Sunday, June 28, 2009

In him was life and the life was the light of Men...

"He Made Him who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in him we might become the Righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

Oh to behold the wonder of the cross. That in one central moment God crucified his only begotten son. To even meditate on this and see not as something routine or cursory but as new, fresh, brilliant, and gripping.
It was in this moment that we see the pinnacle both of God's love for man (his willingness to sacrifice his son) and his justice (with his disdain for sin being so strong that only the life of one who knew no sin, being slaughtered for the many and reconciling us back to God). Oh the mystery of the cross.

"My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"
Verse from "It is well with My Soul"-Horatio G. Spafford. 1873

This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the Great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville De Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship the Loch Earne, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
In this midst of intense pain these were the words he read. Oh to meditate on the power of the cross, which has broken the power of sin and death. Freeing us to the Lord.

Captivate our hearts Lord Jesus we are so quick to miss your truth, compassion, mercy, and justice. Oh the wonder of the cross...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Triune God

"If you deny the trinity you lose your soul, if your try to explain the trinity you shall lose your mind"- Augustine

The term the "Trinity" was first used by the early church Father Tertulian, who attempted to provide a succinct term for the tri-unity that existed in God. Simply put this is a term that articulates there is one God, who exists as three distinct persons: the Father, THE Son, and the Holy spirit. Each are fully God and equally God.
The Bible is clear from beginning to end there is one God. Deut 32:39- "There is no God besides me". (etc...Isa 43:1, 45:5, 1 Tim 1:17, 1 Tim 2:5). This notion has always existed as countercultural in our polytheistic world. It is today, it was on the Day that Abraham left Mesapotamian Ur, and on the day that Paul showed up in Athens in Acts 17. There has always existed a plethora of false "gods" that are worshipped by our world. Regardless Christendom has alwasy heralded that there is but one God, the God of the Bible. Now the doctrine of the Trinity is historically what theologians have use to articulate two truths, the first being that there is one God. And the Second being that this God is comprised of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The 3 Persons each as God:
-God the father is God: no need to be belabored simply because few would deny this point. (But John 6:27, 1 Cor. 8:6 "There is one God the father")
-Jesus is God: more debated. John 1 "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and came to dwell among us", John 8:58 "Before Abraham was I am" (etc... John 20:28, Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, 1 John 5:20.)
Holy Spirit is God. The spirit is a person not a force. He is personal not impersonal. He is responsible for convicting, instructing, teaching, guiding, and enlightening us. He can be grieved and resisted (to an extent). 2 cor 3: The Lord is the spirit and where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom...this comes form the Lord who is the Spirit." (etc...John 4, Acts 5).

1 John 4:8- "God is love", in the very essence and Nature of God there exists a triplicate relation of Love. The trinity brilliantly manifests this truth. Trinitarian Doctrine clearly denies the idea that God could have possibly fashioned the universe out a desire for company. The God of the bible has never had any needs that finite man could possibly meet (Acts 17). But rather the universe was spun into motion by what Jonathan Edwards coined "an overflow of love" pouring out into creation magnificently.

Old Testament evidence for the Trinity.
"In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth...and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep."Genesis 1:1-2 (In the first 2 lines of the scripture we see distinct doctrine of parts of the trinity, i.e. the word for God here is Elohim and plural word for the Hebrew God "El". We also see the presents of the Holy spirit working his part in creation).
Further evidence from Old Testament Jewish beliefs of the trinity. The Targum Neofiti- 200BC. (A targum is an accepted interpretation of the Scriptures from a Rabbi-- similar to a modernday commentary.) This specific Targum states that "In the beginning by the firstborn, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the Deep." - This was 200 years prior to the birth of Christ! There existed at least to a certain extent Jews who were waiting for the coming messiah they believed to be God the son. Now not all Jews may have bought into this but clearly it was by no means a revolutionarily new idea from the 1st century AD Church.
Now why this is so important? Because it is a central tenet of not only Christian orthodoxy, but of the Nature of God. To deny such a principle is to deny a portion of God. It is the beauty and mystery of the trinity that magnifies that sacrifice of the Cross. Had Jesus simply been a creation of God (And not God, like Jehovah's witness, Islam, and Mormonism would all claim) then his sacrifice would be no more noble than that of any other altruistic sacrifice that have taken place throughout the history. (Men dying to save their country, families, faith. Or women dying to save their children...etc All are noteworthy but not monumentally and profoundly altering to the fabric of life, like Christ's sacrifice on the cross was.)
This is why the term used by members of Islam "people of the book", which they use to unify all Jews, Musilm's, and Christians together because we all worship the same God and trace our beliefs back to Father Abraham is faulty. We as believers in Christ believe neither in the God of the Muslims nor the God of the Jews. Because both of these sects fail to recognize Jesus as both our savior and our God. There is one God to deny that Christ is God is to deny God.
This Triune existence does not however operate in a fashion that resembles that of the metamorphic phases of Water. (i.e. liquid, ice, steam). God fully exists (well beyond human comprehension) in 3 distinct persons as one distinct God head. We see them working together throughout and within creation. Thus the economic trinity works in history for the redemptive plan of Salvation, but not in some limited Modalism that would require him to act in one mode discontinuous from the other two modes. Simply put God plays all 3 roles in a simultaneous fashion(Modalism is a teaching in the modern-day Pentacostal church that teaches God works in one mode at a time not in all three at all times, although this is perhaps not quite heretical it is without question not biblical. Matt:3: clearly portrays at Jesus's baptism that all three persons were present and evident).

