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

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

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.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Prayer of Mindfulness

Heavenly Father, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children. Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester. Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares. Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savouring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together. Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love. Amen.

Pick Up Lines

I got some of these from an email and thought that they were worth sharing. I wonder if any of them will work...

Do you have a map? I just keep on getting lost in your eyes.

If I could rewrite the alphabet, I would put U and I together.

Baby, you must be a broom, cause you just swept me off my feet.

My Love for you is like diarrhea...I can't hold it in

If looks could kill you would be a weapon of mass destruction.

Are you a parking ticket? Because you've got FINE written all over you.

You're so hot you would make the devil sweat.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Election Part 2

This is part two of the two part message on The Election.

I preface this message with a reminder to keep and bear in mind the first part of this two part post before reading this. As Christian's we do not put our hope in worldly affairs or in worldy kingdoms. Praise God for that.

However, God does desire for us to cry out against injustice when we see that it is happening. Normally it is not my nature to call out someone in the realm of politics but I do not feel as though I can obey my conscience by being quiet. There has never been a "God's man" for public office except in the sense that He sets up and removes all earthly authority (Daniel 2:21). With the presidential election coming up I have seen several debates and have been heavily persuaded by some of the things both McCain and Obama have said. Unfortunately the "blood and guts" of what either candidate is saying has been lacking and soundbyte type sayings have primarily been what most American's know. At one time I was persuaded to vote for Obama for several days after watching a debate but then I found out about some of the things Obama had voted for and still holds to and I was quite unsure about how to vote.

Many, many years ago, there was a leader who had the full support of his country. They had a lot of good things going for them when this person came into office and were powerfully persuaded by the promises that this man made. Not only were his promises powerful and that they promoted the good of their country, this leader made good on what he promised. He was really beginning to do a good job in turning things around. People even said that he was overall very moral in many ways. He seemed so good that at one point nearly all Christian Church's were in full support of him. His plan seemed so good that people almost naturally followed what he was saying and proposing.

However, there was one area that people looked over with this leader's philosophy. Human life. This leader's name was Adolf Hitler. Today we remember him for the horrible atrocities that he brought upon many groups of people he felt were "problems" or "trouble" or "difficult" to have to live with and take care of.

Back then, most Germans saw Hitler as an answer to a crumbling world with the difficulties of war, the economy, and the failure of the previous leaders to maintain things properly. The pictures of him with clergy show that many groups were willing to support him at one point. I do wonder what people would have said about Hitler today, had he not had such a low view of human life that led him into performing one of the largest tragedies that happened in the Western World. Hitler was not the only one who has committed such atrocities and he is by far not the worst of people in history in regards to numbers of people killed or the level of disregard.

My point in bringing up Hitler is not to show that Obama is Hitler or the Anti-Christ. There is also a huge discrepancy with this analogy because the disregard for certain groups of humans was the main solution that Hitler proposed. Thus he called it the Ultimate Solution. This is not what Obama proposes as the solution to America's problems.

The point is that regardless of how many good and noble proposals put forth by Obama, there is one proposal that the weight of the issue overthrows any good value that he has. It is in regards to human life. Watch these two clips and continue reading.

Clip 1: Live Birth Abortion Explained

Clip 2: Voting Records and Obama's Position

I would hope that all people would consider Live Birth Abortion as an ultimate insult and evil against humanity. But apparently this is not so. Obama debates this issue that people have him on Live Birth abortion by stating that the bill he voted against was worded differently than the one that were approved. He said in effect that this bill could possibly have overturned Roe vs. Wade and that was the reason he voted against it. It is interesting to note that the section Obama refers to as trying to undermine Roe vs. Wade, as it was the reason that some Democrats also voted against it at one time, was worded in the exact same way as the one that was approved by every member of the Senate. In response to this Obama has said nothing. There was no comment made in response to this and the closest thing to a response that will likely be given was a representative of Obama's calling it absurd.

It may well be absurd to think that a person with two children would support infanticide but frankly, if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it is very likely to be a duck. There are occassions where this is not true but leaving a baby to die uncared for, for several hours, is anti-human.

Even under the light of Obama trying to preserve Roe Vs. Wade as he claims to have been doing, it does not make it any better. In essence, he is saying that preserving a person's freedom is more important than preserving life. It is saying that a potential future threat on privacy- a threat that has no guarantee of producing any real change on the issue of abortion- outweighs a live human babies rights right now. It is better to let a person that is created in the image of God, who is totally unable to help themselves, suffer and die than to let a bill pass that may or may not change a law.

