I was deep in thought as I moved down the hallway.
I was deep in thought when I pressed the button for the elevator.
I was deep in thought when the door closed.
I was deep in thought as I waited . . .
. . . and waited . . .
. . . and waited . . .
. . . and waited . . .
I was deep in thought when I looked for the door to open.
I was deep in though when my foot moved forward . . .
. . . and the door did not open.
My thoughts vaporized as I stood there, looking at the closed door.
My thoughts swirled as I noted how this elevator ride was different than other elevator rides:
I did not sense the slight push of my feet against the floor.
I had not heard the whirr of the motors and cables as I moved through the walls of the building.
I had not felt the clunk of the box settling in place.
I must have been deep in thought.
So deep that I had to discover that I had not moved! I had not pushed the button!
The lesson came home to me quickly: I have enough irons in the fire to keep me busy until doomsday, but if I have not love for God first in all things, then nothing matters. I’ve not been moved.
Sure I could have stayed in the box until someone else came along and pushed a button. I could have also been more embarrassed to be discovered by someone and talked about as the guy who didn’t know how to operate an elevator. Someone might already say my own elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top.
But that’s how it is. In all the distractions and cares of the world, I can stand there in my box and think I am going someplace, making a difference. The reality is, I am just standing still, embraced by four walls, a ceiling and a floor.
I can stand there until someone else comes along . . . but when will someone come?
Will it be in time?
And who will it be that comes along?
And what will they do when they come?
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.“ (Ro 5:6-9)
Thank you, Jesus.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I was deep in thought as I moved down the hallway.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Princes persecute me without cause,
But my heart stands in awe of Your words.
I rejoice at Your word,
As one who finds great spoil.
I hate and despise falsehood,
But I love Your law.
Seven times a day I praise You,
Because of Your righteous ordinances.
Those who love Your law have great peace,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
I hope for Your salvation, O Lord,
And do Your commandments.
My soul keeps Your testimonies,
And I love them exceedingly.
I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies,
For all my ways are before You.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
A man I greatly admire observed, “The problem with man's wisdom is that it doesn't transform people. It doesn't forgive sin. It doesn't usher people into the presence of God. Human wisdom merely gives people an intellectual satisfaction that they can say seemingly impressive things. Yet, the world looks at the gospel and says, ‘How foolish.’ People don’t get changed lives from it, it doesn’t transform people, it doesn’t make new creatures, it doesn’t usher people into the presence of God, it doesn’t do anything like that. It gives people satisfaction by playing intellectual games, and builds their ego by telling people what they know.”[i]
An even greater man was inspired to write: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”[ii]
Greg Koukl has thought through many issues when he was asked what science could and could not prove, he answered the following:
“Can science prove there are no unicorns? Absolutely not. How could science ever prove that unicorns don't exist? All science can do is say that scientists may have been looking for unicorns for a long time and never found any. They might therefore conclude that no one is justified in believing that unicorns exist. They might show how certain facts considered to be evidence for unicorns in the past can be explained adequately by other things. They may invoke Occam's Razor to favor a simpler explanation for the facts than that unicorns exist. But scientists can never prove unicorns themselves don't exist.”
You can read the rest here.
God exists because that is the reality of things. It may be a recursive argument indeed, but when dealing with the inevitable, what choice is there?
Have you considered this: either the Universe exists or it does not.
Either the Universe had a beginning or it did not.
Either that beginning was caused or it was not.
Either that cause was personal or it was not.
Not much room for choice is there?
It’s hard to say this Universe has always existed because if that were the case, it had no beginning and time reaches far back into eternity. Let’s try an experiment: call this moment in time “zero” on the timeline, and start counting backward into eternity. Let me know when you get there . . .
Ok. I can’t wait that long, instead of counting backward into eternity, just start in eternity and count forward to “zero.” I’ll wait here.
You can’t do it, because you would never arrive back at “zero.” The point is this: the Universe had to be caused by a personal being that exists above and beyond it. Someone who is always contemporary and goes by the name “I Am.”
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” [iii]
[i] MacArthur, John. “The Power and Paradox of God's Wisdom”
[ii]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 1:18ff.
[iii]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 1:18ff.
Monday, January 22, 2007
[For those who are just 'tuning in', this post is a response to a reader who began an conversation with me last Tuesday. See previous posts.]
Oscar, thank you for clarifying your position in that what you mean by “no universal morality” you mean “there is not one unique moral code that fits all mankind’s needs.” You also state, “If this was so, the laws in all the states of the US would be the same, and so would be the laws around the globe.” When I asked if you considered yourself to be a “good person” you stated, “I behave accordingly to the moral code in my society because it's the natural thing to do as a social being, besides the fact that it just feels right to do what one thinks is, and is agreed upon is, right.”
