Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’

I just finished Rob Bell‘s Love Wins. It was a quick read and just hurt my heart while reading it. Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle had similar feelings that I had and decided to co-write a new book called Erasing Hell.

There is a very interesting and helpful interview with Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle about why they wrote the book and their feelings about all of this. Please watch it here.

I read this Time Magazine article today about Rob Bell‘s new book Love Wins. Read it by clicking here.

It is a very good read, although I don’t agree with some of what is stated in the article, but then again, it is a Time Magazine article. I think one of the most shocking statements from the article is what I titled this post;

“My generation wanted truth — these are folks who want authenticity.” – Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard Mouw.

I think I get what he is trying to say. Mind you that “these folks” he speaks of wanting authenticity are people who are flocking to Bell and his teaching. But this sentence sounds like he is saying that as long as people are around someone who is authentic then it does not really matter if it is the truth. He may or may not be saying this, but do you think that is an honest way to understand people these days? This has got me thinking…

Can we be giving Truth without being authentic? If so, can’t this be labeled hypocrisy? And should we be seeking out authenticity without it being ground in Truth? What are your thoughts?

Also, I have been really thinking about how debating and fighting for the truth of the Gospel is actually a good thing. More thoughts about this soon.

R.C. Sproul
Image by james.thompson via Flickr

I watched this today and I feel it is something everybody would benefit from. R.C. Sproul talks about the fact that the explicit statements in the Bible must always interpret the implicit statements. And if our implications run in opposition to the explicit statements in the Bible, then our implications MUST be disregarded. The video is about 25 minutes long, and yet I believe it will be well worth every one of those 25 minutes. Here is the link

Watch it and tell me what you think.

I downloaded this album last week and I thought I would blog about it. The band is called Ascend the Hill. They have just released one of the best worship albums I have heard in all my life. It’s called Hymns. It’s a whole album of updated hymns. Go download this album for free here. Also you can donate to them if you feel led to. How awesome is that?!

One of the most amazing things that I have thought about for the past two years has been the fact that God is in charge of everything. The theological term for this is God’s sovereignty. Sovereignty is defined as;

1. the quality or state of being sovereign.

2. the status, dominion, power, or authority of a sovereign; royalty.

3. supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community.

4. rightful status, independence, or prerogative.

5. a sovereign state, community, or political unit.

Basically to say that God is sovereign is to say that He is in complete control of everything. Now everyone that considers themselves an evangelical Christian would agree that God is sovereign. I just watched an interview with Dr. R.C. Sproul, and he mentioned that everyone believes God is sovereign, but that which He is sovereign over is what is highly debated. Most people are quick to agree that God is in control of the galaxies, stars, planets, nature, etc., but the second we start to discuss God’s sovereignty over people, that is when the conflict begins. People want to believe that they are in charge of their own destiny, so God’s rule and reign over ALL of His creation gets messy for a lot of people. The first thing people say is, “if that is true then we are all just puppets and God is the puppeteer.” Well I don’t think that is an accurate analogy of God’s sovereignty and I will explain in my conclusion why I think that way.

Something that really strikes me as profound is the fact that most people strongly object to God being in complete control of their lives, especially the fact that He brought them to salvation and that He doesn’t do that for everyone, and yet we all admit to God’s sovereign hand in our lives and we don’t even bat an eye when we do it. People want to separate God’s sovereignty and man’s “free” will. That is what this post is all about. Can God’s sovereignty and man’s free will go together? Can God be so amazingly sovereign that He is working and willing (Phil. 2:12-13) in our own hearts toward His ends, and we don’t even realize it? I wanted to share something incredible that happened to me last week. I feel like it is a clear and easy to understand situation where God was actively working through the actions of certain people and they had no idea. I’ll try to be as succinct as possible.

I attended my staff Christmas party last Friday afternoon. The events that unfolded were pretty amazing. This is how our party normally unfolds.

  1. We arrive at the Comfort Inn.
  2. We get our name tags and find our seats.
  3. We then proceed to sing a few Christmas Hymns and then are lead in the blessing over our gathering.
  4. Then we sit and chat as our food is brought out.
  5. After we eat, we play a few games that have cash prizes.
  6. Then we get our Christmas gift, or bonus, and that is the end of our party.

