Monday, December 29, 2008

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

This is an account from the early church of the death of the church father Polycarp. He was the last person alive who had a direct connection to the Apostle Paul. Polycarp wrote many letters to various churches informing them of various things that were going on in the churches.

The document has been somewhat changed over time, but the base of the story was considered a reliable piece of history, as the people who were present attested to Polycarp's witness of the Christian faith.

Many people who have been martyred for the sake of Christ throughout the ages have had stories told by those who witnessed the events that there was a miraculous presence of God there with signs that accompanied the event.

The piece below is just an excerpt from The Martyrdom of Polycarp, and starts with him entering the stadium to stand his trial of whether he would renounce Christ alone as God or be condemned for his faith.

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, "Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!" No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, "Have respect to thy old age," and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], "Swear by the fortune of Cæsar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists." But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, "Away with the Atheists." [Referring the words to the pagans, and not to the Christians, as was desired.] Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, "Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;" Polycarp declared, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?"

And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, "Swear by the fortune of Cæsar," he answered, "Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Cæsar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and thou shalt hear them." The proconsul replied, "Persuade the people." But Polycarp said, "To thee I have thought it right to offer an account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honour (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me."

The proconsul then said to him, "I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast thee, except thou repent." But he answered, "Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil; and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous." But again the proconsul said to him, "I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despisest the wild beasts, if thou wilt not repent." But Polycarp said, "Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt." (emphasis mine)

While he spoke these and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace, so that not merely did it not fall as if troubled by the things said to him, but, on the contrary, the proconsul was astonished, and sent his herald to proclaim in the midst of the stadium thrice, "Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian." This proclamation having been made by the herald, the whole multitude both of the heathen and Jews, who dwelt at Smyrna, cried out with uncontrollable fury, and in a loud voice, "This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, and the overthrower of our gods, he who has been teaching many not to sacrifice, or to worship the gods.” Speaking thus, they cried out, and besought Philip the Asiarch to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. But Philip answered that it was not lawful for him to do so, seeing the show of wild beasts were already finished. Then it seemed good to them to cry out with one consent, that Polycarp should be burnt alive. For thus it behooved the vision which was revealed to him in regard to his pillow to be fulfilled, when, seeing it on fire as he was praying, he turned about and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him, "I must be burnt alive."

This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken, the multitudes immediately gathering together wood and fagots out of the shops and baths; the Jews especially, according to custom, eagerly assisting them in it. And when the funeral pile was ready, Polycarp, laying aside all his garments, and loosing his girdle, sought also to take off his sandals, a thing he was not accustomed to do, inasmuch as every one of the faithful was always eager who should first touch his skin. For, on account of his holy life, he was, even before his martyrdom, adorned with every kind of good. Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile. But when they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, "Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile."

They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God, looked up to heaven, and said, "O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before thee, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before Thee as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as Thou, the ever-truthful God, hast foreordained, hast revealed beforehand to me, and now hast fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen."

When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odor [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Horse Before the Cart: The Importance of the Doctrine of Divine Election

"The covenant of grace can throughout the centuries remain the same because it depends entirely upon God and because God is the Immutable One and the Faithful One. The covenant of works which was concluded with man before the fall was violable and it was violated, for it depended upon changeable man. But the covenant of grace is fixed and established solely in the compassion of God. People can become unfaithful, but God does not forget His promise. He cannot and may not break His covenant; He has committed Himself to maintaining it with a freely given and precious oath: His name, His honor, and His reputation depends on it. It is for His own sake that He obliterates the transgressions of His people and remembers their sins no more. Therefore the mountains may depart and the hills removed, but His kindness will not depart from us, nor shall the covenant of His peace be removed, says the Lord who has mercy on us (Isa. 54:10)." (Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith)


Over the past several months, I have been examining and praying through some of the distinctions between the various forms of thought in regards to the Dotrines of soteriology, or to put it more simply, in regards to the ideas surrounding salvation.

With the rise of Charles Finney and Arminianism in the Church, which are both forms of Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism, much of what is considered orthodox for Christianity has long gone out the window. Admittedly, there are variations even in these two "camps" of thought, some of which differ not hardly at all from a Reformed view of salvation and some of which should not even be regarded as Christian in any sense at all.

While I would disagree with the beliefs of John and Charles Wesley on certain topics regarding salvation in how a person is saved, some of what they did led the way for people to get away from the radical and destructive variations of Calvinism that had arisen in those years, which was a much needed relief from the extremes that were occurring at that time. In all honesty, many people said that the views of the Wesley's differed from a Reformed view of salvation by "only a hairs width", which in all truth, is mostly true.

Many people today regard the talk about being decidely Reformed or Arminian in regards to salvation as solely a secondary matter, one which is only divisive and is "unneccessary" for people to know and understand the Gospel and their relation to God and to Christ.

People often accuse Calvinist's or Reformed people as not believing in free will and are often called "hard determinist's" in what they believe. While neither of these things are true, it is often a characterization that follows when this matter is brought up. (Of course, the insensitive and overly assumming misunderstandings of "the other side" cuts both ways unfortunately.)

But getting to my point or question... Is the doctrine of Divine Election an important topic which there can be no differences on?

While there are many issues that Christian's can have differences on, the answer is NO.

(Side note: I do believe that people can be a Christian and not believe in unconditional Divine election, but being settled into leaving people into not agreeing with Scripture when Scripture is clear is not acceptable. While people who profess Christ may have differences on this issue, they can still be considered a Christian without agreement on this issue. However, to state that this doctrine is not essential as a whole is wrong.)

While Martin Luther is most well known for his promotion of Justification by Faith Alone, he is also one that said that divine election is "the hinge on which all turns" (Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1992: p.319).

The reason Luther stated this was that he believed that putting a man's faith before God's miraculous working of the new birth was putting the cart before the horse and was leading man back into having to fulfill a requirement, namely, to believe, in order to be saved.

The Dutch Professor Herman Bavinck has explained this exact same idea and puts is quite well.
"If this salvation is not the sheer gift of grace but in some way depends upon the conduct of men, then the covenant of grace is converted into a covenant of works. Man must then satisfy some condition in order to inherit eternal life. In this, grace and works stand at opposite poles from each other and are mutually exclusive. If salvation is by grace it is no longer by works, or otherwise grace is no longer grace. And if it is by works, it is not by grace, or otherwise works are not works (Rom. 11:6). ... But it can be recognized and maintained as such only if it is a free gift coming up out of the counsel of God alone." (Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith)

"When the covenant of grace is separated from election, it ceases to be a covenant of grace and becomes again a covenant of works. Election implies that God grants man freely and out of grace the salvation which man has forfeited and which he can never again achieve in his own strength ... So far from election and the covenant of grace forming a contrast of opposites, the election is the basis and guarantee, the heart and core, of the covenant of grace. And it is so indispensably important to cling to this close relationship because the least weakening of it not merely robs one of the true insight into the achieving and application of salvation, but also robs the believers of their only and sure comfort in the practice of their spiritual life." (Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, emphasis mine)

Without the doctrine of Divine Election, believer's misplace their hope in what only God could do, can do and give them with themselves and the faith that they have.

While there has been and still is an ungodly use of this doctrine by many people, it should not be neglected due to some people's misuse of it. The Word of God contains many things which believer's must learn how to let hang in the tension or balance and not try to explain or balance out according to their own standards.

If the Scriptures teach it and believe it, so must we, if we are to be faithful to God and to who He has shown Himself to be, regardless of what the teaching is. Man and his finite reasoning cannot be used to measure what reality is. Reality is what it is and Scripture teaches what it teaches, regardless of whether we like it or not.

