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Wednesday, August 31

The Will of God and Opportunity

1 Samuel 24 relays a great story of how we should think about God's will. It is a topic that too many people balk at and not enough people exercise faith in. That is, they try and try to look for this elusive, over-spiritualized event they call God's will. Should I marry this person? I will wait for the moment when I am praying and some kind of peace falls over me. May I suggest that resting in God's will is more than that?

If God is sovereign, he directs every particle in the sky...every atom. He knows the number of hairs on your head - a fact that not even you, yourself know! And the glorious thing about all this is that this all-powerful, all-wise God has revealed in his Word what his will is.

1 Thess 4:3 tells us that it entails, but is not limited to in Paul's mind, our sanctification. And so when we turn to David's travails with Saul pursuing him, this is God's way of refining David - or so David thought.

Saul had just dropped his pants and was using the bathroom in a cave, pretty vulnerable spot, don't you think? Everybody was telling David, "This is your chance, God has given him into your hands. Kill him" (24:4). But David thought more highly of God's will than an opportune time and a rash interpretation of that time.

He rested in the fact that he was already anointed by God (ch. 16). He rested in the fact that God promised to give the kingdom into his hands. He rested in the fact that he knew not to sin against God by killing the king of Israel. All these things were revealed to David prior to this moment, and he let these truths dictate his actions, not what seemed to be the right thing.

Are you looking for signs and wonders? One of the biggest problems with our world today is that people are totally Bible-illiterate. They will quote Jesus about turning the other cheek, but forget that he turned over the money-changers' tables and demanded that we render our lives to God. He has revealed to us his will. We do need to pray (lest you think I am a total rationalist) and ask for wisdom and grace before we make a decision, not after (more on this tomorrow). But we mustn't wait for warm fuzzies and opportune times to determine if it is God's will. We must weigh all things - especially how we shall act.

Tuesday, August 30

Don't Have Money or Time to Go to Seminary

Monergism offers a free Theology Course you can take. It has 28 sections and covers:

1. An introduction to late 20th and Early 21st Century American Evangelicalism
2. Foundations for Theological Understanding Systematic and Biblical Theology
3. Creeds and a Confessed Faith
4. The Knowledge of God
5. The Revelation of God & the Holy Scripture
6. The Trinity
7. Creation & Anthropolgy
8. God's Providence
9. The Fall, Sin, and Punishment
10. Covenant of Works and Grace
11. Of Christ the Mediator
12. God's Eternal Decree
13. Free Will
14. Effectual Calling & Regeneration
15. Justification

Just to name a few...The only issue you may have, practically, is that the downloads are not the cleanest, but legible.

Is Preaching Too Archaic for Today?

Doug Pagitt has just finished a book called Preaching Re-Imagined

He seeks to persuade that pastors should engage in what he calls "progressional dialogue" rather than the typical "speaching". You can check out his blog, which is devoted to dialogue about the book.

Scot McKnight is also reviewing the book, chapter by chapter, on his blog, Jesus Creed. So, if you're like me you might want to read Dr. McKnight's interactions and see if it is worth your money and time and energy. I think it will be very important for us to engage in this kind of questioning of the norm, both for those in and outside the Emergent Movement.

Monday, August 29

His Wife Is Dying, His Heart Is Breaking

I got a lump in my throat on this great snip.

His Wife Is Dying, His Heart Is Breaking

Why Focusing on a Group is NOT the Way to Build a Church

I just picked up a pamphlet from a very large church planting agency. It outlines several steps a church planter should take. Of particular interest to me is step #2: Define Church Planting Focus Group.

It reads: Throughout the Scriptures, God declares His love and eternal purposes with a focus on identifiable groupings of people worldwide. North America is a complex mission field consisting of many cultures, languages, and worldviews. Defining a church planting focus group is an essential task.

I know what they are getting at, but I am afraid this kind of process bleeds marketing and the like. Nike shoes does this very same thing and GAP has recently said it will be targeting 35-year-old women. Should a man seeking to plant a church give in to this kind of rationale?

