Saturday, September 29, 2007

Licking the Earth

"...The pleasure-centered person, too soon bored with each succeeding level of 'fun', constantly cries for more and more. So the next new pleasure has to be bigger and better, more exciting, with a bigger 'high'. A person on this state becomes almost entirely narcissistic, interpreting all of life in terms of the pleasure it proves to the self here and now. Too many vacations that last too long, too many movies, too much TC, too much video game playing –too much undisciplined leisure time in which a person continually takes the course of least resistance gradually wastes a life. It ensures that a person’s capacities stay dormant, that talents remain undeveloped, that the mind and spirit become lethargic and that the heart is unfulfilled... Malcolm Muggeridge writes 'A Twentieth-Century Testimony': When I look back on my life nowadays, which I sometimes do, what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems now most futile and absurd. For instance, success in all of its various guises; being known and being praised; ostensible pleasures, like acquiring money or seducing women, or travelling, going to and fro in the world and up and down in it like Satan, explaining and experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer. In retrospect, all these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy, what Pascal called, 'licking the earth'." (Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 115)

While reading Covey's quote, I had to wonder in what or whom do I place my trust to fulfill my deepest desires?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Are You A Pharisee?

In his book, Out of Your Comfort Zone: Is Your God Too Nice?, R. T. Kendall lists 25 signs that may indicate that you are a Pharisee (142-156):

1. We love to point the finger.
2. We love to say “Gotcha.”
3. We are good at sending people on a guilt trip.
4. We require standards of people not written in Scripture.
5. We practice guilt by association.
6. We assume something or someone is of the devil when their
ministry makes us uncomfortable.
7. We say a person is not a Christian if they disagree with us.
8. We esteem “the way we’ve always done it” above change, even
when the latter is not heretical.
9. We do not practice what we preach.
10. We are more comfortable talking about the mighty movements of
God yesterday than today.
11. We take ourselves too seriously.
12. We judge by outward appearance.
13. We care more about people’s opinions than God’s.
14. We need to be sure people know about it if we give, pray, or
15. We are motivated by money.
16. We feel righteous by comparing ourselves to others.
17. We have no sense of sin by our thoughts, only our deeds.
18. We major on the minors.
19. We are experts in finding loopholes in the Law to excuse
certain areas of disobedience.
20. We are more concerned to uphold our theology than to help
21. We love to score theological points with our enemies.
22. We claim God’s approval of us rather than our rivals because we
know our theology, not theirs, is sound.
23. We easily dismiss a person we don’t want to like because we are
able to find something truly wrong with them.
24. We say, “We are more in tune with God than you are.”
25. We call another person a Pharisee.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In View of a Call

Wow! What a weekend! For those of you who prayed for us, both my wife and I thank you all. We were greeted Friday afternoon at Columbus Airport Friday afternoon around 3 pm by two wonderful people from North Hills Baptist. One of them is a charter member of the church which made an interesting discussion on the way to Marietta. She told of the time when the church first began in a small storefront building. Upon arriving in Marietta, they brought us by the church for an official tour of the place. As we walked around the building and inside the facility, the committee member painted the vision that he has had for the church. There are three different building phases for the church. The first phase involved the sanctuary itself. The second phase includes the fellowship/education wing. And there is a third phase which is yet future and involves a larger expansion of the sanctuary and building.

On Saturday we were given a tour of Marietta from Lookout Point. Standing on the side of that mountain, how can anyone not fall in love with this city? Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Marietta sits on two rivers. The Ohio River runs along the south of the city and Muskingum divides the city. They both meet together providing ample water supply to the trees with outline the foothills. Overlooking Marietta, I though about the Scripture verse in Jeremiah 17:9:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.

On Saturday morning a member of the church sacrificially gave up his time to show us around Marietta. We needed every minute to look at house and apartment rentals. They were a few that we have selected as possible homes for us for the next year. At 12:30 we made our way back the church for a meeting with the search committee and their spouses. We discussed the final details of the pastor position and scheduled a time of question and answer over a delicious potluck meal. Later that evening we officially met the entire church over light refreshments.

