Friday, December 27, 2013

Final Tabletalk Thoughts

I'm off to North Georgia for the week, so I will leave this blog with thoughts from the last 4 articles in December's Tabletalk.

"The Story We Share" by J.D. Bridges
Anyone describing a square would give different answers, but to be correct, they would all have to mention its four equal sides and four perpendicular corners.  In the same way, many people describe Christianity differently, but to describe it correctly, it must include the gospel: the birth, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus.  It must speak of salvation by Christ alone through grace alone and faith alone.  And seriously, it needs to believe the Bible like a child.

"Against the Law" by Mark Jones
Antinomianism is creeping into the church.  It is a gross corruption of Reformed theology that teaches that since justification is by faith alone, then people do not have to work to be sanctified.  Seriously people, if your life does not match Christ's more and more, you have not been justified no matter how much good theology you know.  "A robust doctrine of the union with Christ provides the best antidote to antinomianism."  As justified believers, we are united with Christ in the church, therefore, he will naturally train us to conform more to him as we leave behind our past lives of sin.  In John 15, Christ is clear that if you love him, you keep his commandments.

Interview with Joel Beeke
This man makes me wish I had more time to study the puritan writings.  The more I read about them, the more I feel like I'm a puritan.  "God illuminated the Reformers to rediscover fundamental biblical truths about salvation and worship.  The Puritans wedded vibrant spirituality to a rich, Bible-based theology."  I so dream of helping lead people to not just know that Jesus saves, but to live their lives reflecting that.

I love Beeke's three misconceptions about Puritans.  1)They were legalists.  Truth: they had detailed instructions on how to live well, but they gloried in Jesus's grace as their all-in-all.  2)They hunted witches.  Truth: from 1692 to 1693, courts in Massachusetts did kill about 24 people accused of witchcraft.  However, many Puritans wrote against their methods and helped bring a stop to these trials.  3)They were prudes.  Truth:  The forbade sex outside of marriage, but within marriage, it is a wonderful thing to be cherished.  It cultivates their friendship and their romance.  In fact, if people liked each other enough to marry, they encouraged them to marry quickly so that they would not fall to temptation.

"Is the Enemy of my Enemy Really my Friend?" by Al Mohler
It is true.  We unite against many people to fight moral evils such as abortion, cheapening love through sex and gay marriage, and trying to defend traditional families.  I will work alongside anyone to stop abortion and to see pregnancy as a gift, not a curse.  To help people see their situations differently.

However, because of significant religious differences, I cannot consider myself to be a spiritual sister to some of these people.  Some may support good morals.  Some may even correctly believe in Christ's deity.  However, because our definitions of the gospel are so different, we cannot come together until we are united under salvation that looks to Jesus and only Jesus.  A salvation that does not seek restitution with God through penance or through a mediator knowing that Jesus is our only priest, mediator, and the only one that gave the perfect penance for us.  Until then, I simply consider pro-life ministry as a ministry not just to unwed mothers or mothers who feel like it is a bad time to be pregnant.  It is also a ministry to each other and a hope that Christ will lead us all to unity in him before long.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Blame it upon a rush of blood to the head

The song in my head tonight is "Rush of Blood to the Head" by Coldplay.  "I'm going to buy a gun and start a war If you can tell me something worth fighting for."

What do I find worth fighting for?  The Gospel.  Unborn children.  Since God is the definition of both love and life, it is worth fighting to defend his standards for the sanctity of life and for love and marriage.  Stuff like this is worth ending friendships and being called naive.

Do I find Duck Dynasty worth fighting for?  Yes and no.  I'm sure I have nothing against the show, I have just never been interested, and it bothers me how kooky LifeWay is for anyone who even mentions God in a positive way.  Aside from doctrinal differences from these ducks, I am just not a fan of someone taking Jesus and making him simply a part of southern culture.  It creates what RC Sproul calls henotheism - a belief in a deity based on geography.

At the same time, I find opposing such a perversion of what is otherwise beautiful love for a friend and making it sexual something worth fighting for.  People are free to insist on their right to have marital relations with someone of the same gender as them, but in their liberation, true love is not freely expressed.  I could not intensely love some woman and truly care for her like a sister without the world seeing it as perverted. 

Then again, A&E never expressed belief in the true God and his Christ.  I am not shocked that they suspended Phil as much as I'm shocked that they are shocked.  I'm also wondering with the Bible saying that we will suffer as Jesus did, why the Christians are so shocked that this is happening and not rejoicing that they get to suffer with Christ and then look forward to heaven.

I think mostly, this is still a fight over whether America is the promised land or not.  I think it's mostly between A&E and DD, so it's not my fight.  But I also oppose the cheapening of both intense love and the Gospel and reducing them just sexual obligation and southern culture, respectively.  However, I will gladly support what I believe if I have to lose my job or even go to jail.  I support the side of Christ as the Son of God and the only one worthy to judge sin.  And I totally support Phil for telling the unpopular truth and hope that I can do the same except for avoiding unnecessarily crude language.

Friday, December 20, 2013

El Nino 2: Break with Rome

When last I blogged about church history, I had given a synopsis of Martin Luther's life up until that Halloween when he nailed the 95 theses to the Wittenberg door.  How he was raised in fear of the God of the Bible because he could never satisfy his own guilt with the many acts of penance that he performed.  Finally, he read Romans, and he met Jesus for the first time, the one who paid the perfect penance on our behalf, and began to follow him.

When Johann Tetzel began selling papal indulgences in Germany and people bought them without truly repenting, he finally had enough and nailed 95 Theses to the church door.  The same 95 Theses that are mostly very much Catholic and in support of the Pope, but which call the Church to reexamine its practices.

Whatever the reaction, Tetzel worked to silence Luther.  At first the Reformation was labelled a "squabble of monks."  The thing is, people began agreeing with Luther.  He debated at Heidelberg in 1518.  Martin Bucer accepted his ideas.  Philip Melanchthon came to teach Greek at Wittenberg.  If Luther was the Moses of the Reformation, then Melanchthon was his Joshua.  He was an equal face in the struggle with Luther, and often better at communicating.

At this point, if there was a debate brewing, or even a war, the authority for Luther would not be the pope or the church.  His only authority would be the Bible.  Cardinal Cajetan first met Luther at the Diet of Augsburg to get Luther to recant his views.  Luther refused to recant unless he could be convinced by Scripture of his fault.

After that, Luther wrote three pamphlets.

The Address to the German Nobility concerned authority.  Rome at the time, claimed spiritual authority with only the pope able to interpret Scripture.  Luther used Scripture to demolish this ego of the church trying to upstage Jesus.

Babylonian Captivity is where Luther began to attack the central beliefs of Rome -- mainly the Sacraments.  Rome believed that the priesthood distributed the sacraments.  Luther argued that Baptism and the Lord's Supper were the only sacraments instituted by Jesus and that only he can distribute the means of grace in them.

The Freedom of the Christian Man explained that all people in the church are priests.  They all have access to God the Father through Christ's intercession.  They can all interpret Scripture and come to God with only Jesus as their priest.

In June 1520, Leo X excommunicated Luther in a papal bull and burned his works at Cologne.  Luther proceeded to burn the papal bull on December 10, 1520.  Luther got called to testify at the Diet of Worms, to see if he would recant.  He was promised safe passage, but he also remembered the promise not kept to Jan Hus and was very frightened.  In fact, Luther requested another 48 hours to form a reply.  But finally he said, "unless I am convinced by the Scriptures that I am wrong, I will not go against my conscience.  Here I stand, I can do no other.  So help me God!"  His friends then staged a kidnapping and took him to Wartburg Castle where he lived until 1522.  The "Holy" Roman Emperor ordered that his books be banned, which of course will make people read them all the more.

Looking at the church today, I still lean on Luther's three pamphlets as the reason I cannot come back to Rome.  I can fight abortion with them, celebrate Christmas with them, and love them until it hurts, but I cannot come back to the church as it is a false church.  It has never recanted its insistence that the Pope sits in Christ's seat and not Christ himself, its insistence that God can change his mind simply because the Pope made a new decision.  It refuses to see that Christ is the distributer of the sacraments and gives to whom he elects to give.  Christ alone made the perfect penance and we go on his righteousness credited to us.  And after centuries of Christ not being the center of the Church, now they deny that he's even necessary for salvation, continuing their own excommunication.

Gladly, I see Christ slowly bringing up back together, but we still cannot have peace under what is not the truth, what is not Christ.  Christ must be center, and not church hierarchy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The millennium and Perelandra

December Tabletalk's articles are on the millennium.  The magazine covered end times in the first issue I received from them in January 2012.  I personally get tired of the different end times discussions because so many of the books sold at LifeWay are of the dispensational persuasion, and people usually by them because they want to have a good supernatural thrill.  They don't really seek to worship Christ or anticipate his coming (most of the ones I see at least).

Setting that aside, I still follow the amillennial perspective.  With a plain reading of Scripture, that is what I see.  When Jesus returns, all evil will be over forever.  There won't be a thousand years with Satan still breathing.  This whole church age is the millennium and Satan is out now, and Christ is coming soon to avenge us of him.  Also, Israel and the Church are not separate entities.  They are one in Christ.  The Church is the completion of Israel.  So it would make no sense for the Jewish people to have a different ending from the rest of us.

But whatever the perspective, whether amillennial (more accurately called now-millennial) or dispie, true believers all wait for Christ to come and deliver us from having to see so much evil in the world.  And at Christmas time, we are grateful that he came as a person and defeated Satan's power over his people.

That brings me to Perelandra, the second book in C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy.  I love C.S. Lewis as a best friend and excellent writer.  I appreciate the Space Trilogy and it's theological conversations.  Perelandra makes me want to tear my hair out.  Lewis will go through 10 pages about nothing more than what the character Ransom is pondering at the time.  He is on the planet Venus, aka, Perelandra, and all descriptions of that planet sound hyper-sexual, and it is clear Ransom at least feels like sex is only made for procreation and not for pleasure, which is completely wrong.  Granted, whatever God has in heaven for us will be way more pleasurable and fulfilling.  However, before we get there, sex really is the greatest joy when performed correctly within marriage between a man and woman.  In fact, it's clean, glorious, and even appropriate.

