Contend Earnestly: April 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Prayer for the Lost

Dear Lord.
I thank you for your grace. I thank you for your patience with me. I thank you for how you have given me the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. My God, I know that you own everything, that you are above everything, that you created everything, that you know everything and that you are in control of everything. I know that you did not need me, but you wanted me. You did not have to save me, but in your will, and for your glory you did so. My Lord, I thank you for my salvation and benefits of having a loving relationship with you, my Abba, my Father, My Master, My Lord. I cannot fathom to be without you.

Dear Lord.
I earnestly pray for John that you would place your grace upon him. I pray that you would open his eyes to see your glory. Open his ears so that he can hear your gospel call. Open his mind, so that he can understand the depths of your Scriptures. Open his heart, so that he can follow you all the days of his life.

My God, I pray that you would earnestly seek him, and lay hold of him, so that the light of the gospel would shine upon him that he would turn to you and away from his wicked ways, from following Satan, to following his Creator and Saviour. I plead that you show mercy and give grace to him that he would be saved from the bondage of sin to the loving arms of your Son, and become a slave to righteousness. I pray that you would give him the same gift of salvation that you have bestowed on this undeserved sinner.

God, I say this all as your child and not your master. I don't pretend to know all things, or understand all things, so I surrender this request at your feet. I know that all your ways are good, just and right and that you are most holy. I know that no purpose of yours can be undone and I trust you in your ways, for you are God and I am, as Job put it, but dust and ashes.

So, as I bring this to my God I ask out of ignorance, but I also ask out of love for John and plead for his soul, but I also beg that your will would be done.

So God, I leave this to you and your will and ask that your name be glorified in it. I ask that you continue to use me to show the Gospel to John. I pray that I would be your vesel and that the seed would be planted and that the Holy Spirit would be able to use the seed that I planted to fulfill your will for John.

Out of the respect of Your Word where you command that we make our requests be made known to you I now ask simply that you would open John's eyes to your Gospel and that he would become a warrior for the cause of Christ for the glory of You.

Through your Son's blood, because of His name, I pray these things to my Father, my Creator, My God.


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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Calvinistic Evangelism is not Jumbo Shrimp

The one thing that tires me the most with those who try and defame Calvinism and the doctrines of grace is the fact that the haters always say that Calvinism kills evangelism. What is weird is that if they even read a little about church history, and I mean very little, they will see that some of the most amazing evangelist in church history were Calvinists. To name a few, check out John Calvin himself, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, J. Gresham Machen and Asahel Nettleton. Again...start there and when your head stops spinning, call me and I will give you more. No doubt there have also been some great Arminian evangelists as well, but I don't hear any Calvinists saying that Arminianism kills evangelism so there is no need to go there.

I hava a good friend who is an evangelist in Austria and also goes into Iraq every once in a while to play "preach Jesus and hope you don't get shot." He is an evangelist also to some guys at the United Nations. He has been leading a small group Bible study there for years and has some pretty amazing contacts as he has been able to preach Jesus to many "high-ups" for many different nations across the world. His stories that he tells me about are far above amazing and I can't put everything here that has been said, and I can't even type his name as it would put him in to danger next time he heads into Iraq.

We talk about every month to catch up and encourage one another in prayer. Try telling someone who leads a Bible study at the U.N. and goes to Iraq for the purpose of proclaiming Christ, that ministry is difficult. I almost laugh everytime I ask him to pray for me in these areas, but he is very patient and very gracious and truly prays for me and never scoffs at my requests.

Last week we had our time of conversation and he told me a story of a certain high up bio nuclear scientist for a certain nation. I really can't give specifics on which nation he represents as it is just too dangerous. This scientist used to meet at this small group Bible study and then some years ago told my friend that he would no longer attend because he just didn't believe anything that was said at the small group. My friend wanted to keep in contact so they continued to go out to dinner every three months to make sure that the friendship was kept in tack.

This past month they were at dinner for over three hours and this scientist admitted that my friend's thoughts on Jesus and the Bible were now starting to "make sense" and that he felt like "something inside him was convicting him of these truths." One of the scientists issues was the fact that if he believed in what my friend was telling him that his whole life (the scientist is in his 60's) would have been a waste, because everything he believed would be put to the side. My friend said, "What if God was using everything in your life until now, to bring you to this very point of understanding?" The scientist was blown away, and merely said, "good point." The scientist then remarked that he would "lose face" with many of his friends and co-workers. My friend simply asked, "Who do you want to 'lose face' with more, your friends or the one who will judge you when you die?" Again...touche.

At the end of the night, the scientist simply said that he wasn't ready to completely surrender to the truths that were being represented.