The brochure is correct in affirming that North America is ripe with cultures. And the principle is good overseas where a certain people group is so entrenched in tribal pride that they will not associate with the other tribe over the hill. But the vision the apostles modeled is not to focus on a particular group - namely Jewish people as was done before Pentecost.

Rather, they are to preach INDISCRIMINATELY to all peoples. In other words, the focus should be on the Gospel and not what kind of culture you should build your church around. As you think about the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells, there is a smorgasbord of peoples from every tribe people and language. Don't take it to the extreme...Meaning that you should never focus on a specific people group. This would be a great ministry within the church, but to say, "Our church is going to focus on Hmong people or Argentines or 20-somethings," is to entirely miss the boat as to the implications of the Gospel.

Therefore, church should focus on preaching and teaching the Gospel, with a view to bring together people in the name of Christ. Ministries should be blessed that seek to reach a target audience. However, the church should never be defined by that people group.

Friday, August 26

Why Did Jesus Not Dazzle?

Some may ask, why did He not manifest Himself by means of other and nobler parts of creation, and use some nobler instrument, such as sun or moon or stars or fire or air, instead of mere man? The answer is this. The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it (Athanasius, On the Incarnation, §43).

Air Conditioning and Rebellion

Air-conditioned houses can cause us to not be as acquiescent to the will of God - to some degree. We, as sinners, have a tendency to buck up against weather and comfort moves us away from being molded by "normal" events. That is to say, rather than learn perseverance and patience from the heat of summer or the cold of winter we can run from our cool car to our cool house and curse the sun, the humidity, and the "unbearable" heat.

Maybe if we got rid of such comforts, we would learn how to be content in all circumstances and not be so quick to rest on the laurels of ease.

Engagement and Love

A wordplay if you will. When I proposed to my wife, I told her for the first time that I loved her and then got down on one knee and asked her to be my wife. Of the definitions on Webster.com I liked the fourth one which says: to come together and interlock (as of machinery parts) : be or become in gear.

Although it is the definition as applied to machinery, i think it works well with how we should view engaging in marriage and engaging our culture. So we move from the warm and fuzzies to the cold hard machine. But in life you need to have both. You need to have cold, hard objectivity and soft, pliant subjectivity.

Enough of trying to string out the analogy. I am reading F. Schaeffer's book, The God Who is There, and I am loving it - especially the fourth part of speaking into the culture.

The first piece that must be present in engaging the culture is love for fellowmen. Without it, evangelism becomes legalistic strivings to win souls and convert the reprobate. We must come into a deep reality that the man and woman we are talking with is one with us insofar that we have the same father, Adam, and are in need of the Savior.

I fear that pragmatism has bled into our church and been the defining factor of a successful congregation or pastor. That is, on the list of the 50 most influential pastors, each had a huge number of attendees. Don't get me wrong, there are about five on the list that I admire and pray that I can make an impact on the church as they have.

However, I cannot lose sight of the fact that I may never be known to anyone except the few hundred people I love on by sharing the Gospel and few others that I spend pouring my life into so that they might also do the same. The most influential man was Jesus. He spent his three-year ministry influencing twelve men - twelve! Granted, he is God and the Holy Spirit moved in unprecedented ways to initiate the spreading of the Good News. However, we are also endued with the Holy Spirit and should seek to model the life of Christ. Pouring our life into men's lives so as to deeply affect them.

Has our church been too focused on sharing the Gospel in droves rather than driving the truth home to the heart and hope of humans' lives. Yes, I can go to a coffee shop right now and begin talking to five folks about Jesus and how they need to give their lives to Christ. All of which accept Christ as their Lord. But I had better get their telephone numbers and call them up the next day to begin reading through the Scriptures. I better not merely chalk up one on the belt and pat myself on the back.

This is the force of pragmatism. It seems like we are making an impact, yet we are simply getting verbal ascent. I can't tell you how many men I have heard give their lives to Jesus only to call them and they don't want to talk or meet or anything. I wish I had loved them before sharing the Gospel with them. Too many times I have only looked at my evangelism as a challenge and good thing to do as a Christian.

