Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Andrew Murray explains a bit more about asking in the name of Jesus:
"Everything depends on my own relationship to the Name. The power it has on my life is the power it will have in my prayers. There is more than one expression in Scripture which can make this clear. "Do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus" is the counterpart of "Ask all. " To do all and ask all in His Name go together. "We shall walk in the Name of our God" means the power of the Name must rule in the whole life. Only then will it have power in prayer. God looks not to our lips, but to our lives to see what the Name is to us. When Scripture speaks of "men who have given their lives for the Name of the Lord Jesus," or of one "ready to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus," we see what our relationship to the Name must be. When it is everything to me, it will obtain everything for me. If I let it have all I have, it will let me have all it has."
--With Christ in the School of Prayer
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Look, young man! The LORD is about to shake you violently. He will take hold of you, wind you up into a ball, and sling you into a wide land. (Is 22:17-18 HCSB)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I submit two propositions of my understanding:
Sanctification is struggle. Christ gives us the ability to overcome sin. But the overcoming isn't always easy. As we grow closer to Christ, the more aware of sin in our lives we become.
Our lives are like a well and the Scriptures like a lamp. As the Scriptures begin to go deeper and deeper into our lives, they reveal increasingly grotesque things far below the surface, things we weren't even aware of.
The Christian is often very conscious of sin, and that consciousness often increases as he draws closer to Christ. Think of the reaction of Isaiah, Job, Peter, and John when they encountered God in the fullness of his glory. Job confessed he didn't know what he had been talking about and then shut his mouth. Isaiah cried, "Woe is me!" Peter asked the Lord to go away from him because he was a sinful man. John fell at the Lord's feet as though dead. All were overcome by the glory of the Lord and their unworthiness by comparison.
So what's the struggle exactly? In overcoming sin. It seems like I no more start to get a handle on one sin than two more sins pop up out of nowhere. I work on them by God's grace and something else pops up, sometimes a new sin, sometimes an old sin that I'm only now discovering to be a sin in me.
Someone asks, "But doesn't this make you negative and morbid? Where's the victory? And what's the incentive for people to come to Christ if he doesn't help us conquer sin?" Good questions.
Romans 12:3 says that we are to regard ourselves soberly. I take that mean that we are to view ourselves realistically, as truthfully as possible.
That means that we will recognize the sin in our lives, that we fall short of God's glory, that yes, our sins are forgiven, but that nonetheless sins crop up (attitudes, thoughts, words, actions) that need to be confessed and repented of.
But we should also recognize the positive things in our lives, the growth in holiness, the talents and abilities we have, growth in various aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. But in all honesty, where do these things come from? They are all from God; so even in these there is no cause for boasting (see 1 Cor 4:7). But seeing that we are growing in holiness should be a cause for thanksgiving and joy. If I see that I don't struggle with my temper now like I did before, I should rejoice in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in my life.
So there is, I think, often this mixture of sorrow and joy in a believer's life when he examines himself--sorrow at current sin struggles and joy in progress. "Blessed are those who are poor in spirit ... Blessed are those who mourn." I think being poor in spirit has something to do with awareness of personal spiritual bankruptcy; mourning is in many cases mourning for personal sin.
Paul expresses this reality of both sorrow and joy in the believers life: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom 7:24-25 NIV)
My second proposition is this: sanctification is progress. While growing in holiness is struggle, it is, overall, successful struggle. There is progress, or at least there should be progress, all throughout our Christian lives on this planet. (In fact, if there weren't progress, it wouldn't be called sanctification, for sanctification means growth in holiness. If you're not growing holiness, you are not being sanctified.)
So, what's the incentive for people to come to Christ? He gives you the resources to struggle successfully against sin, not to mention all the other blessings attendant upon salvation--reconciliation with God, joy, peace, eternal life, Heaven.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
--Roger E. Olson, arguing against Paul Helm's traditional Calvinist perspective in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: 4 Views, Ed. Bruce Ware, 57
Monday, August 17, 2009
The computer I'm on as I compose this post is right next to my bookcase at home. We have 9 bookcases in our basement. One is specifically mine (though my books occupy space in others as well). Here are 9 titles currently sitting on my bookcase I think would be worthy of your reading.