Before we move on from here, let me ask, "How would you respond to someone who you have had contact with for years, seems like they are ready to surrender to Christ, but then they simply said, "I am not ready tonight." What would you say? Would you beg and ask, "What if you die tonight?" Would you think that you don't want this to "slip away?" Would you try and get him to "repeat after me and you will be saved?"

Here is what my friend said:

That is okay. God has a hold of you and he won't let you go. Take your time, you don't have to decide tonight.

I wonder how an Arminian would have responded?

The one who believes in complete sovereignty in salvation isn't looking for a prayer but looking for God's timing. The Calvinist can sleep at night knowing that God has his plans for his elect and it will happen in his time. The Calvinist doesn't have to try and convince even further at the dinner table in fear that the man might get hit by a truck on the way home and "surprise God."

The Calvinistic Evangelist rests all his hope, not on the method of evangelism, but on the sovereignty of his Creator and the sustainer of his faith.

You see, Calvinistic Evangelism is not Jumbo Shrimp. It is not an oxymoron, but it is the complete rest in the sovereignty of our Lord who bought us with a price. Calvinism doesn't kill evangelism but allows evangelism to rest not on the presenter, but on the Creator. It puts away pragmatism and places it's hopes on the glory and will of God. I believe that the Calvinistic Evangelist is the best way to evangelize and the way that the trust in God is completely at rest.

So, tonight, if you are a Calvinist and you have friends that you continually share the gospel with, sleep well and eat some jumbo shrimp tomorrow.

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5 Guarantees by the Church

This past week I got another really lame flyer in the mail about how the Bible and the church is all about me and how I am destined for greatness. As I was throwing up, I noticed that on the back, under the late 30-something pastor in clothing from Abercrombie and Fitch, that this "church" had five guarantees to the visitor if they would come to their church. At some point I feel like these guys are used car salesmen, "What do I have to do to get you in our church today?" Funny, yet sad, one church in our area was handing out gas cards if they would just come to the church. Then, on my way to work the other day, I saw a huge sign on a Honda dealership promising free gas with a new car purchase.

This whole flyer never mentions the name of Jesus and the only time that they mention God is when they say, "Your kids will learn about God's love!" Yet they have the gall to name themselves with the name "Christian" in the title.

Here are the five guarantees of this "church":

1. A Casual & Relaxed Atmosphere!
2. The Music will be Contemporary!
3. The Kids Will Love it!
4. You are our Guest! You will be Welcomed and Accepted!
5. The Talk will be Positive & Encouraging!

Yes, they did actually put exclamation points at the end of each point like a guy with a bullhorn at the circus. This two page car ad, I mean church ad, had 18 exclamation points! Didn't they watch Seinfeld? Too many exclamation points is just overkill. But, look at what they are promising. They promise nothing about Jesus. They promise nothing about God. They promise what you would expect from a dinner and a show, not a church whose focus is on the blood of Christ and the redemption of a sinful people. When are we going to understand that the church is not about the glorification of people but of glorification of God? Plus, what if my kid hated it? What if someone doesn't say hello? What if the pastors talk isn't encouraging because I am looking for hope because my wife just got cancer? What if I don't like the Dove Award winners being sung in church? Not only are these guarantees completely people oriented but they are empty and cannot be guaranteed to everyone that gets this ad in the mail.

What had me thinking is, what would my church guarantee if we were to send out this type of postcard? What would your church guarantee if you were to send out this type of postcard? Here are my five guarantees to anyone who wants to visit our church:

1. God will be glorified
2. The Word of God will be preached
3. The proclamation of the Gospel will be heralded
4. You will know that you are a sinner in need of salvation
5. We will show you the hope found only in Christ

Every week that you come to our church these five will be shown in every area of our ministries. From Sunday school, to children's church, to worship in song, to worship in the word, to fellowship and to the corporate worship, these five are promised week in and week out.

Is this a casual and relaxed atmosphere? Sometimes. But, sometimes those who are in sin and hear about judgment might not be so relaxed until they here about the hope in Jesus. Is the music contemporary? Sometimes. More importantly our music is Christ focused and God honoring. Will your kids love it? I don't know. Probably depends on how you prepare them for worship on Sundays. Do you prepare your kid to be entertained the entire time? Then they probably won't like it. Do you prepare your child that the Lord's Day is about learning about Jesus? Then that will be accomplished. Are you our guest? Are you welcomed and accepted? Sure. Are we going to change our service to make it all about you? No, that is idolatry. Our church is about glorifying Christ, not the sinner. Will the talk be positive and encouraging? Maybe. Sometimes I walk out of our service wondering why Jesus loves me. I see my sin, see my struggles, but I am always encouraged because of the hope found in Christ.

