7.30.2010

Planning Life

I just arrived back at home after class to an empty house – my parents and grandmother are at a show my sister is performing in – and I am certainly grateful for the time of quiet solitude, be it short as it is. I sat down on our couch and browsed through some of my Twitter feed and came across this tweet. Maybe it was the "what are you doing?" that caught my attention. Apparently there is a group of Chinese Christians who have been and are preaching and spreading the gospel as they walk by foot from China to Jerusalem. I didn't actually read much about this group of Christians, but hearing "what are you doing?" and then reading about the amazing life-giving, cross-bearing, unashamed preaching of the gospel by my brothers and sisters in China…this made my mind stir. And it is still stirring.
What am I going to do with my life?

Often times when I hear of Christians clearly giving up the "normal" life that 99.9% of humans will settle in and hear of the "radical" life – or what I would argue really should be ordinary for Christians – I am moved to thoughts like these:
  • "Ok, so I'm gonna move out of America, learn Chinese, and join these fellow laborers in China on this mission they have."
  • "Wait, what about my hometown, Syracuse? There are hundreds of thousands of people who are lost and under the power of sin right here in my backyard and in my life. Why not stay here? I have certainly felt burdened recently somewhat for their souls…"
  • "So does this mean I have to be a church planter? I know the church I am at now, Missio, has an awesome passion for reaching the lost. Does this mean that I am supposed to be here?"
  • "What about the people in Peru? I spent two summers there as a missionary! But wouldn't it be easier to stay where I am now? I don't know Spanish well."
  • "What about a wife? If I get married anytime soon, how in the world will that play into these thoughts?"
  • "Thus far, I have really sucked at obeying the great commission. (Matthew 28:16-20) Is this a turning point where I will actually begin to do this?"
  • "God's calling. I don't believe in God speaking audibly to people or the like kind of "being called" experiences. But what am I to do with these feelings and thoughts? Should I just make a decision and abandon my life thus far and devote all my plans to God, knowing that his purpose will prevail? (Proverbs 19:21)"
Yeah, so those are the kind of wonderful, frustrating, teetering-on-the-edge of total (22 year?) life crisis, muddy thoughts I am experiencing now. Thank God (literally) that I actually can rest on the promise of Proverbs 19:21, 16:1,9. I can make plans. God will direct my life into the specific path he will have me walk in.

I can plan to be a CPA for a few years. I can plan to finish my MBA and then join in church planting. I could move away from Syracuse. I could get married and begin a family. I don't know which one of these (or whatever else may befall my life) I will choose and plan to live out, but I know that God's purpose will prevail. His purpose might match one of my plans. It might not. I don't know, and I don't really need to exhaust all my energy trying to figure out; I know he will lead me where he wills. But will I trust him in this? That is the question. For my knowledge is increasing, but will my faith grow as well? Will I trust him to carry me through? Will I believe?

7.29.2010

Straight From the Journal – Thoughts on my Sin & Mortification

My sin must be killed by grace driven effort. This will take place as I grow in:
- Mining the depths of the love of God
- Practicing righteous deeds and considering others above myself
- Experiencing helpful giving & receiving Christian community

My church's small group beginning soon will not cure my sin.

"Keep at the greatest distance from sin, and from playing with the golden bait that Satan holds forth to catch you." "Hate [sin] with horror."
- Precious remedies against Satan's devices – Thomas Brooks

(Proverbs 5:8) (1 Thessalonians 5:22) Abstain from every form of evil.
Forms of evil:

  • Selfish; placing one's self above the needs + the good of others. Whenever I see an inkling of self-centered energy, kill it.
  • Sexual immorality; this is chasing after the desires of a perverted sexual desire. Sex is to be a 'mingling of souls' between a man and his wife only. All other acts coming from sexual desires are immoral.
    Sexual immorality is a sin against God (Psalm 51:4) and our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18).
    It comes from the heart (Matthew 15:19).
    It is to be abstained from.
    It is a fleshly desire (Romans 13:13-14).
    It is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19).
    It must not be named among the saints (Ephesians 5:3).
    It is to be put to death (Colossians 3:5).
    It is not in the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
    It is full of impurities (Revelation 18:3).
Sin is the greatest disease in existence that plagues the human race. Do not dance upon the edge of the pit of sin, for I would fall into that pit.

