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Archive for November, 2013

Lewis 3

Remembering, today, the 50th anniversary of the death of a great and influential man.

3 pieces of passing interest.

1) A comparison by Joe Rigney and Justin Taylor of the private lives of C.S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy who left this world on the same day in history.

http://www.religionnews.com/2013/11/18/two-jacks-contrasting-takes-c-s-lewis-jfks-public-private-faiths/

2) Two lectures given by John Piper on C.S. Lewis, “The Inconsolable Longing of a Romantic Rationalist” (each is about 1 hour long).

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/11/22/c-s-lewis-1898-1963-the-inconsolable-longing-of-a-romantic-rationalist/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+between2worlds+%28Between+Two+Worlds%29

3) A introduction by Trevin Wax to Peter Kreeft’s book, Between Heaven and Hell, which imagines a conversation between C.S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy, and the English author, Aldous Huxley, all who died on the same day in history within a few hours of each other.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/11/21/the-day-c-s-lewis-john-f-kennedy-and-aldous-huxley-died/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-day-c-s-lewis-john-f-kennedy-and-aldous-huxley-died

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Because of parent conferences, I missed the Billy Graham broadcast My Hope America which was aired on his 95th birthday (11-07-18).  I was glad to find the video, though, which not only features Dr. Graham, but Lecrae Moore and Lacey Sturm.

I grew up watching the Billy Graham crusades.  Whenever they were aired, my dad would call us from various parts of the house and  strongly suggest we watch with it only takes a little bit of your time or it won’t hurt you to watch, etc.  I never told my parents that I actually responded to a crusade call during my elementary years and wrote to Billy Graham, Minneapolis, MN (that’s all the address you needed) to get follow up material.  I include that incident in my testimony, believing that even at that age, God was making himself known to me.  Fast forward several years to June 1987 when Dana and I had the privilege of being counselors at a Billy Graham crusade; driving 70 miles south each of three days to where Billy Graham preached and Cliff Barrows led the choir (and Johnny and June Cash brought special music one of the days).

I no longer hold to popular decision theology.  I have come to see that regeneration precedes and produces faith; not the other way around.  God is not the responder, waiting and hoping for people to respond in faith to his Son.  Unless the Holy Spirit shines the light of truth into my darkened understanding, I am dead in my trespasses and unable to respond in faith to the cross of Christ.

We are indeed “saved through faith” and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”  “This [faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (see Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 10:17).  Just as the world needed the Word of God to speak it into being, so too, we who are dead in our trespasses, need the same Word of God to quicken our hearts before we can be made new and respond to him (see John 1:1-4 and Ephesians 2:5).

For me, God began to turn his light of truth on in my heart over several years, but for many, like those at a Billy Graham, Louis Palau, or Greg Laurie crusade, it may feel like one puts their faith in Christ and is then made a new creature.  We are unaware in that moment of the Holy Spirit’s work in helping us to “put the pieces together” and in the necessity of his call which prompts us to repentance and faith.  Almost everyone at the time of conversion feels as if they “chose” Christ, especially, I’m sure, those who pray a repentant “sinner’s prayer” as Billy Graham invites.  Only after, are many made aware through Scripture, that it was always Christ’s first move in their hearts that brought them to the realization of his saving work on the cross.  It’s been likened to light that comes on immediately when a switch is flipped.  Only with further study, we note there was a necessary outside source acting upon the switch, to close the circuit, and to bring about light.  Our faith and regeneration often seem to come simultaneously, but it was God first regenerating our wills and our minds to bring us to the point of faith.  “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Charles Spurgeon put it this way:

“…When the gospel comes to some, they fight against it, and will not have it, but where men receive it, welcoming it, this is a sure indication that there is a secret work going on in the soul, and that God has chosen them unto eternal life. Are you willing, dear reader, to receive Christ? Then there is no difficulty in the way; Christ will be your guest; His own power is working with you, making you willing.”

The cross has always been an offense to many.  It is not given to us to know who will receive or reject it.  It is ours to hold out the Word of God and to unashamedly profess the gospel “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).  Likewise, in hearing the Word of Christ and desiring to receive him, one need not wonder if the gospel is meant for them or not.  The font of such a desire is the “secret work going on in the soul” as Spurgeon put it and Christ assures us, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

 

[There is an answer to the title conundrum too–what came first the chicken or the egg?  Genesis 1:24-25]

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Jodie and Kim snip
The daughter of my dear friend was married today.  It was a beautiful fall day, a beautiful wedding.  Although I’ve had the happy blessing of participating in my own daughter’s wedding, there is something to being outside of the hustle and bustle of hosting and being able to observe and celebrate… and remember.

Jodie and I met our senior year in high school where we were thrown together in a retro singing group, The Velvetones, singing songs from the 30’s and 40’s.  In college she invited me to live with her for a semester on campus.  She was a bridesmaid in my wedding and six months later, I in hers.  She and her husband moved away to the Northwest for schooling, but after, made their way back home.  They had two daughters who were in the same classes as my two sons at the same school Jodie and I attended.  And now we are watching our children pick up where we began as they find and make their own ways in the world.

