Wednesday, March 31, 2010

God's Work in My Heart

A friend offered two critiques to my previous post that I wanted to post for everyone else to see. I think that these critiques are helpful in thinking about these things and they also led into what I wanted to say next, more as a note of personal application. So here are the two critiques:

1. You mentioned that there are Arminian passages and Calvinist passages. I think I have to disagree in the sense that I think a Biblical framework such as the one laid out by Calvin can explain said 'Arminian passages' and therefore they shouldn't be called 'Arminian passages'. (I do understand why you used the term.)

2. I am of the opinion (not fact, but opinion) that strong believers who are Arminian might not have fully thought out their theology and may very well be functional Calvinists. I think Calvinism just sounds unsavory to minds that have not been trained to see their God as more than merely a loving Friend and that have not thought deeply about the character (and purpose) of God. That's just what I think, though.

So I was thinking about all of these things the other day, actually in response to reading a blog on the love of Christ for God. In that post he stated that "We show that we remain in the love of Christ when we obey [the Father], but this obedience is not legalistic or offered up in a mercenary spirit of selfish gain, it is obedience motivated by pure love and given for the end of the glorification of the Father to whom it is offered." Recently I found myself in a place where I believed that my salvation was completely the work of God, by His grace, through His faith, because of His love, but I found that my life was being lived as if the faith was my own, as if it was by what I was doing that I could/would draw near to God.

As I inspected my heart through the Holy Spirit I found that the reason I was in this place was because I didn't know why God calls some but not others, and this caused uncertainty in my heart. I didn't want to humbly rely on God to work in my heart, I wanted control of my own heart, so that I could come to God in my way and my time. But God says that He draws us, and that if we are His we will not be lost. That it is not in our control, but it is God who works in our heart through the Holy Spirit. This is the hard teaching of John 6 that caused many of Jesus followers to turn away from him. I found that I was in this place where I believed that it was only by the work of the Spirit in my life that I can follow God, but at the same time I was living in a certain way just in case it had something to do with my will. Just in case my actions mattered, then I was good, because I was seeking God. But I was seeking out of a selfish fear of what would happen if I didn't seek rather than out of the love coming from a heart transformed by the Gospel. What legalism!

Here's what I realized though. By doing this I was walking in the flesh. By doing this I was loving myself rather than God. By doing this I was exalting and glorifying myself because I was seeing my actions as my own rather than God's work. By professing monergism with my mouth but living a synergistic lifestyle I was glorifying God and drawing near to Him with my lips, but my heart was far from Him. Now, lest you think I am not a Christian, the Spirit was still moving in my heart, indeed it was by him that I realized any of this, and he was gently calling me back to himself. But I share this with you because I believe that if you examine your heart you may find some of these same roots there. You may find yourself walking in the flesh, out of a love for yourself, rather than out of the love that God has placed in your heart. You may find yourself a professing Calvanist but a functional Arminian. Or worse, you may find yourself a professing sinner redeemed by the blood of Christ only to find that you are a sinner relying on the works of the flesh to bring you before a holy God. God called me to return to Him. God reminded me that to love him is to say, "Though you slay me still I'll follow." To have such a love in my heart for Him that I will seek to glorify Him with my life even if when I die He casts me into the pit of Hell. This is what I want my life to be, and I believe that this is what He wants as well.

May you walk on your knees, crying out to God your Father to give you the strength. May you always walk full of confidence and grace, knowing that the price was paid in full and there is nothing more for you to add to it. May you not trust in yourself, but be freed by the truth that it is through Christ alone, and the working of the Spirit in your heart, that you can do any good. May you be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding, in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

***I realize that I am assuming in this that my reader's hold to a monergistic Scriptural interpretation. This is somewhat because I think that most of my reader's do, but it is also because I was relaying a personal encounter with the Spirit, so it obviously was tainted by my own interpretations of Scripture. If you hold to a synergistic view of the work of the Holy Spirit then you can either disregard what I have said above or post a comment stating your thoughts.***

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Brief Explanation of a Biblical Concept - Laying the Groundwork for a Future Post

So I always refer to myself as being biblical in my theology and pursuit of God. I often say this in reference to systematic theology, when someone asks me to which systematic theology I adhere. What I mean by that is that rather than looking at the Bible through a systematic lens, I instead try to look at my broad beliefs about God (systematic theology) through a biblical lens. Basically meaning that I do not hold strictly to the 5 points of Calvin because I read in Scripture that Moses prayed and changed the heart of God. But it also means that I don't hold to the 5 points of Arminianism because there are only 2-3 places in Scripture that I can find evidence for these things. So I have to find a way to reconcile the Arminian passages with the Calvinist and there is my biblical theology.