I get frustrated everytime I get one of these in the mail that focuses so much on people instead of on God and Jesus Christ. The church is for the glory of Christ, not the glory of man. It disturbs me to see that these churches will do anything to get people to come in the doors. It also causes me to examine myself to make sure that I am doing everything that I can do to leave the doors of the church and proclaim the word of Christ to my neighbors and to encourage them to join us in worship.

So, what are the five guarantees of your church?

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our Visit to Oikos Fellowship...

As I said last Friday, my wife and I headed up to Bellingham,WA to get some relaxation in for her birthday. Since we were up there, we decided to visit Oikos Fellowship which is pastored by Pete Williamson. I thought I would just share our time with everyone and what we came away with.

We decided to take a look at the church on Saturday to just make sure that we could find it on Sunday morning, as I hate showing up late to church, so I figured that we could make sure that we didn't by running by the day before. As we pulled up you could tell that the church must have been the old "First Baptist Church," or something of the sort, as the building had old wooden architechture, no stained glass and the sign outside was made of wood with a little "roof" on top of it. It didn't take CSI to figure out that this church had been around a while. What was great to see was the new more modern sign inside the old sign, that was black with modern letters that simply read, "Oikos Fellowship". Gone were the days of the sign reading, "Prayer is the Ultimate Wireless Connection" or "The Rapture: Separation of Church and State".

The next day as we entered into the building we were greeted by the young folk at the door and took our usual "visitors" seats in the back of the room so that we wouldn't be a distraction. Actually, I did this on purpose because, this sounds weird, I didn't want people to waste their time on us, when they needed to be encouraging one another and also meeting actual guests that were checking out this church to be their new fellowship. Of course this never works at a welcoming church as we were still greeted and welcomed by those around us, which was cool to see the church welcome new people.

The church met in a small "sanctuary", where the inside had obviously had some work done to it, and it looked very nice. Nothing in the room was going to take your eyes off worship, but the room was very warm and felt like a place of worship (whatever that means). The band began to play and right away Stacy and I looked at each other and were marveled at how well they sounded and how much the attention was not on them, but on the worship. Very encouraging to see from a group of young people. The worship in song was a mixture of old hymns to more modern songs, where both focused on the worship and glorification of the Trinity.

Pastor Williamson wasn't preaching today, as you could tell when he stood up to encourage with the reading of the word, because he brought the reading of the word as any pastor would that truly loves its proclamation: with zeal and honor.

After we sang, read from the word, sang the doxology, and sang some more, Mike came and brought the word to us. Mike focused in on Psalm 46 and it encouraged me to see a young man so in love with God's greatness and concerned with our desires and where our comfort lies. Mike seemed very comfortable in the pulpit and we were encouraged by the word of God through Mike and in the end, what I was able to glean from the Scriptures was just an awe for my omnipotent God who is my "refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

After the message we took communion, sang some more and then we were dismissed. I have to say that for a smaller church, they seem to really be ready to take on their community and try and help out the spreading of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was good to see a church so focused on the glorification of Christ and not on themselves. It was good to see the room filled with young people sitting under the preaching of the Word of God, filled with compassion and zeal.

I now have another church that I can be praying for. I have a pastor that I can encourage with prayer, and when I think of Bellingham, WA I know that the gospel is going forth and the kingdom is being represented well.

So, I thank Oikos for allowing us to worship with them, and look forward to that day that I worship with these fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for eternity, when we all sit under the throne of our great King, worshiping and enjoying Him forever.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Some Links...

I am off this weekend to celebrate my wife's birthday in beautiful Bellingham,WA, where we will find a weekend of snow. The cool thing is that I get to visit a new found friend's church up there on Sunday. I love seeing how the kingdom is being affected in other parts of my state. The church we will be visiting is Pete Williamson's Oikos Fellowship. The bummer part is that Pete is at Together for the Gospel this week so he won't be preaching. But, I know that God has placed the person in the pulpit this week with the message that I need to hear. Amazing that God is making me go all the way to Bellingham and listen to a "fill in" to get his message to me. But, God is amazing in his providence, so I can't wait to see what he reveals to me. Here are some links in the meantime, and I hope you have a great weekend.

Tony is bringing it once again and has put up the audio clip that will probably start to cause some ripples among Reformers as James White denies God's Universal Saving Will. I would really encourage you to read this post and look around at the blog at some of the other resources that Tony has put together on this topic.
Trey Austin also puts together some thoughts on James White's views as they were expressed in a debate between him and Steve Gregg

erik at Irish Calvinist gives out some info on the new Ben Stein movie: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and also a review of a book entitled, "The Dawkin's Letters"

Arthur Sido did some blogging at the Together for the Gospel conference.

One of my new favorite blog titles is a blog that is fun to read: Poop is Emergent Too and the author, David Drake, is starting a new collaborative effort over at Garage Reformation.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Global Warming?

