12/30/2007

Another great song…

I sang “In Christ Alone” this morning at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, TN. It captures so much of the true gospel message. It was powerful to sing it with the thousand or so others in attendance at this church. I’ll post the lyrics below as found here. The story behind the song is given here.

“In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend / Keith Getty

IN CHRIST ALONE my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! - who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand!

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music

12/28/2007

The More I Read, The More Sense He Makes…

I’ve looked up some things on Ed Stetzer’s site over at NAMB Center for Missional Research. This guy found some interesting points from some survey work he has done regarding unchurched people’s perception of Southern Baptists:

“almost half of those surveyed just have no familiarity with who we are”

This is most disheartening. We spend a lot of time discussing our “Baptist Identity.” It seems that the people we are supposed to be trying to reach are not in on the discussion.

“Among the unchurched people who expressed an opinion, almost three times as many said [a church’s identifying itself as Southern Baptist] it would have a negative impact [on their feelings for toward that church].” – This held true even in the southern states.

It’s startling. We have a long way to go. But we are ot without hope:

...it may be more difficult to engage them in church based evangelism. It will require us to build relationships with them in order to break the negative image they hold before many will consider the claims of Christ. But in spite of this, the opportunities are great. Many recent studies have shown that the unchurched are willing to listen and consider the claims of the gospel… we must encounter people in the flow of life to have an impact. We must think incarnationally and not just attractionally to reach the unchurched today. And the way to do that is to get outside our church facilities where the people are, and bring them inside where we are.

The short version seems to be that people are interested in Christ, just not our part of His church. I for one will try to learn to be more interested in them than I am in us.

12/27/2007

A Voice

Ed Stetzer talks some sense over at Resurgence:

Yes, scripture shows that we share Christ, starting with people's understanding, interests, and needs. But we cannot and must not end there, for their needs can only really be met (whether they realize it or not) by meeting Jesus.


Could there be a voice of common sense in the war of words over the seeker-sensitive movement? I think I may have found one.

12/25/2007

Christmas Carols are Really Hymns

I had the chance last night to attend a Christmas Eve Service at my brother-in-law’s church in Knoxville: Redeemer Presbyterian. Thankfully, they do not share the annoying Baptist tendency to sing only a few verses of the song. (We say, “The first and the last verse;” or “The first, third and forth verses.”) I was reminded of some wonderful truths buried in the verses we don’t usually sing.

“Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.” - O Come All Ye Faithful, verse 3.

An allusion to the first chapter of John. The wonderful truth that God has freely chosen to reveal Himself to us in the Person of Christ, very God and very man.

“Nails, spear, shall pierce him through; the cross be borne for me, fo you.” – What Child is This, verse 2.

That Christ came to die for us is often ignored by our culture. He came to die for us. He emptied Himself , voluntarily not exercising all of His power and attributes, to pay the ultimate penalty for all who have faith in Him.

“To free all those who trust in Him / From Satan’s power and might.” - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, verse 3.

Christ won victory over the guilt of our sin and the power of Satan to hold us in sin’s grip. Christus Victor, Christ the Victor.

“Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, verse 3.

Christ has won victory over death and the grave. Our loved ones who die in Him will live again. Death has no victory. Death has lost it’s sting. Christus Victor, indeed!

And last that hit my notice (not all that can be learned, I am sure):

“No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make his blessings flow / Far as the curse is found…” – Joy to the World, verse 3.

The curse earned for us by Adam and Eve has been broken. It can be cast away. We can join Him in exercising dominion over His world.

That God would have us join with Him in this most noble of endeavors blows me away. I hope we can learn to steward our resources, protect our environment, care for those who do not have the necessities of life, and love in practical ways those God created in His image.

Merry Christmas!

12/23/2007

Immanuel

Thanks to Vitamin Z for my Christmas quote for this year:

"God with us." It is hell's terror. Satan trembles at the sound of it; the black-winged dragon of the pit quails before it. Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, "God with us," back he falls, confounded and confused. "God with us" is the laborer's strength; how could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor, if that one word were taken away? "God with us" is the sufferer's comfort, the balm of his woe, the alleviation of his misery, the sleep which God gives to his beloved, their rest after exertion and toil. "God with us" is eternity's sonnet, heaven's hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. - Charles Spurgeon

John Newton on Election

On the election discussion, I leave you all with John Newton, author of Amazing Grace:

“...You have objections to the doctrine of election. You will however, agree with me, that the Scripture does speak of it, and that in very strong and express terms; particularly St. Paul … Admitting, as I am sure you will admit, the total depravity of human nature, how can we account for the conversion of a soul to God, unless we likewise admit to an election of grace? The work must begin somewhere. Either the sinner first seeks the Lord, or the Lord first seeks the sinner ... In your own case you acknowledge he began with you; and it must be the case universally to all that are called, if the whole race of mankind are by nature enemies to God … What has made us differ from our former selves? Grace. What has made us differ from those who are as we once were? Grace … They who believe there is any power in man by nature, whereby he can turn to God, may contend for a conditional election, upon the foresight of faith and obedience: but while others dispute, let you and me admire, for we know that the Lord foresaw us (as we were) in a state utterly incapable of either believing or obeying, unless he was pleased to work in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure.”

“As the doctrines of election and perseverance are comfortable, so they cut off all pretense of boasting and self-dependence, when they are truly received in the heart, and therefore tend to exalt the Savior. Of course they tend to stain the pride of all human glory, and leave us nothing to glory in but the Lord. The more we are utterly convinced of our depravity first to last, the more excellent will Jesus appear.”


from John Newton, Author of Amazing Grace, as quoted here.

12/20/2007

Passion

"I know when apostolic passion has died in my heart. It happens when I don't spend my quiet time dreaming of the time when Jesus will be worshiped in languages that aren't yet heard in heaven. I know it's missing from my life when I sing about heaven, but live as if earth is my home. Apostolic passion is dead in my heart when I dream more about sports, toys, places to go and people to see, than I do about the nations worshiping Jesus." - Floyd Mclung, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (William Carey Library, 1999)


I pray that God would awaken in us a holy zeal to see His Name glorified among the nations this Christmas Season. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) church I am a member of celebrates this time of year with the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, a chance to give to further the cause of world missions. The International Missions Board of the SBC fielded over 5,000 missionaries, and I can count several family members in that noble cadre. Let us give and pray that other might go and tell.

12/15/2007

Wow

I found a great video over at Extreme Theology. He titled it Wow. I’m with him; I’ll say it again backwards, wow.

I agree with this young black woman that Christ has been distorted in the ways she mentions. I long to see Christ raised in all His glory.

See the comments section on the post linked above for some insightful discussion.

"Good" Works

I found a great post over at Girl Talk on our “good” works while I was looking for a quote. Here’s a taste: “I must follow the example of one David Dickson who said: “I make a heap of all my bad works and all my good works and I flee them both to Christ.””

12/14/2007

Free Advice

If I were a full-time, on-campus seminary or Christian college student, I would follow the advice given here.

Controversy

Thanks to a link from Borrowed Light on controversy found via the Founder's Blog. John Newton makes great sense here.

