Saturday, March 31, 2007

Foreknown, Predestined, Conformed to Christ

I listened to this message yesterday, and want to share. It is absolutely magnificent, what Christ has done for us, and John Piper, like no other preacher, can convey this message to the world.
Click on the title if you want to listen to it.




Romans 8:28-30
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

We devoted three messages to the magnificent Romans 8:28 ("And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."). And we said that Romans 8:28 was part of Paul's argument for Romans 8:18, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." In other words, all our sufferings are endurable because everything, even these sufferings, are going to work together for our good.

Now we move to the next verse (29) which begins with "for" which means "because." We move to Paul's massive foundations — his pillars under the promise of verse 28 — the truth and reality that hold it up and keep it from falling — and keep us from falling with it.

He said, We know all things — the bitter things and the sweet things — work for our good (v. 28), "BECAUSE — this is verse 29, the foundation of that promise — "because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." Here are three great works of God that we are going to focus on this morning — three acts of God that are done to give you more confidence that all things will work together for your good and all the sufferings of this life are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed (8:17).

The three acts of God are seen in the words, 1) "He foreknew," 2) "He predestined," and 3) "We become conformed to Christ." We know that all things work together for our good because God foreknew us, predestined us, and is conforming us like Christ. Two of these are past (foreknowing us and predestining us) and one of these is present and future (conforming us to the image of Christ).

Now I can imagine right now at least two reasons why some of you might say this is of no interest to you. First, some of you might say, "Frankly I don't really care about what decisions made a long time ago — like before creation in God's foreknowledge and predestination. I care about now. And I, what's more, I don't see any point in getting involved in disputes about Biblical doctrines like predestination."

Second, some of you might also say, "Frankly, I don't want to be like Christ. For one thing, he never had sex, and, what's more, he was so dadgum serious I don't know if he ever had fun; and he was so controversial he got himself killed. So if becoming like Jesus is supposed to make me feel confident that everything is working for my good, forget it; it doesn't."

Let me say something to those two hang-ups.

"I Don't Care About Decisions Made in the Past"

If somebody came up to you this morning and said, "I'm going to give you a million dollars," you would have a right to be suspicious and doubtful. But what if they pulled out a wrinkled old sheet of paper and pointed to it and said, "My wealthy father died several months ago and wrote in his will that you were to receive part of the inheritance, a million dollars"? Would you say, "I don't care about decisions made a long time ago. I care about now. And besides settling the meaning of old documents, especially wills, can be very contentious. So let's just forget about the million dollars"? I promise you, what God foreknew and predestined is ten thousand times more relevant to your life now than inheriting a million dollars.

"I Don't Want To Be Like Christ"

And if you say, "Frankly, I don't want to be like Christ," it may be because you are thinking of this likeness in a way that is not only mistaken, but way too narrow. What about when you die? Do you want to be like Christ when you die: Do you want to be rejected by the Judge of the universe and condemned to everlasting punishment because you rejected his Son, or do you want to rise from the dead loved and accepted? Do you want to rise like Christ or stay unlike Christ and perish? It's not a small question. And I plead with you to listen.

So let's look first at the two acts of God that happened a long time ago first, and then turn to what God is doing today and tomorrow.

"For Those Whom He Foreknew"

Verse 29: "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son." What does "foreknew" mean? Some have taken it to mean that God simply foresees who will believe on him and these are the ones he predestines to be like Jesus. But this assumes two things that are not true. One is that the faith God foresees is ultimately and decisively our work, not his work. In other words, the point of this interpretation is that God does not cause our faith, he only foresees the faith which we cause.

Now this is not what the Bible teaches, not elsewhere (Philippians 1:29; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Matthew 16:17), nor here in the context. When Paul says in Romans 8:30, "Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified," he means all the called are justified. But to be justified we must believe (Romans 5:1). So he is saying all those who are called believe and are justified. But how can he say ALL who are called believe? The reason, as I tried to show in the exposition of "called" in verse 28, is that the call is the powerful work of God to bring about what he demands. It's an effective call. It's a call that creates what it commands. It's a call like "Lazarus, come forth!" and the dead man lives. So the point is, believing for justification is not some thing I do on my own. God enables me. God empowers me. I must do it. Believing is something I do. But my doing is a gift of God. I do not take ultimate credit for it. I thank God for it. I am saved by sovereign grace from first to last.

So it is wrong to assume that when Romans 8:29 says, "God foreknew" some, it means he simply foresaw that they would believe by their own power. He gave that power, and so some something more is going on here than the mere foreseeing of what we do.

Here's the other mistaken assumption of this view. It assumes that the meaning of "foreknowing" is not the meaning it has in many Old and New Testament texts that would give a more coherent meaning to this passage. Listen to these uses of "know" and ask yourself what each means. In Genesis 18:19 God says of Abraham, "I have known him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord." Virtually all the English versions translate this, "I have chosen him." In Amos 3:2 God says to the people of Israel, "You only have I known among all the families of the earth." He knew about all the families, but only chose Israel. In Matthew 7:23 Jesus said to the hypocrites at the judgment day, "I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness." Psalm 1:6 says, "The Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish." He knows about the way of the wicked too. But he knows the way of the righteous in the sense of approving and recognizing and loving. In Hosea 13:5 God says to Israel, "I knew you in the wilderness, In the land of drought," meaning he took note of your plight and cared for you. And Genesis 4:1 says, "Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain." That is, he made her his, and knew her intimately and loved her.

Because of all those texts I think John Stott and John Murray are exactly right when both of them say, ""Know' . . . is used in a sense practically synonymous with "love' . . . "Whom he foreknow' . . . is therefore virtually equivalent to "whom he foreloved.'" Foreknowledge, is "sovereign , distinguishing love" (John Stott, quoting Murray, Romans, p. 249). It's virtually the same as set your affection on and choose for your own.

So the meaning of the first act of God in Romans 8:29 is that God foreknows his own people in the sense that he chooses them and loves them and cares for them. Paul will speak of this later in the language of "choosing" or "election" (Romans 8:33; 9:11; 11:5,7).

All things will work together for your good if you are called, and love God, because, as verse 29 says, God has known you, and chosen you, and loved you, from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4f; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8)

"He Also Predestined"

The second act of God done long ago to put certainty under the promise that all things will work for your God is "he predestined." "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined." This simply means that, having chosen you for his own and set his love on you and cared for you before you ever existed, he decided what would become of you, namely, you would be conformed to the image of his Son.

"Predestine" means decide or ordain ahead of time what destiny you will have. And the reason this verse puts such a massive foundation under the promise of Romans 8:28 is that that those who love God and are called according to his promise are destined to be like Jesus — destined to be conformed to the image Christ. All things work together for your good because you were chosen and loved before you existed, and the way his choice and love expresses itself is in ordaining for you an unspeakably great future, namely, to be like Christ. All things work for your good because all things work to make you like Jesus. For this you were loved, and for this your predestined.

