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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

If You Happen to Get Bored . . .

I am oft aware of the reality that what I write or contribute to my blog can be boring or appear irrelevant to you. Therefore, I have added a feature to my simple blog called "links". I know, wow - he knows how to put up links! Though I am technically deficient and blogically (there is no such word) stunted in acquisition, I have made these links available for two reasons: I love them, and I think you might enjoy browing through them. That way, when you get bored, there is something even then for you. Hope you enjoy. (By the way, if you haven't seen them, they are on the right side of the page.)

Friday, April 29, 2005

Well Said

The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music, and those who want to squander the church's resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to stanch the flow of blood that is spilling from its wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common." David F. Wells God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 30.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Jesus My Glory

O LORD GOD, Thou hast commanded me to believe in Jesus; and I would flee to no other refuge, wash in no other fountain, build on no other foundation, receive from no other fullness, rest in no other relief. His water and blood were not severed in their flow at the cross, may they never be separated in my creed and experiences; May I be equally convinced of the guilt and pollution of sin, feel my need of a prince and saviour, implore of him repentance as well as forgiveness, love holiness, and be pure in heart, have the mind of Jesus, and tread in his steps. Let me not be at my own disposal, but rejoice that I am under the care of one who is too wise to err, too kind to injure, too tender to crush. May I scandalize none by my temper and conduct, but recommend and endear Christ to all around, bestow good on every one as circumstances permit, and decline no opportunity of usefulness. Grant that I may value my substance, not as the medium of pride and luxury, but as the means of my support and stewardship. Help me to guide my affections with discretion, to owe no man anything, to be able to give to him that needeth, to feel it my duty and pleasure to be merciful and forgiving, to show to the world the likeness of Jesus. (Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions).

He Does All Things Well

Riding home this morning from work, I had this thought and verse on my mind: "This is My Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16). The Father is well-pleased with His Son. Jesus came and lived and died, and His sacrifice was well-pleasing to the Father. He accepted the sacrifice for sin because it was a perfect sacrifice. The Father loves us because He loves His Son, and through His Son, and in Him alone, we experience His love. We are not entitled to His love because we are good or because we earned it somehow by living the Christian life in such a way that he takes notice and sets His affection on us. No, He loves us and sets His affection on us because of His free choice and nothing else. Jesus said that He knew who were His, and we can rest in that sure foundation. And Jesus lives the Christian life well, so well "they named it after Him" as one person has said. So why are we trying to live the Christian life? Is that what we are supposed to do? So many weary souls. So many restless striving. Working. Trying to be committed Christians. Striving to be pleasing to God. Yet all these are done well and acceptable only through Jesus. We agree that Christianity is NOT something that you DO, but it is something Christ has DONE, and we apply that to becoming a Christian. But why is limited to that? It's like Christ saves us, and then it is up to our resolve and self-determination to "do better" that makes us in close relationship to God. I assume to give up trying to live the Christian life. God never intended me to live it anyway. Why am I so preoccupied with myself, thinking that my sacrifices are worthy of the LORD? Maybe that is what I have been taught. Yet Jesus does all things well. He did it well when he spoke this world into being, when He formed man in His likeness, when He before time planned out salvation for HIs people. He did it well while He walked on this earth 2000 years ago, and has continued to throughout the history of the Redeemed. Why should I not think He could do all things well in me? For He can, and He will. "It is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). So I come to lay it there. I confess that my best Christian performances are shams. My spiritual accolades are but dung heaped upon the idol of SELF. My restless pursuit of trying to be acceptable to God are undermining the finished work of the cross which speaks perfection over this guilt-ridden, sin-stained soul. "As though you have never sinned" the blood speaks to me, and yet I pretend like it doesn't cover me! So Jesus speaks sweetly to my soul, saying, "I have done it well, and will do in you." And why should I, one might ask, have Christ as my life? Because it is He whom the Father is well-pleased. No one else will do. No one else can do. Therefore I conclude this morning with these words in my mind: "It is well, it is well with my soul." Why? Because He does all things well. Yes, even in me. To Him who is the source of our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30), to Him who works salvation effectively on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:18), and for Him who is supreme over all (Colossians 1:16-18) I cry, "Soli Deo Gloria!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

