Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Life is a beautiful mystery, but terrible as well. Beautiful for those who love mystery, but terrible for those who hate the mysterious and unknown."

-Dave Reed (my Brother-in-Law)

Recently, my brother-in-law spent a week with us, and I lifted this pithy quote from him. Dave is not a Christian. He was raised in a godly home and experienced God's grace in his early life, but at seventeen he left the faith and has never returned. To this day he remains a kind, generous and forgiving person - what the world would call a "good person." Dave attributes his unusual patience and gentleness to the influences of his upbringing, and although he appreciates the "pleasant" parts of Biblical faith (A God of love, commandments to be kind to others, etc.), he follows a long line of philosophers and skeptics in rejecting what doesn't fit with his own sense of justice. It is a peculiar trait of worldly philosophers that they place mystery over the areas God has clearly revealed, and they shine a spotlight of self-certainty on the things God has left in darkness. Thus, they are mystified by things God has already explained, and fail to be mystified by the things that would mystify them if they believed His Word.

For example, the doctrine of hell appears unjust and mysterious until one realizes that all humanity is guilty of the most heinous crimes against our Creator. Our Maker is justifiably wrathful against our deep-seated moral evil. We can't see this until we realize how far down into our hearts wickedness has seeped, and how transcendently high His holiness stands. God does not have to give us time to repent or opportunity to change. He could rightly destroy rebellious mankind at any moment. The real mystery is that he doesn't cast us all into hell. When we realize this, every good thing that happens to us suddenly becomes a stunning act of mercy, and every bad thing that happens to us is better than what we deserve. We need only read the first three chapters of Genesis, and we find that the tables are turned. We're wrath-deserving wretches whose destruction is warranted and whose suffering on this earth might well be a gift - tailor-made to bring us back into the loving arms of God. And we're literally living on borrowed time. So there's no more mystery about why "bad things happen to good people," because there aren't any good people. The bigger mystery is, "Why do good things happen to bad people?"

The startling paradox of revelation is this: enlightenment expands mystery.

Biblical thinking results in faith and justice meeting one another. As we understand God's justice, our faith in Him grows. And as our faith grows, we trust His version of justice more and more. Eventually, we recognize that His is the only TRUE and RIGHT concept of justice, and our own natural views are skewed and twisted by false perceptions. We have to start by realizing we are absolutely guilty, and all good that comes to us is not a function of justice, but an outflow of His pure mercy. In the Gospel, we find both mercy and justice at work, and both of them in perfect harmony.

But why are there still mysteries? Perhaps Biblical theology is not so much meant to answer all of our questions as it is designed to deal with us. God gives us enough light through precept and promise to provide solid knowledge, needed security, and comforting certainty. But he leaves enough darkness to prove our faith genuine, our hope enduring, and our love sincere. He is infinitely wise in His administration of all the knowledge that exists, in what He reveals and in what He withholds. Life is a beautiful mystery when Christ's boundless mercy is recognized and received.

Proverbs 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

Colossians 2:1-3 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More on McLaren

One of my favorite blog buddies, Arnold at Balance and Paradox, delivered his own short critique of Brian McLaren's theology right around the time I published mine in the previous post.

Arnold says of McLaren: "... he has somehow become the Splenda of faux Christianity...his words may taste sweet, but they're not real sugar."

By the way, that stuff can make you really sick. And I hear Splenda's not good for you, either.

If you haven't discovered Arnold's site yet, it's worth checking out. Balance and Paradox offers insightful commentary with a focus on current events and diverse subjects including politics, literature, philosophy and theology. The posts are always thoughtful, sometimes edgy, frequently humorous, and often witty - and they're offered from the perspective of a seasoned Christian who doesn't fall for any postmodern quackery. Best of all, the word "Paradox" is in the blog title, which is always a plus (well, not always - in fact, not even usually - but in this case it is a plus because Arnold knows what a paradox is).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Emerging Postmodern Evangelical Liberalism
For some reason, I've been in a "prophetic and polemic" mode lately. This is not my normal M.O., but I'm going to run with it. Meekness is not weakness, and grace is not a sloppy overlooking of all that is wrong. Grace and truth work together, as truth calls a spade a spade, and then calls for a change of heart which only grace can accomplish. Nothing in grace ever departs from TRUTH in the least bit. Rather, grace deepens our hold on the truth, and truth continually drives us back to grace as we see our need afresh. In recent years, as God's grace in the Gospel has become more precious to my soul, distortions and perversions of grace have become increasingly troubling. As Paul said . . .