Newton had a unique way of handling controversy, and Calvinists like me could learn a lot from him in how to deal with people who disagree with us. I’ve heard it said he used his Calvinism like sweetner in his tea: you don’t eat raw sugar, you mix it into your tea in just the right amount, let it permeate the whole cup, and then enjoy your tea.

My hope is that I will use the doctrines of grace in the same way. I let them color everything I write or speak on behalf of Christ, but I don’t let them become the main thing in and of themselves.

12/10/2007

Another Shooting

Prayers for those at New Life Church and at YWAM

A good collection of links to information is here.

Books, and friends

I’ve been tagged by Ryan Jones with a book “meme.” Here goes.

1. One book that changed your life: “The Holy Bible, English Standard Version” (Read it in 90 days; I dare you! Okay, if you can’t do it in 90 days, at least do it in one year.)

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: “The Holiness of God” by R. C. Sproul

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: I’m with Chesterton: “A Practical Guide to Shipbuilding.” I’m an Eagle Scout; I can stay alive until I get the ship built.

4. One book that made you laugh: “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson

5. One book that made you cry: "The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

6. One book that you wish had been written:“Systematic Theology” by John H. Gerstner

7. One book that you wish had never been written: “The Jews and Their Lies” by Martin Luther

8. One book you’re currently reading: “The Future of Justification” by John Piper

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: “Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem

10. Now tag five people:

Augustinian Successor

LP Cruz

Stephen Newel

thatatheistguy

Debbie Kaufman


I just don’t want to stop there. Books I highly recommend, in order from highest to lowest:

The place to go before, during, and after:

“The Holy Bible, English Standard Version”

How to Get It:

“The Holiness of God” by R. C. Sproul
“Saved from What” by R. C. Sproul
“Christ Alone” by Rod Rosenbladt
“Faith Alone” by R. C. Sproul
“All of Grace” by C. H. Spurgeon

How to Give It Away:

“Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” by J. I Packer
“Evangelism Explosion” by D. James Kennedy
“Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless” by C. John Miller
“Let the Nations Be Glad” by John Piper
“Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper

Why It is what It is:

“When Skeptics Ask” by Norman H. Geisler
“The Law of Perfect Freedom” by Michael Scott Horton
“Keeping in Step With the Spirit” by J. I. Packer
“One Holy Passion” by R. C. Sproul (this has recently been published under a different title that I can’t remember, it’s about God’s attributes)
“A Summary of Christian Doctrine” by Louis Berkhof
“Counted Righteous in Christ” by John Piper
“Reasons for Faith” by John H. Gerstner

Why you should be a Baptist:

“Baptist Beliefs” by E. Y. Mullins
“Baptism and Church Membership” by Errol Hulse

Some titles for those who want to go “off the deep end:”

Any and All Bible Commentaries by John Calvin
“Commentary on the Book of Galatians” by Martin Luther
“Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth” by John H. Gerstner (great for 'recovering dispensationalists' like me)
“Systematic Theology” by J. P. Boyce
“Getting the Gospel Right” by R. C. Sproul
“Systematic Theology” by Charles Hodge
“Classical Apologetics” by Sproul, et. al.
“The Shape of Sola Scriptura” by Keith Matheson
“The Works of Jonathan Edwards” – Yale University Press Editions (Read the man himself, not just Gerstner’s or Piper’s interpretation of him, good though they may be. Good luck with the long sentences.)

Egyptian Records of the Exodus?

William Lane Craig gives a short account of a presentation at “the joint annual conventions of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.” He attended:

One of the most bizarre and intriguing sessions … a meeting of the American Society for Oriental Research in which the speaker showed what he claims are Egyptian records of the Exodus! These are not new discoveries, but known material which has just never been connected with the Exodus. It has to do with paintings and inscriptions on the walls of the tomb of Thutmose III (ca. 1500 B.C.) which show (in color!) waters parting and Egyptian soldiers and the Pharaoh himself being drowned. There are references to the Nile’s being turned to blood and other aspects of the biblical account. Typically, these Egyptian narratives are taken to refer to some primordial event in Egypt’s mythological past. But the speaker said that at the very least they falsify the conventional wisdom that there is just nothing in Egyptian records like the Exodus. An archaeologist I spoke with denounced the claims as baloney (he was considerably less polite), but it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. David Noel Friedman, a highly respected Jewish scholar, is helping to publish these findings very soon.


It will be very interesting to see if more comes of this.

12/08/2007

An Effort at Clarification – Faith and Repentance

I have been listening to a series of lectures / sermons by John Piper on "Understanding Future Grace". I’d like to add my two cents.

Pastor John makes a comment in the second lecture that he thinks Calvinists have not spent enough time and effort exploring why it is that the new birth leads to a change in a person’s life. I’d like to offer some thoughts on why this is the case.

Faith is of it very essence a form of trust. The article on faith from the 1689 London Baptist Confession discusses faith as follows:

By faith a Christian believes everything to be true that is made known in the Word, in which God speaks authoritatively. He also perceives in the Word a degree of excellence superior to all other writings, indeed to all things that the world contains. The Word shows the glory of God as seen in His various attributes, the excellence of Christ in His nature and in the offices He bears, and the power and perfection of the Holy Spirit in all the works in which He is engaged. In this way the Christian is enabled to trust himself implicitly to the truth thus believed, and to render service according to the different requirements of the various parts of Scripture. To the commands he yields obedience; when he hears threatenings he trembles; as for the divine promises concerning this life and that which is to come, he embraces them. But the principal acts of saving faith relate in the first instance to Christ as the
believer accepts, receives and rests upon Him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life; and all by virtue of the covenant of grace.


To have faith in Christ is to trust Him and what He did to pay the penalty for our sin and provide a righteousness we can be credited with. But I propose that faith involves more.

If we are to trust Christ when He tells us how to get to heaven, we should also trust what He says about how to live our lives here on earth (John 3:12). We don’t get to pick and choose what we trust Christ on. This trust results in a changed attitude.

What do we need to have this kind of trust? We first need to believe certain facts about Christ. Among them: that He was God come to earth and that He died on the cross for our sins. (The exact minimum knowledge required for a person to come to saving faith is a worthy topic of discussion, and I defer to R. C. Sproul in his book The Truth of the Cross.)

But saving faith moves beyond this intellectual assent to facts. It moves into the area of trust. The old illustration about a chair is a good one. There is a chair setting in the room with me as I type this. It looks like a strong chair. It is not bent or damaged. I have seen other people sit in it. I have no reason to believe it will not hold me up. But it is not holding me up right now for a very simple reason: I am not sitting in it. For the chair to hold me I have to make a decision to sit in it, walk across the room, and actually put myself into the seat. I have not trusted the chair until I have sat in it.

Saving faith is like that. I rest all of my hope for friendship and fellowship with God in this life and the next in Christ and what He did for me. The old acrostic is a good one:
FAITH – forsaking all I trust Him. I stop trusting in what I have done, my “good” works, to earn my way into heaven. I begin to trust Christ.

