Heat and Light

Icon

an online resource for Reformed Charismatics, Pentecostal Calvinists, & Empowered Evangelicals

NoiseTrade Widget

Filed under: Uncategorized

Naturally Supernatural: it doesn’t have to be weird to be God

I won’t lie: emotionalism is fun. The experience of experiencing – the feeling of being in that moment when you feel with such intensity that you’re absolutely positive that something unique is taking place. However, that “feeling” is so easily misunderstood, and actually encourages the “fake” and “artificial”, lifting a ‘special experience’ above the day-to-day can be dangerous, and misleading. The day-to-day IS miraculous – it IS supernatural. Think about our call as Christians: “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, will all your soul, and will all your strength, and will all your mind” (Luke 10:27). Is that anything, if it isn’t all of life – emotions, spirituality, action, and thought – being ultimately spiritual? A trip to the doctor can be an act of worship as much as Sunday morning, done with a right Spirit – it may even be more genuine and holy, depending on the circumstances you may find yourself responding to while there. I struggle in my heart when we as Christians seem to put on a “show” of the supernatural – using the supposedly unusual or weird to stir up the emotions, until we are whipped into a Spiritual frenzy, as though our passion and the intensity of the moment makes God somehow more present (I mean, He’s here, or He’s not, right?), and the supernatural even more likely. Aren’t we called to be like Jesus? I mean, I believe it – I believe in not only the fruit, but also the gifts: prophecy, healing, tongues – the whole package. However, there seems to be a HUGE disconnect between how I see Jesus working miracles, and we often tend to attempt as Christians – wild, emotionally charged, intense Sunday morning meetings, seemingly attempting to stir up our faith to the point where (maybe) we can work the miracle ourselves, rather than simply trusting in a God who often works in the mundane – the normal – the everyday. Looking at Jesus’ miracles, they didn’t draw attention to themselves because his methods were odd, or out of the ordinary – Jesus’ miracles drew the attention of others because they WORKED. He was the real deal. He was “NATURALLY SUPERNATURAL”. So, while we’ve made something mystical out of “anointing with oil” when praying for healing, we don’t realize that Olive Oil was considered medicinal in Jesus day, so the modern-day equivalent is to pray for someone’s healing, and take them to the doctor, both – and the later is no less spiritual, or faith-filled, than the former, no matter how less exiting it may seem. When Jesus heals the man born blind he uses not only the commonplace – can’t imagine anything more easily come across than spit and mud – but again, saliva was considered medicinal, and it was common practice to spit on sick parts of the body in his time. Again, his methods were not the sort to draw any attention to themselves – the attention result in the fact that Jesus’ prayers were effectual – people were actually healed! As I’ve heard it said, “it doesn’t have to be weird to be God.” Looking at the works of Jesus it may more accurate to consider that if it IS weird, it’s not much at all like Jesus’ miracles. The weird may not be God working at all, but may simply be the flesh – mere “religion”, and man-made. As many in the VINEYARD MOVEMENT likes to say, Jesus was naturally supernatural. So, you can keep your show, if it’s only for Sunday morning – I want to live all of life as spiritual, expecting God to work in my day-to-day. If I live my life expecting to experience God in anyplace and in anyone I should not be surprised when He meets me, and works an amazing feet in my life. That’s the sort of God He is – celebrate it, but know that it’s not your weirdness, it’s not your working yourself into an emotional frenzy one morning a week, that is somehow twisting God’s arm to make Him work. God meets us in the mundane – the doctor’s visit, the dirty-floored house – on the street corner, asking for change. He meets us in the normal, the every-day. With olive oil, or a little dirt and spit, and very little fan-fare, Jesus does his work. With a quiet confidence, we should expect the supernatural – naturally – expect God to work as a part of daily life in a world in which the Kingdom of God is breaking through, as we choose daily to follow Him as King: “…the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21b) Don’t even be surprised when it happens. Be expectant – this is who God IS, why expect any less? Come, Holy Spirit. So be it.

Filed under: Uncategorized

REVIEW: Your Jesus is too Safe

JesusTooSafe

As a worship leader, I am convinced that to worship Christ fully we must know him truly. JARED WILSON is an immensely POPULAR BLOGGER, missional church planter/pastor, with impeccable theology, and a decent sense of humor to boot. His book, YOUR JESUS IS TOO SAFE, is an excellent correction to the man-made Jesus’s of our imagination, pointing clearly to the Christ of revelation. The style reminds me of Mark Driscoll’s personality, N.T. Wright’s historical insight, and the basic doctrinal leanings of Timothy Keller, all put in a blender. That is just to say, that this book would serve as an excellent corrective for us worship leaders to all the false-Christ’s we tend to pursue. You see, for being the most popular – or at least most well-known – person in all of history, we have a hard time at agreeing on who Jesus is, even within the church. Jared spends most of this book debunking each of our own Jesus myth’s – some of which may surprise you – and replacing them with a full-orbed, Biblical portrait of Christ. The highlight of the book is Jared’s excellent overview of the life of Christ, which is both easy to understand, yet nuanced enough to take into account the complexity of modern historical research. It really brings the gospels to life, and gives fresh insight into those books, without having to read the academically dense work of N.T. Wright. I had a minor squabble with his critique of the modern prophecy (quote: “…a prophet isn’t someone who has a special spiritual sense, or who, in our feel-good vernacular, ‘feels led’…), as my personal walk with Christ has been informed by both the reformed, and charismatic camps, but in all honesty, it doesn’t hinder the overall thrust of his message whatsoever. Overall, Your Jesus… is probably my favorite book so far on ’09. A well recommended read, indeed.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Podcasts I have found particularly encouraging of late…

If you haven’t yet, you may want to take a listen to these:

Contending for the Supernatural (part 1) – Sam Storms, Bridgeway Church
Contending for the Supernatural (part 2) – Sam Storms, Bridgeway Church

The Effects of the Holy Spirit – Tom Shaw, Jubilee Church

The Supremacy of Scripture – Michael Fletcher, Manna Church

Filed under: Bible, Calvinism, Charismatic, Continualist, Doctrine, Holy Spirit, Reformed, Theology, , , , , , , , , ,

A quick update on life & other things…

I’m so sorry about my slack in publishing here.  I have been focusing much of my literary attention on song-writing, writing reviews for TheWorshipCommunity, and a few ‘paid’ endeavors in local print publications, as getting ‘paid’ is pretty important to me right now.

For those of you who don’t know, my wife & I have stepped off of the cliff to attempt a pretty radical endeavor: we are founding a non-profit ministry.  All I can say is that it is time – yes, in the middle of a financial crisis.  That’s how God usually does things, right?

We’re calling the ministry “THE HOPE FARM” (website still in development) and our vision is to “sow, cultivate, & harvest” worship, worshipers, & worship leaders for the glory of our great God, through live worship events, outreach concerts, in-house worship training workshops, musical training, worship leader mentoring/discipleship, Biblical teaching, song-writing, song-writing workshops, conferences & consulting.

That said, I’ve been spending almost all of my time of late either meeting with lawyers & accountants about starting a non-profit, brainstorming for the website, physically redesigning my office space at home, working on vision statements & by-laws, or – in my free-time – writing new songs.  

We plan on primarily focusing our attention, initially, on Georgia, Florida, & South Carolina, but – no matter where you are – if you think you may be interested in hosting us for an event, please contact me at saintlewis@bellsouth.net, and let’s see what we can work out.  

In other awesome news, one of my living spiritual ‘heros’ (I can use that word, right – he inspires me, encourages me, and challenges me, and is an example of Christ to me – I call that a ‘hero’), Sam Storms, has accepted the pastorate at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City!  He connects the power of the Holy Spirit to good, solid, reformed theology like few others do.  Please be encouraged to check out their podcast HERE:

Filed under: Charismatic, Evangelical, My other blog..., MY OTHER BLOGS, Pastors, Reformed, Sam Storms, , , , , , , , , ,

Hearing God…

Last time I taught publicly on the subject of “Hearing God”, I asked a random student onto the stage, and I began sharing with them what was going on in my life at that time.  After a few minutes of useless, self-centered banter, I dove in, “Did I tell you I’m getting a new car? I have to drive to Ohio next week to pick it up: it’s used, but in great shape and I’m getting it for a steal.”  After a few minutes more of babble, I asked them how they had been, but interrupted them a mere couple words into their response – clearly not listening – with another question, “So, what’ve you been up to this week?”  Pausing for only a moment, looking somewhat baffled, but flowing with it, they began to answer, but before they got into any depth, I again interrupted; “That’s nice – hey, I’ve started recording another c.d.? Oh, and my last one just got another review – I’m really excited about this one.  So, what bands do you like?”  Again, they began to respond, but after naming only one band, again I piped in with,  “That’s nice, I’ve not heard of them – I’ve been listening to this band named Pedro the Lion, and I really like Vigilantes of Love, Over the Rhine, Bruce Cockburn…” then I babbled on about the high points of each band’s careers.  Yes, it was clearly a frustrating conversation for my ‘guest’, but – of course – that’s the point. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bible, Charismatic, Continualist, Doctrine, Knowing God, Prayer, prophecy, Theology, , , , , ,

Sovereign Grace: “COME WEARY SAINTS”

My review of Sovereign Grace Music’s excellent COME WEARY SAINTS cd is now posted over at theWorshipCommunity.com.  Stop by and take a read, and see what it’s like when solid doctrine meets charismatic experience in corporate worship.

Filed under: Calvinism, Charismatic, Doctrine, Reformed, Theology, , , , , , , ,

Some days it strikes me as particularly strange…

Some days it strikes me as particularly strange that so many who claim to believe in a good wonder-working God, who – listening to them – apparently wants to shower us all with financial blessings and success, often tend to pray – or rather, beg and plead (or “cry out”?) – as though either God doesn’t really want to help and needed convincing, or is simply unable to do a thing apart from them personally “stirring up their faith”, as though He needed it like I need a cup of coffee in the morning.  Just a note: if this is you, go on and say your God is a God of blessing and abundance all you want, but your actions betray you: it sounds to me as though you don’t trust Him, and trust IS faith.

Of course, it also strikes me as absolutely bizarre that there are also a great many who claim to worship and all-powerful, sovereign God – who recognize to the full extent the real miracle that is the salvation of lost sinners (it’s not as though God just sits there with open arms: we don’t want Him, and don’t know we need Him, apart from His miraculous work in us…) – who, in spite of the extent of His absolute sovereignty over everything, don’t expect much out of God at all.

Please tell me something is wrong here?

Filed under: Charismatic, Contraversy, Doctrine, Holy Spirit, Reformed, Theology, , , , , , , , , ,

Some challenging blog-love worth considering…

Well, I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of recent blogs on Lakeland, given the recently publicized moral failures of Mr. Bentley.  I have been quiet on the matter because I really see this as a very sad occasion – one where prayer for the fallen is far more needed than a pointed “I told you so“.  However, it is a fact that bad theology results in poor life choices – that is to say: THEOLOGY MATTERS.  Whether we like the word or not, we all have a ‘theology’, and what we believe about God, the world, and ourselves plays out in what sort of decisions we make, and how we go about making those decisions.  Personally, I hope Todd’s marriage is restored – I hope and pray that he grows to trust Christ more fully, love God’s Word more wholey, and serve him more devotedly in the coming years.

That having been said, though I may not entirely agree with the following blogs on all matters, I cannot deny that the messages contained in some of the following seem to me almost prophetic for the charismatic movement.  Listen/read closely, friends – this is important…

First, the sad news…

Then, the wisdom gained…

CERULEAN SANCTUM shares some bold thoughts in Burned & Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup & Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup part 2.

Lee Grady, of Charisma magazine responded to these events in Life after Lakeland

R.T. Kendall, one of my spiritual heros, on the Lakeland Revival, as reported by MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY.  The original article can be found on his site in ‘Ministry Today’

That said, please be in prayer for Todd, his family, all who have attended the Lakeland ‘revival’, and for the glory of God in all of this.  Blessings…

Filed under: Bible, Charismatic, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, , , , , , , , ,

Worship God ’08, by Sov. Grace Ministries hosted by Covenant Life Church…

I went, and it was really a blessing.  I was encouraged to see how “reformed charismatic” can be ‘done’ on a large-scale, and I must say that – at least in this case – I approve.  Solid on doctrine, and bathed in the Spirit’s presence.  Here’s my full review:

1.  INTRO
2.  NEW SONGS
3.  MAIN SESSIONS 1 & 2
4.  MAIN SESSIONS 3, 4, & 5
5.  ELECTIVES

Now, if I could just make it to conferences by Grace Churches International (I met some GCI folks at WG08, actually), & New Frontiers to see how they work out the details there!

Filed under: Charismatic, Doctrine, Holy Spirit, Reformed, Theology, , , , , , , , , ,

The Lakeland “Outpouring”: I have gone, and these are my thoughts…

I’m sure some of my friends leaning further into the ‘reformed’ camp will immediately question me for having gone, and I can entirely understand why: a scattering of unBiblical teachings from the ‘pulpit’, a number of examples of overblown claims, and some practices that are questionable at best.  Don’t worry, folks – I’m still with you on those, but please hear me out.

Overall, I was really challenged and blessed there.

You heard me right: I was – generally speaking – challenged and blessed by attending 2 nights of the Lakeland Outpouring.  

Now, what that DOESN’T mean is that I withdrawal ANY of my earlier blogs on the subject (see BE THE REVIVAL, MIRACLE WORKER, SOUND DOCTRINE, CURRENT THOUGHTS, QUENCHING, & AGAINST), though it definitely puts them in a new, broader perspective.  It doesn’t mean, in fact, that I’m even convinced that Todd Bentley has a gift of healing, though I DO suspect he has a strong gift of faith, and the two are sometimes, though not always, related.

