Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The God of Calvin

The God understood through the lens of Calvinism is not vindictive or cruel, but is merciful and loving. As the statement "He predestined us," is often misrepresented as a standalone, it places a negative light on the true mercy and love that is God's foreknowledge of us, if, truly, God is a holy God who must punish evil. Since we all are destined for the depths of eternal fire, who but a loving and merciful Yahweh could choose not only to disallow fallen man to swallow the harvest of his deeds, but, prior to the creation of the universe, agree to eat and drink in plenty that which ought to be placed before us, becoming our redemptive penal substitution? In view of the common grace shed upon the elect saints, it seems evident at the least that we are not merely 'chosen', but, rather, saved. 'For it is by grace that you are saved,' that before an inkling of sin was before your eyes, our sweet Messiah drank the wine of your iniquity, thenceforth cleansing you from all unrighteousness.

God's Wrath Indeed Hath Been Poured

As such, it stands to reason that, though God's just wrath indeed has been poured out upon Christ to punish the sinfulness of the elect, the un-chosen absolutely must be without cause of salvation. Yahweh is a just God, not a nearsighted vigilante. Logically, it is beyond the wrath of the Father to punish the same sinfulness twice. Therefore the grace given to you and me is indeed exclusive. However, I demand a little room to ponder the full extent of this exclusiveness; It may be, however unfathomable (as our God is prone to be), that this true exclusiveness fully extends to some around you who have not yet tasted of the riches of God. Because of this, we are charged with the stewardship of the Kingdom, that we may pray "Your kingdom come and Your will be done" into the evangelism and mission of the fellowship in Christ: Love God, love your neighbour, go forth, making disciples and baptizing, teaching them to obey.

Not By Our Choice or Un-Choice

To this end, our purpose ensues, that we are not merely gripping the edge of grace by our choice or un-choice, but, rather, that grace is truly gripping us, and continues to reach out to grip others, to whom we are (or ought to be) used as the hammer that shatters the hardened heart to opened eyes and ears to perceive and hear of the grace that so engulfs us, inside and out. Indeed, that "nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord," may we understand and accept that the supralapsarianistic perception that God's decrees to save the elect are truly not for the purpose of condemnation, but for the purpose to save those already condemned, we understand, in a new light, that John Calvin in no way portrayed a stone cold killer, but a spring of liberation and life, from which we, hell-bent on destruction, may be altered and saved, "so that no man may boast of his deeds."

-N. Laughter

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jesus Is the Image

When the Father spoke to the Son and Spirit, saying "Let Us create man in our image", He bestowed upon humanity a lasting grace. Alone in all of the created world, we would be chosen to carry the dignity of the divine likeness upon our shoulders; we would rule over the earth as the representatives of God; we alone would represent the First Cause in a manner that those foolish wooden, stone, and metal idols of later generations never could have hoped to image the Creator of All (Genesis 1:26; Jeremiah 10:5). Before we had our fall from grace, mankind was the image of the invisible God; the clear representation of that which is beyond representation; the icon through which the one true God is comprehended and glorified and worshiped. This is why the dark shadow that has descended upon the human spirit is so profound: we were once sons of our Father in heaven, but now we are sons of Satan who "want to do the desires of [our] father [Satan]" (John 8:44).

Does Eschatology Make a Difference?

I have been in the process of looking into different options that I might be interested in pursuing before attending grad school. One of the options is the peace corps. While researching this option with emphasis on how a Christian can effectively be involved and the limitations on Christians, I ran across this quote:

"Christians are to consider themselves as strangers and pilgrims on this earth,and are not called to try in any way to save or improve upon a worldly system which has been created by its Creator for the purpose of being destroyed and replaced with ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’"

This raised my eyebrows. I have great respect for all denominational preferences within orthodox Christianity. I respect those that differ with me on the issue of eschatology (theology of the end of the world/age). However, like all issues, when one takes a position and goes towards an extreme, the implications can manifest themselves in how he or she behaves and interacts with the world around that individual.

The problem I have with the mentioned quote is its similarity to one of Jesus' parables, the servants and the talents. Each servant was given an amount of money by his master and was told to steward the money and be productive. Each servant went about doing just that, except one. The last servant had one meager talent and was so afraid of losing it that he buried it in the ground; holding on to what he had. When the master came back he honored the servants that had been productive, but vehemently chastised the disobedient and cowardly servant.

I feel there is a sub-set of Christians who have come to believe that this fallen world is irredeemable and is set to become the greatest cook-out that has ever been seen. The goal is to hang-on to what remains and wait while culture falls apart in wickedness and darkness. It is rather like a Sleeping Beauty/Snow White story. Christianity sleeps until the prince arrives, kisses His sleeping bride, and then whisks her off to His castle away from all the pain, suffering, and evil queens that this world offers.

While this view makes a good story, I believe that scripture reveals a different narrative. Jesus Himself became part of culture, impacting the lives of broken and hurting individuals. Paul quotes to the Athenian people in Acts 17:28 their own poets, showing that he was aware of culture. Habakkuk 2:14 has a glorious promise of God's Word spreading across the globe as waters cover the sea (which is quite expansive). Isaiah 2:4 speaks of a day when warriors will mold their swords into farming equipment because wars will become extinct and men will no longer learn the art of war.