On Sunday after the morning service and dinner, the church unanimously voted to have us take the position at North Hills. Of course we were delighted to accept the position. Though I will admit that making a move like this is frightful, the Lord has given Nicole and me a peace about His leading. Though we still have a lot to get accomplished (finding a place to live, packing and moving, saying goodbyes, etc.) we are so excited about our journey into the ministry. Please continue to pray that the Lord will continue to give us direction in these areas. By the way, I have never taken a full time position like this before, so I am very unsure where to begin and how to implement programs within the church. Actually I am glad to be in this position because it will keep me on my knees and totally dependent upon the power of God in my life.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ohio Bound

Tomorrow morning will be flying to Columbus, OH to meet some wonderful people from a church from Marietta, OH. Back in June 2007, we sent a resume to North Hills Baptist and received a confirmation that we were among several others for the pastor position at the church. After a couple of months of dialogue, they informed us a month ago that they had decided to pursue us as the sole candidate. We are leaving Friday September 21 and spending the entire weekend in Marietta. Both Nicole and I are so excited about this weekend. I cannot tell you how exciting, yet stressful this weekend will be. We will be flying with a 5 month old, looking at several homes and apartments for rent, meeting with the church and committee, and preaching Sunday morning. Please keep us in your prayers. We ask that you pray for us this weekend. Ask that the Lord confirm His leading, for travel mercies, beneficial time with the church and committee, the message for Sunday morning and ultimately that the Lord will be glorified.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Swindoll on Dreams

“Dreams are specific, not general. Dreams are personal, not public. God doesn’t give anyone else my dreams on a public computer screen for others to read. He gives to me personally. They’re intimate images and ideas. Dreams can easily appear to others as extreme and illogical. If you share your dreams with the crowd, they’ll probably laugh at you because you can’t make logical sense out of them. Dreams are often accompanied by a strong desire to fulfill them. And they are always outside the realm of the unexpected. Sometimes they’re downright shocking. They cause people to suck in their breath, to stand staring at you with their mouth open. A common response when you share a dream is “you’ve gotta be kidding! Are you serious?”

Charles R. Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, 98-99

Monday, September 17, 2007

Where are our next generation leaders?

As I read Dr. James Dobson’s latest article in WorldNet Daily, see Who will answer the call?, I, too, have to wonder the current state of our next generation. Where are the men and women of biblical integrity and unwavering boldness who will step in the gap to teach the truths from God’s Word?

Who in the next generation will be willing to take the heat, when it is so much safer and more comfortable to avoid controversial subjects? Who is going to defend traditional morality in a culture that is sliding into moral decline? Who will call sin by its name, and lead a nation to repentance and holiness? Some ministers, but thankfully not the majority of them, are inclined to edit out the unpleasant themes of the Bible to avoid irritating their constituents. They sometimes boast about not being "political," when what they really mean is that they aren't willing to be vilified and disparaged for speaking the truth in love. What will be the impact on the conservative Christian church when today's patriarchs have passed from the scene?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jesus and the Pharisees

Jesus and the Pharisees differed on the approaches of purity and holiness. Throughout Leviticus, statutes were ordered for the Israelites to follow in order to approach God. God is holy, and certain requirements must be met before approaching Him. This is clearly seen in the design of the temple. No unclean person or animal was allowed inside the confines of the temple, and when one was declared unclean, there were certain procedures that were followed before coming into the temple proper.