Honestly, I went – primarily for two reasons:
1.) My wife is significantly more open & less suspicious (that is not to say she has no discernment – the opposite’s true, but she is far more ‘open’…), and was very interested in attending, and it looked as though it would work out to be a ‘family vacation’ of sorts for us all.  Her family has a history of involvement with the various revivals in this area over the years, so Lakeland was a draw for her.
2.) My brother-n-law, who I’m proud to say is also one of my best friends, is a current member of SonicFlood, who were leading worship both nights, and I wanted to go show him my support.

First, though I can’t speak for the other worship leaders who have been part of Lakeland since it initially broke out, Rick & SonicFlood led a particularly God-honoring, Gospel-saturated, Christ-centered worship set both nights.  In fact, until Lakeland I had hardly HEARD anything by SonicFlood – they weren’t really on my musical radar.  Not only were they technically a great band, but it was a powerful time of worship.

Then came the prayer time.  I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that – at least on the nights I attended – though Todd Bentley was present and involved, it was clearly NOT the ‘Todd Bentley show’, as I had originally feared.  Maybe in that way that cameras of GodTV have actually misrepresented Lakeland, since he is so captivating – he has such a strong presence.  The stage was filled with various volunteers and pastors ministering, speaking, and praying – there was a significant team actively involved, and most of the time I was barely even aware of Bentley.  I was very blessed that even the most extreme cases were welcomed to the stage for prayer, and when some of these individuals stood there in need for a touch from God, my heart broke, and I have not petitioned God with such passion in very long-time.  I was face-to-face with a Holy, and powerful God, begging Him to intercede – to show His power, and in such an atmosphere of faith it was not hard to be convinced that God can do whatever He wills.  Tears well up in my eyes even thinking about it.

Then Todd stood up to ‘teach’.  Teaching is not Todd’s strong-point (everyone I talked to, in fact, emphasized this), and let me just say that I was about 50%/50% – when he was ‘on’ he was dead-on, and I wanted to shout “AMEN!’, but much of the time he was ‘off’, and there was a clear influence of various theologies that I think not Biblical (I’d encourage all of the teachers at this revival to study Carson’s “Exegetical Fallacies”, in fact).  However, and though some may find this sad, others will sigh with relief: many left at the beginning of, or during the ‘teaching’, and many others there had enough discernment to sift it for the good, and even the not-so-good was at-least half-true.  I know it sounds like I’m letting the guy off the hook, I’m not, however I don’t think this “Outpouring” is really about Todd, so it doesn’t concern me quite as much as I thought.  I believe there were, and are, many being touched here, sometimes in spite of him, quite honestly.  Yes, there are some with little or no discernment who may grab hold of and be led astray by some of what he says, but if it weren’t him, they’d find someone else to ‘whisper’ in their ears – without the true guidance of the Spirit any of us would do the same.  However, I came, sincere God-centered worship took place, and God was encountered by many.  

Personally, I am glad I went.  You can proceed to pick your jaw up off the floor now.

Though I still don’t think it’s necessarily Scriptural to chase revivals, I will be praying for Todd more, and criticizing Him far less from now on.

Filed under: Bible, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Flesh, Gospel, Hermeneutics, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Lakeland Revival, Pentecostalism, Prayer, Revival, Signs of the Spirit, Theology, Tongues, Word of Faith, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m in the Top 40!

I’m very honored to tell you that I have made it into the honorable list of Top 40 referrers to Adrian Warnock’s blog.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Filed under: Charismatic, Reformed, , ,

Free Piper…

For a limited time Desiring God ministries is giving away a free copy of The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor, for all orders over $25 from their store. This book is an excellent collection of essays by some of today’s top thinkers like D. A. Carson, Timothy Keller, Mark Driscoll, and David Wells related to engaging a post-modern culture for Christ. Quite a deal for free, don’t you think?

But here’s the problem: you don’t have a lot of money, so what do you buy to add up to $25 to get the free-book deal? As an avid Piper reader, I feel for you who may not yet be familiar with his work, so I went to the site and put together my own combo-package of shorter, easy-to-read, and beneficial books available from Desiring God Ministries that have blessed and challenged me far beyond their size or complexity. Here’s my suggestions:

Dangerous DutyThe Dangerous Duty of Delight

In all honesty, this is Desiring God-lite, which for most people is a good thing. I don’t know how many folks I’ve talked to who were really challenged by Piper’s Desiring God, but simply couldn’t finish it. Dangerous Duty of Delight is the solution to that. A short, powerful little read that should pretty much blow your heart and mind wide open with a powerful picture of a God worthy of being worshiped and served with our whole heart, mind, soul, & strength. Great stuff here!

PiercedPierced by the Word: 21 meditations for your soul

By far one of the most powerful devotional books I’ve ever read. Each ‘chapter’ is short, yet Scripture drenched, packed with Biblical insight, and practical application. I’ve given this away as a gift more than once.

suffering sovereigntySuffering & the Sovereignty of God

It’s hard for me to know where to begin with this book, honestly. A theological book on suffering by people who have almost all suffered far more than I ever will: the authors/speakers who contribute essays here are paralyzed, battling cancer, have lost love ones under unbelievable circumstances, and all point towards an absolutely sovereign God as their hope and strength. I’m currently reading it for the 3rd time, and I just bought it this year. Challenging, and moving, to say the least.

And there you have it: 4 excellent, life-changing books for $25.85. You can thank me later. ;-)

Filed under: Bible, Books, Calvinism, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Contraversy, Doctrine, Holy Spirit, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Reformed, Theology, , , , , , ,

Reflections on Suffering & the Sovereignty of God (Chapter 4, part 1)

If you are just now stepping into this conversation, I encourage you to first look over INTRO & CHAPTER 1, CHAPTER 2 PART 1, CHAPTER 2 PART 2, CHAPTER 3, A DETOUR, & DISCUSSIONS.

Chapter 4, entitled WHY GOD APPOINTS SUFFERING FOR HIS SERVANTS, is another one of Piper’s own chapters, and as is normal for Piper, comes out of the starting block with a bold, yet Scripture-drenched proposal:

“Hebrews 12 tells us that God disciplines his children through suffering. His aim is deeper faith and deeper Holiness. “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). Jesus experienced the same thing. “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). This does not mean that Jesus grew from disobedience to obedience; the same writer says he never sinned (Heb. 4:15). It means that the process through which he demonstrated deeper and deeper obedience was the process of suffering. For us there is not only the need to have our obedience tested and proven deep, but also purified of all remnants of self-reliance and entanglement with the world”

What immediately strikes me here is a quote I have long used in my own personal ministry, the origins of which I no longer can put my finger on: “God is not so much concerned with our happiness as He is our holiness”, or to put it another way: God did not save us to make us comfortable, but to make us like Jesus.

As a “3rd Wave/neoCharismatic“, profoundly influenced by the Vineyard movement, and John Wimber in particular, I carry with me a deep conscious awareness that it is the same Holy Spirit that fills me – a son of Adam – as empowered Jesus – the 2nd Adam – who set aside His rights to God-hood to usher in the Kingdom not ONLY as our savior who hung on a cross, but also as our model, who LIVED a God-empowered life. Think about it: if Jesus only came to simply be a blood sacrifice for us, the Father could have worked it out that he was simply born – perfectly innocent – fully human and yet fully God – then had him killed. Biblically, it would have atoned for God’s people, so why bother living 33 years, working a dull job, maturing as a person, eventually gathering disciples, and living life out before them? Christ modeled what the 1st Adam should have: Kingdom living.

But there is a catch. If Christ was our example in God-empowered life – in Kingdom living – as an example of what it looks like to walk in the miraculous and trust in God, that’s not the only thing He modeled for us, as Piper reminds us of above. Christ was the perfect example of suffering – he was, in fact, the suffering servant. And the suffering of Christ was part of the plan of God from the beginning (before the foundations of the world, in fact), and was FOR GOOD! If Christ, who modeled Kingdom living for us perfectly, suffered so deeply – and according to the will of God the Father, even – why do we assume, as Christ’s followers, that we will not?

In fact, the Bible promises that the opposite is the case.  Romans 8:17 goes so far as to suggest that if we do not find ourselves suffering as followers of Christ, that we may not be saved, when Paul writes there that we are God’s children and “fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him“.  And that will take us to our next post…

Ever wondered how we might fill up “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions“? Coming soon in Chapter 4, part 2.

Filed under: Bible, Calvinism, Charismatic, Contraversy, Debate, Discipline, Doctrine, Gospel, Holy Spirit, John Piper, Reformed, Salvation, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Theology, , , , , , , , , , ,

5 points I’ll stand behind…

Though in many ways I consider myself a Calvinist, I often prefer the label “Reformed”.  You see, I find my grounding as a Reformed believer far more in line with Richard Mouw’s “Kuyperian Calvinism”, than folks like R.C. Sproul & John McAurther. That is to say, the center of my “Calvinism” isn’t so much the 5 points, but rather the Biblical concept that Abraham Kuyper summarized so perfectly: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Also, with John Piper, I affirm “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” That is to say, I am ‘reformed’ because I don’t believe the story is really about US: we were made by Him and for Him, and I think that Biblical concept is best brought to the forefront by a ‘reformed/calvinist’ reading of the Word.  That said, I’m very uncomfortable with most Calvinist’s emphasis on the 5 points, and even most interpretations of what each of those points actually MEANS.

Well, recently Jared Hanley, an e-friend I met some time back over myspace, re-worded the 5 points in a way that I could affirm 100%, and I can’t help but share these with you:

1. We’re so messed up that we need a miracle to restore our broken fellowship with God.
2. God chooses us, not based on what He knew that we would do, but simply out of love.
3. Christ gave Himself for the church.
4. When the light of the gospel fully shines in our hearts, we find God’s love to be irresistible.
5. Those who truly belong to Christ are able to stand strong only by the grace of God.

He’s stripped away, at least for me, all of the primary areas of debate, and left behind a simple, modern phrasing which succinctly summarizes some powerful Biblical truths.  Re-reading these, I was reminded of another, more famous author, who had also summarized the 5 points in a way that really made sense to me.

John Piper organized the 5 points below as we subjectively experience them, which seems to make a whole lot more sense than the traditional TULIP formation:

  1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
  2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
  3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
  4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
  5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

Gives one much to ponder, indeed.  God is the star in our story – we are the supporting actors.  So very glad to be in a movie with such a big name, aren’t you? ;-)

Filed under: Bible, Books, Calvinism, Christian Hedonism, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Gospel, Grace, John Piper, Reformed, Salvation, Theology, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Prophets and/or Apostles: a Leaky Canon?

If this post begins to get confusing, I suggest you begin by reading EARNESTLY DESIRE….

There are many Christians who – in spite of good Biblical scholarship which convincingly disproves this – argue that the Canon of Scripture is closed because prophecy is no longer in operation – or at least that the canon is closed, and therefore we no longer NEED the prophetic gift(s). Yet, the New Testament was not written by prophets, with the exception of the Revelation of John (who was also an Apostle)! You see, the group of men in the New Testament who spoke the words of God with God’s authority – like the “prophets” of the Old Testament – were called “the Apostles.”

First, the message the Apostles proclaimed was the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the revelation of God’s message of salvation to the world. As Wayne Grudem points out, “Such an insistence on the divine origin of (this) message is clearly in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets.

Secondly, Jesus promised a special empowering to the 12, who were called the Apostles after Christ’s resurrection. John 14:26 says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you (he was speaking here to the Apostles) all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Later, in John 16:13, Jesus says to the Apostles, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…” Yes, there is a sense in which these verses may apply to us, for it shows that one of the roles of the Spirit is to lead people to the truth of Jesus, however Jesus, here, directly promised the Apostles that the Holy Spirit would help them remember and understand the message that he gave them to proclaim to the world, and this is a special call of God on their lives.

Lastly, the Apostles recognized the authority of their own teachings and writings as the very words of God. Paul commands the church in Thessalonica to receive his words “…not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13), and points out, as was the case with denying the words of the Old Testament prophets, that anyone who disregards his words “disregards not man but God” (1 Thessalonians 4:8). Others are punished for disregarding the message of the Apostles; “If anyone refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14) Also, in 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter equates Paul’s letters with “the other Scriptures.” Further, Acts 5:3-4 & 21, implies that lying to an Apostle is equivalent to lying to the Holy Spirit, and thus God himself!

Some of what confuses us is that many – Evangelicals & Charismatics – automatically assume that the ‘gift of prophecy’ in the New Testament (and for today?) is exactly the same as the calling to be a prophet which occurs in the Old: they are not the same thing.  It’s important to note that the Hebrew Old Testament word for “prophet” meant “authoritative messenger of God”. However, the Greek word that we translate as “prophecy” in the New Testament didn’t carry that same connotation. We have a number of extra-Biblical writings ranging from the time 60 B.C. – 199 A.D. wherein the Greek word “prophet” is used to mean anything from a philosopher to a medical quack – a botanist to historian, and any range of things in-between. The primary definition for the Greek word “prophet” was essentially “one who declares, proclaims, or makes known” and that appears to have only sometimes been a proclamation of secret knowledge revealed from the spirit-realm. That is why the soldiers who blindfold and beat Jesus in Luke 22:64 command him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They are not commanding Jesus to speak revealed words of divine authority, but simply to tell them something hidden that has been revealed to him. This would be a good working definition of the New Testament gift of prophecy as well.

