Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Looking behind the curtain

John helps his audiences to look at Rome and Roman imperialism especially through the lens of the Hebrew prophets, who had long ago spoken against the self-serving practices of empires as contrary to God's good will for human beings in every nation. In particular, he accuses Rome of (1) violence against dissenters, especially against Jews and Christians; (2) economic exploitation, nurturing a system that caters to the luxury of the powerful at the expense of the many; and (3) idolatrous presumption in its claims on its own behalf. John develops each of theses in such a way as to arouse indignation against Roman imperialism, supporting his call to Christians to keep themselves free from supporting or participating in such an unjust system of domination.— Unholy Allegiances, page 65

<idle musing>
Anybody else see the United States in that description, at least in numbers 2 & 3? Think 1% controlling 40% of the wealth. Think "American exceptionalism" which is just a variation of the 19th century's "white man's burden."
</idle musing>

For each and every

It's been a while since I posted some Finney, so here's a good one:
We are not to suppose that He died for the sum total of mankind in such a sense that His death is not truly for each one in particular. It is a great mistake into which some fall, to suppose that Christ died for the race in general, and not for each one in particular. By this mistake, the Gospel is likely to lose much of its practical power on our hearts. We need to apprehend it is Paul did, who said of Jesus Christ, "He loved me and gave Himself for me."—Charles Finney

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It depends on your viewpoint

[According to John in Revelation] The emperors themselves are not pious figures or mediators of divine favor, as the public image of them declares. Rather, they are founts of blasphemy against God (Rev 13:1, 5, 6). The emperor's divine titles (typically including “son of a god,” divi filius) are illegitimate, the “names of blasphemy” that offend the Most High. Flattering courtiers of Rome and local authorities in Asia Minor addressed their emperors as “lord and God”: what was for most of Asia Minor a matter of gratitude and welcome security was, for John, an insult to the one Lord and one God in the highest degree. Indeed, many of the titles ascribed to God and the Lamb throughout Revelation are stolen back by John from the emperor for the True God and for Christ throughout Revelation.— Unholy Allegiances, page 44

<idle musing>
How you see the reigning powers depends on your viewpoint, doesn't it? May we all have the viewpoint of John: centered on the Lamb. Then we will be able to see clearly; our vision won't be distorted by incorrect priorities and desires.

Even so, come Lord Jesus!
</idle musing>

Monday, October 28, 2013

The center of our lives

The vision of all creation centered in worship and obedient waiting upon God and God's Messiah invites us first of all into the experience of God's throne as the pivotal center of our lives, prompting us to make this the focal point of our corporate worship and our personal prayer and meditation. John calls us to center ourselves, and to remain centered, here. This centering for John does not belong to the fleeting moments of structured times of worship, however. It is the business of God's creatures “day and night without rest” (4:8), which for human beings must mean bringing every facet of life into orbit around the enthroned God, centered on God, on God's prompting, on God's service. In John's vision of the cosmos, there is no room for gathering around God's throne at one time as one's cosmic center and at another time in the fellowship of idols and their worshipers.— Unholy Allegiances, page 42

<idle musing>
Indeed! Serving God is an all-consuming business. Take a look at today's Jesus Creed for a good bit of commentary on that. The "two kingdoms" model is bogus—and I'm being generous! Either Jesus as the Lamb of God is LORD or he isn't. You can't choose to have him lord in one area without allowing him to be lord of all areas of your life.
</idle musing>

Friday, October 25, 2013

The center of the universe

John's visions begin at the center of John's universe, at the very throne of God (4:2). The way John unfolds hist vision of the cosmos is rhetorically significant. Many modern readers jump to the dragon and beasts as the focal point of interest; but for John the key figures in this drama are not the “bad guys.” God and the Lamb, not the beast, occupy the center stage. This is in itself an attack on Roman imperial ideology, which depicted the emperor (and the gods that give him his power) at the center of the conceptual universe.— Unholy Allegiances, pages 36-37

<idle musing>
Why do we seem to always focus on the "bad guy" in the modern world? John had it right—focus on God!
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 24, 2013


...sin has been so ingrained into our minds that we are unable to repent and have to repent even of the kind of repentance we bring before God.— The Mediation of Christ, page 95

<idle musing>
Pretty hopeless, isn't it? That's why we need the grace of God!

