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Meditation on the Sovereignty of God: Never Abstract and Theoretical.

I can’t share all that’s been going on with me over the past 72 hours. My wife and I drove the 11 hours to Nashville and our family requires much prayer at the moment.

I may be beating the same drum again, but it needs to be said. The sound theology that so many people turn their nose up to during the days of sunshine is designed by God for the benefit of the believer when the storms come.

Sound theology doesn’t take the pain away. That’s not its’ purpose.

What it does is ground you in reality.

Romans 8:28-39, the doctrine of election, the perseverance of the saints and the rest of the doctrines of grace aren’t simply theoretical ideas that have no basis or real impact on the life of the everyday believer.  They are comfort when hard times come.

You see, every true believer defaults back to a position similar or identical to reformed theology when trials hit.

They know God is wiser than our desires (thanks for the reminder RaRa). And so when they have done all that they can do to fix the situation, they default back to trusting God in His infinite wisdom to do what seems right to Him. They may pray for deliverance and relief from the situation, but know full well that if their prayers are not answered in the affirmative, God is still good….and God is still God.

At times when most people would lose all hope, true Christians have hope. They rely and trust upon God. They acknowledge simple things about God: His goodness, His omniscience, His power and ability to rescue…and deep underneath it all, they know.

Romans 8:28-30 again. God is for me.  As a believer, I may endure all sorts of trials – even down to persecution and death at the hands of my persecutors (vv. 33-36). Think of the implications of that closely.  And the promise I have that God is for me is seen in the fact that He gave up the most valuable possession in the universe to Him – He gave Himself.

God the Father, who loves His son, gave His Son. His Son who did no wrong, took the penalty for my wrongdoing.

If God is capable of doing this, then Him choosing me, calling me to salvation, paying the penalty for my sin on the cross, preserving me, sanctifying me and eventually glorifying me is not an impossibly big deal.

And I take this promise and feed on it for comfort during times like these. I realize that God has not only called, saved, sanctified me, but also others.  And when those others are enduring their own pain, I point them to these promises as a source of comfort and hope.

No, the pain doesn’t ‘not happen’. Every day is not a Friday. Every day can’t be a Friday. Joel Osteen’s book is full of lies and is nothing more than paganism and selfishness wrapped in fake Christianese with a few misquoted scriptures tossed in. If your ‘BEST life’ is now, then your next life will be in hell.  God never designed the Christian life to be free of pain or struggle. But He did design it to be full of hope and joy even in the midst of tribulation and trial.

So I rest in the Sovereignty of God  and trust Him. The Judge of all the earth will always do what is right (Gen. 18:26), even when my finite, limited-understanding, easily moved and changed mind and emotions don’t understand why things have to happen the way they do when they do.

Pain, then, becomes a beacon pointing us back to the true and living God for comfort, and not simply our friends & family. It also points us away from things like alcohol, drugs and other destructive things that provide a false sense of temporary comfort. Suffering becomes an opportunity for trust, not dismay.  Nothing less than a God who is both Sovereign and in control of all human events (including, but not limited to earthquakes, death, famine, marriages, joy, celebrations, and accidents) is able to promise Romans 8:28-30.  He can be trusted. Nothing less than a God who is carries out election, calling to salvation, justification, sanctification and glorification is able to promise and carry out Romans 8:38-39. We don’t serve a God who simply wishes well for us or thinks well for us like a cheerleader on the sidelines watching the game.

Never theoretical. Never abstract. Always real. Because God is real, life is real and pain is real.

What are you resting on ?

Trust God.

Food Choices, Church Choices and Their Effects on Living

I’ve been threatening, gathering, pondering and chunk writing portions of a new series (which, at this rate, will end up as a book) on reasons to leave your current ‘not-heretical-but-not-really-deep-theologically’ church for one that is. My friends and my own life experiences are continually giving me new source material to write and use as illustrations.

