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The problem of evil is often said to be the strongest argument against Orthodox Christianity.  While this could very well be the case, it is not my intent to delve into that.

The “other” problem of evil is rarely talked about.

Perhaps it is because we are so focused on the god of self.

Perhaps it is because we don’t think very deeply or consistently these days.

Perhaps it is because we in the west have, for the most part, lost sight of proper biblical categories and doctrines.

I suppose it is some combination of the three (among others).

The Scriptures reveal God and His rescue of humanity as a central theme woven throughout the Old and New Testaments.  God is revealed in full trinitarian nature with the incarnation of Christ and the founding of the church.  Christ is shown to be fully human and fully God and to have dwelt with God the Father since before the world was created.  “…O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John 17:5  We see the perfect unity of the Godhead in the redemption of the church as the members of the Trinity work towards and accomplish salvation together.

The climax of salvation comes with a bloody Savior nailed to a tree, cursed by men and God alike.

Enter the “Other” problem of evil.

How could the good God we see in the scriptures have ordained and brought about the mocking, scourging and crucifixion of His innocent Son?

“For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”  Acts 4:27, 28

What can we gather from these verses?  That God predetermined and brought about the crucifixion of the spotless lamb through the actions of men.

Hang on, weren’t these sinful actions?

Yes. In a very real way the crucifixion of God incarnate was the deepest, darkest sin in all of history.  We killed our maker.

So God decreed and brought about the monstrous slaughter of a completely innocent person, His own Son.

I don’t think we often realize the full gravity of what God did.  The cross is talked of so much that it becomes familiar and we lose sight of the awesome and terrible nature of what happened.  It is as simple as the following: God is utterly good. God brought about horrible evil.

How is that for a moral conundrum? How can we reconcile these truths?

I am convinced that the only way to do so is to delve back into those old truths that by and large we have lost.  The truths of imputation, the covenant of redemption and federal headship

Imputation: To charge somebody responsible for another’s crime: to bring legal charges against somebody because a person that he or she is responsible for has committed an offense, in this case, Christ charged for our crimes.

Covenant of redemption: This is a term for the decision made by the Triune God in eternity past to come and save a people.

Federal Headship: The doctrine that God as creator and ruler can appoint a human to represent other humans. The others would be effected by this persons actions as he or she is their representative.

As I see it, the only way to reconcile the truths that God is good and He brought about evil are as follows.

Our triune God decided to redeem a bride from among fallen humanity.  God the Son was appointed as the federal head of this bride. He represents them by bearing the imputed penalties for their crimes against Law.  God the Father would bring this penalty down on the Son. God the Holy Spirit would regenerate and guide this bride.

Christ came and walked this earth.  He willingly went to the cross, bearing my sins (which were imputed to Him) and there He bore the full weight of the wrath of almighty God.  God “crushed the shepherd”, as it says in Isaiah.  God could crush the perfect, spotless lamb of God because He bore the sins of His people.  Because He was accounted among the transgressors, by both God and man.

The men who actually drove the nails were used by God, but their motivations were entirely different.  Pontius Pilate and Herod were used by God to bring this to be. They bear their sins. What God the Father did was absolutely pure and there was no crime committed by God in that act.

Unless, of course, we remove these doctrines and deny that God can use evil actions.  Then we are back in the moral conundrum and there is no way out.  The insanity of our day is seen clearly when we throw out the old biblical doctrines and proclaim a loving, gushy teddy bear god but are then left with a god who murdered Jesus.

In closing, I’m aware that there are other doctrines that come into play here, doctrines that I have not touched on.  I’m aware that I skimmed over the ones I did touch on in a shallow way. I believe it was a truthful way though and I hope this blog will produce some helpful thinking and some good dialogue.  Feel free to ask and debate in the comments.

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The prayer of faith

These verses are a good antidote to the self-centered prayers we often slip into. May God be glorified in our prayers!

David M’Intyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer: The Lifeblood of the Christian (original, 1891), chapter 6:

It is a divinely-implanted persuasion, the fruit of much spiritual instruction and discipline. It is vision in a clearer light than that of earth.

The prayer of faith, like some plant rooted in a fruitful soil, draws its virtue from a disposition which has been brought into conformity with the mind of Christ.