That's the final excerpt from this book. It's got more, but I got it through interlibrary loan and the time ran out before I could transcribe all of them...such is the time pressure of the cabins in the summer : )

Next up will be Unholy Allegiances from Hendrickson (thanks Bobby!). Stay tuned...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I wish...

Discovered via Out of Ur:
Minutes before the end of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference, with attendees all together in the convention hall, suddenly there was a sound like the rush of a giant wind, which filled the entire auditorium where they were seated. People reported seeing flashes of fire that subdivided and landed on each person. Everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in other languages as the Spirit empowered them.

Conference delegates included people from other nations who were baffled by the sound of their mother tongues being spoken. Amazed, they asked, ‘Aren’t all these people Americans? How then are we hearing them in the national languages of our countries?’ Confused, they started saying, ‘What the heck is going on?’

Some, however said perhaps after three days of this, some of them had a few drinks during the Friday supper break.

Then John MacArthur stood up and went to the microphone and addressed the crowd.
“Well,” he said; “This is ironic.”— Thinking Out Loud

A problem with forensic theories of the atonement

...if Jesus is a substitute in detachment from us, who simply acts in our stead in an external, formal or forensic way, then his response has no ontological bearing upon us but is an empty transaction over our heads, A merely representative or a merely substitutionary concept of vicarious mediation is bereft of any actual saving significance.— The Mediation of Christ, page 90

<idle musing>
Brains on a the way, that phrase comes from something I read a couple of years ago by a Calvin College Philosophy professor. A little help from Google and I see his name is James Smith...
<idle musing>

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Brains on a stick

The human heart is so desperately wicked that it cunningly takes advantage of the hiatus between what we are and what we ought to be in order to latch on to the patterns and structures of moral behaviour required of us, so that under the image of what is good and right it masks or even fortifies its evil intentions. Such is the self-deception of our human heart and the depravity of our self-will that we seek to justify ourselves before God and our neighbours by a formal, impersonal fulfillment of the divine law in which we remain untouched in ourselves and uncommitted in our own persons.— The Mediation of Christ, page 81

<idle musing>
</idle musing>

Monday, October 21, 2013

Preconceptions and their impact on our findings

Interesting post over at Black, White and Gray, a blog by some Christian sociologists:
This gets us back to thinking about the institution of science. What is true for the individual can be even truer in a community that reinforces previously accepted corporate assumptions. Thomas Kuhn argued that scientists develop paradigms based on previous ideas. This paradigm is accepted and defended until it reaches a point when there is so much disconfirming evidence that it becomes nearly logically impossible to believe in the paradigm. But usually the paradigm goes relatively unchallenged and scientists attempt to defend it against all attacks. According to Kuhn, the normal state of affairs is scientists fighting to maintain the paradigm against all attacks instead of looking for all possible answers to research questions. We like to think of scientists as individuals open to all possible answers. But the result of the article reinforces the reality that scientists, like others, when looking for answers to research questions tend to look for those that fit their presuppositions.
<idle musing>
Read the whole thing to get the full context. But, in a nutshell, it is very hard (and draining) to look beyond your presuppositions—and the Internet makes it even harder! You can search for what you want to find, thereby short-circuiting any semblance of critical thinking. It's definitely easier and makes you feel like you did real research, but the whole time you were simply looking for confirmation of your preconceptions. I've done it far too often : (

I'm convinced only the Holy Spirit can break through our preconceptions...
</idle musing>

Friday, October 18, 2013

Is he mad?

Fearful anxiety arises in the human heart when people cannot connect Jesus up in their faith or understanding with the ultimate Being of God, for then the ultimate Being of God can be to them only a dark, inscrutable, arbitrary Deity whom they inevitably think of with terror for their guilty conscience makes them paint harsh angry streaks upon his face.— The Mediation of Christ, page 70

<idle musing>
Again, I ask, "Is he mad at us?" Some theologies would have us believe that God is mad at us, but the Biblical picture is dramatically different! Praise God for that!
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A hidden god?