On Dealing With Doubt

Doubt is a reality for most, I dare say all Christians. I want to make a few comments on this by means of exposition followed by an exhortation. I hope that all believers in Christ Jesus who read this will find assistance in dealing with doubt. Exposition: While I know that there are some great evangelists out there today, I also know that many popular preachers/evangelists are what I call "push-button preachers" who are known for their bag of tricks what I call "gospel gimmicks." These tactics are used especially in dealing with a Christian dealing with doubt. Such verbage of "nailing down your salvation" is often attributed to provide assurance. Some gimmicks include phrases such as, "I would rather be saved twice and die lost," "If you are 99% saved, you are 100% lost," "You might die tonight, so you better come forward now and be 100% sure," and so on. I actually have created a list of my most awesomely bad gospel gimmicks (totally 15 right now), and it is important for believers to know that these are engineered techniques designed to achieve "results", therefore validating their effectiveness in ministry. However, this could not be more harmful for the doubting believer. Second, there is the idea of eternal security which says that as long as you have prayed the "sinners prayers" or walked down the aisle has settled the matter of heaven for you. Salvation is the "get-out-of-hell free" card that has your named assigned to it. The only problem is that Christianity is more than just "missing hell." There is no assurance for this type of evangelism, so doubt is appropriate if one has such an experience. Thirdly, there are two main ways of understanding salvation. There is the theocentric (God-centered perspective) as well as anthropocentric (man-centered perspective) that determines on what basis your trust is in. Let me explain via comparison (T for theocentric and A for anthropocentric). T focuses one's salvation on the basis of God's revelation to that individual; A focuses on man's response to that revelation. T believes that it is Jesus who saves; A believes that it is your faith that saves; T says that faith is granted to the believer by God; A says that faith is something you have and use at your own free will; T's basis for salvation is God's declaration (justification) of a guilty sinner righteous; A's basis for salvation is the sinner's experience. T's is grounded in God's character; A's is grounded in man's free will; T says salvation is monergistic (God only accomplishing salvation); A says salvation is synergistic (God plus your free will accomplishing salvation); T declares that God is sovereign in salvation (sovereign choice); A says that man is sovereign (man's choice). That is just for starters, but you begin to see the difference. In Conclusion, doubt is often the result of trusting in one's personal experience rather than the character of God and His declaration of justifying a guilty sinner. God is faithful in spite of one's faithlessness, and therefore, your salvation, if it be grounded in God, is as sure as God is, not on your performance or religious devotion. Many feel that they have to repeat walking down an aisle, getting re-baptized, and praying prayers in hopes of alleviating the doubts. Yet this approach, I submit, is the wrong way of dealing with doubt. We should not focus so much on our response (as fickle as we are!) but rather God's revelation. God discloses himself to an individual by drawing them and bringing them to a saving knowledge of Him. While some may remember a definite time and place they were saved, it is not necessary to have a congnizant recollection of the time and place for an individual to be saved. This may sound controversial, but were you totally aware of what was happening to you when you were physically born? It was only later when you realized that you were a living being, through appetite, through development, through increasing awareness, etc. Exhortation: True eternal security comes not from a one-moment-in-time assurance guarantee but persevering the faith. The Bible clearly says that all believers will persevere to the end. Some say that if salvation is monergistic and not based on our free-will, then that let's us off the hook. This could not be further from the truth!!! You see, now that God is in you, He will cause you to will and work according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). We are called to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling," and to "make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). Doubt can actually serve to accomplish this goal, if you understand that your salvation and trust in God is grounded in God and His sovereignty, not your ability or experience. So many people, I am grieved to know, are trying to have another experience or feeling that would secure their salvation or give them confidence. Yet, this confidence would only be as real as one spraying water out of a hose up in the air and thinking God is sending you "heavenly rain." So if you are reading this, and you have or now experiencing doubt, press on to know the Lord (Philippians 3:12-14). Test yourself and examine your life to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), and the way the test is answered is not if you are a good person, had consistent devotional life, or memorized the Bible, but whether God is IN YOU. For if He is there, then you must know that He will work mightily to bring to completion the good work that He began in you (Philippians 1:6). As Paul said, "I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is within me" (1 Corinthians 15:10). So I leave you with this exhortation: Flee to Jesus. Cast yourself upon Him. Press on to know Him. Rest and be settled in His Word. Refuse to hear the words of man who are pushing buttons and pulling out their box of tricks. They want numbers in their church, but God already has your name. Persevere and be at peace, my friend, and sing with me the glorious hymn: My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus' name. When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil. His oath, His covenant, His blood Support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay. When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found; Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne. On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand. Amen and Amen. Free will - sinking sand. Your experiences - sinking sand. Your feelings - sinking sand. Your performance - sinking sand. Christ Jesus and His righteousness which you are clothed - Solid Rock. So next time they come pushing the buttons, tell them, "Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

