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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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

Piper on Prophecy & God’s glory…

This week I stumbled across two excellent resources from John Piper:

1.  Biblical Texts to show God’s zeal for His own Glory, compiled by John Piper.  If you aren’t familiar with ‘Christian Hedonism’, these passages may astound you when read together like this.

2.  A recent sermon from John Piper – Using our Gifts in Proportion to our Faith part 1.  This is an excellent sermon on the prophetic, which I found Biblical, balanced, and challenging.  Be encouraged to check it out.

Filed under: Calvinism, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Doctrine, ESSENTIAL SERMON AUDIO, John Piper, prophecy, Reformed, Theology, Wayne Grudem

The Will of God?

John Piper recently preached an incredibly thought-provoking sermon on the will of God from Romans.

What is the Will of God and How do we Know it?

Filed under: Doctrine, John Piper, Sermon, Theology

Essential Posts: where do I begin?

Since the readership of this blog has increased significantly in the past few months, I wanted to direct the newer readers towards some of the most important posts here Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bloggers, Books, Calvinism, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Continualist, Contraversy, Denominations, Discussion Groups, Doctrine, FAVORITE BLOG POSTS, Holy Spirit, John Piper, Pentecostalism, prophecy, Reformed, Sam Storms, Theology, Wayne Grudem, WEBSITES/RESOURCES

Biblical Scatology

Be sure not to miss Dan Wallace’s excellent blog on Scatology.  Refreshing, indeed.

Shows why I’m a bit miffed that Piper found it necessary to apologize after the semi-harsh language he used at Passion this last year.

Oh well – read away…

Filed under: Bloggers, Doctrine, John Piper, Theology

More on Christian Hedonism…

For those who may not have heard of ‘Christian Hedonism’ prior to my last blog (I’m sure there are at least a couple), here are a few very helpful resources for you to explore:

John Piper’s DESIRING GOD MINISTRIES,
Sam Storm’s ENJOYING GOD MINISTRIES,
and CHRISTIAN HEDONISM.ORG

All contain great content.  Be encouraged to check them out ASAP!

Filed under: Bloggers, Christian Hedonism, Doctrine, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Sam Storms, Theology

Christian Hedonism & Pleasures Forevermore: a sermon

Originally delivered at Brunswick Christian Renewal Church in December ’05, & soon after at St. Simons Community Church INSIDE OUT youth ministries, & on-air at the Lighthouse 89.3 FM.

As some of you may know, a few years ago I worked in the medical field for a time. During that stint, I met a young crack addict I’ll call “P”. P’s brother had recently been murdered – very shortly before this encounter – in Savannah, and P currently had a ‘hit’ out on his head by the same gang that had taken out his brother. Turning to a friend and I for help, it was clear to us that he was indeed in some sort of trouble with the law: shady characters in suspicious looking vehicles began scope out my workplace and P only dropped by at odd hours – I usually only ran into him when working late, or when on-call. Well, eventually my friend managed to get in touch with a rehab center in Northeast Florida that was wiling to give P his life back: the offered to rehab his from his drug addiction, place him in a new community, arrange for him to get a college education, a job – in essence a future: a LIFE. The last time I saw P we were on the phone with this establishment, trying to make the final arrangements for his move to Florida, when a car honked outside the building. It was apparently one of P’s dealers: he’d left it all behind – a future and a life – for another hit.

What was his PROBLEM?! He was offered a life – a future – and turned it down to satisfy his flesh. Sadly, his problem, is my problem, is your problem, is ours: we think he had “too much desire” – that he was living for pleasure, when, in fact, his desire was too little. Every time we choose to sin, we make the same decision he did: we choose an immediate, temporally satisfying pleasure, over an eternal, entirely satisfying one. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: C.S. Lewis, Christian Hedonism, Doctrine, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Sam Storms, St. Augustine, Theology

A tribute to John Piper…

Having been raised an Atheist, God used many individuals, circumstances, and authors (C.S. Lewis, Norm Geisler, etc.) to draw my aching heart to Himself, but for the first 7 years after God got His grip on me I was – in response to my small-town, conservative upbringing (I truly ‘repented’ of my past) – so attracted to the Social Gospel aspect of the faith that I found myself drinking almost entirely of the neo-orthodox and neo-evangelical streams, studying the theology of Jurgen Moltmann and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, reading the existential philosophy of – as much as I understood it – of Soren Kierkegaard, enfleshing the spiritual and social practices of Ron Sider and Richard Foster, and reveling in the Democratic-Socialism of Cornell West. Now, I still find much good in those authors (though I also find enough to disagree with) and I have little doubt of their sincerity or relationships with Christ – that was just to say, I was a card-carrying ‘Christian Hippie Mystic” (I was ‘Emergent’ before there was ‘Emergent’), and because that was the only stream of the faith I was influenced by, my view of the Bible was weak, and I was still a fairly immature believer. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Books, Charismatic, Christian Hedonism, Emergent, Evangelical, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Missional, Reformed, Revival

Why “Heat and Light”?

The first time I heard the words “Heat & Light” together was from a sermon by John Piper when speaking of Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ influence:

“From the beginning to the end, the life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a cry for depth in two areas: depth in Biblical doctrine and depth in vital spiritual experience. Light and heat. Logic and fire. Word and Spirit. Again and again he would be fighting on two fronts: on the one hand against dead, institutional intellectualism, and on the other hand against superficial, glib, entertainment-oriented, man-centered emotionalism. He saw the world in a desperate condition without Christ and without hope: and a church with no power to change it. One wing of the church was straining out intellectual gnats and the other was swallowing the camels of evangelical compromise or careless charismatic teaching. For Lloyd-Jones, the only hope was historic, God-centered revival.”

Those words struck me. Light represents the Truth of God showing forth in the world which exposes darkness, and Heat, the passionate heart set aflame with the love of God by His Holy Spirit. My heart is aflame. Lloyd-Jones’ vision is mine. I long to see, and be a part of, that convergence and I’m convinced that the time has come.

Filed under: Doctrine, Emotionalism, Intellectualism, John Piper, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival, Unity

God is in Control: A Case for a Reformed understanding of Salvation

Though I know that it’s quite possible to a “Reformed Christian” and even a solid evangelical without subscribing to the “Calvinist” view, I am personally convinced that the Calvinist/Reformed interpretation of the Scriptures, especially as it relates to Soteriology – or ‘How we are saved’ – is the most internally consistent, and Biblical. Here’s my case… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Calvinism, John Piper, Mystery, Reformed, Salvation, Theology

Earnestly Desire Spiritual Gifts: the gift of prophecy in today’s church?

As an Evangelical Christian, you may hold to a wide array of Evangelical perspectives. Among my fellowship runs the whole gamut from dispensationalists to preterist – Calvinist to Arminian – young-earthers to old-earthers to the few (very few), the proud, the sailhamer-ites – cessationists, and even charismatics. It is because these differing opinions can be found among genuine Evangelical Christians that I believe this topic is of such great importance – especially as it relates to the last two categories: cessationists and charismatics. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Calvinism, Charismatic, Holy Spirit, John Piper, prophecy, Reformed, Theology, Wayne Grudem

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