Sunday, July 13, 2008

Treasuring Christ

Treasure... what does it make you think of?

maybe pirates with maps and shovels on a quest for wealth... or maybe the image of a sunken chest with a lock... maybe gold....silver.....jewels..

We use the word quite often, but we hardly ever think about what the word actually implies. defines it quite simply: wealth, rich materials, valuable things
and the verb (to treasure) : to regard or treat as precious.

Nothing out of the ordinary right? Lets look at the word in its biblical verse that sums up Christian parable that is the answer to how we reach our ultimate joy and bring Glory to God at the same time. Mathew 13: 44

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Over the next week or so, I want to discuss the importance of treasuring Christ. This is what the Christian is called to do. can't begin to describe his worth.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oh self, why?

The past two weeks have been enlightening for me. As a counselor at a two week music camp--one week for junior high, one week for senior high--I was thrown into a group of people far different from the largely Christian group I am blessed to be with most of the time. My fellow counselors were mainly college upperclassmen or older, and although not exclusively, most were interested in music and music education. All were amiable, easy to work with, and generally pleasant people. However, they also were committed to secularism, held contrasting views to mine, and the standard jokes were sexual and crude in nature. Christianity was definitely not a priority, even among those who claimed nominal Catholicism/Protestantism.

I do not intend to make this a confession, or to detail all my faults. However, I was bothered profoundly throughout the week by aspects of my behavior throughout the week, and I want to highlight those tendencies many people may relate to, as shown by my recent salient experiences. Even as I write this, the gospel uplifts me, and I know that Jesus' work on my behalf covers my failures, and through him, I'll continue on my halting way toward sanctification.

Foremost of what I noticed is how little Christianity pervades my conversations with nonbelievers. I'm not talking about beating nonbelievers over the head with my Christianity, but I was dismayed at how little my conversations were influenced by what I claim as the center of my existence. The influence of the gospel in my life ought to be striking and notable. How can I talk about my past without mentioning God's provision for me? How can I talk about my future without mentioning my trust in God? How can I respond to any sort of deep questioning without that response being permeated by that which is deepest in me? Is it possible to wrench from every answer the substance that makes me who I am?

As demonstrated by these last two weeks, it certainly seems possible. This raises the niggling question: do I believe whole-heartedly what I confess at church? Or, stripped of an encouraging environment, is my faith proved to be tepid and ineffective? I guess, primarily, the question is how strongly I actually believe what I say I do. For example, I say that without Christ a soul is doomed forever, but when given opportunities to speak with these needy souls, I readily shelve Christianity as a second-tier topic. Because I'm afraid of controversy, I take steps to avoid discussions of the meaning of life, of virtue, of meaningful things--instead favoring the weather, music, and various other delightfully pointless topics.

About these things my conscience bothers me. As options for my future arise, I have pondered both seminary and missions. In these areas, the gospel is central to all one does, and the focus of all one's activities, and the last two weeks showed me how easy it is to lose sight of goal. I trust that this experience was appropriately timed and will accomplish God's purposes, bringing about a preparation for the tasks God eventually will give me. In the meantime, through pondering my sadly empty conversations, a wonderful song entitled "Help my unbelief" has attained a new poignancy for me. I pray that He will help mine. May I believe strongly and deeply what I confess so that its influence extends to all I do, coloring my conversations, prompting my actions.

Let us remember that, as Christians, we are not to fit into the culture around us. We are a counter-culture, the Kingdom of God, and the love of Christ ought to transform our attitudes so that we stand out. We have the truth, and should let reality be known. Being different, being known as a Christian, and standing for the gospel are necessary parts of the Christian life.

Onward Christian soldiers go.

PS-The church is a vital part of a vibrant faith.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Note: to fully understand this, it is essential, not merely optional, to read the Scriptues linked throughout the post below.


A friend set me an impossible task in a message he sent me this morning. He asked me to define the glory of God. (I'm honored that he would think me worth asking, but, bluntly, I'm not up to the task. Nonetheless, I shall give it a go, and in so doing hopefully demonstrate, through my own inability to convey the truth of the concept, its fantastical greatness.)

The phrase, "glory of God," tossed about as commonly as it is in our Christian circles, certainly bears more reflection than we often give it. Given the number of times variations on the phrase occur throughout Scripture, we ought to be giving it considerable attention simply on its own merit, and when one expands to consider variations on the phrase - "God of glory," "the Glory of Israel," and so on (try just searching for glory and glorious if you really want to see how important the term is in scripture) - the sheer quantity of references is astounding. This demands closer attention.

One of those phrases - God of glory - is particularly interesting, though it occurs only twice in the body of Scripture (at least so far as I can find): in Psalm 29:3, and in Acts 7:2. These two passages seem to speak rather uniquely to the notion of God's glory, and in manner rather different one from another. From these two passages, as well as what I have gained from my study over nearly a year, I hope to paint something of a picture of what Scripture means by the glory of God.

The 29th Psalm is one of praise and adulation. It opens with an exhortation to the heavenly host to worship God. The particular exhortation in this case is to ascribe to Him all that He is due: glory and strength, the glory due His name. The word glory appears once in each of the three verses, which is significant given that there are only eleven verses in the Psalm. I want to particularly draw your attention to verse 3, the first appearance in Scripture of the phrase "God of glory."

In a Psalm reflecting on the attributes of God - in particular, elucidating His supreme power and worthiness of praise - it is suggestive that David chose to use the phrase "of glory" to describe the God who is "over the waters" (v. 3). The contrast to other gods is, in my opinion, strongly implied in the passage. Every thing that other gods of other tribes would have been doing - natural events like earthquakes, fertility, and so on - is explicitly declared to be under the control of David's - and our - God. But unlike all the other gods, He is not merely the god of the water or the god of fertility or the god of the earth: He is God of glory.

In Acts 7, we have the conclusion of the story of the first known martyr of the Christian believers: Stephen. In verse 2 he begins his monologue declaring the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, lumping them in with the consistent pattern of unbelief that had characterized the Jews over their long history, and thus quietly proclaiming that in rejecting Christ, they were rejecting God. That he opens this speech with reference to the God of glory as the one who revealed Himself to Abraham indicates that it is this attribute Stephen has in mind and wants the Pharisees to have in mind as he recounts their history. That He is the God of glory is central to an understanding of this passage.

These passages in particular, and many others related to them, raise two significant questions. First, what is the glory of God, and second, what does it mean to be the God of glory?

Let us begin by addressing the former question and then from that see if we can understand somewhat the latter question. Glory is a difficult word to define, because it is a word we still have in our language but which concept has slowly faded from our minds. It has become a small, a light thing, when it is used at all.

The American Heritage dictionary's relevant definitions are:
1. Great honor, praise, or distinction accorded by common consent; renown.
3. A highly praiseworthy asset: Your wit is your crowning glory.
4. Adoration, praise, and thanksgiving offered in worship.
5. Majestic beauty and splendor, resplendence: The sun set in a blaze of glory.
6. The splendor and bliss of heaven; perfect happiness.

All of these, with some modification, are part and parcel of the glory which we ascribe to God. On the first count, the honor, praise, or distinction is deserved regardless of whether it is accorded (and to not accord it is thus a wrong done); and the deserving is by dint of the very nature of who God is, not by any assent to His worth by others: He is, by His very nature, utterly deserving of honor, praise, and distinction. The sixth is of course relevant because glory in this sense is then our partaking of perfect fellowship with God.

Of all of these, the third and fifth definitions are most significant for our discussion. The fifth definition gives us both an image of the glory of God revealed in nature - consider the comparisons given in Psalm 19, for example - and a notion of what glory is: majesty, resplendence, and beauty! So in this sense, we may say that God's glory can be defined as His utter and consummate majesty and beauty: greater by an infinite amount than anything of majesty or beauty in this world. And we may also say, in the sense of the third definition, that all His attributes are His glory, for none among them is chief, but all are part and parcel together. His majesty and beauty derive from the sum total of everything about Him: from His perfect love to HIs righteous judgment in wrath, which are but two parts of the same thing: His glory.