Galatians 1:6-10 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

I wouldn't want to make a career out of exposing all the things that [I think] are wrong in the modern church. That doesn't tend to be fruitful or helpful in the long run, and my natural self-righteousness would lead me to beat up on people who disagree. That's not the point here. What follows is offered, I hope, in a spirit of love and with a sharp eye on my own multiplied shortcomings. We must endeavor to stay focused intently on the Gospel, but we can't ignore error altogether. So, in the interest of better understanding the times in which we live, the modern threats to orthodox Christianity, and with the goal of tying our hearts more tightly to the Gospel, I offer these thoughts on one of today's great heretics . . .

I recently read an interview in which postmodern poster child Brian McLaren was asked why Evangelicals "dislike" him. His answer was both telling and terrifying. He said, "large numbers of Evangelicals love what I'm doing and are highly supportive," and then he went on to name three groups (including high Calvinists) who are "completely and vocally unhappy with my work." High Calvinists should take that as a huge compliment. I'd like to let Mr. McLaren know that Gospel-centered moderate Calvinists are equally disturbed by his radical departure from the Biblical message.

As a follow up to the interview and for the sake of curiosity, I listened through about two hours of material from McLaren. Among the material was this interview from the University of California's Youtube channel and this "sermon" delivered to students at Anderson University in Indiana.

I have to admit that I was impressed as I observed this iconic leader of the Emerging Church. It was obvious that he is a very gracious and gentle person. He is thoughtful about the sensitivities of others and careful not to offend. He is eminently considerate in his approach, which is a good thing. He's also matter-of-fact and realistic about his critics and the controversy he's created. This gives an appearance of humility that is engaging and heart warming.

Beneath all of this sweet personality lies something deeply troubling: unmitigated floods of bad theology. In classic liberal style, rather than building on the rock solid truth of Scriptural precepts, McLaren proposes his unbelief in the form of subtle questions which imply that orthodox Christianity has completely missed the point of the teachings of Christ. But these "questions" are nothing less than denials of what is taught in Scripture, and they are based on reasoning that resonates with fallen humanity's natural way of thinking - not with the Word of God. Orthodoxy insists on the hard Biblical doctrines, like wrath and hell and judgment - things which are hard to reconcile with the reality of God's infinite love. But they are nonetheless taught by Jesus Christ and the Christian Scriptures. Rather than submitting to Scripture and gaining insight by adjusting his ideas accordingly, McLaren simply avoids the possibility that human ideas of "love" might be off the mark. It must be Christian orthodoxy itself that is misguided, not fallen humanity's thinking about God. In his quest for relevance, McLaren and his Emerging Church friends have jettisoned the Biblical Gospel. They have gone completely off the deep end and leapt headling into heterodoxy - all the while wearing a gentle smile. It's a sad thing to see. Sadder still is the long line of so-called Evangelicals following in their footsteps, sliding gleefully down the slope of unbelief into a powerless, humanistic gospel, heading directly toward the gateway of soul-shredding heresy. The saddest thing is that many will pass through the gate without even realizing it.

McLaren makes no secret of the fact that his real focus is social transformation and the redemption of broken societal institutions - not the salvation of individual souls. Embracing universalistic syncretism, he wants to save "the world." It's the system that's broken and needs to be fixed, moreso than your heart and my heart in abject rebellion against our Creator. After all, says McLaren, "God so loved the world . . ." (Oh, is that what John meant?) Apparently, principles of Biblical interpretation are just another part of the outdated orthodox machinery, so we can throw those out with everything else that stands in the way of the "Kingdom." No more silly notions of conforming ourselves to the Bible. We can mold Scripture into any image we choose, so let's go ahead and make God the way we've always wanted Him to be!

Some folks who are weak on Biblical inerrancy and the sufficiency of Scripture are bolstered and kept straight by an allegiance to solid creeds and traditions. Others, who reject every creed as "man-made", are nonetheless deeply grounded in Biblical truth because they simply love the Scriptures. But men like McLaren have neither a high view of Scripture nor a solid tradition to serve as ballast. They are led astray by every wind of doctrine, and the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. McLaren has left both the Scriptures and the orthodox creeds behind in his pursuit of a new and improved form of indistinct Christianity.

