O.G.C.J.M.

“Only God Can Judge Me” is the original YOLO (You only live once). For some reason or another, this annoying little phrase has made a bit of a resurgence. Why? I don’t know, but I wish it would go away. Let me explain why this, along with YOLO grates on me.

I most often hear this phrase from someone in my generation who says, “It’s my body, my mouth, my life—so I can do what I want to and only God can judge me.”

I don’t think you understand what you’re saying.

Now, I understand this to a degree. It is not our place to judge others, and I’m not arguing that we should. However, you say “Only God can judge me,” as if His judgments are like that of a grandparent, who says, “Stop that… now let’s go get ice cream!”

J.I. Packer writes:

Paul refers to the fact that we must all appear before Christ’s judgment seat as “the terror of the Lord” (2 Cor 5:11), and well he might. Jesus the Lord, like his Father, is holy and pure; we are neither. We live under his eye, he knows our secrets, and on judgment day the whole of our past life will be played back, as it were, before him, and brought under review. If we know ourselves at all, we know we are not fit to face him. What then are we to do? The New Testament answer is: Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior. As Judge, he is the law, but as Savior he is the gospel. Run from him now, and you will meet him as Judge then—and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him (for “he that seeketh findeth”), and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

So, while you say, “Only God can Judge me,” know that you don’t have to know Him as such. Christ will judge, but rather than know him as judge, how about know him as advocate?

Love and Wrath—Pt. 4

For the sake of review, let me catch us up from the previous posts. I’m attempting to show that the way you see God’s attributes is a direct reflection of your doctrine of God and how you understand the Trinity. The theology of Jonathan Edwards helps us, especially in the area of God’s attributes. As seen in the last post, Edwards argued that the beauty and harmony of God is seen in his love and wrath—and not only in these two, but the totality of who He is. In today’s Christian culture, over emphasizing, or wrongly emphasizing God’s love to the detriment of His other attributes is prevalent and I believe that we must reorient our focus because if we take away or redefine number of God’s attributes, at what point are we trading the God of Christianity with some other false, lesser God?

God’s End Goal

So, we have seen  Edwards’ Trinitarianism and that he saw the beauty and harmony of God in that He is both loving and just. Now we turn to see how Edward’s believed God displayed his attributes and why. Edwards begins with the love of God as His motive for His creative act. He writes, “When God considers of making anything for himself, he presents himself before himself and views himself as his end.” When Edwards used the term “end,” he could mean chief, ultimate, or subordinate end. However, when God is spoken of as acting toward “His end,” he always has what is chief, ultimate, and unsubordinated in mind. This aspect of his theology is crucial in understanding the “love and wrath” question for two reasons. First, he emphasizes that God’s act in creating and redeeming is rooted in the inter-Trinitarian divine love. God’s chief end is the magnification of His own name. God delights first and foremost in Himself and his attributes, which means that no subordinate end can overwhelm His chief end. Second, because God is concerned with His own glory as His chief end, the happiness of His creatures cannot be His chief end. God is love; it does not necessarily follow that because He is love He must redeem all, or else He is not love. God’s love for the redeemed, as well as His wrath towards sinners, work harmoniously towards God’s chief end, which is His glory and the presentation of His essence and attributes. The creation of man, God’s condescension, and redemptive work was not chiefly, or ultimately aimed at the happiness of the creature, but was God’s delight in displaying His essence and attributes.

Edwards anticipated the objection that accompanies this line of reasoning, which is, “How can God chiefly seek His own good and not be a divine egotist?” First, God delights in what is supremely valuable and because there is nothing more valuable than Himself, He must first seek Himself. Second, for God to delight first in Himself is not contrary to human happiness, because He is the creature’s happiness. It was according to God’s good pleasure that motivated Him to create, condescend, and redeem, but it was also for the good of His creatures as a subordinate end. It is God’s regard and love for Himself that drives His communication of Himself, which results in benefits for creatures.