May we as a people begin loving people, first. And then talking to them about their need. May we not volley the mortars of truth against their walls of contempt and deluge in order to say we have fought the battle and won the debate and lose a soul.

Thursday, August 25

Hear O Peoples, The Messiah Is One

A few people have begun to advocate the notion that Israel believed that they were the seed and Messiah that was prophesied. As I have read more it has become clearer that there was one person that the Hebrew Scriptures attest and point toward.

As Athanasius says in On The Atonement: Did not the nations always regard Israel with implacable hostility? Then it is worth enquiring who it is, on whom the nations are to set their hopes. Obviously there must be someone, for the prophet could not have told a lie [in reference to Matt 12:21 as Matthew interprets Is. 11 and 42]. (St. Vladamir's Seminary Press, 1996, p. 68).

What's In a Name...Not Much

One of the things that makes me smile is when someone comes up to me and asks me if I knew that some famous person was a Christian. My favorite has been: "Matt, did you know that Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony all became Christians." For those of you that don't remember this rap group, they sang a song called "Crossroads", which is a nominally religious-like song about death and the afterlife (taboot with a weird music video).

Anyway, I am finding out more and more that we should be slower to call people Christians. I am not saying we pass judgment on people...give me the benefit of the doubt. What I am saying is that we wait to see if someone bears the fruit that the Bible tells us will result from a right relationship with God - love for Jesus, for Christians, for the Bible, etc. We should not be so quick to affirm someone when they say they are a Christian. How do they define "Christian"? I am going to deal with this in a series of posts (probably next week as there are a few topics I want to talk about tomorrow).

My reflection comes from my Bible reading yesterday. Jeremiah (the weeping prophet) recounts Israel's unfaithfulness to God and tells them that they will be exiled into Babylon. The last chapter (52) recounts the fall of Israel's beloved city, Jerusalem. It closes up the story in the book highlighted in ch. 37:2 - But neither [Zedekiah] nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. And 52:2-3 gives the result of them not heeding the voice of the Lord - And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 3 For because of the anger of the Lord things came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.

In Hebrew names were intended to signify a someone's characteristic. The name "Zedekiah" means "the Lord is my righteousness". It is extremely ironic that the king of Israel whose name meant this, is the very person who lead Israel into sinful pleasures with a proclamation of "the Lord is my righteousness". We find here that a name does not mean that much. Much like today. Many people call themselves Christian or say they believe in God, but their lives have no evidences of saving faith - they don't love God with their affections, they don't enjoy reading the Bible, they find no benefit to their souls of going to church...There are a lot of churches in the United States and a lot of people have turned a deaf ear to God's messengers, like Zedekiah and the people of Israel had done. Judgment will come on those who have been given so much but forsake the mercy of God in forsaking Gospel-preaching churches on so many street corners. For those who find more pleasure in chocolate than the sweet honey of the Word of God - For those who enjoy being seen as acceptable in men's eyes rather than God's - For those who enjoy buying a new suit or dress or car or house more than being satisfied in God's all-sufficiency...Repent and seek Jesus. Take no confidence in calling yourself Christian.

Wednesday, August 24

Plucking Eyes Out as a Gift from God?

The book of Judges weaves the tragedy of Samson's life. Most of us automatically think of his strength, forgetting his most glaring characteristic. Samson was a weak man in his spiritual life. He is the icon of what it means to have all the looks but really being a wimp on the inside. He is like the Wizard of Oz who boomed with his voice, but was a scraggly little man behind the curtain.

A beautiful girl from the oppressing Philistines enamored Samson and we are told: "Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson's eyes" (Judges 14:7). I talk about this story a little more in detail below, but I just want to highlight how the writer tells us of Samson's issue with his eyes.

Two chapters later we read: "Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her" (16:1). He had no regard for the ordinances of God, that he should not commit fornication. After all, this is a time in the history of Israel when everyone did whatever he wanted ("what was right in his own eyes).