When the book has a plot line, Ransom is exploring Venus, finds a green lady who is the Eve for that planet, and he prevents her from sinning the way that Eve did on earth.  After that, the green lady and her man become King and Queen.  Then I bizarre ceremony occurs with all the angels, eldila in the books, the guardian angels for both Mars and Venus, called oyarsa, the the King and Queen who are also now considered oyarsa on Venus.  They have such an elevated status now, that I wonder, if Adam and Eve had never sinned, would they be ruling the world?  Would Christ have come to save us?

I am sad that the world has so much evil, but I'm actually glad that we did not end up like Perelandra.  Adam and Eve sinned, and so we all need someone to live a perfect life for us and then take the punishment for our sins since he won't be punished forever having lived perfectly.  We would be so much less if Christ did not come to rescue our planet.  Even worse, we would possibly be elevated to God status and then sin because now we consider ourselves to be gods.  Lewis needed to invent a world where they would still need Jesus even though Ransom saved them from sinning, because it is no good for mankind to be exalted the way they exalt the King and Queen on Venus in that book.  It is so disturbing.

The moral of this story is I'm going to finish the first few pages of the book and then start reading the Narnia books again for theology that I know is good.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas with Justin Martyr and Trypho

This is for sections 31-40 of Justin's dialogue with Trypho.  It would probably be more appropriate for Hanukkah since that is going on and Trypho is still Jewish without believing in the Messiah.

Since Advent has started, there have been sermons at CBC about Christmas.  It was about all the gifts we receive from the Lord at Christmas.  His believers receive salvation from God's wrath.  They have strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  Also, they are to share this gift.

I could see myself asking a group of kids what they truly receive at Christmas in its true meaning.  I can see them raising their hands and saying all that I said in the previous paragraph.  Then I would be like, there's one thing your missing.  If you don't have this, you don't have salvation.  Without this, you don't have strength for today or hope for tomorrow.  In fact, you have no reason to live or sing God's praises.  That missing thing is the only gift that matters: Jesus.  There is no heaven without him, no salvation without him, and no strength or hope in our troubled times.  He is the only reason I can keep going.

Justin is still debating Trypho.  Christ's first coming was great.  His second advent will be so much greater as he shall come on the clouds as the Son of Man and the angels will be with him.  It will be frightening and amazing at the same time.

Trypho still does not get it.  Christ's life on earth was dishonorable and inglorious.  He was even crucified.  There was nothing glorious in that.
Justin insists that if the prophecies had not plainly said that he would be unattractive, would suffer God's wrath on the cross, and that he would be utterly unrecognizable as the Messiah, then Justin's words would be dubious.  However, the Jewish prophets are clear that this will be the case.  Justin tells Trypho that in his first advent, Jesus was pierced by Trypho and his people.  In the second advent, Trypho shall know whom he has pierced and his tribes will mourn.

Apparently, the Jews took obviously Messianic prophecies and applied them to certain Jewish kings.  For example, they took Psalm 110 and applied it to Hezekiah.  This is absolutely wrong.  The psalm itself says that this special person will be priest forever.  Hezekiah died and did not last forever.  Jesus the Christ rose from the dead and will reign forever.  Like Melchizedek, he was the priest of the uncircumcision that Abraham made offerings to.  He's going to unite both Abraham's seed and those just adopted into the family.

The Jews thought that Psalm 72 applied to Solomon, whose faults Christians shudder at.  "The law of the Lord is perfect."  The perfect law is the one given after Moses.  God would establish a new law and a new covenant given through an everlasting king.  Not only did Solomon die, but he let his heart be led away to idols by all the women he married.  Jesus's heart is only for God's glory and did not get distracted.  And he did not stay dead.  Christ's worshipers in the Gentiles would sooner die than worship any idol.

Trypho then tries the old, tired tactic of pointing to all the professing believers who do worship idols.  Jesus said that they would come.  There would be people who claim Christ but who do not know him at all and will deceive people.  Matthew 7:15, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves."

Trypho wants him to prove it.  Justin quotes the psalm, "Who is the King of glory?"  You can tell that he is the King of glory because he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  Justin can prove that from all the other psalms.

Trypho, a Jew, is very offended by this and should stay away from the Christians who utter blasphemies.  Sadly, Justin replies that God's wisdom is hidden from guys like Trypho or else they would understand.  Justin is not surprised that the Jews hate him.  Those who are wise in their own eyes are foolish and honor God only with lips.  Unless they are convinced that Jesus is the real deal, they will stay away from him for fear of persecution.

Lastly, Justin points to the Passover Lamb.  The mystery of the passover Lamb was a type of Christ.  Christ is the mystery and he has been solved.  He was sacrificed at Jerusalem in the same way that the Lamb was sacrificed.  And, that is the gift we have at Christmas.  It is so much more solid than hope and strength.  Salvation is tangible and complete.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ordinary People, Altar Calls, Stories, and RC Jr.

I've reached the end of November's Tabletalk.  It has been wonderful going through deep covenant theology and tracing God's plan to send Jesus through all of history.  The magazine ends with 4 articles.

The first is by J.D. Greear, "Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart."  He recalls growing up and always going forward at the altar calls at youth camps just in case he had done something to fall out of favor with God.  Later on, when he received real theology, he realized that he just needed to rest in the finished work of Christ.  Most revivals will teach you that there is something you need to do to move forward with God.  Christ says that he's done it all.  All we do is repent before God and have faith that Christ did it perfectly and will lead us to all perfection.

"Ordinary Means" by Michael G. Brown.  It seems today that "ordinary" is a bad word.  People want the next big thing and to make names for themselves.  This translates into how we do church.  "In a world that values novelty, innovation, and relevance, the expectation is for pastors to appear hip, worship to feel amazing, and teaching to be useful for our most recent news feed of felt needs."  We forget that we need to present church the way Christ told us to in Matthew 28:18-20.  Our Head told us to make disciples of nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  This involves teaching them what he has taught in his Word and administering the sacraments as constant visible reminders of God's grace in sending Jesus.

There is room for guitars and videos, but mostly, the church is supposed to be ordinary and to be faithful to what God has established.  They must not go beyond preaching the Word, singing the Word, or eating the Word.

There was an interview with R.C. Sproul, Jr.  Tabletalk asked him about how he became a Christian, received his call into ministry, and how he started Highlands Ministries and fights to save the unborn and their mothers from abortion.  Highlands ministries was started as "an attempt to help Christians deal with the perennial and pervasive problem of worldliness in our lives."  Instead of falling back into the world's pattern of earning money and climbing the corporate ladder, Christians have to constantly remind themselves of their identities in Christ.  They must make "every thought captive" to their wonderful Lord.

He gives such a passionate plea for Christians to actually go to the abortion clinics and persuade the women to choose life.  I have not done that and can't imagine myself doing it, but I do hope God will make me bold enough for that some day.  Either way, Christians need to go because 1) abortion won't end until our hearts are genuinely broken.  This won't happen until we see the scared women who desperately want to have a living child being led because it is inconvenient for their husbands or boyfriends to take responsibility for their sexual actions. 

2) The abortion mills are the very gates of hell and that is where the Spirit moves in power.  Women who are contemplating murdering their children or who have already done so are very aware of their sin and their guilt.  It is the perfect time to lead them to Jesus and to his infinite and satisfying love.

3) True religion is visiting orphans and widows in their trouble.  Who can be more widowed than a woman being led by the man who pretends to love her to murder her baby?  Who can be more orphaned than the one who has been put to death by his or her parents?

"Catechisms for the Imagination" by N.D. Wilson.  This is about like the article in last month's issue about imagination by Tony Reinke.  People in America are driven by stories.  We spend billions of dollars on movies, books, plays, and entertainment.  Stories are fun and that is all that people desire.  Fiction novels take young people out of reality and have them fighting evil and finding romance.  The author himself attests to characters who are fixed and unchanging.  He looks up to Faramir in Lord of the Rings far more than he looks to real men who he admired and who have disappointed him.

Stories create affection, fear, joy, love, hate, and relief.  They are catechisms for the emotions and imaginations.  They mold instincts and form judgments.

Stories are dangerous, and that isn't a bad thing.  Let us lead our young people to be led by stories that lead to light and joy, and not ones that lead to dependence on a sparkly vampire boyfriend or a young lady led to a gladiator fight who eventually loses her nobility in the carnage.

"Establish their tastes in truth with stories that will root their instincts and loyalties in goodness and beauty."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

El Nino: Luther's Beginnings

Cairns chapter 27: Luther and the German Reformation.  Part 1, Luther's Formative Years to 1517

Hurricane Martin Luther was born November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Germany.  His father was a peasant copper miner who eventually struck it rich.  The Luthers still struggled, and the mom was known to severely punish Martin until he bled for just stealing a nut.

Still, he believed in working hard and was known for his strong will.  In 1501 he attended the University of Erfurt where he studied Aristotle and the teachings of William of Ockham.  William believed that revelation was the only guide in the realm of faith, but reason was the guide to truth in philosophy.  He separated faith and reason.  These teachings only awakened Luther to the need for divine intervention if man is to know spiritual truth and be saved.  Philosophy alone would not suffice.

At this time, his father wanted him to study law.  However, one day Luther walked in the woods during a storm and nearly got struck by lightning.  Therefore, he promised St. Anne that if he survived, he would join a monastery.  He joined the one in Erfurt in 1507.  At that time, he taught theology at a university in Wittenburg, but studied at Erfurt.  His soul struggled with finding peace with the Lord and with trying to perform a penance satisfactorily enough to keep him safe from falling from God's grace.  The vicar-general of his monk order, Staupitz, urged him to trust God and to study the Bible.

