12.30.2009

our firm and substantial support

“The true looking of faith, I say, is placing Christ before one’s eyes and beholding in Him the heart of God poured out in love. Our firm and substantial support is to rest on the death of Christ as its only pledge.”
- John Calvin, NT Commentary, vol. 1, p. 74
(HT: Dan Morse)
Firstimportance.org is a grade-A site. I recommend it for your homepage.

12.27.2009

more james

Let's start with a brief summary of what has been covered in the first few verses, ala the ESV Study Bible:

"Trials are designed to produce spiritual maturity and should therefore be counted as joy."

Now I will attempt to try and write in a far less rigid and formal manner, yo. Seriously, all this writing as a business school undergraduate, I mean, former business school undergraduate has really put me in a stiff and academic writing stance. Enough shenanigans, onwards to the Word!

6. let him ask in faith
The right way to pray is to first have faith, to believe. If we pray and we don't believe, our prayers are meaningless. That would be like me asking for a date with a lovely lady, I don't believe I will be answered, but I ask anyways! Zing! Anyone wanna drive me to the hospital, because I just burnt myself.
...Ok, I'll stop. 

like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed
When we pray doubtfully, we subject ourselves to a mental and perhaps emotional storm. Doubts flood our mind, they act like the unseen forces of the wind that drive the fleeting wave of water to and fro and smash it to millions of droplets. Ultimately, a doubting prayer is an affront to God's faithfulness. Make note: God's faithfulness, meaning that God is faithful, trustworthy. You can count on God to not fail or disappoint.

8. a double-minded man
What are the two minds here? The Greek word is transliterated as "dipsychos", and if I have my extremely limited knowledge of Greek correct, this literally means "two minds", hence the double-minded man. Some may call one who is double minded a hypocrite, and this is correct. However I tend to agree with Calvin when he points to a different dichotomous psyche here.

"[T]he unbelieving, who have tortuous recesses, are unstable; because they are never firm or fixed, but at one time they swell with the confidence of the flesh, at another they sink into the depth of despair."

The little notes that I see on CCEL.org (a site that I highly recommend to you, specifically for Calvin's commentaries and Puritan writings, for free) put it this way:

"The double-minded,” or the man with two souls, δίψυχος, means here no doubt the man who hesitates between faith and unbelief, because faith is the subject of the passage. When again used, in James 4:8, it means a hesitation between God and the world."

 Faith and unbelief. These really are on the two opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum, but do they not characterize so many of the victories and defeats of the Christian life?

Side note: Toblerone Chocolate...mmm.

9-11. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.
The poor - and might I add that if you are an American, you are likely rich, very rich, even the "poor" college kids - ok I splice my sentences too much. Let's get back on track. The poor are called to exalt in their situation because they have all the riches of Christ and have previously not known or been fully seduced by the riches of this world. I would remind everyone that there are no U-Hauls behind hearses. To quote a lyric of Thrice inspired by the words of Jesus "Put your faith in more than steel: don't store your treasures up with moth and rust, where thieves break in and steal." Once again, getting back on track.

The rich are called to boast in humiliation. What? Yeah, that's what I said when I first read this. I was somewhat dumbfounded by the seemingly contradictory use of boast and humiliation. Again, Calvin helped the hunch I had develop into a more solid thought. Calvin notes:

"Lest, then, the vain joy of the world should captivate the rich, they ought to habituate themselves to glory in the casting down of their carnal excellency."

Basically, those who are rich are to be in a humble state of mind and being. Humiliation...humble...root words anyone? Wow! Check out what Wikipedia has to say on humiliation:

"Humiliation (also called stultification) is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission."

I think whenever I see the word "mortification" used in a sentence I get a little too gleeful.
Why should the rich and poor boast in their respective states? Christ is the treasure that is unlike the grass and flower that fall and fade away, and those who chase after worldly goods and stuff will pass away in their pursuit. The end of verse 10 seems to indicate to me that if we seek for joy and satisfaction in earthly goods, we will die trying to get it.

