Monday, December 31, 2007

Favorite Football Photo

In anticipation of Georgia's Sugar Bowl Game tomorrow, I'd like to show you my favorite UGA photo. You can clearly see the fearless mascot intimidating this poor, scared Auburn player (circa 1996). Go Dawgs!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Crummy Church Signs

For the most part, church signs do more bad than good. Or at least they just seem pathetic.

I have had a lot of fun looking at many of them at Crummy Church Signs. Enjoy.

Below is one of my personal (least) favorites.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'm a Follower of the Jesus of the Bible Interpreted Literally

On Christmas Eve I received the following e-mail from a friend of mine who lives in India. He was my Hindi tutor during our time there. Let’s call him “Ganesh,” which is a popular name in India. Can you figure out what religion he is a member of?
"God is beloved wherever whatever.......... Today God was born as Jesus in Bethlehem and all His life He loved God and His creatures. He taught us how to love God. Merry Christmas."
If you know anything about India, you probably know that it is the home of Hinduism. Based on our discussions, I know that Ganesh refers to himself as a Hindu, and in particular worships the monkey god Hanuman. Because Hinduism does not have strict boundaries and is not based on historic occurrences, it is open to accepting other religions as valid. This is one reason why some Westerners are attracted to Hinduism, which can easily morph into New Age theology.

The above note shows how insidious Hinduism can be. If you just take a cursory glance at what is written, it almost sounds nice (O.K., it has to be a very cursory glance.) Upon examination of what is really said here, what we have is pluralism.

Let’s look at what Ganesh has said. “God is beloved wherever whatever” is a clearly pluralistic statement. In other words, it matters not how you come to god. All approaches are valid. The conclusion must be that anyone can invent any means to get to god. All avenues to god are good as long as they are motivated by love.

Ganesh then recognizes Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. However, he says “God was born as Jesus.” This sounds creepily like Modalism (declaring that there is only one person in the godhead who shows himself to us in three modes) to me. Christians know that Jesus was God even before his birth. John 1:1-5 makes this exceedingly clear. This statement is Ganesh’s attempt to admit that Jesus is god, while also keeping all of his Hindu gods.

Interestingly, the remainder of Ganesh’s statement, while maybe not exactly the way we would put it, is correct. He wrote, “all His life He loved God and His creatures. He taught us how to love God.”

This may seem like a harmless e-mail to some. Despite my love for Ganesh, I find his e-mail to be evil. Why? By saying what he does, he relegates Jesus to the status of just another god or just another appearance of god. The bible clearly teaches that Jesus is the one perfect sacrifice for sins. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Ganesh terribly insults the one God when he treats Jesus as just another member of the pantheon.

Since my friend is not saved, I should expect no less. How can an unregenerate person make clear statements about God? He cannot. Orthodox Christianity is foolishness to him.

His note concerns me because so many people within the church, who claim to be followers of Christ, probably wouldn’t see too much wrong with Ganesh’s e-mail. Many churched people these days deny the existence of absolute truth. They say it is intolerant to make Jesus the only way to heaven (as if we decide what the terms are).

I’m afraid that when a person calls himself a Christian these days, it means little. The term has lost much of its original meaning. We all know that about 80% of Americans claim to be Christians. Enough said of that.

What if someone claims to be a follower of Jesus? That term is a bit better, but Ganesh could even claim the same based on his note.

What if someone said he was a follower of the Jesus of the bible? That’s even better, but a problem still remains. With so many ways of interpreting scripture out there, people can use the bible to justify almost any view of Jesus they want.

I’ve come to a conclusion. Although it is a mouthful, maybe I need to refer to myself as “a follower of the Jesus of the bible when interpreted literally.” Hmmmmm. That is a bit of a mouthful. However, with so many unbiblical views of who Jesus is (including Ganesh’s), it might be necessary.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Overcome by the Incarnation

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I am overcome by the wonder of the incarnation. More than any other passage of scripture, Philippians 2:5-8 describes the stunning sacrifice made by Jesus during the incarnation. That passage reads:

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (ESV)

Every section of the above paragraph is full of meaning. My purpose in this post is to briefly look at each section of verses six through eight. I’ll primarily do this by looking at corresponding scripture.