And Scripture is given to us not to hinder us, but to help us and to change us. It is also given that we may have hope.

"For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4, ESV)

We should always be reforming our thoughts and lives to come into agreement with God's Word more and more with each day that passes.

As Paul told Timothy: "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything" (2 Tim. 2:7, ESV), so the LORD will also give us understanding if we earnestly seek Him.

My prayer is that the Church will look beyond what they know and will ask the Lord to reveal Himself to us as He truly is and not how we want Him to be and that we will praise Him for who He is, regardless if it is what we want Him to be or not.

He alone is wise and can give us direction in how to know Him and who He is, if we will lean not on our own understanding but trust Him for it.

God is the Gospel and realizing this is crucial for the Church to have joy and peace in the world that we live in.

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”

“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:33-36, ESV)

Praying for the Church to embrace and not squander the doctrine of Divine Election for His glory and for our joy,

Brad Jones



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Friday, December 26, 2008

Bad News: Santa is Coming!

This video is a day or so late but it is worth posting.







May we turn away from trusting in our "Santa Clause's" and turn to the one who will never cast us out.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Reason for the Season

"He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him."


"For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.


Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all."

(John 1:10,11; Isaiah 53:2-6; ESV)


I have always cried when I have heard this song in the video below. I pray that you may know "God with us" and be embraced by the infinite love of God that He has given His children in Christ Jesus.





Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while you're lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight, tonight

Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Mary shivers in the cold
Trying to keep the Savior warm
Born among the animals wrapped in dirty rags
Because there was no room for Him in the world He came to save

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we're sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we're lying in the dark
There's a shout heard 'cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night

America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night

-"While you were sleeping", Casting Crowns

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reflections on Life

"Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can fully share its joy."
-Proverbs 14:10, NLT


There has been a deep sense of restlessness in my soul this past week. Lots of things have changed in my life in the past month and lots of things have also been the same.

It is interesting to think about that it is just us that experiences life in the way that we do. I mean, sure, people can relate to other people's experiences but that does not mean that they experience the same things that other people do in the exact same way.

It is cool to think about me being the only "me" in the world. God has planned things for each of us that only we could ever fulfill because of the way that we were made. So how God designed me is for a purpose that has been set apart for me from before I was born.

This is something that is both exhilarating and lonely to think about. We have this dimension to where we connect with others in deep and meaningful ways but we also have a part of us that is desperately and distinctly separate from others; a part of us known only fully by God and partially by ourselves.

I think of the many ups and downs that I have heard from various people in these past few weeks and am praying for them and their situations. Part of me wants to know what they are going through on a deeper level so that I can better care for their needs. Part of me is also glad that I do not know what they are going through on a deeper level, as I do not know that I would at all want to experience the things that they have experienced and are going through.

Issues with people's sexuality, moral failures, marital strife, divorce, death, loss, betrayal. The list is endless.

Fortunately, I do not have to know what all people are going through nor do they have to know what I am going through either for us to engage with one another.

Sometimes there are no words that we can give to others nor can we do anything to ease their pain. Sometimes we care deeply about other people and that they are experiencing pain, but we have no real connection to understand what they are going through other than that we have all experienced pain and the devastating effects of sin, something we know we do not wish for anyone to experience.

I kind of wonder if God made us so that we know other people and their struggles but in ways so that we do not "know" other people or their struggles so that we will seek Him.

He is the only One who understands the things we deal with in life, as Christ Himself experienced these things on the earth, and yet fully knows us in ways that we cannot imagine despite not being us nor we being God.

I cannot say that I have any clear sense of direction for my life or even for this week (or for the rest of the evening, for that matter) nor can I say that I relate or understand what others are going through. I cannot say that other people know what I experience either on the deepest level.

What I can say with absolute clarity is that I need God. I sometimes don't want Him, but I NEED God. And other people do too.

That is the one thing I can do for others and what they can do for me, point people to God.

Along with the Psalmist, we can say: "Whom have I in heaven but you?"

I praise God that although we cannot understand life at times, He has made the world in such a way that when we see clearly, we have an awareness that we need God because of our human frailties and we see that we have a God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.


"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
- Psalm 73:25,26; ESV

The Innkeeper

This is a fictional Christmas story. I hope it blesses you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"I Think My Wife's a Calvinist" Song

I found this on a blog I follow and thought that it was hilarious. You kind of have to be a bit of a bookworm to appreciate it, but it made me laugh harder than I have in a long time. I have watched it four times in a row so far and am still laughing.



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Skate

This post is a break from the norm. This is of some kid skateboarding. I enjoyed it and think that he has a lot of style. Enjoy!!!



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Encouraging Video




Wow. This is a very powerful video. I cried when I watched it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beyond the Storm and Beyond the Clouds

"I believe in the sun, even if it does not shine.
I believe in love, even if I do not feel it.
I believe in God, even if I do not see him."
-An inscription on a wall of the Warsaw Ghetto by an unknown Jew, circa 1942

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
-2 Corinthians 4:5-18, ESV

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
- Romans 8:18-25, ESV

I cannot put my finger on any reason as to why I felt led to post this, but regardless of whether or not we are directly dealing with the reality of suffering or hardship, the reality of living in a broken world is not something that we can be removed from in any real way.

For the past several days I have been thinking a lot about and praying for the people in the Czech Republic. I did mission's work over there for two summers and was deeply changed by my experiences over there.

The first time I went, I remember leaving from the Charlotte airport and how dark and cloudy the sky was. As we were getting ready to leave and board the plane, the LORD had me centered on praying as we were leaving the ground and I was thinking about how the sky, much like my experience with God, was very cloudy at times. I was thinking about how hard it is to have a relationship with the living God and how crazy living in the world we live in is. The plane continued to go up and it seemed to only be getting even more cloudy.

Suddenly, we got high enough to where we got above the clouds and I saw the most beautiful sunset that I have ever seen. I started crying and I heard the LORD speak to me: "From where you are, things look cloudy. But above the clouds, the Sun is beautiful and shining brightly. You do not always see the Sun, but it is still shining and giving light."

My walk with the LORD has been like this at many times. Well...much of the time, if I am honest with myself; I cannot see what is ahead of me and I cannot break free from my past. Many times I have had to, as Rich Mullins so beautifully said, be "lost enough to let myself be led".

There are many things that the LORD has shown me in my short life so far, but there is much more that I do not know. In fact, there are things that I don't even know that I could possibly know about something. There are so many limits to the experience of life as a fragile human walking around on two feet on this planet known as earth.

However, there are two things that I do know, God is here with you and if you are in Christ He will cause ALL things to work together for good.

There is also a third thing that God will do. He will not only be with us in this life and cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him, He will also take us to Himself after death and wipe away all of our tears.

All of the things we have experienced on earth that are caused by sin will be no more. And the things we are experiencing now will seem as nothing compared to the glory that we will experience from that point on forevermore.


Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son."
-Revelation 21:1-7, ESV

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Face to Face

The eyes of the blind will open
The ears of the deaf will hear
The tongue of the mute will shout for joy
And the Lord will cause the lame to leap like deer

We will see the glory of the Lord
We will see the glory of the Lord

Strengthen the arms of weakness
Steady the feeble knees
Say to those with anxious hearts
'Be strong in the Lord and do not fear'

We will see the glory of the Lord
We will see the glory of the Lord

Hallelujah for the Lord Almighty reigns
Hallelujah we will worship Jesus face to face

- "Face to Face" Paul Baloche

More Reflection's on Sunday at the River Church

I have been posting a lot of video's lately, as I have not had much to say or write about. The LORD is bringing me through a "desert" season right now. I feel numb against the words of our LORD as far an any new revelations from God. But..."strength will rise as we wait upon the LORD, I will wait upon the LORD."

