Cook Book Recipes and Proverbs

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In reading Proverbs 1-4, I found it fascinating that the Bible plainly tells us how to acquire wisdom, knowledge, and understanding-like-just sitting right there, black and white. Assuming we would all like to be wiser, more knowledgeable, and to understand what we know and how to apply it, I present the following:

Proverbs 1:20 states blatantly that “Wisdom cries aloud in the street”, that is to say that it is easily accessible. It is our own immaturity, selfishness, and laziness that keeps us from grasping what is right in front of us (struggle with daily Bible reading much?). Proverbs 2 then gives step by step instruction as to how to obtain knowledge and wisdom. You could not write a recipe in a cook book clearer then how Solomon spelled it out (he knew his audience well). It can be bulleted from Proverbs  2:1-5 as such:

“My son…”

  1. Receive my words
  2. Treasure up (meditate/remember/dwell on) my commandments
  3. Make your ear attentive to wisdom
  4. Incline your heart (desire) understanding
  5. Call out for insight and understanding
  6. Seek it like a something incredibly valuable

“Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God”.

Another essential factor is that we not forget from whom the source of all knowledge and wisdom come: “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding…” (Prov 2:6). 

Now, re-read that because it is probably a thought that we most often take for granted and do not really conceptualize the power of the truth of that verse.

Another interesting thought:

Prov 1:5 says:  “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.”

There is a kind of circular, closed loop, system being described here. It is the person who is already wise being admonished to hear and increase in learning. The fact that they are wise implies that they do, and will do, this very thing; listen and increase in learning.  Also, the one who understands is told to obtain guidance. Again, this is a direct result of the fact that this person has obtained guidance previously, gives guidance, and will continue to do the very thing that gave him the understanding in the first place.

These counsels are also the character traits of the person being counseled. The wise is wise because he listens, and the understanding give guidance because they know to obtain guidance.

A Dove, 3, 7, and Creation

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Genesis 8:8-11

Noah is waiting for the flood waters to recede and he sends out two birds. I have not contemplated or researched enough yet to comment on the raven but when reading about the dove being sent out, some striking things stand out (note: there is no mention of a seven day waiting period between the raven and the dove…significant? I do not yet know).

The dove is sent out and comes back with nothing. Noah waits seven days and then sends it out again. The dove hovers over the face of the water because it is formless and void and returns again with nothing.

Noah once more waits seven days and sends out the dove, and on this third time it returns with an olive branch of new creation.

In this four verse narrative we see all of the trinitarian creation story being told again.

Later on we also see the Edenic exhortation beings reiterated, this time to Noah: “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.”

This is a command-blessing that echoes that given to Adam during the first creation.

Now, there is another waiting of seven days and on this fourth time being sent out the dove does not return, and maybe this means everything I said above means nothing-or it ties in some how that I have not yet seen. I welcome comments and will update this post as I contemplate more on this passage; however, I think there is way to much coincidence to be ignored.

God loves to tell His story, many different times, in many different ways. Eschatologically we and the earth, which is under another curse, are waiting for the next new creation, and the final seventh day sabbath rest, that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit to inherit at the second advent of our Messiah.

Dangerous Christianity and Galatians

Recently, Tim Keller was interviewed by the NY Times and in that interview Keller espoused the importance of believing the basic orthodox beliefs of Christianity, namely; the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus.

John Stone Street wrote an excellent article that talks about the backlash that Kellers has received from other “Christian” groups who are labeling Keller’s brand of Christianity- i.e. the orthodox, confessional brand- as dangerous.

As much as I didn’t like C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity (I know, #unpopularopinion) John Stonestreet points out that even Lewis declared the need to believe in the miracles of Jesus.

The passage in Galatians I am currently focsuing on tells us exactly how important Paul thought the essential doctrines of Christianity to be:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9

Paul is astonished by how quick these believers have started to believe false doctrines and listen to “other” gospels. Paul does not mince words in his condemnation of those who forsake orthodox Christian truth: “let him be accursed”.

In short, if you forsake the essential truths, and the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ definitely fall under this category (see my post here), there is no salvation.

