Monday, August 18, 2008

Mother Teresa, we need you now. . .

A few of you have asked my opinion of the recent appearance of our two presidential hopefuls at the land of all things purpose-ful. From what I saw, it appeared that we fundamentally learned nothing new of either candidate. Obama seemed to run right down the left hand of the dial, with McCain down the right.

Obama said some pretty striking things, of which you can imagine my response. First, I don't fundamentally hold to an individual's right to life from conception as a matter of 'faith'. It is a matter of scientific fact and clear medical evidence, to state this pro-life position as a matter of faith (and so somehow not to be an issue of legislative action as other matters of life and death) is obfuscation and manipulation of the highest order.

Obama was asked when, in his view, a baby gets human rights. His response was fascinating:

"Whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is, you know, above my pay grade."

Obama is a legislator, civic leader, and running for the highest office in our land and must speak clearly on what is still the most important human rights issue facing our land. This defining moral issue is without a doubt well within the pay grade of our commander in chief. In reality Sen. Obama has made his view clear in every forum thus far. Senator Obama went on to say that he 'believes' in Roe v. Wade, thus making it clear that he denies the human rights of the fetus through to term. He has campaigned unequivocally AGAINST the rights of the unborn and has promised this campaign to continue. How in the world can an American citizen accept such a manipulative and ridiculous answer- regardless of your position on the life of the unborn?

The real issue that I had with the forum, of course, had more to do with the right reverend Rick Warren. Actually, I felt he did a 'good job' as far as all that goes. He moderated well, asked some very helpful questions and was fair and balanced, just like FOX news. The problem with all this is that our pastor-teachers are not called to be debate moderators, or 'forum' providers for political hopefuls. They are to preach the gospel, to oppose sin and injustice, and confront governors and leaders with the truth of God's Word. I am reminded of the famous prayer breakfast when the diminutive and elderly Mother Teresa stood up among a crowd of clergymen and chastised President Bill Clinton for his woeful position on the issue of abortion. She refused the religous stature that the powers and principalities offered and instead chose the cause of the least of these. That Pastor Warren abdicated the prophetic nature of his office at such an opportunity is sad, to say the least. Though it must be argued that such prophetic abdication is the very reason why Saddleback had this opportunity in the first place.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

You talkin' a me?

A great post over at brokenhallelujahs. If you struggle with 'hearing from God', I strongly encourage you to find help and assurance through Dad's solid primer on listening to God.

Here's an excerpt:

The normative venue for the voice of God is the inspired Word of God. We are to expect God to "speak" to us continually and directly through this means, both collectively and privately. I would not say that God refuses to speak audibly to others in our post-canonical age, but were he to do so, it is a safe bet that it is meant for their "ears" only. It is not to be expected as a normal experience and we will waste precious time waiting for such an event to energize our devotion and service. Everything we share or expect to enjoy in this life is to be monitored and verified by Scripture. The only credentials that verify the truth is the truth itself, the truth of God's Word. We are to train ourselves in this, seeking God's approval in knowing and doing what His word has revealed. Intimacy with him comes from moral obedience, prayer and pure devotion based on his Word. (Eph 4:30; 1 Thes 5:19-22) His demands for us are clear. Our "demands" on him must be Biblical and tempered by an awareness of our mortality and his holiness. In short, don't expect to hear his voice, rather expect to know his will and do it. Any other experiences will be at God's prerogative and not our insistence.


The Reality of True Loss. . .

. . . And a prayer for true life.

I have often said that one of my great anxieties in this life is over the idea of losing one of my children. Stories like the recent news of the death of Steven Curtis Chapman's little girl fill me not only with heartache, but also a sense of dread that such a loss might befall our family.

In my preparation for this Sunday's message on the person and work of the Holy Spirit I came across this sermon by John Piper. In his discussion of the role of the Spirit in the new birth, Piper shared this story:

When I came home from church last Wednesday night Noël told me she had been shaken because Karsten and Benjamin, our two older sons, had almost run out in front of a car on 11th Avenue on the way home. As I lay there in bed trying to go to sleep I shivered at the scene in my mind of my sons being killed by a speeding car. But then my mind shifted to the long view, to eternity, and the last thing I prayed as I went off to sleep was, "O God, I would rather lose all my sons now than that one of them fail to be born again. If, God forbid, it were a choice between life with me now and life with you forever, then take them. But don't let one be lost! Don't let one of them fail to be born again!" There is no more important event in anyone's life than being born again.

