Saturday, August 29, 2009

Death to the Atheists...

Smyrna... (Reveation 2, speaks of the Church in Smyrna)

We know of the events in Smyrna (smyrna was a city in the roman empire located in Asia Minor) through a writer who claims to have witnessed them. It all began when a group of Christians were brought before the authorities (around 150 AD) and all of them refused to worship the roman "gods". Under the cruelest tortures they remained firm, they claimed that 'resting in Christ they scorned the pains of the world." When Germanicus, an elderly christian, was brought to trial, he was told that he should take into account his old age and recant, rather than submit to torture and death. To this he repsonded that he had no desire to keep living in a world where the injustices he had just seen could take place. And to show how deeply he meant his words, he called the beasts (wild animals hungry for his blood...lions, dogs, hyenas) to come to him and kill him. This act of courage enraged the angry mob, who began to shout: "death to the atheists!" (that is, those who had no visible gods) and "Bring Polycarp!" (The leader of the church in Smyrna).
When Polycarp learned that he was being sought he followed the advice of his flock (he was the pastor of smyrna) and hid for several days. But after having changed to another hiding place, and still having been discovered, he decided that his arrest was the will of God and refused to hide any longer and calmly awaited those who came after him.
The proconsul who presided at his trial attempted to persuade him, urgin him to think about his advancing age and consent to worship the emperor. When Polycarp refused, the judge cried out "out with the atheists!" To this Polycarp responded by pointing at the angry mob exclaiming "Yes out with the atheists!" Again the judge insisted, promising that if he would swear by the emperor and curse Christ he would be free to go. But Polycarp replied "For eighty-six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?"
The judge then threatened to have him burnt alive, Polycarp simply answered that the fire that the judge could light would last only a minute, whereas the eternal fire would never go out. He was taken outside and tied to a post. Here he looked up and prayed aloud "Lord, Sovereign, I thank you that you have deemed me worthy of this moment, so that, jointly with your martyrs, I may have a share in the cup of Christ. For this I bless and glorify you. Amen". He was burnt alive...

The stories of the sufferings of the saints of old only make one wonder if it is not they who should be pitied, but those of us who in our world of comforts, ease, and pleasures have tasted so little of the majesty of Christ. That in our lives saturated with little suffering we may not be in danger for our lives but for our souls. Polycarp, John Huss, the Apostles, and so many more lived lives that reflected so clearly that they were in love with God. He was enough, and all other pleasures paled in comparison to him. Could it be that the removal of all suffering and the infiltration of much evangelicalism into our culture has begun to produce generations that know about Jesus but have never experienced him. That know the story but have never been apart of it. Simply content to live our lives of ease, be culturally relevant and pursue our own desires often behind a veneer of Christian principles that simply cover the fact that in the end most of us care more about our stuff, our dreams, our future than we do about God. God help us... deepen our love for you, in ways that we are insufficient to accomplish.



Jesus help us to let our lights shine so brightly and so distinctly in a culture that seems to have so much knowledge of you but little love and sacrifice that seems to declare, we are yours...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Indescribable

The design of the universe...is very magnificent and shouldn't be taken for granted. In fact, I believe that is why Einstein had so little use for organized religion, although he strikes me as a basically very religious man. He must have looked at what the preachers said about God and felt that they were blaspheming. He had seen much more majesty that they had ever imagined, and they were just not talking about the real thing. My guess is that he simply felt that religions he run across did not have proper respect...for the AUTHOR of the universe"- Charles Misner (scientific specialist in general relativity theory).

Scientist know that light travels at the speed of 5.87 trillion miles a year. They also know that the galaxy our solar system is a part of is 100,000 light years or 587,000 trillion miles in diameter. It is one of about a million galaxies in the optical range of our most powerful telescopes. It has been estimated that in our galaxy alone there are more than 200 billion stars. The sun is just one of them and a modest one at best. The sun travels at 135 miles per second!! And even at this speed (a vehicle moving this speed would circle the globe in just over one minute), it takes the sun 250 million years to complete one revolution around our galaxy. The infinite magnitude of this sovereign power is devastating to attempt to contemplate. In the mundane of our everyday life we are quick to not even grasp the grandeur of the massive creation that exists around us. And even more so, forgetting the God of existence, who eclipses all of these. That “ Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.”- Isaiah 40:17.

Every time the bible mentions man encountering God it is always quick to record the incredible reverence that is paid to his presence. Even consider the priest who had a rope tied around his foot so that in case he should be killed in God’s presence he could be dragged out. The name of the Lord brought such reverence that it was often not even spoken in Israel for the powerful presence it evoked.

This reverence seems to be a thing of the past. Mankind seems to operate in a fashion that belittles Gods power or even denies his existence. Attempt to contemplate the greatness of God, the author of all good, and how for an endless succession of moments those who believe will be ever increasingly exposed to the goodness, and greatness of the God of all things, the creator of the universe. His qualities are infinitely beyond our finite cognition and thus ever attempt to ponder the things of our God pales in comparison to his infinite goodness. It will not be a feat to fall in worship and live in reverence for all eternity. It the same way we drink deeply the beauty of a sunset over the mountains, or the magnificence of the differing topographies and geographies in our world, or the wonder of a lightning storm. All captivate our attention and yet, none is even worth comparing to the greatness unknown of the Lord our God.

