Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recent Thoughts on Life Part 2

More thoughts on life as of late.

There has been a restlessness that has settled in my heart and mind over the past few weeks. It feels like a sort of wandering spirit settling in, the kind you get when you feel discontent with your life and what is going on; the kind of feelings I have known best in my life as depression or as grief.

Dealing with three deaths that all happened in a span of less than two weeks probably has a lot to do with it. Being confused about being out of school has some to do with it too; in this regard it is mostly with the job situation and not knowing what direction the Lord is leading me. It also has to do with the pain I am in because of my hand. Taking 800 mg of ibubrofen every 4 to 6 hours, as well as taking antibiotics, have done a number on my mind and emotions as well; I do not do well taking new medicines. The pain and the blur in my mind because of the medicine have made it hard to think about things, and to be honest, I have no idea where to start or how to sort out grieving for three people all at once.

I have ALWAYS been a sensitive person in just about every way, and have also always had a tendency towards a melancholic disposition in general as well. A lot of the things I have been taught along the way through therapy, my own formal education at college, and through personal study have really started to become ingrained into my mind, which allows me to be able to deal with my emotions in healthy ways and to be able to identify how I am thinking about things that come up in life.

Some of the time I am able to see how ridiculous I am being or am able to see why I am feeling or interpretting an event the way I am. Sometimes I am faced with the fact that I "know" how I am thinking is out of step with the Word, but I don't know the reality of what He has promised in a real way; in other words, I see that it is my unbelief that is caused me distress. A lot of the time when that happens I ask the Lord to reveal what He needs me to know and to give me open hands to recieve it.

For God's Sake, Let Grace be Grace!

"If the Lord of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we should have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah."
-Isaiah 1:9

The video below speaks enough in itself as to what I am thinking and feeling lately, particularly in regards to salvation.

The Gospel is robbed when presented as a person's being regenerated depends upon them. When that happens, God doesn't save anybody; He only gives the possibility of them being saved. But the Gospel teaches us that God actually saves people; His saving is efficaceous.

As Christians, we are often okay with admitting that we need some help from God in our lives, but overall we are really all okay. We deserve God's favor.

Only when we see that we are undeserving, that we are guilty, that at this very moment we deserve to die and suffer for an eternity because of our sin, only then can we know what it means for God's grace to come to us.

I have been reading through the Old Testament, in no particular amount of time, and recently finished Isaiah. I have been perplexed by many passages in Isaiah, as well as by many passages in other places in the Bible, in regards to things future for the world.

I do not at all think of the future of the world in a doom and gloom scenario anymore, but I can't quite tell what Scripture actually is trying to tell us about what lies ahead for us. There seems to be a larger number of texts that actually speak of things getting better, texts which cannot reasonably interpreted in any other. There are, of course, other passages that, even when excluding the grossly misinterpreted pieces and putting them into the right perspective, attest to an increase in godlessness in "the last days".

I often wonder if we can know anything about what the biblical prophecy regarding the future is actually talking about, as it is easy to interpret whatever is happening at the present moment as the "beginning of the end". This has been the case for most, if not all, of history for those who have concerned themselves with taking the Bible seriously. In recent times, it has moved from black people and communism to hispanic or middle eastern people and "the possible rise of socialism turning into a one-world system of government, which will pave the way for the AntiChrist to reign in case it is not Obama, which he probably is so we need not worry. (In any case, separate yourself from the world, wait for God to take you up in the clouds, and watch the rest of the world become obliterated by God's wrath. Follow this three-step plan and you will be fine.)". Seriously?

Not to press the point, but even how narrow our scope of vision is is not an entirely perspicuous matter. The restoration of Israel as a nation, which is supposed to be fulfilling prophecy that tells us that the end is very close, has happened 5 or 6 times since those prophecies were written. God is true to His word, but God is true to how He means what He promises and not how we interpret (or misinterpret) what has been said.

I do not know what to make of a lot of things in the eschatological area, but I am not distraught over not knowing. I am, however, becoming aware of how much what we believe about what God will be doing in the future shapes how we live and think about the world and our objective as Christians as a whole. People say that eschatology is an "unimportant" aspect of the faith, which it is a secondary issue, but people live out of what they believe in this area, even is they are doing it unaware of how much their thoughts on this area underlie a lot of other areas.

The River Church
Yesterday was an awesome time of worship at the River. You could really hear the people there pouring their hearts out to the Lord in song. The music had such a deep reflection of the Scripture, which made it easy for me to feel comfortable singing and becoming absorbed in God's presence. I can't quite say what it was about our gathering yesterday; something was different and I can really sense that God is at work, but that is about all that I can tell.