Love Demands Wrath

It is clear that Edwards believed that God’s Trinitarian divine love is what motivated Him to seek the good of His creatures. However, it is the same love that provokes God’s wrath. God cannot, on account of His chief end and value, seek the happiness of creatures at the expense of His glory. The happiness of creatures is not God’s chief end, but rather it is the praise of His excellency. Edwards believed that God seeks to exercise all of His attributes for an attribute cannot be praised unless it is exercised. Therefore, he believed that the Holy Trinity decreed the law in eternity past in order that God’s justice might be served in the giving and execution of it. The presence of a law reveals a certain demand for justice, for if there were no need for justice, there would be no law. Edwards defended God’s justification in the eternal punishment of sinners by stating that men are guilty of infinite evil in multiple ways. First, men are guilty of infinite evil by despising the infinite word and law of God. Creatures have an obligation to love that which is lovely, but have failed and have committed heinous evil by means of rejecting God’s law. Second, men are guilty of infinite evil in their rejection of God’s love. As previously mentioned, God’s love is not His attempt at some sort of emotional connection with man, but is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. So, to reject God’s love is to reject the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was purchased by the blood of Christ. To reject the gift is to reject the purchaser, and to reject the purchaser is to reject the one who sent Him. For Edwards, it is impossible to reject God’s love without also rejecting His essence and excellency. Third, men are guilty of infinite evil in their treatment of others. Edwards taught that God was justified in the eternal punishment of the wicked because one person’s unbelief can negatively influence and hinder the belief of another who follows their example of unbelief.  Unbelief was not simply a matter of opinion or taste, but Edwards perceived it as reckless and leading others astray. Finally, men are guilty of infinite evil in their treatment of self. Here he asks, “Is God obliged to give you eternal happiness when you care not about your happiness or His glory?” Edwards believed that men have condemned themselves on their fool’s errand to find happiness for their soul in something other than the excellency of God.

The condemnation of man is not simply the sum of poor decision-making throughout life, but an utter rejection of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Man is ultimately condemned because he hates God and has failed to recognize Him as supremely valuable. The Holy Trinity simply cannot allow this sort of blatant rejection to exist in the created system. For God to dispense mercy even to those who reject Him would not be compatible with His chief end, nor would it be loving. First, it would not be loving toward the Son. The inter-Trinitarian love of God motivates His wrath toward wicked men because to reject the Son is to the reject the Father who sent the Son. The Son is the Father’s eternal object of love who perfectly loves and obeys the Father’s will. Were God to dismiss justice would in a sense be an act of approval towards those who have rejected the Son. Second, it would not be loving toward His people. Edwards believed that the atonement of Christ secured a people who were set apart for God’s glory, meaning they had received the person and benefits of Christ by faith. He taught that wrath toward the wicked is necessary for the happiness of God’s people, which appears to be a reference to God destroying all the enemies of Christ and His bride. This is related to God’s chief end, which is first and foremost, the glory of His name, and, secondly, the happiness of His creatures. For Edwards, in order for the faithful to receive the happiness that results from the glory of God, the wicked must be cut off and crushed as enemies of Christ. Thus, the love of God is not incompatible with divine wrath, but demands it. Edwards perceived these two seemingly estranged attributes as working together in harmony in order that all of God’s attributes might be praised and His chief end pursued.

Hopefully the next post will provide some closure and tie up Edwards argument. Check back then!

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Love and Wrath – Part 3

Yesterday’s post gave a brief look at Jonathan Edwards’ Trinitarianism. I encourage you to read his Discourse on the Trinity, or any work of his for that matter. His writings are saturated with his theology of the Trinity. It’s awesome. Edwards basically states three truths that lay the foundation for how he will ultimately think about the love and wrath question: 1) God is infinitely happy in the enjoyment of Himself, 2) God’s thoughts rest first upon Himself, and 3) God’s love is first shared within Himself. These things make God seem like he is self-obsessed or selfish, but when viewed as an inner-Trinitarian operation, it becomes clear that, for Edwards, God is the author and the first recipient of His love. But, let’s look a little further into how Edwards viewed the attributes of God.

Divine Excellency

Even though Edwards was steeped in the Reformed tradition, he parted ways on some points, such as divine simplicity. The doctrine of divine simplicity is one way that the Western and Reformed traditions answer the question of the compatibility of God’s attributes, such as His love and wrath. Essentially, God is “simple,” meaning that it is impossible to make Him into a composition of parts, nor can there be any distinction between His being and His attributes. Therefore, all of God’s attributes are God. Thus, when these traditions speak of God as loving, they mean that He is love, and when they speak of Him as just, they mean that He is justice. In addition, simplicity states that when God acts, He does so in accordance with all of His attributes. So, we can’t look at an act of God and say, “Oh, here He is loving,” and at another act and say, “Here He is being just.” God is both loving and just in all of his actions.