Finally, he falls in love with the beautiful Delilah (another Philistine). After being seduced by her and being foolish enough to tell her the secret of his strength the writer tells us: "And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved" (16:21-22).

Now some may never think that horrors, such as having your eyes plucked out, is a gift from God. By default we look at situations like this as being awful and out of the hands of God. This is unfortunate. By definition of his very essence, God is in control of all that happens in his creation. Therefore, he is in control of crushes men have on women, eyes that wander toward sin, and eyes being gouged out as an act of divine grace.

Why was it gracious for the Philistines to pluck out Samson's eyes? Just like in 14:4 - "[Samson's] father and mother did not know that it [the crush Samson had on the Philistine woman] was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines." The Philistines enslaved Israel and the people cried out for mercy and justice. How did God answer these cries? With lust, deceit, and plucked out eyes - all by the hands of sinful humans.

Back to the question: Samson was never able to break out of his lust for the flesh. His eyes made him wander away from the statutes of the Lord. He had all this strength, but was easily led astray by nice legs. To keep him from being led astray (and to accomplish a greater purpose for Samson's life) he had the Philistines pluck out Samson's eyes. For it was not until Samson had his eyes plucked out "so the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life" (16:30).

Next time we think of a tragedy, we must stop and think that God is not far from us, but he is very much aware of the brands that are drawing near our eyes...all the more to purify our souls. And for those who are easily led to destruction by a pair of beautiful legs, you might ask to have your eyes plucked out [Matt. 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell (also Mt. 18:9)]. More is at stake than a disability.

Tuesday, August 23

Demise in Delilah's Den

You would think that Samson would have caught on to the fact that certain women cannot be trusted (especially those who have no fear of God in their heart). Some women seek only to promote themselves and move up the food chain of comfort.

So it is with his new crush, Delilah. I begin to wonder about the size of Samson's brain. He seems to be the proverbial jock who doesn't connect things. After the first night he tells Delilah that the secret to his strength so that his enemies could overpower him lie in tying him up with bow strings, he wakes up tied in bow strings. This should have told him something. Instead, he gloats and breaks the fetters that should have given him pause.

The second night, he tells her that if he is tied with new ropes he will be powerless. So, if you wake up and find yourself tied in new ropes, what's the reason? Right. The person who tied you up wants to overpower you. Samson boasts in his strength yet again - this time with a laugh. "There's nothing that can hold me." Beware brothers lest you boast in the good gifts of God as though you had earned them and not received them. Whether you can preach well, listen well, study well, argue well, groom well, don't brag about these things. Be humbled or you will find yourself as Samson found himself the next day.

Monday, August 22

Dr. Russell Moore has very insightful thoughts on Marriage, Adultery, and the Family.

A couple provoking quotes:

[The mind of an adulterous man] rarely will admit to an affair because he wanted to have sex with an attractive woman. Rather he will use such language as, "I found my soul-mate."

Perhaps in all our talk of romance and candlelight, we should re-emphasize that sometimes the romance is deferred, sometimes the fireworks are postponed. Perhaps rather than always pointing to the example of a sexy young married couple, we should point our older teenagers and young married couples to the eighty-seven year old man who has been wheeling his wife into the congregation every Sunday for thirty years, since she lost the use of her arms and legs in a stroke, or to the sixty year-old woman who faithfully shaves the face of her Alzheimer's-riddled husband, even as he curses and swats at a woman he doesn't remember.

For the full article:


Soveriegn over Crushes

Before this morning, I had never thought about God being in control of my feelings in elementary, high school, and college so that I would like a cute girl I saw walking by or I had talked to in the hall. In fact, I thought that God could care less for who I liked (other than my future wife). As I reflected on Samson's many issues with ladies (Delilah, a prostitute, and a Philistine) I began to see what God was doing in my heart and life through inclining my hear to a specific girl as I was growing up.

In Judges 14, Samson falls in love with a girl.
1   Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up and told his father and mother, "I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife." 3 But his father and mother said to him, "Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?" But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes."
4   His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.

