Friday, December 14, 2007
Ephesians Chapter 1 can be a passage of great contention. Some people hang determinism v free will on this passage. Obviously there are many more, including Romans 9, however this appears to be the one most quoted by the predestination / determinism / blue print camp.
A friend mentioned the verse to me the other day and it has been one that I have been looking at recently and trying to make sense of.
First and foremost, and I don't think any one would disagree with this statement, this verse to me revolves around the fact that everything is about the trinity. We as believers, be it through free will or God's determined will, are made for the praise of His glory. We were made to worship Him with all we are. There is a slight irony in the fact that many churches who hold to a calvinistic world view who focus on this verse, have the most boring church services - forgetting that we are made to PRAISE Him. Granted one can praise him through teaching, but a few loud symbols and the like can go along way too - I'll save that for another blog.
Ephesians chapter one is too big for me to get into a proper exegesis, I'll just give a brief summary of my thoughts. Thoughts that are willing to change and learn, I may add.
Ultimately if Ephesians chapter 1:4 points to individuals being predestined to either heaven or hell, then we must conclude that everything that happens is from the hand of God. One can rejoice in the blessings that come from his hand, but what about evil? is there such thing if God is good and everything comes from His hand?
Unfortunately to analyse this, one needs to use a debased example. The kidnapping, systematic raping and abuse of a 6 year old girl, followed by her release 2 years later from her hell, to be followed 10 years later by her suicide. If one claims that God foreknew exactly what was going to happen and, ultimately made it happen, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that somehow the world is a better place for this happening. Sounds harsh, however; if God is all good and always does what is best, and if God knew exactly what this man was going to do to the innocent helpless girl, we can only conclude that God believed that allowing this to happen was preferable to his not allowing it. The problem of evil is not just taken away by saying that it was not God's will, as he has created us to have free-will and one could easily ask why he didn't stop it. however ultimately, one opposed to determinism would, I presume say that the potential or evil lies in the nature of free will. God has given people the freedom to choose how to act, therefore the responsibility lies with them, not with God, since there actions have not been settled since the beginning of time.
Also a lot of verses would have to be changed to allude to the fact that God only truly loves a certain amount of people. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only son", would have to be changed, or alluded to that, "God so loved the elect, that he....". Also Peter tells us that the delay in Christs returning is because God doesn't want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). God wants everyone he's created to turn to him If everything was settled before the beginning of this world, God would know exactly who would and would not respond to Him. Why does God spend so much energy and experience huge frustration in trying to get people to believe only to be grieved when they resist him (Isa 63:10; Eph 4:30; Acts 7:51; Heb 3:8, 15 ; 4:7) if it was from all eternity a foregone conclusion. I could write on about Revelation 3:5 and Exodus 32:33. If God has foreknown from all eternity that certain names would be blotted out, why would he put them there in the first place? If he can "take away a persons share in the tree of life and in the holy city", and if he knew it would happen why would he give them a share in it in the first place. Its at best disingenuous if true, and at worst sadistic if God gives people a taste of something, only to take it out of their mouth, for his Divine (perhaps arbitrary) purpose.
In terms of the specific that Paul says God "chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world", notice that Paul does not say that we were individually chosen to be "in Christ", or not. As i mentioned already, if it were up to God alone, he would save everybody (1 tim 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, but it is not up to God alone, he has given us free will. Paul says in this verse that whoever chooses to be "in Christ" is predestined to be "holy and blameless before Him". When one chooses to be in Christ, what was predestined for all who are "in Christ" is predestined for him.
Anyways, enough of my thoughts on election in that sense, I could write all day my thoughts on it. As its the festive season, I want to focus on Ephesians 1:5. Paul tells us that we were predestined to adoption before the foundation of the world and that our adoption was predestined to be accomplished "through Jesus Christ". The existence of us, and who we are as the human race is not an accident or a play thing for God. The triune God created the world as the first act of a nearly offensively gracious plan to bring us into the Trinitarian relationship itself. Creation is there to serve this higher purpose of adoption. Because of this, the incarnation of the Son was predestined, because there could never have been a union between the trinity and humanity without the most profound stooping that would establish real and genuine union between the life of God and humanity. Adoption is the eternal point (right here, I'm stealing from Baxter Kruger). Kruger says that creation is the beginning, the first step towards its fulfillment, which prepares the way for the incarnation of the Son and the accomplishment of our adoption in Him. The fall of Adam means that the incarnation will be an agonising event, and one that involves untold risk. Jesus whole life was a war. Jesus entered into our broken, fallen, alienated human existence. he took upon himself our fallen flesh, but he refused to be like us. He refused to look upon God as we do. He entered into fallen existence and steadfastly refused to be "fallen" in it. He loved his father with all of his heart, mind, soul and strength, refusing to believe in the God of Adam. His death was not the punishment of an angry God, it was the sons ultimate identification with fallen Adam, and the supreme expression of faithfulness to his own identity as the One who lives in fellowship with the Father and the Spirit.