The altar was the center of life, the conduit of life from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven. All things are to be arrayed in relationship to the altar…The lines of structure emanated from the altar. And it was these lines of structure which constituted high and impenetrable frontiers to separate Israel from the gentiles Israel, which was holy, ate holy food, reproduced itself in accord with the laws of holiness, and conducted all of its affairs, both affairs of state and business of the table and the bed, in accord with the demands of holiness. So the cult defined holiness. Holiness meant separation. Separateness meant life. Why? Because outside the Land, the realm of the holy, lay the domain of death. The lands are unclean. The Land is holy. For the Scriptural vocabulary, one antonym for holy is unclean, and one opposite of unclean is holy. The synonym for holy is life. The principal force and symbol of uncleanness and its highest expression are death. So the Torah stood for life, the covenant with the Lord would guarantee life, and the way of life required sanctification in the here and now of the natural world. It was that setting that the purity system functioned.[1]

The best paradigm that exemplifies the concept of clean and unclean of persons is illustrated within the animal kingdom as to its proper place within the sacrificial system in the temple.
[2] Only the clean animals were allowed presence into the temple; therefore, only pure persons were given access to the temple. The understanding of this thinking is tantamount to understanding the philosophy of the Pharisees. To the Pharisees, the center of holiness was the temple, and from the temple, there were certain lines that were drawn to prevent access to the impure and the unholy. The belief in Judaism during the time of Jesus revolved around God destroying all were deemed impure, that is, disobedient to the Torah.[3]

On the other hand, Jesus confronted many of the teachings of the Pharisees during His ministry. Much of his disagreements were directed to their traditional and legalistic interpretations. Instead of teaching the laws to others in order to approach God, the Pharisees were closing the access by applying all their laws and rules.[4] Jesus did not forsake the teaching of the Torah for it had its purpose, but He taught that the emphasis should be on the unity of the Law, not on the particulars.

Thus, while Jesus shares his opponents’ view of the symbolic value of the purity rules of the Bible, his activity and teaching point to a new vision of priorities based upon Jesus’ own perception of God and God’s will. The purity rules, while important, are not central but peripheral to some other central concern. The emphasis ought not to be on how Israel should approach God, but on how God in fact approaches Israel. The purpose of interaction with God…is to replicate and reveal how God acts toward his people (openness to all, openhanded and openhearted), not to replicate and support how Israel has acted toward God in the past (selective defensiveness developed in traditioning the past). In his activity, Jesus focused upon those in Israel who for some reason or other could not fit into the assembly of God’s people …. He thus insists upon a similar focus as priority for proper relationship with God….What results is the embedding of the purity rules of the Torah within the Torah as a whole instead of fitting the Torah as whole into the purity rules, as the elites would insist.[5]

The purity laws were designed to illustrate the spiritual requirements when approaching God. These laws were not “necessarily to be taken as universal and eternal prescriptions. They express God’s will for his people at a particular time, but as the NT [New Testament] makes clear they were not intended to apply forever or to Gentiles (Mark7: 14ff; Acts 10:15; 1 Corinthians 10:23ff).”
[6] The symbolic meaning of the laws must be carefully interpreted to avoid overrated allegorization of the text. The totality of the laws in Leviticus was designed to teach the Israelites the importance of holiness and separation of God’s people. The structure of “…the dietary laws would have been like signs which at every turn inspired mediation on the oneness, purity and completeness of God. By rules of avoidance holiness was given a physical expression in every encounter with the animal kingdom and at every meal.”[7] Whereas the Pharisees stressed utmost adherence to the laws of Judaism, “Jesus’ teaching in these critical areas thus shows clearly the way in which he understands the will of God as the will of a loving and forgiving father rather than of a God who will have dealings only with the pure and the righteous and who will exact retribution from the impure and the wicked.”[8]

[1] Jacob Neusner, Purity in Rabbinic Judaism: A Systematic Account: The Sources, Media, Effects, and Removal of Uncleanness (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994),34.
[2] Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology(Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981), 135ff explains the categorizing of animals
that were clean and unclean, and parallels them with people. Just as the animals had their places within and without the temple, so persons who were considered
clean or unclean had proper places. Those persons who were considered pure and spotless had access to the temple; whereas, those persons who were impure were not allowed in the temple and considered barred from the presence of God.
[3] John Riches, Jesus and the Transformation of Judaism(London: Darton, Longman, & Todd, 1980) , 68-9.
[4] Malina, 143.
[5] Ibid, 144-5.
[6] Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), 162.
[7] Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, reprint (New York: Vail-Ballou Press, 1980),57.
[8] Riches, 135.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Art of Reading

The benefits of gleaning wisdom from other individuals are unsurpassable. All of us who are diligent in studying and persistent in stretching our minds must acknowledge those shoulders upon whom we stand. I enjoy learning from those who are continually learning themselves. Albert Mohler helps us with a few suggestions in staying abreast in our reading.