And this drives us further, to a deeper and hopefully truer definition. If we look at the word "glory" in the sense in which it is used in Hebrew, it carries two further meanings with it that are somewhat lost in English. The first is the great sense of weight associated with the glory of God: it is a great and terrible and heavy thing: and not only metaphorically. In one of my favorite passages about His glory, at the dedication of the first temple, God's glory falls on the temple, and the priests cannot even enter the temple, because it was full of the glory of God. There are a couple of interesting points to note from this: the first is the sheer present-ness (if you'll allow me the word) of the glory of God. It was Immanent in a way that we typically do not associate with God at all, much less a supposedly abstract concept like His glory. And furthermore, the implication of the passage is that this was the very presence of God, in which case to say that His glory fell is to say that He, in some way beyond us, made Himself present in that location in a way He was not ordinarily physically present.

An extremely important aside here is to note a few things about this presence and immanence. When it left the temple, it broke the prophet's heart - and when it was prophesied to return, it gave him great joy. (The whole book of Ezekiel is essentially focused on God's glory and the temple in the context of man's sinfulness.) The presence of the glory of God is not a small thing. So it is that when the very radiance of the glory of God appears in the person of Christ, this is a most incredible and remarkable event! It is beyond compare! He, the very image of the invisible God (stop and think about that!), appeared to make His glory known to us, and to invite us to once again be perfect reflections of that glory. Ah! I do not have the words to communicate the depth, the urgency, the profundity and meaning in this: that we are given the opportunity to be the ambassadors of Christ in this world, and thus of the glory of God in this world! This is beyond anything in all the world for incredibility.

Returning from that aside to continue our defining, we examine a second point raised by the Hebrew meaning, and related to our expansion of the third definition above. Glory in the Scriptures also means the fullness or totality of something, a complete and total whole. The glory of God, then, is the totality of all He is, a grand whole that is greater than the infinity of each of its parts or even their infinite sum. His glory is the true reality, the grand totality of who He is: His every attribute in perfect harmony and fullness! It is this that is radiant, beautiful, and majestic: and those very attributes are themselves only a part of His glory, parts that make up that transcendent whole.

It is difficult to convey glory in mere words. Think of the most radiant sunset you have ever seen, and all that made it beautiful: impossible to describe, yet knowable nonetheless. Ponder on the most beautiful music you've ever heard, and try for a moment to grasp what made it so compelling: impossible to verbalize, but capable of being experienced. So it is with the glory of God: only infinitely more so, for His nature and character are infinite, and His glory is infinitely infinite. You see? My words fail. Yet I know, in some small part, the glory of God our Father: because I know Him, more deeply and truly every day.

This brings us to our final question: What does it mean that our God is the God of glory? I think that we first must be cautioned that we can never fully describe God Almighty: if even the concept of His glory is beyond our ability to verbalize, how much more so He himself, the God of glory? Then, second, we may grapple with this notion. When other gods are gods of fertility, of water, of sun and moon and stars, even of higher things like righteous anger or love, and ours is the God of glory, this speaks to the reality of who He is. He is not a God created by human hands, nor a construction of feeble human minds. We might be able to conceive of a God whose primary attribute is love - but a God whose love is but a part of a more perfect whole, whose love is a part of glory? This is a God beyond any of us to conceive of, a God whose very nature is beyond understand, but whose glory is reflected just as much in His revealing Himself to us and calling us to comprehend as it is in being so utterly beyond our comprehension.

And because He is the God of glory, with all that this entails, there can be no higher calling in this life, no greater pleasure or joy in this life, than to surrender utterly and completely to His glory as our chief and supreme end, to which all other goals must be subservient or put completely aside. His glory is the only thing worth living for, the only real purpose in this world: for all this is for Him and by Him, and all this is to the glory of Christ. How great an honor we are given to be His image-bearers, to carry in us a small part of the glory of God reflected so that the world may know Him! And how great the promise of Heaven, where we shall each of us perfectly reflect the aspect of His glory we were designed for, and all of us together shall be a shining mirror of the great and terrible glory that He is.

May the glory of the God of glory consume us all!

- Chris

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Supremacy of Christ in the Midst of Sorrow

Wednesday night at 5:30, Steven Curtis Chapman’s 5 year old daughter died tragically in an accident on their driveway. It took no time for the tragic news to spread; Christians all over the world have been grieving with and praying for the family of one of their favorite musicians. Maria Sue Chapman was adopted from China along with two other of his six children.

Many of you may not know this, but Steven’s family is probably the reason that I have two adopted sisters of my own. The Chapman’s love of adoption and vision for other Christians in adoption is used by God everyday. Maria was loved as much as any daughter could be, and having an adopted 5 year old sister, I couldn’t begin to imagine that magnitude of pain felt by Steven, Mary Beth, and the other children. It is a truly horrible tragedy and everyone should keep their family in their prayers.

Even in the midst of such overwhelming sorrow, something must be stood up for, something that I know the Chapmans and their wonderful church in Nashville hold to. The undeniable truth, even through the pain of such an event, is that God is completely sovereign. God is entirely in control and is not the least bit surprised or confused by this.

It seems hard to grasp, and it is. To think that a good God could have his hand in such a catastrophic thing seems impossible to justify. How could a loving God who is in control let such a terrible thing happen? It would seem that either God’s omnipotence or goodness were in question.

Here is the answer, and I stand by it till death. God is completely, entirely in control. Hard as it is to grasp, this is God’s purpose for the Chapman family, and for His glory. It is ultimately good, in ways that we will never understand. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things for good, and he is. I know that the Chapmans believe this, and I pray that even in the midst of unbearable pain, we would give God the glory and honor that he is due! The Chapmans, in the midst of the greatest pain any of them have ever felt, have a chance to REALLY MAKE GOD LOOK GLORIOUS!

It is completely understandable to struggle with this. Even Jonathan Edwards said that the supreme sovereignty of God seemed at once to be a “Horrible Doctrine”, but once he saw both in God’s word and in his own experiences that God’s sovereignty gives us a God who is in control of the situation, and working it towards a greater good, rather than a God who is at the mercy of fate, it changed both his ministry and his life.

Do you see the comfort associated with God’s sovereignty? Rather than letting Theodicy lead you to a God who is not in control, and doesn’t even know what will happen, let God’s Sovereignty answer the problem of evil! Are we to be more satisfied if we keep God good in our minds by letting him be distant and uninvolved in our problems, or constantly with us and the author of our lives and faith who will work all things for his Glory and our joy?

Nothing could be more comforting than a God who is in control, and conversely, I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than a God who is at the mercy of men and fate.

Samuel Rodigast spoke of both the difficulty in accepting, and comfort of knowing these truths in his hymn “Whate’er My God Ordains is Right”

"Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart."

Though it seems bitter at the time, knowing that God is sovereign and has his hand in the situation, we need to realize that our finite minds can only see the moment and that God sees the whole picture and is working everything out for his glory and our joy.

It is a horrible thing to see all this. To listen to “Cinderella” is close to impossible, but in the midst of this unspeakable pain, the Chapmans know, and I know, that God is just as in control now as he ever was. Our Sovereign Father was in the same place Wednesday night, that he was when he watched his own son hang on the cross. He was there, involved, completely in control. What could be more comforting?

All Glory in heaven and on earth be to our God
He is enough
He is good
He will take care of us


Monday, May 19, 2008


I'm cross posting this from my own blog, because it fits, and I've not posted here in too long.


The little book of Zephaniah is, sadly, probably overlooked a great deal in modern Christian circles. (Indeed, we could say much the same for most of the Old Testament, but that is another post for another evening.)

For the last 16 months I have been slowly working my way through the Old Testament in chronological order. I've read all these books before. And I've taken side trips along the way - the foundations of a word-study on glory (before I realized that I would continue to gain in that as I continued to study through the Old Testament, and that the latter would more thoroughly inform the former than a simple word study), diversions through a few brief book studies in the New Testament. I keep coming back to this slow progression through history, though.

Why? Because it is incredible. The character of God is revealed in unique ways in the historical narrative - sometimes surprising ways. His broken heart for the dying world is so evident. His sorrow at the sins and rebellion of men is beyond mere words to describe. His mercy and love are on display in ways that are surpassed only by the incarnation, cross, and resurrection.

As I read Zephaniah one evening last week, two verses struck me forcefully, both from the final chapter. The book, like the other minor prophets, is a broken-hearted tirade against the foolish sins of Israel, with the hope and promise of God's eventually redeeming her to Himself - by wiping out those sins, not only forgiving them but making Israel truly righteous: a promise which began to see its fulfillment in the nations and will someday be completed when Israel herself returns to Christ.

