10.18.2014

On Casting Cares and Nurturing Seeds of Peace

Philippians 4:6-7
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

This is one of those commands that we make seem way too easy to follow, sometimes.  Do you really understand how challenging it is to love your enemies?  Or to be anxious for nothing?  We need to cast our cares on the Lord, which means you need to let go of it, to throw it to Him.  We have a strong urge to hang on to it.  We may pray, talk with a friend, go to church, listen close, scrunch up face during Communion, the whole nine yards.  But we haven’t yet laid down the burden in our hearts before Him.  We held it up to show Him, then clutched it close to our breast again.

Do you believe that God is really GOD?  Is your life in His hands, or in yours?  Is He good?  Or do you need a back up plan that causes you to clutch that anxiety back to your heart?  Lay it down and give it to Him.


The Table is a place where anxieties subside for a time.  While you eat, you know you’re getting something you need.  God is sowing seeds of peace in your heart, here.  Gently prying your fingers from that worry, asking you to hand it over.  He will feed You, clothe You, give you all you need.  Later today or this week, don’t grab the burden back.  It may gravitate back to you, and you may need to hand it over to him again.  Keep trusting Him, with a thousand little prayers, throwing that worry back to the Lord.  God plants peace in you here – with His Word and sacrament.  Don’t pull up the plants later.  Isaiah 26: “You will keep him in perfect peace,Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”

This is reworked from Exhortations, Douglas Wilson, page 89.

10/19/14

I am Yahweh, Your God

The first step to repentance and faith is to know the God who made us.

So the first words God speaks from Sinai are, “I am Yahweh, your God.”  We are obligated to keep His commands because He IS.  Yahweh is the only existing thing that exists on its own.  And He made us, so He is our God.  All creation owes God worship and praise, for being made by Him.  We must keep God’s ways finally because He redeemed us.  Like Israel freed from Egypt, God set us free from the tyranny of the devil and our overpowering sin.

Let us confess our failure to love and trust our Creator and our Redeemer.

10/19/14

Food for Thought on Tattoos

This is pretty good.  I like how it goes beyond the simplistic moral judgment of narcissism, to other things that may be going on.

The "transition from the body as physique to the body as text."

"It may strike old-fashioned types as pedestrian narcissism and adolescent conformity, and sometimes it surely is. But in a deeper and more troubling way, it is canny and subversive artifice, spiced with a moralistic claim to personal liberation."

10.16.2014

Correction on the Houston sermon subpoenas

UPDATE: Subpoenas to be narrowed.

Fox's reporting is misleading.  It said the Houston pastors subpoenaed were not part of the lawsuit against the city.  It turns out they ARE associated with the those party to the suit.  This makes a subpoena in the discovery phase of a hearing more understandable.  The courts want to see relevant material to the case.  It still appears to be over-reach, to require those associated pastors not even party to the suit to divulge all they've been saying about this situation.  But if you're going to support suing a city council over matter x, it doesn't make sense to then be outraged that the city court will ask to see what you've said about x.  Your obligation to the court depends on how you have supported the suit.

Apologies to my readers for sensationalizing a situation too quickly.  Context is crucial!

See here for more.

Also, the outrage doesn't fit what may be an opportunity, in a Philippians 1:12-18 kind of way.  Are we more worried about our freedom, or about advancing the message of Christ?  What if Paul refused to respond to Agrippa's subpoena in Acts 24-26?

10.15.2014

Frame's Work on Creation

John Frame, Systematic Theology, chapter 10

God brought everything into existence that is.  "Continuous creation" isn't a very helpful concept.  It's enough to say everything depends on God for its existence every moment.  There is original creation of the world order out of nothing, and subsequent creation (like of a new person) out of already existing things.

Creation calls for worship.  Six days of labor leads to one day of rest and worship.  The Psalmist often moves from meditating on creation to praising God.  Paul's sermons often indicate the same (Rom 1:25; Acts 14:15; 17:24-25).

Creation shows God as Lord.  He owns it all.  He has only to speak and it is done (Ps 33:6, 9).  He names and evaluates it (light was good).  Against the Gnostic spiritualists, creation shows that God is present with His world.

Creation anticipates redemption.  God has the right to take back what is His.  Salvation is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; 4:6), with cosmic proportions (Isa 65:17-18; Rom 8:20-22).

Creation was out of nothing, ex nihilo (Heb 11:3; Rom 4:17).  There is no visible starting point to the world for scientists to identify.  This is hard to imagine.  There was no matter, not even space nor time, from which God made the world.  Scripture does not explicitly teach this, but we can infer it: creation includes everything which had a beginning; God creates and is distinct from His creation; the world was not made from pre-existing stuff or from God Himself.