The New Testament is made up of the writings of the Apostles (and of those under their authority) because it is THEY, not the New Testament prophets, who are the authoritative messengers of God during that time. And since to be in the office of New Testament Apostles you had to have personally experienced the living or physically resurrected Jesus, that office (in the New Testament sense of being an authoritative messenger of Jesus) is now closed, thus no one can any longer speak the very words of God to his people, except in that they are rightfully dividing His written word (the teachings of the Prophets and Apostles) in the Scriptures.

That is just to say, the modern-day operation of the gift of prophecy – Biblically understood – does nothing to create a “Leaky Canon” (i.e. – the idea of a “Leaky Canon” is where one believes that the prophetic words spoken today have the same authority over their lives as Scripture, essentially ‘adding’ to the Biblical revelation).

In fact, it should lead those in the prophetic movement back to the Scriptures, as the Biblical gives a great deal of guidance on how to correct and guide our interpretations and understanding of the modern-day  Prophecy. 1 Corinthians 14:29 encourages us to “weigh” what is spoken in a prophecy. 1 Thessalonians 5:21, likewise, encourages us – after telling us specifically not to ‘despise prophecy’ (and doesn’t that mean that there must be some reason – misuse, probably – that led people to be tempted to ‘despise prophecy’?) – to “test everything and hold fast to what is good”.

Scripture IS sufficient: prophecy does not need to lead to a ‘leaky canon.’ It is good, however, to clearly state what we means by the term ‘sufficient’. I believe that Scripture is sufficient, and since the Scripture tells me to desire Prophecy, and to not despise it, I seek to hear God that way, and since Scripture tells me that the heavens show of His glory, I recognize that there are things to know of God revealed by the stars and creation, and since the Scriptures encourage fellowship with other believers as a source of growth and strength, I expect to meet God there too. Being obedient to Scripture IS a proper recognition of Scripture’s sufficiency. Developing doctrines which entail ideas and restrictions that aren’t necessarily in the Word, is not a good way to recognize the Scriptures’ sufficiency.

The Bible is our authoritative guide – the unquestionable Words of God through the Holy Spirit.  Prophecy is a potentially powerful, subjective, broadly given gift, which is seeing “through a mirror, dimly” – a seeing “in part” – an imperfect gift which, though useful now, will pass at the return of Christ, when we will finally see “face to face“.

Do not despise prophecy, but even more so, cling to the Word.  If you do this, and walk in the prophetic, chances are that you are walking Biblical grounds.

Be blessed.

Filed under: Apostles, Bible, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Hermeneutics, Holy Spirit, Miracles, Mystery, Pentecostalism, prophecy, Theology, Wayne Grudem, , , , , , , ,

Against Revival?

In the case that anyone has come to the conclusion that I am somehow ‘against’ the Lakeland Revival (if some have misunderstood, than I’m sure other’s will have as well), I hope you will re-read all I’ve written on it hre, as I’ve tried to be clear and Biblical through-out. Though I rarely think attending a ‘revival’ the best option (I’d rather one happen locally, so those involved be under authority I know personally, and trust – besides I see no Biblical example of ‘running to where the miracles are’, for any reason other than to correct their improper use), as far as this particular ‘revival’ is involved, I have all along encouraged discernment and critical thinking on the issues surrounding the events in Lakeland, and – by most account – have been very balanced in my reporting. As I’ve already said more than once in my recent blogs, I won’t judge anyone who attends (I’ve had many friends go, and the reports have been mixed), but my conscience – at this point – will not allow me to go, and I’m a firm believer one should never acts in opposition of their conscience. If you think it would benefit you to go – by all means, go – just don’t turn off your filter, and keep your ears open to the still small voice, in the midst of all that’s spoken from the platform.

And if you’d like to reminded of all that I’ve said so far concerning revival, particularly in Lakeland: Be the Revival; Be the Miracle; Sound Doctrine, Drop-Kick, Current Thoughts, & Quenching the Spirit.
Be blessed as you read. Amen.

Filed under: Bible, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Flesh, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Lakeland Revival, Miracles, Prayer, prophecy, Revival, Signs of the Spirit, , , , , , , , , ,

Prayer is not Magic: approaching Aslan…

A few years ago I was emailed an excellent essay by my old friend, Julie. So many aspects of what she had written struck me as so very true – and rarely heard – that I felt it necessary to quote her. Please be encouraged and challenged by her words of wisdom…

“Every time we bend our knee to petition God for the healing of an ill, we open ourselves to a Person Who is neither manageable nor fully known, and what is at stake in this exchange is nothing less than the integrity of our working theology and the endurance of our friendship with this God. When we petition God, our deepest beliefs about God’s goodness, God’s power, and God’s kingdom are laid bare. And when we petition God, the solidity of our friendship with this God is the very ground on which we tread.”

“How often when we pray do we remember: God is not safe. Like Aslan, God cannot be made to perform tricks at the flick of a wrist or the click of a rosary bead. ‘Our God is in the heavens, He does whatever He pleases.’ There is a wildness in God.”

“…how often are the ‘ends’ we beg for very well conceived, either? Our culture has seduced us into thinking that personal wealth, happiness, and general well-being is the chief end of man.”

Julie reminds me that we were created by and for God – not the other way around. Be humbled. Pray accordingly.

Filed under: Bible, Prayer, , , , , , , ,

Recent Assemblies of God statement on Revival…

Though the AOG would reject my reformed theology, and I disagree with them regarding the significance they bestow on the gift of tongues (there my 3rd Wave leaning begin to shine through again), overall I find much to admire among Assemblies of God churches.  Here is the AOG’s excellent official response to the numerous reports of revival around the world presently.  Well worth watching the whole thing.

Filed under: Apostles, Bible, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Denominations, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Evangelical, Gospel, Hermeneutics, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Lakeland Revival, Pastors, Pentecostalism, Prayer, prophecy, , , , , , , , ,

Still more Lakeland blog-love (and some)…

Still more people are chiming in on Lakeland & the goings on there. Again, I don’t agree with all that’s written below – in fact, some I disagree with, but they are helpful perspectives to get a bigger picture of what’s happening:

My visit to Lakeland

When is a “Revival” Genuine?

Leaving Lakeland

Lakeland – real revival?

Does Todd Bentley have anything to do with Jesus?

Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Revival

There is much to take in, but I will let these speak for themselves: real people, honest thoughts, sincere emotions…seeking the truth.  Some have left the church entirely and are taking one last peak inside, some are in the middle of the excitement yet voicing concerns, some are sympathetic but have questions, and others are diametrically opposed.  Read, pray, listen.  Amen.

Filed under: Bible, Blog-Love, Bloggers, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Flesh, Gospel, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Lakeland Revival, Miracles, Mystery, Pentecostalism, Philosophy, Prayer, prophecy, Revival, Salvation, Sermon, Signs of the Spirit, Theology, Tongues, Uncategorized, Unity, Word of Faith, , , ,

Solid Sermons on Spiritual Gifts (from iTunes)

I realize that my blog has often recently relied more heavily on criticism (there have been things to think critically about), than on positive contributions. Realizing this, I wanted to put forth a number of positive, Biblical sermons/teachings on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are some of my personal favorites currently available on iTunes. If you don’t have time to listen to them immediately, please do go ahead and download them for later, as there’s no telling how long they may be available for download.

I do hope these with challenge & encourage you in your faith as they have me. Walk deeply with the Spirit of God.

Concerning Spiritual Gifts – Pete Greasley/ChristChurch, Newport
Prophecy Today – Pete Greasley/ChristChurch, Newport
Use & Abuse of Tongues part 1Pete Greasley/ChristChurch, Newport
Use & Abuse of Tongues part 2Pete Greasley/ChristChurch, Newport

Discerning the Spirit – Bill Kittrell/Cornerstone Church of Knoxville
Discerning the Spirit’s Guidance – Bill Kittrell/Cornerstone Church of Knoxville
Empowered by the Spirit - Bill Kittrell/Cornerstone Church of Knoxville

The Kingdom Triangle – J.P. Moreland/Vineyard Anaheim

All except the Apostles – Michael Fletcher/Manna Church

Convergence – Sam Storms/Sojourn Community Church

Filed under: Apostles, Bible, Calvinism, Charismatic, Continualist, Doctrine, ESSENTIAL SERMON AUDIO, Holy Spirit, Knowing God, Miracles, Pete Greasley, prophecy, Reformed, Sam Storms, Sermon, Signs of the Spirit, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quenching the Spirit, my heart aches…

It happens so often in charismatic circles.  I listen to sermons – I don’t simply absorb them, but I listen for what is really being said, and to the best of my ability I check all of it against the Scripture in my head, and I open the Word directly and check things that sound questionable, yet attempt to still rejoice in what is true.  In the process of trying to filter sermons for ‘truth’, and trying to stand for the truth, I am called “mean”, “heartless”, “too heady”, and have even been told that I am somehow “quenching the Spirit”, and I won’t lie – sometimes it hurts.

In the flesh, it hurts my own pride – which is sad, I admit.  Yes, I am prideful – aren’t you?  I like being ‘right’, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to correction…by Scripture.  As a former campus minister, and as someone who still find himself in various areas of ministry leadership, I sometimes get asked questions – hard questions.  I see it as part of my calling to help guide people to God’s answer to those questions, which means I don’t only read the Word to get ‘personal words from the Lord’, but I go to it to find what is God’s mind – to the best of my human ability – towards certain issues.  I’ve heard too much junk from man – I’ve believed too much junk taught by men: I want to know God’s thoughts.  That has led me to be a critical thinker.  I hate lies, subtle or overt.  I don’t (usually) hate the people from whom they are coming (often they don’t know they speak untruth), but so many people grow disillusioned with God and lose faith not because God has somehow failed them or been shown untrue, but because – in little ways – they believed in a false god, or at least so many falsities about God, that it led to the same end.  And when we believe in a god of our imaginations, instead of the God of revelation, in spite of how spiritual we may look on the surface, our lives will eventually take us the clear route of open idolatry.  That sure explains the ‘New Age’ edge that much of what calls itself ‘Charismatic’ carries with it.

In my spirit, however, that is what hurts me deepest: to see genuine, sincere people – some who may really be Christians – engage in idolatry, trusting in a false god, instead of the God revealed in Scripture.  It saddens me because I’ve seen the disappointment that ultimately leads to – I’ve seen them lose faith altogether when their tiny ‘image’ of god refuses to follow the ‘rules’ they’ve set up for him (which is nothing short of ‘magic’ – thinking ‘if I do x, my god must to y in response’).

So, go ahead and tell me I’m too often ‘in my head’, or that I’m ‘quenching the Spirit’.  Though it will hurt my pride, what will ache most is for the Church to return to her first love: the one true God revealed in Jesus, empowering His people through the Spirit.  My heart aches to see Spirit-filled believers turn from their idols – turn from their ‘magic’ – turn from the god of their imagination, and see the Biblical God as He really is: to meet the real Jesus.

Send Your Spirit, Lord – restore Your truth to Your church, and we would walk in it.  Till then, I will continue to ache, and to do all within my power to be faithful to Your Word.

So be it.

Filed under: Doctrine, Flesh, Hermeneutics, Intellectualism, Lakeland Revival, Miracles, Pentecostalism, Prayer, Reformed, Revival, Signs of the Spirit, Theology, Word of Faith, , , , , , , , , ,

Lakeland: current thoughts…

Last night I watched the Lakeland Revival on GodTV for the first time in over a month. This was brought about by the encouragement of a few friends, and then me stumbling across a recent YouTube ‘interview’ of sorts with Bentley. Though by no means do I ‘recant’ of my blogs on the subject (Be the Revival, Be the Miracle, Sound Doctrine, & Drop Kick), I was encouraged by much of what I saw.

Although I would love to see some ‘clarification’ (and correction of?) on some points of doctrine from Bentley, I will give him kudos in that he apparently listens to criticism from other believers. Last night there was far less talk of angels, no mention of ‘Emma’, and a LOT more talk of Jesus (though if I were a non-believer I’d still have pretty much no idea who Jesus was or what he did for me from the actual content of the revival teaching). In fact, there was far less ‘Todd’, and more ‘Jesus’, which is a considerable improvement over the last few times I had watched. More Jesus and less of anything else is always an improvement.

Another thing I really appreciated was the fact that he emphasized that – even with the world watching (and one has to admit that it adds a degree of risk to each possible healing) – he would pray for healing for anyone that came up to be prayed for. Now, though I don’t think illnesses, diseases, or viruses are all demons to be addressed ‘in Jesus name’, nor have I any idea what “Bam” or any of the other bizarre things Bentley says during ‘healings’ are intended to mean, as a “Third Wave Charismatic”, I love the openess to ‘pray’ for anyone. It would be even more powerful to me if it weren’t on a stage – move this thing to the streets, begin going door to door, meeting people’s needs then ask “Excuse me, may I…” BAM – healed! Maybe if there were less sound effects, and casting out diseases, and more actual prayers addressing God, and clearly trusting Him and His power to heal – then I would feel even less concerned by the Lakeland Outpouring.

Lastly, Todd claims they are trying to verify every healing testimony that is given on stage. That is an honorable thing indeed – I would expect no less from anyone that wasn’t a fake. However, given that Bentley himself gives no update from stage when healing testimonies are discovered to have not been true (which would increase the credibility factor 100% were he to do so), might it be better to do a full follow-up with the doctors and such FIRST, then – if it all pans out unquestionably – invite them to give their testimony at the revival? The fact that to-date none of the individuals having been raised from the dead as a result of this revival can be confirmed, and at least one has been proven false, as have a number of the healings (one husband was called after his wife was supposedly healed of deafness – he said his wife had never been deaf), leaves a great deal to be desired. I believe in healing – I’ve prayed for a man who was dying in the hospital with less than hours to live, who made a miraculous turn around and was home 2 days later (he’s still well, last I heard), but we shouldn’t expect sheeple to believe every radical testimony given on that stage, especially when some are shortly thereafter being shown untrue. Verify first, testify later. That said, kudos for pursuing any sort of verification whatsoever – that is a step in the right direction.

