Monday, May 26, 2014

Psalm 14:1

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

Notice the insoluble connection between theology and practice; between love for God and love for neighbor. It is our heart's tendency to say "no God" that leads to our heart's corruption and misdeeds. When we ignore and reject the true God revealed in the Old and New Testaments, we do so to our own harm and the harm of others. This also holds true, not only for individuals, but for families, communities, and nations. In the end, as Tozer rightly said, what we think of God is the most important thing about us.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


"According to Genesis, it is this worship of the autonomous self as god that lies at the heart of what is wrong with the world. This is the fundamental idolatry. However, because human beings are not, in fact, gods, this worship of the self spawns still other idolatries. Because we are, in fact, incapable of supplying our own need for divinity, even as 'gods,' we look elsewhere. In biblical thinking, therefore, the abandonment of the living God is not followed by atheism but by polytheism. We elevate other aspects of the created order, along with ourselves, to divine status, and we offer these creatures, too, devotion and trust of which they are not worthy." --Iain Provan

In light of that word "worthy," then, consider these words of Jesus:

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:37-39)

There is but one way to be freed from our idolatries, and our fundamental idolatry to self, and that is to be united to Jesus' death. It is faith that unites us to him in his death and resurrection---a faith that dies daily with him to self, in order to find life---a faith that humbles self and lets God be God in our lives.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Value of Biblical Theology

"Biblical theology is not just an interesting topic. It informs who we are and how we live. It's a way of getting out of a false world into the real one, a transporter enabling us to inhabit the story of the Scriptures....We engage in biblical theology so as not to misinterpret what happens to us, seek our identity in the false world, and waste our lives." --James M. Hamilton in "What is Biblical Theology: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns"

A Meditation/Prayer on Psalm 10:2-6

Psalm 10:2-6

2 In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
    let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
3 For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
    and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
    all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
5 His ways prosper at all times;
    your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
    as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
6 He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
    throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

Heavenly Father, May you grant me a new heart, so that I may not be like this description of the wicked:

who in arrogance oppose your people who are poor in spirit (v. 2);who live in the lusts of the eyes and flesh, in essence, making idols of created things (v. 3);who do not seek God, but rather deny him in a theoretical or practical atheism (v. 4);who accept the lie that You are not the judge of the creatures made to bear Your image (v. 5), and internalize this lie in their hearts (v. 6).

Rather, cause me, by Your Spirit:

to love Your people who trust and love You (v. 2);to put to death by repentance and faith the lusts that wage war against my soul (v. 3);to seek You and Your kingdom with all my heart, which has come in Your Son (v. 4);to live all of my life in fellowship with You and Your Son, as a son adopted by grace (v. 5);and transform me by the renewal of my mind by Your wonderful written Word written on my heart, so that I might live out the truth You graciously teach me (v. 6).

For Jesus' sake, Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What Is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns

"Sitting uneasily in his chair, straining for breath, he tilted his head toward his wife, nodded in the direction of my three sons, and said, 'It's good for them to be here.'

Looking at me he continued, gasping out the words, 'We wanted to hide things like this.  But it's good for these boys to see me dying.  Death is real.'

Later that night, his wife of more than fifty years became a widow.

Knowing that life was leaving his body, he saw right through our medicated, sanitized, hedonistic culture.  He could ignore death no longer, and he was convinced others shouldn't either.  There was no avoiding it, so he looked it in the face and affirmed the goodness of the true story of the world.  His approaching death was like a strong wind blowing away a fog of falsehood.  A better understanding of the world broke through, as it had been doing since he was born again.

What we think and how we live is largely determined by the larger story in which we interpret our lives.  Does your story enable you to look death in the face?  Does your story give you a hope that goes beyond the grave?

In the throes of death that night, my older brother in Christ was rejecting false stories of the world.  He refused to live his last moments informed by stories that would have people pretend death isn't real or fear what lies beyond it.

He wouldn't put in in these words, but he was affirming that it is good for children to see that the Bible's story is real.  That's what he meant when he said it was good for my boys (ages six, three, and one at the time) to be there as his body fought through its failing moments.

Will it take the nearness of your own death for to reject false stories in favor of reality?

The world does have a true story.  The Bible tells it. . . . To do biblical theology is to think about the whole story of the Bible.  We want to understand the organic development of the Bible's teaching so that we are interpreting particular parts of the story in light of the whole.  As an acorn grows into an oak tree, Genesis 3:15 grows into the good news of Jesus Christ.

One of the primary aims of biblical theology is to understand and embrace the worldview of the biblical authors.  In order to do this, we have to know the story they take for granted, the connections they see between the events in that story, and the ways they read later parts of the story by the light that emanates from its earlier parts.

The Bible has a narrative arc that begins at creation, rises over all that has been and will be, and lands at the end of all things.  The prophetic and poetic parts of the Bible provide interpretive commentary on the story, and the apocalypses unveil the way things are and will be.

The Bible's big story, this overarching narrative, is also built out of smaller stories.  At the same time, the stories told in the Old Testament work together to set up a mystery resolved in Christ."

---James M. Hamilton Jr. from the book, "What is Biblical Theology: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns"

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Holding to Both Election and Human Responsibility

The Bible teaches both election and human responsibility. We need to hold to both doctrines, which run parallel to each other like the rails of a train track. If we hold only to human responsibility we run the risk of denying grace. But if we hold only to election, letting it swallow up human responsibility, we run the risk of defaming God's name and denying his love for all sinners. Election belongs to the eternity of God and can be a labrynth that can disorient time-bound creatures like us. Looking to Jesus' life, death and resurrection in history will orient us and show us what God is truly like.

God's Right to Define Love

"Poets write about it, singers sing about, greeting cards convey the sentiment of love.  But our world is full of whacky, irresponsible, and even perverse definitions of love that are used to rationalize selfishness, manipulate others, and even give evil free rein in the name of love. . . . As both creator and judge, God gets to define love and to stipulate how it is to be practiced.  But his definition is so unlike the world's that those who prefer their own, more self-serving definition often reject it.

"When taken without God's definition of love, John's statement that 'everyone who loves has been begotten of God and . . . knows God' (1 John 4:7) is inevitably misused to justify just about anything the human heart can imagine, because the world is full of counterfeit love.  People attempt to justify illicit romantic relationships and homosexual relationships in the name of a 'love' that is defined by merely human emotions and ideas, even as powerful as those may be.  Parents and spouses may confuse a need to control with love.  Some may attempt to justify euthanasia or abortion by some false definition of love.  But love is the opposite of sin, and anything practiced that the Bible defines as sin cannot be authentic love.

"The violent death of a man executed as a seditious criminal would be the last place one would expect to see a demonstration of love, but that is exactly where the New Testament locates it.  Such love is not based on human motives or emotions, but finds its impetus in the merciful heart of the creator God, who would rather submit to earthly horrors himself than condemn his beloved human race to perish.  The cross of Jesus Christ is God's love extended across the chasm that stranded us on hell's side, separated from God and trapped in our sin.  There is no other bridge by which we can cross over from death into life (John 5:24).  It is only being cleansed from our sin that allows us to be reconciled to God and relate rightly to one another.  The word God uses to describe relating rightly to others is 'love.'"  --Karen Jobes, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on 1 John, p. 199-200.

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