from your sin, your rebellion and disobedience to God, and believe, trust, in Christ, fully sinless man and fully God, who physically rose from the grave defeating death, for the forgiveness of sin so that God counts to you the righteousness of Christ when He looks upon you that you may spend eternity with Him. That is the Good News.
Wishing all a Merry Christmas!
Proverbs 3:5-8 (ESV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord, and turn from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:9-10 (ESV)
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
Proverbs 3:11-12 (ESV)
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves as a father the son in whom he delights.
I so often need refreshment that goes down to the bone. The old man, the flesh, still, at times, wants to rear it’s head and assert it’s understanding and wisdom, birthing either fear or arrogance as a consequence, but trust in the Lord grows each day as we engage His word and submit to it. As trust grows, so does humility, so does a peace. Circumstances, though often difficult, are not events to be endured stoically for the sake of showing our strength.
1 Peter 1:6-9 (ESV)
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This video was pointed out to me by a friend. Pay particular attention to 3:00 to 3:40.
God Isn’t Grateful
December 13, 2008 | By: John Piper
It is good news that we will never be thanked by God.
Not thanking us is a form of love.
We need to adjust our expectations of what it feels like to be loved by God compared to what it feels like to be loved by men.
It really galled me that one of the largest sources of the pile-on afflicting those first homeowners who lost their homes at the beginning of all this was Christians. In our self-righteous ire, we blamed people for being stupid. And perhaps they were. But when is grace only for the smart people of the world?
One of the things about this financial implosion are the bystanders. Now, even people who did everything right are being wiped out. That may even be some of us. Does that make us stupid? Is the same measure of gracelessness that we doled out coming back to haunt us?
This quote above comes on the heals of conversations overheard. That being said, and in regards to further content in the referenced post, I have to preach Romans 8:28 to myself. Also, I have been, more often than I care to admit, quite stupid (and rebellious, idolatrous… sinful) at times. We need to remind ourselves, even the ‘best’ of us, of what we truly deserve in light of a holy and righteous God. Then, we preach the true Gospel to ourselves. Therein one finds humility.
Romans 8:28 (English Standard Version)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have received your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Stephen Snobelen Assistant Professor of History of Science and Technology,
University of King’s College,
Here is a final paradox. Recent work on early modern science has demonstrated a direct (and positive) relationship between the resurgence of the Hebraic, literal exegesis of the Bible in the Protestant Reformation, and the rise of the empirical method in modern science. I’m not referring to wooden literalism, but the sophisticated literal-historical hermeneutics that Martin Luther and others (including Newton) championed. It was, in part, when this method was transferred to science, when students of nature moved on from studying nature as symbols, allegories and metaphors to observing nature directly in an inductive and empirical way, that modern science was born. In this, Newton also played a pivotal role. As strange as it may sound, science will forever be in the debt of millenarians and biblical literalists.
Some brief thoughts, skeletal in scope, on the above quote:
I have participated in more than one conversation wherein the assertion is made that Intelligent Design (ID) is no more than a sophisticated ‘God of the gaps’ argument. Further, I have been told that ID has no practical application; it predicts nothing, and, in fact, science could not have arisen from a milieu where religion, inferred to be synonymous with superstition, predominates.
In counterpoint, I find it interesting that many of the fathers of modern science were Christian. They inferred that natural laws pointed towards a Law Giver. They understood on a fundamental level that the universe was coherent and, given time and application of proper methodology, understandable because there was a Divine origin to the material world. Indeed, could science, dependent on, among other things, repeatability of phenomena, have risen in a milieu where the universe was understood to be random and driven by chaos? Quite frankly, much of modern physics seems so counter-intuitive and bizarre (to me), but, and again, I do not think we could not have gotten to where we are in our understanding of the created order without a foundational inference of a Creator. Could ramble for hours and flesh these thoughts out more (and, given I will have some time off for the holidays, perhaps I will), but it is 4:00AM, I am sick, and the cold and sinus meds are kicking in. Becoming soooo sleepy……..
Psalm 19:1 (English Standard Version)
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.