July 25, 2016

Commonplace Monday #44

"If we maintain, then, the glory of God, let us speak in His own language, or forever be silent. That is glorious in Him which He ascribes unto Himself."
John Owen

Commonplace Monday is a series of posts wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. 

July 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Trinitarian Rambling

Throwback Thursday is a series of posts, wherein I will on (some) Thursdays post a piece of writing from back in the day. Generally not from this blog. I will edit lightly for readability, but my intention is to allow each piece to stand basically as written. Over the years my mind has shifted on many things, as my knowledge of life, the Scriptures, and myself has grown. I'm not in the business of hiding this fact, so these will probably (at least on occasion) contain some things which even I think are crazy.

Originally posted on Facebook as, "Elaboration on my thoughts from Fuel 3/13"
March 15, 2010 at 2:39am
So it's been a while since I wrote a note...one month in fact. This will be interesting. I will start out by apologizing to anyone who listened to me flub through this at Fuel last night, my brain was not with me (I didn't even have my Bible with me), and I think I really failed as far as articulating and getting across what I should have, I guess that's where trusting in God to get His message across in spite of my inability comes in.

My focus was on the Trinity, I plan in the following weeks to go over the Father, Son, and Spirit individually, but last night I wanted to focus on the God-head as a whole.

First point-what is the Trinity? Put simply, Trinity is the word used to describe the unity of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Three persons, one God. Totally distinct, yet wholly one. I'm not going into depth on the Biblical basis we have of the Trinity because of the fact that it is an accepted Christian doctrine that I feel no need to defend, but the study of it is quite interesting and beneficial, there a lot of good sources to read from on the internet, and in Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears new book "Doctrine", they lay out in the first chapter an excellent and thorough explanation on the doctrine of the Trinity…and hey, you can even read about it in your handy dandy Bible, available at any local book store or truck stop. I will give you a few examples of the Trinity in Scripture, while my main focus is how the reality of the Trinity ought to affect our lives.

Example one-Creation

Genesis 1:1-2 (New International Version)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

John 1:1-3 (New International Version)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Example two-Jesus' Baptism

Matthew 3:16-17 (New International Version)
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

Here we see the Father, Son, and Spirit all present in two major events in Scripture, Creation, and Jesus’ baptism. (Other references and illusions to the Trinity can be found in Luke 1:35, Matthew 28:19, 1 Peter 3:18, among others.) But as I said, I don’t really want to dwell on the defense of the actual idea of the Trinity, but instead focus on what we can learn from it and how that applies to our lives. And before I even do that, perhaps it would be prudent to give a little back story on where I’m coming from, and some things in this area that God has been teaching me.

I have, for quite some time, been frustrated by what some people call “self-help” Christianity. The Joel Osteens of the world telling us how to live better lives based on what the Bible (or psychology, or Dr. Phil, or Oprah, or the crazy lady down the street) has to say. And it’s all around us, not just in big time, mainline Christianity, but also in the mindsets of everyone around us. Pastors, elders, deacons, pew warmers, all of us…we’re constantly looking for what the Bible has to say about my life, how does it apply to my circumstances. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks…it’s not about me! Even “my” life is not about me. What is life about? Well the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that the chief end of man is to “glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” (1 Corinthians 6:20; Philippians 4:4). Now sit and ponder that for just a moment. My chief end as a human being, the reason I am here, is not to find the perfect pair of shoes, or live a happy life, or find that perfect someone, or look like I’m 20 when I’m 50...no. My chief end, my very purpose in life, is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Now logically the first step in glorifying and enjoying God would be to find out what sort of God He is. What glorifies Him, and how best can I enjoy Him based on His character? And He tells us these things in His word. BUT…and this is a big but (thank you Wayne for laughing, if you are reading)…we have to quit looking to Scripture as a self help book. Because that is not what God gave us. He gave us a road map for how to live our lives, in accordance with His will, on the basis of His character and power. We have to quit looking for help from God in our lives, and start looking to God as our source of life. We will not live joyful lives until we start living lives that glorify God, and that cannot be done unless we are continually trying to understand more thoroughly the character of the One who made us. Don’t read your Bible for help in life, read your Bible to find God. Del Tackett, a teacher with Focus on the Family who developed and teaches a course on Biblical worldview, often uses a phrase with I am constantly thinking about, and really puts things in perspective for me, that being, “gaze upon the face of God.” Gaze upon the face of God. What a marvelous thought, and an opportunity that He has given us in His word. By looking to it merely as a self help book we rob God of the glory He deserves, and rob ourselves of the pleasure of understanding Him more fully. That being said, let's dive back in.