This is the million-dollar clause in the will of your friend's father. Just like that legally unbreakable clause guarantees your wealth on earth, so God's unbreakable foreknowing and predestining guarantees your glory and your everlasting joy.

"To Conform Us to the Image of His Son"

Which brings us to the objection raised earlier. Maybe it won't be joy to be like Jesus. Maybe becoming like Jesus doesn't make all the suffering of this present time not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed. So we must turn to the last act of God mentioned in verse 29: God is working to "conform us to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren."

And for that we are going to wait until next week for two reasons: one, is there is not enough time today; and two, conformity to Christ in verse 29 and glorification at the end of verse 30 are so closely linked, they will make a beginning and end to next week's message.

But let me close with a brief word about conformity to Christ and today's text. It is very relevant for this reason. Until your mind is conformed to the mind of Christ, the teaching of this text will probably produce conflict, not comfort. This text is meant to comfort you and strengthen you and give you confidence that the best and worst things in your life will work for your good, because you love Christ and are chosen and predestined for glory. But it will only have this effect when God grants you a measure of the mind and spirit of Christ.

I don't say this to scold you or condemn you if you struggle. Just the opposite. I say it to encourage you that just like behavioral conformity to Jesus is a life-long battle with wrong deeds, and emotional conformity to Jesus is a life-long battle with wrong feelings, so intellectual conformity to Jesus is a life-long battle with wrong thinking. So I am never surprised when some folks stumble over the harder teachings of Scripture. Conformity to Christ does not come all at once, neither, behavioral, nor emotional, nor intellectual.

So let's pray for each other, that in every way Christ might be exalted through our conformity to him, and we might enjoy the massive assurance that because of our election and predestination everything will work together for our good. And if you sit there wondering: am I among the chosen, the predestined, the called, here's how you can know: Do you see Jesus as more to be desired than anything else, and sufficient to save you from your sin, and satisfy your heart forever? That is the mark of God's child. He who has the Son has life (1 John 5:12). To has many as received him, to them God gave the right to be become the children of God (John 1:12). Receive him!

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Does it really matter what I believe?

This is the question pastor Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries puts forward and answers in detail.

"What Difference Does It Make What Someone Believes?

How many times have you ever heard comments like these: “My friend is a really nice person. He’s got his religion and I’ve got mine. Does it really matter what we believe about God as long as we believe in Him?” How about –“Oh sure; I believe in God but I don’t like churches so I just worship in my own way. What difference does it make?” Or maybe this one – “Yeah, I’m a Christian, and I go to church every week, does it really matter what I believe?”

As I have talked with people concerning their views about God, a question like this will often arise during our conversation. Frankly, these actual comments do quite nicely represent the prevailing philosophies of these crazy times. It sure isn’t hard to see that Americans are a bit of an independent lot aren’t we? But the truth is, as much as we might not want to hear it, your opinion and my opinion–though as free moral agents we are certainly entitled to have them–our opinions really don’t mean much when it comes to what to believe about God. As the Christian should already know, the fact is, that mankind has a fallen and corrupt human nature due to sin. And no matter what we believe on our own, or even how hard we might try, we simply cannot know God by our own efforts."

Read on...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My complaint about Calvinism :)

A bit of fun today. If you want to complain a bit, but you are too lazy to write, go to this site:
www.pakin.org/complaint and put the name of someone or something you want to bash a bit :)
I took my chances at Calvinism, because I am Reformed and you know this is a prank, right?

"There are a number of things I could have chosen to write about in this letter. I could have chosen to write about how when workable solutions to a problem elude you, sometimes it helps to weed out organizations like Calvinism that have deceived, betrayed, and exploited us. Or I might have chosen to write something about the way that its attempts to spoil the whole Zen Buddhist New Age mystical rock-worshipping aura of our body chakras will earn it automatic membership in Satan's inner circle. But, instead, I've decided to devote this entire letter to explaining how Calvinism's initiatives are not just about nativism but also about paternalism. First things first: If we are powerless to shield people from Calvinism's jaundiced and rotten deceptions, it is because we have allowed Calvinism to threaten national security. I am certain that if I asked the next person I meet if he would want Calvinism to usher in the rule of the Antichrist and the apocalyptic end times, he would say no. Yet we all stand idly by while Calvinism claims that venom-spouting smut peddlers have dramatically lower incidences of cancer, heart attacks, heart disease, and many other illnesses than the rest of us.

Let us postulate that Calvinism's mentality reminds me of the stereotypical bureaucrat who cannot function unless he can "find it in the manual". In that case, Calvinism is careless with data, makes all sorts of causal interpretations of things without any real justification, has a way of combining disparate ideas that don't seem to hang together, seems to show a sort of pride in its own biases, gets into all sorts of bookish speculation, and then makes no effort to test out its speculations -- and that's just the short list! Calvinism once heard a treacherous rotter say, "Calvinism has the authority to issue licenses for practicing militarism." What's amazing is that Calvinism was then able to use that single quotation plus some anecdotal evidence to convince its trucklers that the moon is made of green cheese, which makes me wonder, "What provoked it to extract obscene salaries and profits from corporations that deprive people of dignity and autonomy?" Well, I'm sure Calvinism would rather put the prisoners in charge of running the prison than answer that particular question. Don't be intimidated by Calvinism's threat to take away our sense of community and leave us morally adrift. Calvinism can't help it; it just loves to carve out space in the mainstream for insensate politics. Calvinism sees all the evidence, but it is reluctant to accept the conclusion that by comparing today to even ten years ago and projecting the course we're on, I'd say we're in for an even more execrable, impolitic, and perverted society, all thanks to Calvinism's notions.

If Calvinism would abandon its name-calling and false dichotomies it would be much easier for me to make an impartial and well-informed evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of Calvinism's excuses. When was the last time you heard Calvinism mention that its scare tactics are counterproductive to society? Probably never. That's why it has certainly never given evidence of thinking extensively. Or at all, for that matter. Now for some parting advice: Look at the facts. Analyze the arguments. Think about the motives of the people who are telling you that Calvinism can ignite a maelstrom of opportunism and get away with it. And have confidence in yourself. Remember, those who waste hours and hours in fruitless conferences and meetings do us all a great injustice."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Monday, March 26, 2007

Difference of opinion


What is wrong with expressing your opinion if you may and can support it biblically? What is inappropriate in letting others tell you what they think?
Where does your understanding of a particular doctrine become so concrete that it is impossible to change it EVEN IF deep inside of you, you know you are wrong?