Samson told his parents that this Philistine girl was "right in his eyes." In other words, she looked beautiful to him (seeing as he did not know her from conversation, but only by sight). God had quickened Samson's heart so that he would fall in love with this girl because "[God] was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines" (v. 4).

The author adds a note about the situation to emphasize the fact that this was a strange union indeed by reminding us that the Philistines ruled over Israel. That is, this slave boy wanted to marry an aristocrat.

You would think that Samson would not want to marry this woman after she breaks confidence with him by telling her people the answer to his wedding riddle. No, he becomes even more enraged and he beat thirty men from Ashkelon and stripped them naked. God kept Samson from marrying this pagan girl and used this crush as a means to free his people from tyranny. This little crush turns out to be the neon sign pointing out Samson as the main antagonist against the Philistines. Thus, they begin their search to destroy him.

Samson's flirting with evil does not end because he then sleeps with a prostitute and falls in love with Delilah. To be discussed tomorrow.

Friday, August 19

More Meditation: Psalm 19

So if there are two books that God has written - Creation and the Bible - how do they work together? That is, can someone who has never heard the truth that Jesus as God came to earth, lived a righteous life, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, and rose again for our justification; can this person be saved? Can a person merely look at the beauty of creation and be saved?

Simply put: Creation is interpreted by the Bible. That is, creation attests to the work of God's hand (thus no man has an excuse for not believing in the existence of God - Romans 1:20). However, there is no name under heaven by which someone can be saved - And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12 )." That means, that tree nor clouds nor good living can save someone.

Call me narrow minded, but you will then contend with the ways of God. I will post more exclusivity later. Suffice to say: God has ordered the events of history in such a way that Christ is the only sacrifice and righteousness we can have in order to commune with God. Do not take this lightly. Do not scoff at the singular mind of God the Father to exalt the beauty and majesty of his Son.

Just as the names for things in creation must be taught to a child: Cow! No that is a tree. Car! No that is a bicycle. Who made this? God. Who is that? Let's read the Bible...

Thursday, August 18

Meditation: Psalm 19

7           The law of the Lord is perfect,
        reviving the soul;
        the testimony of the Lord is sure,
        making wise the simple;
8          the precepts of the Lord are right,
                rejoicing the heart;
        the commandment of the Lord is pure,
        enlightening the eyes;
9         the fear of the Lord is clean,
                enduring forever;
        the rules of the Lord are true,
                and righteous altogether.

This section comes right after David exults in the glory of nature and its witness to the glory of God. In his mind, their are two testimonies to the glory of God: nature and the Word. They are not mutually exclusive but help humanity embrace God as their Creator and Savior. Not only does he fix all the boundaries of the earth and determine when a snowflake falls or a tidal wave will crash on the coast (Ps. 74:17), but he also has gifted us his Word to give us boundaries by which we can enjoy the fullness of life (Ps. 16:6).

The world will always scoff at the Christian who loves the Bible. It is foolishness and a stumbling block. For in it contains the paradoxes the fleshly mind cannot perceive. But to us it is sweeter than even honey.

Notice: What areas does the law of the Lord affect? Every one. Firstly, the soul is revived. If your soul has been downcast with worry and pain, go to the Word of God. There you will find solace and hope. Then the mind is taught - the simple are made wise. How else can you explain doltish fishermen confounding the learned. Then the heart is made glad. Only those who have been born again can be made happy by hearing the precepts of God. Next, the eyes are enlightened. Only those who have been born of the Spirit of God can see the Kingdom of God - the rest are blinded to its majesty. Finally, what brings this section together is the response on the part of the hearer. He fears God. The unbeliever walks through life cursing the rain (though it waters the plants that sustain him), cursing his neighbor (though community is what keeps him alive), cursing God (though he is the one who gives him the very breath to utter the curse).

The proper response upon seeing the marvel of creation and hearing the law of the Lord is fear. It is clean. Outside of the person it endures forever. It does not depend on man keeping it in order to be alive. Unlike many who would deceive and say that culture determines right and wrong, fear is clean and in the last day all flesh will know what it means to fear rightly. Parallel to the fear of the Lord are the rules of the Lord; they are true and thoroughly righteous (regardless of whether man heeds them or not).