Ok, I think that is all for today.

12.26.2009

james continued

Ok y'all...let me know who you are if you are reading this! Perhaps I can better tailor my writing topics if I have an idea who my audience (if there is one) is. Blogging is so weird at times.
James 1...hopefully I will get more than 2 verses done!
3. the testing of your faith produces steadfastness Calvin points to the clear meaning of why we experience trials and temptations:
We now see why he called adversities trials or temptations, even because they serve to try our faith.
Faith! This is the object that is tried as a levee might be tried in a hurricane, or a bridge bearing its load. Though at this point it seems we in a small conundrum. When we are tempted and our faith is tested, it is not a pleasant experience, though we intellectually know that this trial is to ultimately be for our joy. What gives? James, inspired by the Spirit, brings forth more ammunition against the bitter taste of temptation to the Christian. He gives us another reason why we should rejoice: tests produce steadfastness/patience. Paul also states in Romans 5:3 that we are to rejoice in these situations.

4. perfect and complete, lacking nothing The first thing that jumps out at me like a rabid squirrel is this: the full effect of trials, which test our faith, and then produces steadfastness, is so that we may be fully content. Trial / temptation appears - faith is tested - steadfastness produced - steadfastness runs its course producing perfect contentment. Now I realize that the text specifically does not mention contentedness as a final result, however what happens when we are "perfect and complete, lacking nothing"? We are content. Now this perfection is likely not what the fallen world would call a perfect life. It is probably not living in a huge house on the beach, happy family in tow, and a bank account filled to the brim. What does it look like? It might look like the Apostle Paul's life. It might include physical tribulations and beatings for the name of Christ. It might look completely different.

(Sidenote & Request: If anyone who has been to seminary, or is skilled in textual analysis reads this...please tell me if this method of drawing conclusions is really bad hermeneutics. I am even wary of my own conclusion here concerning contentedness.)

Secondly (big breath), "Real patience is that which endures to the end." Our patience must not be fleeting! Patience that runs its full course and produces the aforementioned perfection is the patience that weathers the storm of trial and temptation.

(Another sidenote: I am not gonna make it through Chapter 2 tonight! Doh.)

5. lacks wisdom Who lacks wisdom? Who wants some divine knowledge? I got wisdom heah, only 5 dolla...nope! It's free! Just ask God!
Yes, I lack wisdom. This reminds me of the Proverb writer who said (Proverbs 30:2-3):
"Surely I am too stupid to be a man.
     I have not the understanding of a man.
I have not learned wisdom,
     nor have I knowledge of the Holy One."
And can we just note that this came from a person who wrote part of Proverbs - a book of the divinely inspired Bible!! Wow. If he says he's stupid, well...I don't know what to call me (and you).
Ok, done for tonight. Maybe I will just stick with the first chapter of James until 2010.

12.25.2009

joyful temptations

I am going through the book of James from now until the end of the year until I begin a read the Bible in a year plan. Here are my notes and thoughts.
Oh, I would like to know who my readers are! Hint, hint: drop a comment! I do enjoy blogging, and one of the reasons why I do it is that others may be strengthened in their faith and Christ be magnified like with a telescope as Piper rightfully says - taking something that we perceive as small to the naked eye, but when magnified (Christ) is shown as it truly is: mindblowingly glorious and magnificent.

1. To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: James wrote to a scattered, Jewish audience. James was the brother of our Lord Jesus and the leader of the congregation in Jerusalem. He begins his letter to the scattered flock by identifying as a servant, literally meaning "slave" in Greek. A definition is offered here: one who gives himself up to another's will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men .
James wrote to a scattered audience; it seems that he is either writing to the whole of the nation Israel with respect to the scattered tribes, which is certainly a large audience, or perhaps he is writing to his congregation which is indeed composed of members of the twelve tribes. The Dispersion references Israel as a whole after they were scattered after Assyrian and Babylonian rule.