Here's a catch phrase I've heard McLaren repeat numerous times: statements change your state, but questions put you on a quest. So, leave all your statements of absolute truth behind and launch out on a search for . . . more questions? If there aren't any truthful statements to be found, what's the point in asking all of these questions in the first place?

I suppose McLaren wouldn't get along too well with Jesus Christ. Read the Gospels - they're chock full of statements. If the things Jesus taught about the human heart are true, then what we need more than anything else is a change of state. Our Lord fully intends to change our state AND put us on a quest. Mere questions do not feed needy souls or comfort the hearts of penitent sinners. If Paul warned against doctrines "contrary" to the Gospel, he must have done more than ask questions. He must have made exclusive, definitive statements of TRUTH which had to be sharply separated from other statements that were not TRUE.

But alas, I have questions of my own. I question the relevance of any "church leader" who doesn't believe the Gospel of God. Paul described the Gospel this way: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures . . . (I Cor. 15:1ff). McLaren replaces this Biblical definition with his own idea of the Gospel: "The Kingdom of heaven (or at least his version of it) is at hand." This definition is wide enough to park a bus in, and McLaren takes full advantage of the space his definition affords. He reinterprets the approaching kingdom as an indication that God is more interested in large, overarching social movements than He is in the salvation of individuals. Verses, extended passages, and entire pages are falling out of my Bible as I write this! And McLaren is dancing on them with his eyes closed and his heart ablaze with "love." Now we can all smile, write poetry, and talk about a Kingdom of God that just happens to perfectly resemble a one-world utopia.

I have some questions for McLaren: didn't Jesus say, "... the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel." ??? When did He ever say, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and this is what I mean by the Gospel." ??? McLaren confuses categories here, and the result is stark error. While liberal Christians are trying fix the irreparably cracked foundations of the kingdom of man, our Lord is commanding everyone to flee from this deteriorating world of sin and enter HIS KINGDOM through belief in the Gospel.

Do I dislike McLaren? No, actually I find him enjoyable and easy to listen to. He seems like he would be a fun guy to hang around with. Some of his criticisms of the modern church are accurate. As a person, there's nothing about him to dislike. He's charming . . . dangerously charming. But I do hate and despise the damnable deceptions he's enthusiastically broadcasting throughout the world in the name of my God. I pray that He may discover the true and living God of grace and truth in the Biblical Gospel.

One final statement: men like this need to stop marketing their books to Christians and start writing for the benefit of agnostics. Those guys have no problems with man-centered, relativistic religion. Genuine disciples of Jesus do, and they will not listen to any voice that contradicts that of their True Shepherd. He alone we will follow. When you realize that Someone died for your sins, you aren't so quick to relinquish your hold on the Gospel of grace. And once you've seen Jesus through the eyes of a forgiven and redeemed and thankful heart, utopia doesn't even warrant a glance.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

PARADOX FILES, Vol. 9 - Paul Washer

"The Mystery of the Trinity is not a ground for its denial. Some may say that they cannot believe what they cannot understand, or that if something cannot be explained, it cannot be true. If we were to apply this same logic to the entire Bible, or even to our own existence, then there would be very little left for us to believe. Even the simplest truths of Scripture and of human reality go beyond our understanding. We do not believe because we understand, but we believe because it is true--the testimony of the Holy Scriptures."

Paul Washer, The One True God, page 16, copyright 2004, 3rd Edition, Granted Ministries Press

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Isaiah 52:15 - The Effective Atonement

Thus He will sprinkle many nations,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
For what had not been told them they will see,
And what they had not heard they will understand.

The cross was astonishing not only in what occurred, but in the resulting effects. Christ accomplished the redemption of His people, paying the full price to buy them back from sin's dominion and absorbing all the wrath of God against them. His work on the cross not only puts us in a state of shock; it also washes away our sins, closes our proud mouths, gives us new sight, and imparts godly wisdom to us. Without the cross, we would remain condemned by sin, infernally proud, blind and stupid - and all of this without any means of remedy or change. The cross defeated our sin and depravity by effectively accomplishing its intended ends.

Many Nations were sprinkled

Sprinkled. Despite the varying interpretations of this verse by diverse commentators, it is certain that it refers to a ceremonial sprinkling of blood following the atonement which Christ made for sin. The word for sprinkle, Heb. NAZAH נזה, refers exclusively to ceremonial sprinkling, as confirmed by the other 23 instances of the word in the Old Testament. When Christ was marred by our sin, His blood was shed, and that very blood was the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Wonder of wonders in this paradox of the cross!

