Showing posts with label theology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theology. Show all posts


Praise for the Latest Version of Bible Reader

I’ve used BibleReader for years, originally on the Palm handheld computer, and now on the iPod touch.
I like to follow a plan of reading through the Bible in a year. Originally, I followed a written (paper) plan, but then when I moved to an “all digital” experience, I wanted the information on my PDA. Years ago, someone wrote an add-on for BibleReader (I used on the Palm back then) that displayed a lower-case ‘d,’ and when you clicked on it, it showed a list of dates, and related verses, and little boxes to check off to keep track.

The newest version, version 4.11, not only keeps track of your readings, but also takes you there, and marks the beginning and end of the reading. Here is an example.
  • Open Bible Reader.
  • I like to write notes in a paper journal, so I next check to see what I am reading today, by selecting “Reading Plans” and “View Today’s Assignment.”
  • I then go back to this screen and select Continue Reading.
  • I read until I see “Done,” and select it.

BibleReader is available from Olive Tree Bible Software


In the Beginning

I had to chuckle. No, it really was an “LOL,” as my kids text. I read Hints of ‘time before Big Bang,’, in which we read, “A team of physicists has claimed that our view of the early Universe may contain the signature of a time before the Big Bang.”

Okay, let me get this straight. The Cosmos as we know it did not explode into existance from nothing at the event we know as “The Big Bang.” It exploded from something? What? The Cosmos-1?

There is this very basic, foundation of… what? sense versus nonsense? “Ex nihilo nihil fit.” Out of nothing, nothing comes. It doesn’t really matter how many big bangs there were. You either believe in an eternal self-existant cosmos or… No, we’l leave it at that. A cosmos that has existed for eternity past is so much safer.


Still Empty After All These Years: Holy Trinity Breathes Sigh of Relief

Jesus tomb film scholars backtrack. God the Father, Son, and Spirit issued a joint statement saying, “Whew. That was a close one.” The Jerusalem Post article by Etgar Lefkivits ends with this statement.
According to the New Testament, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion, and an ossuary containing Jesus’s bones – the explanations of the movie director notwithstanding – would contradict the core Christian belief that he was resurrected and then ascended to heaven.
This agrees with what Saul of Tarsus, renamed Paul, wrote in the first century, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Christianity stands on an historic event. The tomb was empty.

(And, actually, this is more like what the Trinity had to say: “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.” Psalms 2:4)


On Acting Like a Jerk

  • Just because someone is a Christian, doesn’t mean he won’t sometimes or often act like a jerk.
  • That goes double for me.
Romans 7:15-17.


Five Words

At the Ministry Fair

Across the bustle of the Ministry Fair in the Fellowship Hall I saw him. The young man—I’ll call him Roger—looked like he was about to cry or had been crying. I walked over to him and asked, “Do you want to talk?”

Tearing up a bit, he breathed deeply and nodded. I led him out to a quiet area near the classrooms. “What’s doing?” And he told me…

Groundwork of Loving and Knowing

First, to understand why he would have nodded assent, we need to back up a bit. He was willing to talk to me because I had spent a breakfast with him talking about questions of denominational difference and theology that he had after being with some friends at the recent Franklin Graham Festival. Backing up further, the reason his parents suggested he talk to me about them was not just because I am an elder in the church, but more because I had shown an interest in him in a very simple way.

Months earlier, during fellowship time between services, I noticed Roger, a teenager I’d known since he was in my 3-year-old Sunday School class. I noticed a brace on his leg, and asked him about it. He told me of a stress fracture that wasn’t healing and I saw something else in his eyes. “So, how are you doing with this?” Getting somewhat somber, he admitted, “Not very well.” He went on to talk of his love of soccer. This was going to take him out, for perhaps the whole season. We talked a bit more, and asked him if he wanted the elders to pray for and anoint him. He’d not heard of that, but he agreed. Then I asked if I could, and then did, pray for him.