2. trials of various kinds John Calvin speaks of these trials:
"When he bids us to count it all joy, it is the same as though he had said, that temptations ought to be so deemed as gain, as to be regarded as occasions of joy. He means, in short, that there is nothing in afflictions which ought to disturb our joy."
This is terribly striking! How often in my life have I been terribly grieved when temptations to sin have come? When the ugly face of temptation has come upon me I typically trembled in fear and felt as though I had already sinned. Yes, often with that perspective I do falter and give in to evil - when I should be taking that temptation and doing a few specific things with it:
- acknowledging it as a temptation, and not yet borne into a committed sin
- seizing it by the proverbial throat and demand that this temptation will ultimately end up as something that I will count as "all joy"
- rightly taking the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) and cutting the head off of this deceitful beast
- treasuring this temptation, this trial, as a final gain for my joy

Now the question may arise, "How does one do battle with temptation?" First, it should be noted that temptation ultimately is the occasion when something is placed before you of lesser value than Christ and it demands that you take satisfaction in it, and this is sin (Jer. 2:13). Battle is done with this temptation to a lesser joy, the fleeting pleasures of evil (Heb. 11:24-26) primarily through use of the Bible.

"What?! The Bible? I thought I had to be super-spiritual and/or muster up feelings in myself that will help me fight temptations to sin - of my own strength!" Well my misinformed theoretical friend, you are wrong. Might I commend to you Psalm 119. Yes, the longest "chapter" in the Bible. Might I specifically point to these verses:
v. 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
v. 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
v. 165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

Ok, now where in the world was I? Fighting through temptations for joy, ah yes. A final interesting note on what the ESV translates as "meet", but other translations give "encounter" (NASB) and "fall into" (NKJV): the Greek word is peripiptō (περιπίπτω )which Strong defines as "so to fall into as to be encompassed". Temptation can seem like we have fallen into a circle of enemies and we are encompassed with no hope of victory!

In sum, don't be robbed of the joy an experience of temptation may present. Hold fast to the greater promises that Christ through his Spirit-inspired Word gives and fight for joy!
Verse 3? Maybe next time, it's late.

12.23.2009

Christian? watch this.


If you are a Christian, please watch this. It is produced in a dramatic manner, but this only accentuates the grave and bold content of the message given.

12.22.2009

B.S. in CPA Accounting + Finance

I just want to say...
I am done with Syracuse University.

It has been good, SU.

Boo-yahhhhh.

12.14.2009

evening devotion

This post will be 99% verbatim from my written journal that I do not write in enough. Commence.
12/14/2009 - Devotion
Devote your time to God's exaltation through your exultation. (Side note: if you don't know what either of those two words mean...click here and here.)
I prayed before my dinner tonight and the Spirit reminded me how I need to pray more than just at meals. May my prayer life not be anemic! If prayer is "communion" and communion is God's presentation of Himself to us, then we as Christians should innately feel and express joy, because of God coming to us in love. He does not come in wrath to the righteous, but as glorious and affection-gathering. God communes with us in prayer so he may be made glorious in our eyes and with this we have joy. Psalm 43:3-4 pictures man's response to God's sending out of "truth and light" as one of "exceeding joy". Don't skip over the Gospel!
Galatians 3:13 - Christ bore the curse of the Law for us.
Galatians 3:10 - If man relies on his works for righteousness, works that are under the Law, in trusting in such obedience to the Law, he will be cursed because he cannot fulfill the Law. Man is cursed by not abiding by the Law.
Galatians 3:11 - Righteous people live by faith. Faith is the qualifier for righteousness. No man is justified before God's judgment seat by the Law. Every single human is guilty according to the Law.
Interrupted with at thought: Is this verse by verse exploration of the bible normal Bible study? Or is it an outlet of my passion for the Word, pointing to a specific way I must use it? I want to spread this! I want to spread the truth in these pages!
Galatians 3:12 - The law is not of faith. See Romans 10:5 .
Galatians 3:13 - Man is under the curse of the Law due to his disobedience to the Law. Christ saved us because he became cursed with the curse of the Law we were to bear. Who is the "us" in this verse? It does not say "all".
Deuteronomy 10:13 - Do I believe that keeping God's will is "for [my] good"?
Exodus 34:6-7 - God promises future forgiveness for transgressions.
Deuteronomy 9:23 - Rebellion is caused by the failure to believe God.