For more on this topic see the work God Without Parts by James Dolezal. Click here for a review of this work by my friend Nathaniel Claiborne. His blog is excellent by the way.

But, Edwards had difficulty reconciling multiplicity (The Father, His idea, and His love) with simplicity, so he brought an aesthetic approach to understanding God’s attributes and being. He did not totally dismiss divine simplicity, but redefined it and put his own spin on it. Edwards focused on the beauty of a relational ontology among the three persons who work in harmony, both in their being and in their attributes. In other words, where the West sought to focus on the unity of God, Edwards appears to have stood with the Eastern Orthodox Church, focusing on the three persons. Where the West chose to focus on the unity and simplicity of God, the East emphasized the plurality and distinct persons of the Godhead. Despite the emphasis on the distinct divine persons, Edwards remained orthodox in his thoughts regarding the homoousia (God’s unity of essence). For him, it displayed the excellency of God that He was radically diverse in persons, yet harmonious in essence.This principle also carries over to the divine attributes, as each of them, whether love or wrath, worked in harmony. Again, Edwards did not look to divine simplicity in order to see the harmony of seemingly disjointed attributes, but to the beauty of the divine essence.

“These attributes being thus united in the divine nature and not interfering one with another is what is a great part of their glory: God’s awful and terrible attributes, and his mild and gentle attributes. They reflect glory one on the other; and ‘tis the glory of God that those attributes should always be exercised and expressed in a consistence and harmony one with the other (WJE, Sermons and Discourses 1703-1733, 159).”

Edwards’ Trinitarian theology is described as the “supreme harmony of all,” as the persons of the Godhead are distinct, yet fully bound and united in their shared essence and love. Likewise, the divine attributes are in absolute harmony, though they may seem incompatible because they are united in the beauty and harmony of the divine essence.

So here is another piece of the love and wrath puzzle as Edwards saw it. Tomorrow will focus on God’s end goal as described in Edwards’ work, The End For Which God Created The World. In the end, hopefully this will all come together. In hindsight I probably should have tried to summarize this a little better, but you know what they say about hindsight.

If you’re interesting in looking more into Edwards’ Trinitarianism, the book above by Plantiga-Pauw really helped me out. Just click the image for more info.
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Love and Wrath – Part II

In the last post I introduced the framework for a way to go about thinking on God’s love and wrath by using the theology of Jonathan Edwards. How exactly do these seemingly contradictory attributes fit together? Christians have long confessed, “God is love,” that He defines love and exudes love to His creatures. First John repeats this phrase twice and emphasizes the overwhelming reality that the Creator God is not passive towards creation, but is actively engaged. However, as J.I. Packer has pointed out, the attribute far more ascribed to God in the Scriptures is His holiness, and because of that He is just, seeking retribution for those who have despised Him. But we must think about this: throughout the history of the church there have  been those who have questioned the compatibility of love and wrath, which at times has resulted in a misguided over-emphasis on one of these attributes at the expense of the other. For the most part, the fault comes by way of an over emphasis on God’s love, leading to a rejection of eternal judgment based on the belief that an all-loving, all-powerful God would not, and could not condemn any man or woman for eternity, much less a multitude of people. Here is where I have heard countless straw-man arguments that say something like, “For any person to suffer eternally in hell would necessitate a failure on God’s part, which would lead to the reality that God is either not all-loving, or not all-powerful.” Edwards has a way of answering this question, but we have to begin at his theological starting point—the beauty (or harmony) of God.

To get a handle on what Edwards meant when he talked about God’s beauty, we must start with the baseline Christian belief that God is Trinity. For Edwards the Trinity is like the wind in the sails of his theological ship. It dictates your view of creation, salvation, Jesus Christ, and how the attributes of God fit together. In his Discourse on the Trinity, Edwards lays the groundwork for how he understands the divine nature and how the Triune God exercises all of the divine attributes in perfect harmony, rather than exalting one at the expense of the other.

1. God is infinitely happy in the enjoyment of Himself

God rejoices, loves, enjoys, and is satisfied in His own “essence and perfections.” In other words, God stands alone as His own ultimate end and He is in no way in need of creatures to fulfill or gratify Him. He is eternally at rest. The uppermost of God’s affections and the object of His thoughts can be none other than Himself.