In verse five, Paul is exhorting his readers to strive for unity by having a mind like that of Christ. He then reminds them of what Christ did, serving as the perfect example of humility.

Verse 6a tells us, “who, though he was in the form of God,”. John 1:1-5 gives us more information about the fact that Jesus is God. John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” So as we think about the incarnation, we need to remember that Jesus is fully God. He has always existed, and has always been with the Father (except while on earth). Jesus was also intricately involved with all creation. He is the source of all light and hope for this world.

Verse 6b states, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,”. In John 14:28, Jesus says, “You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” Here Jesus plainly states that the Father is greater than he is. He does not mean that the Father has more value than he does, but that the Father’s role is above that of Christ’s. By saying this, Jesus is making clear the fact that he is not grasping for the Father’s position. Later in John’s gospel, in chapter 17:1-5, Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” In this prayer, Jesus says that he glorified the Father during his time on earth, and also accomplished the tasks the Father gave him to do. This illustrates that Jesus was submissive to the will of his Father.

In verse 7a, we learn, “but (Jesus) made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,”. Scripture shows us Jesus’ servanthood both in word and deed. In Mark 10:45, Jesus says of himself, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In John 13:1-5, during Christ’s last evening before the crucifixion, we learn, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” We learn from Mark and John that Jesus both said he was a servant and acted this out.

Verses 7b and 8a tell us, “being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form,”. We learn more about this in John 1:14. This verse says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word “form” (morphe in Greek) used by John is the same word he used in verse six. In verse six, Jesus is in the form of God. This means he was 100% God. In verses 7b and 8a, we see that Jesus was in the form of a human. This means that he was 100% man (not some sort of part-human or just a good likeness of humanity). Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. This is the miracle of the incarnation. This is extremely important to us because Jesus had to be fully human in order to take our place on the cross.

Finally, we see the most amazing part of the incarnation. In 8b, Paul writes, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” A much fuller description of the crucifixion can be found in the final “servant-song” in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The centerpiece of this song falls in verses 4-6. These three verses state, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus not only died for sins, but suffered the most humiliating, painful death possible.

As we all celebrate Christmas, may our main focus be the amazing incarnation of our Lord. We see in Philippians 2 just how much Jesus gave up in order to obey the will of His Father. The perfect Son of God, being fully God himself, humbled himself by taking on humanity. Not only that, he came as a servant. Not only that, he submitted to the worst sort of death imaginable. He did it to pay for the sins of his followers.

That is something worth celebrating.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Quote for the Day

I recently watched my favorite movie (Chariots of Fire) for about the 25th time. I love the story about Eric Liddell's racing excellence and missionary call.

At one point early in the movie, Eric's trainer and friend, Sandy McGrath, is speaking with Eric's father, Reverend J.D. Liddell. McGrath appears to be a secularist, and suggests to Rev. Liddell that Eric be a bit more liberal in his views about God.

I realize this is just a movie, but Rev. Liddell gives an amazing response about the person and character of God. Actually, considering that this appears in a movie, that makes it all the more amazing.

Rev. Liddell answers McGrath by saying, "Sandy, the Kingdom of God is not a democracy. The Lord never seeks re-election. There is no discussion, no deliberation, no referenda as to which road to take. There's one right, one wrong. There's one absolute Ruler."

Sandy replies, "A dictator you mean."

Rev. Liddell responds, "Aye, but a benign, loving dictator."

Well put, Rev. Liddell.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Unity and Galatians 1

The issue of unity within the body of Christ is a key topic that often gets overlooked in churches. If it is addressed, it is usually discussed it terms of that particular local church being united, or all the churches within that one denomination being united. Rarely do I hear talk about all Christians being united. In fact, I hear a lot more about it in the blog world (on blogs such as this, this, this, this, and this) than I do in the local church.