1. Maintain regular reading projects. I strategize my reading in six main categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature. I have some project from each of these categories going at all times. I collect and gather books for each project, and read them over a determined period of time. This helps to discipline my reading, and also keeps me working across several disciplines.

2. Work through major sections of Scripture. I am just completing an expository series, preaching verse by verse through the book of Romans. I have preached and taught several books of the Bible in recent years, and I plan my reading to stay ahead. I am turning next to Matthew, so I am gathering and reading ahead -- not yet planning specific messages, but reading to gain as much as possible from worthy works on the first gospel. I am constantly reading works in biblical theology as well as exegetical studies.

3. Read all the titles written by some authors. Choose carefully here, but identify some authors whose books demand your attention. Read all they have written and watch their minds at work and their thought in development. No author can complete his thoughts in one book, no matter how large.

4. Get some big sets and read them through. Yes, invest in the works of Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and others. Set a project for yourself to read through the entire set, and give yourself time. You will be surprised how far you will get in less time than you think.

5. Allow yourself some fun reading, and learn how to enjoy reading by reading enjoyable books. I like books across the fields of literature, but I really love to read historical biographies and historical works in general. In addition, I really enjoy quality fiction and worthy works of literature. As a boy, I probably discovered my love for reading in these categories of books. I allow some time
each day, when possible, to such reading. It doesn't have to be much. Stay in touch with the thrill.

6. Write in your books; mark them up and make them
yours. Books are to be read and used, not collected and coddled. [Make an exception here for those rare antiquarian books that are treasured for their antiquity. Mark not thy pen on the ancient page, and highlight not upon the manuscript.] Invent your own system or borrow from another, but learn to have a conversation with the book, pen in hand.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Worship Wednesdays: Incarnation

Someone once asked the celebrated talk-show host, Larry King, whom he would choose to interview if given a chance. King replied, “Jesus Christ.” And his question: “Are you indeed virgin born?” If any question has baffled man more, it is indeed this question. Out of all the possibilities that God could have spoken to this world, why did He choose to incarnate Himself in human flesh? The Second Person of the Trinity laid aside his divine privileges and garbed Himself with human skin. John describes the scene for us in John 1:1-2, 14,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The problem that plagued the early church surrounded the mystery of Jesus as both God and man. Some overemphasized Jesus’ humanity to the detriment of His deity and others overemphasized His deity to the detriment of His humanity. Finally in A.D. 451, the Council of Chalcedon convened and submitted the Chalcedonian creed which finally settled the dispute among many teachers who were misinterpreting the meaning of the incarnation.

The following is their submittal:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us. (Chalcedonian Creed A. D. 451)

What is the purpose of the incarnation?

1) The incarnation reveals God.
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, Show us the Father?” John 14:9

2) The incarnation provides a way for man to be saved.
“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:3-6

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

No one will ever forget those horrific images that have been burned into our memories and our nation’s history. Six years ago today the American people began their mornings glued to television sets in total trepidation. On the sixth year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on our soil, let us never forget what happened to us on that day. From that day our country has been entangled in so many personal and national conflicts that we have been sidetracked. We have become a divided nation where parties have been pitted against one another. The damage that has occurred over these last six years from our words has created a huge schism in our nation. Instead of a nation rallying around a cause, we have become sidetracked with personal vendettas and agendas.

I wonder how much of this same mentality has seeped into the church. Within the first few years of the church’s existence, divisions have been one of the major causes why we fail to carry out the church’s mission. What the Apostle Paul had to say to the Corinthians is very relevant to the church today. Especially in a time as ours, how has the church shown itself any different than the world?

“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

Why is there division within the church?

