On the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism, Definite Atonement versus Indefinite Atonement.
“It is the difference between the man who manufactures life vests and the man who pulls drowning people out of the water, between the man who makes a scalpel and the man who uses it to cut out a cancerous tumor to save a patient’s life. Creating a system to do something is a fundamentally different thing from actually doing it. Thus, saying that Jesus creates a salvation system rather than saving us gives us a fundamentally different perspective on the cross and the empty tomb.”
-Greg Forster, The Joy of Calvinism, p54-55
Posted on December 12th, 2013
Advent means “coming” and consists of the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Many Christians want to celebrate this wonderful season but don’t know where to begin and are weary of some traditions for good reason.
The coming of Jesus Christ is all about hope, nicely summed up by Paul in Romans 15:12: ”And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
What the Bible marks as a season of hope–remembering Jesus’ first coming (which Israel anticipated with hope) or looking forward to his second coming–parts of the church mark as a season of repentance. This is not to say that hope isn’t consistent with repentance, but it’s odd when the Old Covenant calendar had one set day of affliction (Yom Kippur, Lev. 16), for the church in the New Covenant to multiply fast days. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on December 3rd, 2013
King David lived a life on the run, fighting for his life. He killed lions as a shepherd, Goliath as a young warrior, he fled from Saul numerous times in fear of his life, he battled the Amalekites as an exile in Philistia after they took the women and children of Ziklag, and after he was established as king in Israel he fled from his own son Absalom who stole the throne. In the midst of all these troubles, what motivated him? What did he long for most during his hectic life? For what did he consistently desire?
In Ps. 27:4 he says, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire at his temple.” David wasn’t hoping for an apartment to live at the tabernacle so he could be there 24/7. He wanted to worship there Sabbath to Sabbath with God’s people, and to do this was to dwell with the Lord and behold his beauty all of his days.
We don’t worship once a week and work the other days because we only need to connect occasionally with God or because work is more important. Beholding the beauty of God with his saints is to bring him into every part of life, which is not to say that every part of life is the same kind of worship. David didn’t long for his small group or early morning prayer time in the same way. He longed for the beauty of the Lord in the called and assembled worship, but seeing this beauty filled all of his days, and he prayed for it always to do so. What if we felt the way David did? What if we beheld God’s beauty in the worship service and that beauty captured us so we desiree to do it our whole life? And what if at the end we could say we dwelt in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives? And what if we did this, and had a such a good time doing it, that it was naturally contagious and received by our kids and grandkids? These gifts are not far away but set in our laps, in the very worship services we attend. The question is whether we see Him.
Posted on November 21st, 2013
“The Psalms are among the oldest poems in the world, and they still rank with any poetry in any culture, ancient or modern, from anywhere in the world. They are full of power and passion, horrendous misery and unrestrained jubilation, tender sensitivity and powerful hope. Anyone at all whose heart is open to new dimensions of human experience, anyone who loves good writing, anyone who wants a window into the bright lights and dark corners of the human soul–anyone open to the beautiful expression of a larger vision of reality should react to these poems like someone who hasn’t had good meal for a week or two. It’s all here.” N.T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms, p. 2.
Posted on November 14th, 2013
I had the pleasure of hearing the good Bishop N.T. Wright on tour last Monday talking about his excellent if pricey little book The Case for the Psalms.
His basic premise is that God gave us an inspired song book, the Psalms. Jesus sang them, and so should we. This need not take away from new songs being written, but the fact that what people usually sing in churches today, if they sing any Psalms at all, is a wee snippet of one here or there, is a tragic loss.
Wright told a story about a man associated with his who hadn’t become a Christian but went with him in a group to the holy land some years ago. Part of the tour included a trip to what is thought to be the high priest’s house of Jesus’ time, and beneath it was a deep and narrow vertical shaft which led to a solitary room. This is probably where Jesus spent his last night alone on earth, no doubt singing Psalms which appear on his lips all the time. The tour guide mentioned the lightless despair and the relevance of Psalm 88, the one with no resolution at the end, which we all feel at times. Wright noticed the man visibly moved by the reality of Jesus facing his death in those circumstances, and later he converted. Counted by the number of times he quotes them, Psalms are one of Jesus five favorite Old Testament books, and certainly the one he sang the most.