In Zephaniah 3:5 we read:
The Lord in her midst is righteous;
He does no injustice.
Every morning he shows forth his justice;
Each dawn he does not fail.
But the unjust knows no shame.

This is an incredible verse. We see highlighted and sharply contrasted - as in many of the surrounding verses - God and the sinner. God's injustice is on clear display: He is in the midst of Jerusalem and Judah (the context referenced here). The unjust ones to whom the book is directed in call for repentance, however, knows no shame. Even with the perfect example of what he is not, still he blithely walks on his way, content in his sinfulness.

How easy it is to smirk at the folly of it all. But how frequently is it you or me that, despite the clear evidences of the character of God that we ought to be reflecting, walk unconcernedly along in stubborn pride and rebellion? And this after we have been reborn, redeemed, given a heart of flesh instead of stone! How great should be our sorrow when we see our own sinfulness and the depravity from which are gradually but oh-so-certainly being redeemed!

The other text which stood out to me was the oft-quoted Zephaniah 3:17:
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a Mighty One who will save.
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.

I have heard the passage referenced frequently. Yet I have not stopped to truly consider all its implications until that evening last week. So much is buried in this single verse: so much of who God Himself is, so much of His nature and character, so much of the way He interacts with us - and will in the glory of Heaven.

First, He will be in our midst. Right in the middle of us, with us wherever we are. Incredible!

Second, He is not merely the Lord God, He is the Lord our God. That's worth pondering. He is not merely some abstract deity: He is not merely the God of all creation (though to lead that latter phrase with "merely" is a misnomer all its own) - He is personally each of our God as individuals and He is our God as a community of redeemed ones. How remarkable!

Third, He is a Mighty One who will save. Two things worth noting here - first, He is Mighty, which means He is able to save: the promise is not made vainly; second, He is absolutely going to save: the verb is will, not may.

And then we come to the oft-quoted (but perhaps not oft-pondered) part. He will rejoice over us with gladness. Wait: the God of all will rejoice of us with gladness? And it's such a great rejoicing - in which gladness is automatically implied - that it must be reinforced by saying "with gladness"? What kind of rejoicing is this? Indeed, it is the kind of rejoicing that only God, with His infinite capacity for joy can do.

He will quiet us with His love. The image is of a child falling silent in their parent's loving arms: secure, completely at peace, because the trust is so complete. And why is the trust so complete? Because there is utter assurance of the parent's love. And so it is here with God: we will be quieted by His love, as we trust Him perfectly. Interestingly, while this is a future promise, I think this part of the verse has perhaps the most immediate application for our daily lives now: when our hearts, troubled by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, are loud and complaining, we may see them quieted when we turn back to Christ and recognize His love.

And last but not least - as if to reinforce the image of rejoicing and then step again farther - He will exult over us with singing. To exult: to revel, to be so completely filled with joy that it exceeds words' capability to convey. And out of this is born singing. But not just any singing: loud singing, like the shout that bursts from your chest when your wildest aspirations are birthed before your eyes. God will do that over us.

And again, as I did the other night, I find myself with tears in my eyes as I ponder this. It is beyond belief: and yet we believe it because He Himself promises that it is true. We who are so unworthy will, in our glorification (which will so perfectly glorify God Himself as all finally see just how great His goodness, mercy, lovingkindness, justice, righteousness, and holiness are), He will rejoice over us.

I do not understand.

I am humbled, broken before this.

And I find in myself awe and reverence.

As it should be: for we are to bring to God an acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.

He is a consuming fire, as Israel learned well in her disobedience - as you and I have learned well in our idolatries. Yet He is, now that we are His redeemed ones, a fire that consumes all the dross and destroys the chaff that is not of Him.

Glory to God in the highest! Glory!

- Chris

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Truth and the Supremacy of Christ

Early this semester I watched a few videos put out by Focus on the Family called “The Truth Project.” It was a very biblical, logical, and interesting approach to discover the truth of the Gospel and who God is. The very first week, the speaker made a very good point that I would bet most of you don’t know, so before you read on, see if you can dig through the scripture in your brain and find the answer.

Why did Christ come into the world?
There is only one time that Jesus said “This is why I have come into the world…” When was it? What was his answer? It seems like a pretty important question right? Well lets look at the scripture.

Jesus is before Pilate who asks him “So are you King?” to which Jesus gives a remarkable response (well of course he does, he’s Jesus!) “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37)

Wow! I bet that isn’t what some of you expected. Do you see that truth as it relates to Christ is obviously fundamental to the Christian faith? There’s no going around it, Christ came into the world to testify to the truth.

The point I am trying to make is that a biblical definition of truth, and what it meant to Jesus is paramount in understanding and even believing in the Supremacy of Christ.


Here’s the dictionary definition:
Any of a number of trends or movements in the arts and literature developing in the 1970s in reaction to or rejection of the dogma, principles, or practices of established modernism.

Postmodernism is a blatant rejection of the logical principles of truth and an embrace of a relativistic philosophy centered around the acceptance of uncertainty. It is the current secular humanistic view of life, and says that truth is relative and is different from person to person.

Now if you are anything like me that last sentence just confuses you to death! I mean at least pick a different word; truth could be defined as what exists outside of our minds and what doesn’t change from person to person. Naturally, truth and relativism are near antonyms. I mean, this doesn’t seem like rocket science to me (not that there is anything wrong with rocket science Eric ). Aristotle figured it out! He was not a child of God, but he through what I think is quite simple logic came to a very basic and elementary conclusion.

“'to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true

This almost needs a “duh” at the end. With the understanding that the lost will never be able to fully understand what we know is true, lets move on to the real, frankly disturbing issue at hand.

Post Modernism and the Church

Ouch. I hope it hurts you to read that as much as it made me cringe to type it. Nevertheless, it is true. The heresy of postmodernism has infiltrated church walls and is being accepted and taught by many of today’s rising figures in Christianity, including a man that is called by many “the next Billy Graham.” Yikes!

It seems contradictory from the start. How could a religion based completely on the fundamentals of what “is,” be accepted and followed by people who’s cultural worldview says “Truth is relative and can’t be known for sure?” Here’s how the Emergent (postmodern) church justifies this.

In Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, he uses the metaphor of a trampoline. He says that the Christian life is like jumping on a trampoline, and the doctrines of the faith are like springs. Bells says that all we should focus on is jumping on the trampoline, that we spend too much time checking the springs. And what if one of these strings pops? Are we OK? Of course! The trampoline keeps propelling us upward towards God. This appealing example says that Doctrine is flexible, indefinite and not entirely important.

Now let me make something VERY clear before I explain the danger and heresy that is brought about by this picture. These springs are not “Calvinism” or “Armenianism” or “views on baptism” or “when to take communion” or ”dispensationalism.”
The book uses things such as the virgin birth, or divinity of Christ to define these springs. I’m not at all saying we should spend all day bickering over the picky things of complex doctrine that both sides of the issues have questions and concerns. That is not his analogy. On the contrary, the Emergent Church seems bent on marginalizing the essential unarguable doctrines of Christianity.

Postmodernism in the church says that like a brick wall, Christianity is solid and unmovable, but also like a brick wall, you can remove on theological brick and have the wall perfectly unmoved. This disturbs and puzzles me.

Take Barry Bonds for example. He set the all time homerun record right? 672 homeruns... I think it is safe to say that he is a fantastic baseball player, very possibly the best. He has meaning, reason, standard in the world of baseball and in the culture of America. But wait, I’m forgetting something huh... the steroids.
Barry Bonds cheated. Broke the law and the rules of baseball, and lied in court about it. I know he’s still a great baseball player, but to me, that record means nothing. I don’t care if he his 600 more, he cheated, he was fake.

Now in the exact same way, how could you EVER tell me that we can still trust and cherish the Bible as the Inspired, Inerrant, Infallible, and Authoritative Word, if it isn’t what it itself claims to be. Perfect. Again, I’m not talking little controversial issues that aren’t addressed completely in scripture; I am talking about the fundamental essential doctrines of our faith. If the Bible has lied, how can we accept it? If it has lied, we as Christians could be logically torn to bits; the bible would immediately contradict itself in so many places.
We must stand up against this uprising of heresy. Christ came to testify to the truth, and in response, we much be entirely apposed to this cowardly cave-in of Christian meaning and understanding.