1. Maybe we set our eyes on men rather than God. Paul surmised the Corinthian thought, “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

2. Maybe we have become too comfortable as Christians. “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5)

Can you think of any other reasons why we have so much division in the church?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Anthropology According to Sidney Poitier

Recently I finished an autobiography about Sidney Poitier. The first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field and has earned numerous other awards for his service in the movie industry wrote an interesting biography about his life. Written as a “spiritual” memoir of his life, the book, The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography), is a collage of personal reflections. As he recount events in his life, he examines the worth of certain values and virtues that are important to us all. Poitier offers his insights from his own spiritual encounters, but not from a Christian standpoint. What I found interesting is his comment on the evil that resides in man.

Age-old speculation as to whether the dark side is full-blown in some people and almost nonexistent in others or is distributed more widely-some in everyone- rages still from generation to generation. I personally think that there’s some darkness in everyone, though the ‘some’ varies as widely as do personality profiles in the family of man, Darkness can explode in nuclear proportions with disastrous consequences or make itself felt in small, subtle, irritating ways, depending on the day, the time the hour, the situation, and who’s in the room. The extent of the dark side isn’t easy to fathom. People who kill aren’t evil twenty-four hours a day, and the dark side doesn’t advertise. The dark side in each of usoperates from behind masks of varying complexity, coming to the fore when we elect to use its services. We all have a reservoir of rage, dissatisfaction, self-loathing, unhappiness, intolerable, feelings of inadequacy. But we don’t necessarily express these things. They’re veiled, hidden from ourselves as much as from others. But whether hidden or not, they make us all capable of terrible things. And the evil that we’re capable of enacting doesn’t flourish only in moments of rage or revenge, or in response to some unspeakable offense. Sometimes horrible acts are entertained and allowed under very considered and thought-through circumstances…Sometimes the violence in the dark side is turned inward. Some people take pills; some people jump out of the window, But whether violence is turned inward or outward, people can’t isolate components of their rage—it’s an accumulation. We think we’re raging against the darkness, but in fact we’re struggling for balance rather than chaos. ‘What got into him?’ people ask of a well-mannered neighbor who turned ballistic. ‘He isn’t that kind of guy.’ But of course he is! We’re all that kind of guy! Do I have the wherewithal to be a violent person? Of course I do…But where would I go for that intensity? Into what well of murderous impulses would I dip? That reservoir has to be there already, waiting.”

Friday, September 7, 2007

What God can do with an Ordinary Person?

"The world has yet to see what God can do in and through and with and for a man wholly committed to him." Henry Varley

When D.L. Moody heard this message from this evangelist, Moody repsonded, "By God's grace I will be that man!"

Quesiton: Will you be that person?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Short Prayers

Some of my most cherished memories here at Dallas Seminary have been the opportunities to glean from the wisdom and counsel of my professors. One of my favorites was Dr. Ramesh Richard who has a heart and passion for his students (Ramesh Richard; RReach). Not only is Dr. Richard a prayer warrior but also a spiritual counselor who offers intellectual insights to many of our world’s questions. During my final semester I had a class with Dr. Richard who gave us some insights on prayer. It was one of my last classes and his words definitely left an imprint in my prayer life.

1) Lord,
Look through me.
Lead through me.
Love through me.
Live through me.

2) “Feel free to show off at my expense.”

3) “Make me useful, fruitful, and profitable for Your glory.”

4) “Don’t give me so much that I run independently; don’t give me so little that I get discouraged.”

5) “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” (William Carey)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Worship Wednesdays: Mystery

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
Romans 11:33

How you ever taken time to look around you and consider the great mysteries that surround us. For example, every time I walked into my apartment I come face to face with a mystery. Her name is Claire. That’s right; she is my beautiful, lively, 5 month old daughter. Her smiles and facial expressions are enough to melt the heart of this grown man. When I hold her in my arms, it amazes me how two people can bring life into this world.

The biblical concept of mystery is not what we would tend to think of as a mystery. When we think of a mystery, our definition involves mystical imagination or some complicated puzzle. Unlike our understanding of a mystery, the biblical definition of mystery relates to the hidden council of God which has now been revealed. Have you considered the mysteries of our God recently?