If I had one last request it would be this: TEACH JESUS. Thank you for mentioning Jesus more, and angels less (though, in an off-handed way, which I assumed Todd didn’t even realize, he did mention Jesus even more than he knows: in the Old Testament “the Angel of the Lord” IS the pre-incarnate Christ, since He is the only angel which receives worship without rebuking), however – as I mentioned before – if I were a non-believer watching I would have no idea, in reality, who this Jesus was. He could have been merely a miracle worker for all I know. Take time to teach Jesus – explain the Gospel more often, even if in simple terms. Acknowledge the indwelling problem of sin, and show how Jesus is the answer to that, Then the real miracles which may take place will have a larger context: they will make sense in the resurrected life of Jesus working through His Spirit in the church. That would be good news, indeed.

So, though I have no intentions of visiting Lakeland, and I still have my criticisms, doubts, & concerns, even I am not beyond acknowledging where I see growth and blessings. Don’t leave your head at the door, but don’t let me keep you from visiting either.

So be it! Amen…

Filed under: Bible, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Flesh, Forgiveness, Gospel, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Lakeland Revival, Miracles, Mystery, Prayer, prophecy, Revival, Salvation, Signs of the Spirit, Theology, Tongues, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

As promised, BlogLove part 2: a lot on revival, plus some…

So, a number of folks I respect & admire in the blog world are finally researching, visiting, and reflecting upon the Lakeland Revival, and revivals in general.

For one, Adrian Warnock chimed in with his thoughtful piece, TODD BENTLEY AND THE LAKELAND FLORIDA ‘REVIVAL MEETINGS’. He has also been publishing Jesse Phillips series of detailed accounts from his visit, as Jesse has taken an indefinite hiatus from blog-world to work on a book. First is, WORSHIP AT THE LAKELAND FLORIDA REVIVAL MEETINGS, followed by WHAT IS HAPPENING IN LAKELAND FLORIDA?, then JESSE PHILLIPS REFLECTS ON THE LAKELAND FLORIDA REVIVAL MEETINGSMORE REFLECTIONS, with the FINAL THOUGHTS. Adrian is a part of New Frontiers International, and Jesse is a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries, but it’s easy to tell why the two are, by some, considered almost sister organizations. Now if C.J. Mahaney & Michael Fletcher would both chime in.

Others with interesting thoughts on Lakeland, Florida:
DISCERNMENT, REVIVALS, & GODLY COMMON SENSE by Cerulean Sanctum
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT FLORIDA? by Blue Fish Project
LAKELAND (before) and LAKELAND TRIP (after) by Reformed-TULIP-Charismatic Girl

In other loosely related news:
THREE REASONS I’M A CHRISTIAN HEDONIST from Beneath the Cross
GOD TOLD ME – REALLY? by R.T. Kendall
An excellent 2 parter on one of my living spiritual heros, Sam Storms, at My Spiritual Journey Blog – ABOUT DR. SAM STORMS & MY INTERVIEW WITH DR. SAM STORMS.
SEARCHING FOR SIGNS by Aspirations, Brainwork, & Cognitive Content.

and lastly, an oldie but a goodie:
PICTURE OF A PROPHET by Leonard Ravenhill.

Now that those are all cleared away, I can return to writing original content again. So be it! Amen.

Filed under: Adrian Warnock, Blog-Love, Bloggers, C.J. Mahaney, Calvinism, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Denominations, Doctrine, Emotionalism, FAVORITE BLOG POSTS, Flesh, Gospel, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, John Piper, Lakeland Revival, Reformed, Revival, Sam Storms, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

HEAT & LIGHT: Greatest Hits…

Whenever traffic picks up around here, I like to direct any newer readers to the more often read, and some of the simply more important (by my standards) posts here at Heat & Light.

As always, I suggest everyone begins with the ‘cornerstone’ of all I’ve written here: HOW TO EAT YOUR CAKE. If you read nothing else, read it, for the rest of what I’ve written here flows from it.

The 2nd tier: WHAT IS A REFORMED CHARISMATIC?; EARNESTLY DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS; GOD IS IN CONTROL, CHRISTIAN HEDONISM & PLEASURES EVERMORE, DISCUSSIONS ON SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, and ETERNAL SECURITY: IS IT BIBLICAL?, all of which expand further what I began explaining in “How to eat your cake”.

And the 3rd tier delves even deeper into some questions and critiques: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MIRACLES?; A FEW GOD-STIRRED THOUGHTS; HOW TO BE A CHARISMATIC IN A NON-CHARISMATIC CHURCH; HOLY LAUGHTER: BLESSING OR CURSE?; and the more recent posts; BE THE REVIVAL (DON’T GO TO ONE); BE THE MIRACLE, and SOUND DOCTRINE & CORRECT PRACTICE IN REVIVAL.

Yes, that’s a lot of reading, but I think it’ll be worth your while. Dive in, and comment – join in the discussion. Maybe God will lead you to teach me something – maybe we can sharpen one another. Either way, be blessed!

So be it!

Filed under: Adrian Warnock, Apostles, Bible, Bob Kauflin, Books, C.H. Spurgeon, C.J. Mahaney, Calvinism, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Contraversy, D.A. Carson, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Evangelical, FAVORITE BLOG POSTS, Flesh, Gospel, Grace, Grace Churches International, Grace Network, Greg Haslam, Ground Network, Hermeneutics, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Intellectualism, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Josh Harris, Jubilee Church, Lakeland Revival, Lloyd-Jones, London, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Michael Fletcher, Miracles, Mystery, Pentecostalism, Pete Greasley, Prayer, prophecy, R.T. Kendall, Reformed, Revival, Sam Storms, Signs of the Spirit, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Terry Virgo, Theology, Tongues, Wayne Grudem, Westminster Chapel, Word of Faith, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blog-Love: confessions and more…

There have been some excellent new blogs in the blogosphere as of late – so many that it’s been hard to keep up!

A great author, James K. A. Smith, whom I’ve learned much from in the past 2 or 3 years, recently wrote an articles that’s making it’s rounds on the web, entitled Confessions of a Pentecostal Calvinist. He also recently published Teaching a Calvinist to Dance in Christianity Today Magazine. Both are well worth reading. And look here – he has his own blog! Apparently he’s finishing up his new book, Thinking in Tongues: Elements of a Pentecostal Worldview. Add another one to my ‘to read’ list. Here’s an article from Smith which develops this idea.

Finally, one of the Christians I admire most has chimed with a very well balanced response to the ‘Lakeland Outpouring’. Terry Virgo, leader of New Frontiers International, has posted a two part blog-post entitled Lakeland, Florida, & aptly, Lakeland Florida (continued). Honestly, his is a solid ‘reformed charismatic’ – or even simply a solid evangelical – response. They are well worth reading.

On a somewhat lighter note, but not really, the Wittenburg Door posted this detailed expose on their neighborhood televangelist. I also found this stunning NBC documentary about the same televangelist.  As many of you will know, much of what I see there breaks my heart, as I’ve written on similar issues myself here in the recent past. As one who believes firmly in a miracle working God, I’m likely saddened by the frauds more than most.

As a bit of the old-school, I found this old article by David Wilkerson, referencing an even OLDER article from Azuza Street many moons ago – it’s called A Christless Pentecost. Wow.

And I’m not even to the end of all the goodies! I think I’ll have to post a Blog Love part 2 tomorrow just to keep up! Let’s hope!

May God’s blessings be evidence. Seek God, walk in the Spirit, and USE DISCERNMENT. So be it. I mean, Amen!

Filed under: Blog-Love, Bloggers, Calvinism, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Flesh, Gospel, Lakeland Revival, Ministers, Miracles, prophecy, Reformed, Revival, Signs of the Spirit, TBN, Terry Virgo, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

YES, I do believe in miracles…

…and here’s one to boot. Dead 17 hours, rigor mortis had set in, then starts talking again as they were about to harvest her organs!

That’s the sort of verifiable miracle that makes me consider editing & rewriting my blog on subject! Thank You, God!

Filed under: Charismatic, Miracles, , , , , ,

the Holy Spirit told me to drop-kick you

I realize that God doesn’t always work in nice neat categories, and obey every rule that we may set out for him (that may be why I call myself a ‘charismatic’), however much of this is too much to take. I’m tempted to laugh, but some of it doesn’t strike me a very funny

Now, having watched that – and recognizing that it was edited (he didn’t say all of those things in a row, but each from from various sessions – seems he has a general tendency to hear violent commands from the Spirit, though), is there Biblical justification for these things. That is to say, if you heard a voice in your head ask you to drop-kick someone, does that sound like the Spirit of Christ that you encounter in His Word? Why or why not? Discuss.

Filed under: Bible, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Holy Spirit, Knowing God, Lakeland Revival, Miracles, Revival, Uncategorized, Word of Faith, , , , ,

Sound Doctrine & Correct Practice in Revival

In the midst of all the discussion about the Lakeland Revival, the unusual over-emotional expressions of the first great awakening are often brought up. Having read Jonathan Edwards‘ biography, his collected sermons, and his ‘Religious Affections’, as well as being midway through Sam Storm’s “Signs of the Spirit”, and having long research the life and teaching of George Whitefield, I can honestly say that there is a very significant difference between the revivals of old, and the so-called revivals of today, and those differences are what give me pause.

The difference is that Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and most (if not all) of preachers involved in the First Great Awakening, were Orthodox Evangelical Christians – they taught sound doctrine, and modeled correct practice. Yes, the crowds, when some were touched by the Spirit of God, sometimes responded with a mix of Spirit and flesh, and there were – to be sure, by Edward’s own account – many among them who were merely caught up in the emotion of it all, who acted not in response to a move of God’s Spirit on their hearts, but merely to the buzz of emotion in the air. However, all the while they heard the Gospel proclaimed – the Scriptures taught with an attention to detail, and truthfulness. It was not the goal of Edwards or Whitefield to work the churches they stood before into an emotional frenzy, but to teach the truth of God, and see people respond appropriately.

I can look beyond unorthopraxy in those attending the Lakeland Revival, but what grieves my Spirit is that so many of those allowed to take the pulpit aren’t orthodox in what they teach or practice, both of which are important to genuine, full-orbed Christian faith.

A few years ago I taught on this passage from 1st John:

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us–even eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.1 John 2:18-27

Here is what I wrote about these important verses…

“Here John gives us couple of ways that we can identify saving faith. He asks, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” It appears as though individuals had left the congregation because they no longer believed the truth about Jesus.

Notice that by denying that Jesus is the Christ, we also deny God the Father. Since Jesus revealed the one true God who spoke through the prophets, by denying Jesus we show that we also do not truly believe in the one true God of the Old Testament, since one testified to the truth of the other.

Notice, also, the results of this false belief: they left the church. Remember this; it is SO IMPORTANT that we believe what is ultimately true because what we believe has an effect on what we DO — on how we live! Here the results of their misconceptions were divisions in the church, but every time we accept what Paul called deceptive philosophy over the truth of God it will have some sort of negative results. We were made to live out what we believe, whether it be true saving faith, or falsehood and lies. Either way we will live according to what we believe is ultimately true.

Later John expands on this thought by saying, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God “(from 1 John 4:1-6). We should strive to know the Biblical truth about God, and to live out the teachings of Scripture, in order that we might present ourselves as a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

There are ways of denying the Father & the Son that are not overt – in fact, as an Angel of Light, those are the means that Satan most often employs. When one is actively acknowledging Jesus – that He is of God, and came ‘in the flesh’ – that individual is by necessity being Cross-Centered, & Gospel-Driven. To focus attention primarily on the Holy Spirit, who’s central goal is the guide eyes to Christ, is to actually go against the Spirit, and to risk submitting to another spirit entirely – one that is not quite so Holy.

Sound doctrine and correct practice should accompany the Spirit-filled, Spirit-guided man of God, as the Holy Spirit not only teaches us the Scriptures, but even more-so, applies them to our hearts and lives. To claim to have come in the name of God, and to claim to be led by His Holy Spirit, yet to not teach Cross-Centered sound doctrine, and to not practice Biblical orthopraxy – well, of that person we should at least set our ‘discernment’ on ‘high’, and be very careful to ‘test the spirits’ in every thing we hear them say or see them do.

Please don’t leave your brain at the door in exchange for an experience. If you do so, there is no promise that the experience you have will be one from God, no matter how good it may make you feel at the time. Be blessed.

Filed under: Bible, Books, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Evangelical, Flesh, Gospel, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Jonathan Edwards, Lakeland Revival, Miracles, Pastors, prophecy, Revival, Sam Storms, Sermon, Signs of the Spirit, Theology, Tongues, Uncategorized, Word of Faith, , , , , , , , , ,

Strange Fire – a great discussion…

I would just like to draw your attention to Dan Edelen’s thoughts on the Lakeland Revival. Yet another excellent, thought provoking response to the goings-on in Florida.

And you can read another opinion on THE FLORIDA REVIVAL at the Gospel-Driven Church.

Filed under: Blog-Love, Lakeland Revival, Revival, , ,

Mid-May Blog-love

There are some excellent resources available at Brent Detwiler’s online home.

I’ve also really been enjoying (and being challenged by) my recent visit’s to Andrew Strom’s online REVIVAL SCHOOL.

Ron Smith, a Reformed Vineyard Charismatic, recently posted his thoughts on the Gift of Prophecy.

