Monday, December 29, 2008

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Jones


Friday, December 26, 2008

Bad News: Santa is Coming!

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

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Reason for the Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

United States of America
Looks like another silent night

-"While you were sleeping", Casting Crowns

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reflections on Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Innkeeper

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"I Think My Wife's a Calvinist" Song

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008


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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Encouraging Video

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beyond the Storm and Beyond the Clouds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Face to Face

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

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

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

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

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

- "Face to Face" Paul Baloche

More Reflection's on Sunday at the River Church

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

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

Messiness and the Church

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


Jokes of the Day

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

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

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

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

-From Blum's Almanac

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Doing" Church

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

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the Word also tells us:

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Word in Music

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

Psalm 145

Let Your Light Shine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God richly bless you through this video.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Atonement

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Monday, December 1, 2008

LORD, Have Mercy

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

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

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

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

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

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy on me

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

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

Psalm 51 "Create in me a Clean Heart"

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

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

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

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