Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Cross

"Your Circumstances don't define God's love for you. The Cross defines God's love for you. Circumstances are meant to point you towards the Cross so that you'll cling to it as the only thing you truly own."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Genuine

Some Questions I should be asking myself now:


I think Christians have a tendency to do the right things for the wrong (though honorable) reasons some times.

When we're told to be righteous people, we tend to be righteous people because that's what the Bible says to do. We do it because Christians are supposed to be righteous.

When we're told to be humble, we act humble because, well, Christians are supposed to be humble.

When we're told to be loving, it's because Jesus was loving and we're supposed to imitate Jesus, so of course we're supposed to be loving.


Why?

All of this is so ridiculously boring to me. One simply must ask the question "why?".

Why, if we are Christians, are we supposed to be righteous? If it's just because a book told us to, then Christianity falls down into religion.. just like every other religion on earth. Everyone in the world is humble because they're supposed to be.

But how can you truly be righteous because someone told you to? If righteousness is the love of God, then acting righteous because God told you to is like loving your spouse because he/she told you to! What kind of love is that?!

Paul even says "let love be sincere". (Romans 12:9) Sorry, guys, but love can't ever be sincere unless it has it's own reasons; not because a book told it to be there. That's why I'm convinced that the Bible is more about reminding us and guiding us than changing us.


Allow me to let you in on a secret that I have learned. I am convinced that it is the same mystery which Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 2:6-10:

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”[b]—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

This is why Christianity is unique. This is why it is true.

You can't be righteous until you've found a connection with a God who is so satisfying that you forsake everything which gets in between you and Him.

You can't really be humble until you've come into contact with a God who blows you away with his power and majesty.

You can't really be loving unless you know you've been loved.

All this is by way of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Worship

I just listened to the most amazing sermon on worship. It was by a worship pastor who basically said music isn't even mainly prescribed by the Bible as a means towards worshiping God. He said, "When Adam and Eve were in full communion with God in Genesis.. where was the music?"

I think this is interesting and true. Humans weren't meant to just sing to God, they were meant to honor God with their every thought, action, and desire. This is true worship, and this is true joy. Oh how much joy it brings to worship God in everything. To be a joyful person is not to gain anything more but to make your thoughts and mind realize how much you already have received in Christ by way of the Holy Spirit.

He said, "The most worshipful thing you can do is to STOP singing, walk outside, and ask yourself and God as well, 'Are you really everything I need? Is it really all because of Jesus I'm alive? Is your word my bread?'"

This is awesome.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

America is not the Paradigm

I'm starting to think it's time for me to let scripture do the talking instead of just trying to use my own reasoning to be convincing. Not that I don't like reasoning. But I've realized that I've been misleading to anyone who reads this blog, recently: I've been pleading for anyone and everyone to come to Christ because it is satisfying, which, in itself, is good. But if you should come to Christ just because it satisfies you, then when it temporarily isn't satisfying when you've got to make painful sacrifices, you won't want to come. I've also made this fallacy in my own life.

But it can't be done like this. We come to Christ because Christianity is true. Not only does natural revelation and logic tell us this, but also the witness of the Holy Spirit. Christianity, is, above all other things, true. We need to follow the truth, simply because if I were to argue against this very notion [that we ought to follow truth], it would imply that it were true that we shouldn't follow truth, and you must follow that-- which is ridiculous!

So I will allow scripture to speak for itself. I'm in this with everyone and I'm not judging anybody. But this is how it is. If you want to be a real Christian, you must realize that Jesus has made demands on your life, which, in reality, are pretty offensive-- yet true.

Luke 14:27-24

"And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?

Yeah. This is hard.

This looks like a message to Christians who started their faith passionately and now find themselves realizing that their faith is not only going to be an emotional release, but rather it will demand their whole lives. Jesus uses this illustration to show that a king who undertakes a massive project to build a tower for his glory and fails is more humiliated when he fails than if he never started at all.