Ok, enough talk with big words and describing how it is that I see these things. All you really need to know is that I do not hold tightly to any one person's view of the Bible, but I think that there is still value in taking a step back from the Bible and addressing some of the big issues of the faith from a general knowledge of the Scripture rather than a specific interpretation of one passage, which is what I am going to do today, hence this long prologue.

So there are two different ways of looking at our salvation. Both hold that Christ took our sins upon himself on the cross, thus canceling the written code, and that by faith we look to him for our salvation. This is where one side now differs to say that this faith is the gift of God (Eph 2:8-9) and that unless God draws us, but not only draws but also establishes us as His child, we will not look on the Son and be saved (John 6:25-70). There are many more verses that speak of this, but I will leave it here, it is the idea that we are completely powerless to save ourselves, that we are completely unregenerate, lost in sin, and haters of God, but that while we were still sinners Christ died for us and God made us His sons and daughters.

Now, the other side argues that, while the work of Christ is entirely sufficient for our salvation, while it is entirely by grace we have been saved, that even though there is no work we can do to earn our salvation, they hold that we must still have faith. That it is our work of faith that brings the righteousness of Christ. That while God draws us we still have the choice to follow or not to follow. That we wake up everyday and it is our choice, not the work of the Holy Spirit, that causes us to decide to live for Christ or not for Christ that day.

Now that I have all of you thoroughly bored and wondering why in the world I'm saying all of this....I'm not going to tell you. I actually had a reason for saying this, but this post has become too long, so I'm going to wrap it up and write the rest later. Now, in case you didn't know, the first point that I detailed is monergism, which is Calvinism. This is the interpretation of Scripture that I lean towards, and I do truly believe that even to trust in Christ is the work of the Spirit in my life, and that to walk with God is to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh (Rom 8). The second viewpoint that I detailed is synergism, the work of the Spirit in accordance with my will. This is a key point in Arminianism, which I do not adhere to.

Many people say, "So what? Why would I want or need to know these things? They seem like just splitting hairs." I would say that it is important because these are matters of life and death! Go read Romans 8 where it says that to walk in the Spirit is life but to walk in the flesh is death. Now if I am getting up every morning thinking that by doing something I am drawing near to God, if I look at my actions throughout the day as me striving to come to God, if I deny the Spirit and the work of the Spirit in my heart, thus blaspheming him (Matthew 12:22-32), then these are great consequences! Now, I am not suggesting that Arminians blaspheme the Holy Spirit and are thus not Christians, some of the strongest believers that I know are Arminian, but what I am saying is that I see a danger in that theological understanding, I see the fires of Hell buried in that way of living my life, and I think that it is a more correct understanding of Scripture to say that there is nothing that I can do to present myself, or bring myself before God.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Defense of the Gospel

I have heard many Christians take part in lengthy intellectual discussions with nonbelievers regarding the faith and justifications for the faith. I have long questioned the value and fruit of such conversations and felt that it is better to stay away from highly intellectual areas of sharing the Gospel and stick with the truth of Scripture. I think that its also good to take unbelievers' eyes off of the thinking side of all of it and instead focus them on Christ and what he has done personally in our lives.

I was reading a friend's blog and he was talking about just this thing. I would highly encourage you to read it by clicking here. The main portion to read is what is italicized. This is a way of explaining the truth of God and what He does and means in our lives that I have never heard before. I think that it is excellent because it will meet a person where they are at, connect with them, and show them the truth in what is being said, rather than taking 4 hours to debate the intellectuality of it all only to shut their soul off to the whole message. The one thing that I see as important in this is that one properly explains that, while our encounter with God needs no more justification than their use of drugs, sex, money, etc..., our encounter with God is entirely different because we walk away satisfied and full of life.

May you be prepared in and out of season to give a response to those who ask about the hope that you have. May you think about, ponder, and formulate creative ways for expressing your relationship with God and what it means to you. May you listen to the Holy Spirit as God teaches you the things of Him and grows in you a spiritual understanding that is always applicable to life. May you speak the truth to those around you.

This Week

So, I will not normally make posts like this, but today it seemed appropriate. This week will be an interesting one, I have a Psych of Learning test on Tuesday which I have to read two chapters for because I missed two of the classes. I also have to read at least 9 journal articles on Symbolic Interactionism and analyze them to use them as research for my 13 page Senior Seminar paper.

Thus, this will be a busy week full of mind stressing and mind numbing work that will probably result in boring blog posts having to do more with random thoughts about the blunderings of humanity than thought out tidbits on the all powerful, omniscient, omnipresent, creator, sustainer, and redeemer of mankind.