I have watched this going on, in others as well as in me. A truly humble Christian will never shut his ears to a biblical argumentation. On the contrary - he will welcome a sound and kind debate in which both sides may present their arguments and where both sides are open to a dialogue. At the least - they will recognize their differences, but remain siblings in Christ.

I expressed here, on my blog, my critical approach towards the charismatic movement. I have studied the arguments against it before I made up my own mind. Some people felt so offended that they stopped talking to me - people who previously declared me a sister in Christ. Well, let it be so, then...

My dear Pentecostal Person: I have been living in this country for 14 years now. I have been living in your community all that time. I have been living in a family that is rooted in your church. Listen now: NOBODY EVER, NOBODY EVER approached me with the Gospel. Never. I have never heard one word from your church mates. What kind of missionary activity is that? They knew I was a nominal Roman Catholic, and probably felt that it was all right, because how otherwise can I explain their indifference? well, there is one more possibility, but I do not even want to go there...
This does not prove anything. But this shows me a lot... And this tells me which way NOT to take. I am sorry that you feel angry.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What is the 'Bad Eye' in Matthew 6:23?


What is the 'Bad Eye' in Matthew 6:23?

John Piper

A verse in Matthew is somewhat difficult to understand. It seems to dangle in the Sermon on the Mount with little connection to what goes before and after: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).

Before it: the familiar saying about not laying up treasures on earth: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

After it: the equally familiar saying about not serving God and money: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

Therefore, the sayings before and after Matthew 6:22-23 deal with treasure or money. In fact, the first would flow really well into the second if we simply left out the intervening verses 22-23. The gist would be “Treasure God in heaven, not money on earth . . . because you can’t serve two masters, God and money.” So why does Jesus link these two sayings about money and God with a saying about the good eye and the bad eye?

The key is found in Matthew 20:15. Jesus had just told the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Some of them had agreed to work from 6 am to 6 pm for a denarius. Some the master hired at 9 am. Others at noon. Finally some he hired at 5 pm. When the day was done at 6 pm he paid all the workers the same thing - a denarius. In other words, he was lavishly generous to those who worked only one hour, and he paid the agreed amount to those who worked twelve hours.

Those who worked all day “grumbled at the master of the house” (Matthew 20:11). They were angry that those who worked so little were paid so much. Then the master used a phrase about “the bad eye” which is just like the one back in Matthew 6:23. He said, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:15).

Unfortunately that last clause is a total paraphrase, not a translation. “Or do you begrudge my generosity” is a very loose paraphrase of “Or is your eye bad because I am good (- ho ophthalmos sou pon-ros estin hoti eg- agathos eimi?)” The “bad eye” here parallels the “bad eye” in Matthew 6:23.

What does the bad eye refer to in Matthew 20:15? It refers to an eye that cannot see the beauty of grace. It cannot see the brightness of generosity. It cannot see unexpected blessing to others as a precious treasure. It is an eye that is blind to what is truly beautiful and bright and precious and God-like. It is a worldly eye. It sees money and material reward as more to be desired than a beautiful display of free, gracious, God-like generosity.

That is exactly what the bad eye means in chapter six of the Sermon on the Mount. And that meaning gives verses 22-23 a perfect fitness between a saying on true treasure (vv. 19-21) and the necessity of choosing between the mastery of God and the mastery of money (vv. 24).

So the flow of thought would go like this: Don’t lay up treasures on earth, but lay up treasures in heaven. Show that your heart is fixed on the value that God is for you in Christ. Make sure that your eye is good not bad. That is, make sure that you see heavenly treasure as infinitely more precious than earthly material treasure. When your eye sees things this way, you are full of light. And if you don’t see things this way, even the light you think you see (the glitz and flash and skin and muscle of this world) is all darkness. You are sleepwalking through life. You are serving money as a slave without even knowing it, because it has lulled you to sleep. Far better is to be swayed by the truth - the infinite value of God.

So if you are emotionally drawn more by material things than by Christ, pray that God would give you a good eye and awaken you from the blindness of “the bad eye.”

Pastor John

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mission Church - yeah, right...

What one finds in a daily newspaper:

"
The Mission Church stresses openness in its new topical service

"A Song of Milky Way" is the name of a new theme in a Mission Church in Huskvarna (a town nearby I live). 'It is a topical service with music and thoughts around life,' explains the secretary of the congregation, Åke Johansson.
- Before we always used to have traditional Sunday service. Now we will put emphasis on a musical service for those who are not very churchly.

Emphasis on music

The emphasis during the Sunday service is put on song, music and personal experiences and thoughts.
The choirs, solo artists and musicians from the congregation take part, but there will be also an opportunity for everybody to sing along.
- We do not have any sermon, and the songs are to carry the message, explains pastor Lisbeth Stigemyr.
She says that the inspiration comes from the former bishop's, Martin Lönnebo's, rosary, called "saving wreath". This Sunday is the "I-pearl", and the conversation is going to be centered around it.
- This means that a person may look at his own life. We are created by God, and therefore each and every one of us has a spiritual value.
The youth leader, Marcus Josephson, who has studied christian music at ITM, is a composer of "A Song of Milky Way", put together especially for this form of service. The beautiful title comes from the street name, the adress of the church, says Marcus.
- We wanted to have a signature melody that sums up our intentions about this service. So I wrote a song with a melody that is easy for everybody to sing along, he says.

New faces in church

It is planned that "A Song of Milky Way" service is going to be played several times a year. Already when it was performed the first time in the beginning of the year, there were some new faces in church, say the pastor and the composer gladly.
- We want to show that we are not about admiring one another within the closed club. Our services are open for everybody and we want to welcome people to everything we do, says Åke Johansson."

by Anna Alexandersson, translation mine, from Jönköpingsposten, 22 March 2007, page 4

How should we comment on this...
I do not even know where to begin, folks. What is Mission Church, you might ask. Well, read their own description at the end of this post. They have their own Bible schools, own pastoral ordinations, but they also have a close cooperation with the Church of Sweden (the apostate one, remember?), and the Methodist Church. Those three can exchange pastors, services, etc. Not nasty enough?
They have female pastors - like in this example here.
And they have... well, not much more than that. As you can read, the sermons have become obsolete, in favor of human experiences, music and song. I have no problem with the songs. I love music. I cannot live a day without it. I feed on music, lately on Christian music solely, and it is good to have music. But you cannot have ONLY music, instead of the WORD!!!
Well, you can, if you are seeker-sensitive and want to provide a form of Sunday entertainment. But do not count me in, please.