Many nations. This is the Hebrew term GOYIM גוי, which is the common word for "Gentiles". The point being made here is that the Christ's sacrifice reaches beyond the boundaries of national Israel. The extent of the atonement reaches to all mankind, and God's intent in the atonement was not directed toward Israel only, but to His entire world, to Gentiles as well as Jews. However, the ultimate saving effectiveness of this work is limited to those who believe, who are the elect of God in Christ. For Biblical writers, a universal atonement never meant universal-ISM. But neither would any Biblical writer strip the atonement of its heart-conquering power by limiting it unnecessarily. The meaning of "many" is fully apparent in the New Testament, where we find statements such as this:

Revelation 7:9-10 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Isaiah's "many" became John's "every" and "all". The matters of the extent and intent of the atonement must be studied carefully and without prejudice, lest we dig for ourselves a nice theological pit - a false foxhole which we defend with our lives, as we argue needlessly over issues that weren't even part of the Holy Spirit's intent when the Words were inspired! Limited atonement (in its strictest form) is a man-made doctrine. A study of the larger Biblical picture would never lead one to preach about limits where God has thrown the door open to all. But there's a nice balance right in the middle, found only when we build our theological house on the pillars which God Himself has set in place. These pillars are clear:

1. God's love and kindness extend to all people
2. There is sufficient power in the atonement to save each and every sinner

3. The ultimate factor in a saved person's salvation is God's choice
4. Not everyone is ultimately saved, so the effectiveness of the atonement is not universal
5. The ultimate factor in a sinner's damnation is his own choice

These are the Biblical limits. The danger lies in trying to force fit certain ideas and philosophies onto the text. Friends, let us not so violate the Word of God. I am not saying that this particular passage teaches universal atonement, but it certainly doesn't set the limits demanded by some higher and hyper Calvinists. We say that Christ died for the sins of all people, and especially of the elect. Let's not be deceived by the subtlety of human philosophy that wants to tamper with this simple Truth. Not everything called "Calvinism" is Truth, but every word of Scripture is ABSOLUTELY RELIABLE AND TRUE. So, in a sense, I would go very far down the road with the anti-credal Biblicist and even the heavily credal Scripturalist in affirming the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture - but there is a need for balance in these matters as well. The wisdom of God has been given to many faithful men down through the ages, yet all of their words must be measured by that ONE Great WORD which is from God: the Bible. Nothing trumps it. It is not limited, but we are, even at our best.

Kings were silenced

Kings = Heb. MELEK מלך - "MELEK is simply the most common word for chief magistrate and is similar in meaning to several other words usually translated lord, captain, ruler, prince, chief and such like." (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

Kings. Kings represent the epitome of human pride, accomplishment, and power. Ancient Near Eastern kings held absolute sovereignty over their domains. Their word was law. The lives of all their subjects was in their hands. They needed only to speak, and their wishes were carried out precisely. None but a more powerful king could threaten their rule or thwart their wishes. Within their own realm, they reigned supreme and unrivaled. It would require the most significant and startling event imaginable to cause one of these monarchs to close his mouth, stop his boastful exercise of authority, and sit silent. We do not know exactly where or how the fulfillment of this prophecy took place, but if a king represents the highest in human potential, what effect should Christ's death have on the rest of us?

Even those of us who have relatively little authority and power are prone to boasting. We boast about our strengths, and also our weaknesses. About our victories, and sometimes about our losses. We tell what we could have done, or what we should have said, and we love to display all the things we KNOW. We naturally speak with reference to ourselves. We inevitably venture into subjects about which we know little, and make definitive statements based on our mere guesses. We use our tongues to let others know that we are knowledgeable, good, influential, significant, effective, and wise. But we aren't any of those things, really. Not apart from Christ's gift.

God responds to all of this pride by giving us a Law we cannot keep, and He asserts the proof of our undeniable guilt as the best means of getting us to finally shut our mouths and start listening to Him. When it comes to God, every one of us has Attention Deficit Disorder, so He has to shock us back into focus.

Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

The Law can only condemn us with this knowledge. It is in the cross alone that we find enough mercy to face our sins head on - and enough grace to start fighting against them. And through the cross, we are inspired to keep on in the fight as we see Christ's own victory over sin. He was fully tempted, but fully sinless. Every true believer longs to be sinless, like Jesus! Thus, through the faith of the Gospel we do not nullify the Law, but rather uphold it (Romans 3:31).