So in looking out at this week I wanted to share some verses that I will be focusing on, and basically it turned into the whole book of Colossians, so here's the highlights:
"He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins...He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in EVERYTHING he might have the supremacy...So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to LIVE IN HIM, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness...When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins...Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God...And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him...Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...It is the Lord Christ you are serving...Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful...'See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord' "

I know that was long, but I pray that that walk through Colossians encourages you. Here's how it will impact my week. I am to remember that I am bought with a price and therefore whatever I do is an extension of the work of my Master. Christ should be the beginning, middle, and end of everything that I do, and those things should never take my focus from Christ, but rather, as I see that this is the work given me by God focusing on Christ will give me the desire and strength to do the work and doing the work will focus me on Christ. In all of these things I should be devoted to prayer, thanking God for all his provisions, and always acting and interacting based on the love that has been poured out upon me.

May you walk forward in the Gospel, taking each step aware of Christ's work on the cross, that it is finished and your debt is paid in full, learning what it means to do the things in the world for the glory of One in another. May you not grow weary in doing good, but persevere, always thanking God for the strength and opportunities that He had given to you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'm Small, You're Big

By: Nathan Good

Lord I’m small, You are big
I’m weak, but you are strong
I stumble you pick me up again

But I just can’t seem to get over this one thing

The more I try the harder it gets
I ask for your strength
Then I seem to fail again

I don’t know how, I’m out of options
So I call to you
The Maker of heaven and of earth
The Lord Almighty
The Strong One ready to save

Lord save me from the enemy
From Satan dragging me down
Don’t give me strength to conquer
Give me strength to trust in your name

Your name is powerful and mighty
You have power over the mighty
Save me O God
Save me from the enemy

And I will praise your name forever

(I really have no idea when I wrote this but I'm guessing somewhere around 2000-2002)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Speak with your Lives

As many of you know I do not really take a stance on things of the government. As I see it, I am to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. I am to leave no debt outstanding except for the debt to love one another. The government does not bear the sword for nothing, but as a believer in Jesus Christ I am to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. So when it comes to health care, I see that as the decision of the government. There is this idea that we MUST take part in government and we MUST vote and it is our human and Christian responsibility to be active in things of the government, but I think that these things are the lie of America, which we so often confuse with Christianity. My greatest responsibility is to the kingdom of God, which is not of this world, but comes about through the regeneration and sanctification of souls.

So, despite these convictions, I still try to follow politics to some extent. This is mostly because I go to a University that pushes politics in the classroom and, studying Sociology and Psychology, I often need to know what is happening in the public sphere. So I stay informed, I actually watched about 6-7 total hours on C-SPAN (which if you're unfamiliar, C-SPAN is not a typical news station, instead of giving small bits and clips they play whole entire events) concerning this health care bill.

Honestly, I do not take a stance one way or the other on health care and whether it should be passed or not. However, one interesting thing to me was the change in age for when young adults are kicked off their parent's insurance. There was a time when children because responsible adults at the age of 15, then at some point it became 18, in the more recent past it has become something more like 21. With this new health care bill we have now pushed the age for growing up back to 26 years old. The old system made sense, where you could stay on as long as you were in school, but now children can stay children until the age of 26!!!

This is a way that Christians can stand up to the culture that we find ourselves in. This is not a matter of fighting out against something or someone, but it is a matter of showing that in Christ we are different, that to live for Christ means to look different from the world around us. As our culture moves further from the morals of the Bible many Christians are fighting politically, but you look at their children and see that they are the same as the culture their parents are fighting against. Rather than try to change the politics, lets raise a generation of Christians who believe in Christ, who are willing to be radical and stand out, who are willing to give up their house, car, iPod, computer, sex lives, career, and everything else in order to stand out for Christ. Lets raise a generation of Christians who are not children at the age of 26 but can show the world that through Christ we can be mature and responsible and not look out for our own interests but also the interests of others.

May you not become consumed with fighting our culture but only consumed with Jesus and his grace and love. May you be willing to stand up for Christ, not as a voice but as a life dedicated to him. May you look, act, walk, think, and speak differently from the world around you. May you not say things like, "Why would I want to pay for someone else's health?" or "If they're not insured it's their fault!" but rather show the love of Christ to those around you and be willing to conform to the government so long as they don't contradict Scripture. May you grow in your knowledge of the truth and therefore grow in a desire to raise children who do not speak the language of our culture or do the actions of our culture, but rather love the people of our culture so that they may lay their lives down for them even as Christ did for us.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dining with Jesus