I am curious to know:
Does the moral code of your society agree that people who tell lies are called “liars”?
Does the moral code of your society agree that people that steal are called “thieves”?
Does the moral code of your society agree that people can be married, and a relationship outside that marriage is called “adultery?”
If so, your society seems to agree with that one God-given moral standard that you say is so difficult to live by. I am referring of course to the Ten Commandments. No matter what society we live in, the Law speaks, and when the Law speaks, nobody has an excuse. Also, we cannot make a law void through faith; that is, by merely stating it does not apply does not make it go away. You can break the law of gravity, but by stating you don’t believe in it will not deliver you from the sudden stop at the bottom.
I like your illustration pertaining to those “many real-life examples in which a law has to be broken in the name of greater good.” You supposed the scenario that, “you were speeding because you had to take yor [sic] mother to the hospital, otherwise she would die. I would suppose the police would overlook this one or even escort you, because even though the law is the law, it is subject to exceptions.”
We can agree fundamentally that in speeding, regardless of the reason, the speed law is broken and when the policeman catches us, we have a choice of responses, some of which could be: 1) “I was not speeding;” or 2) “Everyone else is doing it;” or 3) “my mother needs to get to the hospital otherwise she would die.”
The law says, regardless of the reason, “Do not speed.” If you break the law, regardless of the reason, the law must bring the law-breaker to justice. Stating that your mother needs medical attention does nothing to change the fact nor the guilt of law-breaking; however, the punishment may be averted and the justice-giver may extend grace then the law-giver becomes a helper! The one who is entrusted to dispense justice may also dispense something called “mercy” and “grace.” I find this to be much different, and more realistic than to say there may be exceptions.
I must confess, you are right. You stated, “A single universal moral code is difficult (if not impossible) to follow.” God agrees with you, as it is written “’There is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they have together become unprofitable, there is none that does good, no, not one." (Romans 3:10-12)
You would also agree with God, who said a few verses later, “There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:18)
And "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
See, God does exist and He will simply not go away just because you may not want to believe in Him. Try that on a freeway. Stand in the middle of the road and deny the existence of trucks. How is it that instead of disbeliving in God, you are agreeing with what He Himself has already stated?
God has laid down His moral standard that is so effective, so complete, so perfect that He in fact not only founded the nation Israel on it’s ceremonial and civil code, but also has imprinted His moral code on the minds and hearts of all men (i.e. the fact that you know the difference between right and wrong) and expects all men everywhere to live by them.
You agree with God! Man cannot keep His perfect law! Man breaks them right and left, so as a righteous judge, He has no choice but to impose the punishment of death and hell.
Go back to that courtroom. Imagine you are standing before a judge for breaking a law and he says, “Before I pass sentence, what do you have to say?” Let’s again, use your own words from a previous post: “there is not one unique moral code that fits all mankind’s needs . . . I behave accordingly to the moral code in my society because it's the natural thing to do as a social being, besides the fact that it just feels right to do what one thinks is, and is agreed upon is, right.” The judge says, “That does not matter. You broke the law and punishment must be given. You fine is $250,000 and jail-time.”
Now, imagine that someone who you don’t even know steps up and says to the judge, “whatever the punishment is, I’ll take it. I’ll pay the fine.” He takes out his wallet and is pulling money out.
The judge looks at you—what do you want to do? One choice is to tell the judge, “let him do it. I don’t have the money and I don’t want jail.” The other choice is to tell the judge, “You don’t exist. I don’t care, there is not one unique moral code that fits all mankind’s needs, etc . . .”
See, I know that I can’t keep God’s perfect law. As a matter of fact, all the good things I do are like filthy rags to Him, that’s why He calls me a sinner and I deserve death and hell. But since He also paid the penalty for my sin, and I turned from my sin (like lying, stealing, adultery, blasphemy, etc.) and accepted His payment by faith, I have that on my account. When that day comes and I stand before Him, He will see two things: my sin and the fact that I had that stranger (Jesus) pay the price for my sins. I can leave the court-room a free man. Free to do what I ought, not what I want.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Thank you for responding to my question, “would you consider yourself to be a good person?” You responded, basically, that there is no universal morality (despite what some religions claim) and are uncertain if there is a “good” answer to that question. If there was no universal morality, would I be correct to state that the things you do (you gave me a list) to “make them and myself feel good (without causing harm in the process, of course)” are really done for some other reason?