No Gloss from Os

The air is abuzz with the future. The "coming church" and the "emerging church" are everything. The talk is all of new ways of "doing church" through reinventing, revising, innovating, borrowing, mixing, and experimenting. Everything now has to be "intentional" and "on-purpose." Ministers are not longer theological authorities but the "chief story-tellers" and "facilitators of a joint spiritual journey." "Dysfunctional churches" that are not "attuned to the world" are "reinvented for the present age" in a myriad of "intentional" ways, all with their "value propositions" clearly specified and their "measurable outcomes" clarified in advance. Music and worship services are designed for audiences and congregations were "specialized niches on music sales charts" or the newly discovered fruit of demographic research. . . . Is the church ours to reinvent, or is it God's? Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 64.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Piper, John. The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God. Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2002. 400 pp. $14.99. This book is quickly becoming the theology book of the 21st Century to change your life. This book is the 2nd in a series of three by John Piper to explain what he calls 'Christian Hedonism'. I know that there have been some to call him a 'hyper-calvinist' in an attempt to scare people away from his writings. But to say that would be equal to saying that some who reads their Bible is a 'hyper-christian'. Surely there is substance that will enlarge your appetite for what God delights most supremely in, unless of course you have predisposed yourself to not see it. A pleausre to read. Posted by Hello

Moving On

It has been almost two weeks since I have made a post. I have used this time to reflect on the past month of blogging and how it has affected my life and others close to me. Due to the high volume of criticism (which I welcome), I felt that I needed to take a step back and let the inflammatory comments fade. It is my desire to salvage this blog for those who have interest in reading and responding to the content therein. It has never been my desire for this to be an attack medium to challenge people's character or create sides. It is clear, however, that this had been the result. After seeing and experiencing the hurt in people very close to me, I have debated whether to completely take this blog off and start all over, and I am ready to do that, if that is what has to happen. I hope, however, to continue to post comments in hopes that the unvoiced majority who read the comments can share in the readership. Unfortunately, due to my "Via Negativa" blog, there has been a concentration of folks from Athens, AL who have rallied together, or so it seems. The result was a them vs. me thing, one of which I hate, not for the least of which reasons is that I consider myself to be good friends with them. However, I understand that many, if not most of you who read this blog no nothing of the relationship between me and Athens, and so I would rather not have to explain nor bring it up. It is simply unnecessary. For the readership at large, and the hopes that others will be engaged in discussion, I have chosen to resume posting, believing that the discussion is much greater in scope than those in Athens and myself in Louisville. On a concluding note, as JCC has surfaced the point that the Via Negativa post proved to make. By the very onslaught of criticism, there is progress. The very thing that was sought to be criticized has, in effect, been accomplished through your criticism. The post served the purpose well to make the point that we Christians must be held accountable to what we think and profess, and resistance thinking and thorough probing of the issue is a sure way to accomplish that end. Nevertheless, I hope to move on. There are many things that my heart pants about and my mind is provoked over to let the temporary derailment hijack the future prospects of this meager blog. For those of you have made my blog a link on your webpage or blog, I want to say a special thanks. I hope that the interconnectedness can result in a greater synergistic effort to bring illumined minds and enravished hearts to think and pant after God. And for all of you who have silently and actively chosen to take the time to read this post because you believe in it, I pray that you will find sufficient and satisfying bread to keep you hungering for more truth, more honesty, more holiness, and more authenticity as we journey this life together.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

For Those Who Would Comment (A Reminder & Request)