Wrapped up in this trust in a confidence in what He said about how to live life (John 3:12). This trust will result in a change in our behavior. We are transformed by the “renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:1-2). Our change in attitude toward our sin results in a change in the way we live our lives. Our minds are set on things above (Col. 3:1-17), and we live where our minds are set (Romans 6:1-12, 8:1-11).

Saving faith carries within itself the seed of repentance. Confident trust in Christ leads to a change in the way we live. Not perfection. We always find that the good we want to do, we do and the evil we do not want to do we do (Ro. 7:7-25). But we begin to live lives of repentance, keeping short accounts with God and confessing the sin His Spirit brings to our minds. We continue to trust that Christ’s sacrifice pays for our sins.

Of course, Piper is right we he says that we begin to desire Christ above all else and treasure Him above all things. We do find our joy in Him. We are not trusting a set of facts; we are trusting a person. It is impossible to truly trust a person we do not respect and admire. It is not easy to trust a person whose company we do not enjoy, and to trust a person with all of our lives is the most difficult type of trust to have. We find our delight in Christ because of His winsomeness and uniqueness. We are awakened to Christ’s attraction by a decisive work of the Holy Spirit.

Is this a good way to see saving faith? Does this cover the bases? Is it amateurish exegesis? I’d like to get some other opinions on this.

I’d also like to ask if this kind of faith is a faith that you posses. Do you trust Christ with your life? If not, why not? What stands in the way?

12/03/2007

Dangerously Surrendered

I recently purchased and read Kay Warren’s new book, and I must confess I am impressed. Take everything that Rick Warren has ever written and place it on one hand. Take Kay Warren’s book onto your other hand. You will instantly fell the greater weight on the book Kay has composed.

Is it perfect? No book written by mere men / women ever is. We always lack the spark of the divine. Kay cites several authors I have never heard of, and these may bother me after I find out more about them. But those things should not take away from the force of this book.

Here’s a sample:

We are such wimps – really, we are. Living in a sophisticated developed country where life is full of comfort and conveniences has weakened our character and our resolve. We often look for the easy way out of challenging situations and even pride ourselves on doing the minimum required – just enough to get by. Discipline, sacrifice, cost – these are not popular concepts.

When was the last time you read a magazine article on how to grow in self-sacrifice? About the only time we’re willing to be self-disciplined or sacrificial or to pay a price is when it has a personal benefit to ourselves – when it helps us achieve a goal that matters to us. We keep hoping we can get something for nothing. We cling to the
fantasy that following Jesus won’t cost us anything.

Not so!

– Kay Warren, Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2007, p. 200.


She raises a clear challenge to all of us who have become complacent in our riches and slothful in our engagement of those suffering around us.

May God use this book to turn many to praise His name.

11/29/2007

Stenger, Part 2

Here’s a second post on Victor J. Stenger’s book. I’ll focus on his idea of lack of structure at the universe’s beginning. I’ll then look at some of the implications of his interpretation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. (Stenger, Victor J. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does not Exist, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2007)

He is clear and easy to understand here: “At [the beginning] the universe had no structure. That meant that it had no distinguishable place, direction, or time. In such a situation, the conservation laws apply.” (131)

Elsewhere he writes, “…an expanding universe could have started in total chaos and still formed localized order consistent with the second law [of thermodynamics].” (118)

First, as I have noted before, there may well be structure and order in the universe that we cannot yet identify. Vast complexity is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend. The ever increasing body of knowledge held by science is apparent in history. We may just have more to learn.

Second, I have already discussed Stenger’s difficulties in identifying a lack of structure based on logic and observation. We must have an idea of structure to recognize a lack of structure. Just where did this idea come from? Are we to think that matter in motion gives us the power to identify logical / orderly patterns?

A quote Stenger shares is telling:

“The only laws of matter are those which our minds must fabricate, and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.” – James Clerk Maxwell (as quoted on page 113)



There is yet another problem. Citing a lack of order at the creation of the universe, Stenger postulates that the Second Law of Thermodynamics could still hold in a universe which is expanding, losing energy as a whole, but providing increases in energy or order within localized pockets. (117ff.)

If the universe is infinitely old, why hasn’t the usable energy completely wound down? (See here and here.) Stenger tries to get around this devastating question by appealing at several points to a universe that just appeared. He uses sophisticated language, but basically states it came in to being spontaneously from nothing. As R. C. Sproul is so quick to point out, nothing comes from nothing. Nothing is “no thing.” With no being, it cannot do or cause anything. (See this book and some of the quotes on this site.)

I could also cite Jonathan Edward’s discussion of the fact that “nothing” is incomprehensible. As soon as we define what nothing “is,” it begins to be something. We cannot think of nothing, so it cannot be an alternative to be evaluated against another idea. This is the ultimate proof of any truth: we cannot think of the contrary. Something must have always been here. (We could also discuss the implications of the incomprehensibility of nothing for the ontological argument, but that is really beyond this post. It is discussed here.)

All in all, Stenger’s book is worth a read. It will help a person “see into” the world of a scientist who holds firmly to atheism. It does not, however, present cogent arguments against God’s existence. The God Hypothesis does not fail. It is strongly affirmed by the logical interpretation of evidence cited by Stenger himself.

11/22/2007

Thanksgiving Day

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the U. S., and I wanted to offer a prayer. It is my habit to pray in the plural because I am of the firm conviction that no Christian ever prays alone.

Father in Heaven, we come before you this morning in awe of Your justice, Your power, Your love, Your mercy and Your grace. We praise You for who You are as You reveal Yourself to us in your Word.

We confess, Lord, that we have sinned against You, in the things we have done, the things we have thought, and the things we have said. We have sinned in doing things we should not have. We have sinned in not doing the things You would have us do.

We are truly sorry, and in reverent fear of You, we humbly repent. Please forgive us.

We thank You that we can be forgiven because of what Christ did for us on the cross.

Give us new hearts and new lives that we may glorify You in all we think, say, and do. Help us to live each day looking backward to the cross as our hope and forward to heaven as our vision. Give us assurance of our salvation and victory over our sins that our humbled hearts might be of service to others.

Thank you that we live in a country which allows us so much freedom to live out our faith. Help us to take advantage of this freedom in word and deed. Help those who do not have our freedom of worship, who meet together in secret, who live in fear of what their governments or their cultures or even families might do to them. Give them a special sense of Your presence and power.

Thank you for our wealth. We have warm, dry shelter; clean water; nutritious food; and strong clothing. Help us to be mindful of those less fortunate than ourselves. Grant that we can provide to others in Christ’s name.

Thank you for our friends and family. Give us rest from our labors on this holiday to meet with them. Bless our fellowship.

We have so much more to be thankful for, but most of all, we thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, and his life and sacrifice.

In His Name we pray, AMEN.

11/19/2007

Stenger, Part One

I have been reading an interesting book by Victor J. Stenger that I would like to interact with over my next few posts. (Stenger, Victor J. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does not Exist, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2007).

To quote Stenger: “The people performing the study, that is, those taking and analyzing the data, must do so without any prejudgment of how the results should come out.” (24)

Is there any such thing as an unbiased person? Can anyone claim to be completely objective in his or her pursuit of truth?

