November 2004


30 Nov 2004

Here’s a trip to Rome that includes some related observations by Mark Twain.

30 Nov 2004

Amazing story of God’s work among the (!) Khmer Rouge.

29 Nov 2004

Nebula

28 Nov 2004

C.S. “Jack” Lewis was a 20th-century Oxford and Cambridge professor. Friend of Tolkien, Lewis encouraged him to finish the Lord of the Rings, seeing in it “beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron… a book that will break your heart.” Best known for his fantastic Narnia series, Lewis has inspired even more people with his essays and sermons, so many of which (e.g. “The Weight of Glory,” “Meditation in a Toolshed”) enter the sublime. Outside of Scripture, has any other prose so skillfully married passionate imagery with earthy sense? God’s mighty hand was on this saint. Thanks, Jack, for showing us heaven.

As for me, I am an Ohio-based, two-bit sinner, a Reformed Presbyterian evangelical and Orthodox Presbyterian Church member with no particular credentials but with an abiding interest in God’s glory as revealed in Scripture. This site is dedicated to Clive and all who forsake the thin gruel of this world, the mud pies in the slum, for the endless riches of Christ. Soli Deo Gloria.

Comments are disabled for most posts, but do feel free to contact me via email. From one eternal soul to another, thanks for dropping in.

SayHello

25 Nov 2004

If we could see Him as He really is. God is an expert in every course in school, for it is all about His creation. The creation tells you a lot about the creator. He understands every relationship of every human who ever lived. He knows about the hairs on every sparrow that ever flew about. The earth spins precariously in the heavens, at a perfect distances from the sun for life to thrive. The stars that light our sky are monstrous balls of gas reduced to mere points of light.. Our fastest spaceship, travelling for 100 years straight at top speed, would not reach even the nearest star a “mere” 4 light years away. And yet our own galaxy has a trillion stars and is 100,000 light years in length. And it’s just one of millions, maybe billions, of galaxies filled with stars.. Even with all that, Scientists don’t know where 90% of the mass in the galaxy is… it’s still a mystery. To paraphrase John Piper, the point isn’t that we are insignificant, but that God is significant. What an incomprensible person God is, fully revealed. And yet compare His greatness with our worship. We’ve all been through the boring church service, our own thoughts more on the game that afternoon. The rote prayers and wearied focus on everyday life. How grating it must be to God. Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you see who I am? We don’t get it. Our imagined God is too small. If we could see Him as he really is, unbound by our sinfulness and our feeble ability to comprehend, worship would flow from us like a torrent. It would carry us away into a sea of overwhelming joy and all the sinful desires of earth, all the “second bests,” would grow dim.

25 Nov 2004
  1. All religions are the same. They just present different ways to get to God.

    Many world religions do have similarities in their moral laws, but morality is a means to an end. It isn’t the end game. Ask more important questions about who God is, how you satisfy God, the purpose of life, or why morality is important in the first place, and Christianity has completely different answers. Saying that Christianity is the same as, say, Islam due to similarities in their morals law is about like saying that a zebra and a skunk are the same species because they share the same colors. Click here for more.

  2. Christianity is one way among many ways to God.”

    Jesus begs to differ: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father but by me” (John 14:6). People travel many roads, but according to the Bible the road to heaven is always through Christ. No exceptions. Accept or reject Christianity, but accept or reject it as it is. It’s pointless to pretend otherwise. If you have a beef with Christianity’s claim to be the exclusive path to heaven, then your beef isn’t with Christians, it’s with Jesus. He claimed exclusivity.

  3. Jesus was a great teacher, but not God.

    C.S. Lewis of Oxford famously and definitively answers this with his “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” argument: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Christ specifically claimed to be God numerous times (e.g. John 8:58: “…before Abraham was, I AM”, John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”) He accepted worship from others, or when he specifically forgave sins. His hearers knew what he was claiming, which is why they often picked up stones to kill him as a blasphemer. D. James Kennedy distills more about Christ as He is revealed in the Bible: “Christ never withdrew or modified a statement. He never apologized. He never sought advice from anyone. He never asked for prayer for Himself.”

  4. You should not judge.

    Christ’s words are often used to say that one person cannot judge the morality of others (e.g. a homosexual). However, if a person judges behavior by the Bible, he is simply restating God’s judgement. Deep down, I think people realize this. A desire to furiously denounce “judgement” indicates a conscience pricked by the specter of an ultimate judge.