Let’s do something. Let’s put the Bible aside and go to the courtroom. Ok? No “religion,” just law.
How many things would one have to steal in order for the police to brand him a thief? Just one, right? Just like it takes one rape to make one a rapist, right? What about telling lies? Have you ever thought about what telling lies makes you? If I told you a lie I am certain you would file my face under the word “liar” in your dictionary, correct?
I am certain you are able to construct a string of cases where lying may be “good,” but the point of the question is not motive, but “have you ever done it?” Besides, by your argument, there is no universal morality, so lying must be “not good.” Hmmm.
I know you believe there is an absolute morality because if you didn’t, you would go around stealing right and left! Why don’t you do that? Because if you did, you would break the law. What happens to people who break the law?
Let’s go a step further, and a little faster: imagine you are driving in a car on the highway and other cars are passing you right and left. You pass a sign that everyone can see that says “Speed Limit 60 mph.” But everyone is going faster than you, so you speed up: 65, 70, 75 . . . then you hear a sound. Sirens. You look down at the speedometer and realize you are going 80 mph and the police pulls YOU over. Why did he do that? Because you broke the law.
What keeps you from getting in a car and disregarding all traffic signals and speed limits? The law is something GOOD that has been put into place by an authority—and you obey it without question. When you break the law, you get caught, you feel guilt, you get punished.
Now you stand before a judge who is about to pass sentence on you for breaking the law. The judge asks, if you have anything to say for yourself. What are you going to say? Let’s use your own words in court: “At most I can say that people who know me will tell you I am, given that in their experience I'm honest, an A student, kind to people, put my thrash in the thrash can, give back missing objects to people who lost them, etc. Do I think all these things make me a good person? I don't know, because there is no universal morality (despite what some religions will claim), but I try to live my life doing things that won't cause harm to others or myself and, if possible, that will make them and myself feel good (without causing harm in the process, of course).”
First, if there is no universal morality, what is law for?
Second, what is the judge going to do?
What if you lie and tell the judge, “I was not speeding!” Better yet, “Everyone else was speeding too!” What is he going to do?
If he is a GOOD judge, what would he do?
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Thank you for your good comments and questions in our discussion about the existence of God and "Can God make a rock so big He cannot lift it?" I will attempt to respond to your comments in turn and will conclude with one question for you. First, you replied:
“Omnipotent indeed means infinite power, that is, being able to do anything. So (according to what you say) either the bible overly vague (defective) in it's wording (read your dictionary) or the omnipotent idea of God is plain nonsense.”
I agree with you in that Omnipotence means “all powerful” however, this is not an abstract concept. Omnipotence is connected to the person of God; therefore, God is all-powerful and able to do whatever He wills. To ask the question if God can make rocks so large that He cannot lift it does not ask if making such a rock is God’s will. What He did make was the Universe and all things in it and He upholds all things by the word of His power—why ask something so small about rocks if He created all things in both macro and microcosmos?
Consider further: God can do everything that is in harmony with His perfections. Knowing this, there are some things that God cannot do because they are contrary to His nature as God. For example: God cannot look favorably on sin, God cannot lie, God cannot tempt or be tempted. In the same way God cannot do things absurd, self-contradictory, like making square circles. These acts are not acts of power, so there is no limitation to God’s omnipotence.
The possession of omnipotence does not demand an exercise of power. God does what He wills to do, and God does not necessarily will to do anything, especially on a whim. God has power over His power. That’s omnipotence.
To demand that God that has no power over His power is to create a god that does not exist, and that may be part of your misunderstanding.
You also wrote: “If an omnipotent god which is also absolutely good exists, why is there so much pain and suffering (i.e. evil) in the world? Any being which is all-good and all-powerfil [sic] would naturally erradicate [sic] all conditions under which it would be possible for evil to exist.”
Again, good questions. Perhaps another way to put it would be (if I may), “Since an omnipotent God which is also absolutely good exists, why is there so much pain and suffering (i.e. evil) in the world?”
I will ask in response: “What makes you think the ability to take away evil from the world has anything to do with God's strength?”
Let's pretend that you claim to be the strongest person in the world. More than that, you are the strongest person in the universe. You can pick up an entire building. You are so strong that you can pick up an entire city. You are so strong you can pick up an entire country. In fact, if you had a place to stand, you could lift the entire planet, even the solar system. You have so much strength, you can do anything that strength allows you to do. This is your boast to me, Ok?
Now, let’s test your strength by using one of your own arguments: make a square circle.
You can’t do it because square circles have nothing to do with strength. Neither does the existence of evil nor the eradication of it have anything to do with strength.