12.06.2009

academic maelstrom

I wanted to use maelstrom in the title. So I did. I also used it in that last sentence. Maelstrom. Maaaaaaaelstrom.
EEE 457, my senior business thesis/create a business plan from scratch/meet with your group ad nauseum/class has been quickly swallowing up my free time (and social life) in the past couple weeks. We present out plan to a panel of judges this Friday (!) and submit our loooooooooooong written plan. As the accounting/finance major, I was slave to the financial statements and valuation methods and leveraged cost structure, etc. Shenanigans.

11.28.2009

conundrum

What happens when:
 - You desire something
 - You don't really know why you desire it
 - At present, the desired thing is unattainable
 - The desire does not go away
I am genuinely stuck in a minor 'circle of logic' as I like to call it. My main problem is this: I cannot explain why I want the thing I want. This does not bode well for a person of my logical nature (well, at least I like to think I am). What to do? Any answers I have presently given to myself concerning the why are insufficient in my eyes.
Disclaimer: I am not going crazy. I think.

11.26.2009

you might call it a good thanksgiving.

First things first. Here is a link to an awesome little interview / blog post i read about productivity. If you are a human being and you do anything i suggest that you might read this. especially pertinent to people who tend to get overwhelmed by work. The title of the article is you don't have to be productive. Hopefully my reading of this article will spark properly motivated and executed productivity in my life.

Went to my grandmother's house today for thanksgiving. She has really bad Alzheimer's. I don't really know how to feel in situations like that. To see a human being who really has no clue what is going on and cannot physically walk makes me feel strange. I really don't know how to feel. I am saddened by her suffering. My chief concern is really how can the Gospel be communicated to people without the mental capacity to comprehend it? She once had mental capacity to function in a "normal" manner. I am in the dark on this issue. What will happen to her? I do not know. I see her sitting on the couch, unable to communicate, occasionally softly muttering a song of days long past, unconscious of the world around her. She doesn't have long to live. I don't know what to do.

11.25.2009

a new kind of writing

Looking back on all my past public internet ventures, I have come to realize that they are not one specific thing. Helpful. Edifying. Whatever word you wish to choose. This will change. Let's throw down a Johnathan Edwards style resolution here, eh?
Resolved: To only write in a public venue on the Internet in a manner that is helpful to other people or to write with insightful and careful reflection on events experienced in my life.

11.14.2009

a few things...

  1. I am a whiner and don't realize it most of the time.
  2. People die every day. Do I care?
  3. Jesus is the most important person in the universe.
  4. I need to live life seriously.
  5. The book of Hebrews rocks.
That is all.

11.13.2009

we drive by braille and candlelight

So there was an interesting series of events this past week. Moved very fast. Ended with dissapointment. I am beginning to get more used to it in a way. The only thing one can truly hope in is Christ. I say this in regard and comparison to all things.

Solidified my plans to take graduate accounting courses through SUNY Oswego starting next semester. It seems that is the prudent thing to do at this point in time. Who knows if I will actually be able to get a job afterwards. I darn hope so. I also don't know if I will be called by God to do something outside all the stuff I studied in college. I will be called to something certainly.

If this blog is really lame, forgive me. It really is more for me than for my readers (whoever you are). Helps to get my thoughts out and think things through. I would love any comments any of you have.