Below are two video's that I thought related to this past Sunday's sermon at the River Church. I hope that you find the time to watch both of them.


Messiness and the Church




Relating to Unbelievers
WARNING: There is nothing inappropriate in this video but due to the nature of some of the topics covered in the video below, I recommend that you watch this with no children around.







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Jokes of the Day

One day in church the minister prayed with his arms stretched out towards the heavens, "Dear LORD, without You we are but dust." A little girl turned to her dad sitting next to her in the pew and asked, "Dad, what is butt dust?"


A poor man knocked on the door of a house in a rural area asking for something to eat. The lady who answered was Mrs. Smith, a retired school teacher. "First let me show you something," said Mrs. Smith, leading him to the woodshed behind which there was a pile of uncut wood.
"Do you see the wood?" she asked.
"Yeah, I seen it."
"You should say, 'I saw it'."
The man looked up at her and said, "Lady, you saw me see it, but you ain't gonna see me saw it."


"Veni. Vedi. Visa: I came, I saw, I did a little shopping."


On a daredevil's T-shirt: "If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you."

-From Blum's Almanac

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Doing" Church





This video was extremely encouraging to me. This video is of Tim Keller and is about "doing" and being the Church.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Presence

At the River Church we are going through a series called The Presence. It is basically about how Christmas and all of life is not about what we recieve (hence, "presents" as in the ones given at Christmas) but about the presence of God in our lives.

Today we talked about how Christ has been so merciful to us that we really have no real option but to be merciful to others. We talked about Isaiah 52 and 53 and about God laying His arm bare and stepping into time not with all-consuming power, but with humility and service.

It was a pretty powerful word and I pray that I have eyes to see and ears to hear it and am able to recieve what was being spoken today. I was somewhat distracted because I was running the slides today but even apart from that, they were not easy words to take in.

My flesh wanted to scream out: "But who do other people think they are? Dare they mistreat the great and wonderful Brad? Not without me turning away from them!" Oh how I wanted to justify myself in my mind for how I live. I live in such contempt for God and His mercy. We all do, if we are honest with ourselves.





37"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

39He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

43"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

46"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."
(Luke 6 NIV)


This past week I have struggled with some news I have gotten about a person I was close to in my past. There is a lot of hurt, jealousy, betrayal and also a sense of genuine concern for them in my heart. It is sooo easy for me to get mad at them and upset with God for what all has happened and I have done a bit of both in the past several days.

However, what has been different about this rough patch that I am going through is that God is teaching me to praise Him in and for all that His happening. In the Bible, after Job recieves his first attack from satan he responds with the following words:


And he said,"Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
(Job 1:21-22, ESV)


After Job is attacked a second time, this time in his body with severe boils covering every inch of him, Job responds in the following way in a conversation with his wife:


Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"

In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
(Job 2:9,10; ESV)


Job knew something about God that many people do not. Job knew that God was absolutely sovereign over what satan was doing (i.e. "the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away") and Job knew that God was for him. Romans 8:28 tells us:


"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (ESV)


Job knew what it meant to fear God. John Piper desribes the fear of God like this:




In Isaiah, the fear of the LORD is the key to true life.


"He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure."

"And he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure."
(Isaiah 33:6, NIV, ESV)


In the tulmutuous life we live in, Christ is our only sure hope of any good that will come to us. Whether we have issues we are dealing with involving world events, issues in our community, issues with people in our own neighborhoods or churches, people who live under the same roof as us or even people who used to live under the same roof as us but for many reasons are now gone,all that we have is Christ.

We are undeserving sinners living in a broken and chaotic world. Do people in our lives deserve the wrath of God? Of course! Do I? Of course I do. Even in writing this right now I am hesitant to write it about myself. It is so much easier to say that other people deserve it more than I do. But that is not how God views things. We all deserve to be consumed in the fury of God's wrath.

But the Word also tells us:


1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-10, NIV)


God has given us a rich hope in Christ and gives us the task of propigation, or in other words, of going out to others on God's behalf to tell people all that God has done for us and how much we need Him each and every day.

If I am honest with myself, and if every one was honest with themselves, we would confess how much we need to turn away from our sin and how we need a new heart from the LORD to know Him with and to share that with others.

From a person who has spent the past few days working through a wide range of emotions and sorting out my heart in regards to a lot of issues, this is my prayer and I hope it is yours as well:



Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Word in Music

Praise God that we can worship Him. There is nothing better than to know Him.


Psalm 145




Let Your Light Shine

One More Way to God Than I Deserve: Jesus is the Only Way of Salvation

I have been pretty upset this afternoon after reading some articles from a denomination who has been struggling with Christ being the only way to Salvation. There have been many people in this struggle who have said that the only way to Salvation is through Christ but that Christ comes to each person and that each person has an understanding- that is, a saving knowledge-of God and that because of this, all people are saved.

What disturbed me the most is that when the church got together to discuss this, they actually formulated the words of their doctrinal statement so that when it stated that Christ is the only way of salvation, it was intentionally written so that people who believe in universal salvation could rightfully stay and teach in the church.

There are many things that people can disagree on and still be Christians and still have fellowship with one another. This is not one of those issues.

The idea that the Church should have unity is a good idea. But unity is only good when unity is defined by the Bible and not by us.

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:11-16, NIV)

The Church will have unity only when they know who Christ is. God gave us the Scriptures not because they save us but because they are an unchanging revelation of who God is.

It may seem "narrow-minded" to say that Jesus is the only way to be right with God, but it is simply not so. The video below gives a clear example and illustration of this.

May God richly bless you through this video.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Atonement

I have had about half a dozen conversations and encounters on the web regarding the doctrine of the atonement. With the rise of the Federal Vision heresy in the Church and many other issues regarding the atonement of Christ and what Christ purchased and for whom He purchased it, I felt it good to put something out there for the flock of God.

Doctrine is ALWAYS the means to the end. The word doctrine has been translated by some people to literally mean "right thinking" or "whole thinking". What I mean is that right thinking about who God is how God leads us to love and to know Him more. If we do not know Him, we cannot love Him. We may be loving someone that we made up, but it may not be the Living God.

What's important about learning about the atonement is not so that knowledge can be gained for knowledge sake and so that you can be made to look good in front of other people. What is important about learning about the atonement is that what God had in mind in sending Christ and what God had in mind in creating the world can be more fully known. Without knowing these things, we can never make sense of all of the aspects of life that seem chaotic.

The videos below are of John Piper teaching through the atonement and what that means. The term Limited Atonement has been largely misunderstood by most people, including myself, and is defined in the second video in probably the best way that I have ever heard it explained.

These videos are all a lot to take in both time wise and information wise. If you cannot watch all three of them please watch the middle video.


Part 1





Part 2




Part 3

Monday, December 1, 2008

LORD, Have Mercy

I am becoming increasingly aware of how much sin is still in my life and how hard my heart is in many areas. I am being continually broken because of these things. John Calvin once said that "Every one of us is, even from his mother's womb, a master craftsman of idols." Some of the idols we make are obvious but many idols we make are so subtly made and because we are easily decieved by our own mind and by satan, they go largely undetected.

May God continue to show us the small gods that we have propped up in our lives and may He open our eyes to the Truth and destroy that which cannot truly satisfy us in the deepest way possible.

I pray that the LORD strengthens me so that even if I lose everything in this life I can say in the midst of anything that might befall me: "Christ is enough. God may take my family, my health, God may throw me into prison or deliver me to die an agonizing death, but nothing is more precious to me than Christ."