Is unity even important? Our Lord Jesus certainly thought it was. In John 17:20-23, He prayed, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."

I have been wondering about one thing related to this: At what point does unity end? Is there a point, and if so, where is it? It doesn't seem that God would want us to be confused on this, so where do we draw the line?

After pondering this for some time, I've come to the conclusion that we can learn quite a bit from Galatians 1:6-9. This text reads, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

When Paul writes this letter, he quickly jumps into the severe problems facing the Galatian churches. They appear to be departing from the gospel of grace that he taught them in preference for a works-based salvation taught by false teachers.

Where does Paul tell the Galatians to draw the line in this situation? He says the dividing line is the gospel. He is clear in this by repeating himself in verses eight and nine. The gospel itself is the place where they are to take a stand.

We can generalize from the Galatian situation to our current situation today. Where do we break unity? Is it over the sacraments/ordinances? Is it over church polity? Is it over philosophy of ministry? Is it over Reformed vs. Arminian theology? I don't think so.

Paul appears to be setting the dividing line, and therefore the point at which we break unity, at the gospel itself.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Will Christians Remain on Earth During the Tribulation?

Some of the questions that we hear discussed regarding eschatology, or the study of the end times, may not seem relevant to many people. However, there is certainly one question that will affect Christians some day. That question is: Will Christians remain on earth during the tribulation?

I hold to a Historic Pre-millenialist position. That's a fancy way of saying that I believe Christians will remain on earth during the tribulation. I believe the bible indicates that Jesus Christ's return will occur all at once, after the tribulation, when He comes to rule literally for 1000 years on earth.

My view is certainly not the dominant one in evangelicalism today. I have found that most Christians in the USA, whether they know the term or not, hold to a Pre-tribulation Pre-millenialist position. This position states that Jesus' return will occur in two parts. First, He will return just before the tribulation to rapture (catch-up) all Christians. Then, seven years later, at the end of the tribulation, Christ will come to earth to set up His millennial reign.

I encourage you to click here to read an excellent discussion of this topic. Although we can't be certain about this particular issue, we should at least be able to support our positions with scripture. Read and enjoy the discussion - and also read the comments (the views vary quite a bit).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This One Makes Me Think...

While at Southeastern Seminary, I had the great privilege of taking two classes with Dr. David Black. Dr. Black is one of the best professors I have ever had, regardless of content. His area of expertise happens to be Greek and New Testament.

Dr. Black's interests range wide and far. Additionally, he really lives out what he believes. You can visit his site by clicking here.

Dr. Black has some views that will challenge all of us. I appreciate that fact that he bases these on scripture. One interesting and challenging thing for me is that the Blacks do not celebrate Christmas. Why not? Their reasoning has made me think about why I do what I do at Christmas.

Click here to read the article (which is actually written by his wife) that will probably make you think about what you do at Christmas, too.

On a related topic, Dr. Black has also written about celebrating Easter; click here for that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Homeschool Family in Action...

Click here to see a great video about an amazing homeschooling family.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Beware the Jabberwock, My Son!"

The following lines come from the first two stanzas of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky," a poem written in about 1872. This poem is part of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, which is the sequel to Alice in Wonderland.

I am not much of a reader of poetry, but this is my favorite because it sounds ridiculous, is fun, and I can still tell what is going on in the poem.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

To read the remainder of the poem, click here.

In this poem, the reader is warned about the dreaded Jabberwock. I want to sound forth another warning today.

This warning goes out to all my brothers and sisters in the Christian faith who, like me, claim to be Calvinists, claim to hold to Reformed Theology, and/or claim to hold to the Doctrines of Grace (for a good, short synopsis of the Doctrines of Grace, click here).

The warning for all of us is this: let us beware the sin of pride.