Folks, this is the picture of Sweden. Sweden on a Sunday is not a country of sound doctrine. Rather, it is a country of curing a hangover, a country of repairing your car, resting and doing secular family stuff. Those attending churches are tolerated and looked upon as strange, but harmless individuals. But they are not too many, so, as we can see, some churches will not stop at anything in order to draw the crowd. Sermon? No, too boring, all that stuff about sin and cross - get rid of it.
BTW, have you listened to The Narrow Mind this week? Pastor Gene gave an example of a church getting rid of "Amen" in favor of "Boo-yeah". Is there anything that is going to surprise me any more?
Pray for Sweden, brothers and sisters. Pray for us. Especially after reading their own description below:

Mission Covenant Church of Sweden

The Mission Covenant Church of Sweden, MCCS, wants to make room for life’s essential questions and to meet the longing we all share of belief, hope and love in the message of Jesus Christ. MCCS wants to make room for life in a society consisting of people with different beliefs and outlooks on life. The MCCS is one of the largest churches in Sweden with an active children’s and youth organization, the Mission Covenant Youth of Sweden, SMU.

MCCS is the second largest church in Sweden. Some 130,000 people take part in services and other activities at 732 congregations. Over 65,000 children and youth are active in the church youth organization, SMU.

The three main components of the congregation are church services with the Word of God, baptism and communion. The congregation provides an open invitation not only for contemplation, but also the opportunity to participate in building a better society. Music and song also play an important role in our fellowship.

Together with Christian churches worldwide, we confess Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior, as stated in the Bible. We want to spread this conviction further; both through the congregations in Sweden as well as through mission work in other countries.

With Christ as the obvious center for faith, MCCS invites open fellowship with space for the numerous perceptions of a varied people. We believe that different ways of interpreting the Bible enriches our fellowship.

The Mission Covenant Church of Sweden strives to be a free and open church. Free in its invitation for others to take a position on and interpret Christian belief; open to the varied needs of all people.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Teacher fired over Bible references


Tue Mar 20, 6:14 AM ET

SISTERS, Ore. - During his eight days as a part-time high school biology teacher, Kris Helphinstine included Biblical references in material he provided to students and gave a PowerPoint presentation that made links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood.

That was enough for the Sisters School Board, which fired the teacher Monday night for deviating from the curriculum on the theory of evolution.

"I think his performance was not just a little bit over the line," board member Jeff Smith said. "It was a severe contradiction of what we trust teachers to do in our classrooms."

Helphinstine, 27, said in a phone interview with The Bulletin newspaper of Bend that he included the supplemental material to teach students about bias in sources, and his only agenda was to teach critical thinking.

Read on...

Now, this is of a special interest of mine. This past Monday I chaperoned :) a debate my students had (in their English class) on "Human nature - is it good or evil?"
We actually had a proper debate, with sides, arguments, rebuttals, cross examinations - everything. The conclusion was, that the human nature, although humans would like to have it all good, is mostly evil, and it is like that in order that a person may survive.
Imagine how difficult it was for me, the teacher, to keep my mouth shut and proclaim the Gospel... Why didn't I? Well, for quite the obvious reason, which is exemplified in the above article.
Am I still a slave of this world? Do I still fight with sin? Am I still afraid? I wish all of the three questions could be answered negatively, but the reality is not so glorious.
Is it then, perhaps, easier to quit my job and be a home mum? Maybe, yet I am not ready for this step, and I intend to fight this sin of fear in me.

Hopefully we are going to read more
about such brave teachers, and hopefully their fate will be a sort of an eye opener for the world.
God works all things for good.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

To rejoice is not sinful


I have noticed something interesting and disturbing at the same time.
How the true faith manifests itself in a believer, and how a self-professed believer has problems with it.
What in the world do I mean?
Ok. Starting with myself, everything that happened to me these past several months has kept on building my joy and happiness, contrary to the surrounding circumstances. Every grace-centered blessing affirms my election and power of God in my life, be it a caring hand of gifts or a chastening hand of trials. In the end of every day the only words I can utter are the words of gladness and gratitude.

The meaning of Beatitudes...

And so it is with those Christians I know, too. No matter how deep their wounds are, they always look up to heaven for consolation and strength, never doubting the outcome, always rejoicing and staying on track.

So what strikes me is the completely different attitude of other people, those who claim their religion is the only true one, those belonging to Rome. Not all of them, of course, but many, when faced with difficulties, go under. They despair, they seek strength in themselves, and they fail miserably. It is like a dark cloud hanging over them. I have seen it so many times, and there are no words of comfort possible.
This dark cloud of self-mutilation and self-denial, the strange notion that God does not want us to feel happiness, that the only thing worth doing is punishing yourself constantly... And, at the same time, complaining that nothing works, and that their efforts are painfully fruitless.
There are many examples given to catholics about how to do this very strange mental gymnastics. Long lists of so called saints, books written about those, their biographies - all for giving the guidance on how the proper life should look like.
If a person should believe those biographies to be real, he would lose his mind. Some of them are so ridiculous, that no one in their right mind can possibly believe them.
Or so cruel in their message. Or so bleak...

Alice was born at Shaerbeck, near Brussels. At the age of seven, she entered a Cistercian convent named Camera Sanctae Mariae, and she remained there for the rest of her life. The Cistercian community was inspired by her spirit of humility. However, at an early age, she contracted leprosy and had to be isolated. The disease caused Aleydis intense suffering, and eventually she became paralyzed and was afflicted with blindness. Alice's greatest consolation came from reception of the Holy Eucharist, although she was not allowed to drink from the cup because of the danger of contagion. However, the Lord appeared to her with assurance that to receive under one species, was sufficient. Known for visions and ecstasies, she died in 1250. Devotion to her was approved in 1907 by Pope Pius X.

There is much sickness and related suffering in the world today. Like St. Alice, we must try to turn our suffering into good and pray that God will give us the strength to endure and that we may be consoled through the reception of the Sacraments.


As a young cleric, Humbald, of Auxerre, France, excelled in the virtues of simplicity, prudence, chastity, and temperance. Having become bishop of Auxerre in 1095, he zealously upheld the ecclesiastical reforms mandated earlier by Pope Saint Gregory VII, enacting them in his own diocese. Humbald is described as a “lover of the divine offices,” patient and jovial in his disposition, enjoying the company and conversation of his friends, and possessing “the simplicity of a dove and the prudence of a serpent.” Throughout the years of his episcopate, he perpetually abstained from eating meat, contenting himself with an austere diet of beans. During Lent he fed twelve paupers daily at his table. Humbald resolved to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem “for the love of his Savior and the remission of his sins.” At each of the holy places, he was moved to tears in his prayers. As Humbald was returning by ship from the Holy Land, a storm sank the vessel. The bishop and all the other passengers perished.


Anyway, when you read through those stories, you are astonished by the absence of the Bible. There are dreams, visions, revelations, good works, fasts, sufferings, but almost no Word. That is not a good example in what I have learned...

