June 13, 2006

The miraculous garden

Isaiah 45:8
Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
let the earth cause them both to sprout;
I the Lord have created it.

I found this metaphor to be absolutely wonderful! That is no surprise since God is the one who spoke it.

God, the engine that powers nature and plant growth, is also the engine that powers salvation and righteousness. He uses the metaphor of plant growth to help us understand that salvation and righteousness come from him—not from our own efforts. God the Holy Spirit plants the seed, God rains down righteousness and salvation from the heavens, and God causes the earth to open allowing righteousness and salvation to sprout.

My pastor preached this past Sunday (June 11, 2006) on the topic of justification. His text was Romans 8:31. Read the sermon notes for an outstanding concise explanation of justification. What a wonderful and gracious God we serve!

June 08, 2006

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

We Americans have been taught the phrase, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" so much that many Christians have trouble determining whether or not it is a quote from scripture. It is not. But I believe it is scriptural.

Jesus is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." So that covers the "life" part. Scripture also tells us to "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has set [us] free."

But what about the pursuit of happiness? Are we supposed to follow the seemingly hedonistic pursuit of our own happiness?

John Piper of Desiring God Ministries thinks so. His book, Desiring God, is a true eye-opener. His argument includes the assertion that God has given us a natural desire to be happy and that a desire for God is the only thing that can fulfill that yearning.

But does scripture speak to this? John Piper handles this much better than anyone I've ever read. Although Jonathan Edwards is quite eloquent on this topic as well. And that's saying something since Edwards was a Puritan and the Puritans are seen as the ultimate killjoys when it comes to pleasurable things.

But I read a verse this morning that speaks directly to our desire for our own happiness. And I wanted to share it with those who read my blog. Here's God's plan for our pursuit of happiness:

Deut. 12:28
Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.

June 02, 2006

Is your doctrine cool?

There has been a recent surge of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention. Many of us who hold to Reformed theology have been greatly encouraged by this movement toward biblical truth and away from traditional Arminianism. Unfortunately, I fear that many of those who have turned toward the theology known as Calvinism have done so not because they are convinced by scripture but because "Calvin is cool." Holding to a theological system because it is "cool" is a very dangerous thing, even if that theology is true.

In the "Calvin is cool" post mentioned above, the author said:

I know there are many non-Calvinists who are God-centered, but I think you have to notice that Calvinism is God-centered by definition, and it simply makes a marvelous difference. Look at the music of Steve Green, the sermons of Al Martin or the books of Douglas Wilson, John Piper, Jerry Bridges or R.C. Sproul. Whether in evangelism, worship, or the Christian life, Calvinists have a suspicion of humanism that is healthy and helpful in retaining the God-centered nature of the Christian faith.

Now, I would agree with everything said in that quote; in fact, I would agree with pretty much everything in the original quote, except for one of the final sentences of that post:

Even with all this, trust me, it's cool to be a Calvinist.

The danger evident in that basis for your theology is that when it ceases to seem "cool" or when something else comes along that's "cooler" you drop your theological system and run after the new coolness.

The author of the quote above began attacking the very people he thought were "cool" just a year or so after he posted that comment on his blog.

Another well-known internet Calvinist was Rob Schlappfer of the highly popular reformed bookstore "The Discerning Reader" and now-defunct companion website, antithesis.com. The Discerning Reader had the best collection of Calvinistic books available anywhere and held a strong stand against such aberrations in the Christian world as openness theology and postmodern thought exemplified by the emergent church.

But as Rob began to rub elbows with those who proclaimed the "openness of God" and those who held to postmodern hermeneutics, he was drawn in by their arguments and actually turned rabidly anti-Calvinistic, dropping most of his reformed book line and writing public and private attacks on various Calvinists. His attacks became more virulent and venomous as they accumulated and eventually it proved to be the downfall of a very successful internet enterprise.

Why did these once Calvinistic apologists turn against the theology they had once held as biblical? Because they weren't deriving their theology from scripture. They were part of the crowd of young people that like something in the system of Calvinism. Perhaps it was the ruggedness of it. Perhaps it was the literal interpretation of scripture that seemed to allow them to flaunt their acceptance of alcoholic beverages. Perhaps it was the adrenaline of debate against Arminians who can at times make Ann Coulter seem well-mannered and sweet.

Whatever the draw, it was not scripture. So when postmodernism seemed more cool, they ran after that. When other Calvinists held them to a standard of Christian living, they threw in the towel and ran after open theism. When holding fast the faithful word became a burden, they joined forces with the heretics rather than suffer the pangs of Christian fidelity.

We must derive all our theology from scripture. It is the only way to stand true.

2 Timothy 3:16, 17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

June 01, 2006

Woman struck by lightning while praying

“I've seen the light!” might be what she said. This report is amazing.

Whose fault is it?

“Once that church started follwing Calvinism, its evangelistic zeal dried up.” “Calvinism is a virus and it kills the evangelistic spirit of every church it infects!”

These are common comments made by those who do not understand the biblical doctrines of grace and by those who have tradition-inspired animosity toward those doctrines.

My church has been the target of some of those comments. The second quote listed above was stated by a virulent anti-Calvinist professor at a leading Baptist university.

The Founders Blog recently featured a post addressing this situation. Here's a taste of what was said:

While granting the fact that there are, no doubt, exceptions, in the great majority of cases that I know about where Calvinistic pastors have encountered turmoil in their efforts to preach and teach God's Word, it was not because of Calvinism. It was because of biblical Christianity. Calvinism tends to be the tail on which the donkey of controversy is pinned, but the real culprit is the erosion of real biblical Christianity that has occurred over the last generation or more in many of our churches.

Our postmodern culture has adopted the practice of thinking emotionally and we've learned to argue and debate in an emotional manner, rather than thinking our position through and, as Christians always should, applying the filter of scripture to our stands and our beliefs. The question should not be “Did this church's doctrinal stand pragmatically help church growth?” or “Do I want to serve a God who displays his sovereignty over the minute details of my life—including salvation?” but “Does this doctrine square with the Word of God?”

If the Bible declares a truth that our fallen human understanding cannot completely comprehend, we still must hold to that truth. The fact that we have trouble squaring the sovereignty of God with the responsibility of man should not cause us to reject the truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation (the author and finisher of our faith) or to ignore the scriptural mandate to carry the gospel to all people groups (including our own local communities).

Soli Deo gloria!———To God alone be the glory!