Friends, I am not an avid supporter of McCain (nor am I even registered as a Republican) but I do believe that because of this issue, voting for Obama would be wrong. I do not hate Obama and I do not think that all that he has to say is bad. In fact, I like a lot of what he has to say. But it is wrong to support a candidate who, although may have a lot of other strong points, has a disregard for life in the way that he does. This issue speaks volumes in itself about where his values are.

It is not possible to pledge allegiance to Christ and support ANYONE who does this to human life by voting for them. Those are strong words and I do not say them lightly. I do not know how I feel about the issue of dealing with the poor and how the government should work in that area, but comparing people who have options, however limited or vast those options might be, to people who have no means at all to survive in any sense without intervention, is not even a worthy comparison.

How someone treats human life tells how they really feel about God, be it a Republican, a Democrat, a pastor, a Christian, a non-religious person, anyone. This has PROFOUND implications when a person is willing to vote for this. This issue is not a privacy issue; it is a true moral issue. It is not pro-choice vs. pro-life. It is pro-right vs. anti-human.

I do not condemn a person for how they vote nor would I treat a person any differently for voting for Obama, but I would ask that people hear the truth in love. Ultimately God is accomplishing His sovereign purposes in whoever is voted in; and He calls us to pray for ALL people in leadership and to love our enemies and live out our faith in our daily living as the means for exercising our faith, but that does not mean that we need not be informed and vote for our leaders.

I pray that you will weigh heavily what this post has said and that you would lean not on your own understanding but be open to the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you in your voting. I am pleading with you not to support Obama because of this issue and where he is at or seems to be at with this issue right now. An important note to that is that I ask and pray that all Christian's realize that Obama is NOT the enemy. Our enemy is Satan and he alone should we be fighting against.

Pray for both Obama and for McCain as this election time is here and continues to approach that God will soften their hearts and that they will listen to his calling and direction in the issues facing them. God often works in ways that seem to defy our natural thinking and we should never doubt His working regardless of what happens in these next few months. God is at work in the world. Pray that our leaders would feel the weight of sin that seperates us as human and that they would see that the only way that true growth can come is if they cry out to Him for mercy in humility of heart.

I pray that you may feel the Peace of God in this time and know that He is always accomplishing His purposes despite every effort put forth to thwart Him. God bless you.

The Election Part 1

This is part one of a two part message. I normally do not get political but feel that these things need to be addressed.

I found an interesting article that might be helpful. I am sharing this with an many people as possible before the official day for election is. Although there are many decisions before us, as Christian's we don't have to be preoccupied with it in the way the world is. We have a God who is wise and sovereign over all, who commands us to pray for ALL men regardless of who they are. He sets up kings and He takes them done. Praise God that we are inheriting a kingdom that is unshakable.

Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting
By John Piper

Voting is like marrying and crying and laughing and buying. We should do
it, but only as if we were not doing it. That’s because “the present form of this world is passing away” and, in God’s eyes, “the time has grown very short.” Here’s the way Paul puts it:

The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)

Let’s take these one at a time and compare them to voting.

1. “Let those who have wives live as though they had none.”

This doesn’t mean move out of the house, don’t have sex, and don’t call her
Honey. Earlier in this chapter Paul says, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights” (1 Corinthians 7:3). He also says to love her the way Christ loved the church, leading and providing and protecting (Ephesians 5:25-30). It means this: Marriage is momentary. It’s over at death, and there is no marriage in the resurrection. Wives and husbands are second priorities, not first. Christ is first. Marriage is for making much of him.

It means: If she is exquisitely desirable, beware of desiring her more than Christ. And if she is deeply disappointing, beware of being hurt too much. This is temporary—only a brief lifetime. Then comes the never-disappointing life which is life indeed.

So it is with voting. We should do it. But only as if we were not doing it. Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t.
Political life is for making much of Christ whether the world falls apart or holds together.

2. “Let those who mourn [do so] as though they were not mourning.”

Christians mourn with real, deep, painful mourning, especially over losses—loss of those we love, loss of health, loss of a dream. These losses hurt. We cry when we are hurt. But we cry as though not crying. We mourn knowing we have not lost something so valuable we cannot rejoice in our mourning. Our losses do not incapacitate us. They do not blind us to the possibility of a fruitful future serving Christ. The Lord gives and takes away. But he remains blessed. And we remain hopeful in our mourning.

So it is with voting. There are losses. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back. In the short run, Christians lose (Revelation 13:7). In the long run, we win (21:4).