1)The mystery of our resurrection: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

2) The mystery of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ: "that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself.” Colossians 2:4

3) The mystery of the church: "By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:4-10

4) The mystery of the marriage between Christ and His bride: “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:32

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 55

Monday, September 3, 2007

Is Faith Irrational?

In his defense on Christianity, Pascal introduced a theory commonly known as “the Wager.” His proposal concluded that the safer gamble is to believe in God rather than choose not to believe in God. Simply put, he argues that if one believed in God and that person comes to discover that God does not exist then that person has nothing to lose. However, if that person chose not to believe in God only to discover that He does exist, then that person will face judgment. Has Pascal’s theory only attributed to a simplistic “leap of faith” that many offer to unbelievers? Is there a more reliable approach to defending the existence of God and the validity of the gospel? What about Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God?

► “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

► “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” 2 Corinthians 13:5

► “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

In his book, Studies in Doctrine, Alister McGrath explains the nature of faith (279-282):

i. Faith as Assent.

In order to demonstrate faith in one’s life, there must be an acknowledgment that certain data is true and reliable. If there are any false pretenses within the information, then the demonstration of faith is illogical or completely absurd. For example, as students, we believed the records of our nation’s legacy through the school’s history books. We demonstrated faith by agreeing with the author that his words were accurate and true. For the Christian, we recognize the ultimate authority behind the Scriptures, that is, the Grand Author has recorded every word without error and falsity. When we come to the Word of God, the first step in faith is to acknowledge and consent that the very words recorded are true.

ii. Faith as Trust.

The assent of truth is the first aspect in faith, but without trust, faith is unable to blossom. The Bible warns us against taking only the first step of faith: assent. Even the demons acknowledge the truth about God. James 2:19 states, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” What is the difference between the Christians’ faith in God and the faith of the demons? The Christians’ faith is based upon the person of Christ.

“Christians don’t just believe—we believe in someone. Faith is like an anchor,
linking us with the object of faith. Just as an anchor secures a ship to the
ocean floor, so our faith links us securely with God. Faith is not just
believing that God exists; it is about anchoring ourselves to that God, and
resting secure in doing so. Whatever storms life many bring, the anchor of faith
will hold us firm to God.” (Alistair McGrath, Studies in Doctrine, 280).

iii. Faith as Commitment.

McGrath introduces a third element to the concept of faith. He explains, “Faith, then, leads to obedience. It is a willingness to trust and obey God the God who has called us to faith in him. We are called to be doers, rather than just hearers of the Word of God” (Alistair McGrath, Studies in Doctrine, 281). I believe that this aspect of faith must be carefully defined in order that others will not be misled. In no way does one’s works or acts attribute or earn one’s salvation. Both faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin. When a person exhibits faith, that faith thrives within acts of obedience.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

God's Wrath

When the gospel is presented, usually the message is loaded with the mercy and love of God. And it should be! It is true that the mercy and compassion of God was demonstrated through the work of Jesus Christ. At the heart of the gospel is God’s work of reconciliation bringing salvation to all men through the death of His Son. Laid upon Jesus’ shoulders, all of the sin of the world was applied, and because of the cross, God has provided man an avenue to receive eternal life and a harmonious relationship with the Creator. Because the wrath of God was poured on Christ, His love is given to all who believe in His Son.

A message filled with love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness is often preached, but how often do we warn others about the wrath of God? Should we sternly remind people that an unrepentant heart will only lead to experiencing the wrath of God? Because we live in a tolerant society, it has become very difficult to present God in such a way. To state that we will incur the wrath of God because we do not repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ is often considered “old-fashioned” by many. Instead of doggedly teaching the truths of the Scripture, we often cower to the current impulses of society.

  • Romans 1:18- “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…”

  • 1 Corinthians 16:22- “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.”

  • Hebrews 10:31- “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”


Does an understanding of God’s wrath deepen one’s appreciation of the gospel?