Dear catholic friends, read the Bible. God wants You to find Your joy in Him, in His Grace, in making You His child. If you read this post, it is very possible that He has pointed you to it, and is right now working on your heart of stone to change it to a soft one. There is satisfaction in Him, there is joy in the harshest of times, there is hope eternal. You do not have to rely on yourself. Put your burden on Him, for He is able to rescue you.

Listen to Pastor John:

Our Passion for God's Supremacy, Part 1
Tuesday, March 20, 2007



Play Windows Media
Play Audio


Our Passion for God's Supremacy, Part2
Wednesday, March 21, 2007



Play Audio

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Everything has a reason, and the accused is...

Like this book, "The Da Vinci Code", still in my possession, read two years ago, almost forgotten, but recently reminded by the Tomb-film.
Entertainment? Hardly. Provocation? Almost certainly. Deadly tool of devil? What else?

What did you just say, Ann?

Yes, Deadly tool of the devil. Look here:
The Da Vinci victim: obsessed art expert took deadly overdose

She was beautiful, educated, successful. Now she is no more.

Such a loss...

And how many people are going to be lost because of this latest deception? How many more Olivers?

I suggest we pray to God for His delivering us from any deception.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Secondary Essentials


The debate that is storming after The Shepherds' Conference initial sermon seems vivid at some places. I have just finished listening to The Narrow Mind Podcast from yesterday, where Gene Cook discusses this topic with Jason Robertson. I am too young a Christian to really have any opinion on the subject, but it does not hurt to listen and study.

And there is more than one level of knowledge to be studied here. On one level there is the Bible and how the different pastors, denominations and trends interpret it and the particulars in it. While most people agree on the Primary Essentials, they may, as it seems, profoundly surprise one another with those aspects which I call the Secondary Essentials. My reason for this name is that however secondarily those topics are presented initially in every such discussion, they really have the tendency to become Essentials in the end of an argumentation. This is logical, because even those secondary things determine the way we look at the primary ones. There is no way around it, and eventually people have to shake hands on agreeing to disagree, if they want to remain friendly.

The other level is more personal. As I hear the very strong voice pointing me towards the apologetics of Christian Faith, the Author of this voice is very often placing me in the battle field, so to speak. A young recruit placed in the middle of fight. My weapon? The Bible, which I still read, study and learn, and prayer, constant prayer for wisdom, discernment, patience, knowledge. And those prayers are answered, every time.
There has not been one single piece of information or study material that I wouldn't need at some point. The answers come often right after the question, and sometimes right before the question. It would probably feel scary if I did not trust God in this. And it hurts to hear brothers fighting over such secondary matters...

Still, I, too, need more patience and more gentleness, and more biblical knowledge. And some other minor things, like time...?
Thank You, Lord, for what You are doing for me.
for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of man.
(2Co 8:21)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

An Oliver


How many such Olivers are out there?
If you listen to Albert Mohler's Program, you know what I mean. Olivers who got convinced by phony evidence presented in the Tomb film, Olivers declaring that they are not Christians anymore, because they now trust those film makers.
Pray for them, please. My heart broke when I heard this Oliver say it, and I so do wish he looked at the real evidence for this matter, and repented...

Undoubtedly, there will be many Olivers losing their faith because of this deception, and it is of an utmost importance that we know how to help them understand the real truth of the topic.

How deep is our faith really, if one stupid "documentary" can shake it in such a profound way that it becomes crushed? How deep is our certainty in the Bible that we look for the secondary proofs as soon as the wind starts blowing?
2Co 13:5-6
(5) Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
(6) I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.

We must examine ourselves, we must grow in our faith, we must stand strong.

Let us pray for Oliver.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Right to the core

After years of
  • superficiality (form over substance),
  • art-centeredness (figures, paintings, sculptures, architecture of Roman Church),
  • respect for humanity in some specific persons (papal supremacy and cult of JPII),
  • awe for authority (laicy cannot possibly know how) and
  • fear of rejection because of different opinions (strong bonds of tradition),
the breath of fresh wind was given to me in this one, unique and blessed gift of Salvation by Faith and the assurance of it, by the Sovereignty of God.
The simplicity of it all was astonishing compared to things mentioned above. It was so simple, that I could not fathom it at once. Instead of some ceremonial feast of watching others drink, I was given a cup and told to - just drink it. Instead of wondering how much and how long is necessary to obtain the price, it was given to me just like that.

Real Christianity is contra intuitive. It takes time to even accept this notion. Everything in it is upside down, rebellious, provocative, undermining all we had known before.

  • God becoming man?
  • God born poor?
  • A virgin birth?
  • This God-Man loving sinners?
  • The most despicable death of its time, on the Cross?
  • Bodily resurrection?
  • Church that is not of this world?
  • Salvation by faith?
  • You must die to live?

And the longer I studied, the more I understood that a man prior to salvation has nothing, is nothing and can nothing. How, when and if the change comes to be is decided by God. It was a difficult time, because I started to realize the direction my convictions are pointing to. The only things I knew were not very favorable (in my memory of past understanding) for that direction (the one called Calvinism). I had my doubts, I even asked some well-meaning people for advice, but I got none. God has His hand in everything. The well-meaning people are of the conviction in-between the two camps, and it was not my position at all.

Today I read a testimony of a young mother, who, disillusioned by Rome, turned to the Protestant mainstream Lutheran Church. And she is still uneasy, looking for answers, searching. In a way, I can sympathize with her, but my advice for her would be to really dig in into the Bible before making any decision as to church hunting. But this is me, and I know God has His unique plan for everybody, and if He started moving her heart, He will never leave her. She might not realize it yet, but she will. So let us pray for her, instead for coming to her with well-meant advice. :)

Gospel is revolutionary, right to the core of human sinful nature, and if it is according to God's purpose, penetrating it and killing this old nature. Thus the impossible becomes possible, and the contra intuitive the only way.
Rev 21:4-7
(4) 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."
(5) 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."
(6) 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.
(7) The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
What do you think?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Eight Reasons Why I Believe That Jesus Rose from the Dead, by John Piper


Sometimes very strange bits and pieces put together form a perfect unity. Saved by Grace, and led to the Truth - putting those bits and pieces together, was my lot last year. One of those bits and pieces was this truth about resurrection, and the actual doubtless authenticity of it. I read Josh McDowell's books on the subject, and became convinced without a doubt that Christianity is based on historical and provable facts. In the article below John Piper sums those facts up in a brilliant way, and because I received this text in my mail, I feel the need to share.
Presuppositional apologetics at its best. And just in time, in-between the 'all-smoke-no-fire' 'Lost tomb of Jesus', or 'How one famous director lost his mind', and the Easter time, that latter coming soon.



"1. Jesus himself testified to his coming resurrection from the dead.