2. God’s thoughts primarily rest upon Himself

because God’s thoughts are primarily and ultimately upon Himself, it stands to reason that the thoughts that God has about Himself are perfect, and results in an actual, identical image of Himself. This is Edwards understanding of Jesus as the divine Logos, the word, reason, and thought of God that is perfect to the extent that there is a duplicity of persons. In His eternal thinking upon Himself, the Father begets the Son. So, when Edwards describes God being eternally satisfied and happy within Himself, he is not describing simple self-love, but love that is given and received in the duplicity of persons in the Godhead.

3. God’s love is first shared within Himself

from the satisfaction, happiness, and love that exists between the duplicity of persons, the Father and the Son, arises a pure and divine energy that embodies the love of God in a third person, the Holy Spirit. So, being eternally generated from the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is, for all intents and purposes, the very love that is shared between them. This, of course, has major implications for the life of the believer because Christians are commanded to love God and love their neighbor. Edwards recognizes that this command is impossible without the very love of God indwelling and compelling the believer to carry out this role. Thus, when Christians are told that the Holy Spirit indwells them, it is the love of God that has been put within them. For Edwards, there is no distinction between the love of God and the third person of the Trinity. Essentially, God’s dwelling in Christians and His love within us is the same thing. Edwards sums up his view of the Trinity this way:

And this I suppose to be that blessed Trinity that we read of in the holy Scriptures. The Father is the Deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the Deity in its direct existence. The Son is the Deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of himself, and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the Deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth, in God’s infinite love to and delight in himself. And I believe the whole divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the divine idea and divine love, and that therefore each of them are properly distinct persons (WJE, Trinity, 131).

Edwards makes it abundantly clear that love is intricately infused into the divine communion of the Father, His idea (Son), and His love (Holy Spirit). The belief that God is love is not lost on Edwards, but it is actually the framework upon which he builds his entire theology. The very idea that God is love necessitates an eternal object. God is the only eternal object, thus, God must be the originator and object of His love. However, this is not to be categorized as self-infatuation or selfishness, but mutual self-giving that occurs within the perfect unity of the three persons of the Trinity.

So there is a little bit of an intro into how Edwards saw the Trinity—as he originator and original recipient of divine love. Tomorrow I will dive in a little deeper into how he saw the divine attributes working together in harmony. This is where his view on seemingly opposed attributes will become a little more clear. I will look at his view of divine simplicity, which is one of the most interesting and confusing aspects of doctrine that I have encountered. It should be fun… or painful. I guess it could be painfully fun—for me at least.

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Love and Wrath

Jonathan Edwards is one of my heroes in the faith. He was one of the great revivalist preachers and apologists during the First Great Awakening, an immense movement of God in Colonial America that pervaded multiple aspects of colonial life. It brought a renewed emphasis on righteous living, religious devotion, and even served as a bridge between the cultural division between blacks and whites.[i] More importantly, the First Great Awakening was a revival whereby thousands of people were converted and there was a renewed prominence given to the nature and character of God.

Today, Edwards is often polarized as a “Hell, fire, and brimstone” preacher because of sermons such as, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and “The Justifice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.” (I’ve written briefly elsewhere about Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. You can read it here) However, it is unfair to caricature Edwards as such a man without allowing him the opportunity to speak for himself. These sermons do not exist in a vacuum and it is important to be familiar with Edwards the man in order to fairly assess his theology.

Edwards: The Man (1703-1758)

Timothy Edwards fathered eleven children, and only one boy, Jonathan. From his early childhood, his father, who was a Congregational pastor in their hometown of Windsor, Connecticut, trained him for the pastrate.[ii] Even as a boy, Jonathan took an interest in spiritual things, often secluding himself from other children his age in order to spend time in prayer. I read one story that said when Edwards was nine years old he built a fort. This is common behavior for a boy—I built forts too. However, Edwards’ fort was specifically built for prayer.

At the age of fifteen, Edwards became a student at Yale (1717) and under the leadership of Rector Timothy Cutler, he was forced to grapple with his Calvinist roots on an intellectual level.[iii] He had grown to believe in the sovereignty of God, but it brought him great distress. He wrestled deeply with divine sovereignty, man’s inability to be righteous, and human accountability to live righteously. In other words, Edwards could not understand how God could be good, yet condemn his creatures when they were not able to exercise faith on their own.[iv]

These were not simply theological musings of a slightly interested man, but, on the contrary, Edwards viewed the answers to these questions as determining all manner of life, for it appears that he believed the content of one’s theology determines worldview and lifestyle. All theological training aside, Edwards believed the answers to his questions would determine the direction and fate of his own soul. It was not until a few years later that he had a conversion experience, which revolved around the overwhelming glory and beauty of God.[v] Rather than hell, wrath, and fury, the glory and beauty of God became the major themes in his theology. When he was able to reconcile his discomfort with the beauty of God he finally experienced comfort in his soul. The beauty and excellency of God brought a metaphysical shift (a reinterpretation of reality), which allowed Edwards to view God’s attributes as working in harmony—especially seemingly contrary attributes such as love and wrath.