The Trinity is a crucial belief that all of Christianity rises and falls upon. To deny this belief is to deny the faith in its totality. But it is important to remind ourselves that the "Trinity" is in no way a new idea, and not a creation of man. Rather man is a creation of the "Trinity" and its beautiful overflow of love in the creation of the Universe. The doctrine of the Trinity is an incredibly important component of our faith. We live in a world that is constantly attempting to pervert Biblical Christianity and tempt it to conform to the more unitarian beliefs of the dying world around it. If this doctrine is not understood, defended, and proclaimed Christendom will only move further towards impotency and heresy.

---God preserve your bride, and cause her to flourish for the Glory of your name.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mature Masculinity

At the Heart of Mature Masculinity is a sense of Benevolent responsibility to lead, to provide for, and to protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships, which in fulfillment of their roles give glory to God...

This is not an exhaustive definition of Masculinity, there is much more to masculinity, but there is not less. And make no mistake it is possible for a man embody many traits that socially are associated with masculinity (i.e. hunting, fishing, fighting, sportsmanship, be an outdoorsman) while at the same time remain "immature" with regards to true and biblical manhood. If there does not exist this "sense of responsibility" to lead, provide, and protect, his masculinity is at best incomplete and may even be distorted...

The word sense here is most appropriate because it does not merit the necessity of a woman or the interaction with women for a man to develop or to have maturity with regards to his masculinity. For example if he is single in the mission field working with indigenous groups, he is at combat, in a monestary, imprisoned, these circumstances do little to negate ones maturity. Neither does this sense need to be actualized in order to meet the criterion for mature masculinty. The man can remain single and celibate and still have a mature sense of responsiblilty that permeates and influences the way he interacts with women, talks to women, relates to pornography or sexually illicit material found in cultural media of all kinds, and even the way he interacts with the marriages of men around him. It also does not mean that he in all situations is enabled to fulfill this burning desire within him. For example a man who has contracted a life crippling disease that leaves him bed ridden and unable to provide for and protect his wife is still capable of recognizing and sensing this desire to provide for and protect for his wife and children even if the wife has now assumed the responsibility as breadwinner.

The term "benevolent" is meant to express the manner of this responsibility and indicate how it is to be served to the women around him. Men are meant to lead biblically as Christ demonstrated becoming the servant in all relationships around them, not lording their leadership in a self-aggrandizing or dictatorial way. But rather they are to fully relay the expression of the golden rule with regards to their female relationships. (Matt 6)
It is a "responsibility", it is a God-given trust for the good of all his creation, it is a duty, one for which men will give an account. Clearly illustrated in Genesis 3:9 when God says first to Adam "where are you?" even may have sinned before Adam but he was the first called to give an account. This does not belittle the responsibility of women, it simply signifies mans unique responsibility.
To "lead" this is perhaps the most often misunderstood trait of masculinity. The term "lead" is somewhat nebulous pending the context in which it is used. Biblical and masculine leadership expresses itself not in the demand to be served but in the strength and conviction to serve and sacrifice for the good of those he is leading and in this case specifically for the good of woman. It imitates and embodies the model laid out by the teachings of Jesus and his moving sacrifice on the cross for his bride. It does this by serving and leading in ways that attempt to draw out the strengths of those on whom their leadership falls. Simply put a good leader does not aim to demonstrate his superiority over others but rather to bring out all of the strengths that will move them in their desired direction. The man must do this not by assuming and enforcing his leadership but advocating for it.
To "provide" is not to belittle or inhibit a woman's role in maintaining support for the family or for society but that his benevolent and loving desire to provide practically unfolds in that when their is no bread on the table it is the man who should feel a responsibility to get it there. This does not mean that the women can't help. This is clearly seen from Gen. 3 when the man receives his curse to work the land.