I finally started reading "A Praying Life" by Paul E. Miller yesterday. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, whether you have a good and satisfying prayer life or whether you struggle with prayer. In the Introduction (yes, I even got something from the he talks about prayer as dining with Jesus. This really hit home for me. My family always had dinner together. My mom and brothers and I would work on preparing dinner and then my dad would come home, go up to the bathroom, and when he came down about 20 minutes later (I guess he never went at work), we would all be sitting at the table with the food on it ready to eat. This is how it happened every night. Dinner would then take about 45 minutes, as we passed food around, ate, and talked about the day. My dad always had stories from work, and it was just a nice time of enjoying one another. Then, after we were done eating, we would all get up and help clean up the table and wash the dishes together.
As the years went on, however, we all became more busy. Soon there were some of us missing when my dad came home from work, or my brothers that had to milk would come home after my dad. Also, sometimes people had to rush out after dinner. Dinner became more rushed, and there wasn't as much conversation. Then, as soon as we were done people would jump up and start putting things away. At that point we had gotten a dishwasher, so we didn't even stand around and clean up together, everyone would just run off to do whatever they had to do. One day I spoke up about this. I was like, "Why can't we all just sit around after dinner and enjoy each others company?" So we started just sitting around after we were all done eating, for about 15-20 minutes, letting our food digest and just talking with each other. So, as you read this excerpt from his book, think about your own ways of enjoying friends or family and then think about prayer in that way.

"Our best times together as a family are at dinner. At home after a meal, we push our dishes aside and linger together over coffee or hot chocolate. We have no particular agenda; we simply enjoy one another. Listening, talking, and laughing. If you experience the same thing with good friends or with family, you know it is a little touch of heaven.
"When Jesus describes the intimacy he wants with us, he talks about joining us for dinner. 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me' (Revelation 3:20)
"A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It's intimate and hints at eternity. We don't think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God.
"Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of family mealtime... Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another."

May you grow in your experience with God. May you learn to simply enjoy his presence. May you "commune with your own heart upon you bed, and be still" (Psalm 4). May you learn to walk in the joy and peace of a heart fully connected to God, through Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, enjoying and experiencing God in everything that you do, as if he were a friend simply walking beside you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Old Testament "Stories"

I am reading through 1 Kings right now and have been struck by how different some of it appears from what I remember and was taught. I am coming to the conclusion that every young adult should go back and reread the Old Testament at a slow rate, digesting everything that they read. Last night I read the story of Solomon asking God for wisdom and tonight I read about David wanting to build God a temple. There are two common childrens' lessons that I have seen from these two stories. We teach children how great it was that Solomon could have anything that he wanted but yet asked God for wisdom and we tell children about how much David loved God and wanted to build a house for him but could not, and we almost paint this picture of "poor David". I will be making posts regarding both of these stories in the near future, so I don't want to go too far in depth right now, but I think that if we look at the story of Solomon we see that he in fact had wisdom before he asked God for it and that his main motive in that dream was not serving God but rather establishing his own kingdom. In the case of David and the temple, if we go back and reread it, we see that God says, "...did I ever say to any leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, 'Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'" (1 Chronicles 17:6) And what was David's reasoning for wanting to build God a house? "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent." (1 Chronicles 17:1) Why do we teach our children that David was right in this when it appears that God did not agree? Why do we not teach them that instead David should have lowered his standard of living, that God's house was not the problem but rather it was David's house that was the problem? This would be more inline with other passages, such as Isaiah 5:8-30. I could go on, but you will have to read my post regarding this passage of Scripture.

My main point, however, is this. I think that we need to critically evaluate, according to the rest of Scripture, how we teach our children stories from the Old Testament. Are we teaching them cultural principles, such as freedom and capitalism, or are we teaching them Biblical mandates, such as slavery to Christ and simple living? Are we teaching them what our culture is telling us is right or are we actually looking at the Biblical text and teaching them what the text is actually saying? Where in our own lives are we living against Scripture but using obscure twisted versions of Biblical stories to back up our thoughts and decisions? This does not even have to be conscious, but my desire would be to see the American church as a whole go back and reevaluate the Old Testament and what is actually being taught in the stories that are told, and bring to conscious awareness the wrong things we are currently teaching. I believe that that starts with each of us. That starts with me reading through 1 Kings and seeing what it says so that if I ever teach the 4-5 graders at church I'm teaching truth. So that one day when I have a child, Lord willing, I am teaching them truth.

Also, I want to point out one other thing. I want to point out the Gospel. David wants to build God a house because he wants to do something for God. God comes back and says "I've never needed anything. You always have. I will establish your house." Solomon seems to have ulterior motives and a desire to see his own glory established and seeking God in a way that is displeasing to God (1 Kings 3:3-4) he asks God for wisdom. Despite all of this God still gives Solomon the wisdom he desires. We teach legalism and licentiousness through many of the stories in the Old Testament, God exemplifies the Gospel.