Months later, at his request and the suggestion of his parents, came the “theological discussion.” I answered his questions, but explored his thoughts on the subject, with questions, such as, “What do you think the Bible says about that?” and, “How did you feel when they said that their youth leader could pray over you and tell you your spiritual gifts?” (The insightful answer: “How could he without even taking time to know anything about me?”) He also told me, briefly, of a girl he had been seeing, but who recently was treating him poorly.

Outside the Fellowship Hall

This brings us back to the conversation outside the Fellowship Hall. He was having a great deal of trouble at worship. He had broken up with the girl he mentioned. He used to worship with her and pray with her. She was out of his life, and he was miserable. Worship was a trial, a chore, because it reminded him too much of her and the loss.

We talked some more. That morning, in worship, we had sung “Blessed Be Your Name”—Matt Redman’s version. We talked about the biblical truths in it. We agreed that we need to sing the song “In the land that is plentiful, Where Your streams of abundance flow,” and “When the world’s ‘all as it should be’,” so that we can remember when we’re “found in the desert place,” when we “walk through the wilderness,” “On the road marked with suffering, Though there’s pain in the offering.” We used that song, sung earlier that morning, to remind us of what we know is true. And it gave him something solid on which to stand and rest.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, we read these words of Jesus:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. [John 10: 11. 14-15 (ESV)]
We in the Church, especially those of us called to be shepherds (including counselors, and—of course—pastors), must surely look to this passage, maybe chief among others, for clues about what it means to be a shepherd. [Jesus did not say I am the Good King, I am the Good Prophet, I am the Good Priest, though he was all of those.] A shepherd lays down his life. A shepherd knows his sheep. A shepherd is known by the sheep. If we are to shepherd—to rule by shepherding, lead by shepherding, oversee by shepherding—we must lay down our lives for the sheep. We must know our sheep and be known.

Likewise, if we are to be members of Christ’s church as He commands—to serve one another, to love one another, to submit to one another, to care for one another, to be kind to one another, to teach, encourage, and admonish one another, to stir up one another to love and good works, and to confess sins to and pray for one another—we really do need to know one another.

Loving and Knowing, to Speaking and Doing

I did nothing extraordinary in this young man’s life. I took time to notice him. Truly, it was hard not to: there was a brace on his leg. I took the time to ask a good (an obvious!) question. I observed his response and asked another question or two, because I cared. And I acted (setting up a time for anointing, setting up further meetings). It only took a few minutes, but it did require me to actually see him and stop. Later, when we met, I was not satisfied with just giving him my answers to his questions. We talked. I asked questions. I got to know him better. Finally (actually, there is probably no “finally” about it), I saw him that day in the fellowship hall, and I asked a five-worded question that is apparently not asked enough.

“Do You Want to Talk?”

There is no magic. I did not have to go to seminary. All I needed was functioning ears, eyes, and a reliance on the Holy Spirit—and to remember that it’s not about me. It’s about Christ and His Body. Most of us have been given everything we need to love and serve each other on behalf of Christ, and in that loving and serving to be Jesus to others.

We need see beyond ourselves. Our flesh—our sin nature—gets in the way, as does the world. But, in Christ we can have victory over both.

We have to be intentional about relationships. We have to work to mortify our self-centeredness, and remind ourselves that the Christian life is one of self-death. But, the paradox of the gospel is that to die is to live, to serve is to be a king, and to give is to truly receive.

We also have to be intentional about the questions we ask—not brilliant, just thoughtful. I asked Roger questions like: What’s going on? How do you feel about the situation (and other things that came up)? Where are you with those things? What do you think God is up to? How might you react differently? How can you get there?

And we have to be intentional about our motives. We are not entering into each other’s lives with a curiosity for the morbid or ugly. We do it because we are His Body, bound together by His love, and commanded, expected, and empowered to love one another as He has loved us. We cannot do that unless we know and are known. When we intentionally seek to obey, when we are open to being known and other-centered enough to know, the love of Christ works through us toward others. The church is strengthened, and individually we become more and more transformed into His image.


