Monday, December 31, 2007

Same Old Lang Syne

The old year is almost gone. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.
Ok, time for resolutions:

1. To publish my Bible studies and meditations
2. To maintain my current weight and health
3. To get the house fixed up and have a party here
4. To run competitively in Run for the STARS 2008 in June.
5. To purge all the junk and shred all the useless papers currently on file
6. Start a local service project with the family at Wayside Cross Ministries
7. To become a full member of the local Church.

What are yours?

Which comes first--the joy or the deed

You know, the ways of God are beyond tracing out (Romans 11:33). Yet I believe I have a clue as to the role of joy as it relates to our spiritual lives and work.

Borrowing from theologian David Jones:

"I think that the biblical ethic, not just the New Testament but also the Old, is a dispositional ethic. It begins with the heart: 'you shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.' So I think that it is right to say that love for our neighbor, like love for God, is rightly understood as a dispositional complex. It is rational in that it recognizes other human beings as the image of God, it is affectional in that it relates to other human beings at the level of emotion, and it is volitional in that it seeks to do them good". © Spring 2006, David C. Jones & Covenant Theological Seminary.

The heart, then, is the key. When our hearts have love and therefore servanthood at their core, they have a comprehensively full-orbed disposition that engages heart, mind, and will. There is no way to have the Holy Spirit operating in this way without the fruit of joy (Galatians 5:22).
I conclude that true joy occurs simultaneously with any work produced by faith. I do not believe the ideal is to "just do the act." regardless of how you feel. Your lack of passion and feeling are as sinful as omitting the act. Imagine if God loved us from a disposition of coldness. Never mind, don't imagine it. He doesn't.

The problem seems to be that we do not understand the resident power of the Spirit in the lives of believers, or perhaps have grown indifferent to it. We may have even downplayed any study of the Spirit's role in our lives out of fear of Charismatic theology.

My personal testimony: I was meditating on the Word in Isaiah around the neighborhood the other morning, and later I came in the house after my walk. A spontaneous thought came over me to empty the clean dishes in the dishwasher as a favor to my wife, with no thought of her praising me. I had a tremendous amount of joy at the same time as the thought. I immediately praised God for his work in my life in this small but vital spiritual act of service. And I completed the task. This is by no means a rare occurrence in my life, and not all my service is of the same sort. But you get the point.

Do you want to get in on it? I recommend Piper's "When I Don't Desire God." It reads like a manual on the Spirit-filled life, with a view to the maintenance of joy in God.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Defense of the Command to Pursue Highest Joy in God

Rejoice in the LORD always; I will say it again: rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

(I don't know--the jury is still out on whether we should use the term "Christian Hedonism" or not. I suppose it would be all right as long as we kept saying "in God." after every use. We are indeed far too easily pleased, as C. S. Lewis noted in The Weight of Glory. But we are also far too easily misled:)

I want to move on to the doctrine of supreme joy in God. For far too long in my life, God was a joy-killing tyrant who stepped on people for being happy. I realize now that He is just the opposite--a loving heavenly Father who longs to shower blessings on his children. Many, however, fall victim to false notions about morality that actually have their root in the 18th century philosophy of Immanuel Kant (i. e., you spoil the virtue of your actions if you find pleasure in them).

Let no man suspect that I am arguing for a "power of positive thinking," "simply feel good" message. It's just that the way of wisdom is so narrow and intellectually vexing that sweet passes for bitter oftentimes.
We are accountable to God if we ultimately fail to worship and serve him. It's just that all true believers--to some measure--LOVE TO WORSHIP AND SERVE GOD.

Telling someone that they are going to ruin their relationship with God by enjoying him "too much" is backwards. True enjoyment of God will lead us to radical acts of sacrifice more characteristic of the New Testament Christianity Paul knew.

So how do we know that our enjoyment is truly of God? I suggest the following tests as starters:

Does it lead to a settled peace in spite of current circumstances? (Phil 4:7)

Does it lead us to pray "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." (Matt 6: 13), and to say "no" ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12).

Does it overflow in service to others? (2 Cor. 8:2-5)

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters! (Isaiah 55:1). The world can offer nothing to compare to the joy found in our glorious God!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The 2nd Amendment: God Given?

"God, guns, and guts made America great." So says the bumpersticker. As if God needed guns and guts to get his work done. For decades in this country, there has been a right-wing gun-mania, with the notion that guns are a "check and balance" against the tyranny of government, which perspective has strangely aligned itself with conservative evangelicalism. No sale here.

Now I am not a throughgoing pacifist, but I do not believe that the faith once for all delivered to the saints includes a "right" to bear arms. Nor do I believe it creates a mandate for bearing weapons.