Where is my life going? I feel like there is no sense of direction or momentum. What is the goal, target, or vision I am living towards? Is there a next waypoint per se in my life? What am I really going to do with myself after I graduate? What am I doing with my life right now? I feel a little pointless now. I feel like I should be living in a way that is making more of a difference. How can I be living actively for the Kingdom of God? Am I? Is going to church and serving in positions where I am using my gifts enough? When should I move out? What will happen when all my friends graduate? Where will I live? Will I ever know for sure what I am to do with my life? It seems like there has to be more to life than all of this.

11.04.2009

a selfish confusion?

Ok so this is going to be a little bit of a weird post. On a random note, I always spell weird wrong. Yay for spellcheckers.
I was having some quiet time tonight going over Psalm 35 and just thinking about things and God. The usual routine. I decided to supplement some things I was thinking about with some writings from a book I have read in the past, "Boy Meets Girl" by Joshua Harris. I remembered some things he said in the book, so I quickly glanced through the first two chapters. I came across a great word of advice concerning romantic interest given to Harris by C.J. Mahaney, his then boss and pastor, who said:
"Don' let impatience get the upper hand. Be her friend, but don't communicate your interest until you're ready to start a relationship that has a clear purpose and direction. You don't want to play with her heart"
Words well spoken to a young man who had interest in a young woman. I thought of this third-party advice, applied it to my situation, felt encouraged to get serious about praying and seeking wisdom concerning such a topic...but then very shortly after I was flooded with a minor wave of doubt that went something like this in my head:
"Marriage is selfish. You can give your life away in a manner that would be more beneficial than through marriage. Don't you have greater things to think about? Evangelism? Deep sorrow for the lost? Further striving towards holiness and pursuing God? I mean, you call yourself a Christian Hedonist and shouldn't you be pursuing your joy in God alone first instead of wasting time on pursuing a relationship? Think about your friends who are more mature than you; they don't even have interest in anyone! They are really devoted to God."
Now these are mere thoughts that have crossed my mind, not deeply held convictions. Now here I am. Hesitant, confused, yet still hoping in God...though distracted.
What is valid? What is not? Move forward, or pull back?

11.03.2009

theses for the American Church

Here are some excerpts from four blog posts by Jared Wilson:
95 theses for the American Church (an ode to the original 95 theses).
  • 10. The aim of devotion to Scripture is our transformation, not merely our information
  • 18. The American Christian has forgotten how to pray.
  • 25. The legacy of license, corruption, and theological superficiality in the modernist church suffocates community by affirming the Self and its prerogatives as the Christian's real gods.
  • 31. Christian community ought to be oriented around the treasure of the gospel and purposed around the proclamation of the kingdom.
  • 46. The American Church loves the spirit of the age and idolizes relevancy.
  • 24. The legacy of legalism, gossip, condemnation, and bigotry in the fundamentalist church suffocates community by removing the gospel-honoring security of bold confession and relational authenticity.
  • 57. The tide can turn in American evangelicalism if we will return to our first love.
  • 62. The pastors of the churches in American have ceased serving as their church's resident theologian.  
http://gospeldrivenchurch.blogspot.com

10.26.2009

psalm 26

Here are a few thoughts I had concerning my nightly reading for today in Psalm 26.
Our vindication comes to us from God due to the Lord's steadfast love. The Lord is faithful, we just need to realize his faithfulness and walk in it. How often do we succumb to the heresy that teaches us when we have more faith in God, we will reap more benefits? I speak mainly of the people who teach such in connection with physical healings and such. "If you only had greater faith in the Lord, he would heal you." Teachings of that manner are detrimental to our understanding and thoughts. Did not Christ say that if you had faith like a mustard seed (just an FYI, a mustard seed is really, really small) you could move mountains and command trees to be planted in the sea? Christ obliterates our requests for more faith by showing what we are to have faith in, namely, the power of God. Small faith in a big thing (God's power) glorifies God as being powerful and faithful, not ourselves. Small faith in God brings marvelous things.
Got a little sidetracked...back to Psalm 26. John Calvin comments on this passage:
"the prophet declares in what manner he pursued his course in the midst of such powerful temptations, telling us that it was by setting the goodness of God, which so carefully preserves his servants, before his eyes, lest, declining to evil practices, he might deprive himself of his protection; and by confiding in his faithfulness, he possessed his soul in patience, firmly persuaded that God would never forsake his faithful people who trusted in him. And certainly, had he not relied upon the goodness of God, he could not have so constantly prosecuted the path of integrity amidst such numerous and such severe assaults."
Confide in faithfulness. If God's goodness is not pursued, considered, and relied upon, one cannot hope to persevere through temptations and assaults.
It is one thing to say "renounce ungodliness". It is a complete saying to say "renounce ungodliness by seeing the treasure in Christ and trusting in His faithfulness towards you."