Jesus spoke openly about what would happen to him: crucifixion and then resurrection from the dead. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31; see also Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22). Those who consider the resurrection of Christ unbelievable will probably say that Jesus was deluded or (more likely) that the early church put these statements in his mouth to make him teach the falsehood that they themselves conceived. But those who read the Gospels and come to the considered conviction that the one who speaks so compellingly through these witnesses is not the figment of foolish imagination will be unsatisfied with this effort to explain away Jesus’ own testimony to his resurrection from the dead.

This is especially true in view of the fact that the words which predict the resurrection are not only the simple straightforward words quoted above, but also the very oblique and indirect words which are far less likely to be the simple invention of deluded disciples. For example, two separate witnesses testify in two very different ways to Jesus’ statement during his lifetime that if his enemies destroyed the temple (of his body), he would build it again in three days (John 2:19; Mark 14:58; cf. Matthew 26:61). He also spoke illusively of the “sign of Jonah” ??? three days in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:39; 16:4). And he hinted at it again in Matthew 21:42 ??? “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” On top of his own witness to the coming resurrection, his accusers said that this was part of Jesus’ claim: “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise’” (Matthew 27:63).

Our first evidence of the resurrection, therefore, is that Jesus himself spoke of it. The breadth and nature of the sayings make it unlikely that a deluded church made these up. And the character of Jesus himself, revealed in these witnesses, has not been judged by most people to be a lunatic or a deceiver.

2. The tomb was empty on Easter.

The earliest documents claim this: “When they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (Luke 24:3). And the enemies of Jesus confirmed it by claiming that the disciples had stolen the body (Matthew 28:13). The dead body of Jesus could not be found. There are four possible ways to account for this.

2.1 His foes stole the body. If they did (and they never claimed to have done so), they surely would have produced the body to stop the successful spread of the Christian faith in the very city where the crucifixion occurred. But they could not produce it.

2.2 His friends stole the body. This was an early rumor (Matthew 28:11-15). Is it probable? Could they have overcome the guards at the tomb? More important, would they have begun to preach with such authority that Jesus was raised, knowing that he was not? Would they have risked their lives and accepted beatings for something they knew was a fraud?

2.3 Jesus was not dead, but only unconscious when they laid him in the tomb. He awoke, removed the stone, overcame the soldiers, and vanished from history after a few meetings with his disciples in which he convinced them he was risen from the dead. Even the foes of Jesus did not try this line. He was obviously dead. The Romans saw to that. The stone could not be moved by one man from within who had just been stabbed in the side by a spear and spent six hours nailed to a cross.

2.4 God raised Jesus from the dead. This is what he said would happen. It is what the disciples said did happen. But as long as there is a remote possibility of explaining the resurrection naturalistically, modern people say we should not jump to a supernatural explanation. Is this reasonable? I don’t think so. Of course, we don’t want to be gullible. But neither do we want to reject the truth just because it’s strange. We need to be aware that our commitments at this point are much affected by our preferences ??? either for the state of affairs that would arise from the truth of the resurrection, or for the state of affairs that would arise from the falsehood of the resurrection. If the message of Jesus has opened you to the reality of God and the need of forgiveness, for example, then anti-supernatural dogma might lose its power over your mind. Could it be that this openness is not prejudice for the resurrection, but freedom from prejudice against it?

3. The disciples were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2).

Their explanation of this change was that they had seen the risen Christ and had been authorized to be his witnesses (Acts 2:32). The most popular competing explanation is that their confidence was owing to hallucinations. There are numerous problems with such a notion. The disciples were not gullible, but level-headed skeptics both before and after the resurrection (Mark 9:32, Luke 24:11, John 20:8-9, 25). Moreover, is the deep and noble teaching of those who witnessed the risen Christ the stuff of which hallucinations are made? What about Paul’s great letter to the Romans? I personally find it hard to think of this giant intellect and deeply transparent soul as deluded or deceptive, and he claimed to have seen the risen Christ.


4. Paul claimed that, not only had he seen the risen Christ, but that 500 others had seen him also, and many were still alive when he made this public claim.

“Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6). What makes this so relevant is that this was written to Greeks who were skeptical of such claims when many of these witnesses were still alive. So it was a risky claim if it could be disproved by a little firsthand research.


5. The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian church supports the truth of the resurrection claim.

The church spread on the power of the testimony that Jesus was raised from the dead and that God had thus made him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). The Lordship of Christ over all nations is based on his victory over death. This is the message that spread all over the world. Its power to cross cultures and create one new people of God was a strong testimony of its truth.

6. The Apostle Paul’s conversion supports the truth of the resurrection.

He argues to a partially unsympathetic audience in Galatians 1:11-17 that his gospel comes from the risen Jesus Christ, not from men. His argument is that before his Damascus Road experience when he saw the risen Jesus, he was violently opposed to the Christian faith (Acts 9:1). But now, to everyone’s astonishment, he is risking his life for the gospel (Acts 9:24-25). His explanation: The risen Jesus appeared to him and authorized him to spearhead the Gentile mission (Acts 26:15-18). Can we credit such a testimony? This leads to the next argument.

7. The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers.

How do you credit a witness? How do you decide whether to believe a person’s testimony? The decision to give credence to a person’s testimony is not the same as completing a mathematical equation. The certainty is of a different kind, yet can be just as firm (I trust my wife’s testimony that she is faithful). When a witness is dead, we can base our judgment of him only on the content of his writings and the testimonies of others about him. How do Peter and John and Matthew and Paul stack up?

In my judgment (and at this point we can live authentically only by our own judgment???Luke 12:57), these men’s writings do not read like the works of gullible, easily deceived or deceiving men. Their insights into human nature are profound. Their personal commitment is sober and carefully stated. Their teachings are coherent and do not look like the invention of unstable men. The moral and spiritual standard is high. And the lives of these men are totally devoted to the truth and to the honor of God.


8. There is a self-authenticating glory in the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection as narrated by the biblical witnesses.

The New Testament teaches that God sent the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.... He will glorify me” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit does not do this by telling us that Jesus rose from the dead. He does it by opening our eyes to see the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the narrative of his life and death and resurrection. He enables us to see Jesus as he really was, so that he is irresistibly true and beautiful. The apostle stated the problem of our blindness and the solution like this: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.... 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” (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6).

A saving knowledge of Christ crucified and risen is not the mere result of right reasoning about historical facts. It is the result of spiritual illumination to see those facts for what they really are: a revelation of the truth and glory of God in the face of Christ --- who is the same yesterday today and forever.

Pastor John

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.
Find this article at: http://www.crosswalk.com/spirituallife/11530966/
"

Monday, March 12, 2007

There is this tree

There is this tree in the corner of our garden. A beautiful specimen, tall, healthy and proud. But, unfortunately, it is growing in a wrong place, and therefore must go.
You see these beautiful berries? I like to watch this tree bloom, big, white bunches that later on become these red berries. Do you know that one can eat them? They are rich in vitamin C, good for you, though slightly bitter. In Poland, when I was a child, one could buy candy made of those, small pearls of sweet something and the berries inside. My father liked them a lot...