Shelf 1: Jesus in Beijing (David Aikman). Fascinating story of Christianity in China, with an emphasis, if memory serves, on the last few decades.
Shelf 2: Amusing Ourselves to Death (Neil Postman). Shows how TV as a medium has dumbing down effects on society and culture, even if the message is positive, educational, and encouraging (and it usually isn't).
Shelf 3: To America: Personal Reflections of An Historian (Stephen Ambrose). Ambrose has written on different subjects of American history, and each chapter in this book is a sort of summary of his thoughts on each of the subjects he's written about. It's a fascinating tapestry of American history, from the Revolution to the modern age, and Ambrose offers interesting insight. Topics include Eisenhower, Nixon, the transcontinental railroad, Lewis and Clark, D-Day, and Vietnam, etc.
Shelf 4: The Living (Annie Dillard). A novel that sprawls over 40 years and is populated by interesting characters. Set in Washington State in the late 1800s, the book reflects the harshness of settling that area, a harshness brought on both by the wilderness itself and the defective natures of the characters.
Shelf 5: A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (Flannery O'Connor). Talk about your defective characters! Not light-hearted reading, but who wants fluff anyway? O'Connor's short stories invite re-reading.
Shelf 6: The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas). A vivid story of revenge. The only story I've read by Dumas, he seems like a master storyteller. (God's judgment is/will be meticulous. Ours, however, should not be. "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord.)
Back to shelf 3: An American Life (Ronald Reagan). Reagan's autobiography gives great insight into the optimism, common sense, and moral stubbornness of a great man.
Back to shelf 5: The Piano Tuner (Daniel Mason). A novel. In 1886 a quiet piano tuner is sent by the British military to Burma to tune a piano belonging to an eccentric army surgeon. Suffice it to say, tuning the piano is not the whole story.
Back to shelf 2: If Only He Knew (Gary Smalley). A great aid to husbands in becoming better husbands--at least it was to me (and I always need help in that department). Subtitle is "What No Woman Can Resist."
Saturday, August 15, 2009
How come we don't think the same about those who kill their own children?
This is the gist of a blog post I came across. Here's part of it:
I have yet to hear anyone come out and say that the brutal business of dog fighting is anything but objectionable. The most sympathetic statements that are heard relate to giving Vick a second chance after he has ‘paid his debt to society.’
Furthermore, people really seem to be comfortable talking about how horrible a guy he is. After all he killed dogs! He capitalized on the violent treatment of dogs through his side business.
Now I am not out of step with everyone else on this. I think what he did was wrong. From what I have read there is little doubt that he was vicious and unfeeling.
What I am after, instead, is the social observation that people are so comfortable talking about this issue and condemning his actions while living in a country that sanctions the free choice to kill human life.
Read the whole thing.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Myth #6: Arminianism is a human-centered theology.
Truth: An optimistic anthropology is alien to true Arminianism, which is thoroughly God-centered. Arminian theology confesses human depravity, including bondage of the will.
Jacob Arminius believed in the bondage of the will. Any good in human life only came because prevenient grace had freed the will first. In Arminian theology, free will is more appropriately called "freed will."
The power to believe for salvation man couldn't do on his own. That power had to be divinely conferred on man.
When man sinned, human beings became incapable of responding to God for salvation.
"Grace is the beginning and continuation of spiritual life, including the ability to exercise a good will toward God." (Olson 144)
Simon Episcopious taught that in the fallen state, apart from God's special prevenient grace, man has no free will to do any spiritual good.
After surveying various Arminian theologians, Olson concludes, "With the sole exception of Limborch and some of his followers, then, Arminius and his seventeenth- and eighteenth-century followers embraced the doctrines of original sin and total depravity. They affirmed the bondage of the will to sin in a manner reminiscent of Luther and Calvin." (150)
Arminian theologian William Burton Pope surely cannot be accused of a man-centered theology when he writes, "No ability remains in man to return to God; and this avowal concedes and vindicates the pith of original sin as internal. The natural man ... is without the power even to co-operate with Divine influence. The co-operation with grace is of grace. Thus it keeps itself for ever safe from Pelgianism and semi-Pelgianism." (Olson 154)
Olson sums up this way: "The moral ability to respond to the gospel freely--by the graciously freed will--is a free gift of God through Christ to all people in some measure. It does not mean that anyone can now seek and find God using natural ability alone! It is a supernatural endowment that can be and usually is rejected or neglected. According to Arminian theology, because of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit all people are being influenced toward the good; the deadly wound of Adam's sin is being healed. And yet their fallen nature is still with them." (155)
Thursday, August 13, 2009
There will be lots of things you don't understand; keep reading. As you continue to read over the months and years, passages that seem impossible to understand now will become transparent to you in the future.