How Postmodernism seeks to destroy the Supremacy of Christ

Here are 3 simple reasons why what these new theological thinkers bring to the table is completely contradictory to what we know about who God is and what he has given us and done for us.

1. It seeks to belittle and marginalize the authority and inerrancy of scripture.

To expound on what I discussed earlier, lets look at a section of Bell’s Velvet Elvis that I pulled from a pro-Emergent Church Blog.

“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?
What if that spring were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?”

If you have a biblical truth-seeking understanding of scripture this should absolutely infuriate you. What a mockery of Truth! Essentially, what is being asked here is “what if the Bible was proven completely and irreversibly false? Then do we have a legitimate faith?” To which the answer is a resounding NO! Not only is this a complete butchering of the divinity of Christ (which sounds awful Gnostic to me) but it’s just downright disgusting. It reeks of disrespect for Gods holy word. Read the passage again keeping in mind the fact that God through the writers of the Gospels has told us about the complete divinity and humanity of Christ through the glory of the virgin birth. I hate it.

2. It seeks to destroy Biblical doctrine and discourage the studying of God’s word.

The Emergent Church, rather than encouraging believers to study to know who God is, encourages a hatred of theology and an embrace of the uncertain, making very clear its postmodern roots.

These leaders often promote what sounds good and happy about God above the glorious picture which the Bible paints. If God’s sovereignty means that he was in control over my friends death, let’s redefine sovereignty so we can like God more. If God’s just nature means people will go to hell, we do as Brian McLaren has and call hell “false advertising” from God, belittling his justice and making light of the rich stores of grace on the other end of the spectrum. Oh, and did you catch that? according to Emergent theology, not only is God not an author of absolute truth, but he has tricked us with falsehood.

The lack of focus on our sin, and the absence of emphasis on the Biblical nature of God fling us into a jungle of confusion and uncertainty. It’s really no wonder these leaders say that you can’t know truth; it’s impossible to match the false standards, based out of how they want God to be, to the truth of who the Glorious God of the Bible is.

Lastly and most tragically
3. It seeks to destroy the power and importance of the Gospel

This doesn’t take much explaining. I will let Brian McLaren do it for me.

“In this light, although I don't hope all Buddhists will become (cultural) Christians, I do hope all who feel so called will become Buddhist followers of Jesus; I believe they should be given that opportunity and invitation. I don't hope all Jews or Hindus will become members of the Christian religion. But I do hope all who feel so called will become Jewish or Hindu followers of Jesus...
"Ultimately, I hope that Jesus will save Buddhism, Islam, and every other religion, including the Christian religion, which often seems to need saving about as much as any other religion does. (In this context, I do wish all Christians would become followers of Jesus, but perhaps that is too much to ask. After all, I'm not doing such a hot job of it myself."

What a horrible distortion of the gospel. We all know John 14:6

‘Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ’

What is the truth? That Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that through repentance in faith we are saved through grace by the Glorious work of Jesus, who took our sins upon himself and paid our debt. This is the truth! We can stop guessing or saying that we can’t find it. There is no other name by which men are saved!

How can we not know truth? God gave us truth! He invented truth, and gave us the capacity to know it. We can rest assured in the promises of scripture and know that God is God, and he is a God of truth.

Praise God that he has created a way for us and revealed it to us!


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Passing Reflection on Glory

God's glory is greater than we can possibly imagine - greater than our wildest dreams. The fullness of who He is, the fundamental truth, deeper than anything in the universe, more real than all else that is or has been or will be. His greatness, His kindness, His mercy, His justice, His vengeance, His righteousness, His love, His everything.

His glory.

Great is the Lord of all!

- Chris

Friday, April 18, 2008

Open Theism, logically flawed

Plenty of better thinkers than I have tackled the subject of open theism and shown its demerits at a purely Scriptural and theological level. I'd like to take a few words to demonstrate its logical inconsistencies. I hope you'll pardon the use of a slightly more formal logic than I would ordinarily use in a post.

An important definition before we begin:
Libertarian free will - the view of free will held by open theists, positing that man's will is entirely continguent and therefore unknowable. That is, it cannot be known, even by God, until the choice is made.

Axiom: Scripture is true.
Corollary: God knows that some will be saved (see Revelation, etc. for demonstration of His sure knowledge of the salvation of a bride for Christ).
These two may be considered "fundamental" in the sense that they are agreed upon by both open theists and traditional Christians. The first is truly axiomatic; the second we take as equally foundational since it logically follows from the first.

Axiom: Scripture allows the view that man has libertarian free will.

Axiom: Scripture does not require that man has libertarian free will.
Here is where the point of contention is, of course, but most open theists agree that libertarian free will is not required by Scripture. Most traditional Christians would contest the first of these premises, but we posit for the sake of argument.

Premise: Man has libertarian free will.

From the premises we argue:

1. God, not knowing the future, does not know what individual men and women will choose regarding salvation until they have chosen.

2. All men, their wills being free, may choose to go to hell or to heaven by accepting Christ's salvation and Lordship. (Clarification: this is all individuals.)

3. The general case of some persons going to heaven is contingent on the choices of individuals to go to heaven.

Therefore, since all individuals may choose to go to hell, and their choice may not be known beforehand
4. God may not have knowledge of some people's going to heaven absent knowledge of specific individuals' going to heaven.
5. God cannot know whether any people will go to heaven, and therefore whether Christ will have a bride, people of every tribe and tongue will be saved, and so on.

Contradiction to an axiom.

Since the axiom is not under debate, nor its necessary corollary, it falls to us to reject our premise as false. The axioms may come under consideration separately, but assuming those, we must reject the premise that man has libertarian free will.

Why is this important? Because libertarian freewill is the keystone of open theism. Open theism posits that God's lack of foreknowledge of the future is because of the indeterminacy of the future - that is, that it does not yet exist, because it is contingent on the choices of man. Specifically, the argument is that because of libertarian free will, the future may not be known. However, if man does not have libertarian free will, then the future may be known (or else another reason why it may not be known must be shown), and indeed is known by God, who (all agree) possesses all knowledge that may be known.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Awe, Reverence, and Daddy

This relationship we have with our God is an incredible thing. I've been pondering, off and on, these last months, one of the many tensions in our faith. In this case, reverence and intimacy.

We are commanded, as I've written previously, to come before God with reverence and awe. He is a consuming fire. Looking at various passages, both in the Old and New Testaments, we see how great a problem irreverence is. It is deadly. It destroys our walk with God; and it has terrible consequences - for it is a great and terrible sin.

And, at the same time, we read that we are to pray to the Almighty God by beginning, "Our Father..." We read in Romans that we call out to Him, "Abba, Father." Abba is Aramaic - and it means "Daddy." We come before the throne of God with confidence, because we have been ransomed to be not merely His servants, but His friends, His children. Incredible. We are the children of God - His sons and daughters.

So here we have a tension unique to Christianity, a glorious mix that is all but incomprehensible. The Almighty God, who we dare not approach with anything less than the greatest of reverence, the utmost humility: He is the same God who invites us to sit at His feet, to lay our head on His chest, to be intimate with Him.

Many religions have a God who is awesome and terrible (in the original sense of the word): fearsome and majestic. Others have a God who is intimate in personal.

Only in Christ Himself do we find God both so infinitely glorious that the only possible response is to fall at His feet as dead, and so incredibly personal and loving that it is He who bids us stand and draw near to Him. Christ is uniquely both King and friend. He alone is both righteous judge - fearsome and imperious - and kinsman redeemer - intimate and closely tied, saving from destruction.

Christ is the very manifestation of the glory of the Father. He is Lord and He is our friend. We mingle awe and reverence with deep intimacy. We dare not become comfortable, familiar in the presence of the Almighty - for He is good, but as Lewis wrote, He is not safe (as we think of it). Yet we must approach Him with confidence, with assurance of His abiding love, of His perfect fellowship with us.


- Chris

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How are we Studying God's Word?

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." 2 Timothy 3:16

How many times have we zoned out in the middle of a sermon, then jolted back to reality with the ever popular phrase, "Ok! Now for a few points of application." Why does James seem to the be the most often and easily studied book in the New Testament?