3. “Let those who rejoice [do so] as though they were not rejoicing.”
Christians rejoice in health (James 5:13) and in sickness (James 1:2). There are a thousand good and perfect things that come down from God that call forth the feeling of happiness. Beautiful weather. Good friends who want to spend time with us. Delicious food and someone to share it with. A successful plan. A person helped by our efforts.

But none of these good and beautiful things can satisfy our soul. Even the best cannot replace what we were made for, namely, the full experience of the risen Christ (John 17:24). Even fellowship with him here is not the final and best gift. There is more of him to have after we die (Philippians 1:21-23)—and even more after the resurrection. The best experiences here are foretastes. The best sights of glory are through a mirror dimly. The joy that rises from these
previews does not and should not rise to the level of the hope of glory. These pleasures will one day be as though they were not. So we rejoice remembering this joy is a foretaste, and will be replaced by a vastly better joy.

So it is with voting. There are joys. The very act of voting is a joyful statement that we are not under a tyrant. And there may be happy victories. But the best government we get is a foreshadowing. Peace and justice are approximated now. They will be perfect when Christ comes. So our joy is modest. Our triumphs are short-lived—and shot through with imperfection. So we vote as though not voting.

4. “Let those who buy [do so] as though they had no goods.”
Let Christians keep on buying while this age lasts. Christianity is not withdrawal from business. We are involved, but as though not involved. Business simply does not have the weight in our hearts that it has for many. All our getting and all our having in this world is getting and having
things that are not ultimately important. Our car, our house, our books, our computers, our heirlooms—we possess them with a loose grip. If they are taken away, we say that in a sense we did not have them. We are not here to possess. We are here to lay up treasures in heaven. This world matters. But it is not ultimate. It is the stage for living in such a way to show that this world is not our God, but that Christ is our God. It is the stage for using the world to show that Christ is more precious than the world.

So it is with voting. We do not withdraw. We are involved—but as if not involved. Politics does not have ultimate weight for us. It is one more stage for acting out the truth that Christ, and not politics, is supreme.

5. “Let those who deal with the world [do so] as though they had no dealings with it.”
Christians should deal with the world. This world is here to be used. Dealt with. There is no avoiding it. Not to deal with it is to deal with it that way. Not to weed your garden is to cultivate a weedy garden. Not to wear a coat in Minnesota is to freeze—to deal with the cold that way. Not to stop when the light is red is to spend your money on fines or hospital bills and deal with the world that way. We must deal with the world.

But as we deal with it, we don’t give it our fullest attention. We don’t ascribe to the world the greatest status. There are unseen things that are vastly more precious than the world. We use the world without offering it our whole soul. We may work with all our might when dealing with the world, but the full passions of our heart will be attached to something higher—Godward purposes. We use the world, but not as an end in itself. It is a means. We deal with the world in order to make much of Christ.

So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.

By all means vote. But remember: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

Voting with you, as though not voting,
Pastor John

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Maybe There's a Loving God

"Each heart knows its own bitterness,

and no one else can share its joy."

-Proverbs 14:10

I cried and cried when I heard the song "Maybe There's A Loving God" by Sara Groves this afternoon. I think everyone who has ever been born knows the feeling of knowing that something is not right with the world. We are born and we are crying; that is very telling. There is a concept that I have heard that says that we are born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts. Nothing but God can ever fill that hole. I have felt the effects of being born cut off from what is true life and living in a world that is broken. We are not only born crying, but even the moments of profound joy in our lives are marked by tears. That really speaks to the nature of the story we find ourselves in. God grants us moments when we realize that everything that happens in life is not all absurdity; there is still good that is happening. This song brought me back to the endless answers I have sought and to some of the darker periods of my life. In all of these events that I did not understand, God was there calling me to Himself softly and slowly drawing me. There have been many moments when people have given up or have wanted to give up on me and just did not see how things would work out for me. I don't understand most of "why" things have happened in my life and most people never do. We probably never will. There are still broken areas in my life deep in my heart and in my relationships with other people that I do not see how things will work out or why things would go the way that they do. It breaks my heart to know these things and how it is unlikely that I will experience full restoration in these areas on this earth. I feel the depth of these things and even though my heart is broken, I am glad that God has chosen to manifest Himself in this way in this world. He is everywhere and gives us glimpses into His heart not only in the Word, but in EVERYTHING that exists. Praise God for the morning chill that wakes us up and the heavens above us.

Sometimes we need a simple reminder from God that we are not alone in this universe. People can be a great comfort, but what we can truly know of each other is limited. God is unlimited to what He knows and has felt the depths of pain that we know to a degree that none of His children will ever feel or even be able to fathom.