Blasphemy does not have to be uttered by the lips. It can be proclaimed by a life not lived in fear of God. Embrace the perfection, the surety, the rightness, the purity, the truthfulness, and the righteousness of the Word of God.

Wednesday, August 17

A Work of the Holy Spirit is Necessary for Salvation - Not Just Knowledge

Just finished Edwards' sermon, "A Divine and Supernatural Light IMparted to the Soul". In it he argues that what is necessary for someone to be saved is not just knowing that Jesus died for sinners and understanding how sins are atoned for. What is necessary is a work of the Holy Spirit to make the truths the mind and reason can grasp into sweet and excellent beauties the entire person admires.

It is out of reason's [the mind's] province to perceive the beauty or loveliness of any thing: such a perception does not belong to that faculty. Reason's work is to perceive truth and not excellency.

Reason may determine that a countenance is beautiful to others, it may determine that honey is sweet to others; but it will never give me a perception of its sweetness.

What must happen is that the tongue of the soul cannot merely acknowledge that chocolate is sweet and the eyes see that it is brown and nose perceive its smell. What must happen for someone to be saved is for them to desire and crave the chocolate.

A Non-Christian Must Contradict Himself

On my summer reading list I enjoyed the book, The God Who Is There, by Francis Schaeffer. I read it right after a class I had on Christian Philosophy which served to help me work through some of Schaeffer's well-versed sentences.

One of the things that stuck with me was the fact that the non-Christian must constantly live in a state of contradiction. This is much different than the tension the Christian is called to live in (the already-not yet kingdom reality: sanctified and being sanctified, saved and not-yet saved, sinner and saint, insert-your-own-thought-here). The difference lies in the worldview each one holds. The non-Christian is constantly borrowing from different (and contradictory) worldviews - such as Buddhist reincarnation and Christian creation.

This shouldn't surprise us. If we look at the culture around us, we see lazy people who have not thought through anything other than when their favorite show comes on prime-time. We sit around and are fed by others the things that we should know in order to graduate college or be successful in life. It is unusual to find someone who has thought through their position and can cogently explain it. They can't logically explain, because their position is not logical, period. People go to the buffet of worldviews and glutton themselves on things that sound sweet to the ear, but have no fiber. Thus, we need presuppositional apologetics.

Ask any non-Christian if he believes there is a God. If he says "yes", then have him define his god. It will become very apparent that this god is not God. In the depraved human heart there is no room for perfect justice - only the kind they deem right. If he says "no", ask him what has convinced him there is no God. Then, whether he believes in right and wrong. Then, from what does he base this right and wrong? If from himself, then what keeps me from hitting him if it is right for me? If determined by a society, what prevents the Nazis from exterminating people it sees as disposable? This is but a taste of presuppositional apologetics. Stay tuned for more thoughts on this.

Remember: there is no way that a non-Christian can live in the world and be logically responsible.

Reformed Apologia

Let me explain very briefly what a presuppositional apologetic is (above you will find a lengthy post of Francis Schaeffer who I admire). The problem with the unbeliever is not that he has his facts wrong, it is that he has his heart wrong. From the beginning of a conversation with him, he has rejected all the "proofs" you can give for God's existence because he is committed to a worldview opposed to Christianity.

Therefore, the worldview must be shown for the hoax that it is. As a Christian, I believe that Christ is Lord over every detail of life - even debating. What I want to do is pray and ask God to enlighten the mind and ignite the heart. And I want to lovingly show the unbeliever that his worldview cannot hold water when put to the test. {For a quick question reference, go here.}

Cornelius Van Til has explained the apologetic very well and I am becoming more and more convinced of its strength as I learn more about it. Here is a lengthy essay, "My Credo", but I believe it will be worth your time.

Also, take two hours to listen to this wonderful debate on the existence of God and hear the presuppositional apologetic modeled by Dr. Greg Bahnsen.