We have laughed and cried and counseled and encouraged each other over parenting, parents, marriage, our work, our walk (both spiritual and physical), life, and death, the future, the past, the present… all of it.  We don’t get together near enough, but she is in my heart at all times, she helps me want to be a better person, and she is the fragrance of Christ to me, always.

The opening stanza of Robert Brownings’ poem, “Rabbi ben Ezra” is generally applied these days to wedded love, and no wonder.  The now famous courtship letters written between Browning and his future wife, the poetess Elizabeth Barrett, expose Robert as an articulate romantic.  I, too, embrace the stanza for Dana and me, primarily as it looks to future grace and yields itself to a sovereign God.  But might we not spare just a bit to apply to all our life-long relationships, whether friend or family?  If so, I extend it, this evening, to my dear friend.

Who knew back then, what God would make of us?  Who knows today, what will come our way?  But we trust in our God who revealed himself to us in our youth and who plans our beginnings and our endings.  Thank you for your friendship, dear Jodie.  I am blessed to have you in my life.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid.”

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trinity II
Orthodox Christianity holds to the doctrine of Trinity, that the one, true God is one being in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Early church Fathers (ex: Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Turtullian) refer to the Trinity and Trinity was later affirmed in the various creeds of the early church (ex: the Athanasian Creed). 

The Trinity is generally recognized in Genesis 1:1-3.  As God, the Father, creates the heavens and the earth, we have the Spirit of God hovering over the waters and Jesus, the Word of God, commanding the world into being, culminating in their decision to “make man in our image” (Genesis 1:27).   Likewise, Trinity is seen at the baptism of Jesus.  Upon coming up from the waters, the heavens open to reveal the Spirit of God descending upon him and the voice from heaven declaring Jesus to be God’s beloved and pleasing Son (Matthew 3: 13-17). 

Jesus, himself, directs his followers to make disciples and to baptize them in (or into) “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19-20) and the well-known benediction, written by Paul to the Corinthian Church reads: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).  Beyond these are many passages that link Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to the Godhead (Ex: In John 10:30, Jesus declares that He and his Father are one; in Acts 5:3-4, The Holy Spirit is equated with God; etc.).

Despite the centrality of the doctrine of Trinity to the orthodox Christian faith, we don’t often consider the implications of the Trinity and why Trinity is good news for us.  Enter Michael Reeves whose nine, one- to two- minute messages have led me to worship anew this wonderful, all-lovely, triune God.  Summaries of his nine messages are included below (and in two subsequent posts).

Messages 1 through 3 include:

“The God Who is Trinity”
“Trinity and Our Good News”
“The Heart-Winning Trinity ”

#1 The God Who is Trinity

In John 20:31, John says he writes his gospel so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  The call to “believe in Jesus” is a call to believe in the triune God because Jesus is the Son of God the Father, and the Anointed One—the one anointed with the Spirit.

#2 Trinity and Our Good News

In the Trinity, we have a father, eternally loving his son through the Spirit.  What if God were a single person?  If He were not a father, eternally having a relationship with his son?  If that were him, then for an eternity past, He wouldn’t know what love is or what fellowship is and we couldn’t say “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

He would be a God who wouldn’t have fellowship to share with us.  What’s more, not knowing fellowship, would He know how to be gracious, how to love others?  “I think I’d fear God only, and I wouldn’t find my heart won to him.”

#3 The Heart-Winning Trinity 

Some people think Trinity is some little add-on to Christianity, but when we talk about Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we’re talking about who God is… and to know this God is life, according to John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” 

There are people who can’t believe in God or who see God as a heavenly dictator—people like Christopher Hitchens who did not want God to even exist.  “If [Hitchens] is right, that God is just a ruler without love, I’m not sure I want God to exist either.  But if God is a father, eternally characterized by loving his son, and He wants to welcome us into his love; well, wouldn’t you want this God to exist?  This God is true; we should want to know Him… He is so beautiful.”

_____________________

For more on the Trinity from Michael Reeves you can listen to his 22 min. podcast called “Delighting in the Trinity.”

Michael Reeves (@mike_reeves) is an author and the theological adviser for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) in the United Kingdom. He oversees Theology Network, a theological resources website, and was formerly an associate minister at AllSoulsChurch, Langham Place.

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trinity III
Part II, summarizing Michael Reeves clips on the Trinity includes messages 4 through 6:

“Trinity Shapes Our Prayer Life”
“Trinity and Our Evangelism”
“Trinity and Christian Assurance”

#4 Trinity Shapes Our Prayer Life

n. Abba.  Aramaic.  “Daddy,” “dear Father,” “papa”; a term of endearment… a more intimate expression than the normal Hebrew word for “father” (av).