I'm trying to work things out
I'm trying to comprehend
Am I the chance result
Of some great accident
I hear a rhythm call me
The echo of a grand design
I spend each night in the backyard
Staring up at the stars in the sky

I have another meeting today
With my new counselor
My mom will cry and say
I don't know what to do with her
She's so unresponsive
I just cannot break through
She spends all night in the backyard
Staring up at the stars and the moon

They have a chart and a graph
Of my despondency
They want to chart a path
For self-recovery
And want to know what I'm thinking
What motivates my mood
To spend all night in the backyard
Staring up at the stars and the moon

Maybe this was made for me
For lying on my back in the middle of a field
Maybe that's a selfish thought
Or maybe there's a loving God

Maybe I was made this way
To think and to reason and to question and to pray
And I have never prayed a lot
But maybe there's a loving God

Maybe this was made for me
For lying on my back in the middle of a field
Maybe that's a selfish thought
Or maybe there's a loving God

Maybe I was made this way
To think and to reason and to question and to pray
And I have never prayed a lot
But maybe there's a loving God

And that may be a foolish thought
Or maybe there is a God
And I have never prayed a lot
But maybe there's a loving God

For You

It's going to be alright
It's going to be alright

I can tell by your eyes that you're not getting any sleep
And you try to rise above it, but feel you're sinking in too deep

Oh, oh I believe, I believe
that It's going to be alright
It's going to be alright

I believe you'll outlive this pain in you heart
And you'll gain such a strength from what is tearing you apart

Oh, oh I believe I believe
that It's going to be alright
It's going to be alright

When some time has past us, and the story if retold
It will mirror the strength and the courage in your soul

Oh, oh, I believe I believe,
I believe I believe

I did not come here to offer you cliche's
I will not pretend to know of all your pain
Just when you cannot, then I will hold out faith, for you

It's going to be alright
It's going to be alright

-"It's Going To Be Alright" by Sara Groves

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Prayer of the Arminian

I read a rather amusing article tonight that I felt was worth sharing. I chuckled a bit to myself to see Spurgeon discussing the Arminian notion of free will that many Christians have. I am ever so grateful that God had opened my eyes to see past a cultural mirage of Christianity in this area. Not knowing the truth about the nature of God and the nature of myself produced a joy but never gave the deep roots I needed to survive the storms that came. I cannot say that I am always at peace with the notion of God being, well...God. It does seem however, that this is the very thing that is producing a great joy and peace in me that I cannot describe. I post this excerpt with no intintion of damaging anyone's faith or producing controversy or confusion, but I pray and plead that Christians in America would wake up past what our culture teaches us about church and God and examine EVERYTHING in light of Scripture. We will have no joy and not know who God is without being open to Scripture. I pray that the eyes of your hearts will be enlightened to see God in all His Glory and that you will be able to look past what our culture sells us as truth and dive into the heart of God as revealed in the Word even if it does not make us comfortable. The language from the excerpt is very old but it is worth trying to understand and is very amusing.

Excerpt from Spurgeon's Sermon: Free Will- A Slave

...Anyone who believes that man's will is entirely free, and that he can be saved by it, does not believe the fall...

But I tell you what will be the best proof of that; it is the great fact that you never did meet a Christian in your life who ever said he came to Christ without Christ coming to him. You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer - for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying,

"Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not-that is the difference between me and them."

That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out. I ask you again, did you ever meet a Christian man who said, "I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?" If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, "My dear sir, I quite believe it-and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity." Do I hear one Christian man saying, "I sought Jesus before he sought me; I went to the Spirit, and the Spirit did not come to me"? No, beloved; we are obliged, each one of us, to put our hands to our hearts and say-

"Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes to o'erflow;
'Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Political Advice For Christians

Today has been a day of hearing many things involving politics. With last nights debate and this coming up election possibly having huge ramifications on the world in which we live, many opinions have been tossed back and forth in the media today. I have several tips for Christian's who want to engage in the political process in a truly Christian way. This is not a Republican or Democrat slant but what I believe to be essential to do if one is to truly be Christ-like in this election season.

1. Remember Who Is In Control

"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.

He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning."

"Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?"

"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD;
he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases."

"The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the LORD."

(Daniel 2:20,21; Lamentations 3: 37,38; Proverbs 21:1, 16:33)

2. Remember Who The Battle Is Against and Who It Is NOT Against

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

(Ephesians 6:12)

3. PRAY For ALL People in Authority Whether You Like Them or Not.
God has commanded us to pray for ALL in authority.

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."

(James 2:9-12)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.