I am aware that unless you have an account with Blogspot, you have the option of signing your name either mine (timmy . . .please don't), anonymous, or something else. All of you who have commented on blogs I want to say thank you. Thanks for taking the time to share thoughts and use this blog as a table for transparent and candid thought. The only problem I am having right now is knowing who you are because all of you show the "anonymous" default name. If you could do me the favor, at the close of your comment, simply put your first name (you don't have to put your last name but can if you wish) and maybe an email address under your name, that perhaps we can email each other. I truly appreciate your ideas and feedback whether affirmative or critical and hope that we can pursue truth as pilgrims in our theology, thought, and life and in doing so represent Jesus well. Thanks, Timmy outpostministries@yahoo.com Oh, and by the way, if you don't know me personally and are commenting, it would be great to email me at the address above that I may know a little about you. Hopefully, you can consider me a friend and all of us pursuers of truth in the context of God's glory.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Via Negativa: The Way of Progress

Thomas Aquinas used the practice of via negativa ("by way of negation") to define something by stating what it is not. Instead of affirming something positively, he identified something by reducing the possibilities of what it could be by negating other possibilities. I know and am aware that there are some people who read my blog and wonder if I am a "grumpy old man" in a 26 year old body. You think that I am critical all the time, negative to the core, and can't find the good in every situation. I understand that perspective. But I would venture to say that those who know me can attest quite the opposite to be true. I enjoy life and have a great time living it with others zestfully and joyously. So you might ask, why are so many of your blogs carrying a disposition so critical? My answer is simply that of Os Guiness when he says that "progress does not come without resistance thinking." What I mean is, there needs to be a check in us with everything we believe and do. Christianity for so long has been naive and played the ignorance card, and the cause of Christ has suffered greatly for it. Wolves go in sheep clothing everyday, and the sheep look at the wolf on the surface and think, "What a trendy, cool new outfit!" and fail to realize that he wants to devour them. We allow lies to come into our beliefs from the back door mixed with an appealing presentation, and we all seem to jump on board. I could go on and on with illustrations like this. I am critical in an affirming way. I use the device of "the way of negation" to produce resistance thinking for the progress of the kingdom of God. I can and will write posts that are "positive, upbeat, and encouraging" as one radio station would put it, but let's be true to the air we breathe. These are difficult days for Christ-followers. No, we are not facing persecution or imprisonment. We are facing a much great danger - heresy. False teaching and ungodly methods are going about in the name of Christ and no one is sounding the alarm. The church who should be "a pillar and buttress of truth" should be propagating the truth, not running from it. There is must for Christians to resist these days, and it seems that the door is swung wide open and our mouths are suspended in open jaw to receive any and everything that is put before us. As a result, there are no more distinctives between the believer and the unbeliever, except for our fish stickers on our cars. Is this what we are to be known for? I believe there is more than sufficient cause that would warrant me to write these posts, and book after book have chronicled them. For starters, I would recommend No Place for Truth by David Wells, and follow it up with his sequel God in the Wastelands. These took books alone provide a penetrating analysis of the current climate of evangelical Christians today. Yes, progress is needed. But it won't come from saying, "Can't we all just get along?" Get along around what? Whom? Where? How? You might say, "Why don't you just see the good in everything?" I try and I do often, and I affirm and rejoice in the truth. Yet for every time this occurs, I declare that there is 10 times as many that cause me to lament and mourn. God's messengers were once bound only to the message. We have left that message because of appeasement and conformity to our culture. We need to return to the Lord and message He left us with, regardless of controversy or criticism or stigmatizing of others. It is worth it. Trust me.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Christian Music Struggles With Creativity