May you have a renewed desire to learn truth. May you read through the Old Testament with eyes set free from the veils of the law through the gospel, seeing Christ on every page, and learning what it means to live wholly devoted to God. May we each learn to love Christ, not as we desire to love him or as our culture tells us to love him, but as he desires to be loved and instructs us in Scripture.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Campus Ministry

In his book entitled Tortured For Christ, Richard Wurmbrandt describes what life was like as a Christian within Rumania when it was under the control of communism. He makes this comment,

"Some mission directors seem to have studied little church history. How was Norway won for Christ? By winning King Olaf. Russia first had the Gospel when its king, Vladimir, was won. Hungary was won by winning St. Stephen, its king. The same with Poland. In Africa, where the chief of the tribe has been won, the tribe follows. We set up missions to rank-and-file men who may become very fine Christians, but who have little influence and cannot change the state of things.
"We must win rulers: political, economic, scientific, artistic personalities. They are the engineers of souls. They mold the souls of men. Winning them, you win the people they lead and influence."

After reading this the first place my mind went was CCF. I am part of one of the FOUR ministries on the West Chester University campus. We see ourselves as being on campus as lights for Christ and stress in our meetings the importance of being a light to those around us. We actively seek to share the Gospel with our fellow students and win them for Christ. We also have programs for discipling believers and hopefully growing them to the point that they are also sharing. But this made me think of the professors. We have four ministries for the students, but what about the professors. I sit in class everyday and look around at my fellow students thinking about how horrible it is that they are learning day in and day out that there is no God and that we are simply intelligent animals, but then I put all my efforts into sharing the Gospel with my fellow students rather than looking to the professors. Can you imagine if we could win one professor for Christ? If we could disciple the few professors that are already on campus so that they might be willing to stand up more than they already are and speak for Christ? Can you imagine that? Instead of winning one or two students a year, if we could win one or two professors per year our impact on campus would be much more consistent and long lasting.

Are you sharing the Gospel? Do you see it as a necessary part of your faith to share it? Jesus did. Who are you sharing with? Do you have a plan or a strategy in sharing? Do you talk with God about it? Do you listen to him? Who would he have you share with today?

As you walk forward in your faith may you grow in boldness and willingness to speak the name of Christ. May you then begin to even speak the Gospel of Christ. May you win souls. And then may you win soul-winners. May you pray to the Lord of the harves that he might send out more workers into HIS harvest field.


I've done a lot of reports on false memories and how memories are formed through cognitive processes and in the brain. One thing that I've learned over and over again is that our memories are often not as good as we think they are, and that there have been many court cases where eye witness testimonies were turned over by physical evidence. In the past 10 years eye witness testimonies have actually come under much greater scrutiny, to the point that there have been discussions of discounting them as evidence in a court of law. One example of how eye witness testimonies can be misconstrued is the common practice of having a witness pick the perpetrator from a line-up of individuals, or the sometimes used alternative of giving the victim a book of pictures of criminals and asking them to pick out the person who wronged them.

The problem here is that there are common elements to the human face that can sometimes be confused, along with the often felt pressure that one must pick SOMEONE from the line-up. What they have found is that if presented with several people a victim will often pick the person CLOSEST to the perpetrator, even if they barely resemble them. Giving them a book of mugshots is even worse because by the 20th mugshot they have so many facial features in their mind that whatever picture they had of the perpetrator is usually all but completely gone.

Then this idea just popped into my head. Why not take one facial feature, such as eyes, and then have seven different faces that are the same except for the eyes that are different. Then have another set of seven pictures that are the same except for the mouth that is different. Continue with sets of pictures going through many different facial features. With each set ask the person to identify who looks the most like the perpetrator. Also, to keep them from over-thinking it or getting too many facial features stuck in their head and confusing them you could show each picture for only 1-2 seconds and then remove it and ask them to go with their gut (human's ability to recognize pictures is extremely fast, so doing this is actually reasonable). Then, after you have gone through several sets combine the facial features they chose into a face. There would be several possible combinations, so maybe come up with 7 faces that utilize the features they gave you and then ask them to identify which one is most like their perpetrator. Lastly, take the pictures of individuals that you wanted the victim/witness to choose from and run them through and the computer will tell you which one is most like the individual that the victim described.

I want to talk to a Cognitive Psychology professor here at school and see if this is a reasonable idea considering the cognitive processes of human beings. I know that all the technology for doing such a thing has already been invented, but I wonder if it would really overcome the challenges that have come to be associated with face recognition that victims and witnesses often have.