The Heart is Unreliable

This caught my eye in the November 1 “Good Morning Silicon Valley”.
“The heart is unreliable because its affected by not only by your brain, but by many other factors, such as hormones. The gut has a mind of its own —literally. It has its own well-developed nervous system that acts independently of almost everything except your unconscious brain.”
Quoted is “Pankaj Pasricha, leader of a research team that thinks stomach activity may be a better indicator than heart rate in the iffy science of lie detection.”

It reminded me of an earlier statement made about the trustworthiness of the heart. It says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately sick; Who can understand it?” It goes on to say, “I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” This is from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 17, verses 9 and 10.

(Actually, in the Hebrew it is “the kidneys” that the Lord “tests.” Know why?)


Notes from my prayer time today

I believe:
  • The 2 Great Commandments (1. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, … soul, and … mind. 2. Love your neighbor as yourself. (DEU 6:5, LEV 19:18; MAT 22:37-40))
  • we do #1 when doing #2
  • #2 starts with fellow-believers, but includes anyone on my path.
  • God does not require more than I can do in the strength of Christ
  • I must every moment be in fellowship with God
  • I can do all things through Christ
  • It is often easier with the support of brothers
  • It usually is best to break the task into steps.
God does not promise to show me the whole path to walk, just possible next steps

He will direct my steps to the correct next step as I commune with him

I get in trouble or despair whenever I take my eyes off of Jesus or start going it alone (which happens daily)

I tend to see the whole task and freeze rather than remember that today I am only responsible for today’s step on the path

I forget to enjoy Him, to enjoy the tasks He gives me


God does not promise…

  • To never embarrass me.
  • To follow my agenda.
  • To abide by my definition of what is right and just.
  • To follow my schedule.
  • That I will triumph in this world.
He does promise…
  • To glorify the Son (through me or in spite of me).
  • To be with me always, even to the end of the age.
  • That I already stand before Him as a righteous son,
    because of someone else’s payment and someone else’s righteousness.
  • That all things work for good for those who love God
    (not that all things are good).
  • That He will triumph.


Basis for Salvation

In his weblog cataloging his thoughts and growth in the Orthodox Faith at my friend Steve Fallin muses on the question, “Are we even looking at the right thing?” This is a short response to that. Most excellent Theophilus,

Well, the question that separates the men from the boys, as they say — and in this context, I really mean denominations from each other — is the answer to the question “What is the basis for our justification.” This is shorthand, of course, for 1) how and when are we saved from hell, 2) on what basis are we saved, 3) what is our standing now before God, and a bunch of others. Whose righteousness is this anyway?

The Reformed world (ah, how I am speaking for the whole of the Reformed faith… Not) is comfortable with the apparent tension between Paul and James. Both of them are canonical and the true word of God. The tension is in our minds, I think, because we like things neat and tidy. We want to be able to say, “Oh, okay — gotcha. All I have to do is this, that, and a lot of the other.” But it is not like that. We say, “I don’t understand. How can salvation be ‘sola fide’, ‘sola gracia,’ and still have James’s epistle in the mix?” But what is the problem? There is no contradiction. God says, through Paul, “this not of yourself, it is the work of God so that no man can boast.” And through James, “faith without works is dead.” Where’s the tension?

You bring up predestination, and write, “Some time ago, I discovered that this basic back and forth has been going on since Geneva and Wittenburg.” Brother, try since the beginning of time. The underlying statement is, “it is not my fault!” See Adam’s accusation of Eve. See Cain’s reaction to God’s challenge. Paul addresses this question, as I am sure you know, in Romans 9. People will always ask this question. (Talk about a straw man! :-)) And — I am not sure that the Luther and Reformed view on this is as different as you imply, but I could be mistaken, not being a Lutheran. But your view if Calvinism is certainly wrong. I think you misunderstand irresistible grace. (I taught a class wherein we examined some of these from a Reformed perspective. ( I only wish we had recorded them.)