May the LORD grant us the grace to known Him more fully and treasure Him in all of life be it good or bad.



Jesus, I've forgotten the words that You have spoken
Promises that burned within my heart have now grown dim
With a doubting heart I follow the paths of earthly wisdom
Forgive me for my unbelief
Renew the fire again

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy on me

I have built an altar where I worship things of men
I have taken journeys that have drawn me far from You
Now I am returning to Your mercies ever flowing
Pardon my transgressions
Help me love You again

I have longed to know You and Your tender mercies
Like a river of forgiveness ever flowing without end
I bow my heart before You in the goodness of Your presence
Your grace forever shining
Like a beacon in the night
-Robin Marks

Psalm 51 "Create in me a Clean Heart"



Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.


Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Is The World Out Looking For God?





"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
(Romans 8:7-8, ESV)


"This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."
(1 Corinthians 13:13-14, ESV)


"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."
(Romans 5:6-11, ESV)

Test Yourself





"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV)


"Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:10-11, ESV)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

No Comment

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I was listening to music today and heard a song that really spoke to some thoughts going through my mind. It is hard to explain and this is not the place to put the thoughts about it at.

But...the song below really has spoken to some areas in my heart. I think I am slowly moving on. Slowly, but surely.


I won't be the circus for you to star in
I won't leave you roses to watch them die
You won't be the heartache that keeps me sleepless
You won't be the songs that I could never write

I don't want to stay, I don't want to fall
I don't want to have to see you leave me
I don't want to stay, I don't want to fall in love
Maybe I'm a fake, maybe you're a lie
Maybe our last chance died with last night
I don't want to stay, I don't want to fall in love with you again

I won't be a fortress for you to hide in
I won't be the first one you think to call
You won't be the regrets that I can't live with
And we won't be the last ones to ever have to lose it all

When we're scared and lonely
We will tell ourselves we're only
Just a word from what we needed
But we know that this ain't right

I don't want to stay, I don't want to fall
I don't want to have to see you leave me
I don't want to stay, I don't want to fall in love
Maybe I'm a fake, maybe you're a lie
Maybe our last chance died with last night
I don't want to stay, I don't want to fall in love with you again

I can't stay
I can't fall for you again

- Needtobreathe



_

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Praise God!

There was a not so surprising (at least to me) surprise today at the River Church. Today the River Church recognized that God has raised up and consecrated Justin Luckett as an elder. I have felt the LORD raising up Justin to be an elder for many months in my spirit. Praise God for His working at the River Church and especially in the lives of the elders at the church. I really sense that the LORD is going to do a mighty work in the lives of the elders and their families. God has done such a work already but am excited to see all that will come forth. I may have to wait until I am in heaven to see all of the fruit that has come because of all that He is doing in the lives of people at the River Church.

Please pray for Justin and Betsy and their little girl Salem. They have a really neat family and your prayers would be appreciated. I praise God for them and see such a strong presence of Him in their lives.

May God continue to sustain them and give them grace. Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Deepest Thing I Know

"The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: "Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it—the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it."
-Jeremiah 33:1-9, ESV

There has been a lot on my mind the past two weeks. Perhaps more than is usually on my mind. I have been praying and thinking through the limits of knowledge, the nature of eternity, the essence of God, the Holy Spirit as a person and not as a "force", the Trinity, anthropomorphisms in general, anthropomorphisms in regards to heaven and hell, and today there has been a revelation in regards to theomorphism's and also how we can distinguish between anthropomorphisms and theomorphisms in the Bible to better under who God is.

I was listening to a class online for Covenant Theological Seminary and one of the things Dr. William's mentions is that we really only know about God from the Bible in terms of relationship and covenant. There is a TOTAL "otherness" to God that if we could grasp, we ourselves would be God.

But getting back to Dr. William's mentioning that God is known primarily through relationship and covenant...

In the past two weeks God has given me some very powerful and deep insights into who He is. With everything I have learned I find one thing the most amazing. It is perhaps the deepest thing I know about God: His grace.

I have been powerfully convinced and convicted that without Christ I have absolutely nothing. God owes me nothing and everything that I have, I have only because He has first given it to me. I deserve to die a million deaths and burn forever in hell because of how I have lived. I continually sin against the LORD in thought, word, and deed both by what I have done and what I have left undone. I cannot do ANYTHING without Him.

I have felt the powerful revelation of His grace covering me and knowing that grace is truly something that is freely given to us by God. God could have not created the world and He would be fine; He lacks nothing. But He has chosen to freely give us His Son before the world even began and called me into a covenant with Him. He has not only called me into Covenant, 1 Peter tells me that He is KEEPING me in covenant with Him as well until the ages end.

God has revealed to me that He loves us so much and that we are so undeserving of that love. Perhaps us not deserving it makes it that much better; or rather, perhaps knowing that we don't deserve His love makes it that much better.

I cannot really say all that the LORD is doing in a perspicuous manner, but I pray that He continues to reveal who He is to me in deep life-changing ways and that His Church experiences this as well. We, the Church, need a deeper understanding of who God is.

A lot of times it seems that "God has made man in His image and now man is returning the favor." Brothers and Sisters, this will never do. We need to encounter the Living God. Without His revelation, we have no hope.

May God richly bless you with eyes to see and ears to hear this day and may He continue to sustain you in His Grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Thoughts on Who/What God is

These thoughts below are from a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary. I have been praying through and thinking about how the Bible uses anthropomorphisms to describe who God is and theomorphisms to describe who we are. The link to the classes lecture's is below these blurbs from his lecture on "God and Gender Language".

“God is not all things to all people. He is who He is, and He demands that we deal with Him as He is. That is not a terribly provocative statement, because it is also true of me. I am who I am and I demand that you deal with me as I am, and so do you. You see, persons are not plastic; persons are not negotiable. Any person who has been married for a very short time knows that. At some point you find that you cannot turn that other person into the ideal person you would like him to be. You are going to have to live with him just as he is…God’s identity is not about us. God’s identity is about Him.”

“We should not use the Word of God to serve our biases. One of the very purposes for His Word is to adjust our biases, crush our biases, and replace our biases with its bias. Remember that we have talked about this before: the biblical God will and should offend us. He calls every human self-absolutization a lie.”

“One might point to the inherent difficulties of language, and here I want to return to our discussion about metaphors and our discussion about transcendence. Many people will say that it is impossible to describe God in human language. It is commonly asserted that the biblical language describing God is analogical in character. Remember, an analogy says, “This is like that.” But analogical language presupposes a degree of equivocation, a degree of dissimilarity. An analogy says, “This is like that,” but it is also saying, “This is not that.” That is an important distinction. While these two things might share some attributes, they are not the same. Thus it is suggested that mere human language cannot do justice to the infinite. The reality of God’s transcendence means that any attempt to describe God will be, at best, a vague approximation of God’s own reality. When we fail to recognize this, we inevitably fall into the idolatry of what is called “Biblicism.” Thus, when the Bible tells us that God is a King or a Judge or a Father, these descriptions are to be understood as metaphors rather than as actual depictions of who and what God is. And since metaphor only approximates correspondence or establishes a purely semantic or functional correspondence, these declarations are not to be taken too literally. Some theologians say that if metaphors are really imperfect ways of talking about things, we can help our analogies with other analogies, or we can trade off analogies. If God is not actually a King or a Father, but is only somehow king-like or father-like, we might want to use other analogies of our own making. God is mother-like as well. But this entire line of discussion, I think, is faulty, and it is faulty because it is based upon the view of God’s transcendence which is intentionally meant to cast doubt upon Scripture’s ability to speak truthfully and meaningfully about God. If I could summarize the argument, I would put it this way: the infinite cannot be captured in the finite, and therefore all language about God is equivocal. That may be true to a point, but it is also false, and it is false at least to the extent that it is true. Is that what we find when we go to the Bible? No. We do not find a deity who is vaguely judge-like. We do not find a God who merely approximates some characteristics of kingship. We do not find a God who is said to be fatherly in some contexts, as if God is none of those things, but only appears to be something like them. What is a king? A king is a person who exercises dominion over subjects or a realm. God does the things a king does. God is an actual king. What is a judge? A judge is a person who makes critical decisions about guilt and innocence. God does the things a judge does. God is an actual judge. What is a father? A father is a person who gives life to another and then cares for, protects, nourishes, directs, and exercises authority over that other person in a familial context. God does those things. God is Father. He does not merely appear to be or appear to do these things. Scripture’s proclamation of God as King, Judge, and Father are not metaphors. They are actual declarations. Now to be sure, God transcends those declarations. Even God’s fatherhood infinitely transcends our idea of fatherhood. The point of biblical language is that God is always more than what is written about Him, not less.”