10.22.2009

a fire inside my being

I relish the times when I can pray to the Father with clear and desperate pleas.
There are going to be some pretty big life decisions very soon for me...where I should begin my post-college life primarily. Many other things hinge on this and I am not sure of much. I was listening to a radio broadcast a few nights ago and the speaker was talking about doubts. He said that often are doubts trick us into thinking we are at a place of intellectual deficiency, that we need more information to make a rational, informed decision when in reality our real problem is failing to live with a righteous character instead of simply being confused because we can't figure something out.
I think I might be at a similar point. I have vowed (to myself) to keep these entries short so I will leave it at that. My doubts: are they brought forth by genuine intellectual deficiencies, or am I fooling mysely in a prideful manner into thinking my dilemmas are merely difficult decisions that need a logical answer and thus truly failing to live in faith?
More entries to come.

5.10.2009

summertime.

Time to re-enter the blagosphere.

So I am technically a second semester senior in college. When did that happen? I think I will try to make this blog actually enjoyable to read. Eh, who knows, I might not.

So this summer I will be working at the Bank of New York Mellon full time doing office stuff. That will bring in a decent amount of cash and I will get a nice guitar with some of those proceeds and hopefully invest the other chunk.

I will try and update this more often when I have things to write. Maybe I will just publish some of my journals in the future.

4.04.2009

...take up your cross before your crown...

As I was at work today and listening to some sermons online and typing away, I wrote a little poem/lyrical piece that just reflects some thoughts about theology and God. Enjoy. It is about the body.

My body is not my own
I was made in the hands of
Almighty God

These hands, this voice
These legs, this heart
Are gifted

I am like the homeless
Who received a house
To live

Will I not treat it as a precious gift?
Shall it not receive honor as a temple of
the Most High?

Will it not be used as a tool, a weapon
to fight for the Creator's glory

Of this I bow my head
and raise these hands
For thee

But this, not any other
is not my treasure

2.02.2009

...sick of this circle of death that we dance through...

I am a selfish person. My priorities in life are wrong. I sin. I do not show love.

so feed us all
another lie,
to steal our thoughts,
appease our pride,
so we wont have
to change the way we see, we live, we love, we die,

our lust precedes
our blasphemy,
our logic reads
like notes from tainted autopsy.

our souls they speak of something more,
but we cant look beyond ourselves.
we implore empty skies because
our hearts hold room for no one else,

we extend our
claws to grasp at shadows of the
ideals we have,
lost causalities of a subtle dagger,
buried to the
hilt in our hearts, blood on our hands.

That was an excerpt from the song "A Subtle Dagger" by Thrice. Why do I feel like I live a life of lies? I am not true to myself, I have such little passion, true passion that is in my heart. Where is my love?

If you read this, don't draw the conclusion that my life is only characterized by typical Livejournal/Blog/Teen Angsty Emo-ness. It isn't but I often come here when I feel broken.

Aren't we all broken?
Aren't we beyond repair?
Is there no passion in our hearts?
Is there a ray of hope?

You shape the lens with which you see life.

1.01.2009

...no regrets, just rebirth, move forward, and ignite...

No matter how bad I may think life sucks at times and no matter how pessimistic or sad I get, I will seek to glorify God and continue and deepen my pursuit of joy in God. If I do not do this I cannot serve him.

To 2009 and beyond...