Some say that we must wait for heaven for all these things to become a reality in a world far away. I personally believe that heaven will be on earth and our vocation and calling as Christians is to restore shalom, or peace, to the world. It is a slow process, but I believe that there will come a day when all nations acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and God. Culture will one day glorify Christ. This age ends as Psalm 110:1 notes, until every enemy of Christ is defeated. Thus, I believe this world has an awesome future, which we should become invested in and work to make happen. We only see a sliver of time, but scripture is our guide to what lies ahead. That's my perspective anyway. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

When Christians Come Out

My thoughts are based on the following article by Christianity Today from:
This is technically late news... But I wanted to briefly discuss a few thoughts I had had when Jennifer Knapp announced her lesbian orientation. What should Christians do when a close Christian friend reveals he or she is gay? Are there meaningful ways to interact with gay Christians that does not compromise scripture?

First, listen. Don't freak out. Don't react. Let your friend share his or her experience. Don't try to come up with solutions or offer advice. This will seem like you are minimizing the problem. What your friend wants is a safe place to just be. He or she yearns to express what has been suppressed and hidden.

Second, Ephesians 4:15 states that we must speak the truth in love. As your friend becomes comfortable being around you within this new context, be open about your opinions on the issue. Communicate it sensitively and graciously. Be respectful of his or her choices as a human being, but realize this does not mean you have to agree or condone what he or she does. Remember that all humans were created in the image of God; thus we all reflect God's glory. Agree to disagree for the sake of the relationship.

Third, don't push your friend away. You have the greatest opportunity to reflect God's love to your gay friend. The church is God's physical body that is supposed to offer physical comfort and support. I personally feel it is wrong to sever a friendship, even if the gay friend has begun dating someone of the same sex. This is especially important if the two of you are of the same sex. The realization that love can be obtained through platonic means can be so powerful. If we represent Christ, who never gives up on us, we too should be faithful to our friends. Love doesn't approve of broken behavior, but feels compassion for the soul of the individual who bears the Imago Dei. Pray and don't give up that God can change your friend's heart. The same-sex feelings will likely never leave, but the perception of what one can do with these feelings can.

These are some beginning thoughts to reflect and consider. I simply believe the church should be more loving and gracious. Uphold truth; do not compromise righteousness. But don't throw stones at God's children who stumble.

And I promise to begin digressing from this subject sometime in the near future. :)


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Amazing Grace to the Humbled

When you are left alone for 10 hours a day, with no distractions, you tend to reflect on a lot of things very deeply. What does it mean to be made in the Image of God? How can I better share the Gospel with my fellow tree planters? When should I start planning for what this next year is going to hold? How can I, or how should I, show more appreciation and love to Kendra so that she knows how much I care about her? These are all questions that are on my mind as I fill my bags with trees to plant in British Columbia. There is nothing like an extended period of solitude to sharpen the mind (but more on that later - I've got a series on Jesus' temptation in the wilderness coming up in the next few weeks). Here is one of those questions: How does my relationship with the Creator of the cosmos work? What, if anything, is there in me that could possibly please Him?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

God's Sovereignty In The Midst Of Trials

I love the book of James in the New Testament. One of my heroes, Martin Luther, actually had quite an amount of disdain for the book, calling it "a book of straw", mainly because he thought James approved of the idea that salvation could be attained by works, but of course James falls in line with every other book of the New Testament in terms that we as sinners are justified by faith alone, not by works.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Life of Tensions

I grew up in a world where everything was orderly, dogmatic, and resolute. My theology was spot-on. I had a moral, conservative family. I had an internal awareness that things were bad somewhere out "there," but life was good. Uneventful and dull, but still good. There came a day when I realized my simple world was not so uncomplicated. I realized my perceptions of the thing called "love" and "attraction" and "infatuation" were not what I had seen in Disney movies or in the lives of people I knew. Girls still had cooties, but boys had suddenly gone from the most boring creatures on earth to the most exciting... There came a realization that these feelings did not align with what I had grown up expecting or understanding. Feelings of confusion and isolation set in fast. I had grown up in such a sheltered world that I had no concept of what "gay" meant. I had crushes on guys, but did not begin to think there was a label for the experience.

'Many Christians would prefer to ostracize people like me... Others would

audaciously embrace our sexuality and stifle what Scripture may be revealing.'

Struggling Is Part of Existence

I have discovered with age and further self-awareness that life is filled with tensions that are not easily solved. Free will versus election; futurism versus preterism; God's goodness versus the problem of suffering and evil. Struggling is part of existence, yet we live in a culture that fears tension. We would rather use an intellectual Tylenol to cure the headache of philosophical and theological dilemmas.

Find Middle Ground and Face Tough Questions

Many Christians would prefer to ostracize people like me that experience same-sex attraction and assume we're possessed by demons or we chose this sin for ourselves and thus have to suffer the consequences. Others would audaciously embrace our sexuality and stifle what scripture may be revealing. There are few who are willing to find middle ground and face the tough questions that arise in the issue. Did God make him or her gay? What does God expect of gays and lesbians? Can we really tell these people to give up the opportunity to find love? The answers may seem simple, yet when one experiences the struggle or knows and cares for one who does, these are uncomfortable questions that are not as easy to answer. Yet the questions should be brought up. Thinking and grappling with these issues are healthy for our growth.

We Would Love to Hit the Escape Button

This post is a mere introduction to a pertinent issue in my life. We all experience tensions that we would like to ignore. We would love to hit the escape button and not feel burdened by the weight of our particular struggle. I would recommend dealing with it--don't worry if the questions remain unanswered. It's all a process of learning to see the world through eyes that are not our own. Some my friends call it "putting on your Jesus glasses." Maybe it doesn't make life any clearer, but I have found that bringing these issues to God is very therapeutic for my soul and helps me accept and live in the midst of many frustrating tensions.