I was challenged by this prayer. I can honestly say that my greatest earthly treasure and my greatest human and temporal joy is found in my family. I would gladly be a pauper in a mud hut without a cent to my name as long as I have these five by my side. I would gladly give up my calling as a pastor for their sake. There is no earthly thing I desire above them- their presence, their love, their voices, and their very persons.

Note well that I have said earthly, human, and temporal. The real question is: Do I desire their spiritual and eternal blessedness above the temporal blessing of having them at my side today? Do I desire their spiritual life above their physical life? Could I pray with Pastor Piper, "O God, I would rather lose all my children now than that one of them fail to be born again. If, God forbid, it were a choice between life with me now and life with you forever, then take them."

Join with me in begging God not for the mere safety of our children, or their comfort, or their earthly security (financial or otherwise)- but for their LIFE. That they might have LIFE and have it abundantly. That they might now spiritual life, eternal life, life from the very Spirit of God by the work of Jesus Christ.

Living God and Heavenly Father, I intercede now for Tess, Bo, Emma, and Chloe. I pray that you would grant to them gift of eternal life. I ask that they would know you through your Son, Jesus Christ. I plead with you to rush into their hearts with rebirth, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I ask for you to give they would taste true life that is beyond this life, infinite joy above and beyond temporal joys, heavenly treasures above and beyond any earthly riches, and that any human breath would be a vapor in light of their eternal life in you. I ask it in the name of Jesus Christ, who redeemed my life from the pit and brought me into your family as a son and heir. Amen.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Work of Christ - Some Resources

Last Sunday I continued our walk through what we might call essential evangelical Christianity with a look at the work of Christ. This, as a subset of Christology- the study of Christ, is normally called soteriology. I focused in a bit upon this rather immense topic by looking specifically at the work of Christ as

1. A substitutionary sacrifice. Christ died in our place, so meeting the wages of our sin. He imputed his righteounsess to us and bore the penalty for our sin.
2. A redeeming sacrifice. Sin costs us. Its wages are death. The soul that sins shall die. We are enslaved to the condemning power of God's righteous law. Under God's law we are put, righteously, into debtor's prison. We pay for our cosmic treason of sin with the rather 'cosmic' punishment of eternal condemnation in hell. Jesus pays the wages of our sin, he buys us out of prison with his righteous life and holy and pure sacrifice. He stands righteous before the judge of the universe and offers his holy life as a payment for the sins of God's people.
3. A propitiatory sacrifice. God hates sin. He does so righteously and without human, creaturely passion. He simply cannot bear its presence. He cannot imagine it away, he cannot overlook it, but he can mercifully meet it justly by His own gracious work. He does so in Christ. Jesus makes a righteous God, burning with righteous anger over the evil of the human heart, propitious. Jesus bears God's wrath, and makes us sons and friends.

Here are some helpful resources (actually, most of these works might be called crucial resources) as we explore the depths of God's love to us through the work of His own Son.

"The Heart of the Gospel" by J.I. Packer. This is chapter 18 in Packer's incredible book, Knowing God. I'll keep saying it- if you haven't read this book you are missing out on what is probably the most important evangelical theological primer written in the past 30 years.

Apostolic Preaching of the Cross and The Atonement by Leon Morris. Leon Morris is one of the unsung heroes in the battle for a biblical view of the atonement over the past 50 years. Both of these books are dog eared, torn, wrinkled, marked and highlighted and at arm's length on my bookshelf.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murrray. One of the greatest little books ever written. Murray's defense of the reformed doctrine of 'limited atonement' or 'particular redemption' in his chapter on the extent of the atonement is a must read. If you call yourself a 'four point' Calvinist, or a Cal-minian [usually meaning that you embrace the T (total depravity) the U (unconditional election) the I (irresistible grace) and the P (perseverance of the saints) yet do not embrace the L (limited atonement) of the five points of Calvinism] you are not fully convinced until you work through Murray's biblical arguments a 'limited' view of Christ's saving work. If you are scandalized by the very thought of Christ's work as limited, then I urge you to read Murray's book as well as the most concise and thoughtful introduction to reformed theology available by J.I. Packer.

That is plenty of reading for now but if you are thirsty for more, then here are a couple of great new works defending 'evangelical' and orthodox views of the atonement- Pierced For Our Transgressions, In My Place Condemned He Stood . Of course the chapters on soteriology in Grudem's systematic text (or in Berkhof, Hodge, and Reymond's Systematic Theologies) are all excellent reference works for the student of theology.