Lets face it. We like application! We want to hear simply and straight forward a list of things to do. Its simple; it doesn't take alot of brain power. I think we often study the word in the same way. Have you ever (like me at times) been reading a passage that you are familiar with, skimming through Paul's theological jungles until we get to the "point of application", the part that we know and understand? Lets take a look at what we're doing here.

First of all, I'm not trying to say that there is anything wrong with straight forward lists. Several books of the bible are full of them! The difficulty in the book of James is not found in comprehending what he is trying to say, but struggling through the immanent impossibility to live up to what is Required by God in his word. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with a pastor finishing his message with some clear straight forward biblical commands and ideas. It brings all the ideas together in a coherent understandable manner.

There is no problem an any of this; I love the book of James. I read through it often praying that God will cram some of it simple yet difficult commands into my thick skull. We are studying it at PURSUIT and God is showing me many things through Ryan's teaching.

But hears the question we need to ask ourselves. Is Romans 5-8 (explaining the details of Justification and the nature of our Salvation) any less applicable? Are the first 2 chapters of Ephesians explaining our calling and adoption to be less studied and emphasised? If all scripture is God breathed, his inspired word, then every word of scripture must be completely applicable. Should the only part of scripture that has a direct effect on our lives be the section that start with "do" or "don't"? Of course not!

Take Romans 5-8, study it, learn it, memorize it, pray over it, and let the awesome knowledge of God's Amazing Grace change you! Don't be afraid of theology; keep in mind that it is useless to have good theology unless it possesses you, but study who God is and let it change your life! While it is important to know what a holy God requires of us, we must also know his love and grace; it should change our lives just as much, if not more!

Bad things can happen when you get caught up in the legalism of simply abiding by written commands without the true intent in mind. Jesus shows us this in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5) what these commands really imply. I have never murdered. I have never taken another persons life. What does Jesus say? He says if I have ever hated, then I am a murder; well, that makes me a murderer. And wouldn't you know, just a few verses later, I become an adulterer. Do you see that these commands are all heart issues? We need not study the bible like a checklist of points of application. Study God's word to learn who God is and let it change your heart!

Ryan pointed out tonight at PURSUIT that we as Christians need to the the appliers. We don't need a pastor or teacher to explain to us how to integrate the truth of scripture into our hearts. We have the holy spirit! The preacher's job is to study the word of God and preach Truth! Its important, completely necessary, and in fact fundamental to growth as Christians. But with this in mind, it is OUR JOB to apply it to our lives. Every inspired word of God should be lived out.

Next time you read a passage, don't think "what is the main thing I can get out of this passage." as much as you think "how can I display the truth of these inspired words to the glory of God in the way that I live my life."

To God alone be all glory. He deserves it. We are here for it.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sanctify is a transitive verb

For someone who acts so excited about God's post-salvation grace in our lives, and our inability to change ourselves, I can be pretty bad about living like Ryan can be perfectly good and capable on his own. What I want to talk to you (but mostly myself) about, is that even a Christians, we must constantly trust in God's faithfulness to grow us in him, rather than using God as our salvation ticket and living like we have put and end to our flesh. The Power to overcome sin and temptation is in Christ. Nowhere else.

I have always hated English Class, but I actually do remember transitive vs. non-transitive verbs. (English people, don't freak out even though I will probably butcher this explanation) A transitive verb takes an object. For example: in the sentence "Chris Krycho sang", the verb sing is non-transitive because there's no object. He isn't singing anything....just singing. In the sentence "Chris Krycho sang a song so loudly that they heard him in West Virginia." the verb sing is transitive, because he is singing a SONG. There is an object....
Lets think about sanctification.

Christians use this word all the time. In short, it is the process of becoming holy, sandwiched by justification and glorification. What is often overlooked, is the source of the sanctification. We all do know..act like we have it all together; we act like we are good enough people to overcome our sin issues by reading a helpful book, making ourselves a promise, or just simply trying harder. I find again and again that It doesn't take much for God to bring us "down on my knees back to the place I should've started from" to quote some old Audio A.

When we break this down to its roots, it is really nothing more than a pride issue. How can we have a proper view of grace and act like we have done something to merit our standing with God? It doesn't take an in-depth study of Paul's letters to see how he treated sin. I have talked about in previous posts, how understanding our sin magnifies God's grace; we should not approach God with anything but a humble contrite heart. Boy did David get it right after the biggest screw-up of his life.

Psalm 51

"1 Have mercy on me,O God,according to your steadfast love;according to your abundant mercyblot out my transgressions.2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,and my sin is ever before me.4 Against you, you only, have I sinnedand done what is evil in your sight,so that you may be justified in your wordsand blameless in your judgment.5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,and in sin did my mother conceive me.6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.8 Let me hear joy and gladness;let the bones that you have broken rejoice.9 Hide your face from my sins,and blot out all my iniquities.10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,and renew a right spirit within me.11 Cast me not away from your presence,and take not your Holy Spirit from me.12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,and sinners will return to you.14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,O God of my salvation,and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.15 O Lord, open my lips,and my mouth will declare your praise.16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;build up the walls of Jerusalem;19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;then bulls will be offered on your altar."

This is how we must live! We must do everything in total light of our depravity, and in out inability to change ourselves. Did David say "God, sorry I messed up, I will try harder, write a promise down in a book, and hope I don't do it again."? Of course not!! He was so broken and crushed by his sin before a holy God that he could do nothing but fall down on his face and wallow in the depths of Grace found only in the same holy God who's perfect law he had violated.

God Sanctifies us. It is transitive. We are the ones being sanctified, by the same God that saved us in the first place. Christians, stop living with an attitude that says "Well yes Christ saved me in the first place, but look what I can do now!" or "Look what I have done since them!" It is all in Christ! God changes us, and will finish that work which he began in us. We need to give the glory where it due.

Paul had it figured out. He captures the essence of Biblical humility in 1 Timothy when he calls himself the chief of sinners.

This is a major problem! So many books, many that I have read, are full of self help tips and ways that we can change our life and grow closer to God, while completely ignoring the fact that it is God who draws us to him. When we are able to conquer sin and temptation, is when we fall on our face before our loving father and cry"Abba! I can't do this. I NEED you to change my heart. Wash it white as snow."

God is faithful, and James promises us that those who ask in faith for wisdom will receive it. Perfect, good wisdom comes only from God, our salvation (though we are new creations) doesn't change that.

We need Christ everyday. We need grace everyday.

Abba Father, You are holy and perfect. I am nothing and you are everything. Father I am completely overwhelmed by my inability to conquer sin. change my heart! Renew me and let my contrite heart rejoice in the rich stores of grace and mercy found only in your arms. You alone are God, and we need you everyday.


Monday, March 24, 2008

A brief thought

I was discussing with some friends yesterday the great good that there is in many different denominations, from Southern Baptist to Presbyterian, even to Eastern Orthodoxy (though I have far more difficulty theologically speaking with the latter than with the former).

We decided we needed to start a new church. We're officially going to have an Eastern Bapterian House Church.

Not really, of course: it was merely a jest-ful moment as all of us appreciated our backgrounds.

But I was pondering the thought this morning, and realized it's worth saying: I have no denomination (though there are those I agree more with and those I agree less with).

I have Christ. And the pursuit of Him, within the bounds of orthodox Christianity and mediated by community that is likewise in pursuit of Him, is really what is most central. Certainly what we call ourselves is far less important than Who we follow and how we follow Him.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

- Chris

P.S. We're back.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Purpose

Being at college has been an eye-opening experience. I witness people, passionate and motivated, pursuing all sorts of careers, aggressively planning their futures. Passion, motivation, and aggressive planning...these are NOT my strong points, and if that's what determines the success of my future, I should worry! My musicality, friendliness, and intelligence--qualities I prided myself on in high school--are inevitably surpassed by some of the amazing people I meet here. And with regard to my role within the body of Christ, many people are more gifted pianists, singers, pastors, or teachers than I will ever be. Its easy to feel that God will use me if I see some profound way in which I am usable, but here at college, my outstanding talents have been shown in a diminishing light, and this has led to a cascade of thoughts about my purpose.

I've always assumed that God created my life for a purpose. As a child, its often tempting to think that this purpose can fit inside a nice box, with clearly defined boundaries drawn in heavenly Sharpie. Into this box I will go, and toward it all of the events of my life move in perfect harmony, until--POOF, I'm in the box! I am a missionary in the farthest reaches of Africa, perhaps, or a physicist, studying the wonders of space. Even cooler, maybe an astronaut. Coolest of all, perhaps I compose lovely songs. :) In any case, I've finally reached my life's purpose, using the special abilities that God has given me in a unique way to glorify him. The problem is that this statement has the underlying assumption that my life heads toward one big block of "purpose," and I've grown to see that this is not the case.