“I thought all I needed was the ABC’s: Accept, Believe, Confess”.

Sure, but what are you accepting, believing, and confessing? If you do not believe the Bible to be entirely true, you call God a liar. If you do not believe the Jesus was who He said he was (virgin born and resurrected) then you do not believe in the actual Jesus-this means you are not a Christian by the Bible’s own definition.

Admittedly, the title “Christian” is probably the most hijacked title of all time. Anyone can call themselves a Christian and does not have to justify why because…who cares about objectivity and history.

Why is this acceptable? Frankly, I have no idea. In society one cannot be considered a US citizen without the proper paper work. Someone cannot just come into America and declare themselves a citizen and magically receive all the benefits thereof. There are things they have to agree and submit to before they can gain citizenship. This is also true of Christianity. If you do not preach the orthodox truths of Christianity, yet have the gall to identify as a Chrstian-i.e. a “Christ follower” then Paul says:

“Let him be accursed”

Well, that’s not very ecumenist of you Paul.

Let me tell you; if you thought Paul was dangerous as a Pharisee, you should get to know him as a Christian.

Joyful Joyful We Look Forward

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“Therefore, it is fitting that the new covenant radically alters the Sabbath perspective. The current believer in Christ does not follow the Sabbath pattern of the people of the old covenant. He does not first labour six days, looking hopefully toward rest. Instead, he begins the week by rejoicing in the rest already accomplished by the cosmic events of Christ’s resurrection. Then he enters joyfully into his six days of labor, confident of success through the victory which Christ already has won.”

~O. Palmer Robertson, Christ of the Covenants

Christ’s first advent brought hope. We joyfully start our week resting in the fulfilled promises of the Messiah, instead of living our week in anticipation of them. This is part of the greatness of the New Covenant.

There is a Sabbath rest still to come that all creation groans for-but it is coming; and we have the work of Christ in his incarnation, death, and resurrection to look back on as the assurance that God will fulfill His promises.

Joyfully look forward on what is already accomplished as the assurance of what is yet still to be accomplished!

Christmas is not about Family

 

WHHHHAAAATTTTT!!!! Heresy in its highest form.

Christmas is NOT about family- however, this does not mean that family cannot, and should not, be an integral part in the celebration and true focus of Christmas.

Christmas is about the incarnation of God.

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It has been said rather recently by a well known apologist that the Resurrection is the primary thing that matters. It does not exactly matter if the gospel accounts are entirely accurate, whether He was truly born of a virgin, truly born to Jospeh and Mary, truly born in bethlehem etc.

I beg to differ.

The Incarnation is just as important as the Resurrection. The Gospel accounts must also be true, not only for the fact that we must have confidence in God’s word, but also the doctrinal truth of the Virgin Birth is essential to truly understanding the hypostatic union, the resurrection, and the entirety of the work of Christ

Christ is the New Adam, therefore He could not be born of the sin imputed to us from the first Adam (see Romans 5). Christ was fully God and fully man but He did not have a sin nature.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:1-4, 14.

It matters that Christ was 100% God and 100% man. It matters that He was born of a Virgin. It matters that He was born! This is the ultimate act of love and glory. Jesus came to glorify the Father (and be glorified) by the loving act of redeeming such insignificant creatures as us, wholly underserving and not worthy of this gift; it is graciously given.

You cannot have the Crucifixion and Resurrection without the Incarnation-this is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

As to family, use this time to focus on something that should be focused on much more than once a year with those closest to you; use this time to share with your friends and family who do not believe as to why the incarnation is so important; celebrate this time together so that you may grow in love for your Savior and each other!

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

 

 

 

 

Because the Church said so…

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Here is a statement that Catholics and Protestants can both eagerly affirm (though most Protestants don’t know it yet):

“We can trust that the books we have in the Bible are the correct ones because the church has recognized them to be such.”

All the Catholics just said “Amen” and many Protestants veins are beginning to swell.

There are multiple ways to to approach understanding why Christians have acknowledged certain books to be included in the Bible and have rejected others. We call certain books canonical and others-we call them many things, let’s just go with “not scripture” for now.