Michael Williams
God & His Word class, Lecture 24
Covenant Theological Seminary

© Summer 2006, Michael Williams & Covenant Theological Seminary

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quotes

“For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.”

“Pray, and let God worry.”

“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”“You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.”

“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.” “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess”

“Peace if possible, truth at all costs.”

“Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in him unless he knew where his believers are?"

(Above quotes from Martin Luther)


“All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.”

“The most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of His essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate Him in His works, whereby He renders Himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates Himself.”

“Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

“Scripture will ultimately suffice for a saving knowledge of God only when its certainty is founded upon the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, these human testimonies which exist to confirm it will not be vain if, as secondary aids to our feebleness, they follow that chief and highest testimony. But those who wish to prove to unbelievers that Scripture is the Word of God are acting foolishly, for only by faith can this be known.”

(Above quotes from John Calvin)


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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Prayers

Gracious God,
our sins are too heavy to carry,
too real to hide, and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name,
what our hearts can no longer bear,
and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment.
Set us free from a past that we cannot change;
open to us a future in which we can be changed;
and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image,
through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.
(From the PCUSA Book of Common Worship, Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993; p. 88)

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent,
for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
-Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

Loving a Person

Loving a person just the way they are, it's no small thing
It takes some time to see things through
Sometimes things change, sometimes we're waiting
We need grace either way

Hold on to me
I'll hold on to you
Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through

There's a lot of pain in reaching out and trying
It's a vulnerable place to be
Love and pride can't occupy the same spaces baby
Only one makes you free

Hold on to me
I'll hold on to you
Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through

If we go looking for offense
We're going to find it
If we go looking for real love
We're going to find it

Hold on to me
I'll hold on to you
Let's find out the beauty of seeing things through

Loving a person just the way they are, thats no small thing
It's the whole thing
Loving me just the way I am, thats no small thing
It takes some time.
- Sara Groves

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Streaked Faces

calling out your name
like children wish for snow
rest your weary eyes
they're keeping me at home
early morning dreams
the ones you don't forget
its teaching you to feel
what you won't admit
when all that make up
will only burn your eyes
wake up
with all the tears that you cried
calling out your name
like children wish for spring
rest your weary eyes
they're keeping me awake
everywhere you are
hurts a little more
its teaching you to feel
what you're looking for
streaked faces
when all those tears have dried
-Josh Moore

Monday, November 10, 2008

By Grace Alone

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
-Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

The below quote is from John Calvin's Commentary on Ephesians. I was awake late last night in bed in great need of sleep and began to think about the relationship between time and the finished work of God. I had been reading about the concept of time being linear and how the ancient view of time was cyclic in its relation to eternity earlier that evening and was reminded of a passage in Ephesians about being raised up with Christ. I was looking at Calvin's commentaries today regarding the passage in Ephesians, since much of the Reformed tradition bases their doctrine on the eternal decrees of God. I found what I was looking for but kept reading to see what Calvin had to say about the whole of this section. I am not much on Calvin's writings but I found an amazing quote on the verses above that is starting to change my mind.

God declares, that he owes us nothing; so that salvation is not a reward or
recompense, but unmixed grace. The next question is, in what way do men receive
that salvation which is offered to them by the hand of God? The answer is, by
faith; and hence he concludes that nothing connected with it is our own. If, on
the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which
strips us of all commendation, it follows that salvation does not come from
us. Ought we not then to be silent about free-will, and good intentions, and
fancied preparations, and merits, and satisfactions? There is none of these
which does not claim a share of praise in the salvation of men; so that the
praise of grace would not, as Paul shews, remain undiminished. When, on the part
of man, the act of receiving salvation is made to consist in faith alone, all
other means, on which men are accustomed to rely, are discarded. Faith, then,
brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ.
And so he adds, not of yourselves; that claiming nothing for themselves, they
may acknowledge God alone as the author of their salvation.


May we come to know that every good and perfect gift comes from God and His grace alone.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hello. Lord

Hello Lord, it's me your child
I have a few things on my mind
Right now I'm faced with big decisions
And I'm wondering if you have a minute, cuz
Right now I don't hear so well
And I was wondering if you could speak up

I know that you tore the veil
So I could sit with you in person
And hear what you're saying but
Right now, I just can't hear you.

I don't doubt your sovereignty
I doubt my own ability to
Hear what you're saying
And to do the right thing
And I desperately want to do the right thing
But right now I don't hear so well
And I was wondering if you could speak up

I know that you tore the veil
So I could sit with you in person
And hear what you're saying but
Right now, I just can't hear you.

And somewhere in the back of my mind
I think you are telling me to wait
And though patience has never been mine
Lord, I will wait to hear from you
Oh Lord, I'm waiting on you
Right now I don't hear so well
And I was wondering if you could speak up

I know that you tore the veil
So I could sit with you in person
And hear what you're saying but
Right now, I think you're whispering

-"Hello, Lord" by Sara Groves

Thursday, November 6, 2008

God's Vision for the Church in the Political Arena

This is adapted from Justin Taylor's blog.

From what I have heard people saying when I have been out and about in the community about Obama becoming President I feel this is a necessary post. I have been deeply convicted about how Christ desires for us to respond to politics and the politicians that are elected or run for office. I have felt the shortcomings in my own heart with many sentiments I have expressed about politicians this year and feel a need for revival both in my heart and in the Church in America.

No matter who you voted for--or whether you voted at all--it's important to remember that, as President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Rom. 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed." (Romans 13:1-7, ESV)

"Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good." (1 Peter 2:13,14; ESV)

What is interesting is that both of these sections of Scripture were written to Churches that were suffering severe persecution from their government. Their governments were severely ungodly and did things that are unimaginably horrible and despicable. The Caesar's who governed Rome believed that they were God incarnate. Two of the most popular sayings of Christianity are taken from what was said about the Caesar's.

"There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved except by the name of Caesar." (Compare with Acts 4:12)

"Caesar is LORD."

It would be unfruitful to say that God only meant for us to be obedient to our government if it fits our Christian ideals. There is a precedent of obeying God above obeying the government when there is a conflict between the two kingdoms but God still commands us to be in submission to the authorities.

Regardless of whether or not Obama is the person that you voted for, there are for things that God asks us to do on behalf of Obama.