This should be the headlines in all the recording studios in Nashville. Have you noticed how many bands are simply rehashing old "hits" or worship songs that came out ten years ago? I think they should place a limit on how many times a song can be reproduced. Say 15 maybe? They're getting close. Music is to be an art, an expression of one's life in response to the reality he or she faces. Yet in Christian music, what is recorded is what they know will sell, not what is new or creative. The irony behind all this is that the Christian contemporary music push came when people were saying, "Sing to the Lord a new song" in an attempt to move past the hymns of old. Now these people are working on the 26th remix of Shout to the Lord and 14th remix of The Heart of Worship. I guess they realize that their music is a trend and not grounded in doctrinal truth that will outlast popular appeal, and the only way to keep business up is to replay the song in another tempo or another key. Christian radio is so predictable, and I hope that the music is not indicative of those who hear it. Although I use to make fun of the Christian bands who imitated secular bands in their style, at least they are riding the heels of some musicians who thrive on excellence in creativity and vitality in their song. I would rather have a musician copy someone who is creative than to repeat the repetitious cheese on the airwaves today. I don't want my non-Christian friends to listen to the Christian station, lest the credibility of the message be weakened by the shabbiness of the medium. Am I only one saying "Ring my bell, ring my bell" as the diva of disco use to sing it. I love music, and I love to worship my Savior with song, yet I am having a terrible time nowadays it seems. I am not a musician nor pretend to be one. Yet I know that there are those out there who are fresh, creative, and authentic in their writing and style of music that need to be heard. I am tuning into their frequency whatever the airwaves or channel that may be. If one would go the Christian archives of top 40 hits over the past ten years, one would be surprised to see the monotony of Christian music. Come on Michael W. Smith and others. You have been around for so long. You sang in the 80's that you were searching to find "my place in this world." Today, I am now searching to find "my place in Christian music." Will you help me?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Dead People Speak Well

At the end of one of Derek Webb's songs is the phrase: i write these words from the grave ‘cause it’s the only place that i’m safe and only the dead are permitted to speak the truth I have given some thought to the meaning of this phrase, and this is what I think it means. Dead people have the freedom to speak the truth because they are not concerned about the opinions and "perceptions" of other people. They speak the truth period. They are not catering to a crowd fo popular opinion, glossing it over to maintain status-quo, water it down to not sound intolerant, nor filter it through legalistic hoops in order for it to sound traditional or orthodox. It reminds me of the words of Jesus when he commanded his disciples not to fear the one who can kill the body, but fear Him who can cast both body and soul in hell. The only authentication of the truth should come from the source of the truth - Jesus Christ. Or consider Paul when he said that he was not seeking the applause or approval of man, for if here were to do so, he would not be a true slave of Christ. Yet today, many refrain from speaking truth, for if they were to do so, it would cost them their jobs, maybe even their lives. That's why I think Webb says that the only place that he is safe is when Derek Webb is in the grave. Isn't this like what it means to be "crucified with Christ"? Truth to so many seems intolerant and offensive, and you know, "the truth is", it is. 2+2=4. You believe that? That is intolerant of the numbers 3,5, and so on. What can't the truth be something other than four? It is absolute, concrete, universal in application, and demands response. For much of my life, I have not been a dead person. I have not been in the grave, and it has not been safe for me to speak the truth. I am ashamed for much of it. Like John the Baptist, I should be more faithful to speak the truth and have my head on a platter (literally or metaphorically) than to accomodate the lies and sin that abound. What are we so afraid of? Can we handle the truth? Can I handle the truth? I pray God gives me the grace and humility to respond rightly in every occasion. In reality, I probably won't, but I am grateful that there are people who are in my life who are more concerned about righteousness, truth, and justice than kick-backs, favors, and appeasement. Can I be permitted to speak the truth? I want to speak it well, as a dying man to dying men (as Richard Baxter put it). Dead to the opinions and here-say and those who would attempt to silence the truth. Like Peter and John, may we be those who simply can't help but speak what we have seen and heard. People who are alive don't speak truth well. It is always cluttered up with mixed motives and meanings, full of double-speak and hidden agendas, surrounded by politics and personal survival mentality. "If we desire to save ourselves, we will lose ourselves," as Jesus put it. I want to lose my life for the sake of the Truth, and thereby find it for life eternal, and maybe from the grave call others to die that they may live for Jesus, the Truth and the Life.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Important Notice to the Public

I am fully aware that blogs are open the public, and I am also aware that people can use these to express dubious comments inappropriate for reasonable conversation. Therefore, I reserve the right to censor comments from those of who have no other intention other than to display your ignorance. The use of expletives and vulgar language is not necessary nor is it appropriate, given that many of those who read this blog and respond are offended by such poor choice of words. I welcome anyone's viewpoint, and anyone who disagrees or dislikes my blogs is welcome to express that - in reasonable way that is. The censorship I exercise is not one of the freedom of thought as much as it is coarseness of speech. Please understand that all are welcome, and continue to keep the comments pithy, personal, and passionate. Yet consider and use restraint when necessary for your sake and ours. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I Need Your Help (A Survey)