(1 Timothy 2:1-8)

4. Remember that God's Plan Often Supercedes The Plan's Of Man.
There are many plans that all candidates running have in their hearts, but their plans are second to what God is doing.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."
(Proverbs 19:11)

5. Don't Seek To Understand "Why" Things Are Happening

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

(Isaiah 55:8,9)

"The anger of the LORD will not turn back
until he fully accomplishes
the purposes of his heart.
In days to come
you will understand it clearly

(Jeremiah 23:20)

I pray that you all find rest and security in Christ Alone this political season and that you can live in this security so much that people see that you love and care about ALL people, even politicians. May God grant you peace, wisdom, and understanding in this time of making decisions involving the political process this year and in dealing with other people in this area. I praise God that HE has a plan for this world and that He can never be thwarted and can never be voted out of office either. He is here to stay.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


"The LORD is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous."

"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer."

"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
(Proverbs 15:29, 1 Peter 3:12ab, James 5:16b)

I want to thank all of you for your prayers that have gone out to the LORD on my behalf. I have felt the strong hand of the LORD working in my life and bringing healing and a much large vision and intimacy than I have ever experience. These past few months have been amazing. Transitioning out from a traditional church atmosphere, dealing with emotions from a past relationship, and getting ready to graduate from college and move out have been some major changes that I have gone through and am going through and feel the grace of God in ways I never would have imagined. I have never dealt well with change and still don't deal well with it, but it has gotten so much better. I would never have imagined that the LORD would bring me to a place of trusting Him in things like these to the degree He is doing it. I feel myself being sustained and lifted up even when I do have my moments of weakness and anxiety. I praise God for this and for all of you who have whispered in your spirit to the LORD on my behalf. I love you all and am grateful for you.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Have a Father

These past few days I have had many moments of tears come upon me. There has been tears both in joy and in humility. The LORD has been giving me eyes to see a little more clearly how much I truly need Him and am dependent upon Him for everything. If Christ were to remove His Hand from even one aspect of our world, we would be no more.

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining ALL things by his powerful word." (Hebrews 1:3 NIV)

I think of this not only in the sense of physical existence but in spiritual existence as well. I was at one time dead and seperated from God. By the power of His Word He awoke me from the dead and is strengthening and enabling me to know Him and to walk in His ways.

I also am beginning to realize more deeply how much grace and mercy I need from God to continue in my walk with Him. Without Him changing my heart, I will chase after everything BUT God. I get so entangled with lesser gods constantly and I NEED Him to change my heart. It is a humbling thing to realize that I need my heart and mind to change but am unable to do it myself. No amount of Scripture reading, no amount of going to church, no amount of anything apart from the work of God will ever change me.

So I have had this revelation going and I read about some friends of mine that are going to try to adopt again. I think of all of the loss they have experienced in some aspects of their lives together and can relate to some of it to what I have experienced with my sister and brother-in-law and how deep of a loss issues relating to having children can be.

Things like that make you realize how helpless we are as people. It also makes me really joyful to think about how God has helped us through Christ by the act of adoption. Once we were not His people, but now we are. Adoption is such an odd thing because someone that was once considered (at least by some people) of no value or not worth keeping is redeemed and brought into a place of worth and value by the person(s) doing the adoption.

Christ helps us in our helplessness by adopting us and gives us the commandment and the desire to go out and tell other people so that they might be adopted as well. So in essence we are helpless and Christ adopts us because the Father is not able to have a relationship with us when sin is involved and then after we are adopted, Christ calls us to go out and help others so that they will know of God's plan of adoption.

These friends of mine have adopted already and it is such a joy to see their little boy. It is such a natural fit for him to be in there family that I know that it was God's plan all along for him to be with them. I have been praying for them to have peace these past several weeks and the areas I thought I was praying for peace in might have been in the aspect of them wanting to adopt. I can't quite explain what happened inside of me when I read that they were going to try to adopt this child they really felt drawn towards but something inside of me leaped for joy. I was feeling in every bit of my soul how right this was for them to do this. They are already pregnant right now but still feel drawn to adopt.

I felt my heart crying out of how gracious God is in all of His workings and how He has a plan for us. He has adopted us and gives us the chance to adopt other people. Sometimes it can be a mentor type thing but it is also a physical adoption that He also calls us to as well.

Because people adopt, babies who might be unwanted now have a Father and a Mother. They experience how life is supposed to be but experience it that much richer because they know what life was like without it.

I do not know how easy this post to follow but I pray that we may all catch a vision for God's plan of adoption and that we might even go out and adopt children who need Father's and Mother's.

Praise God for all He is doing in my friends' lives!

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-

18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.