In a recent debate in TIME Magazine, two scientists went head to head. Richard Dawkins the author of the “God Delusion” and leading spokesman for the scientific atheist community. A strong advocate of evolutionary processes taking place without the presence of a God, paired off against Francis Collins the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute since 1993, he headed a multinational 2,400-scientist team that co-mapped the 3 billion biochemical letters of our genetic blueprint. He is a forthright Christian a convert from Atheism at age 27. Both are well-respected and influential figures in the scientific community. The two squared off back and forth, both providing reasonable and succinct answers for their personal opinions and conclusions on the existence of God. But the most awe-inspiring statement and terrifying one at that did not come from the mouth of Collin’s the outspoken Christian. But from Dawkins. He concluded that although he is a self-proclaimed atheist. He is certain of one thing we all have an idea of him that is too small, and he is far more wonderful than we could conceive.

Dawkins: If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.

(Here is the link should you be inclined to read it yourself. http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1555132,00.html)

It wasn’t the words of the Christian but the recognition of Dawkins that seems so incredible. (Collins did a wonderful job)… Simply his own belief, that If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that anything we can even imagine…

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” Romans 1:20

INDESCRIBABLE...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Predestination

I believe that nothing happens apart from divine determination and decree. We shall never be able to escape from the doctrine of divine predestination - the doctrine that God has foreordained certain people unto eternal life. - Charles Spurgeon

The topic of predestination seems to be a widely debated one. Not so much historically. For bible believing Christian’s predestination is not only true it is apparent in scripture. The word "predestined" is not only clear from scripture; it is literally referenced within it. (Ephesians 1:11, Romans 8:29-30). For bible believing Christians the idea of predestination is up for debate with regards to interpretation but not with regards to its existence.

Jacob Arminius the founder and of what is known as Armenian theology, known for its strong endorsement of free will, was a believer in predestination...So were his followers. It was simply they believed that God's foreknowledge operated in that he knew who his followers would be and thus chosen them based on what they would choose. He was an advocate of Synergistic salvation. Meaning a double-sided salvation. God opens the door and it is the sheep who walk through that are saved.

His view of salvation differed greatly from John Calvin's (his predecessor). Calvin and his followers held to the idea that it is God alone who saves; this is theologically referred to as monergistic salvation. God opens the door, is the door, and is the shepherd that guides his sheep through the door, without Gods moving them they would never move that way.

Church views held by leaders throughout history

-Origen: 185-254 AD: held to the view that God looked down the corridor of time and saw who would and would not choose him.

-John Chrystrom 347-407 AD: Held the to the same view as Origen

-Augustine 354-430 AD: Believed that none of would choose God, all of us would choose sin every time and it is God who chooses us based on nothing we have done or would do, but his grace.

-John Calvin: would attest to Augustine’s views

-Jacob Arminius: educated at Calvin's school, and refuted his teaching, aligning not only with Calvin’s teaching but also with Augustine.

In 1610: Arminius's followers came up with the 5 points of Armenian theology:

A. Free will/ Partial Depravity

B. Conditional Election

C. Universal Atonement

D. Resistible Grace

E. Perseverance of Some Saints]

In 1618 in response to these points Calvin’s followers came up with the canons of Dort. These conveyed the 5 points of Calvinistic theology

A. Total Depravity

B. Unconditional Election

C. Limited Atonement

D. Irresistible Grace

E. Perseverance of Saints

Now both groups are clearly saved, how the bible is clear that it teaches one method of salvation.

· But first we must see that God loves people, he is good, he defines goodness and love, and he is love and he desires that all would be saved

o 1 Tim 2: 3-4 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our savior, who desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge.

o 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord…is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish, but is patient toward all.

o John 3:16 For God so Loved the World that he gave his one and only son.

o Jesus said “come to me, all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

· God loves all, yet there are many who wont be saved. John 5:40 “You refuse to come me that you may have life” Romans 10:21 “All day long I have held out my hands to you.

So God is good, he desires that all would be saved. But we are wicked, our will, desire, conscience, and existence is totally depraved. We are not utterly depraved (meaning we could do more evil), but we are in bondage to sin, ruled by our sinful nature.

· John 8:34- Everyone who sins is a slave to sin

· 1 Cor.1:14 Things of God are folly to the natural man

· Romans 8 Mind set on the flesh is hostile towards God, it cannot submit to God.

· Eph 2: You were dead in your trespasses…by nature children of wrath.

God is love, we are in bondage. Left to our own wills we would choose sin, Satan, and hell every time. But God “demonstrates his love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”.

· Free Will??

o Luther wrote a book named “The Bondage of the Will” in response to a fellow contemporary of his named Erasmus. Luther’s point was that our will is in chains. The reason it could only be single-handed salvation is that our free will is in bondage to sin. The depth of our depravity is so strong that we must be first emancipated from our sin in order to worship God.

o Ezekiel 36 puts it this way “I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

So…

In love God predestined us, despite of all of our inadequacies and insufficiencies. He loved us, died for us, and ransomed us. Why? For the praise of his glorious grace. Beyond that we cannot be certain. But scripture is Clear, through his inexplicable love, Christ predestined those who would love him...

There was an error in this gadget