Case in point: Zechariah has always been a difficult book for me to understand. But as I read through it this last time, I was amazed at how much more of it I was understanding. And how rich a book it is!
'Riting: On a regular basis, take notes on what you're reading, whether in a notebook or on a computer. Writing forces you to slow down and pay more attention to details. And there is a wealth of enriching teaching in the details. There is much to be savoured in Scripture. Taking notes, writing down your observations, allows Scripture to soak in, sifting down to your long-term memory.
'Rithmetic: Over time, reading and 'riting add up (there's the math part). A friend told me yesterday that he has started reading through Joshua, taking notes as he goes. Excellent!
Some Christians starting today might be discouraged: "Yeah, but there are 66 books of the Bible, and I'm just starting. It's going to be a long time before I have a good knowledge of the Bible."
What can I say to that? Most worthwhile things are not mastered overnight. Many worthwhile things require years of progress. Knowing the Scriptures is the same way.
So, yes, it will take you a while to grow in your knowledge of the Scriptures. But if you get into the Scriptures today and tomorrow and the next day, you'll know more of the Bible next week than you do right now.
Furthermore, the payoff is immediate. If you start with Joshua 1 or Psalm 1 or Genesis 1, you begin to learn things now--about God, yourself, our world, sin, salvation, etc. Your faith begins to grow. Your love for God begins to grow.
When it comes to learning the Bible, it's basic 'rithmetic:
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
"But each step forward gets a little more slippery. Is there some point, visible in the cloudy moral distance, where the right to die becomes a duty to die? We don't need to set Grandma adrift on her ice floe; the pressures would be subtle, wrapped in the language of reason and romance — the bereaved widower who sees no reason to try to start over, the quadriplegic rugby player whose memories paralyze his hopes, the chronically ill mother who wants to set her children free. Already in Oregon, one-third of those who chose assisted suicide last year cited the burden on their families and caregivers as a reason. A study in the Netherlands found that one in four doctors said they had killed patients without an explicit request--including one doctor who believed that a dying Dutch nun was prevented from requesting euthanasia because of her religion, so he felt the just and merciful thing to do was to decide for her." (emphasis added)
Read the whole article.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Myth #5: Arminian theology denies the sovereignty of God.
Truth: Classical Arminianism interprets God's sovereignty and providence differently than Calvinism without in any way denying them; God is in charge of everything without controlling everything.
Different notions of sovereignty
- Calvinism -- God ordains everything, control everything; absolute control
- Arminianism -- God ordains much, and this sometimes extends even to human choices and actions. But he doesn't stipulate all choices and actions, especially sin. He allows sin, permits it, sometimes prevents it, sometimes limits it. But sovereignty doesn't mean absolute control. And this is by God's sovereign choice to extend to men some freedom.
God's sovereignty is in some sense analogous to the sovereignty a monarch exercises over a nation. His power is great, and there are many things that people do or don't do as a direct result of his control. But he does not control everything everyone does.
Jacob Arminius argued that there are some things God can't do--sin. "God's character as supreme love and justice make certain acts of God inconceivable. Among them would be foreordaining sin and evil" (Olson's words, 120).
Arminius was puzzled by accusations against him regarding providence, "because he went out of his way to affirm it. He even went so far as to say that every human act, including sin, is impossible without God's cooperation!" (121).
Arminius affirmed concurrence. God is the first cause of all actions, because human beings couldn't even lift a finger without his power. God commits to cooperating with a man in his actions, even in his sin, thought the guilt of sin belongs to the man, because the man has decided to use his God-given power to commit sin.
Later Arminius added, along with sinful acts, calamities to occurrences that God allows and controls but doesn't plan or decree.
John Wesley held to a specific, particular providence.