I am working on a paper right now and dealing with some important questions. I would like to take an unscientific, random survey of the thought of you who read my blog. If you choose to respond, please give me your personal convictions with honesty. I want to get a feel of what people today think about the issues. Here they are: 1. Do you believe that everyone will eventually go to heaven? 2. Do you have to believe in the person of Jesus Christ to be saved, or can you go to heaven just believing in God.? 3. Is the God of Christianity also the same deity as the god of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism? 4. What about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ? If they haven't heard of Jesus, will they not go to heaven? If they will go to heaven, by what means? 5. Can other religions aid in bringing someone to faith in Jesus Christ? 6. Is Christianity the only true religion? Is there more than one way to God? 7. (a) What is the content of "saving faith". (b) What is the gospel message? Thanks so much for your help. In academia, these questions have been scrutinized for the past 20 years and the focus of much debate. I am considering even making this topic the central focus of school as in a thesis or dissertation. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Ad Fontes or Mediated Truth?

Ad Fontes was a battlecry of the Reformers, especially Martin Luther. It is Latin for "back to the sources." During the time of the 16th Century, those who had believed in Christ had so deviated from the Scriptures and source of our faith that the foundations were built upon by plastic pillars. Only the priests had the right and opportunity to read and interpret the Bible. Truth was mediated through those authorized to read the Bible. Forgiveness was mediated through priests at confession. And eternal life was mediated through prayers and indulgences for those waiting in purgatory. This was Christianity - until Martin Luther went back to the sources. He went to the Bible directly and the Holy Spirit instructed and lead him into truth. He went to the writings of the church fathers and gleaned from their eminent understanding of the grassroots growth of the Christian faith. He exposed the crutches and props and deviations from the truth with his 95 Thesis on Wittenburg Door on October 31, 1517 (Reformation Day). And as result, Protestants and Evangelicals have much to be thankful for. However, I am concerned that ecclesiology (church life) is quickly going back to this mediation. For example, I hear more of Oswald Chambers today than the Sermon on the Mount, more of Rick Warren than the letters of Paul, more of fly-by devotions than long-labors into the covenant theology and pastoral letters of Moses in Deuteronomy. Evangelicals are no different from catholics on this matter: where catholics go to priests for mediation for forgiveness in confessionals, evangelicals go to books for mediation for truth in devotionals. Our devotional life is not spent in wrestling with biblical texts and "meatier" matters of Scripture. As Paul said, we prefer milk, not meat, for we are not capable of even digesting it. Furthermore, we are mediating salvation through various means, not the least of which are sinner's prayers and altar calls, thinking that if they are done, one is saved. As a result, sinners are not fleeing to Christ and claiming his righteousness; they are simply following the protocol of aisle walking or following the spiritual laws. For an article of concerning the unregenerate denomination of Southern Baptists, I confer this submission: http://www.founders.org/library/elliff1.html So there is the plague of second-hand truth, prefabricated best-sellers as theological manuals, and church growth techniques as mediation for salvation. I am sure that there are other forms that will arise and even some I am not aware of. I am also sure that those who rely on devotionals and church growth strategies are of sincerest of intentions; but when are we going to realize that what works is not always right? When are we going to see that truth is mediated only from Christ? There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. The veil was torn, and it is time that we live like it. Access to the Father comes through His Son and His sacrificial death. It is my prayer that these truths are realized in the lives of believers who confess Christ. May it not take another Luther or Reformation to wake the sleeping giant to return to the sources.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Am I the Only One Having Mixed Feelings About the Passing of the Pope?