I really enjoyed this post about Future Pastors the Church does not Need.

Lastly, Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds posted The Most Crying Need in the Church Today.

Filed under: Blog-Love, Bloggers, , , , , ,

Friday Bloglove: HONEST QUESTIONS

Let me just say that my opinion of Charisma magazine just jumped 10+ points today.  Charisma’s editor, J. Lee Grady, posted what I believe to be the most balance look at the so-called Lakeland Revival I have read yet, far surpassing my own blogs, BE THE REVIVAL & BE THE MIRACLE.  It’s called HONEST QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LAKELAND REVIVAL.  Read it, consider it, pray over it.  It’s one of the best things I’ve read online for weeks.

Filed under: Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, FAVORITE BLOG POSTS, Holy Laughter, Holy Spirit, Lakeland Revival, Revival, , , , ,

The Miracle Worker: be the miracle…

Having never read it from cover-to-cover, I’ve still found much to agree with – in what little I’ve read – in John Wimber‘s POWER EVANGELISM, and the overall portrait he set forth for what the Christian life should look like. Though I was wary of him during his life (when he was living I was far more skeptical of the pentecostal/charismatic movement – even the 3rd Wave – than I am now), in hindsight, he had a degree of humility that many modern ‘healers’ seem to greatly lack.

Wimber made a Biblical case that, as Jesus disciples, we are to walk as Jesus walked. Even though Jesus was sinless, and we sinful, he still – setting aside the benefits of his divinity – lived as a Spirit-filled man during his life-time, and as his disciples, so should we. As a result, though maybe not in magnitude or perfection (sin didn’t trip up Jesus’ miracles – it may our own), we should walk in the miraculous much the same way that Jesus did. Jesus was not only our ‘Savior’, but also our example of what Kingdom living should look like. Amen, Mr. Wimber – and again I say, AMEN!

So, where are the miracle workers who run from the spotlight, instead of revel in it – you know, like Jesus? If we are to be ‘little-Christs’ (the meaning of the word ‘Christian’), walking in the ‘Kingdom of God’ (meaning submitted to Christ’s Lordship/Kingship), and to display the restored Image of God (which is what it means to be conformed to Christ – a restoration of what we lost in Adam’s fall), should we not only walk in the miraculous, but walk AS JESUS WALKED in the miraculous.

When I skim the Gospels, the healings He offered were personal – often he even told the ones healed to tell no one about it. When crowds gathered to see a display of miracles, He fled. His miracles had 2 purposes: the most important was to reveal God, or an aspect of God, to the individual or individuals present, and the 2nd was to enable the one healed to give glory to God. Even Jesus, who deserved the glory, didn’t glorify Himself – He gave glory to the Father, who in turn glorified His Son. One thing is for sure: when I look through all of the accounts of healings in the Bible I absolutely never see ANYTHING that even moderately resembled a show of any kind. It’s not there.

As I said in response to another blog earlier this morning, if you suspect you have the gift of healing, or God has annointed you to heal, or however you see it, do us all a favor: get a list of the sick from your church, and go to them, find the sick homeless under a nearby bridge or down a dark alleyway, then visit your local hospital, or even hospice, if they’ll let you in. If God moves powerfully, delight yourself in HIM, and not in what He’s done through you – remove yourself from the picture, empty that hospital, if God so wills – clear the beds of your local hospice. Whatever you do, don’t seek a stage, where people thirsty for a miraculous ‘tickle’ – a ‘God-show’ – will come for miles to catch a glimpse of ‘power’. It’s not about ‘power’ – particularly, it’s not about your power. At least, for Jesus it wasn’t – I guess I expect to much to hope that Christians will want to live like Christ.

Honestly, I suspect that’s what has happened to many of our famous, continually re-discredited big-time healing ministers today. There was a time when God really and truly used them to heal – I believe it is entirely possible – then they put it on stage as a show, and took the show on the road. At that point it becomes far more about the supposed miracle-worker than about Jesus – more about the ‘show’ than about Jesus – and what do you know: at that point the Holy Spirit has left the building! God wants none of it! But now they are a superstar – it’s how they make the bacon, so they have to fake it, to use artificial methods to work people into an emotional buzz which they call ‘faith’, and their doctrine creeps downhill to justify their actions. Voila – we end up putting on revivals, instead of God visiting on His own accord and bringing one about!

Yes, this moves me deeply, and I am saddened by so much of what I see. And, as always, the change begins in – and with – me. Be the miracle, and walk it like Jesus did – that’s the only place we can begin.

Amen…

Filed under: Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Emotionalism, Flesh, Holy Spirit, Lakeland Revival, Miracles, Revival, Signs of the Spirit, TeamPyro, Uncategorized, Word of Faith, , , , , , ,

God should be praised…

We should always praise God for the outcome – no matter what it be – of God’s response to believing prayer, whether His response be what we desired, it’s opposite, or something else entirely. Discuss.

Filed under: Calvinism, Charismatic, Doctrine, Holy Spirit, Reformed, Theology, Uncategorized, , , , ,

Friday Morning Blog Love

For those of you following my Reflections of Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, here is a powerful video called “Life without Limbs”, as well a a portion of an audio message by John Piper on suffering.

Also, surely of interest to nearly all of my readers, Cerulean Sanctum has been posting some challenging blogs on the gifts: THAT GIFT, & MORE ON CHARISMATIC GIFTS. As a double blessing of sorts, so has the Blue Fish Project: SPIRITUAL IS GOSPEL, & GIFTS FOR THE COMMON GOOD. I don’t necessarily agree with their every word, but there is indeed some meat there, and it’s content worth mulling over.

And it never hurts to be reminded of the Gospel, which is why Living the Cross-Centered Life is one of my favorite books of all time. Well 21st Century Reformation has given us a healthy reminder: JESUS IS THE CHRIST – THE GOSPEL PROPER.

Lastly, given how loosely Christian have been throwing around the word ‘Evangelical’ in recent years, it’s sure refreshing to hear that some truly ‘Evangelical’ believers are working to bring the church back to it’s center again. Tim Challies reports on THE EVANGELICAL MANIFESTO, and Between Two Worlds gives a good summary of it. All I can say is “it’s about time“.

Filed under: Blog-Love, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Eternal Security: is it Biblical?

In an incredible discussion some months ago on a friend’s blog, some fellow believers determined that, though salvation can not be ‘lost’, one may ‘reject’ it after having genuinely received it. The analogy recently came to me, however, of a parent and his/her child: if a child leaves the parent of it’s own free will, who is held responsible? The parent – or rather, the most mature, and in-control person at hand. The parent ‘lost’ the child, even if the child intentionally ran away. As God is the one ‘in control’ and our ‘father’, the question comes back again not to “Can Salvation be Lost?” or even “Can a truly saved person choose to reject Christ?“, but “Can Christ lose a Christian?“, because ultimately it would mean a breakdown of God’s ‘chain of salvation’ if He were to do so.

One of the strongest passages undergirding the doctrine of Eternal Security is Romans 8:28-39, which begins, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ‘All things’, of course, ties strongly to my current blog series on Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, and means – in fact – ALL THINGS. We immediately get a picture here of a God that is so big that He uses all events and people – whether seeming good or evil, from our perspective – for our (that is, believers – or ‘the elect’ – God’s true children – those who are ‘in Christ’) ultimate benefit. That is what we mean when we say that God is sovereign: He’s over all things, able to ‘veto’ the intended outcome of human decisions and bring good from evil – that He’s the one ultimately in control.

Next comes the centerpiece of this verse: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Ignoring all of the other debatable implications of this verse (i.e. – does ‘foreknow’ mean to already have a relationship with, or to see the future – and does ‘predestine’ mean God hand-picks certain individuals for salvation, or that God has a specific destiny for all who are in Christ? Good questions, and I’m not dealing with them here), one thing is clear: the chain is unbroken. If someone is among those God ‘foreknew’ there is no question whatsoever whether or not they will be ‘glorified’ (which means to be sinless in our resurrected Bodies with Jesus) – there is no room in that list for human error or choice to derail what was begun in the very beginning of verse 29. It’s like the old computer program (does anyone remember ‘BASIC’ on the Apple II?) that says “If FOREKNEW then PREDESTINED”, “If PREDESTINED then CALLED”, “If CALLED then JUSTIFIED”, and “If JUSTIFIED then GLORIFIED”. Each of God’s actions towards the elect are guaranteed (and brought about?) by the action proceeding it. It seems to me, given the clarity of this stream of thought, that any understanding of any other verse that might seem to contradict this passage would need to be re-examined, else we would need to accept that there are direct theological contradictions in the Bible, and possibly within Paul’s letters themselves. I don’t personally think the latter is necessary, given that nearly every reading of a verse that seems to contradict this doctrine of ‘Eternal Security’ has other equally viable options that can allow them to fit well within the parameters of this, far clearer, verse.

From this, in Romans 8, Paul asks us for a natural response to this ‘security’ – “who can be against us?”, “who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?”, “who is to condemn?”, and “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” If we are God’s elect – truly His – then the obvious implied answer is ‘NO ONE’! No one can be against us, bring charge against us, or condemn us in a way that could separate us from Christ! All of these things/charges/condemnations are all part of the ‘all things’ which God works for our good in Romans 8:28, over which we are ‘more than conquerors‘ in Romans 8:37 – at least if we find ourselves part of the group which God “foreknew” in verse 8:29. And if ‘NO ONE’ can break that obvious chain of events which flow directly from the over-flowing Grace of almighty God, and we are ‘ONE’ – a person – then wouldn’t we find ourselves included in those being excluded from being able to successfully separate ourselves from the love of Christ, which in this context, is obviously a reference to the SAVING love of Christ, and not merely the love He has for all of creation, included lost humanity.

Of course, this makes perfect sense, as 1 Corinthians 1:8 states that God “will sustain you to the end, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ“. Why would God ‘sustain’ his elect if part of that sustaining were not spiritual in nature – sustaining the very most important aspect of who we are: our faith? In Philippians 1:6 Paul makes yet another reference to the ‘chain’ in Romans when he says, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” The work was begun by God (He ‘foreknew’) will be completed by God (He will ‘glorify’). Remember, ‘justified’ – which is what we call ‘salvation’ – isn’t even at the head of that chain. It’s in the middle. The work God began started long before you were ‘saved’, and will continue long afterward, and He ‘will bring it to completion…‘ – that is an absolute promise, not an ‘if/then’ statement, hinging on our faithfulness to Christ and continued faith. In fact, that faithfulness and continued faith is something God promises to the elect – that is a work HE does IN us, and is only one aspect to His ‘sustaining’ work, as 1 Peter 1:5 states of the elect “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” God is guarding those who are truly His.

Lastly, John 10:27-29 – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” First, notice the reference to ‘know’-ing the sheep, and consider how that relates to ‘foreknew’ in Romans 8. Next, notice that He give ‘eternal’ life. Again, there is no ‘if/then’ statement included in the word ‘eternal’ – ‘eternal’ means forever, or everlasting. If our ‘eternal life’ could at any point be revoked – even by ourselves – then we would have never had ‘eternal life’, would we? It would be a direct contradiction of the word ‘eternal’! Again, notice that ‘NO ONE’ is able to snatch them our of the Father’s hand – and again, NO ONE would obviously include ourselves, because we are some ONE, so we would be included among those who could not snatch ourselves out of the Father’s hands. It only sounds silly because it’s so obvious.

Lastly, and most importantly – “they will never perish“, which according to Greek scholars literally means, “and they shall certainly not perish forever“. Again, who is ‘they’? Christ’s sheep – those He knows, those He foreknew in Romans 8 – those in whom He begun a good work, the ‘chain of salvation’ which begins in God’s foreknowledge and ends in their glorification – eternal life – and which NO ONE (not even ourselves, as we are SOME ONE) can interrupt or permanently derail for we are being sustained and guarded by God himself along the way.

That is not to say the Bible doesn’t allow for people who fellowship among His people, who receive from Him various graces, who may claim the name of Christ for themselves, & who may even serve in His body, yet are not ultimately his, and of them He says “I never knew you, depart from me.” But His true saints will persevere in faith until the end.

Don’t get me wrong – I disagree strongly with the “Once Saved, Always Saved” position as it is commonly expressed, where someone believes they can walk an aisle and then live however they like and still be in God’s good grace. Just take a look at my sermon SAVING FAITH to see what it looks like. The doctrine of “Eternal Security” recognizes that the elect will walk with Christ – live in the Kingdom of God here and now – until the end. Also, I think it’s important to emphasize the common ground we ‘eternal security’ folks share with many of those who aren’t convinced – we both agree that it is Christ that saves, and one must be in Christ to be saved. That is a very good, and solid foundation to find in common, and it means also that we agree that those who persevere will be saved – our only disagreement is ultimately whether or not someone who once claims the name ‘Christian’, yet turns away, was ever really saved or not. Though I hope the verses I mention above will radically re-shape your thoughts on this, I don’t in any way doubt your salvation for not coming to the same conclusion.

Blessings as you dig into the word…may you find TRUTH!

Filed under: Calvinism, Contraversy, Doctrine, Reformed, Theology, , ,

Be the revival, don’t go to one (on revivals in Florida & elsewhere)…

I do hate to be the skeptic. Sometimes I think having discernment is more a curse than a gift. It might be fun to be able to jump on every bandwagon that comes down the Spiritual pike. It may not be spiritually healthy, but it might be fun.