So you’re at a church that doesn’t teach anything overtly heretical, but the sermons are rather ‘light’ in doctrinal content. The preacher may be content with giving you practical (supposedly) sermons week to week which seem to be ‘how to’ more than anything else. All well and fine. We do need to know ‘how to’ from time to time. But you find yourself a bit ‘critical’ of the sermon week to week – “not enough meat!” So you supplement your church’s sermons with podcasts from people you consider ‘meatier’ – MacArthur, Sproul, Piper, or any number of lesser known but solid biblical and exegetical pastors.

There’s an old saying – if the cook doesn’t eat here, why should you ?

Maybe that’s a bit too strong. Maybe your church is more like this: Not adequately consistent on biblical teaching. The equivalent of eating steak one day, McFood Product 3-4 days out of the week, a McFood Product Apple Pie one day and then one day it’s potluck.

Since we’re running with food illustrations, let me add one more.

My wife and I recently started (maybe over the past 6-8 months) moving the bulk of our diet to being more organic. So we eat at Silver Diner (because they’ve switched over to organic) and Chipoltle as our primary food places if/when we eat outside. The occasional Chic-Fil-A comes in every once in a while (emergency food – but at least we know they serve real chicken) and Arby’s (my wife used to work there, so she knows how the food is prepped – at least the beef).

Since the new food choices have come into play, several things have happened.

1. We’re finding out that processed and non-fresh foods (i.e. canned fruit cocktail versus fresh fruit that you chop up or that is prepared the same day) don’t retain their flavor or their nutritional value. For example, at an event my wife and I went to, my wife (who loves fruit) didn’t finish the fruit cocktail she got (it was one of the healthier choices). She said it didn’t taste like anything. In the past, she used to be able to devour canned fruit cocktail all day….but now…not so much. Fresh fruit tastes better and as you spend extended time around fresh, canned begins to lose its’ appeal.

2. We’re finding ourselves having more energy to do more things. Healthier diet and lifestyle = more energy. The old food choices we used to do (rushing around with little time to cook) tended to ‘fill’ us up, but it left us feeling sluggish and tired afterward. As we’ve learned in researching some restaurants, some of it is because most or ALL of the nutritional value of some foods was pretty much NON-EXISTENT. So your body was working harder to draw nutrients out of something that didn’t have nutrients in it to begin with. Therefore, you’re left tired. Related to that is the additional fact that some of the food which DID have some nutritional value was also high in fat and sodium. So now, the remainder of your body’s energy is spent converting stuff to BAD fat and the sodium content is sapping your body of fluids, dehydrating you. So your body has to work harder to process less and you end up with less energy, altered moods, physiological issues, chemical imbalance, etc… This affects your thinking and communication skills as well. When we switched to organic choices (and added some harder work/regular exercise to the mix), things started to change gradually. At the end of last school year, I did the school yearbook, kept up with the school website and a plethora of changes, did two performances 3 days before the end of the school year and a few dozen other things that normally, I would’ve been completely burnt out to do. I’m not saying I wasn’t tired at the end But compared to last year, I’ve found myself recovering quicker.

3. Overshare time (wife cringing as I type this) !!! We’ve found ourselves more apt to get rid of…stuff. This has also helped with losing weight (since we’re not holding onto stuff in our intestines for extended periods of time) and digestion (good food digests easier).

These three points have great theological significance. Churches that are light on their treatment of theological topics and issues often find their members working harder (whether it be to work themselves into a shout and live off of the emotional high for the next week, or thinking that the various programs and outreaches they get involved in are the equivalent of growth and being spiritual) with diminishing returns (because now they have to involve themselves in ‘more’ over time just to feel like they are ‘doing the Lord’s work’ or ‘serving Him’ or ‘worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth’).

No real spiritual nutritional value. Just empty spiritual calories to fill you up. ‘How-to’ sermons divorced from their theological and biblical foundations, become morality lessons. Morality lessons don’t transform your way of thinking and they don’t save people. And you can only live off a cliché or morality lesson…until real trials strike.