God is eternally “for us”, and therefore there is no part of God that needs to be changed or converted or conditioned. before the foundation of the world, the Father, Son and Spirit set their determined love upon us and set their hand to bring us into relationship with them. Adams sin did not alter God or Gods purpose in any way. The fall was a massive problem or course as we who God had determined to bring to glory, became corrupt, estranged, fundamentally alien to God. The problem from my perspective is that the human race stands in need of radical conversion to God. Punishment has never been the point. It isn’t part of Gods plan, and if it was, it wouldn’t help in overcoming the real problem of our estrangement and so fulfil Gods purpose and dreams for us. The fathers passion is to get his children back and to bless us with all the treasures of heaven. unto that end the Son was sent into our existence to undo OUR estrangement, not Gods, and to convert our fallen existence to God. this love of God in action the incarnation suffering to convert humanity, is the wrath of God, the fiery and complete opposition of Gods love to our destruction. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, not a part of God or of one side of God, but of the very being and nature of God. what we see in Jesus is that the Father has never once forsaken us or even considered such a thing, Jesus is the proof that the Fathers love is utterly unwavering and that His eternal dreams for us stand. The Son was sent by the Father to find us. He was sent as the living expression of the fire of love that is in the heart of the Father, as the enactment of the eternal word of God to have us as his beloved children. the Father will have it no other way. If we speak of the death of Jesus Christ as “satisfaction” we must see that what is satisfied in his death is the Fathers utterly single-minded devotion to us and His relentless determination that His amazingly incredible plans for us would be fulfilled - even at the cost of his own beloved Sons life.
If that does not get me excited about the festive season, I don't know what will. The thoughts that My Father in heaven would go to those lengths for me is the most awe inspiring humbling thing one could imagine, something that could only lead to the Praise of His glory.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Stare the Monster Down
Break the Silence (Illuminate)
Kingdom of Comfort
Take off My Shoes
Paint the Town Red
Our God Reigns
God is Smiling
My Soul Sings
If I was asked to pick a setlist right now here's what I would have gone for...
God You are My God
God In Heaven
I'm Not Ashamed
Thank You for Saving me
Kiss Your Feet
Take Off My Shoes
Our God Reigns
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I said that it isn't fair, but that is the difference between grace and karma. none of us deserve what Jesus has done for us. the theif on the cross, just before he died realised and confessed that Jesus was the messiah - Jesus did not hold the fact that he had led a degenerate life and had waited till then to say it against him, he told him he would be with him in paradise. that is the thing, Jesus's love IS an outrage. However it is the most beautiful outrage there could possibly be. Us who are so weak and unfortunately rebellious are loved by the most high God. anyways, Moncrieff ended the section of the show with my words which I thought was pretty cool.
It really did get me thinking again of how amazing God's grace is. I'll leave you with a passage from Bono from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas , that I came across on Friday night- one can say what they like about Bono, however these words are pretty profound.
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.
Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.
Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled… . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Friday, October 19, 2007
My Dad's church is doing a series on the "I AM" statements of Jesus. A wonderful idea. My Dad is speaking on the second of these phrases "I AM the Light of the World" this Sunday. When he was telling me this, it got me thinking about what it means. I figured I'd record briefly some of my thinking's about it.
Well first of all it is important to note that the heart of the gospel is the truth about Jesus. In fact the heart of the bible is truth; and truth is Jesus. Everything we read from the bible points to Jesus.
The context of Jesus' statement about being the light of the world is in relation to John 7:2. The Feast of the Tabernacles was near and one of the aspects of the this feast was the burning of candles. By doing this the Jews were recalling the fact that God had been a light to them in the wilderness when they had come out of Egypt. He led them by the pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21). God has always been a Light to his people (Numbers 14:14)
When Jesus says he is the Light of the World, He is saying that he is the fulfilment of that light of God. The light that Jesus brings is not a candle type light - it is a blazing fire. A brilliant light, like the light of the sun. Like the pillar of fire or the cloud of glory. Malachi puts it well when he calls Jesus the "Sun of righteousness". Christ came into the world blazing with the glory of God. The glory of God is the goodness of God.
Jesus says in Luke 4:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
This is what it means for Jesus to be the Light of the World. It was about bringing life. John 1:4 describes Jesus this way, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men."
Jesus came to give us abundant life, shining light in the midst of our darkness (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The thing about light is that it is the complete opposite of darkness. It is the opposing force. The opposing force that ALWAYS wins out. Rev 21:23. Light exposes darkness
John 3:19-20, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."
