Don’t Waste Your Wait

If you’ve spent any time at the DMV, one thing you have probably learned is that waiting is difficult, and while it may be a virtue, it is a virtue that few have the aspiration to learn. This is an odd, yet exciting time of year. Thousands are looking for work as they have completed high school, college, or graduate study programs, that now has them feeling prepared and equipped to enter the work force. However, though a person be well equipped and eager, that does not guarantee that an employer will grant you opportunity. Thus, the waiting game.

The entire job search process is entangled with waiting. You find a job opening and submit your resume, then you wait. You hear back from them, submit further information or samples of your work, then you wait. They call to set up a phone interview, you wait for the interview, then afterwards you do more waiting. Now, I am aware that this may not be the typical corporate model for hiring, but in churches, which is where I am looking, the search process is extensive and moves along with all the finesse and speed of a tortoise. Who could blame them? If I was in their position I would do the exact same thing. Few things could be more miserable than hiring a staff member at a church who is not the person God has for the job.

My position as of right now is a little bit awkward. I graduated from Dallas Seminary last month and was left with my part-time job as an associate youth minister, but even on a part-time basis, the summer schedule was simply not conducive for job hunting. So, after much prayer and reflection, my wife and I decided it was time to step away from student ministry and await what God has for us next. When we agreed to this, we were well aware that there was no guarantee that I would find a job in the near future. In some ways we fell like Abraham and Sarah, who left their home and went to a new land, even though they didn’t know where they were going. Now we find ourselves in this odd in-between stage that mixes the feelings of not knowing what’s ahead with  feelings of loss. A little over a month ago I was busy, but doing what I love—pursuing further education and working in a church. Now? I’m doing neither of those things and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself.

Waiting. That’s what I’m doing, and as uncomfortable as it is, God is still preparing me. My formal education may be over, but there is an opportunity to continue to grow in knowledge and passion as I seek what’s ahead. All that said, I don’t want to waste my waiting. I could very easily veg on the couch all day and watch Friday Night Lights, but I want this to be a time of prayer, reflection, and preparation as I wait. That means continuing to press in to Christ, while growing in my understanding of the Gospel and who I am in light of it. I don’t pretend to know how long I must wait, but my hope is that God would mold me so that when his place for me comes I will have the eyes to see it.

So, if you find yourself in a similar predicament, don’t waste your wait even though you might feel like you don’t quite know how to react. These seasons are filled with anxious thoughts and swirling nerves, but it doesn’t have to be a time wasted.

Tagged

Hiatus

In the fall of 2011 I decided that I needed a break from the blogosphere. I had become fairly consistent in my post and even starting building a little bit of consistent readership. But something clicked in me and I simply didn’t want to do it anymore. Writing is something that I love and thoroughly enjoy doing, but trying to maintain a steady stream of topics got to be more than I could handle. It became less about me trying to work through different issues and became more about how many readers I had per post. Now, obviously you want people to read your stuff, but I lost sight of what makes me love writing.

Here are some things I learned during my hiatus:

  1. I don’t have to say something about everything. This is impossible for one thing, and another, it’s a little silly to think anyone cares—which leads to my second point.
  2. My motives for blogging can easily shift from the desire to hammer out what I believe to narcissism. The human heart is prone to self-righteousness and self-exaltation. It doesn’t need any help. If you couple that predisposition with the ability to openly and freely express opinions on any topic, at any time, and any place, you might find what I found—the internet becomes your throne and you are sovereign. The “Enter” key becomes your gavel and you are the judge. The comment box becomes an altar, where you are puffed up when praised and feel attacked when criticized.

Blogging can be beneficial, but it can also be an extreme waste of time. Last year it crossed the line. I’m giving it another go, knowing that sometimes my heart doesn’t handle praise or criticism well. I’m hoping that it serves as a place to sharpen my writing skills, specifically when it comes to being clear—presenting a thought thoroughly and concisely in a way that others can understand. And, if it serves as a helpful resource somewhere in the future that is beneficial for the body of Christ, then that would be great too.

Tomorrow I will begin a 2-3 part series entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Wait.” Somewhere in those 3 posts I will talk about the story of David, and though he was anointed King, he waited patiently until the Lord’s appointed time and he didn’t try to manipulate his situation.

