Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Super Bowl: Does God Care?

"Does God care whether it's the Cardinals or the Steelers who win the Super Bowl?"

Is this a question of the extent of God's sovereignty (i.e., that He wants or will make one team win), or more a question of whether He really cares about such minor, frivolous human activity that He would involve Himself in it and make sure that one side wins over the other?

An opinion piece in Wednesday's edition of asked, "Does God Care Who Wins the Super Bowl?" The writers begins his questioning with a statement - "Does God care who wins? Of course He doesn’t. Unless He does. After all, who knows what He cares about? Who knows if He is even a He or a She or a Who Am? Or if He even is. Who knows?"

Here's my question to you - How would you respond to this writer's statement? And for that matter, how would you respond to my question at the front of this posting?

Also in this article he quotes Bill Maher who, in his film Religulous, said, “Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith and enable and elevate it are intellectual slave holders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense.”

So, while you're at it, how would you respond to Mr. Maher's assertion?

I am so thankful that "God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:9-11 ESV)

And, oh yeah, Go Cards!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cheap Grace? Is There Such a Thing?

"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship. Touchstone 1995, p.47)

"Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. . . . Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. . . . Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a world of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'"
(Dale Larson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Costly Grace. InterVarsity Press 2002)

Is there such a thing as "cheap grace?" Is there such a distinction between "cheap" and "costly" grace? Is it blasphemy to speak of any aspect of God's grace as "cheap?"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Biblical Ambition & Contentment: Not An Oxymoron

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

. . . from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation. (Romans 15:19-20 ESV)

The crucible is for silver, the furnace for gold, and a man is tested by his praise. (Proverbs 27:21 ESV)

Pastor Dave Harvey, guest speaker at Grace Church Frisco, gave two wonderful! messages: Don't Waste Your Ambition (John 12:27-43), reminding us that we chase after what we love and pursue what we value, and Biblical ambitions should lead us to explore new paths and new opportunities to glorify God; and Quest for Contentment (Philippians 4:11-13), and that God teaches us that we are to be content in Him.

Some great quotes Dave brought us are:

"The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether." (GK Chesterton. Orthodoxy, NuVision Publ. 2007, pg. 26)

"Ambition that centers on the glory of God and welfare of the church is a mighty force for good." (J. Oswald Sanders. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer, Moody Publ. 2007)

"If you have not what you desire, you have more than you deserve." (Thomas Watson)

"The Christian more often disgraces his profession in prosperity than when he is being abased." (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, Feb. 10)

"The world's idea that everyone, from childhood up, should be able at all times to succeed in measurable ways, and that it is a great disgrace not to, hangs over the Christian community like a pall of acrid smoke." (J.I. Packer. A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom From the Book of Nehemiah, Crossway Books 2000, pg. 206)

"The apostle's words ('through him' [Phil 4:13]) are better translated 'in him.'" (Sinclair Ferguson)

"Let us compare our condition with others and this will make us content. We look at those who are above us; let us look at those who are below us." (Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment, Reformation Heritage Books 2001)

See also

Jeremiah Burroughs' classic, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Banner Of Truth 1998).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

But God: Thankful for the "Buts" of Scripture!

Let us be reminded of the many "buts" of the Bible.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20 ESV) I’d bet ya Joseph’s brothers were thankful to hear this “but!”

And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand. (1 Samuel 23:14 ESV) I’m sure King David was thankful for this “but!”

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26 ESV)

And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:4-6 ESV) I'm sure Saul was glad to hear this "but!"

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. (Romans 3:20-21 ESV)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die - but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV)

[R]emember 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13 ESV)

Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:10 ESV)

I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the righteous one. (1 John 2:1 ESV)

But for these biblical "buts," were would the people of Israel be? What would have happened to King David? What about Saul/Paul? And where would we as sinners be without his imputed righteousness, atoning death, and grace and mercy?! Perish (pun intended) the thought!

Can you think of a "but" verse (that I may have missed) that has ministered to you? If so, please share it.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Hate Sin, But Love The Sinner: Scriptural?

Where in the Bible are Christian's instructed, encouraged, or exhorted to hate? And if so, hate what?

And where in scripture are we told to love the sinner while hating his sin? When an unregenerate man's sin condemns him to hell, is God only going to send his sin to hell, or that man?! And if the man, than is God guilty of not separating the man from his sin as we think we're told to do when we love the sinner, but hate his sin?

And in looking at the life of Christ, do we see scripture telling us that Jesus separated the man from the sin when confronting the Pharisees ("brood of vipers" [Matt. 23:33])?

So, is "hate the sin, but love the sinner" supported by scripture? If so, where? If not, then what should be our response to someone who uses this phrase?

What say you? Chapter and verse, please.