  1. It is subject to the Divine will—”This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us” (1 John 5:14).
  2. It is restrained within the interest of Christ—”Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
  3. It is instructed in the truth—”If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).
  4. It is energized by the Spirit—”Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20).
  5. It is interwoven with love and mercy—”And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).
  6. It is accompanied with obedience—”Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
  7. It is so earnest that it will not accept denial—”Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9).
  8. It goes out to look for, and to hasten its answer—”The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working” (James 5:16, RV).

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All too often I get caught up in my day and allow my emotions and “heart” to take me where they will.  Instead of walking in the spirit, taking care to discipline my thoughts and feelings I let them seize control and pilot me wherever they will, inevitably in a sinful and selfish direction.

There is a lot said in scripture about the human heart and none of it is very positive.  It seems when we read thru the bible we see a grand story of God’s amazing works outside of men in the world, but also inside of men and using them.  Whenever a man or woman submits to God and crushes self God uses them in good ways.  Whenever we do it our own way and contribute something original to the picture (sin) we always mar ourselves and the world around us.

Popular culture preaches to us from every corner that we should follow our hearts.  It is amazing how many childrens movies celebrate the young person who rebels against his society and “follows his heart”.  We are so surrounded with false thinking about our hearts that the natural tendency is to loosen our grip on our shields and get swept away in the flow.

If I, as a follower of the Lord, am to walk in holiness there are a couple things I need to see very clearly about my own heart.

Though regenerated my heart is still deeply deceptive and self-oriented.

As Jerry Bridges said, “Even our best works are shot through with sin–with varying degrees of impure motives and lots of imperfect performance.”

If we want to grow as believers, if we want to glorify God in our thoughts we must learn to evaluate our own hearts honestly.  It is not enough just to try to do what feels “good” or “unselfish”.   Our minds are chock full of wrong thinking from many years of hearing lies from the culture surrounding us, not to mention our own conniving hearts trying to look out for number 1.  We must find what is right from a source outside of ourselves and, sadly, Dr. Phil doesn’t cut the mustard.  God’s Word is the only standard we can look to.  Soak in it.  Dig in daily.  There is no other path to reorganizing your mind according to God’s thought patterns.
May the God who saved you give you the strength to heed His commands!

 

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After a long absence from the blogosphere I am hoping to get back in the game.  For 2 reasons:

1st To tell stories from my life, speak on truth, and share scripture, all with the motivation that those reading will be spurred on towards Christ.

2nd  So that I can by writing semi-regularly build up my ability to do so in a good way, also in so doing it will systematize my disorderly thoughts in an orderly fashion.

Its been too long.   I got engaged, got married, honeymooned and am now back home with my gorgeous wife learning to be a husband.  I have changed, greatly.  God has brought my and mi amor thru some crazy, horrible things that I pray have been and will be used to sanctify us and prepare us for our lives together.  To clarify, I’m not saying my engagement, honeymoon and marriage so far are those horrible things.  🙂  My woman is amazing and it has been great on that front.  Other things, those type of things that are so so hard while in the thick of it, but that bless so much later on, are what I was referring to as crazy and horrible.

As I said, married life has been great.  My wife has to be the greatest thing since canned corn.  🙂  Her continual sacrifice for me is a constant reminder to me of how precious a possession she is, and how great a need there is for me to press into Christ in order to be who she needs.

Work has been steady.  My own business is slowly but steadily growing.   Also I took on a side job as a millwright.  I know you guys dont know what that is…. so…. google it.  🙂

My hope and prayer is to live a life out with my wife where our eyes are on the crucified Son of God and our feet walk His ways.  May we ever glorify Him in all we do!

“Your worst days are never so bad that you’re beyond the reach of God’s grace.  And your best days are never so good that you’re beyond the need of God’s grace.”

Jerry Bridges “The Discipline of Grace”

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This is not a post about an attitude of general criticalness, though it does relate.

This is about our attitude of criticism towards other believers for the “spiritual” things they do.

There are two extremes we can slip into.  On the one hand there are many who are so uncritical that anything they hear or see, they accept as Gospel Truth and as a result are blown about “with every wind of doctrine”.  Then there are those whose minds are like brick walls.  They attack everything and claim to have a monopoly on truth.