I listened to a Greg Boyd sermon this morning on my way into work and he spoke about a cockroach infestation he once had in his closet. He was always fascinated that when he turned the light on they would scarper. They could not handle the light so they fled. So many times our lives can be full of cockroaches, things that we let fester in the darkness. pride, lust, greed. We must expose them to the light, the light of Jesus. Jesus says he is the light of the world, but we must open our hearts to this light and let him expose our darkness. It can be such a hard thing to do, but it is so true that when truth is brought in, the father of lies scarpers.
One point about this example is that the Light exposes the truth. The truth that there are cockroaches in the closet. The truth that we are sinful men. Fallen, diseased and broken. Jesus being our light is not Jesus showing us a good way to live so we can be happy, it is Jesus showing us Himself and his truth and therefore our need. Our need that is Him. Our darkness so that we focus on his light. his marvelous light, the light that took away the power of sin and the sting of death.
Another thing light does is it helps us grow. Just as plants need light to grow, so we need to light of Jesus to grow in Him. We need his light to shine on the very darkest places to first expose them, and them the light will cause us to grow. The presence of Jesus purifies us and changes us from the inside out. He, as the word, is "the light to our feet and the lamp to our path(s)" (Psalm 119:105) We need to constantly look to Jesus. All of our being needs to be pointed towards him.
This light also brings reassurance. As my favourite Psalm says
"The Lord is my LIGHT and my salvation, whom shall i fear."
Whom shall i fear? no-one. The powers of darkness have been defeated. The Lord doesn't teach us about the light, show us the light, tell us were the light is; He IS the light. Everything good and perfect and beautiful and radiant and majestic comes from Him. He is.
The important thing for us as believers who are living for Jesus; as the truth is revealed in us, we are commanded to not hide this light. We are to let is shine in every area of our lives, so that others may see. It doesn't matter how much light we have, it matters what we do with the light we have. If we hide it, we loose it. People need the light. Praise Jesus that we can be used to reveal it to others in the smallest and biggest ways. From words of encouragement, acts of kindness to sacrificing our lives for others in the name of Jesus. May his glorious light shine.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
On the right handside of this blog you can see that there's a verse of the day. When I looked today, the above is what was there.
Last night we had our worship time together as we do every Wednesday. I was taking the worship and I have been hearing from Jesus over the last few days about rest in Him, and also our need for Him.
I was talking to a friend the other day and he was telling me how much he has realised lately just how much he needs Jesus. He has been reading the word not so much to learn about Jesus or to find out new things, but because he needs it. It's his food.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
It got me thinking about the importance of scripture and also the importance of just spending time with God. proper time. My friends words had put me to shame. This is because I had gotten up that morning and read the bible (I'm reading Romans at the moment) and then I went all the way into work listening to worship which I love doing. When my friend had spoken about his desperation for Jesus I realised that I had taken for granted my whole morning. I had enjoyed it and I know how important it is for me that I start my day reminding myself of what I live for; however I forgot that I NEED it. It's not an optional extra to read scripture and spend time with God, it's a necessity. i can't function if I don't.
"For in him we live, and have our being." (Act 17:28)
That sums up our great need. It is in Him that is every good thing that flows into and from us. Now to go further into the importance of spending time with our heavenly father we look at Jesus and see how important it was to Him.
In Mark chapter 1 he tells the story of Jesus teaching in the synagogue, possibly for the first time, He healed someone (interesting that he healed someone on the sabbath and no one went nuts that day). After they spent time there (he was with his disciples) they went to Peters house and Andrews house where Peters mother in law was sick. Jesus healed her (he liked and still likes to do that). The next day (when the sabbath was over) people turned up from all over the place to see Jesus to be healed. Family's and Friends brought their loved one's to be healed. And Jesus healed them. Now the remarkable part of this passage is verse 35
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed."
Jesus bailed. He left everyone. I'm not exaggerating to say he left everyone unbeknownst to them as when they finally find him they say in verse 37 "everyone is searching for you".
The incredible thing about this is that Jesus made a habit of it.
"Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."
There are many other incredible stories about Jesus leaving people at what we would think are the strangest times. The reason for all this is that he needed to speak to his father.
I'm going to steal a passage from the current book I'm reading (Jesus unplugged) that i think captures this need so well.
Jesus separated himself for prayer so often, and yet few ask, Why? Was he hoping God would tell him what to do, fix his problems, give him courage, or charge his batteries? What was he doing, and what was happening when he prayed?
Yes, he checked out (left) when he was tired, when he was grieving, when he was under pressure, when he was struggling with decisions, and - in the end - when he had to face death. Yes, slipping away for prayer was not a habit, nor was it a compulsion for Jesus it was standard operating procedure.
Certainly prayer was essential to Jesus's life and work. and the heart of his prayer was his intimate relationship to his Father. Jesus called God "Abba", which means Daddy, an unusually casual address, and some might even say an irreverent one.