1. We are to respect Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7).

2. We are to honor Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17).

3. We are to pray for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

4. We are to thank God for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV)

I pray that as the Church, we may learn what it means to love all men and pray for them, whether they be friends or perceived enemies. May we grow to see that we have a kingdom that is unshakable and that we have a King who will never be removed. Our King rules and reigns over the people in justice, mercy and grace in ways that no one else can. May we see our citizen as it really is, which is in heaven, and may we spurn all people to know Christ and put our trust in Him so much that they see that our hope is not in this kingdom but in Christ's. Grace and Peace.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thoughts on Sunday and on The River Church

Every time I try to find you
Every road comes back around
Just another hoop to jump through
Another mile of covered ground

I am weary of the answers
More theory and cliché
They raise the letter of the law like a banner'
Til you're small and far away

All the questions in my head
Are from my heart instead

Be real to me now
That's all I'm asking
Be real to me now

Every scribe and every scholar
No winners in this debate
Everybody seems to stand up taller
When you're easy to explain

I don't need to know what I don't know
Just got to let it go

Be real to me now
That's all I'm asking
Be real somehow
More than anything
More than anything

So lay down the sword
And put away the doctrine
Love a little more, love a little more
'Cause everybody's broken
-Nichole Nordeman

He who has ears to hear and eyes to see: listen. Jesus Christ has purchased healing and redemption for His Bride and is eagerly waiting for His children to join Him and to taste and see that the LORD is good.

The past two days have brought up a lot of thoughts. Primarily, the topic of healing and needing healing has been coming up in my spirit. Not just in myself, but for all people; especially people in the Church. I say this not in the sense that "the Church" is the problem, but that many people need the touch of a Healer. Broken marriages, divorces, fear over everything imaginable, hopelessness over family situations, the list is endless.

This series that the River Church is doing now is a very prophetic series for our Church. Perhaps in ways that are much larger than any of us know. Just knowing a lot of the situations going on in the world and mostly in our small corner of the world with the people who are coming, the Holy Spirit was breathing through Joey in a powerful way today. I felt God speaking to me about how to pray for people in our congregation and could sense the strong hand of the Lord going forth to deliver His Word.

The elders and their families have shown a real sense of obedience to Christ in the time I have gotten to know them. I remember Joey many moons ago (when he still had hair) from a church camp when he was my counselor and remember that his presence had a big impact on me. I can't remember too much about that week but I just remember that God had stirred me through him. Our elders have by no means "arrived" but they lead in a humble spirit that is unified. I think it bothers me sometimes that our understand of the Gospel is probably a lot different on many levels from each other, but God has used them to speak the message of truth wrapped in grace in a way that is clear so that people can understand. There has been huge sacrifice from them to do a lot of the things that they do. Their wives have been amazing examples of what it means to be godly wives and what it means to serve and be the Church.

My spirit is really speaking to the LORD Spirit to Spirit in prayer on behalf of our congregation today. I am believing the LORD for a miraculous working through all that is going on and am praying for continued grace and favor that He may sustain us and use us as messengers of the Gospel of Christ.

River Church, God is beckoning you to His side. You are hurt and wounded in many ways. I feel it in my soul and see it on our faces every week. You have yet to experience the fullness that Christ will bring to you both on this earth and in the life to come. You are a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and God has done much work in your lives. I praise God that He has brought us together as broken vessels and jars of clay and is teaching us about Him through each other. I don't know that anything but Christ would have brought us together in the way that we are sharing life together. We all are different in so many ways. Yet we have the only thing that matters in common: our need for Christ. I am praying for all of you and cannot wait to see what the LORD will bring to pass in our gatherings. We have the most amazing Church and the most amazing people in leadership. Through all of my time with you all, I am learning what it means to live as the Church and to feel again. For whatever reason, I got to a place where I kind of cut off any sense of real emotion and "human-ness" over the years growing up to protect myself from pain and hurt. The LORD has done a tremendous work in my heart and is restoring to me the years that the locusts have eaten. The past two years have been AMAZING. I have had many rough patches in this time and things finally began to come together when I joined you guys. I am learning what it means to love, to feel, to be honest with myself, with others and with God in ways that are much bigger than I would have ever guessed I would be. I praise God for you all. May God give us eyes to see each other and ourselves as He desires for us to. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear His Word to us and may he sustain us for all the rest of our days however long or short that may be.

g + p,

Brad

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Excerpt from Jonathan Edwards

This is a rather long excerpt from Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards. It is the most difficult book I have ever read. It is around 300 pages or so but has taken me almost half of the year to read it, and I am reading it every night. I pray that you make soak these words into your soul and that God may open our eyes to see what we must and must not say and infer about the nature of evil and God's relation to evil. God does will that evil will come to pass while at the same time not being the Author of evil. Edwards addresses this issue and gives an excellent example to help explain it.

I do not believe that as Christian's we must learn and know the in's and outs of God (in all that we can know) as deep as a theologian, but because of the nature of the church in America and the heretical teachings coming into Evangelicalism, many of God's sheep are being mislead. This is a damning thing for a follower of Christ when troubles come. If they are, in fact, saved they will finish the race but the level of difficulty will be greatly increased. Not only will the level of difficulty increase, but the joy of knowing who God is as depicted in the Word and showing others the truth of Christ will not be as full or effective if we have a false image of God.

The Church desperately needs to go back to the Bible and leave behind the culture drab that trails along our understanding of faith. Not only does this apply for modern evangelicalism, but also people who base their understanding strictly from the Reformation period as well. Edwards does an excellent job of holding out the Word of God in truth in this work and I hope that this excerpt blesses you.

Dr. Whitby supposes, that if sin necessarily follows from
God's withholding assistance, or if that assistance be not given which is
absolutely necessary to the avoiding of evil; then in the nature of the thing,
God must be as properly the author of that evil, as if he were the efficient
cause of it. From whence, according to what he himself says of the devils and
damned spirits, God must be the proper author of their perfect unrestrained
wickedness: he must be the efficient cause of the great pride of the devils, and
of their perfect malignity against God, Christ, his saints, and all that is
good, and of the insatiable cruelty of their disposition. For he allows, that
God has so forsaken them, and does so withhold his assistance from them, that
they are incapacitated from doing good, and determined only to evil. Our
doctrine, in its consequence, makes God the author of men's sin in this world,
no more, and in no other sense, than his doctrine, in its consequence, makes God
the author of the hellish pride and malice of the devils. And doubtless the
latter is as odious an effect as the former.

Again, if it will follow at all, that God is the author of
sin, from what has been supposed of a sure and infallible connection between
antecedents and consequents, it will follow because of this, viz. that for God
to be the author or orderer of those things which he knows beforehand, will
infallibly be attended with such a consequence, is the same thing in effect, as
for him to be the author of that consequence. But if this be so, this is a
difficulty which equally attends the doctrine of Arminians themselves; at least,
of those of them who allow God's certain foreknowledge of all events. For on the
supposition of such a foreknowledge, this is the case with respect to every sin
that is committed: God knew, that if he ordered and brought to pass such and
such events, such sins would infallibly follow. As for instance, God certainly
foreknew, long before Judas was born, that if he ordered things so, that there
should be such a man born, at such a time, and at such a place, and that his
life should be preserved, and that he should, in divine providence, be led into
acquaintance with Jesus; and that his heart should be so influenced by God's
spirit or providence, as to be inclined to be a follower of Christ; and that he
should be one of those twelve, which should be chosen constantly to attend him
as his family; and that his health should be preserved so that he should go up
to Jerusalem, at the last Passover in Christ's life; and it should be so ordered
that Judas should see Christ's kind treatment of the woman which anointed him at
Bethany, and have that reproof from Christ, which he had at that time, and see
and hear other things, which excited his enmity against his master, and other
circumstances should be ordered, as they were ordered; it would be what would
most certainly and infallibly follow, that Judas would betray his Lord, and
would soon after hang himself, and die impenitent, and be sent to hell, for his
horrid wickedness.