The canonized books are the ones we believe are the books written by chosen individuals inspired by the Holy Spirit and are “God-breathed”.

As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the word of God. We also believe that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit lives and works in His church. These things are related. The fact that the church for centuries has accepted these books as canonical is reason for confidence that we indeed have the Word of God.

This conversation around canonicity is normally talked about from the historical perspective. The topic of which lists of books should be included, which church councils debated the topic and how they differed, and how many hundreds of years it was after the time of the Apostles that we finally had a “completed” Bible are all legitimate approaches, but I want to emphasize a particular approach, and that is the acceptance of the books by the church.

The Catholic apologists loves to tell the Protestant that they often bite the hand that fed them. “You reject the authority of the Roman Catholic Church yet she is the one who gave you your Bible that you use to try to refute her doctrines !”

Many struggle with this charge because it is true that it was in large part the work of church councils lead to the compiling of the books we consider to be Scripture-but that is not what the Catholic claim is actually saying.

What underlies this statement is a claim of ultimate authority. To the Catholic, the Church determined what books where biblical and which ones were not. This leads to the drastic difference between how the Prostestant can agree with opening assertion and the Catholic. The Catholic claim is elevating the Church to a level equal-to, and functionally superior-to, the Scriptures.

This is a grave error because the Catholic Church has misunderstood her role in the development of the canonized Bible. The Church was not the determiner, she was the receiver. The books of the Bible are canonical because they are Scripture, not because the Church declared them to be so.

To deny the work of the church in the work of bringing about the Bible as we now have it would be ridiculous however, it must be recognized that the church was brought only to realize what was already cannon, she did not create it. Michale Kruger eloquently stated it like this: “The church reflects and responds to the Word of God in Her midst”.

In other words, God had His cannon and He used the church to recognize which writings they were. The Church is not the thermostat determining the temperature, she is the thermometer recognizing what is already Scripture by the Holy Spirit. It is not because the Church said so-it is because God revealed so.

And why would the fact that the church recognizing which books are Scripture gives us confidence that it is, be a hard thing for Protestant to affirm? Does God work in the hearts of individuals via the Holy Spirit to help them recognize and apply His word? Why would He then not do so corporately in His church? The church is not infallible but she is most certainly used by God to accomplish His purpose here on earth; and how else, or through whom else, would you have expected God to deliver His word?

Now, I would be negligent if I did not at least mention the differences in the Protestant and Catholic Bibles. I will address this in a later post more in depth, but suffice for now to say that the additional books in the Catholic Bible are symptomatic of their view on authority. These books are not scripture and as stated before, even if the whole church accepted them to be such (which she does not) the church is not infallible.

So to summarize, we can confidently accept the books we have in our Bibles are the complete and actual Word of God because His bride, the church, has recognized-not determined-them to be  such. This is because the Holy Spirit lives within and works within His people.

Open your Bible and hear what He has to say.

 

 

Of Suffering and Evil

I was visiting my parents home in Pennsylvania about a month ago and was blessed by the fact that both of my brothers were there as well. This rarely happens anymore so it really was a special time. Naturally, my mom had scheduled us to sing in church together, seeing that all of us can at least change notes…and sometimes carry a tune (them more than I).

So my brother Seth chose a Shane and Shane song called “Though You Slay Me”. I love this song. It is melancholy and hopeful at the same time, and there is a reason for that.

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Christianity has a theology of suffering. In fact, the “problem of evil” was a very large part of my embracing the Doctrines of Grace. God either has to be in sovereign control over all things or the following two options are true: suffering is meaningles-or God is impotent (or both). These options though are not able to be derived from the Bible, which is were we draw our knowledge of God. So we are left with option 1: God is in sovereign control of evil.

Many Christians would acknowledge this, but to varying degrees. I would guess that the majority of Christendom would advocate that God is sovereign over the ends, but what about the means? God must have to let it ride because- you know, free will.  BUT is this what the Bible says?

Genesis 50: 19-20 “But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

God most certainly controlled the ends…but He also most certainly was not passive in the means.