God will use me, and he does have it all planned out. In a thousand venues in a thousand (mostly unseen) ways, he will use in me. True, I may never perceive it all as a perfect shape drawn in divine marker--in fact, it may seem wandering and strange to me--but that does not mean God doesn't (Israel enslaved in Egypt, then wandering in the desert, David hiding in caves, Nehemiah, Paul being imprisoned, beaten, stoned). Everything works perfectly toward the culmination of all his ends. He has a role for me to fill in every area of my life, and especially within the church. I am not called to understand what that is right now, I don't believe, but I am called to be faithful with what he has given me. I am to grow spiritually both in knowledge of the Scriptures and my personal walk with Jesus, and develop those gifts that I have. He has given to each member of the body of Christ so that each might contribute (1 Corinthians 12), and no matter what the contribution, each person is essential to the life of the church, and I will grow into that position, even if I can't see it now.

Am I curious what I will be doing in twenty years? Yep. Do I wish at times that life would be as simple as it used to seem? You know it. But for now, I'll keep pressing along, growing in knowledge of and dependence on God. After all, the less I understand, the more I need to trust him.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Our salvation and God's will

First off I want to appologize for not blogging and for waiting until Anthony, Chris, and Ryan were standing outside my door with torches and a nuise (they're actually out there right now lol).

I've been reading and memorizing out of Paul's letter to the saints in Ephesus and God has really showed me the length and depth of his love towards us. I want to discuss today the magnitude and power in the fact that we are regenerated in Christ.

Ephesians 1:1-13
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful
[1] in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Spiritual Blessings in Christ
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us
[2] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known [3] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee
[4] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, [5] to the praise of his glory.

We start out in verse 3 and the following where Paul describes the greatest of our spiritual gifts. I think we can all agree that our salvation truely is a gift from God but I really think i've failed to understand an even deeper rout to this powerful work. We were saved because of God's immeasurable love for his people, however, why does God love us? Why did God choose to have it happen like this and not another way? We see in verse 5 and 6 that this great work was done because of the purpose of his will. Paul affirms here that God has saved us not because he saw anything good in us, but because that pleased His good and perfect will. I have often found myself thinking that one day i'll step into heaven and walk up to God with a balloon and wrapped present and say "Surprise God!!", as if I was attending His big party unannounced. God won't see a single person there because of their awesomeness or righteousness, but only because of that displayed through his son. Which leads us to verse 9. God's purpose was set forth in Christ.
We have obtained our righteousness because of God's plan through his son. We have adoption through Christ (verse 5) and now we see that God's plan for the fullness of time, yes the completion of His plan is set forth through His one and only son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Friends we are saved to fullfill the will of the Creator of the Universe!
We have an inheritance in Christ (verse 11) because of the council of God's will. We have earned nothing, we have done nothing, we have only been blessed beyond measure. What does all this mean? Why is this important and what is its end? We are saved by God's grace through faith because that is His will, but we must know that our inheritance is sealed by the promised Holy Spirit for God's own glory.(verse 14) God is glorified in my salvation! It brings Him joy and glory to give me eternal life. Until we understand why we are saved, how can we possibly make an attempt at praising God for our salvation. We are part of a bigger plan. Our salvation hinges on the fact that this is what God would have come to pass. Not a single soul will slip away, God's will be done. Glory to God that He has saved me to fullfill his will and bring glory to Himself. Soli Deo Gloria!


Steven P. Royse

Steven is an awesome guy! He's a great Godly man in pursuit of God's glory. I learn lost of things from him on a regular basis! He is very easy to talk to, and asks very good, smart, well thought out questions, and always has good logical scriptural answers for my questions. but...........

*yes steven, this is just to make you feel guilty

( :


Friday, February 15, 2008


Those of you who have had the chance to read our blog over the past month have probably noticed my expositional journey through Ephesians 2. As every good sermon comes to a close with points of application, I am going to make an attempt to show you that one of Paul’s biggest themes in these epistles is in fact, Humility.

Even in the depths and wordiness of his explanations of Theology, Paul hammers this Idea in his words, and in his life; this selfless God-centered Theology that spill over in an abundance of humility. I will even argue that humility can only be understood within the context of this Theology/ Anthropology.

Let’s look at what is probably the most recognizable 2 verses in the Chapter.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

It is so crucial that we as Christians not just recognize, but truly understand the last phrase of this passage: “that no one may boast.”

Ok, here’s the logical and scriptural conclusion of the matter:
If we are radically corrupted (Rom 3: 9-20) and incapable of doing good on our own accord, (Rom 8: 7-8) then we must come to the realization that as non-Christians, we have nothing to boast in. No level of human goodness is sufficient grounds for any boasting or self glorification. Our good works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64: 6) before a holy God. We MUST understand this.

Secondly, we look at Ephesians 2 and see something else. Our salvation wasn’t us! It is by Grace! It’s not our doing! It is a gift! Not by works, so what? So no one may boast. Our salvation is a gift, from our loving adoptive Father. We owe a debt we cannot pay; we have a broken a holy Law put in place by the creator of the Universe and deserve immediate, complete and eternal destruction. Christ pays this debt on the cross for us; we do and have done nothing to deserve this free gift of salvation.

What grounds do we have for arrogance? We as Christians many times act like we have it all together. We act as if now that we have been saved, we can take upon ourselves the responsibility to daily pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and live the Christian life. This is utterly illogical and contrary to what the Bible teaches us about, ourselves, God, and his eternal Grace imparted to his children.

Until we are humble before God, confessing the reality of our depravity and the essential nature of our dependence on him, how can we expect lo live selfless lives? Look at Paul in 1 Timothy:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life”

This is humility! It starts here, with our most important relationship. Until we understand the magnitude of God’s grace and the extent of our unworthiness, we know nothing of Humility.

God has been hammering my heart in these areas recently.

James 1 is clear that all good things come from God. All righteousness, that we posses as Christians, is from above. God sanctifies us, shaping us, molding us, hammering at our hearts of stones, making us more and more like his perfect son.

Here comes my soapbox:
We must understand that knowledge and understanding of Scripture is one of those things.

How can we think that our excitement, or understanding of the Bible and of Theology is on our own accord? This is one of the biggest issues for many of seminary bound, theologically excited, intellectually active Christians whom I have known over the years…and this is very much a place where I have struggled.

We should NEVER view any understanding of the Bible as coming from us. If we truly understand this Theology, this Anthropology, this truth about who God is and who man is, why do we so often gloat and boast in our own self glory with regards to studying the Bible? We act as if we own accord have the ability to make complete sense of God, all his attributes, and all his dealings with man.

How Foolish!

First of all, do we really want to be serving a God that we can completely figure out? Put him in a box; confine him to what the human mind is capable of comprehending? NO! We need to let God be God! Let certain facets of his magnificence be…just magnificent! I am NOT AT ALL trying to condemn studying Theology or pursuing to know our Holy God. But do it to Know God! And Tell Others! Not just to know stuff.

This self centered pursuit of knowledge that I have been guilty of before, ultimately rests in a lack of humility; a misunderstanding of who God is, and who we are. This is a failure to acknowledge our utter dependence on Christ and to daily take up our cross and follow him. More often than not, this ultimately culminates into one of the most horrible, relationship destroying, prideful, arrogant acts that infests the church today; a complete void of grace towards other believers.

I have seen many Christians, including myself, fall prey to this. One can have a great heart for the lost, a love for God’s word, yet cannot find a sliver of grace in their hearts for fellow brothers in Christ who believe differently than themselves on minor, controversial issues. I can’t help but think of the Parable in Matthew 18:

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. “

What a terrible, illogical and selfish way to belittle the grace of God. I pray that while pursuing the absolute and immovable richness of Truth in the Gospel, we would abound in Grace and Humility towards one another, in Christ Jesus. How could we see and understand the magnitude of God’s grace towards us, yet be unwilling to show grace on issues that we ourselves are not 100% sure of. Be willing to die for the essential immovable truths of the Gospel, study and read on the finer points of Theology, and rather than letting that drive you into graceless arrogance and self-centered pursuit of knowledge, let it cause you to fall in love with God, and his Grace. And let that understanding of Grace overflow in Humility and grace towards other.