Creation was probably in six days, though we can't assert this with total certainty.  We should be willing to re-look at this in light of scientific claims, while not making naturalistic assumptions that rule out God's supernatural activity.  Literary structure in Genesis 1-2 does not mean the events described couldn't be historical and chronological.

Creation is young rather than old as modern science claims.  The first week appears to be a normal six day week as we know it now.  There may be some genealogical gaps, but not so many to allow millions of years.  God created the world with the appearance of age, which wasn't deceptive but a necessary part of creation ex nihilo.  As far as old fossils go, God may have created the earth with dead animals in it, or the flood may explain them all.

Evolutionary theory should be rejected.  God made man from dust, not another being (Gen 2:7).  He made animals according to their kinds.  We see variations within species, but "not a process that produces new species."  It is accepted by people because it's the only viable alternative to a Creator.

What Do Your Kids read?

One of my favorite childrens' authors wrote in Tabletalk recently - an excellent take on why it's important to read good stories.  A rollicking review of Hunger Games, Twilight, LOTR, etc.

If you ever wonder why I read and review so many children's books, and pretty critically too, this article should answer your questions.

Find ND Wilson's books here.

An American Government Intimidates Pastors

Would you believe that in America today, a government is requiring pastors to submit any sermons and communications to churches that discuss homosexuality or its current leader, under threat of fine, contempt of court, or imprisonment?

Believe it.

Apparently the separation of church and state they've been appealing to for years is a one-way street.

It is more and more obvious that the homosexual lobby is not about more freedom for minorities, but about coercing and silencing dissent against their positions.

Russell Moore answers nicely.  I'd only disagree with this sentence there. "The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all." Actually, sermons should be of concern to government officials. They should be heeding them and submitting to God's Word.

10.13.2014

God's Preserving and Governing Providence

John Frame's Systematic Theology, chapter 9

There is more to providence than control.

God governs things, which means He steers them toward a designed purpose and goal.  Providence should lead us to consider end times.  Not focusing on the order or timing of events, but on how we ought to live in light of the end.

God preserves His creation.
He sustains it in being generally, in Christ (Col 1:17).
He spares mankind from immediate judgment (Gen 2:17; 2 Peter 3:9), though the flood shows the limit of that patience.  The flood de-created the world: the divisions of sea, earth, and sky (Gen 1:3-13) were undone (Gen 7:11-12).
He blesses His Church, working all things together for our good.  The gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church.  This has a limit, like God's patience: believers are not kept from ALL harm ever, but in the end will be kept from all harm.
He preserves believers to the end.  If He begins a work in us, He finishes it (Philippians 1:6).

Revelation
Providence is a kind of revelation by His Word, showing His wisdom and removing any excuse for our sin (Rom 1:20).  We can't read God's providence into the future, though.

Concurrence
God uses earthly causes to bring about His will.  He determines if a golf ball will go in the hole or not, and uses the golfer's muscles, swing, wind, etc. to bring that about.  Many say this makes God the author of sin, but that charge works when you assert any form of God's sovereignty.

God is the great story teller who writes the plot, though characters in the story "cause" things to happen.

10.12.2014

Marijuana

Two good articles on marijuana, as its legalization in two states causes consternation, celebration, and... whatever.

Stephen Webb at First Things considers carefully whether alcohol and pot are similar enough to call it hypocrisy to favor alcohol, but reject pot, both legally and for recreational use.  Alcohol is abused widely and we don't criminalize it, nor should we.  So why not legalize pot?  Webb answers in depth yet briefly.  (Subscription required for full article, but you should subscribe anyway!)

Warren Cole Smith at World Magazine argues that medical uses of marijuana should be pursued, while keeping recreational use illegal.

Both of these articles say today's pot will impair you nearly immediately, while alcohol requires several drinks to do so.  I have friends who ardently deny this is the case, from their own personal experience in their school days.  The articles point out that today's pot is stronger than 10-20 years ago....

Hm.  Are we headed for normalizing pot because baby boomers had dud joints or weaker ones than today's?  Or because we don't want to be hypocrites by not going back to Prohibition? (Confuses different substances.)  Or out of a principle to not add to Scripture legalistically?  Scripture says plenty about self-control and productivity, which pot works against.  Yes, there is a time to relax, but if your judgment is impaired, you've crossed the Scriptural line.

I'm an advocate of keeping pot illegal, given all the studies which I believe about the long term bad effects on the body and almost immediate impairment.