Monday, August 15

Truco: The Best Card Game In the Civilized World

I learned to play the game of Truco among friends while I lived in La Plata, Argentina. I have played several card games, but this is by far my favorite and worth the time to learn all the rules. Although it calls for a standard Spanish naipes set, you can substitute North American Poker cards.

Basic Rules

Advanced Rules

Hebrew & Greek Resources

As school starts up, these sites might be helpful to get your Hebrew and Greek freshened up. I don't vouch for any of their conclusions as a result of knowing the languages. I just think these might be helpful in your exegesis, parsing, etc.

Lionel Windsor

Hebrew for Christians

John Beckman

Roy Ciampa

When People Are More Hardened than Statues

2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon [a carved idol]. 3 And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him (1 Sam. 5:2-4).

The Philistines had just defeated the Israelites and stolen the ark of the covenant (a symbol of God's presence among his people). In essence, God had abandoned his people because of their sin. However, I want to focus on what happened in the camp of the Philistines.

They knew a lot about what YHWH had done for Israel. The author tells us in ch. 4 that the Philistines had heard of YHWH's miraculous deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt and his afflicting Egypt with plagues. They became afraid when they heard that YHWH was among Israel. But their superstition was no different than Israel's.

They added the ark to the temple of their god, Dagon - a collection of rabbit's feet and anything else that might help in ways of religion. This is much like most people today. They go to church out of superstition - thinking that checking Sunday services off their time card in heaven will earn them an entrance to eternal bliss. They have the family heirloom Bible sitting on their bookshelf - dusty from not being opened to teach them how to live. They accumulate good works in hopes that they will go to heaven - not owning to the fact that they can never be good enough to be in the presence of the holy, righteous God. They are too proud to humble themselves before the cross and say they need anything.

Not so with Dagon. Although he was made of stone, he humbled himself before the God of creation. He was wiser than the learned of Philistia. Not once, but twice he fell on his face to humble himself in the presence of God. The Philistines, like so many, didn't read the meaning behind what happened.

This is the plight of all those who do not humble themselves before God, but boast of how good they are or how much they believe in God. There is no one good, no not one (Ps. 14; Rom. 3:10). Belief in God makes you no better than the demons: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (James 2:19). Without the work of God in a person's heart, they will remain colder and harder than stone - not repenting, not seeking forgiveness. All those who shun the forgiveness freely offered us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus spit in God's face and mock him just like the Roman soldiers. They are enemies. They have hearts of stone.

Ezekiel 37 holds out a promise for all those who cling to the idols of comfort, money, success, self, sex... They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings* in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God (v.23). And finally, 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:13-14). All those who do not cling to Christ are worse than statues, but there is hope. For God can cleanse you and make a new person with a heart that beats with passion for Christ and things of the Spirit. Fall on your face, or be broken.

Saturday, August 13

When Painful Things are Good

And he said, "It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him" (1 Samuel 3:18).

God was going to totally wipe out Eli's name from before his altar of service. Eli's sons had lived corrupt lives (profaning the Lord's sacrifices and taking prostitutes) and God was going to bring justice to this house for the flippant way they had treated service to God. Upon hearing this from the boy Samuel's lips, Eli replied in the affirmative...not only this, but acknowledging that the Lord can and will do whatever he sees fit.

Not only this, but we read in chapter 2 that it is good to the Lord to put people to death (even those that carry the name priest). "But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death" (1 Sam. 2:25). Too many times we think that death is something that God does not know how to deal with adequately. People try to comfort people with the goodness of God, but they do not acknowledge that the Lord is the one who creates and destroys. There is nothing outside of his hand.

Friday, August 12

Fresh Fruit in the Garden of Eden

My wife read me this quote out of Goldsworthy's book, According to Plan , last night and I thought it was helpful in thinking through what was happening in the Garden.