Wright’s talk was full of goodness, but two points stood out. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on November 13th, 2013
Happy Reformation Day! Like the Grinch, Stanley Hauerwas doesn’t celebrate because he doesn’t like to remember there are divisions in the church–to celebrate, he says, is to admit failure. But it’s not. To celebrate it in a way that invites all Christians to join is to celebrate the possibility of progress, the Holy Spirit’s sure and ongoing work in the church, and our unity in Christ. This is a holyday for all churches, just as justification by faith is a treasure for the whole church, even those confused on the subject. Christians are justified by faith, not by believing in justification by faith. The whole church is given the gift of the Reformation whether they complain about it or not.
What did the church actually recover at the Reformation? Too much to describe, but here are three big’uns: Gospel, Bible, Worship. One of the best things the reformers did was recognize the church must be always reforming, semper reformanda, so it’s a good exercise for churches and Christians to ask themselves if we’ve received these gifts or if we’ve forgotten them. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on October 31st, 2013
Hundreds of thousands of people, soon to be millions, are losing their health insurance. More will see their costs go up. I was talking to a woman last week who told me her costs were going from less than $400 a month to over $700 a month, an increase of over 70%. I’ll let others describe Obamacare for the disaster it is, but this post is about true alternatives that actually exist for people in need.
Soon after my youngest daughter was born, my wife I were leaving the doctor’s office after a routine check, I noticed up on the wall a sign to the effect of “HB 3426 Requires the Costs of Care to be Disclosed.” This struck me as hilarious. What business has to have a law requiring it, good consumer, to tell you its prices? Would you shop somewhere that didn’t disclose the cost of goods and services? And how long would such a business last that refused to do so? Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on October 28th, 2013
“…we are apt to imagine, or at least to speak as if we imagined, that all experience will be like ours. Thus Chrysostom, always moral and inclined to be devout from a boy, taught that we get all the grace we are willing to receive; while Augustine, very wicked and powerfully converted, preached sovereign and irresistible grace. A preacher or other Christian whose conversion was consciously sudden will almost always speak of conversion as sudden; one in whom the work was gradual and slow will give a corresponding description. So with the hopeful and the desponding, the fully assured and the often doubting, and the like. We are prone to forget that Christian experience, like the human countenance, will in no two persons be precisely alike, and often presents many and striking differences, though the great characteristic features are always the same.” (John Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 75)
Posted on October 24th, 2013
In his new book David and Goliath about the advantages of disadvantages, Malcolm Gladwell describes the rough upbringing of a kid in Minneapolis who would become a wealthy Hollywood producer. His father taught him the value of money by making him split the cost of things like new shoes or a bicycle.
If he left the lights on, his father would show him the electric bill. “He’d say, ‘Look, this is what we pay for electricity. You’re just being lazy, not turning the lights off. We’re paying for you being lazy. But if need the lights for working–twenty-four hours a day–no problem.” (pp. 45-6)
His father told him how much things cost and made him adjust because times were tight. He worked in the family’s scrap metal business, lived in a bad neighborhood in business and law school to save money, and worked hard to rise to where he is now–living in a colossus in Beverly Hills with a gate “that looks like it was shipped over from some medieval castle in Europe.”
He worked hard to succeed and now wants to provide opportunities for his children, including the opportunity to learn the same lessons that brought him so much success. But now with millions of dollars, he lacks the incentive his father had to show his kids the electric bill. He’s never going to have trouble paying it which means what he learned by necessity growing up where he did, his children can only learn by artificial imposition. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on October 22nd, 2013
“It was a golden maxim of the Protestant fathers, that ‘doctrines must be preached practically, and duties doctrinally.’” –R.L. Dabney
Posted on October 16th, 2013