21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
(Psalm 103 NIV)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Saving Faith: The Possession of the Profession

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Romans 4:1-3 NIV)

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing?Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:1-7, NIV)

There has been a lot of controversy in the Church about the nature of justification and what justifies a person before God. Protestant Churches exist because of this debate. One would think that after over 1,000 years of being under the constraints of what humans must do to be justified before God, the Church would not go back into slavery but many people are now proposing a new understanding of justification that is different from what the Reformers broke free from but still enslaves us. The doctrine of Justification through faith is a somewhat simple doctrine to grasp but is an issue that the Church stands or falls on. There is no liberty on the issue of justification. How one believes and applies that doctrine either makes them a Christian or someone who does not understand the Gospel.

While most people in the world do not get into nor will they get into any great depth about the issue of justification, there are many people in America who state that "believing in God" will give them salvation. It is a common notion that if people raise their hand or walk down the aisle or pray a prayer that they are saved because of these things. They have to be sincere of course, but these things make a person just before God.

When I read the Bible I get a very different interpretation of this matter than what some people are teaching. I do believe that praying to God for repentance and professing one's faith are important. Both have to be done but they are not what saves a person. James says it this way:

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." (James 2:19-24, NIV)

What saves a person is trusting that Christ is enough to cover their sins. When a person is actively trusting in Christ and what He alone has done, it shows up in how they live.

"Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead." (Romans 4:16-24, NIV)

Abraham had living and active trust in God and that faith was something he possessed. For it to be a profession, it must first be a possession. We must have faith before we profess having faith.

This is a very beautiful and scary thing. I know somewhat how gracious I am to have a God who has justified me so that through faith I am transformed. I also know how unbelieving I am as a person and how doubtful I can be about lots of things. Because of this I pray: "God, I believe; help my unbelief!"

But I am not like Abraham in that I have seen God do what H says He will. I have seen God through Christ fulfill His promise to Abraham and to everyone else He has made a promise to. I am cleansed from sin through the cross and am able to draw close to God because of this. God gives us saving faith as a gift when we calls us to Him.

"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, 'Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, O God.' "
First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
"This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds."
Then he adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more."
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,2let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:1-23, NIV)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Is Moral Freedom Necessary For People to be Held Responsible?

Many people say that in order for a person to be accountable for their actions, they must be totally free to do or not do an action. We say things about our love for God cannot be real unless we are free to do otherwise. It is quite natural to think this way and in many ways it seems that this must be so. There are many passages imploring us to choose life or Christ or to make some kind of decision about an issue of concern. Passages like these lean us towards the understanding that because there is a choice presented to us, we have to be free to choose either way.

I too have felt this way and have felt immense anger at people who presented me with Biblical support to show God's sovereignty over everything that happens, including human choices. One of the reasons I was confused by God being sovereign even over our choices was that it did not seem to fit with how I viewed God and the world; I also could not understand in an intellectual level how this worked either. I knew that God was in control but I did not understand how God could both be in control and how we could be totally free to do as I wanted. This thought reeked havoc on me for several years. The LORD opened my eyes to see that He is sovereign over all things that happen and that people are still responsible for what they do. Maybe not free how we think we are, but still responsible. I have been able to accept this but have prayed and asked God to show me some of the depths of this. There is a place where mystery must be mystery and to not go beyond what is written in the Word, but we cannot simply have a faith based on pure emotion and psychology when it may not be in line with the truth of who God is. God is who He is and we cannot change who He is to fit with how we are comfortable or want Him to be. Our notion of God has to be based on the Word revealed to us from Spirit to spirit but God uses our minds as the means for us to understand who He is. Faith is not purely an intellectual pursuit but our whole person has to be engaged to understand who God is. Usually the soul (mind/emotional aspect) is the last thing to be changed before we are able to act on something. Psychology even shows this over and over and it should not surprise us that God moves from our spirit to our intellect to our soul and then to our actions.

In praying over how or why man is held responsible for his actions even when God is somehow directing everything that happens, I came across a book called Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards. Many people associate him with things relating only to hell but this is a very misleading thing done by many people. Edwards is probably the greatest American theologian ever and is in the top for Biblical understanding in the world as well. He studied the Bible for 11 hours a day 6 days a week for many years and was consumed with the Word for nearly all of his life. He wrote about every possible subject in the Bible so if you find that he has hundreds of writings on hell, he also has hundreds or writings about any other subject too. In this book I am reading, Jonathan Edwards has a quote where he states that a thing can be before it actually is and that a man is still held worthy of blame or praise for his actions. It is basically about the foreknowledge of God effecting how things will be and God's sovereignty over all things. Let me give an example of this.