Let me explain. First, let me say that Pope John Paul II has made a tremendous mark on Christianity in the 20th century. By all he has been caricatured as a man as a gentle giant, kind to all, and home with kids and young people yet intimidating to kings and presidents. There is much that is to be said of the quality of life he lived and the good done, but I am having mixed feelings about his passing and wondering if anyone else is too. Here are a few reasons for my mixed feelings: 1. My first thoughts was, "Is he saved?" I keep on hearing the cardinals calling on the people of the world to pray that God would "accept him into his kingdom", as though salvation is not secured by Christ. Could it be that the Pope not be in heaven? Is salvation possible apart from a clear understanding of the gospel and repentance and faith to it? 2. My second thought was, "How is this passing similar to Christ's?" I mean, the world that ridiculed, mocked, beat, and crucified Christ is worshipping the pope. I am not saying that he has to be martyred or persecuted to be like Christ in this earth, but the pomp and flair and deification of this man seems to be far from the example set forth by Christ and seems to eclipse the glory of Christ in heaven with the glory of the pope here on earth. 3. Then there is the prominence or preeminence of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The pope himself attributed everything he did in the papacy to Mary in worship to her. From direction and leadership to the miraculous healing from the attempted assassination, the pope stated that he owed everything to Mary. And, the praying of the rosary continued on and on. This portrayal of Mary is a product of sentimentality and modern day feminism mingled with extra-biblical tradition and not with Christianity. The cardinals said that Jesus opened the gates of heaven to bring the pope to Mary who was awaiting him. Moving, but wrong. 4. The emphasis of inter-faith movement and pluralism has been troubling. Although I believe it is important to be conversant with other faiths (which the pope did well, especially with the Jews), according to the Bible, there is only one true faith - that is Christianity. Mingling Christ with other gods is to bring Baal into communion with Yahweh, and in Scripture, this only invoked the holy and jealous wrath of God. 5. The titles given to the pope are very troubling as well. I have heard of him as "His holiness," "the Holy Father," "vicar of Rome," and others. For instance, vicar comes from the same word where we get "vicarious" or substitutionary atonement of Christ. This title assumes that the pope holds some mediatorial role between God and the church as in Jesus. Holy Father is a title rivaling the Heavenly Father, and His Holiness is misrepresentative because there is only one Holy One, that is Christ Jesus. All these are titular examples of the deification of man and attempt to bring immortality to what is mortal, infallibility to what is fallible. Unlike the pope, Paul best known as a bondservant of Christ, a slave in chains for the gospel. These titles and their representations are dangerous and borderline blasphemous. The pope is not the head of the Church - Christ is. The pope is not the Holy Father - Yahweh is. And he is certainly not the vicar in the true sense of the word - Christ and He alone is the mediator and propitiation for the sins of man. 6. There is a heavy sense of ritualism and traditionalism in attempt to bring him at death in good standing with God. For instance, there is a perpetual mass, the administration of the sacraments, and the giving of last rites that seem to be requisites for someone passing to heaven. This assumes that there is some eternal insecurity and uncertainty of the state of the pope. Preparation for death comes from the way one lives. I am preparing for death right now, even though it is possible that I might not die for another 50 years. But if I am to die tonight, I am ready to be at home with my Savior Jesus Christ. His finished work on the cross saved, sanctified, and glorified me. He is all I need. 7. The rock-star mentality of the pope is striking. In Scripture, every time a person attempted to bow down and worship a human being, albeit Paul, Peter, or John, they quickly rebuked them and called them to worship God alone. Yet the worship of pope has brought stardom and renown to the ends of the earth, and the One True King Eternal, Immortal, Invisibile, Only Wise God is not on the stage at the Vatican. He is indirectly I guess you could say, but only in the periphery. I am not saying that the sea of faces and people flocking to him is wrong. It is great that there are so many people wanting to know the truth and worship God (at least that's what I hope they are trying to do); however, we have direct access to God and not only don't have to but are commanded to go directly to God. We don't need a temple, a cathedral, a pope, priest, or sacrament. Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King, the Bread of Life and indwells us as we are temples of the Holy Spirit. 8. Finally, where is Jesus Christ, the Famous One in all of this? I hear of Mary. I hear of the pope. I hear of the Catholic Church and its traditions . . . but where is Jesus Christ? This hurts me the most. If it is not about Him, then no death or memorial is meaningful to eternity. I have many Catholic friends and much of my family is Catholic, and in no way is my mixed feelings and concerns are to be derogatory in manner. Yet, I believe these "mixed feelings" need to be addressed, at least in mind for my own conscience's sake. We must thing in God-centered terms. Jesus is the center of the universe and should be central in our lives and thought. It is my aim in this matter and all matters to do just that.

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