You tried to dismiss this argument with, “Don't give me the free-will tale because if god is all-knowing that would mean that he would already know the whole future, which would mean our destiny exist and is fixated, and not the product of our own inventive.”
Every thinking person must deal with the problem of evil and I am happy to think this through with you because, face it, nobody likes pain, right? But consider this: my youngest son is losing his baby teeth, but one tooth will not come out. It is just sticking out there and his adult tooth is coming in behind it. The baby tooth is not loose, so he will have to go to the dentist and have it pulled so the adult tooth can come in. Can you see where this is going? Momentary pain can be necessary for long-term relief.
For the atheist, pain and suffering and evil are not really problems, but necessary for life, which makes pain and suffering and evil a great blessing—life could not be without chaos: life is a cosmic accident, morality is an arbitrary game by which we order our lives, and meaning is non-existent. As Oxford University's Professor Richard Dawkins explains, human life is nothing more than a way for selfish genes to multiply and reproduce. There is no meaning or dignity to humanity. Bottom line: pain, suffering and evil are necessary to promote life.
Did you know that Jesus Himself pointed out that suffering and pain and evil do not all find their sources in man’s free will? Read the Bible and find Jesus making a distinction between moral evil and natural evil.
In Luke 13, the murder of the Galileans is clearly moral evil, a premeditated crime--just like the terrorist acts in New York and Washington. In John 9, a man is blind from birth, and Jesus tells the Twelve that this blindness cannot be traced back to this man's sin, or that of his parents. Natural evil comes without a moral agent. A tower falls, an earthquake shakes, a tornado destroys, a hurricane ravages, a spider bites, a disease debilitates and kills. The world is filled with wonders mixed with dangers. Gravity can save you or gravity can kill you. When a tower falls, it kills.
People all over the world are demanding an answer to the question of evil. It comes only to those who claim that God is mighty and that God is good. How could a good God allow these things to happen? How can a God of love allow killers to kill, terrorists to terrorize, and the wicked to escape without a trace?
God is absolute righteousness, love, goodness, and justice. Most errors related to this issue occur because of our human tendency to impose an external standard--a human construction of goodness--upon God. But good does not so much define God as God defines good. God is God, and God is good. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose." [Romans 8:28]
Your conclusion is “God is either: a) Not omnipotent, because he can not make evil not-so, though he wishes he could because he is all-good. b) Not all-good, because even being able to do something about all the evil he decides to do nothing (he is a sadist). c) Something which posseses conflicting qualities, like a square circle, and therefore can not exist.”
The key to your answer is “God is.” God is omnipotent by nature, according to His perfections. God is good and He defines what “good” is and has done something about evil and that “something” will be carried out when it is time.
Now, please answer this for me: would you consider yourself to be a good person?
Stand to Reason
Al Mohler Commentary. Aug 30, 2005.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
A visitor to my site posed a question to refute the existence of God, "Can God make a rock so big He cannot lift it?" Greg Koukl wrote the following response to this worn-out argument:
This is known as a pseudo-question. It’s like asking, “Can God win an arm wrestling match against Himself?” or, “If God beat Himself up, who would win?” or, “Can God’s power defeat His own power?”
The question is nonsense because it treats God as if He were two instead of one. The phrase “stronger than” can only be used when two subjects are in view, for example, Bill is stronger than Bob, my left arm is stronger than my right arm, etc. Since God is only one, and since He has no parts, it makes no sense to ask if He is stronger than Himself. That’s why this is a pseudo-question. It proves nothing about any deficiency in God because the question itself is incoherent.
This pits one aspect of God’s ability against another--in this case, His creative ability against His ability to lift. The goal is to show that there are some things God can’t do, thus undermining the Christian concept of an omnipotent Creator. This illustration, however, miscasts the biblical notion of omnipotence, and is therefore guilty of the straw man fallacy.
Omnipotence doesn’t mean that God can do anything. The concept of omnipotence has to do with power, not ability per se. In fact, there are many things God can’t do. He can’t make square circles. He can’t create a morally free creature who couldn’t choose evil. He can’t instantly create a sixty-year-old man (not one that looks sixty, but one that is sixty). None of these, though, have to do with power. Instead, they are logically contradictory, and therefore contrary to God’s rational nature. The “Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it?” challenge is no threat to Christian theism."
Linus walked about with his eyes open as wide as possible. He just stared at Snoopy, glared at Sally, gaped at Charlie Brown. Lucy broke the silence by asking from sisterly irritation, “what are you doing?” Linus replied, “I’m practicing being a wide-eyed fanatic.” My pastor recently taught me that a fanatic is someone who redoubles his efforts after he has lost sight of his goals. So, how you are doing with your New Year’s Resolutions? Fanatical, I hope not.