We run into hermeneutical trouble every time we begin with the mind of man having a ruling non-God desire, and then scrambling to find warrants for it. Historically, the Bible has been the most popular book for this sort of eisogesis. A common text cited for an armed citizenry is Luke 22:35-36: "And he said to them 'When I sent you out without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?' So they said 'nothing.' Then he said to them "but now he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack, and he who has no sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one." There you have it! The Son of God commanding the church to take arms! Not. First of all, this is the only occasion in all the New Testament when Jesus spoke this way. Second, he said to sell your cloak and buy a sword. (Who would give you a pistol in trade for a hooded sweater)? How many of the gun rights exegetes enforce the part about selling the cloak? The context (oh, so very important) for this passage is that Jesus is about to be arrested, and the disciples know it. A few verses later, when the impassioned disciples brandish their swords, Jesus says "Enough of this" (v. 38). It is clear that the swords were for general protection, but NOT for aggressive use on the Romans or the Sanhedrin to prevent Jesus' arrest. Jesus tells them that all things written about him must be fulfilled. (v. 37). And stopping the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Christ derails our salvation and lands us in hell for sure. Jesus knows what he is doing.

What can be concluded by this? First, Jesus neither condemns nor heartily endorses weapon-toting. He simply acknowledges a sword as part of their equipment. If they encounter a wild animal and want to live to tell about it, they may use the sword. Common situation in those days. That's one possible inference. Further, the Bible was not written so much as a prescription for national life, but for the glory of God and his Son Jesus Christ, who accomplished our eternal salvation by being led "like a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7b). The Bible does not make the assumption that the masses are Christians. Within all the nations of the world are some of the redeemed. They are a little flock. We do not know all of them yet. There will be some surprises on the great Day of the Lord. One thing is for sure: the powers that be are ordained by God, and to take up arms against the government is questionable at least.

If we say that people can and would instinctively defend themselves and their families from common threats, that is obviously legitimate, and this will be discussed later. However, I conclude for now that at least this passage does not lend itself to the second amendment as a "deterrent" against a private sector takeover by a tyrannical government. I believe this line of thinking is part of an example of a syncretized American "Christianity" which is more American than Christian. MORE LATER.

Googol surfing

Check this out:

and let me know what you think.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Where There Is Doubt...Hope

All true believers may at some time doubt their salvation. That's just the way we are as flesh and blood. One writer said that we can no more expect perfect assurance than we can live perfectly. That said, I believe after many years of wrestling with this issue, that I am confident in the biblical path to true assurance.

First we must understand the fact that the Christian life is a journey. Philippians 3:14 says "Not that I have already attained all this or already been made perfect. But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me." Christ took hold of him...and he presses on. The implication is that pressing on is the Spirit-produced sign that God has taken hold of him.

How we deal with falls into sin is one good discipline. Simon Peter handled this right. Just before Christ's crucifixion, Simon Peter makes a big to-do about how he is going to stick with Jesus even if all the other disciples bail out. Jesus told him he was going to deny Him three times. But in Luke 22:31 Jesus assures Simon Peter "But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you turn back, strengthen your brothers." Praise the Lord, Peter did just that. After weeping bitterly about this, he went on to be the key figure in the early church. Wouldn't you just love for Jesus to pray for you as he did for Peter? If that is your desire, then you may well be assured.

It has been well said by John Piper that eternal security is a community project. Drawing from Hebrews 10:25, let us not give up meeting together, but encourage one another. Other believers play a HUGE role in our perseverance. This is because it is in the context of the church that we practice the "one anothers," use our spiritual gifts, and corporately worship. All of this brings the reality of the glory of Christ into much sharper vision than we may have on our own. If you love to be with the people of God to discuss the word of God, and to declare his glory, then take assurance. MORE TO COME.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Graham's number: Puny in God's Sight

I read a Wikipedia article recently about the Guiness World Record "Largest Number," called Graham's number. The article claims there are not nearly as many particles in the universe as this number. I am not going to go into how they even calculate it, but it makes the Googolplex seem microscopic. But Graham's number doesnt even begin to describe our God. The gap between the greatest number and infinity is still infinity. And yet even Graham's number raised to itself "G" times is not infinity. That many years from now, what will matter? Fame? Fortune? Food? No--Christ alone! He is the Image of the invisible God (Col. 1:13).
You don't want to mess with a God that big! He loves you--John 3:16.

Attributes and Beings

All beings have attributes. To claim that one doesn't is to assign the attribute of non attributedness:)
Attributes are inseparable from beings. Good clings to the good person, and evil clings to the evil person.
Despite the fact that God loves the sinner and hates the sin, that fact does not save the individual. When death and hell are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20), the deadly and hellish are cast there too. Conversely, to those whom God imputes righteousness, the place for such virtues "the home of righteousness" is heaven, and the righteous are there.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"Brain" Discovered To Be Memorizing

As I continue to memorize, I do so by reading to Dave at bedtime. He has been listening well during that time. He is now able to fill in the blanks in several passages in Isaiah 53-55. Just how God is going to use this remains to be seen. I have been praying for him to bless those who care for him and surprise his teachers. Believe me folks, God answers!!

Meet the Team

Jennifer with Dave on R, Joe on L, Lu next to Joe.
This was taken at Starved Rock State Park.
An excellent example of what the family enjoys.