The most potent demonstration of our sinfulness, and of God's righteousness, is the cross of Christ. His suffering in our stead is a silencing revelation of God's wisdom, mercy, and justice.

Sight was given

"What had not been told them" = Heb. SAPAR, ספר - "to number, count, proclaim, declare." (Unger/White)

What had not been told them. Kings are great planners. They know what is happening in their domain, and they keep a staff of advisers on hand to help them accurately predict what will happen next. Political wisdom and knowledge are essential when one is in a position constantly threatened by massive armies outside and by dishonest rivals within. Each of us has defended his own "kingship" and self-rule against the loving onslaught of our Creator's rightful rule. But in all our strategic defense, the cross was not taken into account. It is God's stealth attack on man's depraved ingenuity. Everyone who truly sees it is taken by surprise, and our ongoing growth in grace and sanctification depends on our being overthrown by the message of the cross again and again. Walking the aisle or raising a hand or praying a prayer 5 years ago simply won't do. We don't merely walk TO Christ; we walk WITH Him and IN Him and FOR Him. And we must come TO Him over and over again, for our hearts are ceaselessly prone to wander. When we stop coming to the Lord as needy sinners, we've grown entirely too righteous! Let us flee back to the cross, dear friends!

They will see. Besides the obvious spiritual meaning, these words predict the historicity of the cross. Christ's work was not only spiritual - it took place in time and space, able to be seen and sensed by onlookers. For many hundreds of years, God had left the Jews in suspense under the Law. Then, in the wisdom of God, the Son was very physically manifested with perfect timing . . .

Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Christ was manifested for all to see . . .

Galatians 1:1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

I John 1:1-2 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life — and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us . . .

The literal and physical historicity of the cross was an important facet of early preaching, for it refuted Gnostic notions of a "spiritualized" Christ who was not truly God Incarnate, but more of a "fully evolved" human, or a divine phantom. Biblical eyewitnesses describe the historic cross as an eternal, spiritual sacrifice, in which the transcendent God gave Himself to die on the cross as a real man - and it took place in real time, for all to see!

Wisdom was imparted

"What they had not heard" = Heb. SHAMA, שמע.

Sin not only blinded us; it stopped up our spiritual ears. At the fall, we simply stopped listening to our Creator. Adam fell when he listened to the voice of his wife, Eve fell when she listened to the serpent, and no one was listening to God anymore. Ours is a willful deafness, but we cannot remedy it because within us, apart from the work of God's Spirit, there is no will to hear God again. This is why "seeker sensitive" ministry is a farce. The cross is God's means of restoring our hearing, and the cross (in message and symbol) is conspicuously absent from many Evangelical churches today. If "missional" means cross-less, cross-free or even cross-avoidant, then "missional" is a synonym for "powerless" and "unbiblical" and "man-centered" and "anti-Christian." Nowadays, most Evangelicals don't have the stomach or the backbone to preach the Gospel. The cross was blood sacrifice, whether our modern sensitivities like it or not. Do we think our sins - and God's holiness - warrant anything less? Do we fail to realize that Christ bore the horrific penalty of separation from the Father, which was much worse than the physical shedding of blood? Do we forget that Christ bore the full weight of divine wrath in our place? Or have we replaced the Biblical doctrines of substitutionary atonement and divine hatred for sin with something more palatable? God help us Evangelicals to repent before we're judged - or is our new, post-modern, "missional" approach itself the judgment of God? We've given ourselves over to heresy in the name of "reaching the lost." Reaching them with what? If the Gospel message is the only means God uses to convert souls, we should be terrified about what's coming. Our harvest will be that of a farmer who has sown only pebbles in his fields. Until we sow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can only expect to have false converts.

It is significant that the great call of the law is for us to "HEAR!" (Deut. 6:4). Yet it is only by Gospel grace that we are given the will to hear and obey God again. We only start being "seekers of God" at the cross.

Ephesians 4:20-21 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way [in context,"that way" refers to the darkness of mind resulting from sin]. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.