In 1510-11, he went to Rome and was shocked at all the corruption and luxury that the Roman church enjoyed.  He realized that it needed reform.  When he left, he returned to teaching at Wittenberg.

He endeavored to lecture on the Bible books in the language spoken in Wittenberg, the vernacular.  To do so, he studied the original languages and came to believe that true authority is only found in the Bible.  Through translating books such as Psalms, Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews, he finally found the peace that he never found in rituals, asceticism, or in the German theology of the mystics.  Reading Romans 1:17 convinced him that only faith in Christ could make one just before God.

Around this time, a brilliant salesman named Johann Tetzel began selling indulgences for the church.  Buying an indulgence would give complete forgiveness.  Repentance was unnecessary.  After seeing one too many people laying drunk in the street who showed him their piece of paper that gave them forgiveness with absolutely no change of heart, Luther snapped.  On October 31, 1517, he nailed Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenberg church door.  This was not a call for reformation.  Luther simply wanted the church officials to reconsider if their teaching of indulgences is correct.  At this point, Luther would have died for the pope, and he even thought there was legitimacy to indulgences, but he did not think they were properly carried out under the salesmen such as Tetzel.  He wanted the officials to reexamine it.  This started a major hurricane that still goes on today.

Does this still apply to today?  Can I forget my differences and return to Rome?  No.  I see church after church living in luxury, its members living as libertines, and they still claim to be Christians even though they support extramarital sex, abortion, redefining marriage, and other blatant attacks on God's creation.  I see the current Pope preaching that Jesus is not necessary for salvation.  All people can come to heaven if they are sincere.  He rules a Church filled with compassion for the homeless, lonely, rejected, and who shows more compassion to pregnant women struggling with thoughts of abortion than anyone else, and still he says they are too obsessed with abortion and gay rights.  He doesn't look into the eyes of nuns and others who struggle to bring peace to the earth and try to understand all people while insisting that they don't do enough to reach people.

I see him echoing old theology taught by Rob Bell, Oprah, Gandhi, Bultmann, the French Revolution, and a theology that has gone on since the fall of man.  Man wants to insist on finding his own way to God when Jesus clearly said there is no way apart from Jesus.  Jesus gave his life for his people and people gave their lives to defend Jesus as the only savior.  Now, people of all denominations simply want to have parties and enjoy good music and just be nice to people building a utopia while poverty, abortion, abuse, and other horrors increase. 

I've been reading this week in the first chapter of Calvin's Institutes.  Man cannot know himself unless he knows God.  If he keeps his eye on the ground, then what he does will be righteous and impressive.  Then he looks up to see God in all his perfection.  Like Isaiah in his 6th chapter, he completely freaks out because he saw the Holy God while he himself is completely corrupt.  Everyone from Johann Tetzel to Martin Luther to myself try to impress with works and alms, but we look at Jesus and notice that we having nothing to brag about.  Our righteousness are the same to God as dirty rags used for menstruation.  We still are not at the point where we can look away from ourselves and realize that we aren't that awesome.  We're far from it.  Until Christ returns and sets that straight, the hurricane of the Reformation will just continue.

Monday, November 18, 2013

18 things I've learned since being married

Tim Challies did a list of 18 things he does not regret with his kids and his wife.  His wife made a list for him.  Here are 18 things I learned since marrying Tim New.

1. I notice new OCD tendencies but can't really be sorry for them.

2. I realize my own total depravity much more.

3. I know God's love more first-hand.  Marriage reflects the relationship of Christ to the church, but it is such a beautiful object lesson.

4. It's great to have in-laws.  It's good having a mother and a sister again.

5. You constantly need to do things for your husband to reflect your love for him.  Not to earn it, but to show that it is there.  Tim constantly does the same for me.

6. I love cooking and can finally do it frequently.

7. Sometimes I can organize my living area.  It's good getting practice at my LifeWay job.

8. My job makes me realize my need to cherish my times with Tim.  It is much more scarce.

9. I'm going to enjoy practicing teaching theology to him.  It seems my love for theology is my emotional center.  I need to involve Tim in that.

10. I'm married to Tim.  It no longer matters what people I knew before him think, and my marriage to him also means that I'm exclusive to him.  I prioritize him over my family and over his siblings, mother, father, and friends.  A Christian's love for Christ should be just like that.

11.  Christ is the husband to the church.  Not a minister.  The shepherd is just another sheep.  An unmarried minister cannot know Christ's love tangibly and cannot understand love for other people as a result.  Christ is Adam, the church is Eve, and a minister is just another member of the church who should enjoy life as God has created it to be enjoyed.

12. I still don't care to go to church without Tim.  He's my ministry partner.  It's one of our quality time activities.

13. His love language is touch with a secondary for words of affirmation.  Mine is quality time with a secondary of touch.  All five of those languages are present in our relationship.

14. I have better ideas of what to get my in-laws for Christmas than of what to get for my biological family.

15. Revenge is sweet when I finally win a board game or card game.

16. Tim and I are very opposite in our personalities and it's both good and frustrating.  He's hot, I'm cold.  He's on time.  I'm early.

17. I like Perelandra better than Tim, but the Space Trilogy is not C.S. Lewis's best work.  I think Harry Potter has better theology sometimes.

18. I enjoy being in a non-denominational church yet still being a staunch Presbyterian.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Justin Martyr and Trypho: On Jewish Regulations followed by FAQ

In the 21st part of Justin's dialogue with Trypho, he ends his discourse on circumcision and Jewish rituals by saying that Sabbaths were instituted on account of people's sins and not for a work of righteousness.  Sacrifices and oblations were for the same purpose.  This is one I have to ponder some because God did institute Sabbath regulations and sacrifices with very specific instructions.  The Jewish Sanhedrin in Jesus's day made them more impossible to follow without a sore conscience.  But it's the same reason that God rescued Israel from Egypt and made them a nation.  Not because they were righteous, but because of his favor.  He gave them the rituals because of their hardness of hearts.  Actually, in their zeal to keep every rule for the Sabbath, they polluted it by not believing in Jesus and even killing him.

Now that Jesus has come and gone, he has fulfilled the OT law and erased the need to present sacrifices to a priest.  Jesus is both the sacrifice and the priest.  The insistence of people to follow old Jewish regulations or even today in trying to atone oneself through acts of penance is an insult to God and what he has done with us through Christ.  "He has commanded these and such like institutions on account of sinful men, and we must declare Him to be benevolent, foreknowing, needing nothing, righteous and good."  God is the source of all things.  He does not need our appeasement, especially since most of the Jews brought sacrifices out of habit and not from a heart that truly wanted to serve the Lord.

All these laws and the rite of circumcision were given as a sign.  They did not make the people righteous.  Abraham and his descendants had to cut off their foreskins as a sign that they belonged to God.  Women could not do this.  Now that Christ has come, the Holy Spirit's baptism circumcises people spiritually.  It is that baptism that makes clean.  Christ's blood put an end to the need for our blood.  Also, all people can participate.  All a person's righteousness is as used menstrual rags.  They are gross and unacceptable.  No one can come to God offering just that.

Trypho then starts asking questions.  Does Justin mean that none of us Jews shall inherit anything on the holy mountain of God?
Justin replies that those who have persecuted and do persecute Christ, if they do not repent, shall not inherit anything on the holy mountain.  However, since the Gentiles have believed Jesus, so they will receive the inheritance with the patriarchs and prophets.

Trypho: Why do you select and quote whatever you wish from the prophetic writings, but do not refer to those which expressly command the Sabbath to be observed?
Justin: God commands the same thing in both Moses and in the prophets.  They both command the same thing.  Justin accepts all Scripture.

Trypho complains that he's not answering the question.
Justin: Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and circumcise the foreskin of your heart.  Jeremiah 4:3.  Only Christ can give your soul the correct circumcision to make you right before God.  He is useless to people who insist on observing the law on their own merit.  "What need have I of that other baptism, who have been baptized with the Holy Ghost?"  Only Christians possess true righteousness because they trust Christ of their sanctification.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not a Kingdom without the King: part 3

A Dwelling Place for God by Ben C. Dunson
"God's presence with his people was most vividly manifested in the earthly symbols of Israel's tabernacle and temple...That fulfillment is found in Jesus Christ, the full and final manifestation of God's presence with his people."

Before, Christ, God's earthly presence with his people was only with the tabernacle in one location in Jerusalem.  After Christ, God's earthly presence dwells in believers through the Holy Spirit.  God is so generous to allow such access to him.  We don't need to go to a central location or intercessor.  We just need to pray to Jesus.

Why Did Jesus Say it was Better for Him to Go Away?
Jesus physically went away from his disciples and ascended to God's throne.  It is better for him to be gone because now his Spirit can be with all people.  If Jesus was on earth, his body would be in one place just like the tabernacle was.  Now that his body is with the Father in heaven, his Spirit can reach all people in all places at all times.

The New Jerusalem by S.M. Baugh
Before Baugh turns to the Revelation passage about the New Jerusalem, he wants to make two points.  1) Revelation is prophesy.  Its visions are symbolic but represent real things.  When Pharaoh had his dream about the skinny cows destroying the healthy cows in the story of Joseph, there were no literal cows.  However, the famine did overpower the years of abundance just like the cows symbolized.  2) The phrase "to enjoy him forever" expresses the covenant bond between our gracious Lord and his people.

Baugh cites the passage where Jerusalem is enormous and perfectly cubed.  This symbolizes the perfection of the time when Jesus Christ returns to earth and the eternity afterward.  It has a population of all kinds of people from every nation and ethnicity, and all the injustice of sin and rebellion are gone.  Jesus is openly praised on the whole planet.

Will we get bored enjoying God forever in the New Earth?
Since we can't see it now, it does seem boring.  Whatever we will do forever in eternity, however, we will enjoy; hence, it won't be boring.  Also, we'll finally be with Jesus, the same one who children clamored to see.  Children won't go to a boring person.  As Jesus is the author of all life, he is an endless source of joy and fulfillment.