As I read various articles on the internet, I see quite a bit of condescending language aimed from Calvinists toward other Christians who do not hold to our Reformed beliefs (I realize that there is also quite a bit of negative language aimed back at Calvinists, but I am not addressing that here).

The language of some Calvinists makes it sound like those who reject the Doctrines of Grace either are less intelligent or are just pig-headed. However, I know several intelligent people who claim to be Arminian, or at least do not hold to the Doctrines of Grace. Are these folks less intelligent than I am? No, they aren't. They simply have a different interpretation of scripture than I do.

Do I agree with my Arminian brothers and sisters? Well, I certainly do when it comes to the fundamental doctrines of the faith such as the trinity, the fall of man, the virgin birth, Christ's substitutionary atonement, the resurrection, the future glorification of all believers, etc.

I disagree with those who do not hold to the Doctrines of Grace. That is obvious. However, I also realize that I am not perfect in my interpretation of scripture, and acknowledge that my Calvinism does not somehow make me smarter.

As Calvinists, we need to be careful not to act like the early Gnostics. We come close to this when we act like we have some sort of "secret knowledge" that only we understand.

Let us, then, beware the sin of pride. If we are correct in our interpretation of scripture, this is only by the grace of God (as Calvinists, this should be easy for us to admit). If we are incorrect, then we're simply wrong.

Instead of dividing over the Doctrines of Grace, let's unite around our glorious Savior and His atoning work on the cross. Let's continue to discuss these issues, sharpening each other as we do.

Pride is not only sinful but is also absurd for Calvinists, since we say that anything good we have is a gift from God.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

i bible

I think most of you have seen this one. Regardless, I think you'll like (or still like) it. I especially enjoy the unique feature for Southern Baptists.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is My Daughter Going to Date?

My oldest child is almost 14-years-old. I'm not sure how that happened, but the reality is that Caroline is now much closer to going to college than she is to diapers.

I have to face the fact that she is a teenager. By the grace of God, she does not fit the stereotype of the typical moody and disrespectful teen. Actually, I think many teens act that way because parents expect them to do so.

One aspect of teen life in the USA is dating. This is almost universal in our country. Despite this, Alice and I refuse to just accept this societal norm without thinking through its ramifications.

We have searched the bible to see if we can find dating anywhere. We cannot. In fact, what we see is the parents arranging the marriages of their children. Jesus grew up in that culture. He never said anything against the arrangement of marriages whatsoever. He did make clear, however, that once a person is married, that marriage should be permanent.

Interestingly, when we lived in India we met many young people who thought that their parents should arrange their marriages. They thought this because they realized that their parents had been married for a while, had experience in marriage, and would make a wise choice. The divorce rate in India is far lower than it is in the USA; part of that has to do with the arrangement of the marriages.

Alice and I have looked at what dating has wrought upon our culture in America. The best way to put it is that it has provided practice for divorce. Many teens go through multiple relationships relatively quickly. Furthermore, teens continue to engage in pre-marital sex at an alarming rate, in large part because of dating. I see little difference in the behaviors of Christian and non-Christian teens in this area. Most teens who engage in sex do not end up marrying the person they were dating when this happened. Their breakup (if they were even together in a non-physical way) sets them up for later divorce.

What option is there today? I think the bible gives us an excellent answer for that. In the bible we read about a betrothal period that took place prior to marriage. That model could be used today like this: it would begin with the parents meeting regularly to talk things over. I would hope that the young man and woman would be given the opportunity to meet each other, and be given veto power over the marriage if their proposed spouse seems like a real dud to them. Assuming all parties are in agreement, the young man would then begin to court his future bride. This would occur with supervision so that they would not be placed in tempting situations. After a time of courting, they would then enter the actual betrothal period, which is much more serious than just a regular modern engagement.

During the betrothal period in the bible, the young woman would go to live in the home of the young man and his parents. This may have been exactly what was going on at the time Mary (the mother of Jesus) became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because things are so different in our culture, I doubt that we would have our daughters go to live in the home of their future spouses. However, I would make every effort to have our children, during betrothal, get to be with their future spouses during all different kinds of situations.