To claim that Jesus Christ is not God himself become man for us and our salvation, is equivalent to saying that God does not love us to the uttermost, that he does not love us to the extent of committing himself to becoming man and uniting himself with us in the Incarnation. But if God's love stops short at becoming one with us, what kind of God would that be whose love is limited but some finite Deity and not the Lord God Almighty. If there is no unbreakable bond of being between Jesus Christ and God, then we are left with a dark inscrutable Deity behind the back of Jesus Christ of whom we can only be terrified.— The Mediation of Christ, pages 69-70

<idle musing>
This is exactly why the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to salvation and to Christianity!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The hinge

Everything hinges upon the fact that he who became incarnate in Jesus Christ, he who mediates divine revelation and reconciliation to mankind in and through himself, is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God — that is to say, Jesus is to be acknowledged as God in the same sense as the Father is acknowledged as God, for it is in virtue of his Deity that his saving work as man has its validity.— The Mediation of Christ, page 64

<idle musing>
The doctrine of the deity of Christ is no small matter; as Torrance says here, it is the hinge upon which everything—and I mean everything—turns. If Christ isn't the pre-existent Son of the Father, then he can't be our mediator; we're still lost...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The root of it

That is not, of course, what the world today wants to believe, any more than Jesus' contemporaries in Israel wanted to believe it, for the Cross has the effect of emptying the power-structures that the world loves so much, of their vaunted force. And so people continue trying to make Jesus serve their own ends in the world, thereby 'crucifying' him all over again. Let us be quite frank. Jesus was crucified by the political theology of his own day, but is that not what people, even in the Church, continue to do when under a programme of putting Christian ideals into effect they politicise the role of Jesus in human society and in international relations today? The deadly root of man's inhumanity to man, the source of all human violence, is in the wickedness of the human heart, and it is there that it must be undone.— The Mediation of Christ, page 41

<idle musing>
Appropriate timing...
</idle musing>

Monday, October 14, 2013

Offended by the light

...the mediation of divine revelation through Israel has the effect not only of disclosing something of the nature of God but of disclosing the natural offence to God deeply embedded in the human heart.— The Mediation of Christ, pages 20-21

<idle musing>
He goes on to trace antisemitic behavior to this antipathy. Interesting thought...
</idle musing>

Friday, October 11, 2013

ios 7 woes

I've heard about this on the Internet, but nobody seems to know the answer: Ever since updating to IOS 7, my iPad 2 randomly locks up. I have to press the home and sleep buttons at the same time—and even then it doesn't always come back! It's thrown it into recovery mode 4 times now...

Anybody know what the problem is? Is there a fix out there? Why isn't Apple offering another update to IOS 7?

This time it really died...the Apple logo is on the screen, but it won't move. Won't shutoff, won't respond to plugging into the Macbook...I hate computers!

Update: it came back—again! But this is getting old...


To be the bearer of divine revelation is to suffer, and not only to suffer but to be killed and made alive again, and not only to be made alive but to be continually renewed and refashioned under its creative impact.— The Mediation of Christ, page 20

<idle musing>
I borrowed this book from the library via inter-library loan. Great book! I didn't have time to transcribe all the great thoughts in it before I had to return it (busy summer with the cabin work!), but I did finish the book. Maybe someday I'll borrow it again and have time to really absorb all the great stuff. Meanwhile, enjoy the next few days of excerpts...
</idle musing>


From Guy Muses's blog
One of the most common questions I am asked in church planting training is: at what point do we start taking the new believers to church? This question always frustrates me, but I understand the paradigm struggle many face with house churches being "real churches."

The response I am tempted to give is, "what I hear you asking is at what point do we stop making disciples, and allow them to just start attending church services?" Of course, I bite my tongue before saying this, but it reflects the difficulty we have of understanding the who, what, when, where, and why of the true nature of the New Testament ekklesia.

Read the whole post; well worth your time!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Remember when

Remember when Bonhoeffer wasn't an Evangelical?

He isn't, of course; he was a liberal German Lutheran. But he's been "adopted" into the evangelical world, just like C.S. Lewis. But, he wasn't always welcomed by evangelicals; I was warned not to read him in the early-mid 1970s—I was told he was "dangerous." Ain't that the truth! But not for the reasons that person had in mind...

That change got me thinking about changes in general. Here's a few that came to mind:

Did you know that the "Pledge of Allegiance" was written by a socialist?!
Did you know that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge was added in the 1950s to distinguish "godly" America from the "godless" Soviet Union?
Did you know that the Puritans were against the celebration of Christmas? So much for putting the Christ back in Christmas, eh?
Did you know that "In God we trust" has only appeared on paper money since 1957? Check it out!

