Monthly Archives: June 2011

Characters in a Story: Who are You?

Who are you?  What kind of novel are you in?  What is the conflict?  If you were reading this story, watching an omniscient (really) narrator describe you, your innermost thoughts, your insecurities, and all your desires, would you have any trouble at all giving your character counsel?  Would it be oh-so-difficult to tell when that character was motivated from selfishness or pride? Would you love to see that story written?  Would you like to see yourself as you are, as you really are, with not one of your thoughts or impulses omitted?

Maybe you’re not a lecherous youth pastor, a hypocritical abstinence counselor, or a thieving neighbor.  But you are something.  A backstabbing friend?  An insecure bully of a father? An unfaithful husband?  A resentful wife?  What?  Trot out your thoughts, every last one, no matter how tiny, no matter how fleeting, no matter how awful or pornographic.  Project them on a screen for the viewing public.  We’d have you pegged in a heartbeat – just as you’d be able to peg us.  A good author could even work with the unhidden things, the things you’re actually willing for the rest of us to see.  Are you a whining fusser?  Do you complain about the weather?  Do you know how much work went into that weather system?  Maybe you resent any obstacle, anything that makes your day longer or harder.  You think you’re under-appreciated.  You, with the way you think about everyone else around you (your mother, your siblings, coworkers, or even your spouse), feel undervalued.  What exactly is your value?  Would the human race falter?

We are always on stage.  We are always in a novel, and even when no other characters are around, the art continues.  The Triune audience watches.  You have been given your body.  You have been given your ancestors, your natural strengths and your natural weaknesses.  The backstory is all in place.  You have been drawn, described, and placed on a stage unlike any other – the Globe.  And you have been given your freedom to act.  Your story has begun already….

We are all watching.  We are all watched.  To some people, this could seem glamorous.  The whole idea of being in a novel or film or reality show is quite appealing.  We know what kind of people they are.  We can see the shallowness, the superficiality of their self-love.  But for some reason, they can’t.  For some reason, none of us can when we are set on making fools of ourselves.  Listen to your dialogue.  Look at your thoughts.  Be horrified.  Be grateful that God loves characters, and loves characters on journeys, characters honestly striving to grow.  If someone else was delivering your lines, would you like them?  If someone else was wearing your attitude, would you be impressed?

What will your character do when the petty things happen, when your car betrays you in the cold?  When the pipes freeze?  When God knowingly places ice on the sidewalk beneath your feet?  When the sun sets beautifully while you needle your wife?  Do you laugh at the jokes and love the lovely?  Are you too important to be amused at your own infinitude?  Are you unaware that your bowels move daily?  How lofty are you?

N. D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl or DVD, 32-35.

Trailer for DVD:

 

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How Do You See the Bible?

Some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do.  The Bible certainly does have some rules in it.  They show you how life works best.  But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing.  It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy.  The bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you would soon find out) most people in the bible aren’t heroes at all.  They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose).  They get afraid and run away.  At times they are downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes.  The Bible is most of all a Story.  It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything- to rescue the one he loves.  It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is – it’s true.

Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible, 14-17.

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The Spiritual Hemorrhaging of a Church

My spirit is aching.

My mind just runs away.

My heart is pouring out.

My mouth no words to say.

My sheep have been hunted,

By lies, being led astray.

The wolves are breathing poison,

Dividing up their prey.

Seeing great confusion,

I cry out to God and pray,

“Spare this fold’s destruction;

Drive those wolves away.”

I watch the church convulsing,

As the venom has its way.

Truth must be the victor,

If we are ever to find out stay.

Lead us in all righteousness,

O God, direct our way.

Give us divine wisdom

To act and show Your way.

Many are downtrodden.

Many are in dismay.

Lord strengthen all Your servants,

No matter what may come today.

Help us act in boldness,

And follow what You say.

Speaking truth in love;

Driving error and wolves away.

When division has been halted,

By words of truth in play

The glory of Your Gospel,

Will show forth in vessels of clay.

My spirit is crying for You.

My mind on You will lay.

My heart will rest in Your truth.

My mouth will sing all day.