Each table has about 6-8 people at it and there were probably 60 people there all together. The meal was amazing and then our games started. As our first game started, everyone nominated me to be the team captain. I did not want to but they insisted, so I figured why not? The first game was called “Left and Right.” Everybody picked a Christmas gift out of a bag except for the team captain. I got a $50 bill. Next, everybody stood up and they read the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth. Every time the story mentioned the words “right” and “left” we then had to pass our gift to the right or left. At the end of the story, I was amazed that I had actually ended up with the $50 bill!

The next game, everybody at our table had to place into a bag everything we had on our person that had to do with Christmas. We had about 21 items. The four teams with the most items had to participate in the next game. Each team captain of each team(including me) had to create a story on the spot having to do with each item in our bag. I had the most random things in my bag, including a Christmas sweater vest, a ladies scarf, earring, holly wreaths, etc. I figured I had no idea what to talk about but it would be funny if I proceeded to wear all the items as I told my story. Let me just tell you that it was pretty ridiculous. Everybody was laughing though so I guess it went over well. After everyone told their stories, they had all the participants go to the front and then they voted for whom they thought had the best story. I won this game as well. At the beginning of this game they said that this game would not have a cash prize and that it was just for fun. As I was going back to my seat, the pastor said that they found an extra $50 so they decided to give it to me! Wow, pretty awesome huh?

Now by this point, I was in total shock. I just got $100! That definitely helps. Everyone at my table was on my case, saying that I rigged the games or something. The last game involved us taking our name tags off and placing them in a bag. One lady then was going to pick one name and that person would win the money tree (which happened to have $100 on it).  Like I said, I was in shock still over the other two games. Everybody at my table then started to say how I was going to win this game too. Then, to my surprise, they announced, “and the winner is… Chris Arnold!” I was just completely floored.

The real amazing part was that afterward I had about five people come up to me and talk about how much God had blessed me that day. One lady actually said that the second game had no prize and then they just mysteriously found that extra $50 bill. Then she proceeded to just tell me how amazing it was to watch God bless me.

So now here is the part where we have to put on our theological “thinking cap.” Everybody proceeded to talk about how God had blessed me so much, which I totally believe to be the truth. But you have to understand that people were exercising their own wills the way they wanted to and that is how it all turned out.  What I mean is that these people were instinctively just acting, and yet through their actions, God worked his own plan out. So would it be accurate to give God the glory for what seemingly happened as a result of the free will actions of human beings? Many people reading this at least have to ask themselves this question. I believe it is accurate to say that God caused this and hence He should get all the glory. Here are some examples of what I mean;

  1. To start it all off, I didn’t want to be team captain. Everybody at the table used their decisive free will to choose me as team captain. Do you think they felt like a puppet when they did this?
  2. The person who wrote the edition of the Christmas story with more “lefts” and “rights” did so out of his own will. Do you think he felt like a puppet when he did this?
  3. There had to be a specific number of people at the table to correlate to the story in order for me to get the $50. Whoever decided how many people should be at the table must have decided that out of their free will. Do you think he felt like a puppet when he did this?
  4. In the second game, everybody freely choose to wear Christmas related things. Do you think they felt like a puppet when they did this?
  5. The woman who pulled my name out of the bag for the third game, do you think she thought to God, “God, why are you making me choose his name out of this bag?!?!” Or was she just choosing what she wanted to choose?
  6. Was it all just a coincidence? If you are a Christian you have to understand that there are no coincidences.

See no one felt like a puppet in any of these situations. People exercised their own free will. Now either you have to say that these people are all crazy for crediting God for my blessing, or that they are right and that God is sovereign, even over man’s actions or free will. The bible has a multitude of examples of God actively working through people’s free will choices. What I mean is, they wanted to do something completely out of their own free will, and yet God was working in them to do such things. While this remains a mystery to us as to how God can do this, we still must believe it as truth because the bible talks about it. I can hear the person saying now, “this doesn’t make sense to me, so it can’t be true and probably is a doctrine of demons.” But see you can’t go around not believing doctrines because they are mysterious. The Trinity, for example, is extremely mysterious and hard to understand, but for you to be considered a true Christian, you must believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. The fact that Jesus is completely man and completely God, that’s mysterious, but as Christians we believe that to be true.