10.11.2014

Review: Annie Henry and the Secret Mission


Annie Henry and the Secret Mission
Annie Henry and the Secret Mission by Susan Olasky

My rating: 2 of 5 stars



I love Marvin Olasky, but this was pretty poor story writing: pacing was off, ending abrupt, and plot thin. It's the first in a series of five, so the story may continue, but I won't be reading the rest.

If you need something for your younger readers, it'll do.



View all my reviews

Rockin' Calvinism

This is a pretty decent classic rock adaptation of Heidelberg Catechism Q & A #1.

10.01.2014

God's Providence

Chapter 8 - John Frame's Systematic Theology

Providence is God preserving and governing everything.

This is a wonder and miracle of a sort.  It is ordinary, instead of extraordinary.  But Scripture often throws them together as reasons to praise God. (Psalm 107, 136)

God's providence is efficacious.  He always accomplishes what He wants to in history.

God's providence is universal, governing the natural world, human history, and the details of individual lives, decisions, sins and our faith.
Natural world.   This is a personal world that God waters, feeds, storms, etc.  Psalm 66.
History.  He raises up Cyrus, Caesar takes a census, etc.  Psalm 33:10; Josh 21:44-45; Dan 4:35.
Individuals.  What was true of Jeremiah is true of us: God knew us before we were born.  Psalm 139:13-16.  Even accidents are from God (Ex 21:12-13).  Psalm 37:23-24.
Decisions.  God brought about the decisions of Judas, Cyrus, the crucifiers of Jesus.  God directs our steps.  Prov 21:1.  The soldiers decide not to divide Christs garment, so Sxripture would be fulfilled.  This causes some problems about how we can be responsible for our choices, yet they were somehow necessitated by Gods purpose.  But it is still true, as asserted by the Bible.
Sin.  God hardened Pharaohs heart, and Israels (Ps 105:24-25; Isaiah 63:17).  This is giving them over to more sin, when they have already been against God.  He does not turn a faithful person against Him, against their will.  More examples in 2 Sam 24; 17:14; 1 Kings 12:15; 2 Chron 25:20; John 12:40; Rom 11:7-8; Act 2:23; 4:28.
Faith.  Faith is a gift of God.  Eph 1:4-6; 2:8-9; Jonah 2:9; 2 Tim 1:9.  There is a human choice involved, but it cannot merit Gods choosing to save us, or we contradict these verses and have a cause for boasting.  God gives repentance and faith (John 15:16; 6:37, 44; Acts 11:18).  He washes us (Titus 3:4-7; Deut 30:6; Jer 31:31ff; 24:7; 2 Cor 4:6).

All things are in God's complete control.  Lam 3:37-38; Rom 8:21-28; Eph 1:11; Rom 11:36.

Christians for Lockean Liberty?

The first half of this post is really helpful in sorting out how Deists like Thomas Jefferson could help found our country on Christian principles.

Doug Wilson on liberty and property.

31 Reformation Days in October

Here's a great devotional resource to highlight the Reformation this month.

http://31dayswithgod.wordpress.com/


A sample of the first one, today:

Understand God’s Work through the Reformation
Sola Scriptura: The Scripture Alone is the Standard

Scripture Reading (selected verses)
Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law….

Introduction
The Church during the medieval period had become corrupt on many fronts, particularly on the question of authority. ...

Practical reflection questions at the end.

9.24.2014

The Acts of the Lord - Miracles

Notes on John Frame's Systematic Theology, chapter 7

God acts in His world so we will know He is the Lord (Exodus 7:17 for just one example of many).  Knowing who God is (attributes) depends on knowing what He has done (acts).  We look first at what God has done.

A miracle is "an extraordinary [highly unusual, impossible] manifestation of God's covenant lordship."  Many define it as an exception to natural processes, but this isn't always true (Ex 14:21).  They aren't always immediate, either (lacking a secondary instrument besides God's direct power).  Miracles almost always prove a prophet is really from God, but there are other purposes of miracles in Scripture (Flood for judgment, incarnation for salvation, healing out of compassion, etc.).  Miracles don't just prove revelation; they actually reveal God's control, authority and presence to us.

Miracles occur today, but "only at God's own initiative."  They aren't a normal experience for a believer, but rare even in the Bible.  Believers shouldn't feel guilty for not experiencing them.

Miracles don't so much prove God exists, as they assume God to make sense.  We cannot demand them before we believe in God.  David Hume ruled miracles impossible by definition, and many modern liberal theologians follow suit.  Miracles  are evidence, though, that call and obligate us to believe in Jesus as the Christ.  Miracles are a kind of revelation.  Those found in Scripture are historically true and accurate, because Scripture is.