Therefore this supposed difficulty ought not to be brought as
an objection against the scheme which has been maintained, as disagreeing with
the Arminian scheme, seeing 'tis no difficulty owing to such a disagreement; but
a difficulty wherein the Arminians share with us. That must be unreasonably made
an objection against our differing from them, which we should not escape or
avoid at all by agreeing with them.

And therefore I would observe,

II. They who object, that this doctrine makes God the author
of sin, ought distinctly to explain what they mean by that phrase, "the author
of sin." I know, the phrase, as it is commonly used, signifies something very
ill. If by "the author of sin," be meant the sinner, the agent, or actor of sin,
or the doer of a wicked thing; so it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to
suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the
author of sin; rejecting such an imputation on the most High, as what is
infinitely to be abhorred; and deny any such thing to be the consequence of what
I have laid down. But if by "the author of sin," is meant the permitter, or not
a hinderer of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in
such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if
it be permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow: I
say, if this be all that is meant, by being the author of sin, I don't deny that
God is the author of sin (though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which
by use and custom is apt to carry another sense), it is no reproach for the most
High to be thus the author of sin. This is not to be the actor of sin, but on
the contrary, of holiness. What God doth herein, is holy; and a glorious
exercise of the infinite excellency of his nature. And I don't deny, that God's
being thus the author of sin, follows from what I have laid down; and I assert,
that it equally follows from the doctrine which is maintained by most of the
Arminian divines.

That it is most certainly so, that God is in such a manner the
disposer and orderer of sin, is evident, if any credit is to be given to the
Scripture; as well as because it is impossible in the nature of things to be
otherwise. In such a manner God ordered the obstinacy of Pharaoh, in his
refusing to obey God's commands, to let the people go. Exodus 4:21: "I will
harden his heart, and he shall not let the people go." Ch. Exodus 7:2-5: "Aaron
thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of
his land. And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my
wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that I may
lay mine hand upon Egypt, by great judgments," etc. Ch. Exodus 9:12: "And the
Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord
had spoken unto Moses." Ch. Exodus 10:1, Exodus 10:2: "And the Lord said unto
Moses, go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his
servants, that I might shew these my signs before him, and that thou mayst tell
it in the ears of thy son, and thy son's son, what things I have wrought in
Egypt, and my signs which I have done amongst them, that ye may know that I am
the Lord." Ch. Exodus 14:4: "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall
follow after them: and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host."
Ver. Exodus 14:8: "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh King of Egypt, and
he pursued after the children of Israel." And it is certain that in such a
manner, God for wise and good ends, ordered that event, Joseph's being sold into
Egypt by his brethren. Genesis 45:5: "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry
with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to
preserve life." Ver. Genesis 45:7, Genesis 45:8: "God did send me before you to
preserve a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great
deliverance: so that now it was not you, that sent me hither, but God." Psalms
105:17: "He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant."
'Tis certain, that thus God ordered the sin and folly of Sihon King of the
Amorites, in refusing to let the people of Israel pass by him peaceably.
Deuteronomy 2:30: "But Sihon King of Heshbon would not let us pass by him; for
the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he
might deliver him into thine hand." 'Tis certain, that God thus ordered the sin
and folly of the kings of Canaan, that they attempted not to make peace with
Israel, but with a stupid boldness and obstinacy, set themselves violently to
oppose them and their God. Joshua 11:20: "For it was of the Lord, to harden
their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might
destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor; but that he might
destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses." 'Tis evident, that thus God ordered
the treacherous rebellion of Zedekiah, against the King of Babylon. Jeremiah
52:3: "For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem, and
Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled
against the King of Babylon." So 2 Kings 24:20. And 'tis exceeding manifest,
that God thus ordered the rapine and unrighteous ravages of Nebuchadnezzar, in
spoiling and ruining the nations round about. Jeremiah 25:9: "Behold, I will
send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar
my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against all the nations
round about; and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and
an hissing, and perpetual desolations." Ch. Jeremiah 43:10, Jeremiah 43:11: "I
will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon, my servant; and I will
set his throne upon these stones that I have hid, and he shall spread his royal
pavilion over them. And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and
deliver such as are for death to death, and such as are for captivity to
captivity, and such as are for the sword to the sword." Thus God represents
himself as sending for Nebuchadnezzar, and taking of him and his armies, and
bringing him against the nations which were to be destroyed by him, to that very
end, that he might utterly destroy them, and make them desolate; and as
appointing the work that he should do, so particularly, that the very persons
were designed, that he should kill with the sword; and those that should be
killed with famine and pestilence, and those that should be carried into
captivity; and that in doing all these things, he should act as his servant: by
which, less can't be intended, than that he should serve his purposes and
designs. And in Jeremiah 27:4, Jeremiah 27:5, Jeremiah 27:6, God declares how he
would cause him thus to serve his designs, viz. by bringing this to pass in his
sovereign disposals, as the great possessor and governor of the universe, that
disposes all things just as pleases him: "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God
of Israel; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the
ground, by my great power, and my stretched out arm, and have given it unto whom
it seemed meet unto me: and now I have given all these lands into the hands of
Nebuchadnezzar my servant, and the beasts of the field have I given also to
serve him." And Nebuchadnezzar is spoken of as doing these things, by having his
"arms strengthened" by God, and having "God's sword put into his hands, for this
end" (Ezekiel 30:24, Ezekiel 30:25, Ezekiel 30:26). Yea, God speaks of his
terribly ravaging and wasting the nations, and cruelly destroying all sorts,
without distinction of sex or age, as the weapon in God's hand, and the
instrument of his indignation, which God makes use of to fulfill his own
purposes, and execute his own vengeance. Jeremiah 51:20, etc.: "Thou art my
battle-axe, and weapons of war. For with thee will I break in pieces the
nations, and with thee I will destroy kingdoms, and with thee I will break in
pieces the horse and his rider, and with thee I will break in pieces the chariot
and his rider; with thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with
thee will I break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces
the young man and the maid," etc. 'Tis represented, that the designs of
Nebuchadnezzar, and those that destroyed Jerusalem, never could have been
accomplished, had not God determined them, as well as they; Lamentations 3:37,
"Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, and the Lord commandeth it not?"

And yet the King of Babylon's thus destroying the nations, and
especially the Jews, is spoken of as his great wickedness, for which God finally
destroyed him (Isaiah 14:4, Isaiah 14:5, Isaiah 14:6, Isaiah 14:12; Habakkuk
2:5-12; and Jer. ch. Jeremiah 50 and Jeremiah 51). 'Tis most manifest, that God,
to serve his own designs, providentially ordered Shimei's cursing David. 2
Samuel 16:10, 2 Samuel 16:11: "The Lord hath said unto him, curse David.… Let
him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him."

'Tis certain, that God thus, for excellent, holy, gracious and
glorious ends, ordered the fact which they committed, who were concerned in
Christ's death; and that therein they did but fulfill God's designs. As, I
trust, no Christian will deny it was the design of God, that Christ should be
crucified, and that for this end, he came into the world. 'Tis very manifest by
many scriptures, that the whole affair of Christ's crucifixion, with its
circumstances, and the treachery of Judas, that made way for it, was ordered in
God's providence, in pursuance of his purpose; notwithstanding the violence that
is used with those plain Scriptures, to obscure and pervert the sense of 'em.
Acts 2:23: "Him being delivered, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of
God, ye have taken, and with wicked hands, have crucified and slain." Luke
22:21, Luke 22:22"But behold the hand of him that betrayeth me, is with me on
the table: and truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined." Acts 4:27,
Acts 4:28: "For of a truth, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast
anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of
Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel
determined before to be done." Acts 3:17, Acts 3:18: "And now brethren, I wot
that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers: but these things,
which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should
suffer, he hath so fulfilled." So that what these murderers of Christ did, is
spoken of as what God brought to pass or ordered, and that by which he fulfilled
his own word.