So if you are with me up until now, the question still remains in a lot of people’s minds. That question is, doesn’t this kind of thinking make us all out to be pawns or puppets in God’s plan? I don’t believe so for many different reasons. First off, puppets have no life, emotions, or will of their own. If a puppet had a will, it would always choose to lie on the ground lifeless until someone picked it up and started to move it. We are living, breathing, feeling beings that make choices out of our own desires. This is one major reason why we are not puppets. The second and final reason for this post is that we are not God’s little puppets because a puppeteer does not love the puppet which accomplishes his goals. God truly loves His people with an amazing love that should never be compared to a mechanical creator that does not love. I believe I read this explanation in an R.C. Sproul book, so if this sounds familiar, that’s probably from where this entered my mind. What obstacles have you personally dealt with concerning God being sovereign over everything? If you don’t believe what I am saying, I suppose I could give you all the instances in the Bible dealing with it, but I think it would do you better to look in the Scriptures yourself and see if man is truly sovereign over his life or is it God?

John Stephen Piper
Image via Wikipedia

My dog Daisy was being funny while my wife Jamie and I watched a John Piper DVD on Calvinism (TULIP/Reformed Theology). Check it out. Also if you want to, tell me your thoughts on Calvinism.

p.s. This was shot on my new Samsung Epic 4g.

Jesus Christ
Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t blogged something for a little while now. I’m getting back into the rhythm of teaching. I was just thinking about something this morning and I figured I would share it with everyone.

As Christians, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, we are reconciled back to God. As Romans 5:8 says,”… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” A problem I was thinking about this morning and over the weekend is that we have yet to become perfected.

–WE STILL SIN —

We are still being perfected as Hebrews 10:14 explains. Even though we are “being perfected”, Hebrews 10:14 tells us that we are perfect in God’s sight. That is because of Christ’s completed work and his righteousness imputed to us fallen sinners. I’m very appreciative toward my pastor Doug Rehberg for reminding me of something amazing. I read it before in an R. C. Sproul book. He said,

“The Father appointed us to salvation (Acts 13:48), Jesus accomplished everything that we needed for salvation, and the Holy Spirit applies that finished work to the elect.”

It makes for a great acrostic. Remember the three A’s.

  1. The Father Appoints
  2. The Son Accomplishes
  3. The Spirit Applies

Another great thing to understand is that were predestined by God before the foundations of the world for salvation and to be conformed to the image of Jesus, as Ephesians 1:3-10 explains. Some people think that reformed theology is that God chooses people to save and it doesn’t matter if that person even loves Jesus or progresses in Christ-likeness. This is just an unfair description of the reformed view of predestination and election and that is not the way reformed people think. 

The truth is that God chose us before the creation of our world, and the effect of that choosing is that we are “blameless and holy before him.”

-Ephesians 1:4

If you read Ephesians 1, you will understand that God chooses us and the effect of that choosing is that we love God. The point I want to talk about today is that even though God now sees us as perfect because of what Jesus has done, we still sin. A couple of verses that I have been thinking about lately are Philippians 3:12-15. It says,

[Straining Toward the Goal]
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own (progressively growing in holiness and Christ-likeness), because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it (perfection) my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

The part I want to focus on is this: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

I still sin, but so did Paul. So did all the apostles. King David, Elijah, Moses, (etc.). They all were sinners. Paul is saying here though that we need to be striving to grow in holiness, or as he puts it, make it our own. Why should we do this? Because Christ Jesus has made us his own. This really is an amazing thought. Jesus has made me his own.

Notice how it does not say that Christ Jesus offered that he would make us his own. It says that he did it! He made us his own. God gave us to Jesus (John 6:37) and he made us his own by his completed incarnate work. This very fact motivated Paul to not look back at his sins, but repent and continue on this race toward becoming like Jesus. Jesus made us his own, and now, by the Holy Spirit’s power, we must strive toward this goal and make it our own. Our past, present, and future sins were all nailed to Jesus on the cross. Repent, get back up, and work toward this amazing goal.