Joey's preaching has seemed to shift from being imperative to becoming a lot more centered on indicatives; in other words, a shift from "What would Jesus do?" to "What has Jesus done?" Both indicatives and imperatives are important aspects of preaching, and finding that balance is definitely hard to do, as I have found out from teaching at a Bible study.

It is kind of funny, because all of the pastors at the River have a gift for preaching through narrative passages of Scripture. These types of passages are harder to preach through for a lot of people, myself included, but God has definitely given them all the gift of teaching these sections of Scripture in amazing ways.

Apart from some of really well-known pastors/teachers, Joey does the best job of teaching through narrative passages of anyone I have heard. I think some people have that gift, and he is definitely one of those people who has it. He has the ability to really exposit the text itself and sticking very closely to it, while at the same time making the text come alive so that it is understood and its relevancy is seen.

There is much going on at the River Church and at Confluence, and am glad to be a part of it. I have said this before, but I will say it again. Our church has some really awesome leadership. I am really glad to have their guidance and feel them to be people whom I can willingly serve under their spiritual authority. The way a lot of the structure at the River is really helps it to function as well as we do. This dimension of the church is something that many churches fail in, which inevitably leads to A LOT of other problems.

I have more thoughts, but that's enough for now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sovereign Election: Gracious and Merciful, Not Arbitrary or Unjust

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”

Christless Christianity

Love and Marriage

I post these video's with the acknowledgement that I know practically nothing about being married to another person. From my limited experience in relationships with members of the opposite sex, I do know a couple of things that are true beyond debate. One of these things is that being in close relationship with anyone requires giving and recieving a tremendous amount of grace in order for the relationship to work.

These video's spoke to me in many ways, and I hope and pray that they speak to you as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recent Thoughts on Life Part 1

I decided to write topically about some things going on in my life. I haven't written anything in a while, and wanted to share my heart and what all is running through this crazy mind of mine.

The greatest need that people have is that they need to be forgiven; they need grace and mercy, both from God and from other people. The only real way people can ever be radically transformed and set free is to experience the power of the Gospel. I have often viewed the Gospel as something that was a part of the Christian experience, a basic message to help people understand their need for Christ; and that after they "understood" that message, they could move on to other things in growing with Christ. But this is not so; we need the gospel every day. If you are anything like me, there are many areas of your heart and life that have not understood what He has done for us; you may mentally accent to it, but you have yet to feel the depth of Christ and His work and what that all means.

Teaching the Bible
I am helping to shepherd along a small flock of believers on Saturday nights, which is something I never imagined I would be doing. I do not have much experience sharing the Bible with people in any type of "formal" setting such as in a Bible Study. I have been greatly challenged in how I articulate truths about the faith, particularly in making them intelligible to people who may not have a high level of familiarity with the Bible. A large goal I believe that I should be leading the group in is to let them see how to go about reading the Bible and studying it for themselves.

When asking someone about their thoughts on how I did one of the studies differently from previous sessions, they said they enjoyed it and did not care how I did it, just as long as I would go verse by verse through a book or section. I admit that the studies have not been the most entertaining in appealing to people's felt needs, but this has largely been intentional on my heart. Not that people shouldn't enjoy it, but that people should be getting fed to a point where they have a deeper understanding of who God is and who they are because of Him. God desires not to meet our felt needs, but to show us what our real needs are and point us in the appropriate direction. I was so overjoyed, and still am, by the person who commented about studying the way we are. Not because of anything that I am doing, but because of how much richer she will understand the Bible and not suffer from a lot of the confusion that many pastors, although unintentionally, lead their sheep into by taking random verses from a couple of places and forming them together to say something the verses by themselves were never saying. It is not as though the pastors had bad intentions or that what they were saying was false, often times what they are saying does have a substance of it in the Bible as a whole, but the way people are taught and largely the way they will go about seeking to understand something for themselves. "Random verse teaching" creates much confusion in ways that are often not noticed on a surface level. This is not to say that there are not other ways to teach people that are beneficial and good ways to teach; it is just that I do not feel that my teaching ability is at a place to teach topically in a way that would lead to further clarity for the people I am teaching.

Another thing in teaching the Bible is that I have been made very aware, mostly through the quickening of the Holy Spirit, of how enculturated I am in how I understand and present the Bible to people. I have been convicted of many things in this area. One of them is about staying on the objectivity of the Gospel, and not making everything about personal experience. People NEED to have things be a little bit more concrete than simply having mere abstractions presented to them, but they need to see the work of Christ that is both historical and exists outside of themselves. We need an external Word to guide us.

Knowing Christ is about more than a "personal relationship". Talking of a person needing Christ and them having a "personal relationship" often do not speak of things clearly as they are. Do not mistake me for saying that I believe in universalism, but ALL people already have a "personal relationship" with Jesus. Some stand as condemned criminals, refusing to acknowledge Him; nevertheless, Christ is still LORD and they are relating to Him, just not in a saving way. Other people's relationship with God is that they are justified, forgiven children of God and coheirs with Christ.