Good spiritual food (in the form of consistent sound doctrine and good teaching) is like eating steak, organic chicken, fresh vegetables and such….every day. Good food on a regular basis helps your body grow stronger and keeps you free of most diseases. Likewise, good spiritual food will keep you free of most of the pitfalls that some believers constantly face and struggle with (i.e. “Am I good enough now to merit God’s favor beyond Him just saving me ?”). But the key is this: you have to be in the atmosphere consistently. That means you don’t simply live off of podcasts, tapes, CDs and DVDs, but you have people alongside of you who believe the same things, encouraging and strengthening you to move forward. You have a shepherd who consistently teaches and preaches these things every week. Your church consciously is modeled after this line of thought.

As other members of your community are being transformed by the preaching on Sunday and teaching throughout the week, they, in turn, pass that on to you as you interact with them. And as you find yourself being transformed, you pass that back to them. This ‘mutual edification’ gives you the spiritual strength necessary to endure all sorts of trials as they come.

Your view of God changes in a sounder atmosphere. God goes from being a benevolent grandfather up in heaven looking down at you and smiling and waiting to give you all sorts of gifts (because He’s nice and loving) to being the Almighty Creator of the universe, before whom, you deserve nothing but wrath and death, but who instead chooses to give you love, blessings and salvation. Realizing your condition makes God appear as He should – much bigger, much more awesome and then it hits you…. His love for you doesn’t depend on your performance. He didn’t save you because of something you did or would do. He didn’t “see the best in you” and then save you based on that.

It’s easy to think of yourself as being ‘worthy’ of a certain kind of love and knowing that your mate or another human being loves you because you’re you. There’s even a song out about it now (The Best In Me by Marvin Sapp). But knowing that God loves you when the best of ‘you’ is filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and coming to realize that it doesn’t depend on you at all…well…that’s humility-producing.

It also produces a different kind of sanctification. You’ll find yourself more apt to self-examination (per 2 Cor. 13 and all of 1 John) and find yourself jettisoning as much ‘waste’ in your life that weighs you down from running toward the goal of Christlikeness.

Now I hear, on regular basis, people say things like “well, maybe some people are built up by things from this style of preaching versus that ‘theological’ stuff.” That, to me, falls in line with thinking that “ Well, maybe some people are built up by eating unhealthy food versus all that ‘organic stuff’.”

Objectively speaking, there’s only one meaning to the text of scripture. It cannot mean one thing and the exact opposite of that one thing at the same time. Objectively speaking, only ‘real spiritual food’ brings real spiritual growth. In other words, if what gets taught is false doctrine, no matter how the person feels about it, they are not being built up in the faith. They may be built up in habit, tradition, feeling, thinking and experiencing, but these things are not the Christian faith as taught in scripture.

In food analogy terms: one cannot say that McDonalds builds up people in a healthy fashion and that real beef from one cow builds up people just as well. Both statements are mutually exclusive (if you know how McDonalds’ meat gets mushed together from several different animals in varying shades of health). One is good for you and provides more nutrients for your body.  One is not and provides little nutrients for your body, gives you unwanted antibiotics, possible disease contamination (because those cows aren’t in the healthiest of shape and they eat a lot of filler).  Both taste differently.  So although both might fill you up, don’t mistake being full for being healthy. Both are having different effects on your body over the long haul.

I’ve encountered people who, after eating so much fast food for so many years, really don’t have a taste for real food. They have a taste for food…but not healthy food. And like children, over time, they must be weaned off of the bad food in order to develop a taste for the good.

A few ramblings of a man determined to nudge folks on to better ‘food choices’. I already know that some people will be moderately offended by it because they know that their church has good food. I teach middle school kids who think that McDonalds’ is good food too. But I’ve also been humble enough to sit and watch Super-Size Me and follow up on that with personal research. I also realize that middle school kids don’t necessarily have the maturity and capacity to think at the level of ‘what is this doing to my body over long periods of time’ because they’ve been trained up (by culture, society, media and parents) to have everything ‘now’ and focus on ‘now’. Likewise, there are many believers who have been trained up to not think critically and use their minds to the glory of God (Deut. 6:5).