The purpose of all this is to honor God by setting our children up for the best marriages possible. Courtship and betrothal do this. Dating does not.

Of course, if all else fails, I could always get a trunk monkey (ha-ha)...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BHT, Red 40, and ADHD

God has blessed Alice and me with three children. Two of them have had life-threatening conditions, but the Lord has healed them both. Bobby had lymphoma (click here for more) and Mary had a brain aneurysm (click here).

By the grace of God, our oldest child has never had a serious illness. Caroline (age 13) has been relatively healthy for her entire life. We thank God for this.

(This is a recent photo of Caroline.)

Even with Caroline we have had to deal with some physical issues. In her case it was food allergies. Specifically, after much difficulty, we discovered that she was allergic to BHT (a preservative) and Red 40 (a coloring).

We observed from a fairly early age that Caroline would almost have a personality change after eating certain foods. She was generally a happy and pleasant small child. However, after eating certain things she would get irritable, angry, and cry for almost no reason. She would throw temper tantrums and would not want to be held. As she grew older, her reactions became more predictable. It went like this: after eating something, Caroline would get irritable, feel lousy, get a headache, fall asleep on the couch, wake up and throw up, and then feel better.

When Caroline was a small child, I was a school psychologist in public schools here in Georgia. Because of my position, I dealt frequently with children who had these same types of behaviors at school. Some of those kids actually had ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Many who we thought had ADHD probably actually did not. Now that I think back on it, I wonder how many kids who have been medicated for ADHD actually just had food allergies.

As we tried to "weed out" certain foods from Caroline's diet, Red 40 was easy to find. We just avoided the color red. We later found out that Red 40 can be found in other dark colored things as well. Red 40 is not in healthy foods; it's usually in candy, cookies, and other pre-prepared things.

BHT was more difficult to find. We eventually realized that it was primarily in items like cereal, crackers, candy, and other things that needed to last a while. BHT was not in healthy foods.

These discoveries led us to eat a somewhat more healthy diet. We are by no means health-food fanatics, but this was a necessity.

Now that Caroline is 13, she has grown out of some of this. We are extremely thankful for that. This whole process has made us aware of what we are putting into our bodies. It also causes me to ponder how much poor behavior that we see out of children is caused by what they are eating.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What is the Real Meaning of II Peter 3:9?

One frustration of mine is all of the poor biblical interpretation we see in churches. It happens all the time. I don't claim to be an expert, but the good thing is that interpreting the bible is, in general, not rocket science nor is it designed to be. What we see in churches is inexcusable.

I have written about this before, suggesting that when it comes to the bible, interpretation is everything.

One verse that I have seen yanked far out of context on a repeated basis is II Peter 3:9. This verse has been employed by many to supposedly show that it is God's will for everyone in the world to be saved. This supports Arminian conclusions about salvation.

But what does II Peter 3:9 actually mean? What is the best interpretation? Click here to find out. While you are there, check out the excellent blog "The Truth in Context."

You can also read what I have written previously about II Peter 3:9 by clicking here.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Who Actually Chose?

I was reading in my bible recently (that's not me in the photo) when I came across Mark chapter 13. This is the chapter in Mark's account of the gospel that is very similar to Matthew chapter 24. It is often referred to as the "Olivet Discourse," where Jesus tells his disciples about the end of the age.

I came to the following paragraph, verses 14-23 of Mark 13. Jesus is speaking:

"But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand."

As I was reading, I was not looking for anything in particular. However, I could not ignore Jesus' statement, "But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days."

What does this mean? It means that God has shortened the length of the tribulation for the sake of the elect, presumably so that they would not all be killed off. Who are the elect? They are followers of Jesus Christ.