Yet, I’ve done enough digging to know that my internal sense of uneasiness towards this ‘revival’ in Florida is not something I can support unquestionably with a clean conscious. I think the prophetically gifted Andrew Strom – who I disagree with on a few things as well – sums up most of my concerns quite well both here and here as does another blogger here(& though we don’t get along very well, I think Dan Philips makes a few good points himself). Don’t get me wrong – I hope & pray that the healings are genuine, even if the doctrine behind them is askew, for the sake of both those looking for healing and for the Glory of God. And that’s really what it comes down to: is this really about God?

That’s what I loved about the First Great Awakening, and Jonathan Edwards: from all accounts, Edwards was far from flashy – He preached the Word, God moved, people’s hearts were changed, and they came to God by the thousands. And it didn’t happen only in one church, but many, and for almost ten years! That’s what I call a revival, and that’s the sort of move of God that I’ve been praying for: that God will be the center – that Christ will be lifted up and made much of – that the Holy Spirit will move (which Scripturally means He will draw eyes AWAY from himself, and TO Jesus).

As I wrote a good friend this morning, I’m not going on the rampage battling against this – in fact, that would be silly. Ultimately if it’s not the real deal that will become readily clear (it always does), even if it takes some time. In fact, it’s probably a mix of divinely revealed truth, and human error, which I’ve dealt with before on this blog. However, I’d hate to see believers whom I love go the route that emphasizes flash & bang over (and ultimately against, since it’s a distraction from the real deal) what Christ did on the Cross, and the heart of the Gospel.

Don’t get me wrong – walking in the Kingdom of God results in miracles, but the picture of how the apostles worked miracles – the part miracles played in their ministry – and how many modern-day revival preachers use them look so different that I have a hard time even comparing the two. We’re so thirsty for signs & wonders that we forget what it means to actually follow God day-to-day, and instead we run to where-ever we hear that something exciting is happening.

Think about this: the only time I recall Paul going to where the signs & wonders were happening was to rebuke them for doing it incorrectly.

The real core of the issue is this: why even bother going to where someone else may or may not be experiencing ‘revival’? If it’s real, and God wants to do it, pray for it where you are! Then, when God sovereignly brings revival, you’ll be in the midst of it – you’ll already know the hearts and motives of those involved – you’ll see the real change in your own heart, and know your deeper affection towards God, and recognize it in those you’ve known all along when you see lasting change in them. Ultimately, that’s how one recognizes true revival – not only by it’s immediate external expressions, but it’s fruit many years after the ‘buzz’ has left the building.

I’m just another voice that wants to see God’s will done on earth as it is in Heaven – it just so happens that this voice isn’t yet convinced that many of the modern day revivals are working to bring that about. I say, “Be the real revival – don’t go to one.”

Filed under: Bible, Charismatic, Continualist, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Flesh, Gospel, Holy Spirit, Lakeland Revival, Signs of the Spirit, Theology, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reflections on Suffering & the Sovereignty of God: Discussions…

As I’m still working on Chapter 4, I thought I’d bring some of our more interesting discussions to the fore-front. To keep up-to-date on the discussion to far, please also read INTRO & CHAPTER 1, CHAPTER 2 PART 1, CHAPTER 2 PART 2, CHAPTER 3, & A DETOUR.

The primary issue that keeps coming up in my ‘response’ box is that of “free will”.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have all the answers on this – I am convinced of one thing: there is a LOT of mystery in God and God has not chosen to answer all of our questions in the here & now. Look at Job, whom God not only allowed, but even seemed to direct Satan to (”Look at my servant, Job…”) bring trouble upon: God’s response to Job’s “WHY?!” was “Who are you?” - not in the rude sense, but in the sense that He let Job have a BIG revelation of God INSTEAD of a direct answer to his question.  And that’s, more often than not, what we really need in those circumstances: we don’t need answers, we need His presence, and revelation.

For years, I too struggled with the issue of “Free Will”, but now I struggle with it from the other-side: the Bible clearly says, “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). “Free Will” is a troubling man-made term, but IF “Free Will” exists in any sense, the only being that can have it is God, otherwise it could be possible for us to make decisions which could trump (and as a result “bound” – tied His hands) God’s will, making Psalm 115 no longer true.

Also, what is the ‘will’ – isn’t it simply our ‘desires’: what we want to see ‘come to be’? Do we really get to freely choose what those desires are? How much of what we desire comes from 1.) Family pressures, 2.) Cultural influence, 3.) our upbringing, 4.) psychological issues, 5.) social issues, 6 past experiences, 7.) Genetics (alcoholism is – in-part – genetic), etc. Can a will so shaped by so many factors be called ‘free’, when we seem most-times DRAWN to make the decisions we do?

As a result, the issue that is most often brought up by ‘free will’ proponents is the “If God is truly sovereign, how can we be held responsible?”. A good question, but more a philosophical question than a Biblical one. However, there are rare cases in the Bible where those sorts of questions are asked of God.

Romans 9;19-20 addresses this question directly: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’”

The issue in Romans 9 is exactly the one you bring up: if God chooses, how can we be held responsible. The answer seems to be “Who do you think you are?” Basically, God is so holy, so high above our thinking, that this is something we could never adequately understand, so we need to be very careful making such accusations (and such a question is, in all reality, an accusation veiled – that God is not ‘just’). The Bible affirms that God is just. The Bible affirms that He is absolutely sovereign. The Bible affirms that man is responsible for his actions. End of story. All three should be affirmed as true by Biblical Christians, even if we don’t philosophically understand perfectly how the three work together.

Lastly, I should note: I don’t believe that ‘predestination’ means what many of my readers may think I think it means. Biblically, predestination is used differently than it often is doctrinally and philosophically. Philosophy and Doctrine/Theology often use the word predestination to talk about any and all events that are planned out before-hand, and are pre-ordained to happen. However, in the Bible, ‘predestination’ is used of believers being conformed into the image of Christ. I know many ‘Reformed/Calvinist’ folks will take issue with me ‘giving away ground’ like that, but it is true – what is predestined, according to the Scriptures, is believers being made like Christ Jesus. Now, that doesn’t get non-Reformed folks off of the hook, as they still have to wrestle with the issue of ‘election’, but that’s an entirely different matter altogether.

I hope that helped and as you wrestle with these issues! Stay tuned for chapter 4!

Filed under: Uncategorized

Reflections on Suffering & the Sovereignty of God: a momentary detour for deeper clarification…

Having used one of my own analogies on human ‘will’ in a recent blog post in this series, utilizing the bicyclist attempting to avoid a drunk driver, I thought of another useful analogy when considering the relationship of God’s will to human will: the Scriptures themselves.

When we read the Scripture, we immediately recognize its human origin. For instance, Peter wrote in chapter 2, verse 16, of his second letter;“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Notice who is doing the “telling” – Peter, who is claiming that his testimony should be believed NOT BECAUSE GOD IS SPEAKING THROUGH HIM, but because he was an eyewitness to the things of which he wrote. Also, in 1 Peter 1:10-11, he speaks of the Old Testament prophets searching “intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing…” Here, again, human effort is put into seeking out the truth that was then written down for us.

The human origin of the Bible is made even clearer by passages such as Luke 1:3-4. Here he states; “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Here, not only do we see the author speaking of his own effort in researching the events about which he wrote, but that the book was a personal letter, written to a specific individual, Theophilus, by a specific individual, Paul’s disciple, Luke. In fact, many of the New Testament books in particular are letters to either individuals or churches, each displaying the authors’ own styles, personalities, and concerns.

In all reality, the human origin of the Scripture is so clear that no case really needs to be made for it, but that is not ALL the Bible is…

Isaiah 51:16 says; “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand– I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, `You are my people.’”Hebrews 1:1-3 speaks to this when it says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” The Bible is overflowing with the words “thus sayeth the Lord.” In fact, Robert Reymond, a professor of Systematic Theology at Knox Theological Seminary, counted more than 3,800 time in the Old Testament alone where the writer’s message is introduced with some form or another of “the mouth of the Lord has spoken”, “the Lord says”, “the Lord spoke”, “hear the word of the Lord”, “thus the Lord has shown to me”, or “the word of the Lord came unto me, saying…”

The Bible seems to claim for itself, therefore, not to be merely a just another book written by men, but rather a book chronicling the works and words of a God who SPEAKS. The authors weren’t left playing a total guessing game as to the nature and purpose of the God about which they wrote. The author’s didn’t write about a distant Greek god, or a god of their imagination, but they wrote about the God of revelation – a God that they purport to have KNOWN in a ‘personal’ way.

We notice that Paul claims God’s authority for he and the Apostles’ own words in 1 Thessalonians 2:13; “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” In fact, Scripture is so closely equated with the very words of God that when the New Testament quotes the Old to say “God said” or “(the human author) said” are virtually interchangeable.

Why is this? Because Scripture is “God-breathed.” 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”, and much has been said about this. I’ve been told numerous times by others that we simply don’t know WHAT “God-breathed” means. Well, if understood in a literal sense, the Greek here – and I am not a Greek scholar but am trusting the scholarship of others – has the sense not that God “breathed into” the words of man, as He breathed life into Adam, but rather that he “breathed out” the words of Scripture through men. If this is true, we can only affirm that in some sense the human authored words of Scripture are God’s very own. B. B. Warfield wrote, “The Biblical writers do not conceive of the Scriptures as a human product breathed into by the divine Spirit and heightened in its qualities or endowed with new qualities; but as a Divine product produced through the instrumentality of men.”

It is also clear that the words of the Bible are much more than just normal human prose because, for instance, mishandling As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, great book though it may be, will not likely have negative eternal consequences for your soul. However, Peter, when referring to Paul’s letters states in 2 Peter 3:15-16; “…our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Notice here that Peter, long before the canonization of the New Testament, and most likely even before the writing of the four Gospels, already considers Paul’s letters to be of the same quality as the Old Testament Scriptures – and equally dangerous if misunderstood or misused.

Is it logically consistent to believe that the Bible was truly written by men, and yet is fully the Word of God?  Yes, in as much as it is also logically consistent to believe that God is absolutely sovereign, yet man is responsible for his own actions. Isn’t it true, that if God totally overwhelmed a human, and dictated Scripture through them, that that text would not be the words of men at all? But clearly this isn’t the case – again, we see the author’s own personalities, styles, and concerns ALL OVER the Scripture.

The authors of the Gospels were all eyewitnesses or disciples of eyewitnesses to the life or resurrected life of Jesus. They not only relied on their own experience and memories, which Jesus promised would be quickened by the Spirit, but, as Luke mentions, also relied upon other eyewitness accounts of the events that had taken place. Now, though the Spirit of God might have led Luke to have a great concern for Theophilus, and thus given him the desire to write to him an “orderly account”, and the Spirit also was at reminding his apostolic sources of all that Jesus had taught (John 14:26) and leading them “into all understanding”( John 16:12-13), the desire to write, and the words themselves would be Luke’s very own. In fact, even to get an inerrant Bible, all God would have to do is suppress ideas and concepts in the minds of the authors that might be misleading to their audience or misrepresent the truth! This is not outside the way God sometimes works; regularly God redirected Paul by blocking him from going one way or another during his missionary journeys. If so, can the Holy Spirit not also block a neural pathway in the brain, so a certain faulty or misleading idea might not be retrievable? So, if this were how God inspired the Gospels, what you would have is this; Jesus as God taught the importance of spreading the good news, to which Luke was responding by writing an account of the Good News for Theophilus. The content of the Gospel, though remembered in detail and understood by the apostles by the aid of the Spirit, was researched and written by Luke’s own effort. The teachings contained within that Gospel would reflect the mind of God for they are the words and acts of God working in the world through Christ Jesus and by the Holy Spirit. God, by suppressing content or ideas that might be misleading, maintains that Luke’s letter to Theophilus contains nothing more than what God wants conveyed. However, Luke himself is choosing terms, ordering sentences, and doing the writing reflecting his own style and concerns. If this were so, the whole content, message, and truth of the text of Luke would be from God, yet written by a man using his own skills ultimately of his own free-will. This being one possible route for God to have worked, and containing no logical inconsistencies, we are perfectly reasonable in saying that the Scripture is both the words of men AND the Word of God.

And, then – if we believe that the Bible, a book written by sinful men – which even documents many sinful acts – can be the ‘Word of God’, why do we find it hard to believe that the same God, in allowing sin and suffering, cannot maintain His sovereign control and direction over and through it all?  I think He can, and does.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Mid-April Blog-Love

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the blogging out there – that’s why I like doing these ‘blog-loves’, and enjoy reading other people’s blog-loves: it helps me to not miss the good stuff, when it’s hard to find the time to read the numerous blogs in my reader every morning.  So, since last time – here it goes!

Stephen Altrogge over at THE BLAZING CENTER posted a powerful blog entitled DO YOU LOVE THE WRATH OF GOD? A question I’m sure most of us have never asked ourselves.  Well worth reading.

Brad Hightower at 21ST CENTURY REFORMATION reflected on Lloyd-Jones’ comments on the Kingdom of God in THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND.  As I’ve been doing a LOT of thinking about the Kingdom of God recently, this was a helpful and challenging read for me.

John Piper posted a sermon of his from 1990 on WHY THE GIFT OF PROPHECY IS NOT THE USUAL WAY OF KNOWING GOD’S WILL.  As is most Piper, this is worth using during your devotional time.

Lastly, new music & books worth looking into!  As you should know by now, Sovereign Grace Music recently released their newest c.d., COME WEARY SAINTS, and while waiting to finish my own review, I’d suggest you read Dave Bish’s over at THE BLUE FISH PROJECT.  Also, Graham Cole just released what looks to be an excellent book, ENGAGING WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, which Justin Taylor said a few words on HERE.  It’s definitely being added to my reading list.

Stay tuned for more blogs on SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, and my own review of COME WEARY SAINTS soon!