Resolutions indicate that we want to do better; however, intention is often mixed with emotion and the resolve we think we’ve mustered becomes an exercise in frustration. The changes we so enthusiastically desire are either abandoned or resurface with a vengeance and we embarrassingly make our way through the other 350 days of the year when we can anticipate rebooting our resolve with another set of emotionalized intentions.
What did you set out to accomplish this year? Here are a few things that crossed my mind:
1. Live a more Godly life.
These are notable goals, but I believe Jonathan Edwards (along with Whitfield and a few others) would want to sit back and wait to see what fruit these seedlings produce. I believe this is why Edwards himself started his list of resolutions with objectives (a syllabus of sorts) explaining that whatever he accomplished would be first Godward, then selfward then manward. He qualified those objectives with two declarations: that he would do whatever it took to promote those things and should he fail, would repent, come to his senses and try again.
What course do religious affections run? I am convinced that resolutions that matter are found in revival; in other words, a made up mind must be a transformed one, not recovered, but born again. Or as Shakespeare reminds us not to compost the weeds. Edwards has been teaching me about revival in that as a tree buds and is covered with flowers, not all those flowers give fruit. Resolutions that matter redirects our limbs with fruit not explode them into flowers.
Resolutions that matter boast the object of your love. I believe it was John Piper who said to the effect that willpower religion, when it succeeds, gets glory for the will. Willpower religion produces legalists, not lovers. The object of love must be discovered first before boasting in that object can occur. We may hold a conversation like this:
Q: Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might?
A: Yes, you know I do.
Q: Are His words on your heart?
A: Well, sort of. I try to memorize scripture and have quiet time. I pray when I can.
Q: Do you, “teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up?”[i]
A: Not at that frequency . . . we have other things to do, too! I have to go to work, and so does my wife . . . and I have errands to run. When I get to relax, I guard that time jealously.
Q: Are the commands of God evident in the work of your hands and always on your mind?
A: Well, I suppose there are some things we could do less of, or not at all . . .
Q: Do you “write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates?”[ii]
A: Well, we homeschool or go to private school or . . .
Rationalization is easy; and, when we rationalize, the true object of our love burbles to the surface. This is why the Israelites were given the warnings, “watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”[iii] See, the whole thing starts with the premise that there is only one God and He alone is to be feared. How does God feel when we have inordinate love? “I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols; and they will loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed, for all their abominations.”[iv]
That saying, “if you love something set it free, and if it comes back to you it is yours” is hogwash. “We love, because He first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19). Think of it this way: Do you feel most loved by God because He makes much of you, or because He frees you to enjoy making much of Him forever?
When I say that resolutions that matter boast the object of your love, I do not mean there is any pride on our behalf. That is not what I mean by boasting. What I mean is that if we love God, we carry out His commands without shame. When we have a made up mind about God, we have a made up mind about who we are and our place in relation to Him. If we love God, we should never grow bored of talking about Him, thinking of Him or obeying Him.
If we love God as much as we say we do, we should be devastated.************
[i]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Dt 6:7.
[ii]NASB, ibid. Dt 6:9.
[iii]NASB, idid. Dt 6:12.
[iv]NASB, ibid. Eze 6:9.
"Holiness is not an attainment at all, it is the gift of God, and the pietistic tendency is the introspection which makes me worship my own earnestness and not the Lord seriously at all. It is a pious fraud that suits the natural man immensely. He makes holy, He sanctifies, He does it all. All I have to do is come as a spiritual pauper, not ashamed to beg, to let go of my right to myself and act on Romans 12:1-2. It is never, 'Do, do and you'll be' with the Lord, but "Be, be, and I will do through you.' It is a case of 'hands up' and letting go, and then entire reliance on Him."
--Oswald Chambers, in a letter to a friend, 1901. McCasland, David. Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God. Oswald Chambes Publications Associations: Thomas Nelson, 1993
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
How the Cross of Christ Corresponds to and Conquers Satan’s Work.
by John Piper
Satan’s work is not the chief peril dealt with in the death of Christ. God’s wrath is. God is opposed to us in his righteous wrath, and he is for us in his love. Therefore, in his great love, he sends his Son to endure his own wrath against us. In this way, his righteousness is upheld and his love is expressed. His wrath and curse and condemnation of our sin are endured for us by another—a substitute, Jesus Christ. Here are some of the texts that teach this:
(read the rest here).