In the same way, if you're an American, you're probably going to be a Christian. But when you started out as a Christian, you probably didn't count the cost. But seriously, who can commit to be a follower of a man who was horrifyingly executed by Romans, and who also said "follow me", and not expect their following him to cost them? This is where the regenerate are separated from the Non-regenerate.

Anyone can act good. Anyone can try to not be prideful, and to love other people. Anyone can pray every day, and anyone can read the Bible every day. Anyone can cry when they worship and be uplifted by praise music. But who will give their whole lives to Christ? In fact, that's what "giving your life to Christ" means. Have you just given your emotions to Christ? Have you just given your quiet times to Christ? Or have you given your WHOLE life? What about your possessions? What about your thoughts? What about your desires? What about your dreams? What about your actions? What about your future?

Friends, THIS is the standard. When you start to feel the convicted fear rising up in you, don't start looking around at your friends to see what they're doing, look at Jesus. He is the standard to which we are called, not the average American Christian. THIS is truth, not society. Will you follow truth, or will you follow yourself? Like it's been said before, one cannot worship when they continually change their object of worship to fit their desires; for then their object of worship has become themselves.

I think some of us commit the fallacy of looking at people and thinking, "Oh, well they're very spiritual and God's got his hand on them, but I'm not called to that kind of Holiness. FALSE. You are called to the level of Righteousness of Jesus. I am not called to any more holiness than you are, according to God's moral will. This being true, we ought to RUN towards Jesus and NOT compare ourselves with other people. Jesus called everyone to be like him. And even if we're not supposed to be like Jesus (for whatever reason), Paul also told us to "Imitate me, as I Imitate Christ", in 1 Corinthians 11:1.

And do not fear, for "if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."Romans 8:11

The Grace of Christ be with you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Learning

Things that I have learned recently:

There is a LOT more morale influence on intellectual beliefs than I had ever suspected.

The cultures we live in have an idea paradigm. The Gospel is an idea paradigm. We need to conform to the Gospel paradigm, not our culture paradigm. Goodbye Joel Osteen, goodbye prosperity Gospel. If you want to be a Christian you need to believe the truth, not the culture.

A person can begin to doubt Christianity and have an honest question which is bothering them, and yet STILL have that question be influenced by morale factors and unwillingness. We are so dead inside and so dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

The Merge of Satisfaction and Service

Oh, how great a hope that we have in God! His mercies are staggeringly new every morning.

But I've made a mistake the past year in assuming that it is happiness and the emotional high of hope we ought to seek first, not righteousness. Tim Kellor has an amazing sermon called "The Search for Happiness" in which he cites the example from the sermon on the mount:

“3 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. "

Matthew 5

The Greek word for blessed here is "makarios", which most literally means "Happy". This section of the sermon says "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness".

So, most literally it says,"Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness". I find this an interesting concept. It doesn't say, "Blessed are those who search for blessedness", or "Happy are those who search for happiness". But what it does say is that those who deeply long for righteousness will be happy people.

I have long embraced John Piper's philosophy of "Christian Hedonism", which in my opinion is very Biblical. His main contention is that the message of the Bible is that it's not that God wants us to be miserable, he just wants us to have our joy in him, not the miserable filth everyone else puts their hope in. God wants us to be joyful-- in fact, more joyful than anyone, but he wants us to have REAL joy, and real joy can only come from joy in God. So in light of that, Christians ought to be mindful of the fact that their serving God will be richly rewarded by a joyful fellowship with God himself.

The main problem I have, I think, is that I have misconstrued this philosophy in the wrong way. I have placed my own happiness above serving God. In a sense I have believed that God wants us to be happy more strongly than I have that God wants us to serve him with our lives. As a consequence of that, I began to think that if serving God would make me temporarily unhappy, God wouldn't want that. (Ouch.. starting to sound like the prosperity Gospel now) It can be a trap to fall into thinking that we should only serve God where it satisfies us, because if we allow that to happen, we can never get off the ground; for what if on one day walking in God's laws isn't satisfying or conducive to happiness? Does that me we should give up and wait until it's satisfying again? No! We've forgotten how we first started as Christians.

Again, the sermon on the mount does not say, "Happy are those who seek happiness", but "Happy are those who (in summary): serve God with every part of their lives."