To "protect", at the core of mature manhood is the desire to protect. The mature masculinty produces a desire to suffer for the safety of other, to step forth into harms way in hopes of protecting his wife, family, loved ones, life, or truth. Few would contend that this is without virtue, just as few would lable it the women's job to play this role of protection in the place of her husband or for his protection. Such an opinion would be a distorted and perverted one that across cultures does not seem to align.

All of these actions and virtues lie deeply rooted in a regenerated heart that has been transformed, it is only through this that man is able to truly love like Christ loved the Church. But manhood has little to do with being married, just as it has little to do with much of what society would deem "manly". It is mans God-given responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect the women no matter the nature of their relationship. The clearest example of mature masculine leadership took place on the cross, and we as men are now charged to glorify God by behaving, leading, protecting, and providing for those around them, especially the women in their lives.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Life and Teachings of Jesus

"I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." John 10:10
Throughout the life of Christ we see a wide variety of teachings that for the most part countered the sentiments and standards that were previously in place. But his actions did not negate the old testament but rather fulfilled them. I commonly come across men and women who in justifying their reasons for why something took place in the Old Testament they say in a somewhat deragatory manner "...yeah but that was the Old Testament". I fear that we may find ourselves in danger of misunderstanding the Law, the prophets, and the entire purpose of the old laws.
The summation of the Old Testament and Gods law is found in Christ's words to a local lawyer who had entreated Jesus to provide the law which was the greatest and foremost. "Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” So Christ establishes a Chief law the supercedes all other lawful words expressed in the Old Testament. This is the greatest diliemma presented from the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were a devoutly religious people. The were not the "Religious Leaders" (i.e. Chief priests, high priests etc... these were wealthy men, put in place to rule, but maintained very little piety. Generally speaking they had purchased their positions or inherited them. These men tended to be syncretists of the culture abstaining from very little. They were not admired for their religious behaviors), nor were they the Sadduccees (a syncretist strand of believers who denied of forms of Supernatural belief: including the ressurection, the miracles, they too were not admired but the public for their religious order). They were a group of men, many of which were Scribes, (lawyers, legal documentors) who had not pursued their positions for anything other than devotion. To put it another way, they had abandoned and sacrificed much of life simply for love of the game. They recieved no pay for what they were doing, simply the compensation that they were maintaining the Law. This lack of material gain likely only further increased the elitist feelings towards everyone around them who had failed to do this. They were men who maintained not only the Teachings of the OT, but added further instruction to God's word that would allow one to maintain even a more holy standard of life.
These included the idea that it is not lawful to even spit on the ground on the sabbath, (because such an action would when the saliva mixed with the dirt below produce mortar and leave you guilty of "construction" on the holy day) or that a tailor should be careful to insert the needle into a item of clothing they were making well before the sun fell on friday (the jewish sabbath began on friday night at sundown and ended saturday at sundown.) because if you had left the needle out you would have to insert it back into the clothes and thus would be guilty of sewing on the sabbath.
With this in mind it is easy to understand how the Disciples walking through the grainfields on a sabbath caught quite a bit of flack for plucking a couple of heads of wheat and snacking on the way home. Jesus defense of his disciples actions teaches yet again that these men had a improper understanding of the Law and its purpose. The law was meant to lead one to life not bondage. This was not something new, but he reminds them of David and his men eating the bread in the Temple that was reserved for only the priests. His refining of their misunderstanding of the laws is seen clearly throughout the rest of his teachings in the gospels.
Jesus makes it clear that it was not enough to simply to the right thing, but he fulfills the law requiring that one must further do the right thing for the right reason. All of his teachings seem to go beyond the criteria previously thought was neccessary. His rebuke that it is not enough to not commit adulterly but one must be careful to not commit adultery with his eyes. Jesus standards raise the bar again. For example the Jewish practices of the day were at least above those of the pagans of the day (i.e. Tooth for a tooth= Jewish law, tooth for a broken jaw could equal the pagan standard, but Jesus simply declares that his followers are to turn the cheek and give to any who ask of you.) He completely deconstructs the moral paradigm of the culture and and recreates one that instructs us that it is not enough to maintain the letter of the law and forsake the principle of it. Almost every teaching he gives in his Sermon on the mount declares a greater standard. In this way he fulfills the law, reminding the people of Israel that if one maintains the minimum of the law and does so simply for the purpose of producing a self-reliant salvation he decieves himself. Their are principles behind the laws of Old and they all culminate equisitely in this "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind."