In Genesis 1:28 it is implied that we are created to make real choices between real options, even though this freedom is bound by the prescription to be fruitful and rule the earth. Without the freedom to make real choices it would be impossible to rule. In recognition of this, most English versions of the Bible translate Genesis 2:16 as permission to "freely eat" of all the trees in the garden. There is no "freely" in the Hebrew text which, in fact, uses the same construction here that is used in verse 17, "you will surely die." In the context we see that Adam and Eve have the freedom to choose what to eat from all the trees, but they have no freedom as to the consequences if they eat of the one forbidden tree.
        Thus, with freedom and responsibility comes a test of obedience in the prohibition placed on eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Nothing in the text suggests that the fruit of this tree (which is never referred to as an apple tree!) has some magical quality which will produce the knowledge of good and evil in anyone who eats it. This would be completely out of character for biblical literature. It is more likely that God designates the tree as off limits as the means of showing the difference between good and evil. The choice for Adam and Eve was not between ignorance and the knowledge of good and evil, but between remaining good and becoming evil themselves. The nature of the test was such that whatever choice they made they would know right and wrong through their personal response to God. God is not a force or some other impersonal power. No matter how hard it is for us to conceive of God as person without at the same time reducing him to a superhuman being, the Bible consistently refers to him in personal terms. He is the source of personhood.
(p. 98)

In essence, Goldsworthy is saying that the fruit itself was not the issue that ejected Adam and Eve out of the Garden. Rather, it was their reaching their hand out and taking of the fruit. "Knowledge" does not have to refer to the metaphysical, but it can also refer to the experiential knowing (cf. Gen 4:1, 17, 25; Deut 34:10; Judges 19:25; Ps. 20:6; 41:11).

Therefore, the spotlight shines not on the tree, but on how Adam and Eve will live their lives. Will they obey? Or will they know evil out of their present experience of good? Taken this way, it helps to get into the Genesis author's mind. This gives an even clearer picture of the original state of man and his rebellion because the issue is not God tempting Adam and Eve. We know that God does not tempt (James 1:13). Instead, Adam and Eve are in a covenant relationship with God, which has blessings (from all the trees they may eat) and its stipulations (from this one tree you may not eat). [[If you doubt this, William Dumbrell has a good treatment of this in Covenant and Creation, especially ch.1]]. So the issue is whether the man and woman will remain trusting the goodness of God or throw it away for the putrid fruit of self-governance.

Thursday, August 11

Closer to Resolution

Okay. I could spend the time writing all my thoughts down and read a good book instead. I could do something a little more constructive as my dad taught me. I could spend less time in front of a screen clicking away and be outside moving my bones. OH! What to do?

I was lying in bed last night wrestling with whether I was going to commit to writing a blog. And this is what I came up with:

1. The internet is a connecting spot for the world.
2. I will probably never publish a book, so I shouldn't wait for that to happen to share my thoughts with others.
3. Blogging enables me to encourage and challenge people without having to find a publisher.
4. I can make an impact in others' lives and thinking by the things I type on this blog.
5. This provides an outlet for what I am learning in seminary rather than just filing it away never to be chewed on.
6. It could sharpen my own thinking as people affirm and challenge my thoughts.

With all that said, I am going to do this. I pray that this will be a way for you to be challenged, as well as myself. I want this to be a vehicle for Christ-centered discussion and culture-engaged thinking and action. May God be pleased with what is written here.

Monday, August 1

What's the Point?

That's the question I ask myself and we should all ask ourselves when it comes down to making decisions. You see, too many of us just do without any conscious thought as to why I am doing what I am doing.

We plop down in front of the television to "veg out" for a while and wonder why there is not enough time in the day to do what I want to get done.

So the question I ask myself before I embark into the world of web logs is, "Why? With all the wonderful, culture-engaging commentaries out there already, why add more verbiage to the deluge of the internet? Why try to contend with such heavy hitters when you are trying to keep your head above water in right thinking?" Well, I want to add my voice because I think that the worst thing I can do is remain quiet and let this wave go by without attempting to out my hand to the clay and mold what thoughts are formed.

My hope in this blog is to be more of a mouthpiece to my meanderings than much a commentary on the culture. Rather, I want to impart some thought-provoking and thought-balming words to those who would join my venture.

I hope that you find what you're looking for...and if you do not, at least you stopped for a bit and listened.
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