Of Veils and Vales by R.C. Sproul Jr
"Our progress as pilgrims is measured not by miles but by veils."  With each new Covenant, something new was revealed about Christ, meaning a veil was taken away.  With Abraham, God revealed the need for blood to atone for the separation between God and man.  He also revealed a person that would substitute for us when the time for God's wrath came.

With Moses, he physically dwelt among Israel, revealing that people can interact with God.  In David, people had hope for a perfect king whose reign would never end.  Finally, with Jesus, the mystery was revealed.  God's secret would be to save his people in Jesus Christ.  The last veil to be removed will be at the second Coming when we no longer have to imagine God.  We will see him as he is.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It's not a Kingdom without the King: part two

The Lord was with Him by David Murray
The Lord was with Abraham, Joseph, David, and Hezekiah.  Enoch and Noah walked with God.  This article displays different aspects of being able to experience God's special presence.

This was a gracious experience.  These people are the same descendants of Adam who betrayed the Lord by seeking knowledge and life apart from God.  God did not have to walk with these people.  He did, though, and we are eternally grateful.

This was a spiritual experience.  There was no physical person walking with these guys until Jesus came to earth.  The Holy Spirit's "withness" caused these people to commune with God.

This was a personal experience.  Not the Force, but an actual Person with emotions, will, ability to communicate, and a personality. 

This was a transforming experience.  It caused Enoch and Noah to be so different from their neighbors that they stood out.  People mocked them and tortured them for being closed-minded.  They discouraged Abraham from staying faithful to his wife and encouraged David to conform more to the kings of the other nations.  Yet, the Holy Spirit transformed these people in a way that they were different from everyone else.

This was an enjoyable experience.  God was their best friend who walked alongside them when they were otherwise alone in their pilgrimage.

This was a varied experience.  Hezekiah did not have the same experience that David or Moses had.  They were all different, showing the many facets of our Lord.

It was an everywhere experience.  It was not just in the temple or tabernacle, but it lived alongside Nehemiah as he rebuilt Jerusalem's gates.

The OT believers experienced the vague divine "withness" that now has a face and name in Jesus Christ in the NT and is more obviously with his followers in the indwelling of the Spirit.

Could God have taken his Spirit from David?
Salvation cannot be lost (Phil. 1:6, 1 John 2:19).  Yet God took his Spirit from King Saul who preceded David.  In the OT, the Spirit anointed and gifted people who became king, prophet, priest, or elder.  He was not poured out freely and openly to all Christians like today.  He focused mostly on the leaders.  David had just committed his sin with Bathsheba that ruined his family and his reign.  In his repentance, however, he still sought for God's guidance in his difficult job. 

Spokesmen for God by John L. Mackay
The Lord did not commission the prophets to act as missionaries, going to places that had not heard God's Word.  They had to administer spiritual first aid to those who had a cursory understanding of the covenant, but did not comply with it either through lack of knowledge or pure defiance.

When God enacted his covenant with Israel, he alone had the right to dictate the terms on which they could have fellowship with him.  They were the ones who betrayed him by relapsing into idolatry, synthesizing pagan beliefs with God's decrees and pretending they still worshiped God faithfully.  However, God made a covenant with Abraham where God passed between the halves of the animals, and he keeps his word.  He would send prophets to remind them of their danger and to urge repentance.

He sent weird guys who did weird things.  They used sign-acts such as lying on one side for a year to get people to ask questions and for them to answer with the unbearable truth.  Severity awaited them if they did not repent.  Ultimately, they pointed to the only solution to this impending doom: the love and benevolence of God the Father.  God is love, but he also judges sin and injustice.  Israel still went into exile and people who live apart from Christ will spend eternity apart from God.

Why did the faithful remnant have to suffer along with Israel in exile?
"God's covenants were explicitly corporate, meaning they were made with groups of people rather than individuals."  This still applies today in the church and in families.  People are considered as a family unit rather than as individuals.  God simply blessed the entire community when they were faithful, and he exiled the whole community when he could not stand any more blatant idolatry.  In the unseen kingdom, God will treat each person for his individual faith, and he will no longer punish a whole country including the ones who are faithful.  However, you can see his judgment on America and Europe today as they face judgment due to their constant hatred of God and his commands.

Immanuel by Gerald M. Bilkes
"Immanuel is one of Christ's most precious names."  It means "God with us."

The Beauty of Immanuel
This name is used mostly in connection with Christ's incarnation.  It is first heard when Isaiah prophesies that a virgin will conceive and the son's name will be Immanuel. Christ became incarnate in order to bring God's presence to us.  Being born without a sinful father, he escapes the curse of sin, but being born of a woman, he is also completely human.  He took on our flesh to be on our side.

The Blessings of Immanuel
1. He is God-with-us to reconcile sinners to God.
2. He is God-with-us to guide, empower, and expand His church.
3. He is God-with-us to comfort his people.
4. He is God-with-us to bring his people to glory.

What is Jesus doing when he breathes on his disciples in John 20:22?
Jesus told them to receive the Holy Spirit.  They already had the Spirit because they were regenerate believers in Jesus.  "The Spirit indwells everyone He regenerates." You can not be saved and not have the Holy Spirit.  However, Jesus anointed his disciples as his authoritative covenant ambassadors.  They received their authority from Jesus, and this validated their ministry.

The Beginning of the Reformation

Here is part III of chapter 26 in the text by Earle Cairns.

He first refreshes the reader about interpretations from historians.
I feel like this is repetitive, but then again, people learn by repitition.

Protestant historians: a religious movement that sought to recover the purity of the primitive Christianity that is depicted in the NT.  It ignores the economic, political, and intellectual factors that also influenced the people.

Roman Catholic historians at the time Cairns wrote this: a heresy inspired by Martin Luther from baase motives, such as his desire to marry.  A heretical schism that destroyed the theological and ecclesiastical unity of the medieval Roman Church.  It does not see how far the medieval church had departed from NT theology.

Secular historians such as Voltaire: the consequences of a monastic squabble in Saxony and an outcome in England of the love affairs of Henry VIII.  This view ignores the fact that religious reformers in England such as Thomas Cranmer and William Tyndale influenced many of the people in Henry's court, including his son Edward VI.

Marxist historians: the result of the attempt of the Roman papacy to exploit Germany economically for the material benefit of the papacy.

Political historians: a result of the nation-states opposing an international church.

Cairns sees elements of truth in all these interpretations, but he considers them mostly secondary.  The causes of the Reformation were not simple and single but were complex and multiple.  His interpretation is a synthesis of all the mentioned views.  Religion was the primary reason, with politics, economics, morals, and intellect as secondary factors.

1. Political factor: the new centralized nation-states of northwestern Europe were opposed to the concept of a universal church that claimed jurisdiction over the nation state and its powerful ruler.  The nations that started it all were outside of the old Roman Empire and had middle classes with different cultural outlooks.

To an extent, the political factors err because Christ did establish a universal church that will never be broken, even if it has different viewpoints.  He is the church's husband that unifies all believers.  However, church and state got intermingled between the fall of the Roman empire and the rise of Luther that it became less focused on Jesus and more focused on owning land and enforcing morals.

2. Economics: Christians do not accept the materialistic interpretations of Marxists.  However, Rome did own much of the land in western Europe.  Budding nation-states looked upon this land greedily and desired personal ownership.  They also did not want to keep sending money to the pope and letting clergy remain tax-exempt.  The system of selling indulgences was what sparked Luther.

3. Intellectual factor: men with awakened minds and a secular outlook became critical of the religious life of their day as represented by the organized religion of the RC church.  The middle class grew and revolted against the corporate concept of medieval society.  On one hand, all the church on earth should be united.  On the other hand, it should not legislate national affairs because the church is a political entity separate from this world.

4. Moral factor: Scholars such as Erasmus had access to the Greek New Testament and saw flagrant discrepancies between the church in the NT and the RC church of that era.  Clergy purchased their offices.  Some received salary without doing the work associated with the office.  Since the clergy could not marry, and since they are humans that God made with working organs, the fell into temptation.  Some had concubines and others lived openly in promiscuity.  Zwingli himself knew of his many children that resulted from his relationships and concluded that celibacy is a great gift, but not many people have it.  Indeed, God did not intend people to have widespread aversion to marital sex.  this was a result of gnostic streams that hate all physical matter.  People also invented indulgences to reduce their time in purgatory that earned money for the central powers, compensated for the crusades, and helped support art projects.

5. Social structure change: Town rose, and did I mention a middle class?  This created a new spirit of individualism that clashed with the corporate mentality from the previous feudalism.

6. Theological or philosophical factors: some see this as a struggle between Augustine's theology and that of Thomas Aquinas.  The Church did agree with Aquinas that man was not totally corrupted as Augustine preached, and they liked that they could use the sacraments distributed from the hierarchy to regain standing with God.  Amazingly, RC Sproul loves both Augustine and Aquinas.  I consider Augustine a hero for getting Pelagianism condemned by the church.  The Reformers mostly got their theology by reading Augustine, who is also to blame for some of the ascetic and gnostic influences that caused people to deny the flesh to their destruction.  Ultimately, however, the Scriptures showed them the truth that they believed was not taught in the church.  The Bible taught a totally depraved man who was only saved by God's grace and could do nothing to earn or keep it.  It's a gift.

7. Dissatisfaction will usually express itself in some great leader who expresses their ideas for them.  The failed attempts of Wycliffe, Hus, Savanarola, and other proto-reformers caused people to despair of ever correcting abuses that grew through the years of unchecked authority.  A leader responded who embodied the desire to reform abuses and bring revolutionary changes.  Martin Luther  functioned in that capacity when he insisted that an individual can go directly to God through Christ with no need for a priest or an intercessor.