Thursday, January 04, 2007
"When you pause to consider that God is infinitely strong and can do all that he pleases, and that he is infinitely righteous so that he only does what is right, and that he is infinitely good so that everything he does is perfectly good, and that he is infinitely wise so that he always knows perfectly what is right and good, and that he is infinitely loving so that in all his strength and righteousness and goodness and wisdom he raises the eternal joy of his loved ones as high as it can be raised—when you pause to consider this, then the lavish invitations of this God to ask him for good things, with the promise that he will give them, is unimaginably wonderful."
John Piper, "Ask Your Father in Heaven."
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Ok, in one hand I have a diamond and in the other, a glass of water. Which would you choose?
Alright, now you’ve been in the desert three days, the sun bearing down on you and the heat reflecting back up in your face and in one hand I have a diamond and in the other, a glass of water. Which would you choose?
Psalm 42 opens with this scene likening the soul’s desire for God as a deer longing for water. I’ve often wondered what was on the writer’s mind to liken the soul to that deer in such a desperate position. Had he been watching something take place in the field and was inspired to liken the soul to what he saw? Had the deer been observed going about his daily routine of foraging and looking for water, perhaps observing the writer and his entourage (if any) as they passed by? Was the deer just thirsty? Perhaps the writer had observed the deer in a more desperate situation, such as eluding a hunting party or a lion and is now looking for replenishment now that danger is past. I am inclined to think the latter, for the writer asks in verse 2 when he will appear before God. I believe this is a death-cry, for he is dying of a spiritual thirst likened unto the swollen-tongued, dry-lipped, peeling skin kind of thirst. There are yet more clues to his depression and desparation, as we will see later.
Here we find a picture not of mere deer and a wispy glimpse of something called “spirituality”, but a description of one who is intensely dissatisfied with one’s state of being and a growing need that amounts to the desire for purity, power and nearness to the Lord. “It is not now a sense of guilt and God’s wrath so much as of the power and evil of inward sin, and the dissatisfaction with the life the person is living. It usually comes from the deeper revelation of God’s truth, from more spiritual teaching, from definite examples and testimonies of this life in others. Or it may result from an experience of deep trial, conflict and temptation in which the Christian has found his attainments and resources inadequate for the real issues and needs of life.”[i]
This soul rather impatiently, desperately requires God, who can alone slake this kind of thirst. This cast down soul has been eating nothing but tears day and night, while the enemy acts not as a waiter at the table, but as an unwelcome guest, “Where is your God?” Remember the question at the beginning? Too many people go through their depressions with handfuls of diamonds when they really needed water. One is deathly thirsty because he has been too easily satisfied, and those things sought for satisfaction apart from God have miserably failed.
“He is weeping and fearful, and all because he is in this state of perplexity and fear. He is worried about himself, he is worried about what is happening to him, he is troubled about these enemies who are attacking him and insinuating things about him and his God. Everything seems to be on top of him. He cannot control his feelings. He goes further to say that it is even affecting his appetite.”[ii]
In one sense many of are more than familiar with being so upset that food is repulsive. In yet another sense, there is the possibility of contrast between the water of tears and the water of a river. Could it be that he has exerted all effort to sustain himself and has come to the end of himself? Could it be that he is, as Bonhoeffer would put it, ready to meet God at the border of his existence? He should be drinking from a river, and everyone knows you can’t cry yourself a river and satisfy your own thirst. We will return to this later.
One thing the depressed seem to remember is how good things were or at least how good things seem to be for others. This writer remembers the “good old days” of being more involved, less aloof. He even remembers the contributions he made, leading others in worship to the house of God. A pastor once told about a visitor he had in his office where a lady told him, “I just don’t feel the same anymore. I feel like something’s missing.” He looked at her and asked, “Well, what have you said or thought against God, the church or even the leadership?” As her mouth hung open the pastor told her she had been seen with questionable people, gossips and others who do the body of Christ great harm and it should be no wonder as to her lacking in fellowship. Instead of siding with the enemy, we should remain in fellowship, lifting up one another with joy and thanksgiving, celebrating God! We should love God by enjoying Him forever! John Piper puts it this way:
“[W]e should be blood-earnest-deadly serious-about being happy in God. We should pursue our joy with a passion and a vehemence that, if it must, would cut off our hand or gouge out our eye to have it. God being glorified in us hangs on our being satisfied in him. Which makes our being satisfied in him infinitely important. It becomes the animating vocation of our lives. We tremble at the horror of not rejoicing in God. We quake at the fearful lukewarmness of our hearts. We waken to the truth that it is a treacherous sin not to pursue that satisfaction in God with all our hearts. There is one final word for finding delight in the creation more than in the Creator: treason.”[iii]
Now we come to a place where we hear the writer interviews himself. He has recognized his soul was in distress, panting, thirsting after God, so why not just go the source and ask the soul the reason for the despair. Here we find a person talking to himself, and this should not at all surprise us. Why? Well, consider how a person may get into the doldrums to begin with—he has perhaps talked himself into making bad decisions or into believing lies about himself or others. Self-talk can be helpful or it can be hurtful, as many people make up their own reality and then withdraw when the real world cannot see their way. Receive Godly counsel on self-talk:
“You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’—what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’—instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.”[iv]
Not only does he talk to himself about himself, but he talks to God about himself, “O my God, my soul is in despair within me.” He says in verse 8 this is the prayer of his life! What has he prayed? He causes himself to remember what God has done (verses 6-8). I believe that in these few words, he remembers first that God is Creator of all things; second that God has carried out his promises with faithfulness, starting with the Promised land itself; last, that God is the satisfaction of his soul. Remember how he began by talking about his thirst for God? Now he talks about his remembrance of God:
“from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.”