  5. I’ll take heaven if I can get it, but if not I’ll hang out in Hell with my buddies.

    Think Hell isn’t bad? If what Jesus says is true, Hell is worse than bad. A lot worse. Hell is horrendous, eternal suffering apart from the hand of the person you were created to serve- God. Looking at just one example, the image presented by Christ in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Hell is symbolically described as unquenchable thirst and eternal regret. Not much in the way of “buddy time” there. Hell is serious business.

  6. Hell was a corruption from Paul / the church / monks / etc. Christ is all about peace and love.

    Christ certainly is about peace and love, but he’s also about holiness. Jesus Christ is the major source of the church’s doctrines about Hell. He spoke of Hell more than anyone else in the Bible, calling it a place where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”

  7. God helps those who help themselves.

    When it comes to salvation, God helps those who cannot help themselves. He helps those who depend on Him for all things. The self-sufficient need not apply. There is a germ of truth in the statement in the sense that God rewards those who are obedient to Him, but even in that case our obedience is that of a helpless patient who does what the Great Physician says in order to get well and stay well.

  8. There are a bunch of mysterious “lost books” of the Bible that were obscured by monks in the Middle Ages.

    There are many sub-Biblical books that were rejected for inclusion in the Bible during the early church councils. Most of these were not being used in the churches as authoritative texts anyway. Most were considered helpful, just not inspired. Only a small number of Biblical books were ever seriously debated in the early church before the canon (the current Bible) was settled. In any event, these rejected texts such as the Didache, the epistles of Clement, and Barnabus aren’t “lost.” Ask a church historian.

  9. Jesus’s primary message was helping the poor and loving others.

    Jesus’s primary purpose was to glorify his Father (John 17).

  10. Who are you to say what’s true?

    I am not the source of truth. Truth is revealed in the Bible. The argument is that Christ, as presented in the Bible, is worth trusting.

  11. How can a loving God send people to eternal hell?

    Put simply, the severity of the punishment matches the enormity of the crime! God is loving and holy. For God to be loving (inviting others to enjoy his glory or excellence), he must maintain the integrity of his glory by punishing those who scorn it. God loves his glory with all his power and opposes with all his power those who do not. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but His righteousness demands that every sin receive its just penalty. We do great evil in countless thoughts and deeds every day. Imagine a kindly mother on her child’s graduation day. The mother thinks back to the countless, loving hours spent teaching, correcting, and dealing with all the things mothers do. And finally, the mother is alone with her child that graduation day and says “here we are.” And the response of the child is rear back and slap the mother’s face as hard as possible. “I don’t trust you, hag. Get away from me!” That’s a weak example of the offense we give daily to God, and God is more worthy of trust than every trustworthy person on earth put together. He continually pours His love upon us even though we are unlovable. We breathe His air, eat His food, use His resources, and live the life He has given us. He sent his only Son to die for us unlovable sinners, and He promises us eternal life in His presence, in indescribable glory, if we only believe and trust in Christ. And yet we repay him with unbelief. We don’t live our lives constantly in thanks and gratefulness, ever mindful of his love. We seek things (relationships, money, etc) to find happiness instead of trusting the Source of everything. So do you see? The greater the benefit promised (eternal life and fellowship with God!) and the more revered the maker of the promise, the more outrageous becomes the insult in not believing that promise. To distrust God, to say in effect that what God offers is inferior to our sinful desires, is the greatest possible crime and deserves the greatest possible punishment. The greatest insult that can be paid a person is not to trust that person. c.f. Heb. 10:26-31.

25 Nov 2004

Pascal tells us that happiness “is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” If a genie gave us three wishes, many of us would choose fame, wealth, relationships, or sex. But ask yourself a question: If you received everything — everything! — you ever wanted, and if all your dreams came true, would you be happy? Or would boredom and anxiety return? Getting old, like a clock winding down, lamenting days gone by. Watching your friends and relatives die as the years pass. Emptiness. And then the end. There’s no getting around it: death is coming!

We want a lot more than worldly pleasures and more than a good family. We were created by God with a “God-shaped hole” in our hearts. Do you want eternal life? Do you want a unending joy and surpassing beauty? Do you want to love purely, without guile, truly finding joy in bringing joy to others? An wars and boredom and pettiness? The Bible says that we can have it one day. More than that, we can have the Author of it all. We can know God and feast at His table. All earthly things are a lame substitute, or as C.S. Lewis said, a shadow of the real and lasting joy of heaven. It is the equivalent of accepting a few pennies on earth because we do not want the endless riches of knowing and enjoying God forever.