Filed under: Uncategorized

Reflections on Suffering & the Sovereignty of God (chapter 3)

The first 3 blogs in this series are available here, here, & here.

The 3rd Chapter in Suffering & the Sovereignty of God is John Piper’s own, THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. In it he lays out his Biblical case that suffering – at least some aspects of it, particularly the suffering of Jesus – was in the plan of God from the beginning. Though I agree with him, overall, I do disagree with him on a few minor issues of interpretation along the way, which will surely come as a surprise to some of my friends who may sometimes suspect that I hold Piper’s writings in higher esteem than the Bible itself – not at all true!

Please forgive me if I lose you: some of the issue I will be discussing here even confuse me, but that doesn’t relieve us from thinking about them – God deserves our WHOLE mind, so if there is one place we should not let our mind become lazy it’s when thinking about God.  I hope you will try to follow me as I do my best to ‘think Christianly’ about this.

“[God] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” – 2 Timothy 1:9

Piper says, as a result of this verse in particular, “…we have suffering – the slaughter of the Son of God – in the mind and plan of God before the foundation of the world. The Lamb of God will suffer. He will be slaughtered. That’s the plan.” (Piper)

Personally, I’ve always found this explanation – depending on how it’s understood – a bit unsatisfying, though my debate is – to a large degree – theological hair-splitting, and I will readily admit it. The problem is, it’s more an a philosophical or logical debate than one grounded in Scripture. That doesn’t mean that the Scriptures don’t speak to the issue, but by no means are they definitive. That’s just to say, I’m not a ‘double-predestination’ guy, and consider myself a pseudo-Amyraldist (like Richard Baxter), or a mild infralapsarian (like Calvin himself), not a supralapsairian like Piper and many of the more radical reformed folk. Honestly, if I play all of my cards, it may just be that I don’t find it emotionally satisfying to think that God ‘decreed’ the fall, which may even remove me from all camps. Is for God to have fore-seen the fall, and still chosen to create as He did, the very same as decreeing that it happen? I don’t choose to use that language, at least. I’m sure some proper Calvinists will choose to pounce on me for that one!

Either way, from the verse one thing is clear: God at least fore-knew the fall, because the sacrifice of Jesus of was part of God’s plan from the beginning – not merely as part of his ‘permissive will’ as I prefer to view the fall of man, but as part of his explicit will – his ‘purpose’.

Another verse that seems to drive this home is Ephesians 1:4-6: “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Again, I do have serious questions about Piper’s – and most ‘reformed’ folk’s – interpretation of this passage, but either way I think the application is likely the same. I’ll explain…

Reread the whole book of Ephesians sometime. Did you notice that that “us/we” vs. “you” distinction is played out rather extensively? There seems to be a table-tennis game of sorts taking place. First God has blessed, chosen, predestined, redeemed, lavished on, and made known to “us”, who were the first to hope in Christ. Then “you were also included when you heard…the gospel of your salvation…you were marked with the promised Holy Spirit.” Later, “you were dead in your transgression and sin, in which you used to live…”, “All of us also lived among them…we were by nature objects of wrath…made us alive in Christ…”, “…it is by grace you have been saved.“God raised us up…that he might show his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” , “..It is by grace you have been saved…”, “for we are God’s workmanship…”, and then the winning serve; “…you who are Gentiles by birth.”! Ephesus was a gentile community, and this letter seems specifically aimed towards a gentile audience, hence “you” is a very specific group of individuals; gentile converts to Christianity. If that is the case, remembering that those that Paul would be representing, i.e. the majority of the church of his day, including the apostles, were all Jewish converts to Christianity – the TRUE chosen people; chosen both in the original sense of them being born Jewish, AND according the Abrahamic covenant which is actually by Faith. Paul and those he represents are the remnant, the true chosen who have only recently recognized that God is also working in those who are not Jewish by birth. Who were the “first to hope in Christ”? The Jews, of course—they had been reading and interpreting prophecy concerning their coming messiah for centuries. In fact, one can translate “first to hope in Christ” as “those who believed before hand.” Why is it significant to point out that the Jews were also by nature objects of wrath? Because by covenant they were the people of God. In fact, the whole of Ephesians 1-3 should be read as an explanation of “the mystery of His will”, by which these verses are bracketed. “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” And in chapter three, Paul expands on this mystery; “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generation as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel Gentiles are heirs together with Israel.” Reading “we/us” primarily as a referent to Jewish believers, and “you” as a referent to Gentile believers, in fact, simplifies many of the clumsy passages in Ephesians and yet is also consistent within the context of the whole book. Therefore, in 1:3-23 Paul argues that in spite of the fact that God chose to reveal Himself and His plan of salvation particularly through the Jewish people, that Gentiles might also be included through the Gospel, and like his remnant people, the Jewish believers in Christ, they might also have the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and both people co-exist under one “head”, which is Christ.

There is a problem with oversimplifying this reading of Ephesians, though – the use of “us/we” will not be entirely sufficient, since at the end of each of these sections there seems to be what I’d call a ‘summery verse’, including both the Jews and Gentile believers, making clear how they are indeed one. Several examples of this would be “us who believe” in 1:19, summarizing Paul’s argument that both Jews and Gentiles can be saved in Christ. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”, verse 2:10, is Paul’s summery of 2:1-10, showing that both are saved by God’s work of free grace. And lastly, 2:14-18 sum up the section from 2:11-22; “For he himself is OUR peace. . . for through him we BOTH have access tot he Father by one Spirit.”

So, I’m left with a question. Chapter 1:3-8 – do they refer to the church universal or only the remnant of God’s chosen people? Does my “remnant/gentile” reading of “us/we/you” begin as early on as verses 3-8? Honestly, I don’t know, but even in being honest about my doubts about these verses as they are commonly used by Calvinists, I think either way Piper’s point may stand. Whether Paul is saying that the true Jews (those who would trust in Christ) were chosen to be God’s people before creation, or if it’s specific to individual Christians, or Christians as a group, being chosen to salvation prior to creation – either way it paints a picture of a God who makes choices without having committee with us first – a sovereign God who CHOOSES, and part of that choice that was made prior to creation is that a people would be “adopted as sons through Jesus Christ”, which happens through Christ’s death on the cross on our behalf. Therefore, somehow the death of Christ – and the suffering of Christ – has been in God’s mind as part of the plan from the very beginning.

One thing I found particularly interesting in this chapter is Piper’s reading of Lamentations 3…

“…though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” – Lamentations 3:32-33

Piper writes: “Literally: ‘He does not from his heart (millibo) afflict or grieve the children of men‘. He ordains that suffering come – ‘though he cause grief’ – but his delight is not in the suffering, but in the great purpose of creation: the display of the glory of the grace of God in the suffering of Christ for the salvation of sinners.” (Piper)

This brings a comforting balance to the thought that God may ‘ordain’ our suffering – God’s delight is not in the suffering, but in its’ purpose – that we display the glory of God as a result.

Piper adds,“The goal of the entire history of redemption” – which includes the suffering of Christ – “is to bring about the praise of the glory of the grace of God.”

Which takes us back to Ephesians 1. What is the purpose of it ALL – including the Suffering of Christ – and as a result, our Suffering? “To bring about the praise of the glory of the grace of God.“!

I wrote about this at length in my older blog, GOD IS IN CONTROL:

Isaiah states in verse 14 of chapter 63 that God delivered Moses and his people “to make for himself a name,” or rather, for his own renown and glory. Likewise, Psalm 106:8 says “…yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” John Piper says in THE PLEASURES OF GOD, and rightly I believe, that “God’s first love is rooted in the value of his Holy name, not the value of a sinful people. And because it is, there is hope for the sinful people, since they are not the grounds of their salvation, God’s NAME is.” This idea is carried over into the New Testament as well; Jesus life and work are aimed at revealing and honoring the Father’s name, which leads to His further glory. Jesus prayed in the garden, “Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then the Father responded, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Again, I believe Piper speaks wisely concerning this; “…we should think of the death of Jesus as the way the Father vindicated his name – his reputation – from all accusations of unrighteousness in the forgiveness of sinners. On this side of the cross we should pray just as David did in Psalm 25:11; ‘for your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.’

We must be careful in thinking that suffering is accidental, as the most significant case of suffering we can imagine – the suffering of Christ – was clearly ordained before the very creation of the world, and for the primary purpose of giving God glory. If the greatest suffering ever undertaken was ordained by God for His glory, I can not only hope – but trust – that my own suffering has significance in the overall plan of our great God as well.

What do you think?

Up next: WHY GOD APPOINTS SUFFERING FOR HIS SERVANTS.

Filed under: Books, Calvinism, Contraversy, Doctrine, John Piper, Reformed, Theology

‘Just Keeping up with…’ the BlogLove

Some good stuff coming down the pipe-line this past week:

Ched Spellman of Says Simpleton wrote a GREAT reminder of the central truths of the Gospel in GOOD NEWS! You may be surprised by some of the goodies in there.

Also, the Internet Monk has been inspired by one of my personal favorite authors, N.T. Wright, to publish a multi-part blog on the afterlife. Prepare to be challenged, BIG-TIME! They are TOO MUCH HEAVEN?, HEAVEN AND EARTH, and HEAVEN AND EVANGELISM, followed by a fairly detailed review of what one will find in Wright’s newest book on the same subject, which I can already tell I mostly agree with. Add one more to my ever-growing ‘to read’ list!

Blessings!

Filed under: Blog-Love, Bloggers, Gospel, N.T. Wright

Reflections on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Chapter 2 – part 2)

For the first two parts in this blog read here & here.

Here is the question I posed last: is God involved, and if so, how, in creating, sending, & permitting evil?

I suppose THAT should be simple enough to answer? ;-)

Mark Talbot’s chapter, “ALL THE GOOD THAT IS OURS IN CHRIST” brings to bear many troubling and – if seen in the correct light – comforting verses, many of which we tend to skim over in our Bible reading without thinking deeply about what they are really saying.

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” - Isaiah 46:9b-10a

Talbot clarifies this passage: “They (the Jewish readers) would know that the One who said (Isaiah 46) is the One who ensures this by bringing everything about, including, in the immediate context of Isaiah’s words, ‘calling a bird of prey from the east, …from a far country’ (Isa. 46:10f.) – that is, Cyrus the Great, king of Persia from 559-530 B.C., who would conquer Babylon in 539 B.C. and then allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem so that they could rebuild the temple… God here calls the pagan, unbelieving Cyrus ‘a man to fulfill my purpose.’

God can use evil men – by creating them, sustaining them, and even by not deterring their actions (which He could easily do – look at the boundaries He set around Satan regarding what the devil could and could not do to Job) – to accomplish His own purposes, which He intended and foreknew from the beginning.

Matthew 10:20 says “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Sparrows – in man’s eyes, worth very little. Yet, God’s sovereign hold on things is so all-encompassing – far greater than the so-called ‘sovereignty’ of earthly kings – that even the seemingly insignificant events on earth, like the death of a single half-penny sparrow, only happen because of the Father – only happens because it is the Father’s will to allow it, and bring it to pass.

If not even a sparrow dies apart from the Father’s will, cannot God sovereignly move, direct, and restrain the hearts of evil men? As he adds in Isaiah 46:11b regarding his use of the pagan King Cyrus, “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

Some, when hearing this, will most assuredly run aground trying to understand how this understanding of God’s sovereignty squares with human ‘free will’ but we must always keep in mind that ‘free will’ as a word or phrase is found no where in the Scriptures, and though that is not proof that it does not true (the word “Trinity” is also nowhere found in the Scriptures, but the concept is centrally Biblical), it does seem that we should be incredibly careful to glean the concept of a ‘will’ from God’s Word, and not simply from the Western political ideas that have shaped our thinking far more greatly than we would often be comfortable admitting.

Again, I will revert to an excerpt from a later post, GOD IS IN CONTROL:

“The second foundation of Biblical Faith flows from the first; free will. I do not speak of the free will of man, but rather, the ultimately free and sovereign (all powerful – in control) will of God. It is frequently and clearly stated in Scripture that God does as he pleases. Psalm 135:6 states, “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and in their depths.” Likewise, Isaiah 46:9-10; “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: my purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Lastly, whether or not this passage supports traditionally understood views of salvation (I question that it does), Romans 9:15 indeed makes is clear that God’s will in regard to whom he will be merciful to will not be thwarted; “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.””

That is all just to say, God’s is the only will that is truly free, in the sense that He can do whatever He wills – man’s will must be subject to God’s to some degree, otherwise it may be possible for man, or even angels – like the devil himself – to thwart the will of God (however hard that is to imagine under any circumstances). However, the Bible is clear – God is truly free – He does whatever He pleases, and his purposes will stand. Therefore, it must be true that our will can only be as free as it keeps us from hindering God’s.

Think about it: say there is a man who is riding his bike along a beautiful bike path, when suddenly he hears a car coming up quickly from behind him. Glancing behind him, he sees the car swerving erratically, and knows he has only a moment to act. He dives from his bike to the left of the road, rolling down the sidewalk, and avoiding the speeding, drunk driver, getting nothing worse that some bloody road-rash from the concrete, and some rough marks on his clothes. Now, he chose to dive to the left onto the sidewalk, but was his decision ‘free’ in the sense that a person who emphasizes ‘free will’ would understand it?