Until then…

Hands Lifted, Knees Strengthened

I know I haven’t posted anything in a long time and I hope to resume when I graduate in about a month. But let’s skip the pleasantries because this was encouraging to me and it was too long to tweet.

I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption is too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul’ and what to do I know not. My soul is become as parched ground, and a habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of nought. Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered; but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succour and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God. But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened. Behold the Lord Christ, who hath all fulness of grace in his heart, all fulness of power in his hand: he is able to slay all these his enemies. There is a sufficient provision in him for my relief and assistance: he can take my drooping, dying soul, and make me more than a conqueror.

John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Heritage, 2003), 163.

Tagged , ,

Holy Love—Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

On July 8, 1741 Jonathan Edwards preached the famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” on the precipice of the 1st Great Awakening. The text from which he was preaching  is found in Deuteronomy 32:35 and it reads, “Their foot shall slide in due time.” The way in which Edwards describes God in this sermon is troubling to many, and I would argue that if they walk away with a troubled view of God, rather than the state of their soul, they have missed his point. However, it is easy to see how some can misinterpret Edwards when he uses illustrations such as these:

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out ofhell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. 

And again,

The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.

And again,

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment.

Taking into account sayings like these, it is easy to see why some have caricatured  Jonathan Edwards as a hell, fire, and brimstone preacher—as if some sense of pleasure arises in him because this fate awaits many. However, I will argue that this sermon is ultimately about God’s love, tender mercy, and compassion. It is ultimately about His abounding grace and His forbearance towards those who have greatly offended Him. He later says,

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God…How can you rest one moment in such a condition?

And again,

When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezek. 8:18. “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy.

Ultimately, this sermon is not about God’s hatred toward sinners, although that is definitely present. It is about the reality that the only thing that keeps us from being launched into eternal damnation and separation from the Creator is His good pleasure. The God who has every right to not show pity toward rebels stands ready to show pity through the blood of His son.

Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.

Tagged , , , ,

Behold Your Redeemer

 

Do you know your Redeemer? Do you know who He is and what He has done? I don’t mean that you vaguely have some knowledge about a cross and resurrection, but do you know what benefits he has purchased for you with his own blood? If the extent of your knowing Him is that you know Him only as a Savior who gets you out of hell, then I would encourage you to take a long look at your Savior.

In his person he is himself the sum of all those blessings: the light of the world (John 8:12), the true bread (6:35), the true vine (15:1), the way, the truth, the resurrection, and the life (11:25; 14:6), our wisdom, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 15:45), the head of the church (Eph 1:22), the cornerstone of the temple of God (Eph 2:20); and for that reason there is no participation in his benefits except by communion with his person.

Yet from him flow all the benefits, the whole of salvation (Matt. 1:21; Luke 2:11; John 3:17; 12:47), and more specifically the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28; Eph 1:7); the removal of our sins (John 1:29; 1 John 3:5); the cleansing of deliverance of a bad conscience (Heb. 10:22); justification (Rom 4:25); righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30); sonship (Gal 3:26; 4:5-6; Eph 1:5); confident access to God (Eph 2:18; 3:12); God’s laying aside his wrath in virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, that is, the sacrifice of atonement (Rom 3:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10; Heb 2:17; […] the second birth and the power to become children of God (John 1:12-13; sanctification (1 Cor 1:30); […] deliverance from death and from the fear of death (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:55; Heb 2:15); escape from judgment (Heb 10:27-28); and finally, the resurrection on the last day (John 11:25; 1 Cor 15:21) [where we will experience] ascension; glorification; the heavenly inheritance; eternal life already beginning here with the inception of faith; and one day fully manifesting itself in glory; the new heaven and new earth; and the restoration of all things.

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids:Baker, 2006) 339-40.

To him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.

 

Tagged , , ,

Uncoverted Preaching

I’m taking a class this semester called the History of Gospel Preaching in America. I assume for the majority of the class I will be loving evaluating the great preachers of American History. That is, until we reach the 2nd Great Awakening, where the message of the Gospel radically changed for the worse—to this day we still experience the effects, but that’s neither here nor there. I found this snippet of a sermon preached by Gilbert Tennent called “The Dangers of an Unconverted Ministry,” where he expresses the dangers of preaching without the power of the Holy Spirit.