Romans 8:2-4 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

"Understand" = Heb. BIYN, בין - "to discern, understand, consider" (Brown-Driver-Briggs), "The Hebrew term BIYN is used 247 times in the Old Testament and has been translated in various ways, sometimes translated discern, sometimes distinguished, sometimes understand, but it has the idea of being able to separate. It is related to the noun BEYN which means space between. . . . So the word then has the idea of being able to put space between things. You can't mix these...this is over here and this is over here, they don't mix. That means you're separating two unmixable realities. And that is a separation process which is what discernment is all about . . . separating something from another because there is a difference and there must be distinction made. Discernment then we say is the skill in reaching understanding and knowledge of God's truth by a process of separation." (John MacArthur - source)

Understand. Sin is the ultimate folly. It is a mixing of things that ought never to be joined. It is a separating of things that should always be united. It is foolish in its very nature, and it is foolish in its effects. The choice to disregard the command of God is a foolish choice. The result of that choice is a darkening of the mind and a hardening of the heart, such that one loses the ability to think straight. Sin leaves us mixed up in our own minds and separated from the life of God.

Ephesians 4:17-18 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart . . .

Only Christ's work on the cross undoes the foolishness of sin and imparts God's wisdom to fallen creatures. It opens our ears and eyes and hearts to see and hear and obey the wisdom of the all-wise God. In the Gospel, we hear the commands AND the promises of God, and faith rises up by grace to take hold of His Truth. Through the power of the cross, we are able to ponder the matters of sin and redemption, grace and judgment, love and truth. And we are able to KNOW the truth about these things. Let no one ever doubt this on the grounds of apparent "humility". True humility accepts God's Truth, embraces it, believes it, trusts in it, and stands firm on it despite all the sly attacks of unbelievers who wear collars or stand behind pulpits preaching.

This truth-laden verse in Isaiah teaches us that the cross is a matter of sight and insight, historical reality and eternal Truth, not mere words. Paul said all of this again at the start of his beautifully cross-centered letter to the compromised Corinthians . . .

I Corinthians 1:17-30 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

In other words . . . Solus Christus! Sola Scriptura! Sola Gratia! Sola Fide! Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Which Part of the Body of Christ are YOU?

This is a Girl Whom God Loves!

The other day after dinner, Daddy asked each of us to say which part of the Body of Christ we wanted to be. He said he was a belly button, and then he told us about the way we were connected to Mommy when we were born. Daddy cut the cord, and now we only have a silly little belly button to remind us.

Well, I decided what part of Christ's body I want to be: the neck. Because the neck holds up the head, and that's Jesus.

Mommy said she wanted to be the tongue, so others can "taste and see that the Lord is good."

My little brother wanted to be a hand, to serve God a drink and His food. But God doesn't need food!

What part of the body of Christ do you want to be?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Husband's Role in Marriage

Here's why I thank God for friends like Chris DeVidal: I routinely receive Biblical exhortations and encouragements like this one . . .


Check out this link

Ephesians 5:25-26
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church
and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her
having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . .

Think deeply and at great length about these verses. I encourage you to memorize them.

What a privilege we get, as husbands, to live the parable of the love of Christ for His unworthy bride.

Just think!

We men get to be actors on the great stage of the gospel for the world to see. We can either tell the world how much Jesus loves His bride. Or we can tell them He is waiting for His bride to clean herself and make herself worthy before He will give His love to her.

Tell them He's magnificent.
Tell them He's forgiving.
Tell them He serves.
Tell them He dies.
Tell them.


Editor's Note: I couldn't get Chris to officially join the blog team here because he is already over extended. So, he is unofficially a THEOparadox Advisor. Someday, I'll award him a shirt to prove it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Long Journey into a House

This post is a little different. It's partly an explanation, partly a testimony, partly a devotional, and partly a political commentary. This is more personal than theological. My schedule is finally getting back to normal again, so more of the usual style posts will be coming along very soon. Thanks for your patience.

It's been quiet on this blog for the last couple of weeks, and here's why: my family has successfully purchased and moved into our first house. We wanted to do this about 5 years ago, when we lived in Kentucky, but that was at the start of the infamous "housing bubble." Home prices were skyrocketing. Then I injured my back, found myself out of work for 10 months, and ended up moving to Florida. Here, home prices were even higher. So we waited, chose (with some struggle) to be content, and found cheap rents.