What is it that these places have in common, aside from being found within the Promised Land? Hermon is in the North, at 9,300 feet. Anything that starts on Hermon must go downhill, namely one certain river . . . the river Jordan! The Jordan River flows throughout the entire land, through the Sea of Galilee all the way to the Dead Sea.
“Deep calls to deep at the sound of your waterfalls;
and all your breakers and your waves have rolled over me.”
The writer is equating God with not a drop nor a bucket but an entire river! This concept is echoed in that great hymn we love to sing:
“O the deep, deep love of Jesus—
vast, unmeasured, boundless free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me,
underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love—
leading onward, leading homeward, to my glorious rest above.”[v]
He is reminding himself of the immensity of God, the closeness of God, the thoroughness of God. He is from the highest to the lowest. He is from border to border. He runs in the daytime as He does at night. The sound of falling water is mesmerizing, especially water falling into deep pools and echoing off the rocks. These sounds do not stop, but are a constant reminder of the presence of the river, even at night.
Matthew Henry helps us understand the necessity of the next verses explaining what is meant by God as the rock:
“A rock to build upon, a rock to take shelter in. The rock of ages, in whom is everlasting strength, would be his rock, his strength in the inner man, both for doing and suffering. To him he had access with confidence. To God his rock he might say what he had to say, and be sure of a gracious audience. he therefore repeats what he had before said (v. 5), and concludes with it (v. 11) . . . By repeating what he had before said, chiding himself, as before, for his dejections and disquietudes, and encouraging himself to trust in the name of the Lord and to stay himself upon his God. Note, It may be of great use to us to think our good thoughts over again, and, if we do not gain our point with them at first, perhaps we may the second time; however, where the heart goes along with the words, it is no vain repetition. We have need to press the same thing over and over again upon our hearts, and all little enough.”[vi]
One almost gets the picture of one tumbling down the rapids. Rapids hurt. One gets unmercifully thrown about, smashed, takes on a great deal of water . . . but should not this be a cause of rejoicing? Wasn’t water the very thing he was crying out for? Why is it the enemy is taking advantage of the situation? Does not James encourage us to, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”[vii] And again, “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”[viii]
When he first was walking about with a fallen face (v.5) he is now encouraged to have an uplifted countenance by recognizing his failure to hope in God, his failure to praise for God and for his failure to rely on His help. He stands now corrected, nourished, having drunk deeply of the faithfulness of God, hoping in Him, praising Him and throwing Himself into the depths of His mercy!
[i] Selected, A.B. Simpson
[ii] Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Spiritual Depression: Its’ Causes and Cure. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976. p. 14.
[iii] Piper, John. “A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards Three Hundred Years Later.” 2003 Desiring God National Conference.
[iv] Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn, ibid.
[v]Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions, Includes Indexes. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 44.
[vi]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991), Ps 42:6.
[vii]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jas 1:2.
[viii]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Pe 1:7.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
What, exactly, is a “resolution?” Resolutions could be thought of as disciplines toward change, steadfastness that requires courage, or the evidence of a made up mind. The reality is that when resolutions are made, a fresh start is the object of the endeavor. Pastor Greg Laurie mentions in a New Year’s devotional how people are making their resolutions. “Some are going to swear off alcohol or smoking or television or overeating. Others are going to try to change wicked habits like gossip or worry or losing their temper. Others are going to try to start new habits like getting in shape physically. We can develop disciplines in our lives that will build us up spiritually. This year can be an opportunity for a fresh start for us all.”