Book comments

I read When a Nation Forgets God over the weekend. I went into it knowing the politics of the author (typical right-wing Evangelical), so it didn't surprise me that the warnings were mostly about left-wing agendas. As you probably have gathered, I'm not a big "culture wars" proponent—the church did just fine when the Roman Empire was arrayed against it! Nor am I a big fan of the right-wing. OK, that's an understatement! I'm closer to socialist than I am to capitalist...

That being said, there are some good points in the book. He does make a point of saying that God doesn't favor one political or economic system over another. But he does use socialist almost as a swear word—as if capitalism has done a better job of the economy : (

The final chapter is definitely the best. He expounds on the danger of equating nationalism with Christianity. He sees this one of the reasons that the German church was unable to stand against Hitler. I think he's right.

If I had written the book, I would have included a few chapters on the problems of the right-wing agendas. For example, the left may be trying to expunge God from the public square, but the right is fine with him being there as long as he is the nationalistic, cultural god. They want to keep god confined to the U.S.'s interests—in short, God is an American.

I also would have included a chapter on the dangers of unbridled greed (read capitalism). The prophets rail against the greed of the upper class continually—there are more rebukes for exploiting the poor than there are about sexual immorality. Lutzer is silent on that, although he warns against the state. I fear big business more than big government! Big businesses are multinational, which means no government can control them. At least with government, you can either "vote the bums out" or perform a coup (I'm not advocating that!). Try that with a big business...

Hitler came to power promising to restore the values of Germany. Sound familiar? Octavian (Augustus) became emperor (technically, he wasn't called emperor, but he was in fact) promising to restore Roman values. Sound familiar? I haven't done a formal study, but my gut feeling is that more totalitarian regimes have come to power to restore traditional values than the ones promising to transform things in a new direction...

Just an
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The end of the matter is this...

This brings us back to a point I made in the first chapter: Jesus didn't come to hurt us; He came to kill us. If we want to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, crucify the flesh, die to our flesh and selfish desires, and let the Spirit of God live through us. That's what it means to die to self and live to God. Anything less may taste great, but it can't fill the gnawing emptiness in our hearts. We were made for more than painkillers and empty pleasures. We were meant to live an adventure, but first we have to die.— Christianity Lite, page 211-212

<idle musing>
And that's the end of this book. I hope you enjoyed the excerpts enough to read the whole thing.
</idle musing>

A couple good posts

I haven't posted any links to other blogs for a while. Don't take that to mean that I think there haven't been good posts on other blogs! But, this morning I ran across two that I think deserve a wider audience—not that my readership is large enough to make a difference (right, Ted).

On the Simple Church blog:

Although most of us understand that we, as God’s people, are the church, we consistently misuse that term and many others. I remain guilty of this myself. But, the result is that we use language that continuously waters down the true wonder of who we are in Christ and our purpose in Him.

When we say, “I’m going to church,” we are not affirming that we, His people, are His church, His spiritual temple, filled by the Spirit of God in order to take His fragrance everywhere we go. We must regularly declare the truth of who we are in order to fully walk in it!

He goes on to note other ways we misuse the word and why it matters. Good stuff! Read the whole thing, it's short.

And Alan Knox links to a good article that he wrote on "doing" as opposed to "being" in the life of the church:

I know how to do a Bible study. For as long as I can remember – at least from elementary school – I have been in Bible studies. They have had many different names: Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Discipleship Class, Youth Group, Bible Fellowship. But, they all had something in common: a bunch of people got together to hear someone teach a passage or topic from the Bible...

But, I have also learned something else. Bible studies, participatory church gatherings, and communal serving are very important. However, they often work to segregate our lives into “sacred times” and “regular times.”

Living as the church of Jesus Christ together does not mean holding Bible studies, participatory church gatherings, or service projects. Instead, living as the church of Jesus Christ means sharing our lives together – all of our lives, including the dull times and the messy moments.

Spend time together. Eat together. Talk together. Play together. Work together. Serve together. Study together. Grow together. This is the essence of life in the Spirit of God together as the church of Jesus Christ.