Hmmm...just a random thought of Nathan Good.......

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Addictions (Devotion)

I observed some people in a game store (it was a board/card game store) who were into Magic the Gathering. I told two different ones of them at two separate times that I had never gotten into that game and both of them said, "Good, be glad, its addicting." That night one of them had spent $50 on cards, and those cards only amounted to approximately 1/50 of his collection that he had along (this is no exaggeration) and he had more cards at home. It was interesting observing them because there were those of them who were great players of the game, who just had the genius in the right moment to play the right cards to win, and then there were those who had the knowledge of the game in their head, who when there was a rule discrepancy they would be the one to ask, and then there were those who were great at planning (in Magic you create decks before playing, but you then shuffle that deck so you don't know which card will come when) and could finely engineer a deck that would be nasty in a game, and there were those others who seemed to simply be along for the ride, they were just as addicted to the game as the others, but they didn't really seem to be very good at playing or very knowledgeable of what was going on.

As I sat and watched them trade cards and talk their "Magicese" that was way over my head (I had no idea what any of it was that they were talking about) my mind could not help but go to very similar conversations that I have had with siblings and fellow believers regarding Scripture and fine points of our faith. I made a comment during the night that "I feel like it would take a lifetime to understand this game" to which they said, "Yeah, that sounds about right". I could not help but wonder if people unfamiliar with the faith that we have feel things very similar to what I felt that night. If they feel a sense like they could never belong in that place, that these people had something peculiar and odd, that in a way these people themselves were odd, but that what they had was something that I could never have and would never want. I wonder if people feel that it really wouldn't matter how much time they spent there or how much they dedicated their life to it that they really would never get anywhere. I'm not saying that we should change anything, on the contrary I feel that the dedication of those guys to the game of Magic was enough to put some, if not many, Christians to shame. I think that we should seek to become more like them in our devotion to Christ, in our willingness to let the gospel take over every piece of us, because what we have is worth so much more than a game. But I wonder if it should change the way we interact with those who do not understand. I wonder if we should be more understanding, if we should be faster to explain what it is we are talking about, more able and willing to speak the language of our culture rather than expecting that everyone can understand that we are justified by faith alone without every explaining what faith is and that justification is so much more than an excuse you give to make yourself look better.

May you constantly grow in your devotion to Christ, you willingness to be a fool for Him and to forsake all else for the sake of His kingdom, putting the pursuit of that kingdom first above all other things. May you also speak words that are seasoned with salt, that are full of grace, and that love the listener more than yourself, being willing to even change the way that you speak and/or think in order to relate to those around you (as long as this does not compromise your witness for Christ).

Monday, March 15, 2010

If Anyone is Ashamed of Me, The Son of Man Will Be Ashamed of Him

To have this heart for Christ:

"The communists convened a congress of all Christian bodies in our parliament building. There were four thousand priests, pastors, and ministers of all denominations. These four thousand priests and pastors chose Joseph Stalin as honorary president of this congress. At the same time he was president of the World Movement of the Godless and a mass murderer of Christians. One after another bishops and pastors arose in our parliament building and declared that communism and Christianity are fundamentally the same and could coexist. One minister after another said words of praise toward communism and assured the new government of the loyalty of the Church.
"My wife and I were present at this congress. My wife sat near me and told me, 'Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in His face.' I said to my wife, 'If I do so, you lose your husband.' She said, 'I don't wish to have a coward as a husband.'
- Tortured For Christ

How many times have I sat in the classroom affirming views that are not inline with the gospel because I "did not want to hurt my witness by seeming close-minded"? Lord Jesus, give me a repentant heart from these things.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Life Giving Message

I listened to this message today and it renewed my desire to live for God. I would highly recommend this message to anyone. It is approximately 62 minutes, so it may be a bit longer than you're used to, but it is definitely worth taking the time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Power with God

I was praying today and just feeling weary in spirit. I was speaking the truth of Scripture to myself, reminding myself that God is my strength and my portion, that the joy of the Lord is my strength, that when I walk in the Spirit nothing can prevail against me, that we are not to become weary in doing good. No matter what I did I still felt weary and so I went before the Lord and pled my case, but I quickly found that my soul was distracted and passionless, I did not even desire to be close to the Lord. I prayed then that the Lord would give me a desire for himself. I got up from praying and next thing I knew I was online watching Guinness World Records on YouTube... Why is it that I struggle so to sit in prayer but find it so easy to be distracted by mindless things on the Internet?