So, while it appears that he was a preacher who had a certain affinity for preaching the wrath of God and the destruction of the wicked, Edwards spent much more time depicting the beauty and excellency of the Triune God.[vi] This foundational reality ultimately led Edwards to his answer regarding the love and wrath of God.

In the coming days I hope to show how Edwards’ answer serves as an example of how our understanding of the inner workings of God’s attributes, specifically His love and wrath, ultimately reflects our Doctrine of God.


[i] Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 91.

[ii] John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory: With Complete Text of The End For Which God Created the World, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1998, 51.

[iii] George M. Marsden, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 18-19.

[iv] Ibid., 18-19.

[v] Justo L. Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought: From the Protestant Reformation to the Twentieth Century, vol. III, Revised ed. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1975), 317.

[vi] Noll, 95-96.

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Medicine for the Discontent

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” ~Philippians 4:11-13

Discontentment is a seed of destruction that is easily stirred in the heart, even of those who have experienced overwhelming mercy and deliverance. Take, for instance, the people of Israel who were brought out of slavery from Egypt. The Lord provided for all of their needs, but grumbling and complaining were never far from their lips. The manna wasn’t good enough and water bursting forth from the rock was not sufficient to keep their gaze on the God who had been merciful to them. They focused so intensely on what they did not have that they seem to have forgotten the work done among them. Not only did they long for what they did not have, they also began to view their former slavery through rose colored glasses. “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger (Ex 16:2-3).”

What’s at the root of Discontentment?

1. Ungratefulness and Entitlement 

The first and primary root of discontentment is our attitude towards God. It is rooted both in our ungratefulness for what God has graciously done, and in an attitude of entitlement regarding what we think God should be doing. In actuality, it is an anti-Christian, anti-grace state of mind, where we deceive ourselves into believing that we’ve earned what we have, yet deserve more.

2. Selfishness

I have found that when I am discontent, it is not only my attitude towards God that is perverted, but also my attitude towards others in need. Discontentment reveals our self-exalting, self-gratifying tendencies. Think about it, when you are worried or anxious about what you do not have, are you the least bit concerned with the needs of your neighbor? It appears to be impossible to display Christian love to others while also exalting the self. Paul says, “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… (Phil 2:4-5)” Discontentment is opposed to humility and counting others more significant than yourself.

Medicine for the Discontent

So, how are we to make war against our discontentment? The medicine for the discontent is rejoicing. I do not mean to simply cheer up, but a process of renewing the mind. Again, Paul helps us here in Philippians when he writes, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (4:8-9).” We rejoice and are made content by God’s grace when we think upon Christ, his person, work, and his transforming us in Spirit.

In other words, discontentment is not going to simply go away. I am not an advocate of sitting by and hoping you stop struggling with certain sins. I am a firm believer that putting to death the deeds of the flesh requires intense effort that is Spirit-filled and grace driven. I am encouraged by the words of Paul that are mentioned at the beginning of this post where he writes, “for I have learned in whatever situation to be content.” Contentment is not natural and must be learned. Yet, we are given greater hope still. We are not left to our own devices, for they only stir up more discontentment. We can do all things through him who strengthens usPaul finds his contentment in the strength that Christ gives, not in his own ability and singing “hakuna matata.”

Therefore, Christian, when thoughts of discontentment arise in your heart and mind, turn your gaze to your Redeemer who bought you with his life and who is now at work in you. This requires effort, but effort that is rooted in Spirit that works in you. Rejoice, because he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion and he will supply all of your needs according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus.

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Baptist Boy

I’m not the type to toot my denominations horn. As a matter of fact, until a year or so ago, I didn’t think denominations mattered. They do, but that’s not the point of this post. I grew up Baptist and I can’t remember ever attending anything outside of that—except one time when my family thought it would be a good idea to attend midnight mass at First United Methodist Church on Christmas Eve. I would probably think differently about that experience now if I could do it over again, but then I just wanted to go home, eat cookies, drink hot chocolate, and maybe convince my parents to let me open a gift early.