Luther would go in and out of confession thinking that he could never do enough to regain his standing with God.  If asked if he loved God, he replied, "sometimes I hate him."  Finally, someone told him to read Romans which preaches salvation as a gift that cannot be revoked.  He not only opposed the sale of indulgences, but he came to oppose indulgences altogether as they ignore the fact that Christ paid the complete price of God's wrath for his believers.  The chief reason for the Reformation is the belief that "man needed no human mediator between himself and God to obtain the salvation that had been purchased for him by Christ on the cross."  Christ is that mediator and the only one who could do it perfectly.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's not a Kingdom without the King: part one

Halloween is hear, which means November is tomorrow, which means a new month of Tabletalk.  This month's theme is the first question of WSC: What is man's chief end?  Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

This month's issue isn't merely about the only WSC question that I can ever remember, but it is about the joy of being in God's presence, meaning we should always be joyful because we never leave his presence.

Enjoying God, Coram Deo by Burk Parsons
Tabletalk's editor starts this issue with the myth that the Westminster theologians were so concerned with doctrinal precision that they failed to display the beauty and loveliness of the faith in their documents.  However, these are the same Westminster divines that start their catechisms with the language of glorifying and enjoying God.  Their Standards expressly exist to show believers how they can glorify and enjoy God.  "It was the doctrinal precision of the Standards that made them so beautiful to me."

When I first heard this catechism question, I had only remembered the answer to be "to glorify God."  I was made by God so that I could glorify him.  Then I read the Shorter Catechism again and noticed "and enjoy him forever."  Parsons, over time, came to see the wisdom of those words.  "They capture the all-encompassing nature of our relationship with God; namely, being chosen by God, called by God, united to God in Christ, justified by God, indwelt by the Spirit of God, adopted by God, sanctified by God, and loving God and neighbor to the end that we might glorify God."  I long to see God's chief purpose fully realized and soon.

Faith Has Its Reasons by R.C. Sproul
Too many times people think that if you have faith, then you must be opposed to reason and sense perception.  You cannot sense God, and his logic is beyond reason, so, we Christians must follow him without thinking about why we believe.

RC Sproul is against such nonsense.  Epistemology is the division of philosophy which asks, "How do you know what you know?"  Philosophers answer this question by reason, sense perception, or a combination of the two.

Rationalists stress the mind and reason as the sources of true knowledge.  Empiricists emphasize the five senses as the basis for knowledge.  The scientific method combines reason and empiricism.  "I don't find in Scripture the idea that faith is irrational or anti-sense perception."  Augustine agrees by asking, "how could we receive knowledge from God if it were not accessible to the human mind?" 

God gave us the Bible.  He would not give us a written document if faith bypassed reason.  In the same Bible, there are words written by people like Dr. Luke who wrote down eye-witness accounts of Jesus's life.  The Bible was written by and affirmed by people who literally heard God speak to them.

Revelation is how we know what we know as Christians.  We have our Scripture canon because at some point, people knew who wrote its words and could testify that they talked to God.  We Prots exclude the Apocrypha because it came out of Alexandria and has no clue who wrote it.  We include Hebrews because of its powerful history.  We believe God because he spoke.

This faith is not blind as it embraces testimony.  Real opposites of faith are not reason and sense perception, but credulity and superstition.

Credulity believers something without ever investigating its reality.  Superstition believes in magical things that have nothing to do with Scripture.  These abound in the church, which is a tragedy.  Real faith investigates what people say and is confirmed by Scripture.  We believe Scripture because we believe the Person revealed in it.

Created to Enjoy God Forever by John D. Currid
Currid notes that all Near Eastern creation accounts believe that humans were created to be a slave to the gods.  As these religions were some of the first to leave the true faith of Adam and Noah, it is not surprising that they would make this caricature of the loving God who originally only had one rule: don't eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  This is a distortion of the God who also must oppose sin and therefore require much of his people before he finally saves them with Jesus.

Genesis 1 shows that man was never meant to be God's slave, but was the crowning glory of his creation.  His creation was only good.  Then he created man and woman and it was very good and he could stop.  He made man simply so that he could walk and talk in God's image.

The Near Eastern gods are distance and impersonal.  The Genesis God molded a man from the dust with his hands and breathed his breath into him.  He walked with Adam and Eve directly in the garden.

Only when Eve and Adam betrayed God did they have a disconnect with God.  Now, his image is completely marred.  Instead of the fellowship that God desired when he created mankind, we were now alienated from him.  But he still promised immediately to send a Redeemer to crush the serpent's head.

The Near Eastern gods would have not cared enough about people to become one and take their deserved punishment.  God the Son became Jesus and lived a perfect human life and suffered our complete punishment and was victorious.

These articles in Tabletalk are accompanied by a sidebar with a question that is answered in catechetical style.  Ra McLaughlin writes these.  The first is Why did God create man in the first place? God's goal was to extend his heavenly kingdom to earth and to receive glory from its citizens.  God invented humans so that they could fill the earth with them and extend the geographical borders until they filled this whole sphere and could all enjoy God from everywhere.

The Promise of God's Presence by John R. Sittema
"Out of the blue, the old man heard the voice of God."  He means Abram, later to be Abraham.  This voice was different than his Near Eastern gods.  This one talked.  This God with a real voice told Abe to leave his family and travel to an unknown place named Canaan and there have many children who would become the greatest nation.

To Glorify God and Enjoy Him
This was the beginning of God bringing his people back to the original state in Eden where they could completely enjoy God and glorify him.Abe's people learn that he is not just a god, but the only God that all the other gods imitate and insult.  Mankind made these gods, and they cannot come back to his full presence until their sin has been removed.  The serpent promised life and wisdom to Eve if she ate the fruit, the life and wisdom God was apparently keeping from her.  She ate and learned that this actually deconstructed lifeGod banned them from the garden, and there is no true life or wisdom apart from him. 

In Genesis 1-11, God uses the word "curse" five times.  In Genesis 12:2-3, he uses "bless" for Abraham five times, showing God's plan to restore creation to its original purpose.

Bloody Shadows of Hope
With God's blessings would come great bloodshed.  First Abe cut animal carcasses in half.  Then, God walked between the halves making a promise that if he did not follow through, then he would become like the carcasses.  Abraham did not walk through the bodies.  God kept his promise and still sent Jesus to suffer the punishment because sin must be punished.

After that, God began the ritual of circumcision: Abraham and all his sons must go through the pain for cutting off their foreskins lest they should be cut off from God.  This continued until Jesus came and took the complete punishment, now cancelling the need for circumcision.

Finally, God asked Abraham, after he finally had a son with Sarah, to sacrifice Isaac on an altar.  Both this and circumcision could greatly place Abraham's descendants in danger of not existing.  But Abraham obeyed, and God sent a ram to die in Isaac's place.  That is how he had saving faith.  God showed him what he would do with Jesus.

A Continuing Mission
On this side of the cross, we take for granted how much it cost for us to have the access to God that we enjoy today in the Holy Spirit.  This is a completely generous gift, not an obligation.  God has been cosmically offended by the people he created to bear his image.  They must suffer his wrath.  He faced the idea of creating humans in vain and having no enduring seed.  But God does not, waste his time.  God became man and took God the Father's wrath.  Let us never take this gift for granted.

Why did Abraham have to wait so long for the fulfillment of the promise?
Abraham did not actually receive his complete promise in his lifetime.  Probably because the complete promise is not granted until we are completely in God's presence again, which will not happen in this lifetime.  "God never promised that Abraham would receive all the benefits of God's presence in this lifetime."  However, they were fulfilled in Christ, and they will be completed when Christ returns.

The Holy of Holies by Daniel R. Hyde
"That I may dwell in their midst" (Exodus 25:8).  At this point, Abraham's descendants completed their 400 years of slavery in Egypt.  Now God appeared to them as a burning bush, a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, and a thick cloud with lightning, thunder, and a trumpet blast.

"Yet with the tabernacle there was something new.  God's presence was no longer like a visitor who came and went, but like a resident who dwelled in a a tent just as they did, in their midst."  Now God lived with his people in a way that Abraham could not know.  This presence could only be enjoyed on God's terms.  Only the priests could enter that presence and only once a year.  Any careless move, and they could be dead.  God blessed his nation with him, but Jesus still had not come, so they still had to be aware of his holiness and their total depravity.  They could only come to God with animal sacrifices and then would have to leave.

Why was Uzzah Killed?
This was the man in 2 Samuel 6 who was helping carry the Ark of the Covenant on an ox cart.  He touched it as it was falling, and God killed him.  Uzzah forgot that this ark is the footstool of God's heavenly throne.  To be around the Ark was to look directly into heaven.  This was the holiest relic on earth.  A relic that God said should only be carried on the shoulders of priests.  If anyone touched it, they would die.  God gave Uzzah what was promised.  Uzzah was not more holy than dirt and had no need of protection.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Solving Deadly Fears

October comes to a close and an exciting new November Tabletalk is upon us.  In this post, I will conclude October's issue on the Seven Deadly Fears by commenting on the four articles at the end.

First is "How then Should We Love?" by Kelly Kapic
"Has it ever struck you how strange it sounds to be commanded to love?"  In Sunday School this week, and at this point, it is a legitimate prayer request, one lady prayed for the Atlanta Falcons to win.  She also joked that she did not pray nice things for the Denver Broncos.  Joking aside, the Falcons really do need to win something.  And as a Christian, this fine woman is commanded to love both the Falcons and the Broncos.  She has no option.  She may cringe, but she must love them.  To do that, she must pray for them, and God will change her heart.  And it is amazing how gradually he moves, too.

"Scripture does not merely invited us to love God and neighbor; we are commanded to do so."  Why? "We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)."  Ever since before Deuteronomy, the two greatest commands have been to love God and to love our neighbors.  "This is the his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another. (3:23)."  This is not a mere commitment.  This should involve emotions too.  The same way I'm glad that Tim is committed to me and that he feels an intense love for me.  Love is more than a feeling, but feelings are important too.