Amen! Do read the whole thing. It's a window into modern american church life—whether house or institutional—and how we fall short of what God desires for us as a body.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

It's terminal

If we had an operable cancer but the doctor offered only a painkiller, we'd rightly accuse him of malpractice. We'd walk out of his office and find a doctor who would do the painful surgery to rid us of the disease. It's no different with spiritual cancer. Many people go to churches where the pastor prescribes painkillers instead of exposing ugly, deadly sin. Spiritual sedatives feel good for the moment, but having the courage to be honest is the only way sin can be eradicated. Forgiveness requires truth about two things: the depravity in our hearts and the cleansing blood of Jesus.— Christianity Lite, page 210-211

<idle musing>
And that, my friends, is the gospel in a nutshell. Unfortunately, it seems that people tend to concentrate on either one side or the other. Some only talk about the depravity of humanity and make it sound like there is no hope this side of heaven. Others tend to go light on the depravity and speak only of the cleansing we have in Christ. But without the realization of how deeply depraved we are, we can't fully appreciate the extent of the cleansing. Likewise, if we only concentrate on the depravity, we minimize the power of God. You have to hold the two together—that's the true gospel.
</idle musing>

Monday, October 07, 2013


From our perspective the broad road often looks very appealing. In fact, many people on the narrow road envy those who are on the broad road. We look at their power, their money, their lavish lifestyles, their beauty, and their prestige, and we long to be just like them. The broad road is the source of unspeakable crimes and abuses, but more often it's subtle: It lures people in with seductive charms. It promises ease, plenty, and power with no cost to them and no sacrifice for others. No wonder it's so attractive! But it's a dead-end street.— Christianity Lite, page 186

<idle musing>
Yep. It's seductive; after all, Satan doesn't come waltzing in saying, "Here, try this. It will kill you." No, he makes it look attractive to the senses. The end results are hidden by the eye-candy of the moment...and far too often it works! : (
</idle musing>

Thoight for today

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice. Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor. (Psalm 112:4-9 NIV)

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Is it good news?

Maybe they [people who don't talk about God/Jesus in their daily conversation] aren't convinced the gospel is really “good news.” To them, maybe Christianity is just a long list of dos and don'ts, a strict moral code no one can meet. Or maybe a watered-down gospel seems irrelevant to their hopes, fears, and relationships.

If that's what we're to proclaim from the housetops, no wonder we're quiet! But that's not the real gospel. We have the life-changing, life-saving message of grace—nothing weak, nothing superficial, nothing phony.— Christianity Lite, page 176

<idle musing>
Could it be? Do we not believe the gospel is "good news?" I suspect he's right. We read these great claims in scripture, but—for whatever reason—we don't see them in our own lives. So we shrug and figure we must be doing something wrong. And we leave religion in its Sunday morning slot.

What do you think? Is he right? Have we bought into a watered-down, superficial gospel that isn't really a gospel at all?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Talk, talk, talk

<idle musing>
The fact that a bill was passed to pay the military—but nothing else—says far more about our priorities as a nation than any amount of speech-making can...Just an
</idle musing>

What drives you?

What do we value above all else? In the lite version of Christianity people see Jesus as their consultant but not their King. They see Him as their butler, maid, or cook—running around wearing a chef's hat and apron and waiting for their next command. When we only value Jesus for what He can do to make us happy and successful, we live to advance our career and our reputations. We don't care much about the eternal destiny of others. But that's not real Christianity. When our hearts are filled with the grace and power of Jesus Christ, nothing matters but His honor—nothing. What breaks His heart breaks ours. The passions that drove Jesus drive us.— Christianity Lite, pages 174-175

<idle musing>
I like that word picture: Jesus as consultant versus Jesus as their king. Huge difference! A consultant gets paid, but you don't necessarily listen to their advice. Sounds suspiciously like a lot of christianity these days...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Quick! Hide!

If we don't know our identity in Christ, we'll be constantly insecure and full of self-doubt. In our desperate need to be accepted we work compulsively to prove we're worthy of praise, we please people to earn their approval, or we hide to keep them from knowing how flawed we really are. We buy the right clothes, drive the right car, get the right position at work, and live in the right neighborhoods so people will think we're cool. In church we want to serve where we'll be noticed. We wear masks to pretend we have it all together, but we're dying inside. We're terrified somebody will know we're phonies.— Christianity Lite, page 158

<idle musing>
Genesis 3 all over again. We run and hide—especially from God! And, ironically, God is the only one who can rescue us, but we have such a warped view of who God is that we don't see he loves us. We see him only as a stern judge...

Lord, deliver us from our warped perspective of who you are!
</idle musing>