These are worthy causes to pursue and one may set about with determination to accomplish one or more of these goals, but is the resolution itself the best idea? What is the resolution of the resolution? In other words: what plan will one enact to make their resolution reality.
A.W. Tozer showed us that men of faith are men of resolve: “’Jacob vowed a vow,’ and it was the beginning of a very wonderful life with God. Daniel ‘purposed in his heart,’ and God honored his purpose. Jesus set his face like a flint and walked straight toward the cross. Paul ‘determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.’” These men show us resolution in faithfulness, focus, undefilement and faith! These men were not overcome by some euphoria that drove them toward good intentions.
In order for there to be a fresh start, there must be a plan of continuance. Once the weight is off, then what? Once the alcohol or smoking is finished, then what? What replaced bad temper? Resolutions are more than mere declarations of intention; rather, they should be a breaking down of complexities into their most simple parts, the reduction of ideas through analysis to their most base propositions.
“As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of LORD is tried; He is a shield to all those who trust in Him.” (Ps. 18:30)
When we make our resolutions, we must recognize the danger we face toward vanity and idolatry. Notice how many resolutions are centered on the self! We are in danger of losing sight of God. Thomas Brooks reminds us, “The Scripture holds forth the world as an impotent thing, as a mixed thing, as a mutable thing, as a momentary thing. Now faith comes and sets this home with power upon the soul--and this takes the soul off from the world.” We must therefore be resolved to exercise faith toward God in Christ Jesus, that great things would be accomplished in His name and to the praise of His glory. Brooks continues, “Men may talk much of heaven, and of Christ, and religion, etc.; but give me a man who does really and clearly live under the power of divine faith--and I cannot see how such a one can be carried out in an inordinate love to these poor transitory things.”
Jonathan Edwards preached that "persons need not and ought not to set any bounds to their spiritual and gracious appetites." In another sermon he says that persons ought “to be endeavoring by all possible ways to inflame their desires and to obtain more spiritual pleasures. . . . Our hungerings and thirstings after God and Jesus Christ and after holiness can't be too great for the value of these things, for they are things of infinite value. . . . [Therefore] endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of allurement . . . There is no such thing as excess in our taking of this spiritual food. There is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting.”[i]
Or as C.S. Lewis is often quoted as saying, “we are far too easily satisfied.”
Resolve is build on a rock, an immovable base. There is a bottom to resolve, and that bottom is God through Christ Jesus. We sing it loud and proud how our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On CHRIST the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.
The church of Christ Jesus needs brothers and sisters of resolution, people who make grounded decisions and through prayer think of the ramifications of their decisions. We should be a people who have counted the cost for if not, we will not carry out those things that matter in one year, in five years, in eternity, but move in small pitiful steps through life, swinging from whim to whim. Making resolutions require a higher bar.
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
There is a biblical plan of action toward making effective resolutions. The Holy Spirit has already broken them down into their most base parts. The key, the plan of action to carry out resolutions is that we be saved and Spirit-filled. The problems from which we would like that fresh start come from the flesh and that is what we must be delivered from. Consider are any of these items on your resolution list?
Immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.
Are these the kinds of characteristics you are pursuing this New Year?
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Note: you and I cannot produce the items we desire! They come from outside us—even self-control! These things come through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Consider also Ephesians 4, here in continuous text for easier reading. Notice those things which the believer is encouraged to stop and the plan of action (the resolution) to start fresh:
“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. “
Colossians 3 gives another similar list of resolutions:
“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth . . . Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.“
There are more "do's" than there are "don'ts." So if you do all the "do's" you don't have time to "do" the "don'ts." The other way to look at it is to read scripture through the lenses of 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
1. What does it say ("teaching")?
2. How do I fail to do what it says ("reproof" or "rebuke")?
3. What should I be doing ("correction")? see #1
4. How am I going to do what it says ("training in righteousness")?
There is an unmistakable identification of that which must be changed, what that change should become and how that change is to be affected and maintained. Putting off and putting on is a spiritual act. “Set your mind. This can also be translated ‘think,’ or ‘have this inner disposition.’ As a compass points N, the believer’s entire disposition should point itself toward the things of heaven. Heavenly thoughts can only come by understanding heavenly realities from Scripture.”[ii]
[i] Quoted from an unpublished sermon, "Sacrament Sermon on Canticles 5:1" (circa 1729), edited version by Kenneth Minkema in association with The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale University. Also, see Jonathan Edwards, "The Spiritual Blessings of the Gospel Represented by a Feast" in Sermons and Discourses, 1723-1729, ed. Kenneth Minkema (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997), 286.
[ii]John Jr MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997), Col 3:2.
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