One may counter with, "Well, if the goal of these states of being (being poor in spirit, longing for righteousness, being meek, etc.) are not happiness, then why does Jesus even bother saying "Happy are the...", as if to make happiness the end goal of the actions like becoming poor in spirit, or longing for righteousness? I submit that this is because of Human nature.
The Gospels have several instances where Jesus seems to contradict himself in his preaching, but upon a much deeper look one will find that it is not self contradiction but rather a deep understanding of human nature.

For example:

Luke 14:
"When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Only recently have I looked at this passage and said.. "Wait? what's up with this?.. first Jesus seems to advocate humility, then he seems to glorify pride!"

I can understand how he would say, "sit at the lowest place on the table", because all men are to be humble and understand that there is no enjoyment in glorifying yourself when you could glorify such an awesome God. But why would he say, "So that you may be told to move up to a higher place and honored in front of all"? And what use is the saying "Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted" if he wants us to be humble? What purpose is humbling yourself if it's only to be exalted again? Doesn't that mercenary desire cancel out humility?

And this is a good place to ask why it is that Jesus reminds us that happiness accompanies serving God. So Why?

Jesus clearly understood that humans can't do something unless there is some sort of desire that leads them there. Think about it: Is there anything you've done when you didn't desire to do it? Even if something costs you everything and it is absolutely against everything you wanted, that which made you do it was a satisfaction in doing what is right. If it didn't at that moment satisfy you to do what was right, you wouldn't have done it. That's simply human nature; the way we were created. So when Jesus gave these people seemingly contradictory things to do, what he's doing is NOT giving them a reason to do it, but a motivation to do it. For everyone knows that we have multitudinous reasons to glorify God and serve him! The problem is that we just don't feel like it. It's not as if Jesus would ever advocate pride in humans, but what he was doing was giving them a reassurance that doing something would bring them satisfaction-- satisfaction that they can't even really imagine at the current time, but satisfaction which will grow on them. But the mysterious thing is that once we as people start humbling ourselves to be exalted and to find satisfaction which we can only imagine on a human level (happiness, honor, etc..), our venue of satisfaction begins to change, and that's where the power of the God starts to work on our hearts.

When we start humbling ourselves, when we start longing for righteousness, when we make ourselves meek and the dirt of the earth, we do so because we know it is right. And that is why we should do it.

That is my realization. I'm to serve God and long for righteousness and truth because that is what I am, as a human, to do. The fallacy I was making was assuming that my state of contentment was the REASON for serving God and serving God was the motivation, but rather it should be the other way around. Serving and loving God is the reason we're to do the things we do as Christians, but the sweet motivation which is promised to us is deep, deep satisfaction and heart healing. This is humbling. This is healing. However, what one will soon find on maturing is that we begin to serve God by being satisifed in him. Those things which start out as two different things begin to merge as the Holy Spirit penetrates our lives. Where satisfaction used to be gotten from being looked at favorably for being a humble person and a good Christian, one starts to realize that everything their heart has ever desired is to be really humble, with no external motives, and really love others, without putting on a show so people will return to you favors later. This is the handiwork of a loving God.

Younger Christians start out with simply these promises: Serve God because it is right, and just so you know.. you'll be satisfied. Mature Christians know: God is to be served above all else, but there is a well of so much deep heart satisfaction as to "set a whole kingdom laughing", and in a way, you serve God by being satisfied in him.

But how can younger Christians understand that to serve God is to be satisfied in him when they don't even know what being satisfied in God means in its fullness? They can't imagine it! It's beyond the scope of their spiritual horizon. All they can see is sentimentalism and.. acting, on behalf of the mature Christians who seem fueled by this desire to serve God. So they start out doing what Jesus says: Long for righteousness, and you will be satisfied. In what way? Well, all the satisfaction they can imagine is having people look nice at them and being able to feel pride about being a good servant of God. But in the midst of doing these things to serve God with the motivation of being satisfied in whatever way is the sweet transformation-- where the weight of glory begins to fall upon the heart and God transforms the heart to reflect the very nature of God; and divine and human nature become one even more fully. And everything is done for its own sake. Love is for love's sake. Humility is because the Christian has really seen that there is something which is infinitely more glorious than themselves and don't simply act like it.