If you are reading this, you are alive and it’s not too late to learn what matters infinitely more than anything else: The God who created you is loving and yet also holy; he hates sin and expects perfection. Everything we have and every breath belongs to Him. We owe everything. And yet we are not infinitely thankful or obedient. We are rotten in God’s eyes, deserving of His eternal wrath in Hell.

Enter Jesus Christ. God’s love was so great that He sent Jesus to save those who believe in Him. Adam, our representative, sinned and brought condemnation, while Jesus lived a perfect life and died for sin to bring pardon for those who believe.

What must you do to be saved? Simple: Believe on the Lord Jesus. This faith involves knowledge (right understanding), assent (agreement), and trust (not just believing a chair will hold you up, but sitting on it). J.I. Packer continues:

[W]hat does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon Him for pardon arid peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost.

And to the further question still: how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things? it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on His mercy; ask Him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith… that you may never henceforth stray from Him. Turn to Him and trust Him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace [word and sacraments] expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to Him; watch, pray, read and hear God’s Word, worship and commune with God’s people… The emphasis in this advice is on the need to call upon Christ directly, as the very first step… [D]o not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess your badness and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on Him till His light rises in your soul, as Scripture promises that it shall do.

When you have faith in Jesus, you want to learn more about Him. The fruit of true faith is a desire to align your life with the Bible, not as a way to “earn” anything, but just because it’s the way you want to be. Read the Book of John and see His greatness, His authority, His spiritual beauty. Repent, believe, and have eternal life! As the old musical goes:

The sun is shinin’ come on, get happy
The Lord is waiting to take your hand.
Shout Hallelujah, come on, get happy
We’re goin’ to the promised land.
We’re headin’ cross the river,
Wash your sins away In the tide.
It’s all so peaceful
on the other side…
Sing hallelujah come on, get happy
Get ready for the judgement day.

24 Nov 2004

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. -Rom 3:20-26

In many passages, the Bible teaches that God is three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in one substance. We cannot make “sense” of this, but God’s ways are higher than ours (Isa. 55:9). He is infinite and we aren’t.

God created the world and everything in it (Gen 1, Acts 17:24). Everything holds together at His word (Heb 1:3, Col 1:16-17). Every breath we take is because he allows and enables it (Acts 17:25, 28).

God created Adam as the first man. Adam represented all of us, similar to how a congressman represents the people of his district. Adam sinned against God and as a result all of his descendants fell into sin with him (Rom 5:12, 19). In some sense we joined in Adam’s sin. It may seem “unfair” to be are punished for what Adam did, but remember that God chose Adam as our representative, and God is perfectly fair and just.

And so our natures are fatally corrupted by Adam’s sin. Our thoughts and desires are evil (Eph 2:1, Rom 3:10-18), and we sin because of it. The news gets worse. God utterly hates sin and cannot stand its presence (Prov 17:15, Rom 2:9-11). One sin is too many (James 2:10, Matt. 5:48) – after all, a single sin by Adam changed the world! God requires the blood of the sinner (his death) because He is just (Zeph 3:5, Ps 89:14, Dt 32:4, Ps 5:4-6, Rom 1:18, Ex. 34:7, etc). He must punish sin with the exact punishment it deserves (Rom 2:5-6, 2 Thess 1:6). That fair sentence is death (Ex. 18:4, Rom 1:32) for the sinner and eternal torment in Hell (2 Thess 1:8-9, Luke 16, etc.). Why? Because God created us and has given us everything. We owe Him perfect obedience. An infinite debt, if unpaid, deserves an infinite penalty.

Again, it’s critical to understand how utterly holy God is. He hates sin and cannot justly permit it by “letting it slide.” God cannot deny Himself. We are completely unpleasing to God on our own (Heb 11:6), and being a “good person” cannot save us, nor can doing “good deeds.” We’re in bad shape because God demands perfection and we are sinners. The puritan Jonathan Edwards was right: we are sinners in the hands of an angry God! Beyond the grave lies the God whom the Bible describes as a “consuming fire” (Heb 12:29), and it is a terrifying thing to fall into His hands (Heb 10:31)! Your worst enemy is nothing compared to Him. Do not be deceived: God’s wrath will fall on those who do not obey Him (John 3:36, Luke 13:3). Jesus warned of Hell and judgment more than anyone else in the Bible, more than a dozen times in the book of Matthew alone.