I love Marks depiction of the Rich Young Ruler. This man comes to Jesus and proudly proclaims he devoted attention to the law his has upheld from his youth. And in hearing this Mark says Jesus "looking at him, loved him", he then asked him to sell everything he had. And to remove the god of money from his life. But it wasn't for any reason other than love, he simply wanted to rescue him from his bondage to things and self-sufficiency. I can imagine the same eyes that looked penetratingly at this man in love, also released sorrow in watching this man walk away disappointed.

Father give me discernment to excavate the depths of my heart and remove the areas where I have gone astray and turned to my own way while upholding the letter not the principle. May your name be given glory, allow us to be a people who loves you selflessly. You are better than life...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

For We are his workmanship...

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths. Psalm 25:4
The existence of God having two distinct wills seems to be clearly portrayed throughout the scriptures. Time and again we see that there appears to be a will of decree and command. (Examples include his desire for all to be saved, yet the election of only some. His desire for Pharoah to let Israel go and his hardening of their hearts. His hardening and blinding of certain Jews that the Gentiles may be grafted in (Romans 11)...etc. So within God's redemptive plan for mankind we see within the fabric the foreordination of sin and its ramifications being used by God to establish his will and good purpose even though his decree stands against sin, the tapestry over which he reigns sovereigns utilizes the means of sin to accomplish the furtherance of his glory.
Clearly the scriptures teach that God is not tempted by sin, nor does he tempt man. But painted beautifully onto our cosmic canvas appears to be the allowance and sovereign commission of sin to accomplish the greater over all purpose of our majestic creator. We see this all throughout the Old and New Testaments beginning with Adam and his fall being ordained by God, to the deceit of Jacob and his mother stealing Esau's birthright, to Joseph's brother selling him into slavery an act that would later save the nation of Israel. But the stories don't stop here, God uses the Persians, the Babylonians, the dispersion of Israel, the Romans destruction of the temple, the Tower of Babel, and dozens of other stories orquestrated by the triune God to fulfill his plan for history. Joseph declared this when his brothers came to him and pleaded for mercy for what they had done. He clearly recognized that God had used their sinful actions to bring about his greater plan stating:"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". Gen. 50:20. 
But the apex of sinful foreordination in history, centers entirely around the cross and the brutal murder of the Holy one of God, Jesus the Christ. God foreordained that he was to die, the scriptures even proclaim that it was Gods will to crush him (Isa. 53). And ironically in one fatal swoop the Cross of Christ accomplished the very death of death. The actions of Satan taken to incite the murder of the Messiah would prove to be suicidal on every level. Sin is always irrational, it is the rebellion against a sovereign who by his nature is the pinnacle of life, love, beauty, strength, goodness, and power. Thus Satan an irrational being committed an irrational act and murdered the Son of the Living God, thus rendering him powerless and setting us free from the law of sin and death. By his (Christ's) stripes we are healed and set free. Satan's suicidal and sinful actions were ordained by God and released us from the bondage we have endured since the fall that took place in Genesis 3. 
This topic could be elaborated on much more extensively, but scripture is certainly clear, God has, is, and will continue to permit certain things to transpire in order to fulfill his greater purpose within creation. That purpose being the ever increasing proclamation and propagation of his Glory. 

Father teach us to trust in your divine and exquisite plan for our lives, trusting as Clyde Kilby did in his  resolutions where he resolved as we must that we "shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if we so wish, with worthy potentialities. We shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in our existence but just as likely, ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual maturation". Lord blessed be your name in all things, help me to trust you amidst immense pain, sorrow, and brokenness rejoicing in anything that produces perseverance, character, and a hope that will not put me to shame.
  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Eph 3:19-20.

Lord may we not fall prey to the assumption that this world is idiotic, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the great canvas and that in due course I shall understand with joy this as a stroke made by the exuberant Architect who calls himself the Alpha and Omega. 
"For we are his workmanship" Ephesians 2...