7.28.2010

Recompense for Piety

This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts. (Psalm 119:56 ESV)
56. This was done to me. I doubt not that the prophet, under the term זאת, zoth, comprehends all God’s benefits; but as he comes before God in relation to blessings then being enjoyed by him, he speaks as if he were pointing to them. Hence, under this term is included an acknowledgment of all the benefits with which he had been crowned; or, at all events, he declares that God had borne testimony, by some signal deliverance, to the integrity of his conduct. He does not boast of meriting any thing, as the Pharisees in our day do, who, when they meet with any such matter in Scripture, pervert it to prove the merit of works. But the prophet had no other design, than to set himself in diametrical opposition to the despisers of God, who either impute all their prosperity to their own industry, or ascribe it to chance, and malignantly overlook or conceal God’s superintending providence. He therefore calls upon himself to return to God, and invites others to follow his example, and exhorts them, that as God is an impartial judge, he will always reserve a recompense for piety. Probably, too, by this holy boasting he repels the base slanders of the ungodly, by which we lately saw he was grievously assailed.

 - John Calvin on Psalm 119:56, via CCEL

7.27.2010

I’m The One


I am becoming a bigger fan of Christian rap every day it seems. Lamp Mode Recordings is an awesome label that produces some great raps and works with excellent artists.

Take a listen to this powerful song by Shai Linne, perhaps my favorite Christian rapper. Shai's songs are always thought provoking and deeply theological. He is definitely one of the best Christian rappers currently.

So have a listen to this rap and get a fresh picture of a character who we – with no exceptions – will all meet.

I am becoming a bigger fan of Christian rap every day it seems. Lamp Mode Recordings is an awesome label that produces some great raps and works with excellent artists. 

(Get the album this song is from for free here.) 

7.21.2010

Straight From the Journal – Psalm 119:49-50

(Psalm 119:49) Out hope is to be established (by God) and set on God's promises in his word. The promise of God is to give me life (Ps. 119:50). His word is that of love for me (cf. Ps. 119:41-43). All of his words to me are meant for my hope, encouragement, and that I might trust in God's enduring word.

(Psalm 119:50) He will give me live according to his word. He promises this. Life comes through the promise. The promise is in his word. His word is not the promised life, but the vehicle of the promise.

A definition of "according to":
-in agreement with
-consistent with; in conformity with
-on the authority of
-in proportion to
-contingent to

God's promises are contingent to what he actually promises. What he promises is life (Ps. 119:25,50) and he tells us this in his word.

7.19.2010

The 6 Marks of Regeneration

The 6 Marks of Regeneration

Be sure to check out this very important topic/doctrine that the blog J.C. Ryle quotes will be shedding some light on this coming week. I highly recommend subscribing to this blog. I receive a daily quote from J.C. Ryle, a famous Anglican bishop with a heart for Christ and sound doctrine, in my email every morning.

Communal life is roses and lilies

The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer . . . It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden underfoot by those who have the gift every day . . . Among earnest Christians in the Church today there is a growing desire to meet together with other Christians in the rest periods of their work for common life under the Word. Communal life is again being recognized by Christians today as the grace that it is, as the extraordinary, the "roses and lilies" of the Christian life. (Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community, pp. 8–10)

7.18.2010

I Just Saw 1 John 1:8 Happen

I am more and more baffled, astounded, confused, and amazed by Jesus Christ and all who he is as I catch glimpses into the depths of the sin of myself and others. The first thing I am amazed by is the sheer seeming impossibility that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would love sinners. When you even begin to truly experience and understand what sin truly is, you will always be blown away. I cannot emphasize this point enough (and trust me, I am writing with a heavy heart and baffled mind right now...if you were with me and I were conversing with you I would either be yelling or weeping as I told you of these things). And yet, a most strange thought has happened to arrive at my mind's door, and it is this:
"There is no pit so deep but Christ is deeper still."
I only recall that quote from Ray Ortlund's blog. He is quoting Corrie Ten Boom.

The deeps of my sin is eclipsed and swallowed by the deeps of Christ' righteousness and love. The well of your sin and mine combined, yea, if the whole world's sins were added into one great well, this would be but a drop in the ocean of Jesus' cleansing blood.
"[5] This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. [6] If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. [8] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
(1 John 1:5-8)
"I don't consider myself a sinner."
 - Someone I know very closely
This person, who will remain anonymous, is blinded by the devil. "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4) I confronted this person with the truth of the gospel, that "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (1 John 1:6)

I am simply shocked, drained, saddened, and yet not surprised by this reaction. I am in great pain because is seems to me that in my multiple conversations with this person, I always end in a confrontation of similar sorts. I am accused of calling names "according to my book" and decrying others for not knowing the Gospel.If a person cannot explain the Gospel, no, if a person cannot understand the Gospel, how can they be a partaker in it? It is my firm conviction that God enlightens the eyes of the sinner to see Jesus and what he did, how he accomplished salvation. Of course I do not believe that being able to articulate substitutionary penal atonement, expiation, propitiation and the other bedrock theological doctrines in a clear manner are requirements for salvation. The early church fathers failed to present a clear picture often of these doctrines! Yet, I am befuddled to how a person who claims to be a Christian will not know the definition of grace.