Now we have established as our premise that God is by His very nature, Triune. But what does that entail, what intricacies of God’s nature can be gleaned from this? First off we see that a Triune God, a God who is three and yet one, is a God of perfect love.

1 John 4:8 (New King James Version)
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God is love. I was listening to Mark Driscoll one day and he said that “to declare that God is love is to declare that God is Triune”. And I struggled with this for a while, I mean it sounds rather condemning to people who on the one hand say God is love (ha, most of our culture will agree with that), but on the other hand deny the Trinity. But then I came to realize that in God’s very nature of being three in one, He has given a perfect example of love. Here in the God head we have three distinct persons who fully co-operate in love and humility towards one another in an absolutely perfect fashion. True love is Trinitarian love as displayed in the God head. And here is the kicker, the truly mind blowing part. This God who is perfectly loving towards Himself, also loves us. Now you might think, but God made us, of course He loves us. But stop and think. Here is a God, who enjoys perfect love and community within Himself, has no need for love outside of that. He chooses to create us, and yet we turn our backs on Him and sin, not just on one occasion, but as a constant habit throughout our lives. It would be really simple, at least from a human perspective, to look at us, let us go our own way, and let us burn in Hell like we deserve. But God doesn’t do that. He created us in full knowledge that we would sin. And so He planned out not just our creation, but our redemption. Because of the will of the Father we can be washed clean and walk with God by the power of the Spirit, because of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Christ became one of us, walked a perfect and sinless life for 33 years, went to a cross, suffered and died, taking on not just immense physical pain, but while still being God had to face the unbearable pain of God the Father turning His face away, a separation we cannot even comprehend. And then in three days- rising, conquering sin and death, and giving us a way to the Father. God who has no reason to love you, because outside of that value that He places on you, you are nothing-chooses to love you. That is mind blowing. You want some self help? You want to live a better life? Ponder what Jesus did, not just through His life, but through His death on a cross. Ponder the Father. Think about His amazing love, grace, and mercy. Ponder the Spirit who indwells every believer, walking with us every moment of every day. When you realize what He did and does, and when you realize how undeserving you are, it ought to break you. And when it does, you will realize you can do nothing less than surrender you life to this all powerful, and yet all loving King of Kings. This God who displays such great love towards us offers us the opportunity to follow in His example of perfect love, and to follow Him. That my friends…that is amazing.

July 19, 2016

Him Whom My Soul Loves

"Rose early to meet with him whom my soul loves." Robert Murray McCheyne 

I think about that quote from McCheyne now and then. How dearly that man loved his God; and he fostered and kindled that love by rising early to meet with the maker and lover of his soul.  

There is a flippant, lightweight, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend kind of Christianity that exists in many evangelical churches. This can be displayed in music full of sappy emotionalism and empty platitudes: "Jesus makes me happy all the time", "Jesus, lover of my soul, Jesus I've lost all cognitive control." It also can be found in devotional literature that focuses little on the person of God and doctrines such as His holiness or His majesty, contrasting them with my sinful estate; rather the focus is on how He feels toward me, with little to say about why He might feel that way or what He might expect of me. These things are really easy for me to pick on, and frankly in many cases they do need a correction or even a flat out rejection. 

But I wonder if their popularity isn't due to something missing in the stuffier, love God with all of your mind and strength types...like myself. That is, the understanding that we are to love God with all of our heart and soul as well; and that this does in fact speak to the emotions, the feelings, and the affections that we experience. Put another way, loving God requires more than knowing the right facts and doing the right things. It also includes feeling the right way. 

Here is my shot at what I call evangeli-fluffism: While the impulse to love God in an emotive way is right, the method of focusing on those feelings themselves is flawed, and lead naturally to a very poor result. Saying that believing in Jesus makes me happy all the time isn't only corny, it's not actually true. Jesus does not make me happy all the time, because, by the presence of His Holy Spirit within me, He is often pointing out things in my life that are less than fabulous. I do well have my soul on a state of constant abasement, as John Owen said.  