I want to address one other question that the above statement brings up. The question is: What does "whom he chose" mean? Ever since the Reformation, there have been two primary answers to this question. It is, quite frankly, a simple issue. One answer says that God chose who the elect will be based up His sovereign will. A second answer says that God looked into the future, saw who would choose (elect) Him, and then he chose them.

The first answer indicates that God is free to choose whomever He wills. The second answer says that man is free to choose God if he wills. One of these options could be correct, but they cannot both be correct.

Now, when we try to interpret scripture, we must attempt to get at what the original author meant. We must avoid bringing presuppositions to the biblical text.

So, what does "whom he chose" mean? One basic principle of interpretation is that the reader should assume that the writer literally meant what he wrote unless there is a good reason to not do so. If the reader does not do this, then almost any interpretation is up for grabs. If that is the case, then we literally might as well throw out the bible and just make up our own belief system (something far too many churches are doing these days.)

A literal reading of "whom he chose" must mean that God chose the elect. The statement is clear and straightforward. This is not the writer's primary emphasis in this paragraph; he is discussing the future terrible time of tribulation. However, Mark still takes the time to point out that God chose the elect.

Let's also look at what Mark does not say. He doesn't say anything about God looking into the future to see what the elect will do. He doesn't write anything about the free will of man, or about anything man will believe or do. What is implied is that God is free to choose the elect.

Another rule when interpreting scripture is that all scripture agrees. This means that other passages must agree with this one. The passage that immediately comes to mind is Ephesians 1:3-6. In that passage, Paul writes "he chose us in him before the foundation of the world." As with the Mark 13 passage, Paul writes simply that God chose "us." This is referring to Christians, or the elect.

Like Mark, Paul in no way even implies that God looked into the future to see who would choose Him. It is simply not there. In fact, I have never been shown one place in scripture that says that God's choice of the elect is based on any future actions of man. I'm still waiting.

Based upon the writings of Mark and Paul (not to mention others), I conclude based upon a fair and straightforward reading of the bible, that God chose the elect with no strings attached. God did this "before the foundation of the world" out of his sovereign good pleasure.

This is no way negates the need for a person to repent and trust in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in order to be saved. This in no way negates the need for missions work all around the globe.

I do not claim to fully understand the will of God. Nor do I have any idea how God determined who the elect would be. However, I do trust God to do what is right because He is perfectly good, pure, and righteous.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

One Semester of Spanish - Love Song

He seems to be doing pretty well for only one semester. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

God's Healing Hand

I have made frequent mention on this blog about my son Bobby. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma this past March, underwent chemotherapy for about 2 and ½ months, and is now clear of cancer. We praise the Lord for His healing.

This was not the first medical trauma for our family. It also was not the first time God healed in a mighty way.

Along with Bobby, Alice and I have been blessed by God with two daughters. Caroline is thirteen years old, and Mary is ten. Mary has quite a story of her own.

When Mary was very young, she spiked several very high fevers that led to seizures. On at least one occasion she stopped breathing. There were trips in ambulances and visits to the emergency room. Finally, her doctor recommended that she have an MRI. I will never forget when Alice called me at work and told me that the doctor said that Mary had “an abnormality” in her brain (based on the MRI).

After an arteriogram (a picture of the blood vessels in the brain), it was clear that Mary had an aneurysm in the middle of her brain. An aneurysm is a bulging out of a vessel that causes a thinning of the vessel wall. This particular vessel should have been two millimeters in diameter. Instead, it measured nearly a centimeter (ten millimeters across).

We were told by Mary’s neurologist that when an aneurysm ruptures, the person has a 1/3 chance of dying, a 1/3 chance of becoming an invalid, and a 1/3 chance of remaining normal. We knew that God is not handcuffed by “chances,” but we also realized that we needed to get the aneurysm repaired as soon as possible.

This took place in 2000, when Mary was three.

Since we were living near Savannah at the time, we hoped that Mary could be treated in Atlanta. Her neurologist, however, suggested that we take her to Children’s Hospital in Boston. This we did.