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be

This book was written by two guys who couldn't be more different in their background and writing styles. Kevin DeYoung is the young, Reformed pastor, that takes this subject on a very subjective theological level, exposing carefully the doctrinal errors found in the Emergent church. Ted Kluck is just the opposite. Also, young, but a former athlete (he would love to hear that I said former), former semi professional football player, current sportswriter, and unapologetically sarcastic and whimsical. He takes on the subject much like I would, exposing the errors with witty banter and "low hanging fruit."

The book layout was great. Each author took a subject and then the chapters went back and forth throughout. So, you would get hit with the longer, theological, linear chapters of DeYoung, and then read the shorter stories and witty rebuttals from Kluck. I really enjoyed this as you really got the feel from two totally different perspectives of what is going on in the Emergent church.

The book's purpose is to really help people just better understand what the Emergent church is and what it does, or maybe better put, doesn't stand for. The main people that are refuted would be the same if you looked on any blog, namely, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and Tony Jones. What seemed to be the main focus of the entirety of the book would be the Emergent's focus on Kingdom living, instead of the totality of the work of Christ. In other words, more focused on morality, than understanding what is the first importance: the gospel.

DeYoung and Kluck came to the same conclusion that I have with the Emergent church and others that think just like them, which would be the fact that they are reacting to the more fundamental, legalistic churches, but doing so in the wrong manner. DeYoung and Kluck show that some of the questions that the Emergents bring to light are true and helpful to/against the mainstream church in America, but the way that they answer those questions are not only wrong, but actually harmful, and in some cases, flat out heretical.

The authors did much research for the material, so much so that they went to the different churches and events of this movement to "get their hands dirty". I found this book very helpful and know that those who are in the Emergent church will just see this as another "conversation" not worth having. But, for those who are on the fence or are starting to understand the Emergent problems, will find this a very helpful book on understanding the things that are going on with the Emergent leaders.

Actually, the best part of the book was in the epilogue, when DeYoung went through the churches in Revelation with special focus on Ephesus, Pergamum and Thyratira. This part was very balanced and showed how every church should try to take the good out of each of these churches and learn from them and also learn from the admonishment that Christ gives each as well. Of course, in the end, the idea was for the Emergent church to take a look at what is missing in their movement, which would be the very strongest part in the Ephesian church: defense of doctrine.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand the Emergent church in more detail. I just hope that people are able to learn from this book from within the movement and it isn't just used as ammunition to debate with. Link to Buy

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10 Steps to Become a Legalist: Step 6

When you pray, how do you pray? Is it long? short? in the morning? in the evening? sitting up? laying down? standing up? To be a good legalist, it isn't about what is correct, but what you deem as correct. Sometimes even if you sound more like a Muslim than a Christian. There are at least two things you need to take a stand on when you look at prayer: When and How.

1. When

When do you pray? In the morning, evening or afternoon? All three? You can really be a good legalist if you do all three, because if someone misses one of these times, you can show them how much closer you are to God and how far they are. Like most things when being a legalist, you really need to find some verses that will make you sound correct to the average Joe, so when he comes to you, you can really make him look stupid. Because that really is the goal of any good legalist, to show how holy you are, and how stupid or immature everyone else is. With legalists and prayer it usually comes in two ways, "I pray three times a day and they are times I have set aside" and the other is, "I don't need to set any time aside, but I pray all day to God." Most will pick one of these and run with it. So do you, if you want to become a forerunner for the contemporary legalist.

If you are a "three times a dayer" then a great verse to pick out is Daniel 6:10

Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.
Daniel 6:10

Clearly Daniel is Jesus incarnate making a command here to pray three times per day. Nevermind the fact that if you followed other ways of Daniel you would also not be homeschooled but schooled by the local government, as a command. Making all homeschoolers crazy and in sin. But, again, as a legalist, just ignore the first part of Daniel's life and really focus on the prayer part. It's just easier that way, plus, those immature Christian's that don't pray three times a day probably don't even know where the book of Daniel is located and just think he is some dude that fell in lion's cage and didn't get eaten because he was in the ark and was swallowed by a whale. Morons.

On the other side. If you are one to think that you should just pray as you feel led, then you should really just ignore Daniel and say that he was a crazy Old Testament guy and they had to do that because they didn't have the Holy Spirit. Nevermind this never works anywhere else in our lives consistantly...I mean, who is ever "felt led" to pay their bills? Or felt led to send out those corny Christmas cards with your kids and dog in matching sweaters? Oh wait...I just offended most of you...sorry...still funny, especially when the dog is front and center and your children are fighting to get in the picture.

To work out this thought process it would be good to use the following Scripture:

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Psalm 32:6a

Skip the fact that this is Old Testament too and your argument for Daniel has weakened. Use this verse to really show that you should just pray when you feel like it. God is always listening. So, pray to him in your car, on a walk, at work, or on the toilet, who cares where or when, just pray when you want, but to schedule a time is too "formal".

