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Tag: arminian

To promote greater understanding

If you want to understand the differences between Arminian, Reformed and Lutheran Theologies, read the following book:

http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Spirituality-Five-Views-Sanctification/dp/0830812784/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414103229&sr=1-2&keywords=five+views+on+sanctification

That is all.

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The good work of trials

Hebrews 12:

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.

I don’t like trials.  Initially, I respond badlyto them.  I resist them, deny they are happening, and sometimes, get angry.  They really suck.

And the intensity of trials (nowhere to run to escape them) causes us to think they are evil.  They are only present because God’s blessing is absent.  In fact, the reverse is true.

God tells Ananias to lay hands on Paul of Tarsus, a man who had sorely persecuted the church (Acts 9):

13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Emphasis mine).

Paul, himself, states in Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church”

What’s the deal, God?  Why are you sending pain into the life of a guy you just converted?  Shouldn’t he become a king or something?

1 Pet. 2 states:

20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  21For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps …

So, even we are called to enter into suffering.  But, not purposeless suffering.  It is the means by which God disciplines us into acceptable sons and daughters, properly trained in this life to be princes and princesses ruling in the next.

Our humiliation in this life is the result of sin, but orchestrated for our benefit to train us.

Where is God when we go through trials?  We are pitied, felt sorry for, and spoken of in quiet tones.  In this world, the trials Christians suffer seem shameful, as if God rejected us.  The truth is, the trials we go through is a test of our faith, but a judgment on those who are not counted worthy as sons and daughters to go through these trials.  God does not abandon us during trials (despite feelings and confusion); He is intimately connected to us in them.

We can respond in many ways, but a good close reading of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John will reveal the opposition and difficulties Christ faced on this earth.  Hold fast to Him.   Remember, Jesus Christ, himself, is interceding for you and me.  Pray for yourself.  Pray for me.  We share His name, therefore, we share His sufferings.

Jesus, himself, led a lousy, deprived, short, and, seemingly meaningless life to outward observers.  But all the trials, testing, and temptations led to the ultimate glory to God … The death of the Lamb on the tree.  And without the death, there is no sonship for us whatsoever.  We would be lost for all eternity.  His work is the blessed work of the cross.  It was the epic, total destruction and disarming of the powers of evil.  And, it couldn’t have happened unless Jesus suffered unto death.

So, when people think you’re suffering is bad, sad, or shameful, tell them that it is the very proof that God is your Father. Tell them He has counted you worthy to share in Christ’s sufferings in this life so you can share His glory in the next.

Amen

Rabbit trail Bible reading

When I was in college, one of my friends was in a church that was reading the entire Bible over a summer.  It sounded really good, so I followed the plan along with the others.

The first week was really good.  We read Genesis and Matthew at the same time.  The “story” style of those books was an easy read.

After a couple of weeks, though, the reading became a drudgery.  Long list of laws, genealogies and directives put a damper on the joy of reading.  After a while, I quit.  Others quit, too.

Part of the problem was the type of writing we were reading.  The later books weren’t the narrative type we had encountered in the Gospels and Genesis/Exodus books.

The other part of the problem was a lack of a “big picture” to help guide the reading.

So, here I am to advocate a completely different form of reading.  I call it Rabbit Trail Reading.

Let’s say you’re going to read Hebrews.  Hebrews has four perspectives on Jesus as prophet, priest, King and sacrifice.  What books in the Old Testament speak to sacrifices and priests?  Think Leviticus and Deuteronomy.    My suggestion is that one reads a good portion (say 8-10 chapters) of the O.T. book before venturing into the New Testament book.  That way, you have some background knowledge before you are forced to use the reference notes in your study Bible.

Similarly, read Genesis before and during a read through John’s Gospel.  Compare structure, words, phrases and ideas.

It may not be a systematic reading plan.  Instead, it is a content-rich reading program which the individual can determine for himself/herself.  Your interest determines the material.  The material shapes your understanding and further interest in God’s Holy Word.

Play that funky music

Most of the stuff I write is on theological/biblical issues.  I’m not all that interested in the practical stuff, like whether or not I should wear a tie to church.

Here it comes … but, I have been thinking about the issue of music in the church service recently.  If you go to an Evangelical or Pentecostal church nowadays, you will hear “contemporary music”, which is a lot like jazz mixed with rock.  It is designed to connect with people from this day and age.

Contemporary worship music is very effective in connecting with people.  It is so effective that even liturgical churches have adapted to the changes and put “worship bands” in their services.  This has a mixed result.  Some people prefer the hymns, while others prefer the “praise songs”.  It has caused a bit of a split in these churches.

To many, the difference is merely between old and new.  To me, the difference is deeper.

In my church, we practice catechism, which means that we teach children the basics of the Christian faith through prescribed questions and answers.  It is hoped that they will be encouraged in their faith through the process.  This process begins in childhood, however, I believe the process of learning and growing should continue throughout one’s life.  In fact, it does!

Whenever we sing a hymn or a praise song, we are feeding ourselves a theology.  We are involved in the process of catechising ourselves.  The melody is simply a delivery method to atheology.

And, what theology are we feeding ourselves?  Here are the words to “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted”:

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis a true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress:
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost.
Christ the Rock of our salvation,
Christ the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God for sinners wounded!
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

Now, read the following praise song:

Lord the Light or Your Love is shining,
In the midst of the darkness shining,
Jesus light of the world shine upon us,
Set us free by the truth You now bring us,
Shine on me. Shine on me.

Shine Jesus shine
Fill this land with the Father’s glory
Blaze, Spirit blaze,
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth Your word
Lord and let there be light.

Lord I come to Your awesome presence,
From the shadows into Your radiance,
By the blood I may enter Your brightness,
Search me, try me, consume all my darkness,
Shine on me. Shine on me.

As we gaze on Your kindly brightness.
So our faces display Your likeness.
Ever changing from glory to glory,
Mirrored here may our lives tell Your story.
Shine on me. Shine on me.

(Cliff Richard)

The first song is a catechism into the depths of the Christian hope in Christ.  The second is more of an attempt at “personal surrender”.  This is not to say that modern Christian music is “bad”.  Nor do I believe that all hymns are excellent.  Some are really lousy.

No, I think the vehicle  (melody) can be simple, complex, or something in the middle, without issue.  The real issue is what “word diet” are we feeding on?  Much of contemporary Christian music is man-centered.  Theologians call it “Arminian” (not Armenian).  It means that if I do X, God will do Y.

This is not good theology.

This is a diet of worms.

The music we should sing, in church and to ourselves, should be Christ-focused.  That is why I can easily listen to “Holy, Holy, Holy”, and “Sing to Jesus” (a wonderful song by Fernando Ortega) wherever I’m at.  These songs both affirm my Christian faith, rather than confuse it.

So, here’s my appeal;  Music directors, please consider the words, not the vehicle; church members, please consider the words of the praise songs you sing to yourselves.  The point is not the “newness” or “catchiness” of the tune.  It is not the tradition.  It is what we are catechising and being catechised into.  If we focus on the theology of the songs, then we can be open to both new and old, while rejecting the hellish.

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