This tree, however beautiful, was the reason of quite a damage to my car last autumn. Because the car was parked under it, the berries and leaves were falling onto and into the motor room of the vehicle, finally stopping the water flow under the battery, so when it rained, the water had nowhere to go, and the only way it found was into the inside of the car, thus flooding the floor on the passenger side. It was quite a job to localize the source of damage, and an even greater job to clean the berries and leaves away. My husband had to dismantle several parts to reach all that, and when he was there, he was faced with a terrible mess of molded matter, almost impossible to remove.

So the tree goes. Soon it will be chopped into pieces and made ready for our fireplace.

And I was thinking about that tree, and the external beauty of things and some people, and about how treacherous the appearances may be. It may look good, it may please you for a long time, it may even taste good and to some extent be good for you (remember the vitamin C?). But if you are not careful and vigilant, it may cause a lot of damage.

I have some specific examples in mind, but I believe it is not necessary to give them here. Rather, I would like to leave this text as an open possibility for interpretation, with a slight angle of the main theme of this place.

Mind you - I liked that tree...

Psa 121:1-8
(1) A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
(2) My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
(3) He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
(4) Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
(5) The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
(6) The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
(7) The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
(8) The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty



Text: Reginald Heber
Music: John B. Dykes

1. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

2. Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

3. Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.

4. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

From Hymnsite

We sing this psalm often at our church, but in Swedish. It was very exciting to see it in the original.
Have a blessed Sunday and be with your siblings in Christ.

Update:
Wonder of wonders :) Our pastor chose this one to begin the service today!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Just had to share

SJC has published this and I really want to share this with everybody.
The background music is THE CD, "Mercy in the Wilderness", and the message is about the Mercy of God.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

One for the women


This day is the most hypocritical day of the whole year. Out of many reasons, and in many aspects. It is true that, historically speaking, women have not been equally treated by the other half of humanity. Used and abused, put three steps below and behind men, regarded as less important. No doubt about it, and it still is true for most countries in the world. Just look at the latest news about this woman, and you will be ready to fight for her rights.
The modern western culture prides itself with the fact that women are treated much better than this mentioned example.

Really?

I have some serious doubts, especially when I think about the exploitation of a female body in every possible category of advertisement, when I think about the necessity of leaving my children at the daycare - because one income is far below our basic needs...
As far as I see it, this year for the first time as a Christian woman, we are not treated justly by the world. The women fighting for their rights against the establishments end up still more miserable than before the fight, because feminism is not a solution, either.
What kind of a solution is fighting all men and ending up alone? Antagonizing everybody during the process? Making up ridiculous claims that only backfire at you? They want freedom, but they do not want to pay for it. I know - I belonged to the movement wholeheartedly.
Not anymore.
They want equal rights in every way, forgetting that equal does not mean just, and ending up depressed and frustrated.

What is the proper way? To acknowledge the Creator's plan for the genders, of course, however old-fashioned that may seem to some. The true freedom and true happiness is in God's Word and God's glory. In marriage as it is designed to be, where submission does not mean blind obedience, but love and mutual fulfillment.

Happy Family Day, to all You Sisters in Christ!

Especially my wishes go to:

Mary
Kim
Twinklemoose

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

ONE HIGH PRIEST AND ONE MEDIATOR

I found this article when I was looking for a good explanation in a discussion with a Catholic about their prayers to/through 'saints'. I think it is beneficial not only for that discussion.


'The Priesthood of Christ'
Rev. J. Tolland, Minister of Kirkpatrick Memorial Church, Belfast, and Vice-President of the S.G.U.

In my library I have a book entitled 'The Priesthood of Christ'. It contains a series of addresses given at a conference in London under the auspices of the Sovereign Grace Union some seventy years ago on the subject of the Redeemer's Priesthood versus Roman Priestcraft. Here we have the pith and marrow of the Holy Scriptures on this vital subject.

Each week we will carry one of these great addresses, and we believe they will be a means of great enlightenment, with consequential power and salvation.

Pray, dear believers, that God will richly bless these great truths so faithfully set forth.

Yours against popery, Ian R K Paisley, Eph.6:19,20.

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." – 1 Peter ii. 9."

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." – John xiv. 6.


Read on...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thoughts about coffee and justice

Somewhat strange title. I will explain.

To the right - my Coffee Center, an essential piece of equipment in my kitchen. It can do wonders with coffee. The problem begins in the shop: which coffee I should buy, and which is not so good to buy. And, mind you, it has nothing to do with the taste or price, but everything with justice.

For those of you who are now starting to label me crazy, a short explanation. Sweden is a fighter for human rights all over the world. The politicians from Sweden are present in almost every deciding body dealing with environment, civil rights, equal opportunities, peace projects, clean energy options, you name it. It is very noble, of course, and makes people aware of the dangers posed by big corporations and ruthless dictators.

So when we come to the coffee issue, we are reminded of those poor farmers somewhere who lose their income from their coffee plantations because some other farmers somewhere else are being used by the industry, and so on, and so forth. But, we are being told, if we buy the coffee produced by those poor farmers from the former group, we will do a good thing. The problem is, that this coffee is usually not so cheap and not so good, plus - it is not available in a supermarket. In order to buy it, you would have to go to some tiny store somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and they probably do not honor your credit card there. So what do you do? You buy the coffee which is available and end up with a guilty conscience - at least I do...

This coffee stuff got me thinking about other hot issues pursued by democracies. The rights of the homosexuals, for example. Or the rights of women to their own bodies. The rights of animals. The rights of fish in the sea (I am not kidding). Many demands for respect, all taken very seriously by their proponents.
There is one group whose rights are put aside, forgotten, ridiculed, called old-fashioned, belonging to another era - the rights of the unborn children. Contrasted with the rights of their irresponsible mothers, they lose big time, every time. Fish have more respect than unborn humans. Minks in the mink farms are more cherished than human fetuses. When a woman is spotted with a fur on, the animal activists might spray paint all over her and call her brutal. When the same woman claims her right to kill her unborn baby, she is called liberated and entitled to deciding over her own body.

Talking about justice? Anybody? Talking about justifying murder? Anybody? Silence...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Search the Scriptures

From "Sermon Outlines" by Charles Hodge
[February 18, 1854]

I. What are the Scriptures? II. For what are they to be searched? III. How are they to be searched?

I. What are the Scriptures?

The sacred writings contained in the Old and New Testaments are,

1. The Word of God. In the sense in which the works of a man are his words, revealing his thoughts, will, purposes, the Scriptures are the word of God. He is their author. Their contents rest on his authority. They are not merely his as written by pious men, not a human form of divine truth, but God’s own exhibition of truth. This is opposed, first to the Deistical, secondly, to the Rationalistic, and thirdly, to the Quaker views.