"Either, therefore, allow a particular providence, or do not pretend to believe any providence at all. If you do not believe that the Governor of the world governs all things in it, small and great; that fire and hail, snow and vapour, wind and storm, fulfill his word; that he rules kingdoms and cities, fleets and armies, and all the individuals whereof they are composed (and yet without forcing the wills of men or necessitating any of their actions); do not affect to believe that he governs anything." (John Wesley; in Olson 127)
Olson writes concerning Arminian theologian John Miley: "For Miley, and most if not all later Arminians, God's primary way of ruling over human affairs is though persuasion, but God's persuasive power is greater than any creature's. God's influence lies directly on every subject so that nothing can happen without being pulled or pushed by God toward the good. However, free and rational creatures have the power to resist the influence of God. This power was given to them by God himself. Miley's theology assumes a divine self-limitation for the sake of human liberty" (131).
"One thing should be absolutely clear from all these examples of Arminian accounts of divine sovereignty and providence--the common accusation that Arminianism lacks a strong or high view of God's sovereignty is false. Every classical Arminian shares with every classical Calvinist the belief that God is in charge of and governs the entire creation, and will powerfully and perhaps unilaterally bring about the consummation of his plan. Arminians demur from Calvinism's divine determinism because it cannot avoid making God the author of sin and evil" (135).
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Here's a rundown of the topics where Job needs to demonstrate proficiency.
- Foundations of the earth -- Who measured them? How were they constructed?
- Placement and containment of the seas -- Any experience?
- Lighting of the world -- Have you regulated that before?
- Ocean depths -- When was the last time you were there? Have you ever been there?
- Gates of death -- Have you seen them?
- Size of the earth -- What is it?
- Location of light and darkness -- What are their respective addresses?
- Warehouses of storm components (snow, hail, lightning, winds) -- Have you been in these before? Do you even know the way to them?
- Flood rains -- How do those make it to the desert to water it?
- Rain, dew, ice -- How are those all formed? You surely don't think they just "happen," do you?
- Constellations -- What experience do you have in moving those through the heavens? Do you even know how to do it?
- Storms (again) -- Do the clouds and the lightning bolts respect your authority and obey your orders? What is your proficiency in assessing storm need? Assuming that storm components do cooperate with your instructions, do your orchestrated storms do the job?
- Food service -- What's your track record in providing for the animals; say, for the lions and the ravens?
- Animal reproduction (We'll just focus on the goats and the deer right now) -- Explain all you know about the pregnancy, labor, and delivery of each. Which ones are pregnant right now, and how far along are each?
- Animal kingdom -- The independence of the wild donkey and the wild ox, the stupidity and speed of the female ostrich, the strength and laugh-in-the-face-of-death courage of the horse, the flight capabilities and hunting prowess of the hawk and the eagle: Explain each of these in detail; how they came about and why the animals differ so much from one another.
2 "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
3 Then Job answered the LORD :
4 "I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
The base of Iluvatar
The author’s daughter climbed a giant tulip poplar tree in Georgia that has a cave in it. The mouth of the cave was 90’ above ground. She climbed in through the mouth and rappelled down 20’ through the center of the tree. “She came out into a room inside the tree, where a hole looked out into the canopy, like a round window.” (243)Click here to see a pictures that give some perspective on how tall these Redwoods are.
Monday, August 3, 2009
"China Aid reported that Pastor Dou has been treated inhumanely in the labor camp. According to China Aid, Pastor Dou was forced to squat when he wanted to talk to police officers, he was also forced to work 18 hours a day from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. midnight. China Aid reports that some prisoners have contracted diseases while at the camp because of overcrowding, more than 70 people sleep in a room, the hot weather and poor sanitary conditions."
Read the whole article, and if you feel led, add Pastor Dou, his wife Feng Lu, and their 12-year-old daughter to your prayer list.
- Get right thinking and you will be started on right living.
- When God's word is clear, we need to follow through with obedience, even if the outcome isn't clear.
- The "logic" of man should not overrule the direction of God.
- Circumstances can guide us, but they can also lead us astray.
- Circumstance is not a substitute for God when seeking direction.
- When you make any decision, make sure your decision honors God.
- Live as the Lord has told you.