But there’s good news (the Gospel). In his great mercy, God provides an escape. Jesus Christ, God’s only son, came to earth as a man and perfectly fulfilled the law. He lived a sinless life (Heb 9:14, 1 Pet 1:19) and bore the curse of sin (2 Cor 5:21, Gal 3:13) by dying on the cross as a once-for-all sacrifice ((Heb 10:10, Heb 9:26). Jesus shed His blood for sinners (1 Pet 1:19, 2:24, 3:18), as our substitute (Rom 3:24, Eph 1:7, Col 1:20, Heb 9, etc.). He was the great mediator (Heb 9:15) and peacemaker (2 Cor 5:19) who reconciled God to mankind (Rom 5:1, 9; Eph 1:7, Eph 2:13-16, Col 1:19-20, 1 John 1:7, Rev 5:9, etc.). At the cross, God punishes sin as it deserves and also shows His great love (Rom 3:25-26). Jesus rose from the dead on the third day (1 Cor 15:3-4) after his death. While Adam, our original representative, sinned and brought death to all of his descendants, Jesus becomes the “second Adam” (Rom 5) by rising and offering life to those He represents (Rom 5:17-19, Rom 6:8).

And who does Jesus represent? Those who believe in Him! God commands (Acts 17:30) — not suggests, commands! — that all of us accept His gracious offer by repenting of our sins (Isa. 55:7, Acts 3:19) and believing in Jesus Christ and His resurrection (John 3:16-18, John 5:24, Mark 1:15, Acts 15:11, Acts 16:31, Rom 1:16, Rom 10:9, Heb 7:25, etc). It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or who you are now: ask forgiveness, turn from your sin, and believe. Those who truly believe in Christ and follow Him are “clothed” by the righteousness of God (Rom 3:22, Gal 3:27, Phil 3:8-9). That is, when God looks upon the believer, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son, our substitute and representative. Through Jesus, we will be able to stand before God on judgment day. As the old hymn says, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” And it doesn’t stop there. The Holy Spirit lives within us, and God will change us, preparing us for eternal life in glory (John 5:24, John 6:40, Eph 2:7).

A final note: Many claim to be believers simply because they had a “religious experience,” because they prayed a prayer once, or because their parents are believers, or because they were baptized. Those who do this deceive themselves. Self-proclaimed “Christians” often shack up with other Christians, avoid church with a multitude of excuses, and generally live lives no different than unbelievers. Yet the Bible says that Christians are to be “slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:18), seeking to conform to God’s will as expressed in the Bible, and living transformed lives. The Bible calls us to examine ourselves to be sure that we are do not hear Christ’s awful words: “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt 7:23). The Christian who sees his own sinfulness in light of the threats and warnings in Scripture will retreat, throughout his life, back to the cross of Christ. Repentance is not a one-time thing. If you are a Christian, you weren’t just “saved,” you are being saved (1 Cor 15:1-2). In all true believers, there is throughout life a gradual growth in holiness (Rom 6:3, Rom 8:28-38), even though we remain sinners until death and actually become more aware of our sinfulness and unworthiness as we grow in our faith. God calls for it and He produces it (Phil 2:12-13). How can the Holy Spirit live in us and we be unchanged? How can God plant a tree that doesn’t bear fruit (Phil 2:13, Eph 2:10, Rom 8:31-39)? How can we be a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17, Rom 6) and be unchanged? It’s impossible! A constant point in the book of Hebrews is that the saved are those who continue in their faith. Paul tells the Corinthians to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5), following that up with, “Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” In other words, if Christ resides in you, how can that have no effect? Those who think their salvation offers freedom to sin are deceived, because a tree is known by its fruit (Matt 12:33). So, don’t rely on past experience. Repent and seek the Lord. Go to the Cross, remembering his offer of forgiveness and His desire to generously bless. As Rom 6:11 says, “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” In short, abide in Jesus. Then use the means of grace: Bible reading, prayer, the hearing of the preached word (in church!), and the sacraments (baptism and communion). These are the means the Holy Spirit uses to change and sustain a believer, from the inside out.

Want to learn more? The first stop is the Bible. It is the only infallible source of revelation and the final authority in matters of faith and life. I recommend and use the Reformation Study Bible, which is based on the English Standard Version (ESV) translation. This Bible provides a huge number of notes that provide helpful context and background to verses. The ESV translation is more literal than the NIV and much more readable than the NASB. Second, the ancient ecumenical creeds neatly summarize Christian belief. Third, perhaps the best resources for understanding Christianity and interpreting Scripture — now read by few people, unfortunately — are the historic catechisms and confessions. I subscribe to the Westminster Confession and Catechisms (and here’s a first catechism for children, based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism).

Finally, find and attend a good church! Calvin: “[T]hose to whom he is a Father, the Church must also be a mother.” The Westminster Confession says: “The visible church… is the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”