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What God Thinks About the Family

Our understanding of family/marriage cannot be separated from our understanding of God and the Gospel.

Seven Foundations of the Theology of Family:

1. God Created Man and Woman in His Image

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  God created each gender with intentional and specific characteristics.  Dr. Randy Stinson says it well:

Roles between men and women originated in the pre-fall garden and subsequently apply to all human beings.  Since roles are a part of the original creation, then they are inherent in the lives of all men and women and thus should find an echo in every human heart.  The idea that men and women are equal yet different, though rejected by modern feminism, is indeed a result of God’s purposeful and beautiful design.

2. God Blessed Man and Woman with the Gifts of Marriage, Sex, and Family

Genesis 1:28 and 2:24 says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” and “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  God’s design [in marriage] is to join a man and woman together.  He created the first family.  Family didn’t evolve from societal needs for financial stability and domestic support.  God created family, just as he created man and woman.  Sex was created as a gift from God to bring a husband and wife closer together for enjoyment and to procreate a family.

3. God Gave Parents the Primary Role of Spiritually Discipling Their Children

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 proclaims:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Before there were churches, Sunday Schools, and youth groups, God entrusted parents with the privilege to teach their children.  This command hasn’t changed.  Teaching our children about the Lord is our privilege and responsibility as parents.

God will hold you responsible for the religion of your children.

4. God Calls Husbands to Love Their Wives and Calls Wives to Submit to Their Husbands

Ephesians 5:22, 25-26 declares, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” and  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”  Just as God created family, He did so with an order to it.  The Bible is clear that God sees husbands as the head of a family, regardless of what is popular in today’s culture.  A husband has the privilege, responsibility, and duty to lovingly lead his family.  Husbands must remember that Christ Himself modeled the kind of leadership they are instructed to provide when He willingly laid down His life to honor His Bride.

5. God’s Design is for Marriage to Be Lifelong

God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).  Christian marriage is sacred, as it represents Christ’s commitment to His Bride.  Our marriage commitment speaks to the world that Christ’s love for His Bride is enduring.  He wants our marriages to be light in the world, and churches must do all it can to rescue marriages caught in the storms of life.

6. God Seeks to Use Christian Families as a Testimony of His Love for His Children

2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “herefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  Our families must be representatives to the world on God’s behalf.  Our families must be distinct from those of the world, serving as a very real picture of Christ’s love for us.

The presence of Christ in our marriage must drastically change it.  Christian marriages should be marked with confessing sin, asking forgiveness, serving selflessly and in humility regarding your partner as “more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).  Christ is making His appeal to the world through our marriage and our family, so the way we understand family is extremely important.

7. God’s Design is for Families to Unite and Partner with the Local Church for the Mutual Purpose of Discipleship

The Bible teaches that the church and family are to be united for the same purpose.  Families are commanded to teach the children.  Churches are commanded to teach all people.  Why the overlap?  The family and the church are to be united in pursuit of the same goal.  Families should no more drop their kids off at the door of the church to be discipled any more than they should avoid the church and try to go in it alone.  Family and church need each other to function like each is designed to function for the glory of God.

Times have changed, and that is why a clearly stated theology of the family is crucial. Quite honestly, we all practice theology every day.  What does your practice/living reveal about what you really believe?

Steve Wright, A Parent Privilege, 52-60.

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On the Eternity and Extremity of Hell

557. ETERNITY OF HELL TORMENTS.

It is to be considered that the wicked in hell will forever continue sinning, exercising malice, and blaspheming, etc.; and ’tis surely therefore no wonder, that God should forever continue punishing. And if any think that ’tis incredible, that God should leave any to continue forever sinning as a punishment of their sins here, as a judicial consequence of their sins, let it be considered what have been the judicial consequences of that one sin of our first parents, their eating of the forbidden fruit: the corruption of the nature of all mankind, and all the actual sins that ever have been committed in the world of mankind, and all the temporal calamities that the world has suffered, the corruption and ruin the world has suffered, and all the punishments of sin in another world, whether they be eternal or no. If it be credible, that all these things should be the judicial consequences of that one sin, I don’t see why it should seem incredible, that God should eternally give a man up to sin for his own sin.