Let’s just say that the opposite side of the road from the sidewalk was a stream, which any other bike rider may have opted to dive into to avoid the swerving car – but our bike rider never learned to swim, because his mother lost one of her best friends to drowning and wouldn’t let her children near water except for the bathtub. Let’s say that there was a railroad crossing exactly at the location, so tracks crossed not only the sidewalk to the left, but also created a bridge over the water to his right, which he could have dove towards and clung to – but he lost his own younger brother when he was in his teens because he got his feet stuck between the ties and was hit by a train, causing such a deep seated fear of trains and railroad tracks that he intended on turning around at this point in his bike trip so he wouldn’t have to cross the tracks on his bike. Another option would be to simply stop the bike in the middle of the road and take on the car head on – essentially suicide, but he had a very happy marriage, a good job, great kids, and people he loved who loved him, and killing himself wasn’t really a live option – he simply had too much to live for. If he were me, what he would have most wanted to do upon hearing that speeding car coming from behind is simply fly off his bike (do I have ANY dreams where-in I cannot fly?) like an eagle, out of the impending danger – unfortunately, his basic biology was of a human, and not a bird, so that wasn’t a live option either.

So, our ‘friend’ made his choice – he dove to the left onto the sidewalk – and he was responsible for that decision: the scratches he took were truly his, as was his life which was just saved. But, if you rewinded those events a million times, and played through them over and over again, could he have even considered doing anything else? The events of that day were entirely pre-determined by his genetics, biology, psychology, sociology – everything about who he was, by his birth, upbringing, and the events from his past DROVE him to do the only thing he could: the only option he could will was the one he chose!

I argue that such is our lot, especially when we look at the picture of human freedom painted in the Scriptures – we are absolutely responsible and pay the consequences and/or receive the rewards from our own actions – but to call them ‘free’ in the sense which most of us understand ‘freedom’, especially here in the West – the USA particularly – that seems to be a serious stretch and far outside the Biblical portrait of human freedom. Ask yourselves, is a human ‘will’ which is – in the flesh, before Christ frees it – a ‘slave to sin’ (John 8:34, Romans 6:20) in any sense ‘free’? Can we consider our wills ‘free’ if it is true, as Jesus says, that “…no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65b) and on the flip-side that “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37a)?

Though I admit that Biblically we seem to be given some degree of autonomy regarding our decision making, to call our wills “free” seems to me to be a stretch.

This all goes full circle back to our original topic: though God doesn’t DO evil, his sovereign control over it is far beyond what we are often comfortable with, but also brings us our greatest hope – the gospel itself:

“…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” – Acts 2:23

“…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” - Acts 4:27-28

The ‘lawless men’ – Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews – who killed God the Son, Jesus Christ, were entirely responsible for the evil done on that great day, however God had carried them along in the strongest sense of the word – He had actually predestined it (i.e. – it could not have happened any differently!) – he called them ‘annointed’ for this purposed – he had not only allowed, but had somehow ‘planned’ according to ‘foreknowledge’ to use the greatest evil the world has ever known for the greatest good possible: the death of the God-man, was the salvation of all who would believe.

This is why I see God’s sovereignty over evil as a comfort, and not something to despair over – if neither the death of a sparrow, nor the death of God’s son were meaningless evil, then neither is the pain and suffering I undergo as I live this life being conformed more and more into the image of Jesus for God’s glory.

Stay tuned next week for my reflections on chapter 3, one of John Piper’s chapters, “THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD”.

discuss…

Filed under: Bible, Books, Calvinism, Contraversy, Debate, Doctrine, Mystery, Philosophy, Reformed, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Theology

Reflections on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Chapter 2 – part 1)

For the first part of this blog, please see “Reflections on the Suffering and Sovereignty of God (Intro & Chapter 1)”.

Diving right into the deep end, Chapter 2 of Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, entitled “All the Good that is Ours in Christ: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others do to Us”, is one of the most profound, and hard to grasp, of the whole book – and, after multiple re-reads, it is quite possibly my favorite.

In it, professor Mark Talbot addresses some of – given the nature of my friend’s comments the earlier blog – the most natural questions to ask when discussing this issue. Mark says; “Scripture declares that the Judge of all the earth will always do what is right (see Genesis 18:25). God is, as Moses sings, ‘the rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.’ He is a ‘faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.’ (Deut. 32:4, NIV). God never does evil.”

The Scripture is clear on this – God does what is right, perfect, & just – he is faithful, does no wrong, and never does evil. Then I think back to my upbringing, and my own fatherhood so far with my sons: as our children are young, we protect them from all sorts of dangers – we are direct and forthright about telling them what to do and what not to do, but we do expect them to eventually grow out of that, and in order to do that, sometimes we – knowingly – let them make their own mistakes. Sometimes even now I’ll see him trying something that I’m pretty sure will NOT turn out as he hoped, but since there seems to be little long-term danger in it, I’ll sit back and watch, so he can learn for himself – so he can mature. In those situations, I am not actively doing anything wrong – I am not forcing my son’s hand, or coercing his will, but I am still overseeing and even – as much as a finite human can be of another human’s actions – mostly in control of the situation as it unfolds. I will indeed maintain the situation so no ultimate harm befalls my son, yet it is my decision to allow what takes place, and in such a case, I even see the long-term good in it, even though I could never bring myself to DO the thing to him, myself. Though any human analogy has it’s faults, there is much truth in this. Regarding this, Talbot adds, “…this is not to say that God does not create, send, permit, or even move others to do evil, for Scripture is clear that nothing arises, exists or endures independently of God’s will.”

The first verse he uses to support his case is Hebrews 1:3: “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” The word here we translate as “upholds” means ‘to bring or bear or produce or carry’. Wayne Grudems states that this word is commonly used “…for carrying something from one place to another, such as bringing a paralyzed man on a bed to Jesus… bringing wine to the steward of the feast… or bringing a cloak and books to Paul.” “Upholds” doesn’t mean to merely ‘sustain’, as Talbot makes clear “God the Son holds each and every aspect of creation, including all of its evil aspect, in his ‘hands’…and carries it…to where it accomplishes exactly what he wants it to do.”

So, though it is absolutely true that God never does evil, the level of control, involvement in, and power over evil that the Bible seems to give to God goes much further than most Christians are comfortable allowing. Our God is far bigger than we know.

So, is God involved, and if so, how, in creating, sending, permitting evil? That’ll be Chapter 2 – part 2, coming soon.

Filed under: Books, Doctrine, John Piper, Reformed, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Theology

Can Salvation be Lost? / Can Christ lose a Christian?

The following is an excerpt from Douglas Wilson’s book “Easy Chairs, Hard Words”

______________________________________________

“Okay,” I said, getting to the question that was keeping me up nights. “Can a Christian lose his salvation?”
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Reformed, Salvation

Reformed-Charismatic Bloglove for Late March

Wow…too much bloglove to even comment…read, quickly!

HOW TO LISTEN TO A SERMON from The Blazing Center

WHO IS THE KINGDOM FOR from The Gospel-Driven Church

THE CHARISMATIC QUESTION from Pulpit Magazine

THE BONDAGE OF GUIDANCE from Together for the Gospel

THE FAITH THAT ISN’T from Cerulean Sanctum

HAVING ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER from Challies.com

and lastly…

Audio & Video Messages from the Resurgence Conference: TEXT & CONTEXT

Blessings as you read!

Filed under: Blog-Love, Bloggers, Charismatic, Resurgence

Reflections on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Intro & Chapter 1)

An online discussion among some of my friends a couple of months ago brought to mind the importance of grappling with God’s sovereignty and the issue of suffering. Given that the most powerful book I’ve ever read that Biblically addresses this issue is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, (which is also available as a conference DVD set) edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor, I’m going to take time out over the next few weeks to reflect on this book chapter-by-chapter.

For starters, it would probably benefit everyone to read my older post GOD IS IN CONTROL, as it relates directly to this topic, but for those who can’t find the time, here is the most relevant excerpt:

…the human authors of Scripture had so high a view of God’s sovereignty as to even recognize evil as being ultimately from the hand of God. For instance, in spite of that fact that Satan was the one immediately bringing violence upon Job, Job himself stated, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Job spoke truthfully, as well, for immediately afterward the author adds, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Also look at Isaiah 45:7; “I form light and create darkness, I make comfort and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Or Lamentations 3:38; “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?” Though at first this may sound unnerving, there is also comfort to be found here, for since God is ultimately sovereign over all and even the devil is “the God’s devil”, there is no meaningless or purposeless evil, for God ultimately has allowed it and will use it for the good of His children.

That is what I find most comforting in Piper’s (dare I say God’s?) view of God’s sovereignty and suffering: there is absolutely NO meaningless suffering or evil, even if we – in this lifetime – never fully understand the purpose of it now.

On to SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (Full Book), chapter one, most of which is summarized in this post on Piper’s website. I was struck by one quote in particular here.

Piper wrote, in response to a quote by David Wells on the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, that by them, “our vision of God in relation to evil and suffering was shown to be frivolous”. He later expounded:

“Against the overwhelming weight and seriousness of the Bible, much of the church is choosing, at this very moment, to become more light and shallow and entertainment-oriented, and therefore successful in its irrelevance to massive suffering and evil. The popular God of fun-church is simply too small and too affable to hold a hurricane in His hand. The biblical categories of God’s sovereignty lie like land mines in the pages of the Bible waiting for someone to seriously open the book. They don’t kill, but they do explode trivial notions of the Almighty.”

Reading this, however, my first thought is that it is not enough to simply address the issue of evil and suffering Biblically – in fact, that is not the issue whatsoever. It is not necessary to teach someone how to deal with evil and suffering if they have a big enough (Biblical) picture of God to recognize His hand in it. I heard once of a church that addressed the issue of suffering from the pulpit, telling their congregation that “God didn’t know” and that “He couldn’t stop it anymore than you could.” That’s just one example of where addressing the issue, but from a less than Scriptural viewpoint, can do more harm than good. Yes, at the moment it may feel better, but in the long-run, how is such a weak, impotent God worth worshiping?

So, how do we keep from painting ‘trivial notion(s) of the Almighty’? I say, by emphasizing two truths: God’s goodness (shown in His love, grace, mercy, etc.) AND his sovereignty (shown in his power, judgment, and authority). Biblical truth is a collection of ‘tensions’ – it is when settle for only one part of the big picture that we begin sliding towards heresy and cultism. God’s sovereignty without His goodness leaves us with a brutal dictator – unloving and unlovable, not unlike some Muslim’s view of Allah, who we must slave to please, always aware that pleasing Him is impossible. However, God’s goodness without his sovereignty leaves us with a cuddly bunny-rabbit deity – ‘Buddy Christ’, if you will – who is a pushover, and too ‘nice’ to make any long-term impact on our lives, let alone the world around us. Both ‘gods’ are deities of our imagination, however, not the God of revelation.

More to come as I move on to Mark Talbot‘s chapter, “ALL THE GOOD THAT IS OURS IN CHRIST”…

(Let me encourage you all to personally read this book and not only my commentary, because what might strike me as important in it may not be what catches you, and there is far too much in here for me to cover it all!)

Filed under: Books, Doctrine, John Piper, Reformed, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Theology

Belated Blog Love, and much of it…

Just cleaning house on some goodies…

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF SPIRIT BAPTISM? by Adrian Warnock

Also Adrian directed everyone to the online lectures from New Frontiers’ conference in the USA.  I assure you that you will find much to challenge & encourage you there: NEW FRONTIERS CHURCH LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE.

2 excellent PDF’s of essays by Jesse Phillips: SUBSEQUENCE, & ARE THE SIGN GIFTS NECESSARY: A DEBATE.

An interesting essay by J.I. Packer on JOHN OWEN ON THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS.  I may not agree with it all, but it’s an interesting study, none-the-less.

In other New Frontiers news, Terry Virgo posted an excellent blog on KNOWING HIM AND KNOWING ABOUT HIM.

Lastly, C.J. Mahaney shares his favorite BOOKS ON THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

I think that catches me up…whew.

Filed under: Blog-Love, Bloggers, Books, C.J. Mahaney, Calvinism, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Conference, Continualist, Contraversy, D.A. Carson, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Holy Spirit, John Piper, Pentecostalism, prophecy, Reformed, Terry Virgo, Theology

Blog Love & an apology

I’m very sorry for my lack of ‘original’ blogging these past few weeks. Though I’m preparing a few ‘hum-dingers’ to post eventually, work’s been slow on this blog because…well…work’s been VERY FAST everywhere else. I promise some new content soon, but until then, it’s all blog love…enjoy:

First, Fundamentally Reformed posted an excellent piece on the Under-Appreciated Calvin. It is actually a commentary on John Calvin’s Theology at The Misadventures of Capt. Headknowledge.  Both are well worth reading.

Secondly, Grace Churches Internationals annual leader’s retreat is coming up in March. It’s called Feed the Well, and will most assuredly be worth attending.

Thirdly, speaking of GCI, don’t miss their new website, or the excellent sermon resource available on the front page: Establishing an Atmosphere of Grace.

And lastly, Worship God ’08 has their website up and running! I’m hoping to go myself, God-willing. Check it out for yourself:

Filed under: Blog-Love, C.J. Mahaney, Calvinism, Grace Churches International, Michael Fletcher, Reformed

CLEANING HOUSE (Blog Love to finish out 2007)

There were so many great blogs in 2007 that it was hard to keep up with them all. Here are a few of blogs and even an article that may be of relevance to many of you:

Measuring Discernment & Criticism with Gospel & Charity by Rob Wilkerson

Slain in the Spirit: Biblical or non-Biblical from Emissary^7

Pentecostalism for the Exurbs: Joel Osteen’s God really wants you to dress well, stand up straight, and get a convenient parking space from The Slate

blessings!

Filed under: Blog-Love, Bloggers, Blogroll

Blogroll

Books

Discussion Groups

ESSENTIAL SERMON AUDIO

FAVORITE BLOG POSTS

MY OTHER BLOGS

WEBSITES/RESOURCES

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.