Still, people may have a saving knowledge of God and not understand what that means. They may say that Jesus lives in their heart, but if you talk to them long enough you also find out that Led Zeppelin, Ronald Reagan, and their grandmother also live in their hearts as well. Not that these type of things shouldn't have a place in our hearts, it is just that we need to be careful how we express them.

A second conviction I have had in teaching is that people need to hear the Bible taught in indicatives and not in imperatives. There are times when the Bible calls to gospel imperatives, but the imperatives are always in light of the indicative message of what Christ has already done for us and apart from us. It is not so much "What would Jesus do?" but rather, "What has Jesus done?". God has written His law on our hearts, which is a totally good thing, but can often serve to confuse us from doing what God has called us to do and proclaim. We are, in many senses, hard-wired to "do", which drives us to seek to be like Christ in what we do. This is good because it is a natural reflex we have, but it is bad when we forget that the only real way for people's lives to be transformed is to make them aware of what has already been done, and then by knowing that they are then able to go out and be salt and light in the world. It is SUCH a backwards way of thinking for our natural minds.

I am becoming more aware of a subtle legalism, both within myself and within the church at large, that is what Michael Horton calls a "therapeutic moralism" teaching us, not things that are untrue, but things which do not lead us to and show us our greatest needs, which will truly enable us to be transformed people. Teaching indicatively yet relatable to people is no easy task, but I do believe that God is pointing me in this direction both for the group and for myself. (Fortunately, the main teaching pastor at the church I go to has done an excellent job of doing this for the past 2 or 3 months in ways that I hope to be able to teach like to a smaller group.)

Church Leadership
One of the things that makes my heart glad every time I think about it is the leadership of the River Church. I am very glad to have them leading us, and I trust where God is leading them to take the congregation. I want to serve these men and cover their weaknesses, lifting them up both in prayer and in practical ways so that they can serve our flock. I cannot explain what it is that has put such delight in my heart over these men, as they are an odd group of people in general, people who would never have anything in common if it weren't for Christ. I say this jokingly AND seriously. They are not anything spectacular in themselves, as no one in the world is either, and don't carry around any type of image that would draw people to them in the natural. They are ordinary people, being transformed by the power of God, being led by the Spirit to carry the Church into the future until Christ arrives. There is a rich diversity of gifts among them; it seems as though they all balance each other out, with each of them being strong in areas where others are weak.

Girls at the Wake Forest Library
I do believe one of my favorite experiences as of late has been my trip to the Wake Forest Library. I did enjoy the trip I made there to go see a friend who attends the school, but it was not as bolstering to my ego as the trip before last. When I arrived at the library there was a girl outside near the entrance sitting on a bench. I noticed her seeing that I was passing by, so I nodded my head, waved, and said hello. She smiled one of those sweet smiles girls give you when they have butterfly's in their stomach and started talking with me for a moment or two until she had to go help one of her friends. It was all very brief, brief enough to where I would not be comfortable enough to ask her for her number, nor would she likely be comfortable enough to give me hers.

I then turned to go into the library, and there was a girl who was leaving as I was opening the door. I held the door for her, which seemed somewhat of a surprise to her, and held it for two other girls coming and going from the library who were right in the immediate area. It was nothing too extensive, just some descent manners that should be expected from another person. Apparently this was not only impressive to the girls who I held the door for; the girls who were standing in the corridor leading into the main part of the library also seemed impressed and were smiling and looking at me when I walked by.

I very likely should have reflected upon whether I had actually died shortly before going to the library, as it was quite a heavenly experience. The book on Covenant Theology and the other resources I found could have served to confirm this assessment of me having died and being in heaven, but I think the raging of my hormones and ego largely drowned out the fact that I might have actually have already passed on from earth as I knew it.

This type of experience has never occurred to me before, and I wonder if this is something that is repeatable. The next trip I took to the library was with a girl friend of mine, which, although I got a couple of glances from some girls, it seemed as though the presence of a female with me and the pressure of the semester ending made my last two trips vastly different.

In many ways, it is probably a good thing I never went to Wake Forest after all. My mom works there, which means I could have been gone for relatively cheap. I sometimes joke about being 22, having to walk around with hormones that feel strong enough to where I could father a small village if given the chance, possibly even Antarctica on some days.

It is easy to joke about how frustrating and intense hormones can be, both for men and women. Marriage does ease the situation for many people, but does not altogether make the issue of dealing with one's sexuality go away or get put into perspective or in its place. Needless to say, raging hormones is something all people, especially younger people, must deal with on a regular basis.