Greg Bahnsen notes that:
…a person's most fundamental beliefs (or presuppositions) determine what he or she will accept as evidence and determine how that evidence will be interpreted. … Our presuppositions about the nature of reality and knowledge will control what we accept as evidence and how we view it.

Even more interesting is Stenger’s reference to computer simulation. Computer programs help us understand “how simple systems can self-organize themselves.” (65) These computer programs immediately fall victim to the base facts of computer manufacture and programming. To create a simulation, we need a working computer which is fabricated by an outside intelligence, a programming language which is a way to interpret binary digits written by an outside intelligence, and a system of algorithms written by an outside intelligence to even begin. (Please see my attempt to unpack these statements here.)

This is even admitted on page 65: “… these demonstrations start by assuming a few simple rules and them programming a computer to follow those rules.” There would be no rules, simple or complex, in a random universe for a computer to follow. Organization is always imposed by intelligence.

Much of Stenger’s argument turns on the idea that “…the universe had no structure…” at its beginning (131). One quick question: how do we know there was no structure at the beginning?
First, there may well be a structure that we have not been able to identify. There is no reason to believe we have learned all there is to know about order and chaos. I find the study and application of chaos theory to be exciting.

Second, how were we able to recognize disorder in the first place? Can disorder be defined without reference to order? Don’t we need an idea of structure to determine the lack of structure?

Order is imposed by the rigorous application of logic and observation. In an atheist universe, we would have no reason to believe that logic applies to reality. How can matter in motion lead to universal laws such as the laws of logic? Logic is immaterial; it does not exist outside of our minds. Logic cannot be affirmed or denied by scientific experimentation; it must be assumed in order to evaluate those experiments.

It doesn’t stop there. How can we even be sure that our senses are reliable enough to give us useful information? Evolution only favors the ideas and sensations that keep an organism alive. It does not necessarily favor an accurate perception of reality.

Maybe Stenger would reply that “… [the laws of physics] are what they are because they agree with the data…” (132). If we have no logic to evaluate that data, and we have no reliable senses to evaluate that data, we have no way to interpret the laws of physics in Stenger’s universe.

Non-material, abstract entities must be affirmed by anyone who wants to observe an experiment, evaluate data from an experiment, or communicate the results of that experiment with other people. (instert link to darada and van til here) Stenger’s way of thinking does not allow for anything to be non-material; we are all just a product of the movement of sub-atomic particles which make up the sum total of our being.

We would be well-served to explore the God of this universe as the ground and center of our thinking and being.

11/18/2007

OCC

It has been a while since I posted. This week has been National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child, the shoebox ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. I am the Area Coordinator for our part of Tennessee, and I have been spending allot of time organizing and helping at our Collection Center.

If you have not heard of Samaritan’s Purse or OCC please follow the links embedded in this sentence to find out more. It’s a ministry that has worldwide impact. OCC supplied gift-filed shoeboxes to over 7.5 million children in over 90 countries last year, and I pray we do more this year. Follow this link to volunteer; it will change your life!

11/03/2007

Atonement Explained the Old Fashioned Way

In the current debate over the atonement we would do well to listen to a great commentator of old:


“For this purpose, then, the ... Word of God [Christ] entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable race, the race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father's Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption. He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own …


He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.“ – Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei

John and History

I have been re-reading the Gospel of John lately. I like it because of the author’s obvious delight in the Person of Christ.

I find an article by Craig Blomberg over at the NAMB Apologetics site to be interesting. Here’s a sample:

“… a considerable number of scholars during the last half-century have pioneered what came to be known as the "new look on John," recognizing a far greater level of historical reliability and a Jewish milieu for the deeds and teachings attributed to Jesus than the first half of the twentieth century had acknowledged. Arguably, if the next half-century gave the same kind of sustained study to the remaining questionable details, the amount of general confidence in the fourth Gospel would again grow in corresponding fashion.” – Craig Blomberg


John, the author of the gospel attributed to him, was the apostle who was a personal friend of Jesus. He gives many accurate details of first century Palestine, including arrangement of buildings and geography, that have been verified by archaeological research. His authorship was attested to by church fathers in the mid-second century, and these were people who had been trained by John himself.

I find more and more reason to believe the exalted picture of Christ as the Divine Son of God given by John.

10/27/2007

Another Round of Argumentation

I have followed with interest much of what Paul Davies has written on the subject of science and the origins of the universe. He certainly writes many things which I do not agree with, but he is often eloquent and intelligent. Here’s a sample of him confronting the notion of an eternal universe:

One evasive tactic is to claim that the universe didn't have a beginning, that it has existed for all eternity. Unfortunately, there are many scientific reasons why this obvious idea is unsound. For starters, given an infinite amount of time, anything that can happen will already have happened, for if a physical process is likely to occur with a certain nonzero probability-however small-then given an infinite amount of time the process must occur, with probability one. By now, the universe should have reached some sort of final state in which all possible physical processes have run their course. Furthermore, you don't explain the existence of the universe by asserting that it has always existed. That is rather like saying that nobody wrote the Bible: it was just copied from earlier versions. Quite apart from all this, there is very good evidence that the universe did come into existence in a big bang, about fifteen billion years ago. The effects of that primeval explosion are clearly detectable today-in the fact that the universe is still expanding, and is filled with an afterglow of radiant heat.

I have found this line of reasoning to be good reason for faith. There are scientific and philosophical reasons to believe in a beginning and a Personal Creator.

It is not possible to move through an infinite series of moments of time. For example, if time extends forward out to infinity then it is obvious we will never reach the end of it. Reversing the process, if time extends infinitely into the past, we could never have moved through time from the past to get to this moment.

(For an physicists reading this: the common understanding of time is used here as an analogy. The line of reasoning in the next paragraph follows no matter how you see time.)

Similarly, we cannot expect that an infinite regress of finite causes exists either. That is, if we move backward from ourselves to the things that caused us, then backward to the things that caused them and so on, we must find something that did not have a beginning. Otherwise, we would never have moved through the infinite series of finite causes to get to ourselves. The infinite regression of discrete, physical things cannot exist in reality.

Whatever the first cause in the chain was, it must have always been (it is “eternal”) and it must have the power to bring about all we see in the universe (a part of “omnipotence”). We know something of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” from the world we live in.

We can know more than that from the line of argument. This eternal cause existed when nothing else did. Nothing outside of this first cause caused it to act or influenced it’s action. It had to have the power to act in and of itself. Only a being with the power of choice fits this picture. The power to choose without any outside influence is the hallmark of a Personal Being. This cause must have a personality in the primary sense of the word.

Evidence of rational design provides the rest of the picture of a Personal God. Further, we have historically reliable accounts of Christ’s life found in the New Testament that provide evidence that this Personal God is not adverse to interaction with His creation.

These chains of evidence and argument are enough to convince any unbiased person of the Christian God’s existence. The problem is that we are not, when left to ourselves, unbiased.