559. ETERNITY OF HELL TORMENTS.

If it be just in God, in judgment for one sin to lead to another, and yet just for him to punish both, then is it just with him to leave men to continue in sin to all eternity? For as long as they continue sinning, they continue deserving to be punished; and therefore, by the hypothesis, it still continues to be just to leave ’em to commit other sins, and so in infinitum.

574. ETERNITY OF HELL TORMENTS.

The wicked, when they are cast into hell, will continue sinning still. Yea, they will sin more than ever; their wickedness will be unrestrained. Such torments must needs be, to an unsanctified [mind], an occasion of a fearful exercise of enmity and rage against God. Therefore if it ben’t incredible that God should cast men into hell at all for the sins they have been guilty of in this life, then, seeing they continue sinning, ’tis not incredible that their misery there should be continued. For if we should suppose that the punishment that the sins of this life deserve is but finite, that it deserves only a temporary misery, yet while they are suffering that, they continue sinning still, and so contract a new debt; and again, while they are paying that, they contract another, and so on in infinitum.

572. EXTREMITY OF HELL TORMENTS.

This confirms it with me, that the misery is exceeding great, that God hath so every way contrived to glorify his Son as Savior, or hath so ordered in all respects that his salvation should be exceeding. Now a part of the gloriousness of his salvation consists in this, that ’tis salvation from so great misery; and the greater the misery, still the more glorious the salvation. Therefore I believe that God would so order it, that that misery should be very exceeding great.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), The Miscellanies: 501-832 or here.

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Of First Importance – Part 2

Originally posted here.

In the first post we looked at the supreme importance of the death and resurrection of Christ.  We saw that it is of first importance for living the Christian life.  Without Christ’s death and resurrection and saving faith in it, we are not able to live out God’s calling to holiness and love nor would we desire to do so if our living is not based on the foundation of what God has done in Christ and our gratitude for it.  Secondly, we looked at how the death and resurrection of Christ is of first importance for studying and understanding other biblical truths.  We began by looking at forgiveness.  If we neglect or diminish the accomplishment made by Christ in His work we will not truly understand the forgiveness of God and all that was required before He could forgive.

Of First Importance for Understanding All Biblical Truth continued…

Another example where the death and resurrection of Christ is of first importance for understanding biblical truth is our sinfulness.  Rather than elevating our sinfulness, as some do to God’s forgiveness when they neglect the necessity of Christ’s death and resurrection, some seek to eliminate the pervasive effects of sin on mankind.  When this is done, man is elevated to be able to do much more than the Bible says he can do without the aid of God’s grace and it diminishes the power and necessity of the death and resurrection.  But this is not how the Bible portrays man or the work of Christ.  When we look at how the Scriptures speak of what Christ did for sinners, we get a clearer picture of how radically we have been affected by sin and how much we needed the Savior and His work.  God’s Word says that Christ died and was raised that we might be given new life (1 Peter 1:3-5; Ephesians 2:1-10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21), be freed from slavery to sin (Romans 6; John 8:31-36), be saved from God’s wrath (Romans 5:6-9), be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10-11; Ephesians 2:11-22; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20), be delivered from the law (Acts 13:34-39; Galatians 3:10-14; Romans 7:4-6, 8:1-8), be delivered from our sin debt (Colossians 2:13-15; Acts 3:18-19), and much more.  The Bible is clear in showing that apart from Christ the entire human race is dead in sin, enslaved to sin, under and awaiting God’s wrath, separated and enemies of God, bound to obeying the law perfectly, and owners of a debt we cannot pay.  All of this and more, Christ came in the likeness of man, live a perfect life, died in our place and was raised from the dead, showing the acceptance and finality of His work.  If we neglect the death and resurrection of Christ for the sake of elevating or softening another biblical truth we will loose the glory of the work of Christ done on our behalf.  Let us not “neglect such a great salvation!” Christ’s death and resurrection is of first importance for the right understanding of all biblical truth.