May we all be in humble pursuit of God, and may his Love overflow through us into the world.



Sunday, February 10, 2008

Worship: Looking Closer

Worship: the topic won't leave me alone. Neither will the concept. And most of all, neither will God's call - in His word, in His people, in my heart by the prompting of His spirit. The other day at an organizational meeting, the topic arose again - the distinction between worship and singing, in that case, and how worship is expansive and indeed all-encompassing in many ways.

John Piper once commented that "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't" (Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of Christ in Missions). I think he's precisely correct: if we truly were worshipers of God - as He calls us to worship Him, not as we have decided to - then "missions" per se would not exist: the outpouring of all that was in our hearts would be a natural response, and the gospel would advance mightily because that is who God is.

So I want to challenge you to examine the nature of worship with me. Let me first make clear my position (definitionally, which is to say, not comprehensively but nonetheless accurately):
Worship is the proper ascribing to God of His glory (that is, the fullness of His attributes and character) by the thoughts, words, and actions of created beings; inclusive of but not limited to specific acts and times of praise.
Breaking this down, there are a number of points to examine, each of which will be expanded upon at greater length over later posts. To begin, however, I'll take a look at them at a basic level.

Proper: worship is not something to be done haphazardly. It is to be reverent, filled with awe at who He is, and it is to conform to the patterns He has given us. It is not simply whatever we want it to be. Even the sub-aspects of it - praise, art, and so on - are not to be done out of our own understanding, but submitted to Him, in accordance with His character and His revealed will. Consider, for example, the incredibly detailed instructions He gave for the building of the tabernacle or the temple, and then remember Christ's words to the woman at the well, calling us to worship in spirit and in truth. Hebrews 12:28-29 sums up this point nicely, calling us to an acceptable worship, with reverence and awe - for our God is a God of fire. (For an interesting study, look at how many times people in the Scriptures bow when they worship. For another study, at least as important, look at how many times God is called a jealous God ["whose name is Jealous"].)

Ascribing to God: this is pretty straightforward. Worship is not about us. At all. It involves us, as we're the ones doing it. But it's not about us: it is entirely centered on and focused on Him. Our part in it, our role even in our thoughts and words is our response to Him. The Psalms are like this: they often begin with a statement of the psalmist's situation or complaints, and then turn to worship: reflecting on God and who He is, not on the psalmist or his status any longer.

His glory: several points are worth noting here. First and foremost, the glory we offer to Him is His already: we can in no way increase His glory. Our offering is but a reflection to Him of the glory that is inherently His: for He is the God of glory. We do not make Him more glorious by our worship, but it is a glorious thing that He allows us to be a reflection of His glory! Further points are related to the meaning of glory itself. Looking at the Hebrew idea of glory, we note first that it carries with it a notion of immense weight. Glory, especially that of God, is not a trifling matter: when the glory of God, the Shekinah, fell on the tabernacle or the temple, it came not merely as brightness but as fullness of presence that is unbearably intense and incredibly present. We must also understand that God's glory is not merely glory as we think of it, as beauty and radiance: it is the very fullness of His character. God's glory is the reflection of all that He is, every aspect of His incredible character on display.

This leads us directly into the next points: how we worship.

Thoughts, words, and actions: worship is not something we do on Sunday mornings. If you only worship when at church, there is a serious problem with your spiritual life and your walk with God. Worship is to be lived out, not "experienced" (some church advertisements for their Sunday service to the contrary). We are to offer our bodies to Christ as living sacrifices and holy temples: but sacrifices and temples are for worship. Ultimately, our every thought should be to the glory of God. That is not to say that every thought should be of Him, but over the course of our lives as we are sanctified, more and more of our thoughts should be in accord with His will and His ways. Words and actions that are glorifying to Him will follow naturally as well as we are sanctified - indeed, as our thoughts are brought in line with His. As we are conformed to the image of Christ by the renewing of our minds (note the reference is the same as that of our being living sacrifices!), our words will change as well, since the come from the overflow of the heart; and our actions are but the execution of our wills. All of this is to come together until, ultimately, our entire lives are one continuing act of worship - as they will be in Heaven when sin no longer keeps us from Him.

Not limited to specific acts of praise: as I mentioned last time, worship is not limited to praise, and it's certainly not limited to particular times and instances. It is, optimally, the defining characteristic of our lives. Every action, then would be worship, even those not specifically acts of praise: for if we were truly holy and sanctified, every piece of art, every hour of work, every diaper changed, every task accomplished would be done in such a way and with such a heart that God would be glorified - His character reflected rightly for all to see. Specific acts of praise would be a staple of our existence, too, for in a truly sanctified existence, our thoughts would ever turn to the goodness of God and His holiness and majesty. Song, picture, dance, carpentry - all would be glorious acts of praise; but our lives would be worship all in all, not just those specific acts.

So let us learn to practicing living out worship as it is meant to be: let us offer to God an acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire!

- Chris

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Recently, I have come into contact with some passages that illustrate God's absolute control over everything that happens to us. Now, I have a notion in my head that says, "God is in control of my life," but its so blasted hard to keep that in mind in my day-to-day life.

One passage that has recently illustrated this to me is in Genesis 37. Joseph, the favorite son and least favorite brother, has these dreams that he is ruling over his brothers. So they throw him in a pit, take his envy-inducing colored coat, and sell him into slavery. Now, this was an unexpected and saddening turn of events for him, and he probably was quite frustrated and angry with God. So much for that "your sheaf is bowing down to my sheaf" business. But wait! A few chapters and a few more divinely orchestrated events later, Joseph is running Egypt, and his brothers, driven by famine, do in fact bow down to him. God used an event that for Joseph must have been inexplicable and terrifying, but God was still completely in control of Joseph's life.

Another passage would be Judges 4, which we covered at RUF last night. Israel is being oppressed and so God raises up Deborah, who calls on a man named Barak to lead 10,000 Israelites. God routes the enemy and Israel wins. But early on in the passage, Barak asks Deborah to accompany him, and she says, "You're not going to kill the enemy general, a woman is." And sure enough, the enemy general is on the run and gets to a tent, is convinced to go inside, and a woman kills him. Doug Serven, RUF's leader, mentioned that God clearly knew what was going to happen in the smallest detail, including tent placement. And without telling anyone, he was setting it all up. That's neat.

There are more passages, clearly, but these are the ones that have stood out to me recently. They've stood out as a confirmation of God's control over everything that happens to us, when there have been some developments in my life that I simply don't understand. Its almost become a mantra to me..."God is sovereign. He knows his purposes and will accomplish them." And there is a great amount of not only comfort that comes with this, but also freedom. I am free to continue onward, not looking backward wishing and wondering. Now, of course this is hard to do. And in some ways, its more gratifying to say, "Let me lie and languish for a bit."

But this is not what we are to do. Whatever God throws our way, we ought to accept as divinely ordained. Because it is--nothing happens outside his governance. I think Paul is a good example. Beaten, imprisoned, the object of failed stoning attempts, and often unpopular, he pressed on. He knew God was in charge and that it was about more than his happiness, and here's the kicker...that's where he found contentment. Woo! We can find contentment even in the hard things in life if we understand the power and the goodness of God.

Over and out.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Unity in Christ

”14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

-Ephesians 2:14-22

I was planning on take two or three more posts to wrap up Ephesians 2, but the idea of these last several verses is so coherent, and has one central point, that I am going to finish with this post.

Let’s look at verse 14.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one…”

“He” is obviously Christ, and notice the language here. Paul could have very easily said “He has brought us peace.” But he doesn’t. Paul claims that Christ is our peace. Now what does this mean? As we read the previous verses, we see that Christ is in fact the bridge that has united both Jew and Gentile in him. He “has made us both one” by breaking down the “dividing wall of hostility, (verse 15) by abolishing the law of man in place of two, so making peace.” How? By “[reconciling] us both to God in one body through the cross.”

The power of the cross should amaze us as Christians. Though we were obviously not around in this time period, it is important (as I wrote last week) that we see the gap that was bridged by Christ. Salvation was no longer reserved to Israel, but Gentile could be included in God’s elect. God didn’t change, nor did his nature, or his plan. God didn’t change is mind; his sovereign plan from the beginning has been to redeem all nations through the finished work of Christ, in his death, and resurrection.