10/22/2007

Some Quotes Deserve a Post

An interesting article by Jonathan Barlow over at CRTA concludes as follows:


I would do well at this point to break away and leave Dawkins in the morass of his purely contingent universe in which not even logic, science, and morality make any sense. For all of his huff and puff against faith, Dawkins lives in a drafty house of pure scientism that he has sealed up with faith -- faith in logic, of whose foundations he can give no account, faith in induction, upon which he builds science, and faith in the evolving human brain and the evolving human society to more often produce Martin Luther Kings than John Wayne Gacys.


Strong words. Other links on the site back up these claims.

10/18/2007

THINK

I found a great sermon by C. H. Spurgeon on the web today.

If we would influence thoughtful persons it must be by solid arguments. Shallow minds may be wrought upon by mere warmth of emotion and force of excitement, but the more valuable part of the community must be dealt with in quite another
manner…

This is a lesson for the ministry at large. Certain earnest preachers are incessantly xciting the people, and but seldom if ever instructing them; they carry much fire and very little light. God forbid that we should say a word against appealing to the eelings; this is most needful in its place, but then there is a due proportion to be bserved in it…

The preacher may touch the feelings by rousing appeals, as the harper touches the
harpstrings; he will be very foolish if he should neglect so ready and admirable an instrument; but still as he is dealing with reasonable creatures, he must not forget to enlighten the intellect and instruct the understanding. And how can he appeal to the understanding better than by presenting to it the truth which the Holy Ghost teacheth? Scriptural doctrine must furnish us with powerful motives to urge upon the minds of Christians.- C. H. Spurgeon


I am often amazed that Spurgeon is so popular in certain circles where much of his teaching would not be welcomed. So often our churches neglect sound, intellectual doctrinal teaching in favor of moving emotional appeals that play on the heart-strings.

We decide that sermons must be practical and touch on real-life problems and issues faced by hearers. True to a point, but why are we so easily convinced that doctrine is impractical? Applying my mind to learn the clear teachings of Scripture has been the single most practical endeavor of my life.

I would never have weathered the storms I have faced without the firm conviction that God holds the world in His hand and works all things together for my good. I would never have had the confidence to try to repent of my sin without the firm conviction that Christ died for me to earn my forgiveness. I would have given up rather than repent, step out in faith, and try again.

Sometimes we seem to have decided that the life of the mind is distinctly unchristian in some sense. As if God did not want us to think. Do we have to be so anti-intellectual?
I wish we would return to a more reasonable time and use the minds God has given us.

10/13/2007

Breakpoint 1

I have been a subscriber to Charles Colson’s Breakpoint newsletter for a long time now, and I find it helpful. The commentary and intights are almost always worth the time to read.

This week’s was especially interesting as it begins a series on modern, militant atheism. Here’s a sample:


In a recent issue of Scientific American, arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins and
physicist Lawrence Krauss discussed the relationship between science and religion.

Dawkins, whose latest book, The God Delusion, is only one of a slew
of recent books attacking religious beliefs, prefers an "in your face" approach.
He once wrote that "if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution,
that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane." He then added "or wicked, but I'd
rather not consider that."


In his discussion with Krauss, Dawkins stood by his statement, calling it "a simple and sober statement of fact." …

All of this begs the question: "Is faith, in particular, Christianity, irrational?"
Neither Dawkins nor Krauss comes close to proving this. Instead, Dawkins and Krauss simply assume that materialism—the idea that there is nothing besides matter—is true. Thus, what makes a faith "rational" is whether it can be proven empirically...

Dawkins and Krauss do not offer any arguments to justify
their assumptions. They do not tell us why materialism is true: Instead, they
ask you to take its truth as a given—in other words, on faith…

Way to go Mr. Colson, and I look forward to the future newsletters in this series.

10/07/2007

Calvinism?

An interesting quote from R. C. Sproul over at Between Two Worlds:

…My point is that there is confusion about what the doctrine of limited atonement actually teaches. However, I think that if a person really understands the other four points and is thinking at all clearly, he must believe in limited atonement because of what Martin Luther called a resistless logic. Still, there are people who live in a happy inconsistency. I believe it's possible for a person to believe four points without believing the fifth, although I don't think it's possible to do it consistently or logically. However, it is certainly a possibility given our proclivity for inconsistency…


Sproul’s approach has always been inconsistent with many people’s miss-conception of Five Point Calvinism. I think R. C. puts forth the doctrine clearly and well, and I agree with him. The idea is very distinct from what Baptist history knows as “high Calvinism” (put down within Baptist circles by Andrew Fuller) or hyper-Calvinism (argued against by Charles Spurgeon). The free offer is a real offer. All who come to Christ in faith are saved.

10/06/2007

Pray

“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.” - Abraham Lincoln

I am once again driven to my knees over the situation I find myself in. I am overwhelmed by the weight of the burden I have for those around me. I am confused by the suffering of my close relatives who don’t seem to deserve it. I am powerless to overcome my own sin.

I am comforted by the fact that I am never more powerful that I am when I pray. I am connected to the supreme power in the universe. I am assured of the power of God in response to my prayers. I know I make a difference in the world as I depend upon Him.

“Pray, and let God worry.” - Martin Luther

“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons; but they are helpless against our prayers.” -J. Sidlow Baxter

10/03/2007

Christ Alone

Eternal life depends on Christ alone — nothing, but nothing, else. Predestination will not bring it. Providence cannot produce it. It does not rest on foreknowledge, divine decrees, or even the atonement itself. Eternal life is Christ dwelling in His righteousness in the soul of the justified person. So eternal life is union with Jesus Christ. And the word for that union with Jesus Christ is faith. The sinner comes to Him, rests in Him, trusts in Him, is one with Him, abides in Him and this is life because it never, ever, ends. The united soul abides in the Vine eternally. Weakness, sin, proneness to sin never brings separation, but only the Father’s pruning, which cements the union even and ever tighter. This is the heart of the Bible. This is the heart of the gospel. This is the heart of Christianity. This is the heart of the saint. This is the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ. - John H. Gerstner

I take a lot of flack from people sometimes over the idea that I am a Reformed Baptist. If a person takes the time to discuss theology with me, and those people are rare, they find that I do have a knowledge of and an appreciation for the “doctrines of grace.” I do believe in predestination. I do think that salvation is all of God and not of us.

Know this: all of the debate and discussion over predestination is secondary. Christ alone saves. He gives us life because of what He did. Salvation is outside of us. We are beholden to Him for everything: our personal relationship to God, the change in our lives, our freedom from guilt, our ultimate salvation and trip to heaven. Everything!

We no longer have to worry about how we stand before God, our relationship to Him; Christ took care of that. We no longer have to worry about our sinful lives; Christ took care of that. We no longer have to worry about our failures; Christ took care of that. We no longer have to worry about where we will spend eternity; Christ took care of that.

We must have faith, trust that what Christ did he did for us. Not for us in the abstract, but for us personally. We stop trusting in our good works and we start trusting in Christ. We stop turning to our improved lives and turn to Christ’s perfect life.

Oh that the protestant church would free herself from the tyranny of looking to her own works and turn to Christ. Oh that we would be free from the chains that circle our hearts.