So, the Deadly Fears?  What is scarier than love?  What is scarier than making yourself vulnerable and open to someone with no guarantee that the openness will be returned, or that you won't be rejected?  But the best thing about love, is it erases fear.  "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (4:18-19)."  How can love be perfect?  Only if it comes from God.  When we walk around filled with God's love, we will be less afraid of our friends and of the world as we walk around with the stability of God's promises.

"Not Hearers Only" by Harry Reeder
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."  That is what James says in his first chapter, verses 22-24.  This is nothing more frightening for pastors and true believers than seeing God's flock deceived by people who have no love for the Church, and therefore have no love for Christ.  If they did, the people would never criticize God's people and suggest that they need anything other than Christ.

But the first cure is the perfect love that God pours on his people.  The next is this: hear the Word, but do not stop at hearing.  Do the word.  "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15).  If you have Christ's love, then you have the perfect love that casts out fear, and you can tell people the truth so that they will not remain deceived.

The interview with Paul Washer
Paul Washer is an honorable man who preaches the truth.  Many of my generation like him.  I cannot get into him, but I also have not heard more than that one sermon where he screams.  Just the same, Washer induces holy fear in those who hear him speak.  He's absolutely right.  Contemporary "Christians" have become so comfortable with American culture that they have melted into deists who cannot face the fact that people will die and go to hell because they have not enforced the name of Christ in the lives of their children.

The result of this danger, is preaching, also a dangerous thing.  It is very dangerous to expose people as frauds.  They will take revenge.  It is dangerous to speak against popes and general assembly moderators.  Doing so can ruin friendships and bring about demotions, and people will hide you on facebook so that they can't hear you at all.  Still, Christ commands us to love him more than anything else, and that means speaking out when people insult him and his martyrs as liars and lunatics because all people can get to heaven after all.

Preaching is dangerous in that way, and it is also dangerous because of what James says.  Not all people should presume to be teachers because they will bring greater judgment on themselves.  Either people risk sending people to hell by speaking all comfort and no justice for sin, or they completely spread lies, or they do not give enough truth.  As a Bible teacher, I run this risk.  I don't want to insult people, but woe is me if I do not deliver the true Gospel, which is pretty insulting.  However, dangerous preaching doesn't grow overnight.  It starts with Christ pouring his love into someone, erasing their fear, causing them to take his Word seriously, which says that Christ is the only way to the Father, which causes his true follows to be enabled to preach the truth to the people.

"Dragons and Holiness" by Tony Reinke
I honestly did not care for this article.  "The incredible imaginative power of the human mind connects us."  It is true, when you read through John's Revelation, you do find a lot of imagery such as horses, cherubim, and even dragons, all which symbolize something that is very real.  However, if we celebrate imagination as something that unites all humanity, then we reduce the reality of the Almighty God to mythology, and that is not cool.

But this leads to my last thing about fear.  Only Christ's love can overwhelm a person that they are not afraid to look like loonies if they support 6 literal days of creation, a literal Genesis 1-11, and claim that dragons were real and got rediscovered as dinosaurs in 1840.  People may want to get me hired at National Inquirer, but I believe God's word, and I believe nothing died before man sinned, and I believe that dinosaurs lived as dragons with humans up until the middle ages when daring knights slayed them.  There were no endangered species programs then.  I believe the Loch Ness monster is a fact, and any other dragon legends as they appear all over the world alongside other creatures such as horses.  The best thing about God's imagination is that it makes things real.  It made me, this world, my cats, and it gave us imaginations that can invent Hobbits and Elves.  And God is always truthful.  The images he feeds us are always truthful even if they are symbolic.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Justin and Trypho: Justin Doesn't Follow the Old Law

I reflect on my past three years of teaching the children at Trinity EPC, and I swell with pride as I think that soon they will be in a real building and will have space.  They can play outside.  They don't have to negotiate with others to use the conference room.  They won't pay rent.  They are free.

What if, however, while still meeting in the office suites by Dollar General, someone came and said they have a building now, already paid for, and ready to use?  He gives them the key and asks them to follow.  What if they insisted on still meeting in the office suites and earning money to pay for a church building even though this man came and gave them the building with no strings attached?  That would be insulting.

This is what it is like when people insist on following old customs and rituals after the fact that Jesus has come and removed the need to follow the details of the law and insists that we simply follow him.  These people would rather eat a kosher diet, make animal sacrifices, do the purity rituals, but they will not leave them behind to enjoy life and to enjoy the Lord who has followed the law perfectly and cancelled the ritual laws.  He will write the law on their hearts, and then they can obey it, but they would rather have a million rules about what not to do on the Sabbath.

When we left Justin Martyr and Trypho, Justin had given a beautiful testimony about how he came to believe in Jesus.  Trypho's only response was to ask why he still does not get circumcised, celebrate Passover, and why he eats pork.

The dwarfs are for the dwarfs.  They have been taken in by idols before, and now that they follow the rules, the Jews fear being taken in so they won't be taken out.

Justin calmly explains to Trypho God's redemption plan in the Old Testament.  Only God led their fathers out of Egypt.  There is not just one God for the Jews, one for the Greeks, and one for the newly-formed Christians.  He is the same God for all people and this same God rescued the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery.  The Christians have not trusted any other God except the one in the Old Testament.  This same God gave his people a final and eternal law.  His name is Christ.  He was given.

Trypho reads Isaiah.  In Isaiah 51:4-5, God says that a law will go out from him and that righteousness draws near.  The people won't have to seek it.  He will come settle among them.  Trypho's other friend, Jeremiah shows how God promises a new Covenant and not like the one he gave the people when he saved them from Egypt (Jeremiah 31:31-32).

In Isaiah 55:3, God clearly tells his Israel that he will make an everlasting covenant with them.  Now he has sent Jesus, the only man who followed the law completely, and they killed him on a cross.  By doing so, they despised their holy covenant.

Isaiah did not say that one day the Jews would have a bath and wash off all their filth.  Water and soap can never clean a soul.  They will be cleaned by faith in the blood of Jesus.  His blood is perfect and has never been defiled.  Only he can give us the transfusion to where we can live before the Almighty Father.  Isaiah even foretold that God would go before them.  And so he has.  Jesus, the God man, completed the law before his people did, and that is the only way to salvation.

Christians might follow the old ritual laws, but they know why they were given.  Kosher diets and cleanliness practices were given to point people to Jesus.  They taught the people their inability to be clean before God on their own initiative.  When Jesus came, died, and rose from the dead, he put an end to those ritual laws, and now they are able to follow Him.  If people still follow those rules, then they do not know Jesus, the only way to the Father.

One day I talked to a young lady with piercings, tattoos, and a history.  She was raised by strict parents who told her it was a sin to get a tattoo.  I was even raised thinking shrimp was a sin, even though we have always loved seafood.  Among all those rules, those parents did not win their daughter to Jesus, but only led her away not believing in God at all.  Hopefully, now that I've talked to her, she will look to obeying Jesus because of him, not because her parents gave her rules.  God only knows.  He does his work and keeps reminding me that people don't need to be told to abstain from premarital sex, drugs, and alcohol.  They need to be told to love Jesus and to love people because they love Jesus.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Name and Def of the Ref

Part the second of chapter 26 of the Earle Cairns text.  It is about the name and the definition of the Reformation.  Luther was not the only one to stir the pot, but he got all Christians examining their faith to see if it really follows the church of the New Testament.  A definition of the Reformation, says Cairns, is conditioned by the outlook of the historian.

The RCs see it as a revolt by Protestants against the universal church.  The Prots see a reformation that brought religious life nearer to the pattern of the New Testament.  Amazingly, there's a third category from a polity or church government perspective: it was a revolt against the authority of the church of Rome and its head.

Ultimately, however, the Christian religion was no longer confined to just Rome after Luther made headlines.  It did succeed in getting the Romans to examine their practices in the Counter Reformation as a check against the Protestants.  It did do some good in cleaning up abuses, but ultimately it did not reunite the professing believers of Christ.  They could no reunite on important issues such as justification by faith that is alone from grace that is alone which is only from Christ.  They could not come to an agreement about whether the Bible alone is the authority or if the church is included.  It also induced the Catholics to send missionary movements that converted Central and South America, Quebec, Indochina, and the Philippines to their system.

In the year 2013, I see the Roman Catholics growing to believe more evangelical beliefs (listen to Matt Maher) and Protestants going back to more Catholic beliefs.  As Presbyterian who married into a non-denominational church, I increasingly see the two sides as one Christianity who both emphasize salvation by works.  They are mixed by people who rely on the works of Jesus alone for salvation and people who think they can contribute something.  However, sometimes I feel like God is slowly bringing the two halves together over political issues such as abortion, and perhaps we will come to understand that Jesus is the only solution to any problem and look forward to when he brings his Kingdom to earth and visibly rules.  He rules the church now, and we should listen to him and ignore anybody who slanders Christ or his bride as not having compassion or doing enough for the world.  We need to continue to care about life and love since God is defined by both and both of them are highly devalued today.  And do not forget that there is no church apart from the one led by Jesus.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Generation that Seeks for a Sign

The time is right.  John MacArthur holds a conference called "Strange Fire."  I work at a LifeWay in a neighborhood that must have charismatic signs and wonders.  I just read an article about the regulative principle of worship.  I must go from here and recount how I came to believe what I believe about tongues and signs and wonders for today.

I was raised in a conservative PCUSA church, aka, a church with good politics but no theology.  I had solid parents who raised me on the Bible and on orthodox Christianity.  They did their job of keeping the promise they made when they baptized me before I was two months old.

I will always consider that my home even though I've moved on.  I greatly honor my parents, especially my mother, but they erred just like all humans.  I spent high school watching the 700 Club and believing in their Words on Knowledge.  I would sit and yearn for some breakthrough from that.