Once again seeing my soul in a state that I did not desire it in, I put on some good Christian artists that I have in my iTunes. I know that it is not through my strength or power that my soul is humbled or revived or passionate for my Lord. It is only by his grace, through the faith that he places in me, and the humility brought by gazing upon His glory with the eyes that He has unveiled. However, I also know that he calls us to seek His face, that we can have confidence to approach His throne, that the prayer of a humbled sinner will not be ignored.

This is the background for what I actually wanted to say (yes I am longwinded and like to prologue what I'm going to say, ask Dana)

So as I was going through iTunes and making a playlist of Christian music that contains truth I came across a Spurgeon sermon called Power with God. I would highly recommend listening to it or reading the PDF. The sermon is on Genesis 32:28 which is in the passage where Jacob wrestles with God and it says " have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." Without giving the whole message (which is only 10 minutes, by the way, so its easy to listen to) basically Spurgeon touches on the fact that this power to overcome God could not come from Jacob. He then talks about how, Scripturally speaking, we can "overcome" God.

This is a topic not often talked about, especially in the Reformed circles that I often find myself in, but we see here that Jacob prevailed against God, in Exodus 32:14 the prayer of Moses apparently made God "change His mind", James says that "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much", in Luke 18 Jesus says we are to plead with God as a persistent widow before a judge. What we see over and over here is that WE CAN ACTUALLY HAVE POWER WITH GOD. There is actually reason to PLEAD with God. There is actually power for change in our words spoken to God, our earnest pleas.

But this power is not our own. This power does not come from us. Lest we think this, in Luke 18 Jesus follows up the parable of the widow with another parable for those who were "confident in their own righteousness". This parable was of a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the temple, one pleading his own merits and the other recognizing his sin and Jesus says "I tell you that the sinner, rather than the Pharisee, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted"

So, all of this to say, at times we must wrestle with God. At times it is appropriate to question God and cry out to Him. It is right and good to ask God for things that He has withheld. But according to Scripture it would appear that there is a WAY to plead with God. I started out by saying that I was weary in spirit so I was speaking truth to myself and asking God to change my Linkheart, but it is appropriate at times to instead SPEAK TRUTH TO GOD AND ASK HIM TO CHANGE HOW HE IS ACTING.

For more thoughts on this whole topic check out this sermon by Tim Conway

Also check out this exegesis of Psalm 86.

May you prevail against the Almighty through the power of His Spirit and the grace bestowed upon you through the blood of His Son. May you know the truth and therefore be set free as you freely speak and plead your case before the throne of the Almighty in all humility, for when you are humbled then He will lift you up.

Know the Scriptures

Well, this is my second post for the day. I'm tempted not to do this, because my tendency is to use something like this a ton at the beginning and then for it to quickly fade out, but I'll just try to make sure that doesn't happen.

So tonight I was reading Matthew 22:23-33. I read the whole chapter last night, but something jumped out at me that I wanted to spend more time thinking/praying over, or just in general meditating on. I'll give the context a little first and then jump right in. So this is in a series of tests that religious people of the day bring to Jesus. First the Pharisees came and asked whether people should pay taxes. Then the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, came and asked Jesus who would be married to whom if a woman had a husband who died and she remarried. Lastly the Pharisees come back and ask what the greatest commandment is.

The one that I'm looking at is the Sadducees. So they tell this story and ask Jesus the question in order to stump him, but he turns it back on them and says, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." Jesus then goes on to answer their question, but this really stuck out to me. What it must have been like to have Jesus right there with you, to be able to ask him any question and he can just give you the answer from Scripture. It makes me think of James 1 where we are told to ask for wisdom and God will give it to us. I've tried this from time to time, God actually will do it, sometimes I've even gotten a direct, immediate response to a question, but often times He answers in ways we don't expect.

Even today I found myself coming before Him with the question, "Why don't you save all people? Why would you come and die only to still have some perish?" (If you don't believe this then look back a couple of verses to Matt 22:14) There was no answer. There wasn't a voice from above that shouted the answer to me, "BECAUSE I LIKE IT THAT WAY NATHAN!!!". No, the only thing was a small voice inside of me that said, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." All of these questions, "How important is obedience in the process of our sanctification, does God sanctify us no matter what or do we need to respond?" "Is justification a once and done thing or are there two parts to it?" (a current topic in reformed circles) "Will the world get better until Christ returns or will it get worse and worse?" "Will there be any believers when Christ returns?" All of these questions that are asked so often, and we just wish Jesus were here, but if he were I would imagine he would say "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God".

But Jesus is not talking here of the New Testament Scriptures that we so often read. The New Testament is precious and inspired by God, but it is also narrow in scope. I have so many thoughts here that go in so many different directions but all weave together to come to a common end, so I am going to try to get them down without being confusing.