10/01/2007

New Job

I have taken a new job with a new company.

Please excuse me for not posting new items for a few days or weeks. I will return in full force once I get acquainted with my new responsibilities.

Soli Deo Gloria!
J. K. Jones

9/24/2007

Some quotes deserve a post of their own…

"If there is no bad news there cannot be any good news. The good news is deliverance from the bad news. We are all born on the road to destruction. The good news is that we can be delivered from it. If you do not believe you are on the way to hell, how can you be interested in the good news of deliverance from it? Look at “salvation” today. It is freedom from life’s frustrations. We are saved from our narrowness and anxieties. We learn to live with doubts and fears. We take pills to relieve our pressures. That’s our gospel.” - John H. Gerstner

Gerstner has been helpful to me because of his direct, hard to miss-understand, way of speaking. I wish he was still around to rub our noses in the truth. See his work on inerrancy, justification by faith alone, dispensationalism, and Jonathan Edwards.

Quiz

Thanks to Extreme Theology for linking to a quiz. This quiz uses your responses to a few short questions to determine which theologian you most identify with. It is certainly not a perfect instrument, but I am rather proud of my results.

You scored as Martin Luther, The daddy of

the Reformation. You are opposed to any

Catholic ideas of works-salvation and

see the scriptures as being primarily

authoritative.

Martin Luther

100%

Anselm

100%

Karl Barth

87%

John Calvin

67%

Jonathan Edwards

67%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

53%

Paul Tillich

7%

Augustine

0%

J├╝rgen Moltmann

0%

Charles Finney

0%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com


I do wish I had scored higher with respect to Augustine.

I am very surprised at the percentages for Barth and Schleiermacher because I generally don’t like what those guys stand for. I guess in the case of those two the old adage fits: “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”

9/18/2007

Like a Bear Feed by Tourists

“Many seem to have lost confidence in [the] gospel. It is easier to tell people to come to church and live a good life, but that is not the gospel … To share Christ, we have to go beyond formulas that fit on napkins … People are searching—but they are searching for something more than fire insurance or "five steps to financial freedom." … Today, the church is like a bear fed by tourists. It's lost its natural ability … let's get that back by starting where people are, listening to them, building a relationship, telling them about Jesus, sharing with them the story of redemption, and bringing them to a bloody cross and an empty tomb.” - Ed Stetzer

Is it true? Have we lost faith in the gospel?

I often do. I concentrate on God’s solutions to the problems I perceive I have instead of His solution to the problems of my sin. I turn ever so slightly from Christ to look at my own good works. I begin to think that even thought I am saved by grace, my fellowship with God depends on my own efforts. I tend to emphasize the difference Christ has made in my life as opposed to the difference He has made in my standing before God.

I forget that I am saved only in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). It is in Him I stand before a Holy God (Romans 5:1-11). Like Pilgrim in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, it is at the foot of the cross where I find relief from my burdens (John 19:28-30). It is at the cross where I am drawn into fellowship with God (John 12: 27-36). It is in the humble turning to God with sorrow for sin that I am saved (Luke 18:19-14).

Christ saves me anyway. He saves me in spite of my doubts and vacillations.

Is my experience so different from others in the church? From what I can see it is not. I hope it is not to late for the heirs of the reformation, but I often wonder.


I pray that God will give us the grace to allow us to truly rest all our hopes on Christ. I pray in the knowledge that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, as expressed in the Scriptures alone. I truly pray “in the name of Jesus.”

Faith Looks to Christ and Then Works

Discussion over at Extra Nos resulted in a long comment from me. I would like to enhance that comment and post it here. The topic is very relevant to my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (See here and here.).

I have often struggled with the relationship between faith and works. I read the Bible often, and I try to conform my thinking to what it says. I also read many books by knowledgeable Christians to help. I find this collection and a book by Jerry Bridges to be very helpful.

I tend to look within myself to see if I have done enough to prove my salvation. I look at my choice of language, my anger, and my love of alcohol, and I have no hope for heaven. It’s an introspective approach some have rightly called “navel-gazing.”

Some of this introspection has been brought about by otherwise good teachers like John Gerstner, whose teaching is summarized in “A Primer on Roman Catholicism,” a short 44-page introduction to the topic.

Gerstner is very helpful in stating the distinction between reformation (read: Biblical) Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Gerstner’s basic explanation is given below in three formulas. The first two are wrong-headed. The last one is spot on. I have taken some liberties with the explanations.

Formula of Antinomianism (that means anti-law): FAITH – WORKS = JUSTIFICATION (This is often called ‘easy-believism.’ Walk forward at the invitation, mouth a prayer you don’t mean, and never doubt your salvation ever again despite the fact that there is no change whatsoever in your attitude toward sin. This idea is not Biblical. See James 1:22-27, 2:14-26.)

Formula of Rome: FAITH + WORKS = JUSTIFICATION (Works are infused righteousness in the believer that are meritorious. These works, a result of God’s grace, earn salvation in a sense. God saves by faith, but he does not save those who are not inherently righteous. See Romans 4:1-8.)

Formula of Reformers and the Bible: FAITH = JUSTIFICATION + WORKS (The faith that saves results in a heart set free from the guilt of sin; not guilt feelings, real guilt before God. Guilt is what gives sin the power to rule our lives. When that guilt is removed, our hearts are motivated by gratitude and love to do good works. Good works do not play a part in earning justification, only Christ’s work does. Faith alone saves, but not a faith that is alone. See Romans 6, noting that the chapter is about things that are true, not things we are to make true.)

The danger is that we will look within to see the presence of works to know we are justified. Gerstner was prone to this. His exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith’s chapter on Faith left me certain I was a Christian. His teaching on Westminster’s chapter on Repentance left me sure I was not a Christian. He followed Jonathan Edwards and the English Puritans. If Edwards was right, none of us would have true faith.

As I grow in Christ, my awareness of what God’s law requires grows as well. I become aware of more and more of my sin. I am convinced I am doing worse and worse. The Puritans would leave me without hope if I did not keep reading them.

The bottom line of their teaching is the way to live. This bottom line is: “Flee to Christ.” We are to abandon all hope in our works and run to Christ, Who is our righteousness. This kind of faith saves and gives hope. I abandon all hope in myself and rely completely on what Christ has done. Now I’ll go try to clean up my language…

9/14/2007

McChurch

Thanks to the guys over at Extreme Theology for the hilarious video posting.

It’s a satire on the modern church’s propensity for trying to please everyone. It’s a great laugh, but after thinking about it for a few minutes I had to ask myself: is this the way our culture views us from the outside? Is this what we have to offer?

I hope not (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

9/13/2007

John Piper Shares the Gospel in 6 Minutes

A great post over at Desiring God gives links to video and audio messages. Here’s a sample from the text:

The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy…

You never, never, never outgrow your need for it. Don’t ever think of the gospel as, “That’s the way you get saved, and then you get strong
by leaving it and doing something else.”

No! We are strengthened by God through the gospel every day, till the day we drop.