2. How

How do you pray? Do you pray really long prayers that sound like King James himself is speaking? or Do you pray really short prayers that sound more like prayers from
a hippie talking to a tie dyed salesman? Whichever one you are stick to it and then really poke fun of the others.

If you are the former, then this might flow from step 3 of our study on how to become a legalist. For some reason, most KJO folks, love to speak in that same way and their prayers are longer than a Billy Graham alter call. So go all the way. Use terms like "thee" and "thou" and put the letters "eth" on the end of everyeth wordeth. So, when you pray, no one can understand you, so how could they ever rebuke you? Plus God only hears those who babble for hours and use all these Old English terms. Sucks to be a non-English speaking "Christian". Remember, the longer the prayer, the more you love Jesus.

If you are into the short, lax prayers of the seeker movement, go for it. People have short attention spans so shorten up these prayers not only in public, but in your life as well. Plus, it will go really well with your "One Minute Bible." You can pray and read your Bible all during your bathroom break during commercials of Desperate Housewives, what a deal. Make sure that you laugh at all those who have long prayers, who use words you don't understand like "sin", "repentance" and "atonement"...who needs those words anyway?

Okay...enough with all this nonsense. Here is where I stand with prayer. We are told many things in the Bible about prayer. My belief on prayer is that we must take things from what we see in the Bible as a whole and apply them in our lives. I think we should definitely have set aside times to pray to make sure "we get it done." Sounds terrible to say (getting it done), but to be disciplined in prayer is a good thing. But, it isn't the only thing either. I always like to take a look to see what Jesus did. What a concept. We find Jesus doing both long prayers and short prayers. Taking specific times to pray and then also just lifting up his eyes at times and praying.

The Lord's Prayer is about a ten second prayer. The high priestly prayer was longer as was Christ's prayer in Garden (at least long enough to make people sleep...reminds me of my grandpa). The point is pray until you don't. Don't just repeat stuff to sound more holy and don't do a short prayer to appease those around you. Be mindful, but know that you are talking to God. We find that Jesus would "often slip away to pray" and that Jesus would also go off in the morning to a secluded place and pray. It seemed as though Christ had some appointed times of prayer but that he also would just start praying. His greatest, and if you were there you probably would have been caught off guard, was his high priestly prayer. It just says that they were talking and then all of the sudden Jesus, "lifted up his eyes to heaven." Jesus did this in the middle of a conversation. Now, this is Jesus so it was cool, but can you imagine doing this at a dinner party? You are talking about football with someone and all the sudden they break out in prayer? The point is that Christ not only appointed times of prayer, but prayed when he felt like praying as well.

So, for us to learn from this, I would say to have a time to pray and also pray throughout the day to the Lord. Pray long or short, I don't care, but pray as God leads you and pray like you would if you were talking to someone you knew instead of talking like some theologian from the 1600's. But, as you pray also know that you are praying to your Creator and so don't just be flippant, but reverant.

May God be praised and may we pray when we don't want to and when we desire to, this is the idea behind the great verse of Paul:

Pray without ceasing
1 Thess 5:17

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

American Idol Gives Back...with Jesus?

My wife and I were bored to tears tonight and watched the American Idol Gives Back special on Fox. They are actually doing some amazing things around the world and in the U.S. to raise money for the poor and uneducated. What struck me was the last song that they were to sing was "Shout to the Lord." I was busy at my computer but this made my ears perk up when I heard it. If you aren't familiar with the song, it starts with:

My Jesus, My Savior
Lord there is none like You
All of my days, I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love
My Comfort, My Shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You

As I was watching Idol I was pretty down to think that all these people are trying to give hope to people without Christ. I believe their efforts are very good ones and much needed and should spur us Christians to make sure that we are also giving the gift of physical life to people around the world. Of course what we can offer alongside this is much greater and much more important, namely, the water that will make them thirst no more. The only thing that makes me a little queasy about these things is all the praise that is given to all the celebrities that help out, but whatever, I understand. But, as they announced the last song, I was thinking, "I can't believe that we are going to hear the very name of Jesus said on national TV, during a very emotional fund raiser by a secular show and station. But, I was led astray. I was baited and switched.

The song starts off in the original, "My Jesus, my Savior" but as the Idols started to sing out the words it came out flat and offensive, because they instead took the very name of Christ and omitted it from the line. Instead they sang, "My Shepherd, My Savior." Once again, proving that the name of God doesn't offend, but Jesus does. Again, showing that no one wants to offend anyone, besides the Christ fearing Christian. Sad, but true.

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
John 15:18

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
Acts 4:12

So, American Idol, not wanting to offend, decided to offend me, by purposely leaving out the very name that was given to us to save us. The very name that was given to me and saved me.