Does the view of irresistible grace mean God forces a person — “rapist to the elect” is the word you used? Well, no. But we have to make a step back. What is the state of man according to Scripture? Old and New Testament alike affirms what Paul says. Outside of Christ we are dead in our sins. We were spiritually dead. Not sick. Not misguided. Dead.

What can a dead person do to save himself? Nothing. Even if we think about someone who is nearly but not completely physically dead, the analogy still holds up. What can the comatose person do? Nothing. What can the unconscious person lying at the bottom of a pond do? Nothing. Someone who is able must resuscitate, if anyone is going to. Someone other than the person must do it. And that is what God does to those the Father chooses to give to the Son. Why? For His own glory. (See Ephesians 1.)

So, those God foreknew (Rom 8:29) he chose before creation to be given as a gift to the Son (Eph 1:4-5). He established that point in time when that person would be called by the gospel (Rom 8:28-30). In order to respond to that outside call, the person must be regenerated — he who is spiritually dead is made alive (Titus 3:5, Eph 2:4-5). The Holy Spirit gives that person a new nature, one that sees his true condition and sees his need of a Savior. The Spirit gives the gifts of faith and repentance (Eph 2:8-9, Acts 20:21, HEB 6:1). The believer is justified (declared just or righteous) forensically (legally) on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (Rom 3:24-26). Christ’s payment saves us from the penalty of hell. He also took God’s righteous wrath — the Father’s anger towards us — on the cross, so we need no longer fear that. God gives us a righteousness not of ourselves. So, we can stand before God without fear. But wait, as the say. There’s more.

Not satisfied with that, God adopts the believer into His family (Eph 1:5 Rom 8:15)! Not only as children, but given the full rights of the first born Son. He doesn’t leave it at that. He puts His Holy Spirit inside of us, and the Spirit sanctifies us throughout the believers life (Phil 2:12-13, Heb 12:14, Thes 4:7). (That’s the process in all of this, in the Reformed view). Our position is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit — with the Holy Spirit Himself (Phil 1:6, Heb 12:2). We will not be cast aside. We were bought with the Blood of Christ. And some day, God promises, we will be with the Lord and we will be like the Lord (Rom 8:30, 9:23).

What about those He does not save, the objects of wrath Paul speaks of? They get what they deserve. And I write that with sadness. But the Bible clearly teaches this. And those who reject Christ, are doing exactly what they want to do.

So, how should we then live? In communion with each other and with Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Amen.


Happy Birthday, Martin Luther (1483)

If you did not see the 2003 movie Luther you’ve missed a good one that was in and out of the theaters too quickly. We did see it a few weeks ago, and I recommend it. It will be out in DVD soon enough. One of my favorite quotes of the great reformer is this:
I have preached justification by faith so often, and I feel sometimes that you are so slow to receive it that I could almost take the Bible and bang it about your heads.


Sovereignty and Providence

A friend, Jim, called from the tarmac at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. No “hello,” just a “What is the difference between God’s sovereignty and God’s providence.” I recognized his voice. He was thinking about this because of a comment Dr. R. C. Sproul had made on Renewing Your Mind . Well, I knew there was a difference, but I was busy preparing for hurricane Isabel, so I told him I’d get back to him. Let’s first look some quotes.

Sproul, Chosen By God, p24, “When we speak of divine sovereignty, we are speaking abolut God’s authority and about God’s power. As sovereign, God is the supreme authority of heaven and earth. … All other forms of authority exist by God’s command or by God’s permission. Sproul, The Invisible Hand, p15, “providence” describes the activity of God. P16, “…refers to God’s provision for His people,” P17, “He looks after human affairs … He not only watches us, He watches over us. Westminster Confession of Faith, V/1, “God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”

So, in short, God is sovereign over all. And one way that He exercises His sovereignty is through His providence, being directly and immediately involved in our affairs for His own glory.