This person to whom I was talking to asked me what "grace" meant after this person heard a song that stated "we come not by works, but by grace alone." I challenged the person to think this through and try to give me their thoughts before I replied. A response was slowly stalling and silence crept in so I asked, "What does grace mean?"

"Prayer?"

"No."

"Blessing?" I hesitated, because I thought that the grace of God was indeed the greatest blessing that has ever been given to men, but I knew this was not in the other person's thoughts. They thought that grace was something that happened before meals. I imagine I will only have a greater disdain for the improper use of vocabulary when I inevitably encounter someone "saying grace" before a meal.

"Grace is unmerited favor," I replied. More silence. The hymn which began this conversation kept playing, but the confused hush drowned out the voices of praise.

I further broke down "merit" and "favor" to the point which I could not go any further. I think I concluded with "grace is when God gives us something we don't deserve."

What baffles me most is that this person has been attending a biblical church for the past 1.5 years on Sundays alone, and yet a definition of grace cannot be given. Pastors, I have one question that comes from my desperation: What are you actually teaching? I ask this not out of anger, but rather from a maddening desperation for the biblical truth of the Bible to be preached! I could enter into a rant on the church in America right now, and I think it would be well fitting, but that is not my topic for this post.

From this point of thinking and determining what is really going on here, I conclude it mus be one of the three following scenarios or a variation thereof:
  1. I am wrong, this person is a Christian, but they are intellectually dull and very immature in their Christian life.
  2. This person is deceived by the devil, is still in "the darkness" as 1 John 1 describes, and they do not have the truth in them.
  3. I cannot draw a firm conclusion here for the spiritual realities of salvation are too mysterious and we cannot truly tell who has been born again and become a true Christian and who has not.
I am convinced that the second is true even though (because) the person in question has indeed shown anger and cruelty to me for explaining this possibility to them. It must either be this or I must have my thinking completely wrong and I must then never, ever take a judgment as to who is a Christian and who is not.

What shall I conclude? Sinners will hate the realities of salvation and the gospel. I have always been fond of saying, "Nobody like to be called a sinner."

Please pray for me that I might always be able to speak the truth in love amidst my crooked intellectual bent and at times obstinate insistence on proper communication...in other words, pray the gospel to be poured out from me even though I am a snobbish, prideful, unkind communicator.

Pray for the hardness of sinners hearts and that it may be shattered by the regenerating, life-giving love of the one true God.

A final, penultimate thought: I will be utterly and fiercely opposed to any teaching that resembles Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism for the rest of my life. I cannot accept the thought that a person can choose God after I have experienced the realities of sin and moreover seen them presented clearly in the holy scriptures.

7.16.2010

Doug Wilson on Miracles


Miracles from Daniel Foucachon on Vimeo.

I think Doug has some great points here, specifically the idea of miracles actually happening versus miracle workers existing. I wonder if he would call himself a cessationist or not?

(HT: the tenth letter )

7.15.2010

A sanctifying effect

Let us remember what we are, corrupt, evil, and miserable sinners. Let us remember who the Lord Jesus is, the eternal Son of God, the maker of all things. And then let us remember that for our sakes Jesus voluntarily endured the most painful, horrible, and disgraceful death. Surely the thought of this love should constrain us daily to live not unto ourselves, but unto Christ. It should make us ready and willing to present our bodies a living sacrifice to Him who lived and died for us. (2 Cor. 5:4. Rom 12:1.) Let the cross of Christ be often before our minds. Rightly understood, no object in all Christianity is so likely to have a sanctifying as well as a comforting effect on our souls.

- Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985], 344.

7.14.2010

Devotion is a verb, not a noun

The below is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a friend. I was describing my thoughts on "devotion". It seems to me that when I think of devotion as a noun as opposed to actually setting my face towards God and asking everything of him and begging for his Spirit's help, this is when I am miserable and most often in rebellious, blatant sin. Here is what I wrote:

I would like to get in a solid, very very consistent schedule of giving myself time to be affected by God and moved closer to him each day. Often my schedule gets messed up by my family who really can't tell me any plans ahead of time, but I can get bitter regarding that point far too easily.

George Mueller put it best regarding the point of our personal devotion (verb, not a noun) to God:
     The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.
     The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.
      For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.
So basically I have been seeing where I fail to receive this and then be strengthened by it for my daily battles and joy.