Even though Idol doesn't know it or believe it, I do know and do believe that He is truly,
My Jesus, My Saviour and there is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved.

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The Lord of the Flies

In Sunday School we have been studying through the Old Testament and we came across the golden calf about 2 weeks ago and I thought of something that was of some interest. The story goes that Moses comes off the mountain and finds Aaron and all these morons dancing and worshiping around a golden calf. (See dancing is a sin...kidding...but still funny). Moses is pretty peeved and does something pretty interesting. It is found in Exodus 32:20

He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.
Exodus 32:20

Now, most commentators say that the reason that this happened was because of the bitterness that the gold would turn the water's taste into, hence, Israel could see the bitterness of their sin. But, what if there is more to this?

When looking at our sin, we see that it is very grotesque in the sight of the Lord. Not only this, but anytime we find false prophets, God loves to make an example of them, sometimes even making fun of them. Jeremiah says that they are "committing adultery with stones and trees" and Jesus calls false prophets blind, snakes and sons of the devil.

When we look to sin Paul is one of the most descriptive of his legalism in Phil 3:8 when he says that he counts all his fleshly honor as "rubbish." Which is a very strong word that means "dung" or "crap" or other very strong words meaning animal excretion. Isaiah even tells us that our righteous deeds are like "dirty menstrual rags" or for those less versed, they are like bloody tampons. If you want to know how terrible sin is just read Ezekiel's accounts (Ezekiel 16)of the sins of Israel as he tells them that are like whores with their legs open to any that pass by. If this all isn't enough, the five sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus 1-7 should be enough to convince us that sin is truly an ugly thing to our God.

When we start to piece some things together, I think that the punishment of the golden calf is a little more than we think. When Elijah is on Mount Carmel comparing Baal to God, he says some pretty funny stuff but he also makes a suggestion that is pretty grotesque. Here is the verse that I am looking to:

It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”
1 Kings 18:27

Pretty funny stuff. What is more funny is what Elijah suggests Baal is doing. The Hebrew word "siyach" or "occupied" is a term that was used of someone relieving himself. Elijah was asking if their god was on the toilet.

What connection does this have with Exodus 32? Here is the connection, and I believe God was giving the Israelites a word picture of what they did. 1 Corinthians 10:20 tells us that when the Gentiles sacrifice, or worship, someone other than God, they sacrifice to demons. We know that Satan is the head of the demons (Matt 12:24; Mark 3:22) and one of the words that is used of Satan in the New Testament is the term "Beezelbul" in Luke 11:18. When you do some searching you learn that this name is also used in the Old Testament and the term is of a god which means, "Lord of the Flies" or "Lord of Crap." Which shows why Elijah would make such a statement. Elijah saying that maybe their god is worshiping himself on the toilet.

Here is the picture that God is giving the Israelites. When the Israelites drink this water with their god in it, they will not pee this god out, but they will literally crap out their god. God shows the Israelites exactly what their god is, what he is god of and what good he is. God gives a great picture to the Israelites so that they will know exactly who is in charge and what kind of worth their golden calf is. Elijah suggested it, the Israelites had to experience it. Crazy stuff.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Where Do Babies Go When They Die? Part II

I wanted to give some additional thoughts on the issue of where babies go when they die. I will be honest that I have not studied out these thoughts as much as I would have liked before posting, but I don't mind to put it out there and see what others think. Again, I want to say that through this, I still don't believe that we can be dogmatic about the stance of these thoughts. I would say that God gives us some great clues on what the final stance is, but not dogmatic ones. So, like most things that I teach or write, I sound very dogmatic about it because they are my convictions, but I don't want any to think that I believe that I have arrived in my theology or that I see this as a dead issue with no debate left to wrestle with. With that said, here are some further thoughts on this issue.

Reason #4 that all children go to heaven (click here for previous post to see reasons 1-3)

Jesus died for the sin of Adam.

From a historical reformed position, John 1:29 was seen by many to mean that Jesus died for the sin of Adam for all people.

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:29

Notice what Christ takes away for the world: sin. It is singular, not plural in this verse. What singular, or one, sin could John be talking about?

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
Romans 5:18

Notice that the one act of righteousness by Christ resulted in justification of life to all men. How could this be? Well, if we are talking about the singular headship sin of Adam to all men, then we could speak of Christ removing this sin by the cross. Because the result of Adam's sin is spiritual death. This death results in men not being able to respond to God, the things of God being foolishness to them, men becoming useless because of it. This is why we need regeneration. So, Adam's sin has been taken away by the cross of Christ. So, then, babies would not go to hell based on Adam's sin.