Of First Importance for Everyday Life

Lastly, the third aspect of the importance of the death and resurrection of Christ is its relevance for everyday of every year.  Easter, just as Christmas, is not to just be celebrated once a year, but it is to be the focus of our hearts all year long.  This is essentially what it means for Christ’s work to be of first importance.  We are not to only praise God for the death and resurrection of Christ on Resurrection Sunday, but it is to be our heart’s song everyday.  It is the reason we can sing and glory in God.  It will be the theme of our singing for eternity.  Revelation 5:9-10 proclaims:

“And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

The work of Christ is not only to be the foundation from which we sing every song but also the foundation by which we live everyday.  It radically changes the way in which we experience life.  Because of the death and resurrection of Christ we have hope not just for the future but even today.  In Christ we now have victory over death, for it is no longer our enemy.  1 Corinthians 15:54-57 declares, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We also have hope for the future, for just as Jesus was raised from the dead we know that all who are in Christ will be made like Him.  1 John 3:2-3 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”  And lastly we have hope in the midst of suffering in this world.  2 Corinthians 4:8-11, 14, 16-18 proclaims:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh…knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence…. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

All of our worship and all of our hope finds its source in the death and resurrection of Christ.  Let it ring true in your heart everyday of the year.

May we always be mindful of that which is of first importance: Christ’s death and resurrection.

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Of First Importance – Part 1

Originally posted here.

With Easter over a month gone, it’s not too early for our minds to begin to wander from our focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  For example, as believers, we have the Christian life to live.  We are to be pursuing holiness and reflecting godliness in all that we do, which can be quite consuming for the mind, allowing the foundations of our faith to suffer neglect.  On the other hand, we can get so engrossed in the study of other doctrines of the Christian faith that we neglect these essentials.

What is the remedy? 

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, declares:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

The remedy for neglecting the death and resurrection of Christ for the sake of living out the Christian life, studying other doctrines or because Easter has now past is to remember that Christ’s death and resurrection are of first importance.

What does it mean for the death and resurrection of Christ to be of first importance?

Of First Importance for Christian Living

While there are many aspects of the supreme importance of the Christ’s death and resurrection that could be mentioned here, we will only focus on three.  The first is that Christ’s death and resurrection are of first importance for our living out the Christian life.  This may sound strange, but it is essential.  Without the death and resurrection of Christ we could not live the Christian life.  Romans 6:4 states, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  It is because of Christ’s death and resurrection that all who repent and believe may die to sin and have new life.  Paul continues in the passage, saying in verses 10-11, “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Before Christ, sin (our fleshly desires, demonic temptation, and worldly influence) was our master.  Once in Christ, through salvation, we have died with Him to sin, and have been made alive to God.  This means that we no longer have to sin.  We can now, in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, obey God, turning from sin to righteousness and holiness.  Without the actual death and resurrection of Christ this would be impossible.  Not only that, without continual remembrance of the death and resurrection of Christ our obedience becomes lifeless, loveless, and legalistic.  It is not that we have to live out the Christian life to be saved, it is that we now can and will  live out the life we were meant to have because we have been given life and we want to do so out of gratitude and worship of our Lord and Savior.

Of First Importance for Understanding All Biblical Truth

The second aspect for which the death and resurrection is of utmost importance is the study or learning of other biblical truths.  It is easy to get caught up studying many of the glorious essentials of the Christian faith that we neglect the death and resurrection of Christ, but to do so is to neglect the very foundation on which much of Christianity stands.  We must be careful in our learning and love for God’s truth that we never leave behind that which is of first importance.  To leave behind the truths of the death and resurrection of Christ for the study of other essentials of the faith is to strip the very foundation on which those other truths are secured.  For example, the forgiveness of sin can be focused on so much that the necessity of death and resurrection of Christ is neglected if not forgotten.  Much of mainstream and liberal “Christianity” has fallen into this error.  They have separated God’s forgiveness from that which made it possible for God to forgive, the death and resurrection of Christ.  Colossians 2:13-15 declares, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” And as 1 Corinthians 15:17 states, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The Bible is clear; it was absolutely necessary that Christ die and be raised for us to be forgiven and so much more.  Praise God for His wisdom and might.

– Part 2

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