Spurgeon also put it well with this word which distills the gospel oh so well:
 “‘Come unto me,’ he says, ‘and I will give you.’  You say, ‘Lord, I cannot give you anything.’  He does not want anything.  Come to Jesus, and he says, ‘I will give you.’  Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation.  I will give you‘ — that is the gospel in four words.
Will you come and have it?  It lies open before you.”
That is exactly what I need every day. When I fail to look to Christ and look to his unthinkably generous, giving hand, my day will likely be one of misery or chasing after idols and sinning against God. The only thing that will get me through the next second is Jesus' love for me. As often as I forget this incomparable truth, I will live a poor life that is truly ironic because one would expect the person who has been given the greatest treasure imaginable to be supremely happy and joyful and to be the type of person who spends all of his time exulting in the treasure given him.

7.11.2010

True Church & Apostasy

A group of my friends from college and myself are coming together weekly to work through Hebrews this summer. I was tasked with preparing a study on Hebrews 3:7-19 aka "Apostasy Central" as I like to call it. This text clearly teaches on the nature of apsotasy, ἀφίστημι ( Hebrews 3:12), meaning "to fall away". The large group of Israelites are the historical example of apostasy the writer of Hebrews presents. The chief characteristic of the apostate, in the wandering nation of Israel and in men today is unbelief

The Israelites proved themselves to be false children of God who deplored God's good provision in leading them out of Egypt and contended, complained, and stood against God and his servant-leader Moses. These were the actions that sprung forth from their deep well of unbelief. 

What shall we say about apostate men and women in this age? How does one identify the apostate? Unbelief is the root of their sin and will be the cause of God's wrath falling upon them ( Hebrews 3:10-11 ). Apostate people will additionally display:
  • Unfaithful questioning Exodus 17:7
  • Ignorance of God's direction Hebrews 3:7-8
  • Testing of God "Massah" Exodus 17:7, Hebrews 3:9
  • Quarreling with one another, leaders, and God "Meribah" Exodus 17:7 
What shall we conclude (amidst very limited exposition)? God's wrath is against the apostate. The apostate will not enter eternal rest.

Next time we will look at the pointed (and hopefully piercing) exhortation in Hebrews 3:12-19.



7.08.2010

Straight from the journal


     Make known to me O Father the unsearchable riches of Christ. Preach to me the goodness of your Son. Give me his words, his teaching. Confront me with His holiness. I fall dead to the ground before the terrible splendor of the Messiah who is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise! I want to be with you O God! My emotions run strong now and will no doubt fade to a lame state in time, but oh how I long to feel your love overwhelm me. Let no earthly romance steal my heart from thee. I pour contempt on all my pride. Refine hate and love. Forge me into the pure, golden image of your Son! I am amazed even with what temporal blessings you lavish upon an ill-deserving rebel! Batter my heart for thee. Press me on and may I persevere and help my brethren.
     Christ, be my guide, for you have the words of life.
          Through you I pray O Savior...

7.07.2010

Planting bombs at sin's door

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
- Hebrews 3:12-13

Are we devoted to sabotaging the work of Satan in this hellish world? Will we plot against the schemes of the devil as underground insurgents? Will we cultivate a hatred for an enemy whose craftiness goes unmatched? Will we suck the poison out of another's veins when they are poisoned with bitter sweet sin? Will we do so with great love? For we have been armed with a weapon that hits our enemy square in his face as we have seen how our great Commander opposed the enemy with his great sword.

Many of us crave a community of fellow believers that is more like a band of special operation commandos strategizing against sin and planting bombs of righteousness. We want so much more than "accountability partners" and "disciplers". We want men and women who will come to our side and give "personal, Biblical, exhortation" as Piper notes. We want the church to be a group of ragtag saints who have a common, vile enemy and a wonderful, common Father.

"The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Go beyond and through your small groups and congregational  gatherings and let a love for the Church eternal be the rocket fuel for your battle to exhort your fellow soldiers to faith, love, repentance, and a tight embrace of the King.

7.01.2010

A new heart from heaven

8. Then follows, Harden not your hearts By which words is intimated that our rebellion against God flows from no other fountain than willful wickedness, by which we obstruct the entrance of his grace, We have indeed by nature a heart of stone, and there is in all an innate hardness from the womb, which God alone can mollify and amend. That we, however, reject the voice of God, it happens through a spontaneous obstinacy, not through an external impulse, a fact of which every one is a witness to himself. Rightly, then, does the Spirit accuse all the unbelieving that they resist God, and that they are the teachers and authors of their own perverseness, so that they can throw the blame on none else. It is hence, however, absurdly concluded that we have, on the other hand, a free power to form the heart for God’s service; nay rather, it must ever be the case with men, that they harden their heart until another be given them from heaven; for as we are bent towards wickedness, we shall never cease to resist God until we shall be tamed and subdued by his hand.

 - John Calvin on Hebrews 3:8