We look at Jesus teaching, where else does he teach such heavy things as he does here about the resurrection? Jesus teaching is better summed up in the future test where he says "Love the Lord your God and love you neighbor as yourself." But what we see here, in this glimpse into Jesus' knowledge of the Scriptures, we see that his knowledge of God was much deeper than his teachings to the everyday people. And this knowledge was not somehow just imputed to him, it came from a study of the Old Testament.

I wonder if our watered down theology is somewhat based on our propensity to read and preach through the New Testament over and over while leaving the Old Testament untouched. If we have a slim understanding of faith because we read Hebrews 11 instead of reading Genesis-Leviticus. If our understanding of repentance is hindered because it is based almost entirely on the definition of the word (to turn from something) rather than an understanding of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the minor prophets. I wonder if I don't understand why God has not chosen to save everyone because I am in chapter 22 of Matthew after only 2 months but still only half way through Isaiah after 2 1/2 years (and not because I'm digging that much more into Isaiah...)

Right now I have markers in 2 New Testament books that I am regularly working through and 4 Old Testament books that I have grown weary of and sometimes stopped reading. So I am going to heed the words of Jesus and tomorrow night, rather than reading Matthew again, I am going to head back to 1 Kings.

Oh, the other thought that I chased around earlier but never said was this. We see here that what Jesus was studying in Scripture and knew of Scripture was much deeper than what he regularly taught about God. I know that I have a tendency to only look as deep into Scripture as I would go in a Sunday morning sermon, but another thing that this passage says to me is that it is ok to look past just what the passage says about the gospel and think of what it says regarding the resurrection, or election, or atonement, or demons, or magic, or education, or family, and the list goes on and on.

These are things that I feel all of us know, but we often forget.

As you read the Word of God may the Scriptures be opened before you, the veils fall off, and may you see the glory of God plainly displayed before you. May you be filled with all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you may know the will of God, and discern truth from untruth, right from wrong.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Thoughts

I often have thoughts that I would love to write down. Sometimes I use facebook notes to do it, or sometimes I just do the old paper-pencil, but I decided that it may be worth it to just get a blog. So here it is, I'm going to try to stay away from posting anything about the events from my day, this is not resurrecting Xanga, rather I'm going to post up thoughts that I've been having, or things I've been praying for, or what God's been teaching me, or what I've been reading.

So, I have 4 different papers hanging above my desk with Bible verses written on them (thank you Dana :). One of them is 1 Corinthians 8:1b-3 "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God." This is specifically speaking about food sacrificed to idols, because there were some in the Corinthian church who "knew" that it was not ok but others "knew" that it was. People were causing others to stumble in their faith (8:9) so God is telling them, the most important thing is not what you know, its whether you love me. We are told again and again through Scripture to love God, to place Him first above all things. (Deut 6:5, Deut 11:1, Deut 13:3...Josh 23:11...Matt 6:24...Rom 8:28...1 Cor 2:9...Rev 2:4) We are also told of the importance of knowledge (Hosea 4:6, Ps 119:66, Prov 1:7, Isaiah 56:10, John 8:32) But knowledge is almost always portrayed as secondary to a love for God, a fear of the Lord, placing God at the center and forefront of our lives. The only exception I can think of is Rom 10:1-3 where Paul says the Israelites were zealous for God but lacked the knowledge to follow him (obviously my paraphrase).

All of this to say, if I want people to be able to say one thing about me when I die it would be that I loved the Lord my God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want to always have God as the center of my desires, my thoughts, my emotions, my everything. But back to 1 Corinthians 8, the beginning that I didn't write says "We know that we all possess knowledge". And if you look throughout Scripture where knowledge is spoken of you will quickly see that all possess knowledge, but some knowledge is good and some is bad. So I would hope, and my prayer is, that what I write here, coming from a love for God and based on Scripture, is "knowledge" or thoughts that are edifying and build others up in love, rather than puffing up as knowledge often does.

Ok, one more thing to add and then I'm done. This is something that I've been studying more recently in regards to this whole topic. I was struggling with pride from some things that I had been thinking, just ideas that I had implemented recently that were really working and turned out to be great. I was struggling with seeing myself as better than others, so I was praying about it and God led me to Psalm 16 where in verse 7 it says "I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me." What I saw is that to David (who wrote this Psalm) even his most brilliant moments were counsel from God. And then in Psalm 18 he attributes his strength and physical abilities as coming from God. So anything good that is written in this blog, any truth that brings life, it is from God, and anything that tears down or is harmful or wrong is from me and should be ignored.

May you walk in the love of the Lord and the strength that He gives, realizing that what you do is not by your own hand but the hand of the Lord, if the Spirit resides within you.