Normal Christian prayer is a rich fellowship with all three persons of the Trinity together.  Jesus says to his friends, when you pray, pray like this, “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9).  He means we get to approach the Father as his dearly loved children, just as the Son himself does. The Son brings me before his father and the Spirit of the Son enables me to cry what the Son himself has always cried, “Abba, Father.”  That’s what’s going on in Christian prayer.

The Spirit is the wind in the sails of my Christian prayer making me say what the Son has always said—and saying it with the Son’s own confidence. I’m brought into the rich fellowship of Trinity; there, not to address some distant potentate, but to address the Almighty as my Abba.

#5 Trinity and Our Evangelism

Who God is makes all the difference to the gospel we proclaim.

Let’s just imagine that God is essentially just about ruling.  For an eternity he’s not been about relationship.  He’s just been about power and that’s it.

What would the gospel be?  He’s the ruler; we’ve broken the rules, but maybe he’ll forgive us somehow.  The good news is I get to be brought back under his rule?  But if that’s the gospel, all the relationship I get to have with him is, I get to live under the ruler as an accepted citizen.

But with this God, it’s very different.  This God does not want us merely to be an accepted citizen, He wants to embrace me with the love he has for his Son.

Jesus says something extraordinary in John 17:23 about those who will believe on him through the Word (v. 20) “Father, you have loved them, even as you’ve loved me.”  That’s the gospel we can bring to the world!

#6 Trinity and Christian Assurance

If God were different, I’m not sure we could have any assurance before him at all.  If God is simply the heavenly master, what confidence could we have before him?  If we’re simply his slaves, why wouldn’t he cast us off if I ever offend him?

But this God is very different.  With this God, the Spirit unites us to his Son.  Paul says, again and again, that Christians are those who are “in Christ”; and therefore, we are Sons of God the Father.

The Father could never ever weaken or cool in his love for his Son, let alone ever send his son away.  If we’re in the Son, he’ll never send us away.  Embraced by the eternal love of the Father, Christians are most safe in the Son.

AND… we’re the Father’s gift to the Son.  He won’t let us away.  Likewise, the Son makes us his gift, returning our keeping to the Father and he promises he’ll never let any be snatched out of his hand.

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For more on the Trinity from Michael Reeves you can listen to his 22 min. podcast called “Delighting in the Trinity.”

Michael Reeves (@mike_reeves) is an author and the theological adviser for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) in the United Kingdom. He oversees Theology Network, a theological resources website, and was formerly an associate minister at AllSoulsChurch, Langham Place.

 

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Trinity – Part III

Trinity VI
Part III, summarizing Michael Reeves clips on the Trinity includes messages 7 through 9:

“Discovering Trinity in My Life”
“Trinity and Christian Unity”
“Uncovering the Trinity in John 17”

 

#7  Discovering Trinity in My Life  

John 17 is a brilliant place to spend a lot of time if you want to think about the Trinity, if you want to think about the love of God, if you want to think about the love of God for us

In John 17, we see something really very special—we see at length, God the Son coming before God the Father.  We see a conversation within the Trinity happening and amazingly the conversation is about us!

We hear about the Father’s great love for the Son and the Son’s great love for us, and that we, being filled with their love, might love each other.  The hearing of such love is the way our hearts will be won to love this great God.  It is really a peak into the Holy of Holies, seeing into the very heart of God.

#8  Trinity and Christian Unity 

Jesus prays in John 17, that all who believe in Him “may be one, Father, as we are one.”  He’s asking for believers to be united.

Now if God were not three persons united in their great love for each other, then that oneness would probably mean being all the same.  That’s what we see in cultures dominated by a single-person god, like Allah.  Under Islam different cultures are brought to be identical, all brought to be the same.

With this God, different people are affirmed in their created differences, but can still come together in unity.  Now, at the heart, we’re talking about the Church, but here is the hope for the world.  With this God, male and female, black and white, introvert and extravert can all come together—not to try to be the same—but to be united in love.

This God is the hope for world peace.

#9  Uncovering the Trinity in John 17

In my early days, I believed that God had saved me, which was wonderful, but still for all he’d done for me, I don’t think I really loved Him.  I was grateful to him, but I didn’t really find him attractive.  I didn’t want to be with him. 

Then, I saw things like Jesus saying to his Father, “I’ve given them the glory that you’ve given me.”  And I saw, here is a God who finds his glory in giving.  He’s not a selfish God who hoards his life.  He’s all about giving it away as he showed us at the cross—that supreme moment of his glorification. 

And so I saw, here’s a God who’s so generous, so kind, kind to me as a sinner.  I saw, he’s offering more than salvation, he’s offering himself.

With such a kind God, I want him.

_____________________

For more on the Trinity from Michael Reeves you can listen to his 22 min. podcast called “Delighting in the Trinity.”

Michael Reeves (@mike_reeves) is an author and the theological adviser for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) in the United Kingdom. He oversees Theology Network, a theological resources website, and was formerly an associate minister at AllSoulsChurch, Langham Place.

 

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