It may be funny to talk about having hormones strong enough to make you want to go propagate a small village, but the reality of actually going out and sleeping with someone is an entirely different matter. There is always an intense change within people when they begin to have sex with another person.

Sometimes this happens in the security of a marriage, where two people are pretty safe to open up to one another to a degree to where they can both be extremely vulnerable with one another; this usually strengthens their relationship and seems to unify both of the people as a couple and as individuals.

Very often-well, always-people having sex with one another outside of marriage does the exact opposite of what sex inside of marriage can do for two people. Sex outside of marriage actually isolates people; it makes them de-unified, both as a couple and as individuals.

There is a line in the movie Vanilla Sky, a movie I would NOT recommend going to see, where there is something very telling that speaks about the nature of why sex can be so devastating to people. In the movie, there is a very beautiful girl who is infatuated with a man who has no interest in her. At some time in the movie, the man pretends to be interested in this girl to get her to sleep with him. She sleeps with him, and after that he avoids her and her calls at all costs. What he has done to her is pretty apparent, and she pretty much loses it. When she comes to confront the man about what he did, she tells him, "When you have sex with someone, your body makes a promise to them whether you do or not."

All too often, sex serves as presenting itself as something it is not. It is a giving of one's self over to another person in deeply physical, emotional, and spiritual ways; it is a complete giving over of one's self. When people have sex but have not truly given themselves over to God to guide their relationship and to one another as a response to God's call to love that other person, they are lying to each other and to themselves. The fabric of what God has written on our hearts as to what sex means and is for begins to tear when we try to live apart from His intention, thus resulting in a tearing of who we are.

Our society tries to promote that we need freedom, especially sexual freedom, but this freedom is actually slavery leading us into death.

It is good and right to acknowledge that God gave us our sexuality and to live as people who are, in many ways, sexual beings. This is a good and godly thing to be aware that sexuality plays a large part in who we are, both in the physical aspects and in our roles as male and female. It is also good for us to "fear the Lord and shun evil", living our lives in the reality of what Christ has done and how He calls us to respond to Him.

The majority of the single people I have known have not had to tell me that they were "involved" with a member of the opposite sex.; it is just something you know. Not necessarily because of how they act while with one another, but because they seem to carry a huge weight around with them. After the relationship with the sexual encounter(s) have ended, it seems as though a large part of them has died; they are not the same after that.

It is not as though God cannot bring healing to them; it is that, as it says in Galatians, a person reaps what they sow. In some sense, God's wrath can be seen as us simply reaping the benefits of our own stupidity, trying to live life apart from God. There is still, and I say this cautiously, in some sense, a reward for obedience and a curse for disobedience. It is like a sort of natural law. If I use a clean needle to take a shot for medical purposes, or if people keep reusing dirty needles for medical or recreational purposes, the more risks we take the larger the chance is that we will suffer the consequences of those risks. For a more practical example, ask the stock brokers of today if taking risks is always a good thing.

The point is, sin leads to death; it is a snowball effect. Sleeping with people or "messing around" with people may be fun, for a time, but in the end it is devastating.

This is something I am keenly aware of, both in my own very limited personal experience and in the lives of innumerable people I know my age. When my last girlfriend and I broke up after a pretty serious relationship, as devastating as it was, it would have been unimaginably worse had she and I been physically involved with each other. The work we both did to put up and keep boundaries in our relationship in this area was by far the best decision she and I made.

A little effort and some temporary discontentment in this area is well worth single people putting up with.

I was not planning on writing this long on these topics, but decided to keep all that I wrote. There will be more to come shortly.

Look for Part 2...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I can't write for any extended amount of time because of my hand, but wanted to share this song. It was written before a lot of crazy stuff started happening such as 9/11 or the economy. It is pretty obvious as to what the song is about; it isn't nice, but it is something that needs to be heard.

"You can tell us that it isn't serious.
And you can tell us that you'll do it right.
You can tell us that you've got it all worked out.
You can tell us that it's all for us.

But we know you're lying through your teeth.

You can tell us that it's for security.
And you can tell us it's for our own good.
You can tell us that we wouldn't understand,
and you can hide behind your practiced grin.

But we know you're lying through your teeth.
You will bear the brunt of liability.
It will be a stone around your neck,
drowning you in irresponsibility,
underneath the weight of your regret.

You can sell our secrets for your benefit.
You can toss our bodies in the ground.
You can ship our children off to battlefields.
You can wipe the blood from both your hands.
You can tell us that it's indisputable,
as you throw away the evidence.

But, we know you're lying through your teeth.
You will bear the brunt of liability.
It will be a stone around your neck,
drowning you in irresponsibility,
underneath the weight of your regret."

written by brett detar