Recently, my wife and I have found ourselves church-less. We are in a weird transition period. I’m done with seminary and looking for open ministry positions, something along the lines of associate pastor, discipleship, connections, etc. So, we decided to step outside of our Baptist upbringing and visit some different traditions. On Sunday we visited Park Cities Presbyterian Church. For me, Presbyterianism is an obvious choice. Though I grew up Baptist, I was discipled in high school with the Westminster Confession of Faith, which heavily influenced the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. The theology between the two confessions is almost indistinguishable, except for a few differences in church order.

The verdict? We loved it. I’m not sure how “high church” it was because, like I said, I don’t have much experience outside of Baptist life—the priest wore robs, there were various forms of liturgy, and the choir entered from the back of the church in procession. So, needless to say it was the highest church form I’ve ever experienced. Here are a couple things that stuck out to us:

1. High church does not equal traditionalism. I read one author who said, “Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living and tradition is the living faith of the dead.” A common critique I hear regarding churches with high forms of liturgy is it’s wooden and rigid. Our experience was quite the opposite. In Baptist circles, I generally know what to expect: Opening Songs, Welcome/Greetings, Songs, Sermon, Invitation, Offering, Closing. This form is in just as much danger of becoming stale as high forms, and the same goes for edgy, contemporary communities as well. Now, before I go further I want to make it clear that I don’t necessarily think there is anything wrong with the Baptist form and I’m not saying that it is wooden. Knocking my upbringing is not an interest for me. However, at PCPC, there were more aspects of worship : Preparation, Call and Response, Singing, Prayer, Corporate and Private Confessions, multiple Scripture readings, Thanksgiving, and the Benediction. I’m not saying the Presbyterian way is better or worse, but simply that you can’t look at the liturgy on the surface and make a judgment call about the heart of the worship. There are churches that practice high forms of liturgy that are alive, as well as contemporary communities that are dead.

2. It was intensely theological. Every aspect of the service clearly taught something about the nature and character of God, as well as the nature and character of man. There was no question that PCPC is distinctly Trinitarian, because the first song we sang was a celebration of the God-head.  I had never heard these words, but I was very familiar with the tune (To God be the Glory), which is popular in Baptist circles. Take a look:

Likewise, they believe in human inability (depravity) to do any godly work, as we confessed corporately from the Belgic Confession of Faith, “We are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not He to us, since it is He who worketh in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Article 24).” That article is worth your time to read. I very much enjoyed this about  the service as each aspect of the liturgy was dripping with theological truth. Again, I’m not saying that Baptists have no theological truth in their worship, but perhaps we could learn something from our Presbyterian brothers and sisters regarding other worship forms that convey the same theological truths in different ways. Corporate confessions of faith and recitations of various creeds are a couple of things that I would like to see reintroduced into Baptist worship.

From visiting one Sunday, those are just a couple of things that stuck out to us. We will most likely go back this Sunday and see how it changes week to week. I encourage anyone who might be reading this to check out some other traditions if you have been locked into one your entire life. I’m not saying abandon ship, but there is so much you can learn from simply observing other traditions. At the end of the day, we are all a part of the one, holy catholic faith—united by the blood of Christ and sealed by the Spirit.

If you have visited some other traditions, what was your experience?

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Communion with Christ

I’m sure we have  heard that all men naturally have an insatiable desire to search for something to satisfy their soul, which in observing the world,  appears to be true. However, not everyone goes about their search in the same way. One person might fix themselves on one certain end, such as a relationship, or even religion. Another might pursue some end without really knowing what it is they seek. They might start down one path with the aim of satisfying their soul, but then become discontent, only to take up a new object that might bring relief. Such is the argument that John Owen makes in his work Communion with God (a fascinating work wherein Owen argues that true communion with God is one that involves all three persons of the God-head, by thinking upon their distinct roles and turning our affections toward the Father, Son, and Spirit). In one particular section, Owen attempts to address both parties, those who are fixed on an end, and those who seek satisfaction without any idea of where it might be found. He writes of Christ,

Behold here a fit object for your choicest affections,—one in whom you may find rest to your souls,—one in whom there is nothing [that] will grieve and trouble you to eternity. Behold, he stands at the door of your souls, and knocks! Pray study him a little; you love him not, because you know him not. Why doth one of you spend this time in idleness and folly, and wasting of precious time,—perhaps debauchedly? Why doth another associate and assemble himself with them that scoff at religion and the things of God? Merely because you know not our dear Lord Jesus. Oh, when he shall reveal himself to you, and tell you he is Jesus whom you have slighted and refused, how will it break your hearts, and make you mourn like a dove, that you have neglected him! and if you never come to know him, it had been better had you never been. Whilst it is called To-day, then, harden not your hearts.