But the familiarity of this language witnesses to his closeness to God and how often they talked. Jesus checked out and talked to "Daddy" even when it created tension with those around him, and even when they complained about it as an inconvenience or interruption.
Jesus could live with being disappointing and confusing to people, even those closest to him, but he could not go on without checking out regularly and unapologetically.
Dr. Baxter Kruger and I (the author of the book, not me unfortunately!) were discussing this chapter, and he asked me "How did Jesus survive the accusations and attacks? He stood up in the truth of who he was in the face of constant hate and harassment. I mean, they tore him down every day. How do you endure that?" It was a rhetorical question. baxter knows how, and I know how, and after reading this chapter so do you. How else could he have done it? It was by checking out for prayer.
Jesus, seated at the right hand of the father, after knowing everything that we have to go through and more on this earth says this:
"Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest."
I know I want to rest in him. In good times and bad. Coming to him is not an optional extra like I have already said, we need it, no matter what our circumstances our. Praise Him that we can come to him and be truly satisfied.
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust".
Monday, October 8, 2007
The reason why it is now in the forefront of my mind again, the actually theology of it is that I have moved church in the last few months. I now attend a wonderful church that my girlfriend introduced me to. I know God has brought me there. The teaching is excellent. However the theology is quite different. They would have a theology that would include predestination so naturally this can creep into some of their teaching. I do not object to this, as this is what they believe so I respect it. I'm also thankful for the fact that this is challenging what I have always been taught. I have been reading countless articles on the internet in relation to all things about the will of God etc. There is so much scripture that can point to both sides of the arguement. My quest at the moment is to scripturally figure out what I believe. I don't want to find scriptures that fit into my arguement. I want scripture to teach me about the heart of God. I do have my opinions and I think they are fundamental in my relationship with God, however, like I just said....I want scripture that will support this (or perhaps not - something that I admit I greatly fear).
So many people, non-believers and believers alike are confused by the idea that God could select certain people to go to heaven, and gladly send others to hell. And a God who is LOVE but creates tragedies to teach us all a lesson of His glory or that "he is enough". He is truly enough, but does that mean he would allow a woman to conceive after she has given up hope, only to have the baby die from complications during the birth? john piper thinks so. He preaches a short 3 minutes here. I don't think this true. I can't see how it's God’s will for tragic events to happen. The God that I have seen in my relationship with Him is a loving, compassionate God who is alive and present with us right now. He grieves with us, He changes with us, He loves us. I have also seen this God in the scriptures.
Anyways, I'm not giving much scripture here to back up anything I'm saying. My point of this post was to just say where I'm at and that I'm searching for the truth in it. I just bought Greg Boyd's book "Is God to blame" to see what he has to say. I've also been reading a lot of Piper to see what He has to say. And plenty more in between. I think Jane is a saint of patience putting up with my "oh, guess what I read today", "what do you think of this", "could you please make me tea and bring me some fig rolls as i solve peoples view on God". I'll update with my thoughts as i barrel through the book. Although, I'm actually reading another book at the moment called "Jesus Unplugged"...that deserves its own special post. I'm loving it.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
School reunion was great fun. Most people haven't change a bit. The first two people I met said the following quotes "You've changed most out of everyone here" and: "you haven't changed a bit". I fear the former had a problem in finding a way in starting our conversation! was great to see everyone. Funny how most people genuinely haven't changed. Was a very late one...4am, i'm not used to that carry on anymore so I was pretty tired this morning. Was great to see that no one got absolutely hammered drunk. refreshing to have some nice genuine conversations with people. 10 years later and some guy asked could he meet me to talk about religion, he said "I'm a catholic and I'm not into your stuff, but i'd like to talk to you about God and stuff". I'll have to make sure that happens, it'd be great to chat to him.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Friday, October 5, 2007
The idea to start a blog came from my interaction at another blog. I was googling the sovereignty of God and I came across some guys blog. He is very articulate and obviously wants to get to know God better, however upon reading his posts I felt sad that this guy was writing about God in a way in which i thought he was doing Him a disservice. I wrote on his blog with some thoughts and he subsequently annihilated me, and ultimately called me a heretic. Obviously i didn't particularly appreciate this but I figured I'd take my friends advice and not continue to discuss things with him as it was pointless to try by-pass his arrogance. That is were the idea to start a blog came from. My friend suggested that I write down my thoughts on my own blog rather than someone elses. He was dead right. He's a clever little fella. So thats what I plan to do.
As you can see this is actually my second post, my first one below, is Psalm 27; my favourite psalm. I figured I'd start off blog world with that Psalm that declares so well the truths of who God is to me.
oh and my name is Fergus and its nice to meet myself!
Of David.1 The LORD is my light and my salvation —
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life —
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.
4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.
13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.