But this abasement, this despairing of my own merit, ought to lead me to a place of wonder and awe. That the God of all the universe would condescend to love a sinner such as me ought bring forth from within feelings of gratitude and thankfulness. We love Him, because He first loved us.  

Emotion is not the sum total of love, but true love certainly includes an emotive aspect. Those who think otherwise are fools.  

We cannot grit our teeth and muscle our way through the Christian life. To borrow from Chalmers, our hearts must experience the expulsive power of a New Affection. Love for sin, love for worldliness, love for foolishness; these things do not vanish on their own or by dint of willpower. They are chased out by a deeper love, a truer love--a more emotionally compelling view of the world. 

What causes the soul to long for God in the morning? The mind? It sure helps. But what drives those decisions? What pushes our mind in particular directions? The habits and beliefs of our hearts. Love God, this is the First and Great Commandment.

July 18, 2016

Commonplace Monday #43

"Christ is the center of Christianity; all else is circumference."
John Stott

Commonplace Monday is a series of posts wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. 

July 15, 2016

My new blog...

If you folks at all enjoy what you read here, and have an interest in gardening, or don't enjoy what you read here, but still have an interest in gardening, then take a look at my new blog, The Insufficient Self-Sufficient. Obviously, there isn't much there to be read, yet. But my hope is to post weekly updates on the states of the roughly 1,000 square feet of my life devoted to growing things.

July 14, 2016

God and Morgan Freeman

Over at the Southern Evangelical Seminary blog, my good friend Levi Kilian (who has guest blogged here before) has a piece entitled God and Morgan Freeman. Head on over and give it a read. It's a little lengthy and somewhat dense, but very worth your time.

When we speak about God, is the question, "Who is God?" an appropriate place to begin? From Levi's article:
[A]s important as the question “Who is God?” is, before we can answer it we must first ask the question “Does God exist?” If we don’t deal with the question of God’s existence, then there is no God to know about in the first place. Asking “Who is God?” presupposes that he exists. If we can know that God exists, then we can begin to delimit Who he is—i.e. whether he is the God or gods of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.
Are all truth claims equal? Could it simply be possible that all religions are true in their own way?
 Contrary to what Freeman implies in his method, not every religion or belief concerning God is equally agreeable to the truths of reality. Not all ideas have an equal stake on the truth. Not all ideas of God equally reflect the truth, and not all beliefs about God or gods can be true. For example, if monotheism is true, then pantheism, polytheism, and atheism are false. This is not intolerant or bigoted. It is simply a consequence of the unquestionable principle of contradiction: “A thing cannot be and not be at the same time and under the same aspect.”
Do you enjoy logic? Do you value truth? Then head on over and read the entire piece.

Review: Coping with Change: Ecclesiastes

Coping with Change: Ecclesiastes Coping with Change: Ecclesiastes by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kaiser's little commentary on Ecclesiastes is very helpful. I think he nails the structure of the book; the charts for passages such as the beginning of chapter 12 are somewhat helpful, although I wouldn't ever use them for teaching. Sometimes his commitment to literal interpretation misses, in my opinion, the poetic effect that Qoheleth intends. But overall, a helpful read.

View all my reviews

July 11, 2016

Commonplace Monday #42

"The highest praise that can be bestowed upon a Christian minister is not to tell him how much his preaching is enjoyed on sabbaths, but to let him see how well it is being translated into the life on the other days of the week. We live in a practical age; and the mission of the pulpit is as practical and definite as that of any other institution of our time. It is an agency for man-building. Its work is to promote the doing of the Word of God in the everyday lives of men."  -Charles Jerdan

Commonplace Monday is a series of posts wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. 

July 06, 2016

Because my Wife is a better writer than I...

Here is a link to my dear wife's blog, particularly the post Talking Doritos. It is well worth your time. So much of our introspection is silly or a waste of time, but this is a prime example of introspection and self-examination at their best.

July 04, 2016

Commonplace Monday #41

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Commonplace Monday is a series of posts wherein, on Monday mornings, I share short quips, sentences -perhaps as much as a paragraph- which I have collected in my various commonplace books and files. If I wrote down or recall where it came from I will certainly give attribution. However, sometimes I write down things and not where they came from. So if you see anything like that here and recognize it, that's what comment sections are for. 

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).