Going into personal experience here for a sec, I believe I can see God working on me in this area in the past few years.  I remember how hard I was on other believers in my thoughts in the past.  I remember constantly critiquing them, their prayers, their preaching, their lives.  I thought I could do everything so much better.  A good dose of reality, the reality of my own failure drug me out of a lot of that, though it is and probably always will be a struggle.

And then we can take the young woman whom I am courting as an example for a bit (I pray she will forgive me for this).  A little back, as she recounted it to me, she used to tend much more towards the side of accepting whatever came down the pike without analyzing it carefully.  Since then, she has matured greatly and attempts to think more about what she sees and hears in the light of scripture.

Two types of people can be imagined here.  Mr. Blown-About and Mr. Critical.

Mr. Blown-About will face the challenge of a great lack of growth because he has no focus to grow towards.  As every new thing comes down the pike he latches on and that is everything…. until something newer comes.  This is repeated ad nauseum and Mr. Blown-About is exactly at the same spiritual depth as he was ten years ago.  Shallow.

Mr. Critical will face the same challenge of a lack of growth, but in a different sense then his counterpart.  His critical spirit will not allow him to see when he can learn and grow from something different.  Mr. Critical will stay in stasis because, after all, the old way is the best way and boy, does he know the old way!

Both of these men will not grow.  How can we get around their shortcomings and grow?

I am convinced there is no answer other than that of a firm commitment to God’s Word.  When we dive in the word we find two answers.  First, that in the word there is a sure guide, a solid guide and that all must bow to its teaching.  Thus we will interpret all we hear through the grid of scripture vigilantly.  But second, we will see ourselves as the scriptures see us, as fallible beings that can learn from each other how to better understand that word.  Thus we will seek to find ways to understand scripture better as we listen to and view our fellow brothers and sisters.

There is no sure fountainhead of truth other than scripture and all in our lives must bow to this.  But our understanding of that Word can be faulty and a sense of humility should be present.

So, we must be critical, but humbly critical, not thinking that our ways are the best, but always trying to seek Christ’s ways in His word.  There is not surefire method to this.  Just honest seeking of the truth.

 

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God Is Sovereign Over . . .

Seemingly random things:

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33)

The heart of the most powerful person in the land:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)

Our daily lives and plans:

A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way? (Proverbs 20:24)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. . . . Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

Salvation:

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:15-16)

As many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

Life and death:

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39)

The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. (1 Samuel 12:6)

Disabilities:

Then the LORD said to [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11)

The death of God’s Son:

Jesus, [who was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23)

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

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief. . . . (Isaiah 53:10)

Evil things:

Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it? (Amos 3:6)

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. . . . “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 1:21-22; 2:10)

[God] sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. . . . 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. (Psalm 105:17; Genesis 50:21)

All things:

[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will. (Ephesians 1:11)

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)

This was borrowed from Tim Challies, who borrowed it from our King.

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It seems to me that humans really like having a war to fight.  At least humans that have not been lulled into meaningless complacency by the luxury of our culture.  We desire something to campaign for and to fight for.
Of course I am not using the word fight to mean a physical war, but more a mental one.
When I was younger, and some older people may well say that these tendencies yet reside within me, I recall going thru great cycles in my thoughts.  I would get all pumped up about some particular idea, or doctrine, and would push it with remarkable tenacity.  I would take up the banner of, say, my particular view of music, and campaign against all those who thought differently.  This war would consume my thoughts…. at least until another thing gained dominance in my mind.  And then I went to war for that thing….  And on and on it went.
Sadly many never grow out of this cycle.  I think, or rather hope that I did.
Even sadder are those who no longer are cyclical in these patterns, but settle down into their own particular war.  Fine-tuned their defences are.  They have handcrafted them over years.  And all too often the things that some people have chosen to defend with all their exertions and thoughts are so peripheral to the Christian faith that their efforts are far more detrimental than helpful.
Not to say that waging war over a particular doctrine is not a good thing sometimes.  That Martin Luther took it in hand to fight that huge battle over justification by faith is something that all Christians should be grateful for.  We need that sometimes.
But let us, like Luther, fight these wars for the right things.  Peripheral doctrines should be seen as just that.  Let us focus our lives on the gospel and make war over that!  Christ and His kingdom should be what is on our hearts and minds at all times.
War is necessary.  Inactivity is treason.  Making war over anything less than the gospel and Christ’s kingdom is just as treasonous.
Let us crown Christ King, over our wars.

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