The thing with good food, though…even if your palate has been trained to love fast food, you can be weaned off of it and moved over to real food. You can grow teeth that will bite into and rend steak. You can develop a taste for fresh fruit so that canned longer appeals to you. It takes time, work and the same way you would reprogram your muscles with daily workouts to grow stronger, you’d need to reprogram your appetite with good foods.

All that said…move somewhere with fresh, real, healthy, nutritious food. Nothing scripture says that you should remain at a place that is malnourishing you. You have friends at these places ? Instead of staying for their benefit, why not bring them with you to your new place of eating ?

Front page of TCDC: Vintage ME, circa 1998, on the issue of the KJV.

Okay, so like the site says, I’ve been doing apologetics and theology on the net since 1994 in AOL chat rooms, expanding out to the rest of the internet in 1996.

Digging for some information for a friend on my board, I ran across an old post from me on my apologetics list (thank you Yahoo Groups, for archiving EVERYTHING from 1997 to the present) regarding the KJV-Only issue.

My argumentation has gotten a lot more refined since then (that and I tend to have less tpyos…er…a…typos). I’ve also gotten a lot less harsh.

So without further ado, I introduce you to **vintage** Kerry Gilliard:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/apologetics/message/81

Enjoy.

CarBlogging!! Finally!!

Something new I’ve been thinkin’ on for a few months and finally decided to DO:

Expository preaching vs Topical Preaching…..a few thoughts.

More from Owen on Mortification

http://theologicallycorrect.com/?p=79. This book is a gold mine!

The Holy Spirit: The Author of Scripture

A bit from John Piper on 2 Peter 1:20-21

The Holy Spirit: Author of Scripture

February 26, 1984

2 Peter 1:20-21

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

On June 27, 1819, Adoniram Judson baptized his first convert in Burma. His wife, Ann Hasseltine, described how Moung Nau had responded to the Scripture: “A few days ago I was reading with him Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. He was deeply impressed and unusually solemn. ‘These words,’ said he, ‘take hold on my liver; they make me tremble.”‘ God spoke through Isaiah the prophet 2700 years ago and said, “This is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word … Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word” (Isaiah 66:2,5).

For two thousand years the Bible has been taking hold of people’s livers and making them tremble—first with fear because it reveals our sin, then with faith because it reveals God’s grace. A single verse, Romans 13:13, convicted and converted the immoral Augustine. For Martin Luther, a miserable monk, the light broke in through Romans 1:17. He said,

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise (Here I Stand, p. 49).

For Jonathan Edwards it was 1 Timothy 1:17. He says,

The first instance, that I remember, of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading these words, 1 Tim. 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” As I read the words, there came into my soul … a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense quite different from anything I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. (Works, I p. xii).

From century to century, from Egypt to Germany to New England the Bible has been drawing people to Christ and making them new.

Why? Why has the Bible had this abiding relevance and power? I believe the answer is found in our text. 2 Peter 1:20-21, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” This passage teaches that when you read Scripture, what you are reading does not merely come from a man but also from God. The Bible is the writing of many different men. But it is also far more than that. Yes, men spoke. They spoke with their own language and style. But Peter mentions two other dimensions of their speaking. First, they spoke from God. What they have to say is not merely from their own limited perspective. They are not the origin of the truth they speak; they are the channel. The truth is God’s truth. Their meaning is God’s meaning. Second, not only is what they spoke from God, but how they spoke it is controlled by the Holy Spirit. “Men, moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God.” God did not simply reveal truth to the writers of Scripture and then depart in hopes that they might communicate it accurately. Peter says that in the very communicating of it they were carried by the Holy Spirit. The making of the Bible was not left to merely human skills of communication; the Holy Spirit himself carried the process to completion.

That entire sermon is located here:


http://www.desiringgod.org/library/sermons/84/022684.html