Reason #5: People go to hell for their deeds

We have to ask, "why do people go to hell?" Is it because of Adam's sin, or the sin of the sinner? From what I have been able to study, and I am up for correction in this, we go to hell because of our sin, not because of Adam's.

Look at these two verses (there are many others):

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;
1 Peter 1:17

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:12-15

It looks like the reason that people will not be found in the book of life, besides election, is because of their evil deeds. This is why they will go to hell. It will be because of their sin, not because of God. When someone stands at the judgment seat, they cannot say that they did not sin, or that they don't believe that Adam was their head. They will be shown their actual sin that they committed and they will know it is sin because of Romans 2:15,16:
in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
Romans 2:15-16

So, ignorance cannot be a reason. One might ask, "don't children sin?" The answer is definitely, "yes", but again in my last post we also have to ask the question of "do they know their sin?" To this I would say, "no, they do not 'know' their sin" and God is merciful towards this as he was to the children of the Israelites in Deuteronomy 1 when it states,"And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it." I would also add that from what tree did Adam and Eve die from? Was it not from the tree of KNOWLEDGE of good and evil? I would like to do some more study on this thought, but it seems that the knowing of sin is of great importance to God. This knowing of your sin is from what you die eternally for, not just the sin itself. This has great implications of our children and their sin.

I know that this is not conclusive evidence, but it definitely points me to the understanding that David definitely had, namely, if one of my children dies before knowing sin, I believe that I will return to them in my death, and I will tell any mother who loses their child the very same thing, with confidence.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Where Do Babies Go When They Die?

This question was posed to me last night by one of my students. I thought I would put my thoughts here as a post and discuss. This is a very close to home subject for me, as my wife has had two, possibly three, miscarriages, so this really is a theology from both the mind and from the heart for me. I also have two children (pictured above) at the ages of 5 and 2 that are not old enough to fully "repent and believe." So, what am I to believe if one of them were taken from me? From what I understand, there are three thoughts on this:

1. All babies go to heaven when they die
2. All babies go to hell when they die
3. God elects some babies to heaven and leaves some as the reprobate

I am not going to go into a discussion with all three of these, but will say that I respect the third point and think those that believe that all babies go to hell need to rethink their theology and also the love of God. I really have a hard time with people who believe that all babies will go to hell when they die and don't have much patience with them. Those who believe the third point, I respect greatly because they say they are going to leave this decision to God and trust Him in his perfect wisdom. I respect it, but don't believe that they are correct.

I believe in the first. Namely, that all babies go to heaven when they die. Let me give you some reasons.

First, Jesus seems to infer this

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 18:3-6,10

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:14

Jesus seems to really dismiss any who would say that all infants go to hell. Jesus says that heaven belongs to the children. That you must have faith as a child and humble yourself like a child. This isn't definitive to dismiss point three from above, or prove my point beyond doubt, but it's a start.

Second, David believed his child was going to heaven

When David and Bathsheba had a child out of wedlock, God punished them by killing the baby. When we watch David he is very telling of his theology of infant salvation and the healing power and grace of God. David knew that the child should die, but he also knew the grace of God the healer. So, as the child was alive he fasted, prayed and wept for the child to be shown mercy. But, when the child died, it simply says:

So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and bworshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate.
2 Samuel 12:20

Basically, life went back to normal. When asked about this, David gives his reasoning for assurance:

“But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
2 Samuel 12:23

David says that he will go to him. Unless you believe that David was headed to hell, this pretty good evidence that David is confident that his child is in heaven.

We also know that David was a man that God was not afraid to rebuke for not only his sins, but also for bad theology as well. When David didn't listen to God about how to carry the ark of the covenant, but placed it on a cart like the Philistines and Uzzah touched it and died, David wasn't happy. But, notice that after the fact, he no longer put the ark on a cart, but people carried it (2 Samuel 6:13) like they were supposed to. The point is that God corrected David and his bad theology on how to carry the ark and David responded by changing his method.

I believe for infant salvation the passage in 2 Samuel 12:23 looms very large. This is David who believed this, not some shmuck. David had close communication with God, was just rebuked by God through Nathan, and yet when David believes his child is in heaven, God doesn't rebuke him or speak against him in any way concerning these thoughts.

Lastly, we find the final clincher. It is found in Deuteronomy 1:34-39:

When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: “Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.” Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.

Now, I don't believe in an actual age of accountability, but I do believe that God shows grace to those who are born into sin and yet don't have the capacity to call out on the Lord Jesus Christ to save them from their sin. I believe that Christ died for all men on the cross and covered their sin completely, but only through belief, is Christ's righteousness imputed to the man and his sins wiped away. But, because children cannot believe because of their youth, I believe God shows grace as he did to these children in Deuteronomy 1. He literally says that they do not know good from bad. Now, we know that children know if they are lying or being rebellious even at a young age, but the word "know" is a larger intention. The understanding is not to know what sin is, but a real understanding of the depths it has on the relationship with the Lord and the implications of it. It is an intimate knowledge, not merely a factual one. Children don't have the capacity to have an intimate knowledge of their sin and the impacts it has on their true Father God.