What does Paul tell us to expect as Christians?

Phil 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

This is part of God’s plan. Not some uncontrollable thing that God has to work around.

To address the immediate objection: “Doesn’t this make God the author of sin?” I will most quickly and emphatically answer “NO!”

To use an analogy I have heard; No one in their right mind would condemn Shakespeare for the murder of King Duncan. Shakespeare may have wrote the play but Macbeth done dood the deed.

This is just a fraction of the level of disparity between our level of existence and God’s. He is the play writer but He does not commit the sins in the play Himself. God was not surprised by Adam and Eve’s sin. He had planned to redeem mankind before He had ever created the world. (Rev 13:8) Why? Because everything is about God showing His glory, His awesomeness, and His holiness. And so as not to confuse anyone, it is not about God needing to receiving glory  (see Austin Fischer’s book “Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed”, and also see the following interactions between Kevin DeYoung and Austin) but rather about Him showing His glory. No action did this greater than the cross.

We suffer now, but there will be a day when all sorrow will cease, where there will be no suffering. Those whom God saved will live eternally in peace in His presence.

So until then, we can quote Romans 8:28 with full confidence because we know that God also controls the means. No suffering is pointless, though we may not see or understand. Take heart Christian, your Lord loves you; so cry out with Job “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”

Hebrews 3

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12

This is a tough verse to deal with for many Christians because many of us would believe in what is called Perseverance of the Saints or Eternal Security (there is a difference, but the end point being that those who are saved cannot lose their salvation). The writer is talking to those whom he calls brothers, yet warns them not to fall away. What is more, he is very clear in his instruction on how to help keep people from falling away.

v. 13 “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

He then states the proof of our perseverance.

v. 14 “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

This sounds like works salvation and like the exact opposite of not being able to lose your salvation but-that is most certainly not the case.

The example the writer gives is that of the covenant community of Israel in the Old Testament. They were in the covenant because of their circumcision but that did not mean that they were saved. They rebelled, they disobeyed, they were then forbidden to enter the rest. They had heard the truth, they had partaken of the covenant benefits yet, because of their unbelief, they showed that they were not part of those who were saved.

Only those who are saved will persevere.

Is this works salvation? No, for you did nothing and could do nothing to regenerate your heart.

Are you still responsible for something in your salvation? Yes. Scripture is clear that we must confess and believe.

Are we to work? Yes. James very clearly states that salvation without works is dead.

How does this work? “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” Phil 2:13.  God will keep those whom He called.

There is this beautiful picture of God working in us, and enabling us to persevere. We are working, yet it is the Spirit working in us and part of how He does this is through our Christian community. He uses us to exhort each other and keep each other.

Much more can be said, much more to hash out. More to come.

Hebrews 2

One of the main adjectives that describes Christianity best is-paradox.

Hebrews 2:14 “Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death…”

Christ came and was born in the flesh so that He might die. The divine nature of Jesus could not be killed. God required a sacrifice for sin. Only God was Holy enough to provide a “once for all” sacrifice, fulfilling what was foreshadowed primarily in the Mosaic covenant but also in the Abrahamic with circumcision.

Christ came and was born in the flesh so that He might defeat death. In rising from the dead, Jesus utterly shattered the hold that sin had, not only over our mortal bodies, but especially our spiritual lives. Our bodies will be resurrected, we will be untied with Christ.

The verse above was prophesied all the way back in Gensis 3:15

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

This was God prophesying that He would destroy Satan. Make no mistake; this is not a battle of equals. This is an Elephant to an ant. Satan thought by stirring up the people, causing Judas to betray Jesus, and working to have Jesus crucified, that this would be the ultimate victory. The look on his face, and the absolute dread he must have felt when Jesus shouted “It is finished”, and the devil realized what he had done, would have been a sight to behold because this is exactly what God has planned. When the human nature died, the divine nature triumphed and then raised the human nature.

Christ came to die to defeat death. Satan’s biggest victory was Satan’s biggest defeat.

Hence-paradox. And a beautiful thing it is.