2. From this it follows,

(a) That they are infallible.

(b) That they are holy.

(c) That they are powerful.

(d) That they are consistent.

(e) That they are the appointed means of salvation. We are begotten, enlightened, sanctified, and saved by the truth.

3. They are complete, as containing all the extant revelation of God.

4. They are plain, so that every one can learn for himself what God says. They are the light of the world. They are the fountain of life. They are the treasury of divine things.

II. We should know what we seek when we search.

We should search the Scriptures,

1. For knowledge of God, of Christ, of truth, of duty. This knowledge is speculative, and spiritual.

2. For consolation.

3. For holiness.

III. How are we to search the Scriptures?

1. Reverently and submissively, with the fixed determination to believe every truth which they affirm. Everything is right which they command, and everything is wrong which they condemn. We are not to sit in judgment on the Scriptures.

2. With diligence,

(a) Studying them much.

(b) Studying them consecutively.

(c) Investigating what they teach on particular subjects.

(d) Availing ourselves of all aid; fixing right principles, and availing ourselves of all subsidiary means.

3. With dependence; convinced that without divine guidance we shall obtain neither right speculative knowledge, nor right spiritual views.

4. Therefore with prayer, previous and continued.

5. With self–application.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Truth Is Worthy Of Defense


Concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14). No third option is available. Christ’s bodily resurrection is either completely true or false. If it is false, then we have nothing to believe. If it is true, then it is the direct intervention of God in human history for the salvation of mankind and it validates the truthfulness of what the Bible says about the person, nature, and work of Jesus Christ. Our apologetic work begins with His resurrection.

Read on...

Message must be clear, part 2


Yes, it is the season of bashing Christians. While America is getting ready for the sensationalism of an alleged Tomb of Jesus in the film with the same title, our own Swedish TV, the one we pay for, the one I pay for (and have to pay for), has devoted a whole prime time evening to showing the "real colors" of Christianity.

I do not blame them.

Why?


Because this evening, more than anything else, shows that THEOLOGY MATTERS.


What I have just seen is embarrassing, to put it mildly.
The evening kicked off with "The Root of All Evil", in which, as you probably already know, Richard Dawkins is not hiding his despise and hatred towards religion in general, and Christianity in particular. His objectivity is close to zero, but he has no trouble, especially with the disgusting cooperation of one Ted Haggard, to prove his point.

Next item was a Swedish documentary, "Hallelujah Wedding". Two young Christians are preparing to get married... Members of a Pentecostal church, another painful watch, when the main occupation during the service is running around, jumping and dancing, shouting and gibberish...

And the final item - "Jesus Camp", quite a film, it appears, with another dubious set of theology and brainwash, this time on kids. And Ted Haggard encore. One of the little girls had a pretty clear opinion about churches where people "are just sitting and worshipping". She called those "dead churches". If you do not jump, shout, cry, run about - you are dead. Did you know that? Shame on us, dead reformed baptists...

Some short episodes from within the films - preaching with a nonexistent Bible, this young husband-to-be trying to witness to some young men, telling them only that Jesus loves them and blessing them (they could care less), Ted Haggard making some low-level jokes in the arena of his mega church, fat lady showing gadgets she uses to brainwash the children, a fanatic pro-life activist with no understanding of child psychology making small kids weep over the tiny dolls representing fetuses... I could go on and on...

Two levels of disgust.

1. As a Christian, I do not appreciate this type of unfair journalism. What this evening showed is not Christianity, but a caricature of it. This is not the Faith I know and embrace. It is very easy to reject Christianity having THIS picture
in mind. Nobody wants to leave reason for a circus, right? But the angle is clear here: a well-designed propaganda in order to ridicule, just in time before Easter. Congratulations, SVT (Swedish TV). But I do not think I want my money spent on this.

2. As a Reformed Baptist, I must repeat my cry from Message must be clear - post. People reap what they saw, plain and simple. I am glad I have seen those films, especially the last one. Now I have a much better understanding what my brothers and sisters in the USA are up against with. Christian Research Network depicts and uncovers a multitude of these things. When you only read about it, you give it some thought, of course, but when you see it with your own eyes, it goes beyond anything you could ever imagine. It is scary. I am scared when I see believers confessing the prosperity teachings. I get scared when I see brainwashed children, I get scared when the Bible is forgotten and put aside in favor of jumping and shouting.
Suddenly I like this poem very much...

Theology matters. You who are responsible for this mess - think about it. Deep and long.
But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
(Luk 12:48)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Why is it so hard to live?

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside.” (Job 23:10-1)

So hard to live the normal life, this life of chores, mundaneness, obligations, this life of making money and making dinner, this life of dealing with bullies and ignorants...

Every day, every hour, barely making it to the next stop.

Look at this rose here. It took the sculptor days to make it look and feel the way it is. He (or she) must have been bruised many times, but look at the result! And, this rose will last for many years. It was made of stone, it was made out of love, it was made for a noble purpose of showing the beauty of creation.

Campi has recently written about being tired of this world. There is a lot of truth in it. The question is - are we allowed to let these feelings take over?
And then I read the Bible. And I always find the blessed tutorial advice:
Jam 4:6-10
(6) But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
(7) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
(8) Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(9) Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
(10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
This is about Him. About admitting our insufficiency and His Greatness, our wretchedness and His Holiness. It is a sin to worry, it is a sin not to put my trust in the Lord. Whatever happens in my life, He is working it all for His glory. He assures me about it by the examples of His servants. I read about them and learn that the only value is in Him. However fiercely I might rebel against it with my sinful nature, this truth is always coming back and knocks me in the forehead.

I may despair over the condition of the world all day long, but the truth is - it is not up to me to change it. I do not have the means, I do not have the strength, I do not have the authority. Where I am coming from the world does not turn its eyes to.
1Co 1:25-31
(25) For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(26) For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
(27) But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
(28) God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,
(29) so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
(30) He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
(31) Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
So it is given - I cannot change the state of the affairs - politics, society, culture - they all go on as planned from before the beginning of the universe - towards their doom. And, it appears, those participating are quite proud of their achievements...
Can I change anything? Of course, within the given frames? I believe I can. I believe that what is important is not measured by any material value, or political value, or cultural value. There is another value a Christian must care about: the spiritual value. The treasure of caring for the lost, of pointing them to their only hope, the Cross of Jesus Christ. There is no other redeemer. There is no other way. There is no other HOPE.

So, really, life is not harder than our lack of trust makes it to be. The more trust we put in ourselves, the less trust is put in God, and the more frustrated we become. We mustn't go there, towards this temptation. Remember:
(2Ti 1:12) which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
(Heb 2:18) For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
(Heb 7:25) Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.