“And alas! What poor Guides are natural Ministers to those, who are under Spiritual Trouble? They either slight such Doctrines altogether, and call it Melancholy, or Madness, or daub those that are under it, with untemper’d Mortar. Our Lord as­sures us, that the Salt which hath lost its Savour is good for nothing; some say, ‘It genders Worms and Vermine.’ Now, what Savour has Pharisee-Ministers? In truth, a very stink­ing One, both in the Nostrils of God and good Men.”

Tagged , ,

At All Times & Every Hour

I have nearly decided to stop praying using my own words. I simply cannot say what I mean as well as the the faithful of old. I just started my last fall semester at DTS, which means a whole world of change lies just around the corner. If I think to deeply about the future I tend to struggle with anxiety. Something about this prayer is very calming and soothing to my soul.

Christ our God, who is worshipped and glorified at all times and in every hour in heaven and on earth; who is most patient, loving and kind; who loves the just and shows mercy to sinners; who calls all to salvation through the promise of the blessings to come; Lord, at this time receive our prayer and direct our lives according to Your will. Bless our souls and bodies. Correct our thoughts and purify our minds. Protect us from all evil and distress. Surround us with Your holy angels, that guided and guarded by them, we may attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Your unapproachable glory, for you are blessed forever and ever. Amen

Tagged

Christian Cliches

“God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.”

I have often thought about this saying and I think the intention behind it is pure. I think we say and hear this so often because we want to be a community who emphasizes the overwhelming goodness, faithfulness, and grace of God. However, like many cliches, I do not know if they are helpful when all is said and done because I think the tendency can be some sort of attempt to remove sin from us and place it outside of ourselves so that when we sin, we claim it as uncharacteristic of us. However, sin is not just something that we simply partake in, it is naturally who we are at the core. Paul clearly states this in the first several chapters of Romans. He states that men have failed to honor God (1:21), they have suppressed the truth of who He is, and they have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (1:23). For this, Paul says the wrath of God is on them (2:6-9).

In addition, if sin truly is something that is outside of us and rather than something we are, then why does Isaiah respond this way when he is confronted with the holiness of God: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! (Is. 6:5)” Isaiah never claims that his sin is simply something he does, but instead recognizes that he is ruined.

Then there are passages such as these that we must wrestle with:

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evil doers.” Psalm 5:4, 5

“The Lord tests the righteous but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” Psalm 11:5

“But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you.” Psalm 55:23

Now the tendency might be for us to say, “Come on now, this is talking about really wicked people. The type of people who murder, rape, and commit horrible atrocious acts. However, apart from Christ, everyone is in league with the worst type of sinner. Apart from the redemptive work of Christ, I am a child and slave of Satan and God’s wrath rests on me just as it does on any other wicked person.

My point in bringing this up is not so I can correct people when they use the phrase, “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” I have no interest in being a theological nit pick. However, if we so quickly dismiss God’s hate toward us as evil doers, then we miss out on a truly beautiful aspect of the Gospel. John Calvin, citing St. Augustine, describes this in The Institutes of the Christian Religion:

“God’s love,” says [Augustine], “is incomprehensible and unchangeable. For it was not after we were reconciled to him through the blood of his Son that he began to love us. Rather, he has loved us before the world was created, that we also might be his sons along with his only-begotten Son—before we became anything at all. The fact that we were reconciled through Christ’s death must not be understood as if his Son reconciled us to him that he might now begin to love those whom he hated. Rather, we have already been reconciled to him who loves us, with whom we were enemies on account of sin. The apostle will testify whether I am speaking truth: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ [Rom 5:8]. Therefore, he loved us even when we practiced enmity toward him and committed wickedness. Thus in a marvelous and divine way he loved us even when he hated us. For he hated us for what we were that he had not made; yet because our wickedness and not entirely consumed his handiwork, he knew how, at the same time, to hate in each one of us what we had made, and to love what he had made (Book 2, Ch. 16, Sec. 4).”

Does God hate sin? Yes. Does God hate sinners? Yes. Does God love sinners? Yes! Do not so quickly dismiss the hatred of God toward the sinner because in his hatred we see the depth of His love. Only at the cross could God’s hatred for us and love for us meet.”He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).”