Paul expounds on the principles starting in verse 17-19

“17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

This is one access to the Father. Christ.

It is because of Christ that we are no longer strangers and aliens. It is because of Christ that we are fellow citizens with the saints. It is because of Christ that we are members of the Household of God! Do you see the gravity of this statement? We have gone from being utterly void of holiness and completely enthralled in our self-seeking nature, to being Adopted (Romans 8:15) in to the household of our new Heavenly Father. And what is the cornerstone of this foundation? Let’s finish the chapter

“20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Everything was done through the Cross! Christ is the cornerstone of the “holy temple in the Lord.”

We have Unity in Christ! We are one in the Spirit of God! We have just addressed what this means; now here is what it doesn’t mean.

So many teachers in this day sugar coat and water down the gospel. Church leaders dumb down and take the hard parts out of their teachings and their gospel presentation to make it easier to receive. Tell me where in the scriptures that it says the gospel is easy!?!? Brothers, we can’t let this creep into the church. Unity in Christ does not by any means justify the watering down of TRUTH. We as Christians have to believe that truth is Fundamental, absolute, and contained in scripture as a whole. R.C. Sproul says of the whole argument “You can’t slaughter TRUTH in the streets for the sake of peace. You just can’t do it.” Lets look at the Beginning of 2 Timothy 4

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry”

In the NASB is says tickling instead of itching, but either way, Christians should be utterly apposed to “ear tickling” and live in joyous pursuit of proclaiming Truth!

Be excited about unity in Christ! But let that be centered around the immovable truth of the Gospel!

May God bless the reading and teaching of His inspired, infallible, inerrant, and. authoritative Word. Amen


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Salvation to Gentiles?!?!?!

How about a short little post before dinner eh?

"11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."
-Ephesians 2:11-13

Alright, to use the words of my good friend Todd Blackhurst, "When you see a Therefore, we need to ask ourselves 'what's it there for' " haha
Remember what Paul has just told us; He has just made written one of the most clear, all-encompassing statements about salvation in the entire scriptures in Ephesians 2:8-10. Paul conveys to us our depravity, the richness of God's Grace, and closes the passage by giving all Glory of Salvation to God.

It's important when you read a passage, to consider bother the time period and to whom the author is writing. In this case, we must consider that the idea of Salvation to a Gentile is new. Could you imajine being in the church at Ephesus and reading the scriptures all about God's chosen people, "Israel" and thinking....woah, thats...not me! Paul is making the distinction here, about the new Covenant. The Covenant of Christ.
Look at Verse 13

-"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."

Things are different! God hasn't changed, the means of salvation hasn't changed (by Grace, through Faith), but now, the Ephesians (who were at one time excluded from the saving Grace of God) may be drawn by God into Salvation. The Old Testiment reverence and importance of Circumsision has been chinged to one of the heart! Lets look at Romans 2:28-29

"28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God."

and at Colossians 2:11

"11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,"

Christ, through his blood has drawn the nations to himself! Isn't redemptive history cool?
Calvin sums up verse 13 better than I could:

"But now in Christ Jesus. We must either supply the verb, now that ye have been received in Christ Jesus, or connect the word now with the conclusion of the verse, now through the blood of Christ, — which will be a still clearer exposition. In either case, the meaning is, that the Ephesians, who were far off from God and from salvation, had been reconciled to God through Christ, and made nigh by his blood; for the blood of Christ has taken away the enmity which existed between them and God, and from being enemies hath made them sons."

God has done an amazing thing by sending his son for us! He starts the chapeter by describing God's amazing Grace in our salvation, then demonstrates the power of Christs blood his calling of Gentiles! Praise be to him for his grace to the nations!


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Worship and praise

Picking up on some thoughts from last time, I'd like to explore some of the developing situations I see in current "worship music" trends - both for good and for ill.

First and foremost, I think it's important to note that worship and praise are not synonymous in their usages in Scripture, however much they have become interchangeable in evangelical circles. Even in the dictionary, the definitions differ in important ways.
Worship: reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred. (

1. the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; laudation.
2. the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship. (

Looking at the approach through Scripture, we note a distinction between praise and worship that complements these definitions. Worship is a heart attitude of reverence and awe directed toward God. It is frequently accompanied in Scripture by bowing of the head or body. Praise, by contrast, is verbal proclamation of the glorious attributes of God. What we frequently call "worship music" is more accurately called "praise music," and worship itself is a practice all too frequently neglected. (Remedying that is something I plan to address in a future post.)

Our praise music today is a subject of considerable controversy throughout evangelical circles (and the more so when one is on the edge of evangelicalism, as in the case of "low liturgical" churches). Older members of the congregation tend to prefer older styles of music, some even to the point of rejecting any that includes a guitar. On the other end of the spectrum are those - usually younger - who want little to do with hymns or organs and prefer their music louder and with a stronger rock sound. Some churches have dealt with the situation by splitting their services, others by attempting to incorporate both styles into the equation. Ultimately, both camps need to compromise and meet each other in the middle, realizing that God is far less concerned with style - which has varied drastically over the ages - than He is with our hearts: whether our praise is delivered with an attitude of worship.

Far more important than style is the content of our songs. If I have noticed one particular problem with the songs being written and sung in popular Christian praise music today, it is this: that there are far too many songs written about us and far too few written about God. Over and over again, I have seen songs that had immense potential to glorify God, and turned instead to focus on our feelings, our desires, even our response to God. But our feelings, desires, and even response to God are not the point of praise: exclaiming the greatness of God is. To be certain, there is a place for calling out our own feelings in song before God - the psalmists did so frequently. Ultimately, however, even those declamations must turn to true praise. Over and over in the psalms, an author will proclaim the injustices done to him, the travails of his heart, and so on: but always they conclude with the glories and greatness of God, not with their own feelings. Unfortunately, even songs that by and large are God-centric have a bad tendency to turn back to us at the end. This self-centeredness and egoism are immensely detrimental to our praise and inhibit us from truly worshiping even outside the context of praise. I sincerely hope (and I believe it is and will continue to happen) that songwriters will increasingly focus on God and not on man. Insofar as we are a partial focus of the songs, it ought to be such that our hearts in the end are turned back to God. Not all worship occurs in the context of praise, but all praise ought to be worshipful - and so we must be careful who we are worshiping: ourselves, or God.

Nonetheless, it is worth being attentive to style as well as content. Worship must be reverent, filled with awe of God. If we wish our praise to be worshipful - as it ought to be - then we must be careful in how we write the music with which we are praising Him. While I do not believe that the classic hymns are all perfect, they are often more reverent in lyrical content than our new praise music, and as such are worth preserving and relishing. There are several reasons for this: first, all hymns once had to be approved by a committee of theologians before inclusion in the hymnal, at least hypothetically assuring their theological conformity to Scripture; and second, the hymns we regularly sing today are those that have survived the test of time.

Stylistically, I think hymns may also more readily lend themselves to attitudes of reverence and awe in our times of praise. Note: I do not believe that the melodic and harmonic content is inherently more reverent (to the contrary, in some cases! - some of our greatest hymns were intentionally set to bar songs' melodies to catch people's ears). However, in our cultural context, they have a grander sound to them, and a sense of age and majesty associated with them that often helps our minds shift into a more reverential mode. I do not think that a rock band is by dint of character necessarily less reverent than a choir and organ: but the latter may have a power to suggest reverence in our minds more readily than the former, and that is no triviality.

(Tangentially related is another concern: that for many "worship bands," playing in front of the congregation can all too easily become just another gig. It is hard work to not merely play well but to worship well while bringing praise before God: and to lead others in truly worshiping is harder still. I pray often for the band at Paradigm and at the church God calls me to attend, that as well as working to achieve technical excellence, they would be attentive to the Holy Spirit and themselves worshiping in spirit and in truth. This is an area in which we all must strive to improve!)

Worship, beyond praise, ought to fill every moment of our lives. We ought to be living our lives in a worshipful way: that is, living in a way that is reverential and filled with awe of God and all He has done and all He is. On that theme I will be spending much time over the next weeks! I pray that we all seek to worship God with everything in us: that His glory will become our greatest desire and the praise of His name our great goal in life.

- Chris