In the Old Testament, God says that Jesus was coming to die for the people and would establish a new covenant on earth. God speaks in these Bible passages in such a way that it is definite that Jesus will die for our sins. It is not yet happening on the earth when He spoke it, but it is a reality that it will be done. So when Jesus came to the earth, could Jesus not have gone to the cross? There are some things like the temptation of Christ and the garden that seem like he did not have to do it. But if Jesus sinned or did not go to the cross, it would cause God to have lied and God cannot lie. So even though the temptation and struggle for Jesus was real on earth, it was impossible for Him not to complete the work. It could not have been otherwise or it would have made God a liar. And even though it was (in what I would call) necessary or impossible that it could have gone any other way than what God spoke that it would be, we still hold Jesus as worthy of our praise. No one who is a Christian would say that even though it was impossible for Jesus not to do what He did that He is less glorious or worthy to be praised.

In giving this example, it shows that having "free will" or moral freedom in the sense a lot of Christians understand it is not necessary for us to be held accountable for what we do. So we can say that EVERYTHING that happens on earth, including every act of evil, is a part of God's plan to glorify Christ and that although God has ordained that it come to pass as it will, we are still held responsible because being totally free to obey or disobey is not something God requires of us for us to still be responsible for what we do.

This is a very backwards truth and it takes the Holy Spirit to reveal it to us to understand it. It is simply how it works in God's economy. If we are convinced that being totally free to obey or disobey is the only way for us to be responsible, we will have to stop praising Christ for dying on the cross. I pray that we may always praise Him for the cross and ALL that He does in His wisdom as well.

As an aside, God also never forces us to do anything but we do it because we have the desire to do it. It is not determinism because we are not forced to do it. God is not pulling strings behind a curtain to make "the puppet show of life" happen. There is much that I do find probable in how this works, but I do not feel that I have an understanding of how Scripture lays it out or even if it does go into it at all.

I pray that God may open our eyes to all of the obstacles and assumptions we have about Him that are not based on Truth and point us to the greater reality of Himself and who He truly is. If we know that He is Good and perfect, we can hold on to that truth and let the Word define how He is good and perfect. I pray that this strange truth will open our eyes to see God and transform our lives. As Augustine once said: "He who does not believe well concerning the things of God will live ill concerning the things of this world and the next."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Repentance unto Salvation

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)

The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:41)

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3, 5)

The call of the Gospel of Christ has always been a call to repentance. To be specific, the Gospel is the call to the repentance of sin. It is easy to think of sin as a specific act done by a person against another person. 1 John 5:17 notes that "all wrongdoing is sin" and it seems that because we do wrong to one another, sin is primarily an issue pertaining to human relationships.

The Bible defines sin very differently. The Bible defines sin as an issue against God.Romans 3:23 states this quite clearly but it is easy to miss. The verse says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". What we sin and fall short of is the glory of God. Glory means weight or essence. We fall short of the essence of who God is. We fall short of the Substance of wisdom, of love, of justice, of all the things that effect the created order. The effects of sin are felt in this world but what we sin against is the glory or essence of God. When we sin we are saying that the essence of who God is is not the highest thing that there is. In Romans 1 Paul talks about this pretty plainly.

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (v.18-20 NIV)

There are two general truths that all human beings have knowledge of.

Despite what it may be based on, all humans know that there is a moral standard. This is the first truth. We know that something is that we know that something is that which we are not. We know and understand things like perfection although we are not perfect, justice although we are not always just, love although we are often not loving. They realize that there is something that makes these things what they are. As theists, we believe that the embodiment of these characteristics help to make up the attributes or essence of God. Christians say statements such "God is love" and "God is just". We know that it makes up who God is. So there is a knowledge of something that is, although we are not that and a knowledge that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. Some people try to rationalize the reality of God and call it matter, but matter is still what is the creator of life as we know it. Everyone has a knowledge of a creator and an embodiment of morality.

The second truth is that man cannot live up to the moral standard that they have. They may have moments where they are able to, but they feel a gap between what their actions are and what they know is right or moral behavior. I have actually met a few people who are athiests who embody no sense of morality as a substance but that they do what they need to in order to get what they want but people like that are rare. And people like that are also very depressed and are savage people to coexist with.