I am not sure when children come to this knowledge, as I believe that all children are different. Some may never come to this knowledge because they have downs syndrome. I think when we put all these together, we can confidently say that God shows grace to the children and that heaven will indeed be filled with infants, all praising God for his grace, as we will.

Now, let every mother and father here present know assuredly that it is well with the child, if God hath taken it away from you in its infant days. You never heard its declaration of faith, it was not capable of such a thing, it was not baptized into the Lord Jesus Christ, not buried with him in baptism; it was not capable of giving that "answer of a good conscience towards God;" nevertheless, you may rest assured that it is well with the child, well in a higher and a better sense than it is well with yourselves; well without limitation, well without exception, well infinitely, "well" eternally.
Charles Spurgeon

"I hope you are both well reconciled to the death of your child. I cannot be sorry for the death of infants. How many storms do they escape! Nor can I doubt, in my private judgment, that they are included in the election of grace."
John Newton (writing to friends who lost a child)

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Offices of Christ Video

Here is a video I put together on the Offices of Christ that I preached a couple of months ago. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

10 Steps to Become a Legalist: Step 5

To be a true legalist, you have to get a little bit silly on some stuff, and this is one of them. You need to know that the way, the time and the when you study your Bible is exactly how all should do so. Anyone that doesn't study just like you do, is just not as mature as you and you need to bring them up to speed.

How do you study the Bible? Do you just simply read a chapter? Do you break down the verse like you are a back woods surgeon? Which ever way you do it, make sure you preach that it is the only way to do it, and that everyone else is as crazy as a TBN salesman...uhum...I meant TBN preacher.

You must take the verse, "Your word I have treasured in my heart," to mean whatever you want it to mean for your study.

So, if you break down verse by verse and parse it like you are going to teach a class in Hebrew and Greek, then that is the only way to do it. Those people who just read their Bible are as shallow as a kiddie pool, or a Presbyterian baptismal, and need to get to some real study. I mean how will they know that Jesus died for their sins, unless they know that the term "died" in the Greek means, "died"?

But, if you are a Presbyterian baptismal, then you must assert that those who do more than just read the Bible are going a little far. They are just cold theologians who love their knowledge more than Jesus. Don't they know that Paul said, "knowledge puffs up"? Keep saying that the reason that you read the Bible like you do is because they were letters written to be read in one sitting. If the Corinthians didn't sit around parsing sentences then why should I? Wait...the Corinthians knew Greek? And lived in that culture? Hmmmm...maybe I should study some more?

Not only should you press everyone to study just like you but you also should make sure that they study at the same time and for as long as you do. Everyone knows the best time to study is in the morning. You have to start your day off with Jesus or there is no way that you can be a strong Christian throughout the day. You're not a morning person? Get over it, you have to be, to be a strong mature Christian. Not only should you start your day with Jesus but if you don't study, or read your Bible (if you're one of those), for at least an hour, how do you get anything out of the Bible? What do you do, read your Bible for 20 minutes and then pray? You do? You must be a shallow Christian. What? You read the Bible at other times during the day too? You are also reading Christian books and listening to sermons? You live out your Christian study by serving others? Hmmm...not sure what you are getting at but those things need to be put to the side to make sure that you study for an hour.

This post seems silly and is silly. But, I have run into many people that not only believe that their way of study is a good way, but the only way. I have run into people who believe that if you don't spend an hour a day, in the morning, with a complete understanding of Greek and Hebrew, then you are not really doing Bible study. Not only this, but if they speak to anyone who doesn't study the way that they do, they look down on them. I don't mind people who try and help others with Bible study, but some take this so seriously that it makes me laugh. Some forget that people learn in different ways and at different times. Some are morning people some are night people. I have given much advice on this issue, but I used to be really weird in my views of how "it should be done." I used to be one of these, "only in the morning, and at least for 30 minutes," kind of guys. I was weird. Still am, but that is way beyond the point.

I think both of the views of Bible study I gave above could learn from each other. I have found at times myself breaking down one verse for days on end, and have also found myself simply reading through different passages to get a full view of things. But, to say that "one size fits all" works about as good as that big ugly shirt in the corner of your closet does, that you got because you were one of the first 3,000 fans at the minor league baseball game.

Let's be gracious in this. Let's learn from each other in this. Let's find what works for others and do something amazing with that information...try it for ourselves. Maybe you will find a way that you didn't think would work in the past for you, but actually opens up the Scriptures in ways you haven't seen in the past.

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