This year, everything finally fell into place. I have a stable job, the bubble has exploded, home prices are at rock bottom, and the U.S. government is paying people to buy houses. While I don't agree with government intrustion in the marketplace, and I'm both horrified and disturbed by president Obama's dangerous, socialistic policies, I do think it's high time the U.S. government thieves gave something back to the common people. It would have been better if they hadn't robbed us blind in the first place, but giving some money back is a good way to start making amends. If you can't already tell, I'm firmly against the estimated 50+ percent [!!!] tax rate we pay in America. It's time for a new American Revolution, where we reclaim government OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people, rather than continuing to be ruled by a bourgeois monarchy of self-servers who are busily stuffing their pockets (and their friends' pockets) with resources that would do more good in the marketplace. I guess I'm a revolutionary at heart. But I digress . . . and this is probably the last word about politics you'll see on this blog for a long, long time. (Vote for Mike Huckabee in 2012).

Back to the house story . . . my family started looking in early February. We became well acquainted with the lowest priced 3+ bedroom houses on the market, and after looking at lots of foreclosures that should have been torn down long ago, we found a spacious house that suited us perfectly. Although it had been vacant for over a year, it was clean and dry. Some cosmetic work was needed, but there were no apparent structural issues. We would have to purchase kitchen appliances and an air conditioning system, but the price was low enough to make all of that feasible, and the bank that owned the house dropped $20,000 from the price in negotiations. We were ecstatic. We were getting a good deal. The best part was, the house was situated on a beautiful piece of property out in the country. One-acre lot, gently sloping, with wooded areas, fenced-off sections for goats, plenty of room for a garden, chickens, etc. (yes, I did say goats). It was a home-schooler's dream!

By mid-March, we had a contract and a closing date. We poured money into inspections, appraisals, surveys, water tests, appliance purchases, etc. (I even bought a door mat) - all in the sure knowledge that this would soon be our place of residence. Everything went smoothly until the day before closing. That's when the unpermitted addition was discovered. That's when the FHA financing came back to bite us. That's when we found out it was going to cost us over $15,000 to bring the addition up to local codes, per FHA rules. That's when we found out the bank selling the home wasn't willing to do ANYTHING to fix the problem (it was HSBC Bank, by the way, and I'll think twice before I ever do business with them again). The bank refused to extend our contract or negotiate the added expenses. They would not put a penny toward it. Since we stood to lose everything we had invested on the botched deal, we went to outrageous lengths to try to make it work. Eventually, we found a contractor who could do the necessary repairs at a reasonable cost and resubmitted an offer to buy the house, with the bank assuming no additional risk or cost. However, a rival buyer had now entered the picture. The rival was using the same financing, offering less money, wanted more time to close, and had more contingencies in the contract. His offer was accepted, ours was rejected, and by the end of May we knew the deal could not be saved. So we started the buying process all over again.

In the meantime, my family had begun reading through the book of James together. And in the middle of the attempted home purchase we were collectively struck by these verses:

James 4:13-16 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

We made it a point to pray throughout the process, "Lord, if it is Your will, we will move into this house." So, when the deal slipped away, we concluded that it was not God's will. In all of this, my family saw a powerful object lesson about God's sovereignty, and we were humbled by it. We were crushed, but blessedly crushed, because we saw His hand in it.

That's only the first half of the story. Although God never has to explain Himself to us, it's always comforting when we find out why He closes a door.

After more searching, we found a comparably priced house, and this one was not a foreclosure. It was significantly larger, with more bedrooms, and much closer to where I work. There were fewer repairs needed, and the seller made several of them before closing. The house is on a 1/3 acre lot, situated on a private lake, with a nice view and plenty of trees for shade.There's no room for goats, but the previous owner left us a nice chicken coop. The funny part is, we only moved 1.2 miles away from our prior residence. That's right, it took us 6 months to move one mile! It's a much better house than I ever expected, and certainly more than I deserve. I don't deserve to live in a cardboard box! I deserve outer darkness. So, my new house is a gigantic testimony to God's grace.

The front of the house is partly made of stone, which reminds me of these words:

Mark 13:1-2 As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Just as God's beautiful temple was cast down to the ground, so shall my house (should it last long enough) be dashed to bits before His glorious majesty! In that day, I shall literally live in Him, and He in me, in the majestically glorious Kingdom of His eternal grace and truth!

Hebrews 13:14-16 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

I thank God for the gracious, yet temporary, gift of a house to live in. I thank Him even more for the amazing gift of Himself, as the true eternal home of all who trust in Him.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Sure, the road's rough, but look where it's leading . . .
When we melt into the far horizon, then we shall know
the struggles weren't worth comparing
to the eternal weight of glory that will follow