Tagged , , , ,

Arminianism Shmarminianism

I was digging through my Complete Works of John Owen v. 10 today and found a very interesting work by him called A Display of Arminianism where it is his aim to show why Arminianism is silly, inconsistent, and not Christian. The great thing about John Owen, whether you agree or disagree with him, is that is unbelievably thorough in his analysis and treatment of views contrary to his. When he sat down to write, he did so as if the souls of men were on the line.

Owen explains the reason for his work in the preface:

The fates of our church having of late devolved the government thereof into the hands of men tainted with this poison, Arminianism became backed with the powerful arguments of praise and preferment, and quickly prevailed to beat poor naked Truth into a corner. It is high time, then, for all the lovers of the old ways to oppose this innovation, prevailing by such unworthy means, before our breach grow great like the sea, and there be none to heal it.

If it is not clear by this that Owen despises Arminianism, then that will become clear shortly. What strikes me is Owen’s lack of political correctness and “respect” for opposing views. He simply calls the view a poison to the church. A note of clarification is necessary here because like there are differing views within Calvinism[1], there are also different views within Arminianism. The strand of Arminianism that Owen is dealing with is something along the lines of the mutated baby of Classical Arminiamism[2] and Rationalism[3]. It was Arminianism with a very strong Pelagian[4] aftertaste. To be clear, Owen would oppose any form of Arminianism, however the predominant strand of Arminianism in his day was heavily influenced by Rationalism. In his work, Owen introduces his case against Arminianism:

The soul of man, by reason of the corruption of nature, is not only darkened with a mist of ignorance, whereby he is disenabled for the comprehending of divine truth, but is also armed with prejudice and opposition against some parts thereof, which are either most above or most contrary to some false principles which he hath framed unto himself. As a desire of self-sufficiency was the first cause of this infirmity, so a conceit thereof is that wherewith he still languisheth; nothing doth he more contend for than an independency of any supreme power, which might either help, hinder, or control him in his actions… Never did any men more eagerly endeavor the erecting of this Babel than the Arminians, the modern blinded patrons of human self-sufficiency…

From here on out I am only going to outline what Owen says about what Arminianists believe and what they deny.  Hopefully this will spur you on to read what he has to say.

1)  To exempt themselves from God’ jurisdiction,—to free themselves from the supreme dominion of his all-ruling providence…[so] to have an absolute independent power in all their actions.

1) They deny the eternity and unchangeableness of God’s decrees

2) They question the prescience or foreknowledge of God

3) They depose the all-governing providence of this King of nations, denying its effectual power in turning the hearts of men

4) They deny the irresistibly and uncontrollable power of God’s will, affirming that oftentimes he seriously wills and intends what he cannot accomplish

2)  To clear human nature from the heavy imputation of being sinful, corrupted, wise to do evil but unable to do good; and so to vindicate unto themselves a power and ability of doing all that good which God can justly require to be done by them in the state wherein they area proud Luciferian endeavor!

1) They deny that doctrine of predestination whereby God is affirmed to have chosen certain men before the foundation of the world… for this doctrine would make the special grace of God to be the sole cause of all the good that is in the elect

2) They deny original sin and its demerit.

3) They will claim that if you charge our human nature with repugnancy to the law of God, they will maintain that it was also in Adam when he was first created, and so comes from God himself. (In other words, it is God’s fault that we are in our corrupted state).

4) They deny the efficacy of the merit of the death of Christ.

5) They grant some to have salvation apart from Christ.

6) Having thus robbed God, Christ, and his grace, they adorn their idol free-will with many glorious properties no way due unto it.

7) They do not only claim to their new-made deity a saving power, but also affirm that he is very active and operative in the great work of saving our souls.

 


[1] Simply defined as a theological system that is centered around the Sovereignty of God. Basic tenants: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints (TULIP)

[2] Developed mainly as a response to Calvinism. Where as Calvinists see predestination as an unconditional action of GOd in electing individuals to salvation, Arminianism teaches that predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge in seeing whether an individual would freely accept of reject Christ.

[3]  A reliance on reason, rather than revelation (Scripture) for the establishment of Truth.

[4]  Taught by British monk Pelagius (354-415) who emphasized human effort and merit as the means of salvation, thus divine grace was unnecessary (Strongly opposed by Augustine).

Tagged , , , ,