You never outgrow the need to preach to yourself the gospel…

9/12/2007

Nine Reasons Why Christianity is The Only True Religion, Part 10: Series Conclusion

I hope that you have found this series of posts helpful. I have outlined the reasons that I have chosen to be a Christian and to remain in the faith.

I have shared much of my own personal intellectual and emotional journey. The reasons given are not persuasive arguments for everyone. I pray that if you are a person who does not find them convincing that you will at least be motivated to explore other arguments and approaches.

The ultimate aim has been to point others to Christ as the great Lord and Savior. He is the one Person who has walked the earth who is worthy of worship and praise. May His glory be over all the earth.

9/11/2007

Nine Reasons Why Christianity is The Only True Religion, Part 10: Christianity Has Changed My Life

I was raised in a Baptist church in a small, West Tennessee town. Many times, I have heard the “wonderful testimony” of a person who has been radically and completely delivered from the awful, evil sins they once committed. I have often questioned the miraculous deliverances purported in these testimonies, especially when the speaker implies that my life must assuredly be changed in the same way if I truly repent of my sins and come to Christ.

I do not intend to post a long, rambling account of my personal sins and the way I have set them aside. I have found in my own experience that my besetting sins have persisted, or even begun, after I became a Christian. The difference in my life is not a dramatic reversal of my behavior. The Holy Spirit has helped me to get better over time, but no power has been available to make me perfect or to radically and instantly deliver me from particular sins. Perfection and/ or instant deliverance are not promised in the Bible.

The change in my life that I want to focus on is the freedom I have found in God’s forgiveness. I have found freedom and power to change in the knowledge that my sins are forgiven because of Christ. I have the encouragement I need to get up when I fall down.

Jerry Bridges describes the process I found for changing my life well:

Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6," All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all," and then say, "Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you.

… [Christians] stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don't have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom.
8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.


Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ's work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an
expression of the late Jack Miller, we must "preach the gospel to ourselves every day." For me that means I keep going back to Scriptures such as Isaiah 53:6, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 8:1. It means I frequently repeat
the words from an old hymn, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."

… the success of our struggle with sin begins with our believing deep down in our hearts that regardless of our failures and our struggle, we have died to sin's guilt. We must believe that however often we fail, there is no condemnation for us (Rom. 8:1).


I pray every day for more faith to believe the gospel. I pray for more things to. Things like my own personal sobriety, my willingness to abstain from lustful fantasy, and my ability to communicate without using “colorful” language. I find freedom from these things in Christ’s power. I do not find a perfect freedom. These are among the sins that I am prone to. If I fail, these are the ways I am going to fail most of the time.

Am I worried about loosing my salvation or making it null and void because of a “habit” or “continuing in sin?” Sometimes I do doubt, but in the end I know that I am forgiven in Christ. I repent of my sin and enjoy Christ’s forgiveness.

Will I earn rewards for the good things I have done? Yes, God will graciously reward the results of His power. He will reward the works He has brought about. But the rewards I earn will not be for me. They will be cast at the feet of Jesus in His honor.

9/07/2007

Nine Reasons Why Christianity is The Only True Religion, Part 9: Christianity Leads to Joy

Psychology, the way people think, has always been a fascination of mine. I took enough psychology classes in college to have been awarded a minor, but the engineering department did not want to award it (some things hard-core engineers will not “sink” to do). Great care must be used by a Christian in this area (especially if we are tempted to supplant the gospel), but the concepts can often be redeemed.

Temperament theory has roots in the psychology of Carl Jung, but can be traced back to Hippocrates. It is undeniably imperfect, and some have even rejected the theories altogether. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has probably been the most successful application of these theories.

(Note: be wary of some of the information on web sites that talk about Myers-Briggs. Good guidelines are located here.)

I am an INJT (see here and here). I am not unique in this. By type, I keep my feelings “close to my vest.” One INTJ put it like this, “I have deep feelings; they are just none of your business.”

It might surprise those who know a little about INTJ’s (especially those who know me personally) that I want to be happy. Not just happy-go-lucky, smile all the time, laugh at everything type happy, but truly happy. The more sanguine among us can have that approach.

I want to be happy in the sense of being “blessed” or “delighted.” It might help to remind of the old adage, “Still waters run deep.”

John Piper has been a great help to me in many ways. His teaching, though imperfect, has reinforced much of what I have learned about the way my heart works.

God made us to live a moral life, and we should not be surprised that moral living gives us joy. This joy is at a profound level that can even motivate us to give our lives over to suffering and death on Christ’s behalf. The idea is not that our happiness is the greatest good; it is that God’s glory is what we are made for. Living for His glory gives us joy.

I have not found a worldview or religion that can come close to Christianity in providing joy in my life. This joy has lead to great positive changes, and I will describe those changes in the last post of this series.

9/05/2007

This is a very sad day…

Evangelism Explosion International’s founder and president, Dr. D. James Kennedy passed away peacefully in his sleep at approximately 2:15 a.m. at his home with his wife and daughter by his bedside, following complications from a cardiac event last December. He was 76…

Nine Reasons Why Christianity is The Only True Religion, Part 8: Christianity Changes the World for the Better

I was very ill as a young child. I had a lung disease that left me breathless after walking a few feet, much more out of breath when trying to run, climb, or jump. I was thirteen before I began to grow out of it, but I had been through a lot before then.

My illness always hit me hard when it came time for PE, physical education, class. That was when we divided up into teams to play sports.

I was never the first one chosen for the team. I was usually chosen last. Everyone knew I would have little to contribute. My best contribution would be just to stay out of the way.

Little League Baseball was more than a sport in my hometown. It was more like a religion. Parents had a lot to say about the make-up of the teams, and they organized try-outs. I tried hard, but I was never picked to be part of the best team. I always wanted to be part of the winning team.

Christianity offered me the chance to be a part of the winning team, to be part of the group that will make a real difference in the world. Christ’s church was the leading force in many of the good things I saw around me. It still proves to be a great influence today.

Here are some of the ongoing accomplishments:

Operation Christmas Child impacts over 7,000,000 of the world’s impoverished children each year with gift-filled shoeboxes.
World Vision, a Christian relief, development, and advocacy organization, assists more than 70 million children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief serves over 600,000 meals and purifies over 250,000 gallons of water per year for those devastated by disasters.

Mercy Ships has performed more than 1.7 million medical services valued at over $670 million and influencing more than 1.9 million people as direct beneficiaries.

Medi-Share has allowed Christians to give more than $275,000,000 to meet each other’s healthcare needs independent of healthcare insurance.

Samaritan’s Purse relief efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown a remarkable impact.
Christians lead the fight against slavery and human trafficking in the modern world.
Prison Fellowship partners with hundreds of local churches and agencies across the country to bring Christ’s love to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families.
World Changers uses teams of Baptist youth to rebuild the homes and the lives of thousands of families impacted by poverty and tragedy.
These facts do not mention the countless daily ministries of local churches all over the world that meet the needs of Christians and Non-Christians alike. What more could you ask of an organization?

Christ said of His church, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I am finally part of the winning team. The church truly advances the gospel in word and deed.