Fastforward to past college.  I was in seminary and had a professor named James McGoldrick at Erskine who just seemed to not believe that miracles existed at all today.  I hated the guy.  I was like, "how can he not see God's hand in everyday things?"  I would rely on my mother who started to like Joel Osteen (he wasn't a full-blown heretic yet), Smith Wigglesworth, and just about anyone on TBN.  Not Paul and Jan Crouch, but people like James Robison.  I also was weaned on Beth Moore's bible studies.

Then my mother got cancer.  She went to doctors, but she also prayed and prayed for healing like she saw on 700 Club.  Some friends took her to a ministry in Augusta called the Healing Center.  They believe that with enough wrestling with God, our prayers can cure cancer and even grow back diabetic toes.  If mom happened to die, then people just didn't have enough faith.

Well, mom passed away in January of 2009.  It was not because of lack of faith.  God is sovereign and has his own plan and he doesn't have to follow mine.  And I know that I had faith in God even though it was shaky at that point.  All the same, because of the charismatic ministries and their magic shows, this led me to doubt my standing with God and even God's faithfulness.

The good news is that I took it straight to God and through the years he got me to where I don't have answers, but I'm alright.  He has greatly blessed me, and I look forward to what he does further on.  But the thing is, God is not a genii.  You can't rub his lamp hard enough for him to grant you your wish.  He does all things for his glory, and if he says "yes" to a prayer, then it is for his glory and for our benefit.  If he answers "no" or "not yet" then it is the same reason.

So at this point, no, I do not believe in signs, wonders, or tongues for today because I believe God is sovereign and that his revelation is complete in the pages of Scripture.  We must seek no more or no less.  I actually am thankful for folks like James McGoldrick who are bold enough to say that these things are not for the time since the death of the apostles.

So, what if someone comes to me and claims they had surgery and saw heaven for 4 minutes?  What if someone I really trust claims that he's spoken in tongues and seen dead people raised to life?  Are they liars?  Are they condemned?  Some are.  I think most people are just hypnotized.  Unlike MacArthur, I'm amillennial, believe in paedobaptism, and I believe in some remote part of the world maybe someone will say something in a tongue and someone will come up claiming he said the Lord's Prayer in Nepalese.  However, this is to point to the veracity of Christ.  If miracles were common and expected, then they would not be miracles.  If something otherworldly happens, it is the exception and not the rule.

Okay, suppose MacArthur and I are wrong and someone does speak tongues somewhere.  1 Corinthians 14 is adamant that tongues are useless unless someone understands what you are saying.  It must be intelligible and not vain repetition.  All worship should be done in decency and order (1 Cor. 14:40).  This does not mean that we can never have guitars or drums in the sanctuary during Sunday worship, but it does mean we need to have a reason for what we do, and it has to be precedented in the Bible.

And as for the charismatic ministries that take captive whole ethnicities and continents, people go to those ministries to see signs and wonders.  They seek healing, improved relationships, and other cool things, but they do not seek Christ.  They want some dose of God's presence as their weekly high, but they do not seek to have Christ permanently alter their daily routines.  They don't learn that the Holy Spirit is not a magic charm but moves as he pleases to the glory of God.

And over and over, I see people come from these churches with shallow faiths, they do not know that Jesus was actually a man and he was God, and their judgment of true believers is if they are nice or not.  And people among them that God does call have shattered faiths because God did not answer "yes" in a timely manner or they feel like he is punishing them if their mother should happen to die of cancer.

So, if you are John MacArthur and are a complete cessationist, or if you are John Piper and believe these signs still happen here or there, the point is that the cool signs should not be the focus of worship.  The fireworks and sensations should not be part of church, at least not on Sunday morning.  People need to bow before a holy God, realize that they can't make him send rain to the earth unless he wants to do so.  God could have let us all perish in hell, but he gave Christ to take the place of his elect.  We should come to church joyful, but trembling.  We most certainly should not have chaos and madness during that time because our Holy Spirit is one of order.

And yes, charismatic beliefs are dangerous to people, even if they come from well-meaning people who might even be true Christians.  You must seek the Lord from Scripture alone and not demand that he perform some sign.  Just sit and enjoy the way he works in ordinary life and how he gradually changes the world one person at a time.

"“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:39-40

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Justin's Dialogue with Trypho

So far, I have read two apologies by Justin Martyr and loved them.  Now that I'm reading his dialogue with a Jewish man named Trypho, I'm liking it even more.  First, Justin meets Trypho who asks him about God and philosophy.

Justin first says, "Philosophy is, in fact, the greatest possession, and most honourable before God, to whom it leads us and alone commends u; and these are truly holy men who have bestowed attention on philosophy."  He goes on to say that the first people to handle philosophy passed down their art to people who made no investigation concerning the truth.  They simply followed their leaders without question, not making sure they believe the teachings for themselves.

Then, Justin relates the story of when he converted to Christ.  He was in a field seeking solitude, when the man who lived there came and talked to him.  The man asks him what is philosophy, and what is happiness?

Justin replied, "Philosophy is the knowledge of that which really exists and a clear perception of the truth.  Happiness is the reward of such knowledge and wisdom."

What do you call God?

"That which always maintains the same nature, and in the same manner, and is the cause of all other things."

The anonymous man then asks that if there was an animal described in another country, and people who have never seen it describe it, do they really know the animal?  In the same way, how can philosophers judge correctly about God or speak any truth, when they have no knowledge of him having neither seen him at any time nor hear him?

Justin was still following Plato who says that the Deity can only be discerned with the mind.

The men keep talking and soon discuss if the soul can see God.  Can our inner beings see God on their own?  The man concludes that souls neither see God nor transmigrate into other bodies for they would know that they are so punished and they would be afraid to commit even the most trivial sin afterwards.  But they can perceive that God exists.  But no, they cannot see God in all his glory.

Furthermore, the soul is not immortal because it was begotten.  It had a beginning.  Platonists think that the soul is immortal and unbegotten.  They say the same thing about the world, but even Justin agrees that it is not so.

"For to live is not the soul's attribute as it is God's."

Finally, Justin breaks down and says, "should anyone then employ a teacher or whence may one be helped if not even in them there is truth?"  The man assures him that before this time, ancient men, both righteous and beloved by God who spoke to them by the Divine Spirit.  Apart from God's revelation they would not know the exact truth of God.  They would only know of him.  "These things cannot be perceived or understood by all but only by the man to whom God and his Christ have imparted wisdom."

At that, Justin believed in Jesus and followed him since.  Trypho's friends laugh at Justin, and even Trypho still wants to stick the the Jewish beliefs and rituals, believing that Christ didn't even know Christ.  Justin forgives the guy and says, "You know not what you say and have been persuaded by teachers who do not understand the Scriptures."  Soon, Justin walks away as Trypho's friends keep laughing, but Trypho follows, so they go off by themselves.  Trypho asks him why he does not get circumcised and follow the feasts and rites?  Justin will answer in the next post about this.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cairns chapter 26: Background

This time I really have reached the Reformation section of my church history book.  My blogs about it will be from my perspective.  They will be less frequent because of my new job, but I still carry on Martin Luther's spirit in my life.  Today, we will just focus on the paradigm shifts brought in by the Renaissance.

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  He discovered the Americas.  The world went from potomac civilizations based on rivers, to oceanic civilizations.  The world had expanded.  By the time Luther nailed his 95 Theses, Magellan had circled the world, or at least his ship had.  The more Catholic nations such as Portugal, Spain, and France conquered South and Central America and even Quebec.  Protestant forces such as England and Holland took the United States and Canada.

The mindset had changed from feudalism and lordship to the new concept of a territorial nation-state.  Their motives were most likely not pure, but states such as Germany supported the Reformation because it wanted the churches under national control.  They did not want to keep sending money to Rome.

Towns cropped up.  Markets and capitalism gave way to a middle class merchant society.  There was money.  They had discovered raw materials in the new world.  This began an era of international trade.

Before the Renaissance, if you were born in a serf family, you would remain a serf.  Now, serfs could rise above their situation, earn money, and own property.  People had more independence.

The scholars rediscovered Greek and Latin and decided to read all literature in its original sources.  This lead to reading the Bible in its original Greek and Hebrew.  Individuals began reading the scriptures and noticed differences between the New Testament church versus the Renaissance church.  This led to disadvantages to the Medieval papacy.  Soon, people expressed an emphasis on personal, individual salvation and the need for them to come to Jesus, not a priest.

People began to be diverse in their beliefs.  This was the first time life became divided between secular and sacred.  People would attend church but not really believe or understand.  People led church and took advantage of people not really understanding.  And rebels began questioning authorities of the Church and going with the Bible's authority if they clashed.  This all stirred the pot to begin an outright revolution and a call to bring people back to following Jesus and not man.

Monday, September 30, 2013

7 Fears

Fear of Death and Disease by Robert Rothwell

"I see a spot we need to keep an eye on."  Cancer.  The author found out that he had a spot of cancer.  It's 95% treatable, but not 100%.  "There were no words in the immediate aftermath."  His chances were good, but he still worried about his finances, his wife, and if he would die.  Sometimes things don't turn out alright - at least in the short term.
  • People die every day.
All people will die.  It doesn't matter the age.  You are going to die whether now or in old age.  Why do we fear death so much?
  • Non-Christians: they can't escape their God-given awareness that they've broken his law and deserve hell.
  • Christians also fear death and disease.  We all know God is sovereign and believe in heaven and the end of suffering, but we still fear death.
  • Believers don't fear death and disease for the same reasons as non-Christians because we know Christ has a home for us in heaven.  Instead, we fear losing control and we also fear suffering.
Rothwell assures us that in many ways, it is right to fear death and suffering.  God created a "very good" universe.  Death is not natural, so we are right to mourn and fear it.  Rothwell doesn't have all the answers, but hopes to offer help.

1. We should know why we fear death and disease.  Either you fear it because you are not reconciled with God through Christ's blood.  If that is the case, then please get to know God and his inescapable love.