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." (v. 21-23, NIV)

So man, with the knowledge of morality instilled in him since birth, did not ascribe to the essence of God in how to live life. Adam's sin and my sin is that we want to be God. We want to live by our standard and not by God's. We disobeyed in Adam and continue to disobey in our lives now and basically tell God "No thanks God! I am better than You. My way is better. I define wisdom. I define love. I define justice. I am the highest value by which everything is defined." And in doing this, we put the created before the Creator. We put the thing that was defined above the thing that Defines. We trade the truth and embodyment of all that is Good and live in a reality that is not based on truth but on an illusion.

"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen." (v. 24-25, NIV)

Because we desired an illusion, God gave us over to what we wanted. We traded the essence of Good for something that is not Good and started living backwards. This is the understanding I have of how the world works. We live in backwards world.

And we cannot help but live in backwards world. When Adam sinned, God seperated His goodness from Adam and with this, the ability to know God is gone. The essence of who God is was taken from us. We had been left with something like the essence but not the essence itself. It is only the goodness but backwards. This is what perversion is. It's something good in and of itself but the way it is used to twisted.

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law." (Romans 5:12,13 NIV)

And Adam's sin was accounted to us because we were in Adam. We were partially in Eve too, but they both had put the thing created above the Creator and twisted reality. It makes no rational sense that I should be punished for something I was born into. Kind of like punishing people for being a female. We can't help it; we were born that way. But it is not something that will make sense to the rational mind because we don't see it the way God sees it. When God is the highest value to judge thing by it is okay for God to "bound all men over to disobedience" (Romans 11:32 NIV) because we realize how much less value we have than the worth of God. Because God is love and just, He must do whatever He knows is necessary to uphold that the essence of Good is preserved. He must hate that which is not good. This is what wrath is.

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8 NIV)

"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 2:14 NIV)

There are many verses that talk about man being unable to come to God apart from a work of the Holy Spirit. We like to think we can take God or leave Him at any time, but we cannot come to Him at all unless He enables us. A man has no ability to even repent apart from Christ.

Simply acknowledging or admitting one's wrong is not what the Bible means by repentance. The English word "repent" is the Greek word metanoeo. It has two parts: meta and noeo. Meta means a change or movement. Noeo is a word refers to the mind and its thoughts and perceptions and dispositions and purposes. So repenting literally means a total change in one's mind, disposition, and will. This means that we turn away from trying to make the Creator something we have created and let the essence of Good define how we live.

In repentance two truth are revealed to us. The first truth is that we ackowledge that God or the essence of Good defines reality and nothing else. The second truth is what we have done with the essence of Good or the Worth of God and what will become of us if we continue to do so.

"Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:25,26 NIV)

But God grants us repentance. The acknowledgement of the two truths that accompany repentance brings us to a third truth: that God has made a way for us to know the essence of Good and have it in our lives.

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

For all who will trust in Christ, God has granted to us the gift of the ability to be changed in our minds from a twisted view of reality to see things how God wants us to see them.

"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (1 John 1:5-10 NIV)

So what do we do to be cleanses from our sin? We confess or repent from our sin. True repentence always results in life change. As noted in the passage above, God has not saved us if we are still living in sin but if we confess that we have sinned, we will be cleansed.

This presents some problem for us. We still sin and sometimes even have habitual sins in our lives. All people do. So as Christians, how do we know that that we are saved if we have sin in our life?

"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Romans 8:16 NIV)

And if the Spirit is testifying with our spirit that we are God's child, how do we stop from sinning? The obvious answer is that God will enable us not to. But God always uses means to accomplish His will.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

First, offer yourself up to God so that when your mind is renewed you will know what God's good, pleasing, and perfect will is.

"How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11 NIV)

Secondly, we hide the Word of God in our heart.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

Thirdly, after we hide it in our hearts, the Word then becomes alive and reveals to us the truth about reality. The goal of obedience is not simply so that we won't be punished. It is about putting us in line with reality and with the essence of Good.

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cornithians 10:4,5 NIV)

Fourthly, when a lie comes up and you know it is a lie, take the lie and insert the Word of God that has been hidden in your heart. Trust your weapon, The Word of God, like nothing else because it has power to demolish strongholds. In Revelation, Satan was conquered "by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Rev. 12:11 ESV).

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:29,30 NIV)

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:4-6 NIV)

Lastly, trust Christ with all that you have. He promises us that He will carry the work He has started to completion. Change and liberation will come. If God has called us, He has also already justified us and glorified us (See Eph. 2:1-10). It already is a reality. We cannot change that. Christ has been God's plan from before the world began. He made a provision for us in Christ both to fulfill His ultimate purpose of showing His grace (See Eph. 1) and to save us from our sin before we were even around to do it (See 2 Timothy 1, Ephesians 1, Rev. 13:8).

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:31-39 NIV)