Now, I'm not advocating any kind of rule following, legalistic, heart-ridden Christianity here. Serving God and keeping his commands is an act of putting God first in your heart; filling your soul with good things instead of bad things, and not letting any idols spring up in your life. That is serving God. From this Joy will come, but first you must learn to put God first in your life.

In conclusion, we should all, young and old Christians, remember that serving God should be the reason we serve God. But for the newer Christians, the merge hasn't happened yet, so you must remember that serving God and walking in his commandments is the first order-- and then the satisfaction will come-- the greatest satisfaction you can imagine. But I can already infer that even in your greatest endeavors to contemplate such an awesome satisfaction, you have still fallen short if you are a younger Christian, because the Holy Spirit hasn't revealed it to you yet. You have a duty to be satisfied in God, but since you can't even imagine what that is, your job is to continue walking in his ways and commands and allow God to make you satisfied in him. For the more mature Christians, we must remember that being satisfied in God has become our service to God; BUT our satisfaction can never become God, for then it would break the chain of dual implication between the two. Serving God results in being satisfied in God by way of the Holy Spirit, and being satisfied in God by way of the Holy Spirit results in serving God. We should all seek to be mature Christians. Essentially, we all have the command to serve God even when it does not satisfy us, but we can do so with the hope and promise that it will in turn reward us with a weight of Glory, through the love that the Holy Spirit will pour out in our hearts.


"I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one's eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people's eyes can see further than mine."
— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity) "

Intellectual and Spiritual Goals for the Summer

These are my goals for this summer:

There are several essays of whose topics I want to research and write extensively on:
- The Price of Atheism
- The Holy Spirit and Unsaved Peoples
- The Kalam Cosmological Argument


Also, several books I want to finish:
- Philosophical Foundations for a Christian World View
- Signature in the Cell
- Introduction to the New Testament
- The Kalam Cosmological Argument

I also want to become informed on several topics via podcasts and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

- Consciousness and Mind-Body Dualism and the Arguments against it.
- Set Theory
- The Nature of Implication
- Epistemology
- Analytic Christian theology and Systematic Theology.
- Islam
- Mormonism
- Philosophy of Religion in General

Concerning Biblical Studies, I will be focusing on Galatians this summer. I want to learn basically everything about it, from historical context to pastoral implications, to systematic theology, to exegetical problems, and etc. I pray that the Holy Spirit would guide me in this.

Please be praying for me, any who read this, that I have to ability to finish these things by the end of the summer.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When you Grow Weary

This is something I posted around a year and a half ago. It is a reminder to me and all who read of what to do when you grow weary:

"its so amazing! i had been doing alright this week- everytime i felt complacent, like my heart was in need of some life, I would go straight to my bible and straight to go pray, and I literally was the happiest guy on earth because my heart literally felt so very alive and ready to sacrifice for others, becuase of my given sureness in the treasure of heaven. and then last night, I was being lazy. My heart was starting to become tired and it needed rest- not physical rest, but rest in the truth of its origin and it's destination, the truth of Christ and the truth of heaven. So in order to fill this subtle longing, I got on facebook for like 3 hours, and it never went away, only got worse, i went and took a nap, didn't help, and i was starting to feel like a walking zombie for lack of meaning. I had forgotten what it's like to have a starved heart. it makes me really sad to think that a lot of people spend their whole lives like this because they're eyes are blinded to God's meaning! and that's why we're to be full of it, and point straight to God with our lives.
I went to pray before i went to bed and I fell asleep, 2 times, and eventually i fell asleep on my bed when i was praying. Basically, only got in about 20 seconds of a prayer before zonking off... i think these are the times when God looks at the mess we make out of ourselves when we try to live without him, smiles, and extends his hand again. I feel a voice telling me that I should quit christianity now, that I am never going to be worthy of Christ following again, but I know that is not god's voice. He's the giver of life. So now, this morning, i've learned my lesson and i'm going back to reading the bible, because its got more meaning and living water for my thirsty heart to drink deep from than an entire ocean could for my physical thirst. I thank God for his mercy."