You that are, perhaps, seeking earnestly after a righteousness, and are religious persons, consider a little with yourselves,—hath Christ his due place in your hearts? is he your all? does he dwell in your thoughts? do you know him in his excellency and desirableness? do you indeed account all things ‘loss and dung’ for his exceeding excellency? or rather, do you prefer almost anything in the world before it?

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A Prayer from Micah

Father,

Lay waste to the idols to which my heart is fixed and restore to me the joy of who you are. For you are the Lord, who hates sin and evil your very being despises.

You are my soul’s help in time of need and your ears are bent towards those who cry out to you. You are patient and kind, not rushing to bring about destruction, but seeking reconciliation.

Hear me now and do not turn your gaze from me, but deliver me from evil and forgive my transgression. May I be filled with your Spirit, loving the things you love and hating what you hate. I long to ascend your mountain where I might learn your ways and walk in your path. For in your path alone is life found. Though others walk a way that is right in their eyes, I will walk in the name of the Lord God.

I wait for your reign on this earth and the destruction of the things you detest. You have descended to us by sending your Son to be the highest King and I have heard his shepherding call. I now long to see His face. I know that I am secure because Christ is strong and I am His. What peace is this You have given to the restless? What comfort You’ve laid on those who try to bear burdens too heavy for them! Though danger be close, you are closer. You will deliver.

May I not forget your past deliverance and how you have redeemed me from the curse. How might I show my gratitude for your unending love? You have shown me what is good—that I love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with you, my God.

I will look to You, Lord ; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Though others say, “Where is your God?” I will rejoice when they are shamed because of the Your help toward me. He has proven Himself trustworthy, so I will rest in Him.

May the peace of Christ that transcends all understanding guard my heart and mind to the glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.

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Don’t Waste Your Wait Pt. II

Yesterday I started this series, “Don’t Waste Your Wait,” and you can check out part one here if you so choose. An inevitable aspect of life is that there are times when things are out of our control and we simply have to wait on the Lord. As I mentioned yesterday, a little over a month ago I was a student minister and a seminary student. Now I am neither of those things. There is nothing to occupy my time and there is nothing I can do. All I can do is be…and wait. Though it sounds like an indefinite vacation, it’s not fun, or relaxing. It’s stressful, awkward, and unwanted.

Last Sunday a friend of mine reminded me of the story of David, and how he went from a shepherd boy to a king. In chapter 8 of 1 Samuel, the people of Israel, lead by the wayward sons of the prophet, grew tired of theocracy and opted for a monarchy like that of their surrounding nations. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t go well. Rather than scolding them, the Lord tries on a different style of discipline—He grants their wish. So, despite Samuel’s warning, the people proceed in their demands, and they get King Saul. For a while, life in Israel was good with their new king, but everything quickly headed south when Saul blatantly disobeyed the Lord by refusing to execute justice on the Amalekites.

Now, in chapter 16 David is anointed King of Israel, which of course means that he was the Lord’s man for the job. The standing and authority had been stripped from Saul and given to David, yet Saul remained on the throne and David didn’t truly become King until much later when Saul committed suicide during battle (1 Sam 31). What was David doing in the meantime? Well, he wasn’t wasting away. He was busy writing Psalms, growing in godliness, and trying not to die at the hands of the pseudo-King Saul. Though he was anointed and had the right to be on the throne, he waited for God to put him there. He recognized that though he was king, the Lord was doing a work in him to prepare for what was ahead.

Let us wait like David. Our eagerness for what is ahead should not blind us to what God is trying to do in us today. That doesn’t mean we pretend waiting is easy—just read Psalm 13 to get a glimpse into David’s experience. It means that we shift our gaze from where we want to be to where we are, and seek Christ in our waiting. Waiting doesn’t have to be a waste. It can be an intense and intimate time of prayer, reflection, and preparation. Let us wait well.

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