Prior to flying to Boston, we discussed Mary’s case with one of the leading pediatric neurology specialists in the country. We were assuming that he would have to do open brain surgery to get at the aneurysm. We knew this would cause Mary all sorts of developmental setbacks, but we did not think there was any other option.

Much to our joy, we were told of a relatively new (in the year 2000) procedure that was much less invasive. Doctors could insert a catheter into Mary’s blood stream in her thigh. They would then move the catheter all the way up into her brain through her circulatory system. After reaching the aneurysm, the doctors would then insert platinum coils into the vessel to shut off blood flow. We were told that this would not cause any significant problems for Mary.

The doctors did it, and Mary is doing very well today. I still don’t understand what platinum coils are, but I’m thrilled they exist.

Alice and I give all the praise and glory to God for His healing. We realize that He could have healed Mary any way He wanted to. However, He chose to do it in a way that both magnified His glory and caused our faith to grow. Of course we thank the neurologists, but it was God who caused the technology to be invented for the surgery. It was God who gave the doctors their skills. It was God who caused the coils to work.

It was God who did the healing.

It is God who heals.

We praise Him for His generous blessings of healing upon our family.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Play the "Candidate Match Game"

I have already said that I do not care who wins the presidential election in 2008. That is a bit of an overstatement. I don't care in that I believe God is ultimately in control of who the next president will be (see Daniel 4:28-33 and Romans 13:1). I do care in that some of the candidates will try to be both more constitutional and more biblical than will others.

I do not want to imply that I am not interested in who the candidates are or in what they believe. Because I am interested, I enjoyed playing USA Today's "Candidate Match Game" (click here to play). It is a bit artificial, but in the end it is interesting to see what candidates you line up with the most closely on several different high-profile issues.

Just for the record, I am an independent who tends to vote conservative on economic and social issues. All I ask is that the person I vote for actually follows the constitution of the United States.

As for my "Match Game" results, I have played the game twice. For some reason, my results for second and third place differed each time I took it. However, I was consistent with who came in first place: Mike Huckabee.

Going in to this little survey, Paul and Huckabee were the two candidates that I liked the most. Huckabee has not vaulted past Paul in my mind just because of this "Match Game," but it has given me something to think about.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Son is 9 Today!

My son, Bobby, turns 9 today. Earlier this year we did not know if he would make it to this milestone. Click here to read his webpage.

We praise and thank our Lord Jesus for Bobby's health. As you may know, we were living in India at the beginning of this year. In February we noticed a lump on the side of his neck. The swelling grew fairly quickly on both the outside and, more alarmingly, on the inside of his neck. His airway was gradually being closed off.

Because of that, as soon as we were given the preliminary diagnosis of lymphoma, we began packing and flew home to the USA. It was about a week and a half between when we were told he had cancer and when we finally heard a specific diagnosis (Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma) back here in Savannah. That felt like the longest 10 days of our lives. During that entire time, Bobby's neck continued to swell, and his speech became distorted.

Part of me wondered whether or not Bobby would live even until his ninth birthday. Would I lose my only son? That was difficult to deal with.

However, our wonderful, faithful, sovereign, and majestic God comforted us through it all. He got us through the move back home. He held us together during the weeks of chemotherapy. He has supported us during the months of recovery. We praise God for bringing us to where we are now. Bobby is healthy and is getting his strength back. Alice and I have noticed lately that our son now has more of a "spring in his step."

Why did all this happen? We do not know. Is God faithful even during times of trial? Yes He is. Will we ever understand it all? Probably not.

What we can do is agree with Job. In Job 1:21, in response to the death of his children and loss of his livestock, Job says, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Later in Job 2, when his health fails, Job says, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"

We have in no way suffered anywhere near like Job did. However, we agree with him that God brings about suffering for our good. We also know that He plans things like this to draw us closer to Him, which in turn brings Him the most glory.

We praise and thank our mighty God that Bobby has reached age nine.