Questions to Work on

Questions about Christian theism that have been interesting and thought provoking to me for a couple weeks:

If suffering is really good for people, according to Christian theism, then why are we ever nice to people? Why don't we just make people miserable so they'll become better people? It's good for people to know that they're deeply loved, but can't they just get that from God? I mean, I know that we as Christians are supposed to learn more about God by what he teaches others through the Holy Spirit, but can't we just be mean to people for the purpose of them becoming better (and they'll know we love them)? I can't seem to find a logical answer to the problem; but I may be just thinking wrongly about it.


How can people from other religions truly love God if they don't have the Holy Spirit? Or do they love God? I mean, I hear Mormon worship music, and it can be pretty passionate. Yes, I am aware that you can simply put some pictures of a hippo bathing and play some music behind it and it'll get people (especially people like me) crying and emotional, so that is partially explanatory. I see people like Ghandi who are extraordinarily good people who don't live for themselves, but they don't know Christ. If I'm going to fit this in with my Calvinist theology, I need to really examine what's going on with total depravity and what it really means. I mean, of course there's "answers in a can" for this kind of stuff, but I want to study it in depth.

People always say we should "assume the best about people until persuaded otherwise", but I struggle with this. If people really are totally depraved, why on earth should I assume the best about them? In fact, I tend to assume the worst about people. It's not like I'm being judgmental hypocritically, because I assume this based on personal experience and based on Christian theology. Christianity says people are bad, so why should I think they are good? I want people to be good- I want people to be made whole in Christ. But even then we're not perfect. What is the scriptural basis of this phrase? Is it because I have trust issues?

I used to be so in love with people. I used to love watching them, listening to them, getting inside their hearts and caring for their every desire. I still have this immense desire to do so, but at times I feel like external principles are blocking me. It was Christ who led me to love humans so much a few years ago, but is it Christ who is leading me away from this? Certainly not. But there are a few details about love I need to work out. I have always been a strong believer in being incredibly interested in whatever people have to say. I absolutely do not want to be the kind of guy who just kind of.. nods and looks away every once in a while when you're telling me a story or about talking about something you just learned-- as if I had something better to learn about. I believe that it was Christ who led me to become incredibly amazed by humans and their desires and the things that satisfy them. I think, still, that one of the traits of people who love people deeply is a deep interest in whatever interests people. But now the question arises-- why should I be interested? You could always spiritualize the question away and say, "that's what love is-- you've got to show people you're interested in what they're interested in!". But I'm not the kind of person who likes to pretend. If I'm going to be acting a certain way, I want my heart, my mind, and my soul to be ALL there. So why should I be interested in what other people are interested in? To win them to Christ? But that seems to be like a mercenary desire.. am I to fool other people-- er, well, lie to them-- in order to get them into my religion which is full of pretenders who are trying to recruit more pretenders? I don't think so. In all our efforts to spread Christ, it seems as if we've started to wear, or put on and take off, a demeanor which was supposed to be naturally produced from our hearts. But since we're not strong enough any more, we just pretend now. No. I won't have it. If Christianity is true, then it is TRUE, and there are no excuses for pretending. I can think only of one answer to this, and that results from the love of God-- amazement at his creation. Being in awe of things is the child-like part of the Christian faith which I had begun to forgot in all my philosophy studies. If we are in awe of everything around us, then we can have the ability to be genuinely interested in everything people tell us about.

But my prevailing question is this: what about sin? What about when people are genuinely interested in activities which are inherently sinful? Like pornography? Or Drugs? When one of my friends begins to tell me about all of his adventures in either of these, I start to feel very embittered and angry.. thinking something along the lines of "WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO START LOOKING FOR REAL SATISFACTION YOU DWEEB!?!?". But I start to get angry? How am I supposed to show genuine interest in a person's interest in sin? Anyone got an answer?