[1/31/09 Update. Adrian Warnock has a Book Challenge over at his blog. I am linking this older post to that site for a chance at a free book. This is shameless self-promotion.)

9/04/2007

Nine Reasons Why Christianity is The Only True Religion, Part 7: Christianity Gives a Certain Promise of Heaven

I have mentioned before that the ideas Christianity holds make intuitive sense to me. This is true, in a backward way, of the central message of the Christian faith: what most call “the gospel,” or the good news.

The gospel is intuitive in that, once I was made aware of it; I knew “in my gut” that it explained much of my experience. It is not intuitive in that I would never have thought this up without someone telling me.

The gospel is the fact that God offers eternal life as a free gift. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As a gift, eternal life is not earned or deserved. I will return to this idea latter.

The law requires perfection. Jesus Himself said, “Be ye perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect.” I cannot avoid the knowledge that I have fallen short of this obviously true ideal.

This leaves us all under condemnation. No one obeys the law perfectly or obeys the law with perfect motives: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The old prayer of confession in the Anglican Church reads, “We have sinned against [God] in thought, word and deed. By the things we have done and the things we have left undone.”

This leaves us inadequately prepared for the judgment in and of ourselves. We cannot rely on our own righteousness or morality because we are not perfect. We do not meet the standard in question.

The gospel comes into sharper focus when we understand what the Bible says about God. God is holy, or separate from sin. God is also just, that is, He is the perfect judge who must punish the sins of His creatures. The Old Testament reads, “... yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” God also loves: “God is love.” And since He loves us, He does not want to punish us.

In human terms, this leaves God with a problem. On the one hand, He loves us and does not want to punish us. One the other hand, He is just and must punish sin. God solved this “problem” for us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is, in a manner of speaking, God who came to earth as a man. As a man, Christ was able to follow meet the requirements of perfect morality. He was able to live a perfect life, always doing what is moral from a perfect love of morality.

He also was able to take our sins upon Himself. He took credit for the things we have done wrong. He suffered a death He did not deserve as a substitute for us. He suffered the wrath of God for our sins. As Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each to his own way, but God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all … it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and he has put him to grief.” As Paul wrote, “For [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God through him.”

God has made it possible for us to take credit for the perfect life morality requires. God has made it possible for Christ to take credit for our sins and suffer infinitely in His soul for them. We take credit for all of this by faith.

Faith does not just understand the facts of the law (what you might call morality), the law’s requirements, and the gospel. It does not just believe that these facts are true. It is a confident trust that what Christ did He did for us. It is a resting on Him as the foundation of our morality. It trusts what He said about how to live our lives and what He said about having eternal life.

This is what the Bible means when it says, “Believe on [not just in, but on] the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” It is what Christians mean when they say that they accept the free gift of eternal life from Christ.

Why then do we do good works? If eternal life is a free gift, why should we strive to be moral? One answer for this is that we are grateful for the gift we have received. The old Heidelberg Catechism has three main parts: guilt, grace, and gratitude. That is the general pattern of a Christian’s life.

(There are other pure motives such as doing good because it is good in and of itself, doing good out of love for God, and even doing good out of what is in it for us. More on those latter.)

The gospel frees us from having to search our motives, which are often impure, and live for the God who made us. We do not have to agonize over them because Christ died for impure motives as well as impure thoughts, words, and deeds.

We do not always perform good works out of desire to avoid punishment. We know we cannot do well enough to avoid just wrath from a holy God on our own.

Christ offers an abundant life to all who would turn to Him in faith. There is nothing outside you that keeps you from accepting His free gift of eternal life today. I pray that all who read this can find the certain hope of heaven that God has revealed to us in Christ.

You can find a summary of these ideas here.

A podcast / broadcast that emphasizes these ideas can be found here.

Some books that have sharpened my understanding of the gospel are here, here, here, here, and here.

Some materials from a World Harvest Mission’s Sonship Course can be found here and here. This course covers the content and implications of the gospel very thoroughly.

Ideas on how to emphasize this message in our churches can be found here, here, here, and here. We all need to hear the gospel every day, especially every Sunday.

I pray that the faith of Christians will be strengthened by the message of the gospel. The gospel truly is for all of life.

9/01/2007

R. C. Sproul's New Book

R. C. Sproul has a new book out that I just had the chance to read. It’s called The Truth of The Cross. Dr. Sproul is at his best when he writes or speaks on Christ’s life and sacrifice for the sins of the church. This book is no expectation. I hardily recommend it to anyone who has questions about the reasons behind the cross and it’s necessity.

8/31/2007

Nine Reasons Why Christianity is The Only True Religion, Part 6: Christianity Explains the Presence of Evil

A bridge in Minneapolis collapses. Nuclear weapons experimentation makes Kazakhstan home to people with awful disfigurement. A train wreck in Brazil kills eight and injures over 100. Civil war tears apart the hopes and dreams of children. Seemingly countless murders tear apart families. Evil, defined for this post as sin or injustice against another human being, is all around us.

I am not about to try to give a comprehensive explanation for how evil came to be. I do not claim to be the kind of person who can mount a theodicy of any consequence. God created men with the ability to sin and the ability not to sin, but I cannot reason beyond that. I do not know the “how”; I just know the “is.” I know that evil exists. I know evil is present. I know evil is real.

What must exist in order for evil and suffering to be truly wrong? Does not the existence of evil itself require a standard of good?

Should I just accept evil as a part of the way the universe works? Should I accept a view of evil based on social convention, or the DNA encoded in my cells? These things vary from one person to the next, but we do not find a definition of evil that changes greatly from person to person, place to place, or time to time. We always seem to have a notion of the way things ought to be.

I want a worldview that accounts for the reality of evil and suffering. I want it to be called evil, not just the absence of happiness that is a social construct of mere men. I know that this standard of good and evil must be real. Life makes no intuitive sense without it. The denial of it is impossible in view of the pain and suffering we see around us. I want cruelty to be profoundly wrong. For this, I need an absolute standard for what is right.

Christianity allows for this standard. It allows evil to be “evil.” Non-Christian views of the world do not allow for this. From Greg Bahnsen:

… it is crucial to the unbeliever's case against Christianity to be in a position to assert that there is evil in the world -- to point to something and have the right to evaluate it as an instance of evil … the problem of evil turns out to be, therefore, a problem for the unbeliever himself. In order to use the argument from evil against the Christian worldview, he must first be
able to show that his judgments about the existence of evil are meaningful -- which is precisely what his unbelieving worldview is unable to do.


Knowing that evil “is,” that it exists, is enough to convince me that there is a God. We cannot define evil without defining good. Evil is in some way good’s opposite, a falling short of the good. Knowing that evil “is” leads us relentlessly to a God who is the definition of the good. Without Him, we would not know evil when we saw it.

Of course, Christianity does not stop there. It also offers hope for deliverance from evil. In the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ we find ultimate deliverance from “the last enemy,” death. (1 Corinthians 15:25-28). In Christ, we find deliverance from the power of evil and the forces that bring it about (Colossians 2:8-15). I have found Christ to be my life and my hope in the face of real, tangible evil I find all around me.

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