In Revelation 17:17, "the agreeing of the kings of the earth
to give their kingdom to the beast," though it was a very wicked thing in them,
is spoken of as "a fulfilling God's will," and what "God had put it into their
hearts to do." 'Tis manifest, that God sometimes permits sin to be committed,
and at the same time orders things so, that if he permits the fact, it will come
to pass, because on some accounts he sees it needful and of importance that it
should come to pass. Matthew 18:7: "It must needs be, that offences come; but
woe to that man by whom the offence cometh." With 1 Corinthians 11:19, "For
there must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved, may be made
manifest among you."

Thus it is certain and demonstrable, from the holy Scriptures,
as well as the nature of things, and the principles of Arminians, that God
permits sin; and at the same time, so orders things, in his providence, that it
certainly and infallibly will come to pass, in consequence of his
permission.

I proceed to observe in the next place,

III. That there is a great difference between God's being
concerned thus, by his permission, in an event and act, which in the inherent
subject and agent of it, is sin (though the event will certainly follow on his
permission), and his being concerned in it by producing it and exerting the act
of sin; or between his being the orderer of its certain existence, by not
hindering it, under certain circumstances, and his being the proper actor or
author of it, by a positive agency or efficiency.

And this, notwithstanding what Dr. Whitby offers about a
saying of philosophers, that causa deficiens, in rebus necessariis, ad causam
per se efficientem reducenda est. As there is a vast difference between the
sun's being the cause of the lightsomeness and warmth of the atmosphere, and
brightness of gold and diamonds, by its presence and positive influence; and its
being the occasion of darkness and frost, in the night, by its motion whereby it
descends below the horizon. The motion of the sun is the occasion of the latter
kind of events; but it is not the propel cause, efficient or producer of them;
though they are necessarily consequent on that motion, under such circumstances:
no more is any action of the divine Being the cause of the evil of men's wills.
If the sun were the proper cause of cold and darkness, it would be the fountain
of these things, as it is the fountain of light and heat: and then something
might be argued from the nature of cold and darkness, to a likeness of nature in
the sun; and it might be justly inferred, that the sun itself is dark and cold,
and that his beams are black and frosty. But from its being the cause no
otherwise than by its departure, no such thing can be inferred, but the
contrary; it may justly be argued, that the sun is a bright and hot body, if
cold and darkness are found to be the consequence of its withdrawment; and the
more constantly and necessarily these effects are connected with, and confined
to its absence, the more strongly does it argue the sun to be the fountain of
light and heat. So, inasmuch as sin is not the fruit of any positive agency or
influence of the most High, but on the contrary, arises from the withholding of
his action and energy, and under certain circumstances, necessarily follows on
the want of his influence; this is no argument that he is sinful, or his
operation evil, or has anything of the nature of evil; but on the contrary, that
he, and his agency, are altogether good and holy, and that he is the fountain of
all holiness.

It would be strange arguing indeed, because men never commit
sin, but only when God leaves them to themselves, and necessarily sin, when he
does so, that therefore their sin is not from themselves, but from God; and so,
that God must be a sinful being: as strange as it would be to argue, because it
is always dark when the sun is gone, and never dark when the sun is present,
that therefore all darkness is from the sun, and that his disk and beams must
needs be black.

IV. It properly belongs to the supreme and absolute Governor
of the universe, to order all important events within his dominion, by his
wisdom: but the events in the moral world are of the most important kind; such
as the moral actions of intelligent creatures, and their
consequences.

These events will be ordered by something. They will either be
disposed by wisdom, or they will be disposed by chance; that is, they will be
disposed by blind and undesigning causes, if that were possible, and could be
called a disposal. Is it not better, that the good and evil which happens in
God's world, should be ordered, regulated, bounded and determined by the good
pleasure of an infinitely wise Being, who perfectly comprehends within his
understanding and constant view, the universality of things, in all their extent
and duration, and sees all the influence of every event, with respect to every
individual thing and circumstance, throughout the grand system, and the whole of
the eternal series of consequences; than to leave these things to fall out by
chance, and to be determined by those causes which have no understanding or aim?
Doubtless, in these important events, there is a better and a worse, as to the
time, subject, place, manner and circumstances of their coming to pass, with
regard to their influence on the state and course of things. And if there be,
'tis certainly best that they should be determined to that time, place, etc.
which is best. And therefore 'tis in its own nature fit, that wisdom, and not
chance, should order these things. So that it belongs to the Being, who is the
possessor of infinite wisdom, and is the creator and owner of the whole system
of created existences, and has the care of all; I say, it belongs to him, to
take care of this matter; and he would not do what is proper for him, if he
should neglect it. And it is so far from being unholy in him, to undertake this
affair, that it would rather have been unholy to neglect it; as it would have
been a neglecting what fitly appertains to him; and so it would have been a very
unfit and unsuitable neglect.

Therefore the sovereignty of God doubtless extends to this
matter; especially considering, that if it should be supposed to be otherwise,
and God should leave men's volitions, and all moral events, to the determination
and disposition of blind and unmeaning causes, or they should be left to happen
perfectly without a cause; this would be no more consistent with liberty, in any
notion of it, and particularly not in the Arminian notion of it, than if these
events were subject to the disposal of divine providence, and the will of man
were determined by circumstances which are ordered and disposed by divine
wisdom; as appears by what has been already observed. But 'tis evident, that
such a providential disposing and determining men's moral actions, though
it infers a moral necessity of those actions, yet it does not in the least
infringe the real liberty of mankind; the only liberty that common sense teaches
to be necessary to moral agency, which, as has been demonstrated, is not
inconsistent with such necessity.

On the whole, it is manifest, that God may be, in the manner
which has been described, the orderer and disposer of that event, which in the
inherent subject and agent is moral evil; and yet his so doing may be no moral
evil. He may will the disposal of such an event, and its coming to pass for good
ends, and his will not be an immoral or sinful will, but a perfectly holy will.
And he may actually in his providence so dispose and permit things, that the
event may be certainly and infallibly connected with such disposal and
permission, and his act therein not be an immoral or unholy, but a perfectly
holy act. Sin may be an evil thing, and yet that there should be such a disposal
and permission, as that it should come to pass, may be a good thing. This is no
contradiction, or inconsistence. Joseph's brethren's selling him into Egypt,
consider it only as it was acted by them, and with respect to their views and
aims which were evil, was a very bad thing; but it was a good thing, as it was
an event of God's ordering, and considered with respect to his views and aims
which were good. Genesis 50:20: "As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God
meant it unto good." So the crucifixion of Christ, if we consider only those
things which belong to the event as it proceeded from his murderers, and are
comprehended within the compass of the affair considered as their act, their
principles, dispositions, views and aims; so it was one of the most heinous
things that ever was done; in many respects the most horrid of all acts: but
consider it, as it was willed and ordered of God, in the extent of his designs
and views, it was the most admirable and glorious of all events; and God's
willing the event was the most holy volition of God, that ever was made known to
men; and God's act in ordering it, was a divine act, which above all others,
manifests the moral excellency of the divine Being.