Thursday, February 27, 2014

True Religion?

There is no true religion in the world which is not Calvinistic-Calvinistic in its essence, Calvinistic in its implications... B.B. Warfield

What do you think about God? I mean, what is it exactly, that you think He does?

Some people think He created the universe and sat back to see what would happen. Like someone attending a play or a movie.

Other folks think He was dismayed by the Fall of Man and has been scrambling ever since, trying to figure out a way to rescue us.

Still others think that God is so sweet and nice that no one is going to be punished (at least, not for very long, according to Rob Bell); that what might once might have been called sins are really just mistakes (there might be some validity to that if we were to give credence to the universal excuse of childhood: "I didn't mean to!")

Then there are some who have been reading their Bibles and  understand that we (as in everybody who ever lived but one) really have messed up. The notion here is that we should admit that we're wrong and agree to accept Jesus and try to live for the Lord. To do this, they believe, would straighten out the whole situation.

There are those who agree with John Calvin: " is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look at himself."

Which takes us back to where we started (where we should always start): What do you think about God?

Does he declare himself to be holy?

Does he rule over all creation, know the end from the beginning, and demand that all praise, honor and glory be given to Him only?

 Until we have a Biblical knowledge of God, we can have no understanding of who (and what) we are (Calvin again).

And so we change the words from, "such a worm as I," to, "sinner such as I," to, "someone such as I." So it doesn't seem as if there was much need for the Savior to bleed after all.

Talk about evolution!

Maybe all these differences about the doctrine of salvation could be resolved if we would honestly (and seriously) examine our doctrine of God in the light of what He tells us about Himself.

And then look into our hearts, remembering Jeremiah's warning that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things.

What would remain after that but to rejoice in God's electing grace, and share the good news with others?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hot Coffee and the Bible

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word. -Psalm 119:25

Bought a new coffee-maker for $8.97. Brews up to 12 cups in a reasonable amount time to slightly warmer than lukewarm temperature. What did you expect for $8.97?

Still, that first sip in the morning that burns the back of your throat and all the way down to your stomach is lacking in the heat factor. This is a necessary sensation whether or not you believe in caffeine.

So 30 seconds in the microwave and I'm good. I sit in my favorite chair and open my Bible. Reading through it again, I begin in the New Testament, then turn to the Old. This year, I plan to spend the last six months or so in Psalms, with Charles Spurgeon's "Treasury of David."

I like to think there's a correlation here. I liken the warming effect of the coffee with the warming effect of Scripture. Mentally as well as spiritually.

Of course I am reminded of my failures, inspired by the dedication of those whose stories I read and both overawed and encouraged by God's incredible attention to detail.

Also my mind is awakened (did I mention I'm not a morning person?) as I am called by what I read to meditate on its truths, look for its application and am reminded of other passages that echo the doctrines of whatever particular passage I have open before me.

After I left my last job, I began a morning work-out routine that included walking a mile or more a day. If I were to take on a part-time job, that routine would become occasional.

The coffee-drinking and Bible-reading, however, have become ingrained as part of my day-to-day life and would require conscious effort to alter or set aside.

There will be no such effort.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Bloody Mess

...for the blood is the life.... -Deuteronomy 12:23b

One of the images that remains from The Passion of the Christ occurs after the flogging scene, when Jesus' mother is attempting to wipe up the copious amounts of  her Son's blood from the stone pavement. I remember thinking, "How could that much blood be in a human body?"

 I have been reading in the book of Leviticus the repeated, extremely detailed descriptions of sacrificial procedure. Each time I read this portion of the Bible, I am staggered by thoughts of the oceans of blood spilled as the animal sacrifices were slaughtered and their blood poured out against the sides and base of the altar.

If all Scripture is intended for our use (2 Timothy 3:16), what are we to make of this? My friend, Camille Kendall. has expressed her thoughts here:

It also occurs that in Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, all this is brought to culmination. But why sacrifice? Why all the blood?

 I read "you shall surely die (Genesis 2:17)," and "the blood is the life (Deuteronomy 12:23)," and make the connection. In one sense Adam and Eve really did die on the day they sinned against God by rebelling against his command. And every person born since then has been born dead.

Blood was required of the Old Testament community of faith for atonement for sins. They were reminded (as Camille noted in her blog) of the price of their guilt, as the priests literally waded in blood so that God's wrath might be turned away from the camp of Israel.

The Crucifixion should be no less a reminder to us. Blood was shed for my sins. Perhaps every drop of blood in my Savior's body was poured out.

Atonement. That my sin is so awful, such an affront to a holy God that only the death of the perfect Son of God (the god-man) could ever deliver me from the just and righteous sentence of death pronounced upon all rebels against the King of Heaven.

As if this affront to God were not enough, we are called daily to observe the effects of our sins: the painful, awful mess we make of our lives and the lives of others.

I cry out, "What must I do to be saved?"

Simply believe that what must be done has already been done.

The book of Leviticus helps remind me of this, in its bloody foreshadowings of Calvary.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It Is Enough

...neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. -Matthew 7:6b

We are made for relationships. The first human relationship was a marital relationship. God saw that "it is not good that man should be alone (Genesis 2:18)," and brought together the first man and wife.

It should come as no surprise that our hater and accuser, Satan, should seek, first and foremost, to destroy the bonds of love that bind our families together. To render us "alone."

Neither should we be amazed that his favorite tool is ourselves.

I have been blessed with a family (especially my immediate family) that has, almost without exception, expressed loving kindness and support. Certainly I have sinned more than been sinned against and can truly recall no offense given me.

It especially saddens me, then, to see families torn by bitterness, greed, selfishness and anger. It saddens me to see people pouring themselves out on behalf of loved ones only to receive the back of the hand.

So I ask myself, when is it "enough?" We are taught to "turn the other cheek," and I know that the "pearls before swine" reference applies primarily to the rejection of the Gospel message.

Self-destructive behavior has consequences for those besides the person so engaged. Is it proper to remove oneself from these relationships? As a means of self-preservation as it were? To say, "enough?"

Does Jesus' parable have application in the context of one-way relationships wherein the object of love becomes an instrument of hatred; trampling underfoot all the kindness and mercy, then turning to rend the one who would minister to them in love?

How can these questions not trouble our hearts, as we seek to live before the Face of God?