2. Admit your fears to God and others.  He knows what you go through.  He is leading your pain to conform you to Christ who suffered the ultimate punishment for all believers in his mercy.

3. Help make your church a place where people can admit their fears honestly. People do not like talk about death and suffering in public: especially at times when they feel like talking about it a lot.  This needs to change as church should be the only safe place to vent your emotions.  You don't have to reveal all you think, and you always have God who already knows and who wants you to talk to him.

4. Trust God's sovereignty. Death and disease don't surprise him.  He knows the end of the story and we know that he does all things for his glory and because he loves his children.

5. Meditate on God's promises until they become part of your very soul.  Psalm 23:4, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."  Romans 8:18, "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us."  2 Corinthians 4:17, "This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

Robert Rothwell has been cancer-free for four years as of this article and has two children.  He will still die some day, but like all believers, he lives in courage because of his hope in Christ that never fails.

Fear of Job Loss by Jonathan Leeman

"Sometimes I worry about losing my job."  I have learned in recent days to never take for granted that you have a job.  In Georgia, employees can fire you for any reason or no reason, and you can't sue unless you had a contract.  Even that is loosely defined.

"Or even -- I'm embarrassed to admit this -- we'll face societal breakdown, like in one of those "day-after" movies, where the square-jawed hero has to defend himself and his two precious children with nothing but his wits and a shotgun as marauders patrol burned-out streets in pickup trucks with tough-guy rollbars."  Leeman exaggerates, but his scenario isn't too far from what I see in the future ruled by Big Brother.

"More realistically, foreign governments could call in our debts, tanking the dollar and collapsing the economy...It's easy to think about job loss when you're balancing the checkbook or watching shower tiles fall in your twenty-five-year-old bathroom."

The good news, is that Leeman goes to church, and the Word of God keeps his mind from wondering.  Here are the good thoughts he has learned.

1. Jesus came to save us from sin.
John 4 shows the outcast Samaritan woman at the well that Jesus befriends.  Even her own hated Samaritan friends don't like her and she lives in sin.  Jesus cares about hunger and thirst and loneliness, but his ultimate goal is to have all the symptoms of the fall point to our sin.  We may lose our job, but it reminds us of the sin-cursed world and how we actually deserve worse than that.

2. God displays his glory through trials.
Again, in John 9, the man was not blind because anybody sinned.  He was blind so that Jesus could display his glory in healing him.  This is one of the miracles that really shows that he is the Christ.

3. Jesus will preserve us.
Then in John 10, Jesus assures his sheep that no one can snatch them out of his hand.  We may go through lost jobs, but God preserves us.

4. Perfect timing and love.
In John 11, Jesus hears that his friend Lazarus is sick.  He loves Lazarus and his two sisters.  Yet, he lets Lazarus be dead for 4 days.  But he also showed that he is the resurrection and the life.

Fear of Men by Nicholas Batzig

Batzig starts with how he grew up reading the Fear of God by John Bunyan.  The one work that nobody had heard of.
  • As we work our way through the Scriptures, we are repeatedly met with the importance of the fear of the Lord and learn that it "is wisdom" (Job 28:28), "the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7), "hatred of evil" (8:13), "a fountain of life" (14:27), and "the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
  • We do not come to an experiential realization of the fear of God until we first see our predisposition to what the Bible calls the fear of man.
Matthew 10:28, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."  Other people cannot do anything to your soul.  Your body may perish, but that is all they can do to you.  However, God can destroy both your soul and body.
  • The fear of man is not simply the fear of the harm that men may do to us.
Here is where John Bunyan comes in: "the fear of losing man's favor, love, goodwill, help, and friendship" is what people really fear.  It is an "idol of approval."  Sadly, this is also mankind's default setting.  From birth, we are set on fearing what people think of us.
  • Is the fear of man something that ensnares only a few?  The Apostle Paul says that by nature, men outside of Christ have "no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:18)
Christ has to save us before we can ignore mortal people and pay attention to the Almighty God who decides where your soul will live in eternity.  Fear of man caused Peter to deny Christ because of what a servant girl would think.  It muted his witness to Christ and kept him from living for His glory.  Praise the Lord that he gracefully rehabilitated him to be the bold leader of the church in Acts.

So what are we to do?  The prophet Isaiah gives us the gospel remedy: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,... the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord." (11:1-2).  What are we to do?  We can't.  Only Christ lived in complete devotion to God the Father, and he is the only reason that we can do the same.

Fear of Self by Kris Lundgaard

"Myself, arch-traitor to myself; My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe, My clog whatever road I go."

This is a poem by Christina Rosetti: "Who Shall Deliver Me."  There, she struggles to save herself from her worst enemy: herself.
  • Perhaps with less drama- yet perhaps sometimes with even more- each of us feels betrayed by our self.  1 John 3:20 proclaims that our heart condemns us.
  • The beauty of the Bible is that it never leaves us to think we are alone in our fears.
Rosetti's question is asked and answered by Paul in Romans 7:24.  Who shall deliver me?  Paul preached to himself, reminding himself of Christ's grace in verse 25.  He coached himself from self-accusation and self-condemnation to self-proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.

David and the Psalm writers also had to constantly remind themselves through preaching.  The sons of Korah wrote Psalms 42 and 43.  They consist of three stanza of woe: thirst for God, feeling forgotten by God, feeling rejected by God.  All three stanzas are followed by the chorus:

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."  Notice the turn from the self (O my soul) to God (Hope in God).

We must preach the Gospel to ourselves.  Although our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and he knows everything.  He knows that we are actually worse than we ever imagined.
  • But in spit of this, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).
Fear of Failure by Richard Pratt

Pratt recalls a friend of his who was so afraid of failure that it caused a rift between him and his family and caused him to stop working.  "Even if we don't go to extremes like my friend, the possibility of failure is not something we enjoy."

Why do we fear failure?
  • All of us have our personal reasons for being afraid of failure, but the Bible takes us to the root of the problem.
Genesis 1:26 reminds us that God created man in his image.  He created us to succeed in populating the earth.  We were not made for failure.  Like death and disease, failure is not natural, and we must be angry about it.  We fall short because of sin.

How can failure be turned into hope?
  • The Scriptures do not leave us longing for redemption from failure and fear.  They tell us that Christ took on flesh and fulfilled every command of God to reverse the effects of Adam's sin.
1 Corinthians 15:21, "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead."
  • How can all that Christ has done help us turn our failures into hope? 
1. His victory turns us away from every false hope we have.
2. When we acknowledge that only Christ has succeeded in fulfilling human service to God, we receive the sure hope that we will one day overcome all of our failures.

Fear of Loss by Thomas Schreiner

Schreiner shares the story of when his wife was nearly killed in a bike accident.  Praise God, the Lord restored her both and her mind.  The accident personalized for him a real fear that all we experience, namely, the fear of losing our spouses or our children to death.  I had no idea about this fear until two months ago when I married.  If anything happened to Tim, I would break down.

1. Immerse Yourself in the Love of God
  • We deserve God's wrath, for we worship ourselves rather than our creator and refuse to give him thanks and glory (Romans 1:18-25).
  • Our God is rich in mercy and poured out his love on us by making us alive when we were dead in transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:4-5).
  • If God loves us so, if he has forgiven us of our sins and rebellion, if he has cleansed us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), then we have nothing to fear
2. Be Rooted in the Sovereignty of God
  •  It is not only the case that Gd loves us.  He also rules and reigns over all things.  The Lord declares the end from the beginning, and his purposes and counsel will stand (Isaiah 46:9-10).
  • Jesus teaches that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God's will (Matthew 10:29).  If sparrows don't fall to the ground apart from God, then neither do bicycle riders.  He loves our spouses and children far more than we ever could.
3. Trust in the Promises of God
  • He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
  • When we fear loss, we are like David who feared that the darkness would engulf him.  Darkness may come but God turns on the light in the darkness, for "even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you." (Psalm 139:11-12)
Fear of the Future by Ed Welch

"All fears are prophecies about the future."  Welch grew up during a time that helped supply fear.  He lived through the Red Scare, The Late Great Planet Earth, news broadcasts, and today is no different.  "Then I grew up and realized that every era is, indeed, the worst of times."

Two Popular Lines of Defense
1. Some try to be rational, to let data and facts assuage the fears.
2. Some imagine the worse and get prepared.
These defenses of course, are but temporary comforts.  We cannot trust in data, the odds being in our favor, or our personal preparation.  We trust in a Person.

We Will Receive Grace
"I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
Included in this promise is that he will give us the daily grace we need.
  • That grace will empower us to rest in God and stand firm in the face of whatever suffering or temptation the world can muster, in the face of whatever fear that has come true.
  • Promised grace renders our fearful forecasts obsolete.
Retell the Story
Consider Psalm 23.  Jesus is our shepherd.  He leads us through troubled waters and through green pastures alike.  He always leads us to a feast prepared before our enemies.

Fear and the Sovereignty of God by Kim Riddlebarger

"God is in control."  These words both comfort and concern Riddlebarger as he notes that there are times when the words "God is in control" might make matters worse.

1. First, consider those biblical passages which tell us what it means for God to be "in control."
  • For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.  Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth. (Psalm 135:5-6)
  • God knows when a sparrow falls from the sky, and if he cares for them, how much more does he care for us?
This short list of biblical passages reminds us that any fear we may be facing can bring God glory, be turned by God to our ultimate good, and grant us needed reassurance when we are afraid.

2. Consider that if anyone believed in God's absolute sovereignty, it was Jesus.
  • Jesus went to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." (Matthew 26:36-38).
  • Fear and anxiety are not necessarily sin - that Jesus was anxious before his suffering upon the cross proves this to be the case.
  • Even better, we have a great high priest, who never sleeps nor slumbers, and who knows what it is like for us to experience fear and anxiety  It is Jesus to whom we pray when we are afraid, and it is Jesus who prays for us, even as we pray to him (Hebrews 4:14-16)