He Doesn’t Control Some Things

  
That’s right.  He controls all things.  

Is a trumpet blown in a city,and the people are not afraid?  Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it? 

Amos 3:6

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 

Lamentations 3:37-39

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

And this is very, very Good News.  

The greatest comfort I can give a child of God, and I can only give it to a child of God (meaning someone who has been adopted by God through faith in Jesus Christ), is that God is in total, absolute control of your pain.   And the reason why that’s comforting for the Christian is that God promises to work all things together for the good of His elect.  

This is a God whose hand predestined the worst sin in history for His people’s rescue.  

He does no evil, but neither is He perplexed or surprised by any evil.  And He will work all things together for His good purposes.  

From the other side of Christ’s return, there will not be one moment of history, from Eden’s tree to Calvary’s Cross to Hitler’s Holocaust to Hell’s shut doors, where Satan will be able to say, “Well, at least He didn’t get to work that one out for His purposes.”  When all is said and done, God’s glory and beauty and His people’s good will be pulled from every page of history, even the bloody and awful and scary ones.  And the greatest proof of that is Christ’s bloody and awful Cross.  

Some of you who are born again and in chaos or agony need to internalize this.  

What is frustrating to the unbelieving heart is peace to believing one:  There is no sovereign but God.  

I am telling you to pray to the God who will roll up the sky like a blanket, who set the Milky Way spinning as though it were a top, who fashioned all our souls from His own creative heart.  This is not a God who will win at the last second on a Hail Mary.  I am here to tell you there is a King in the Heavens.  A King.  God is not a powerful figure with good intentions who can only do so much.  This is the King of all creation, and He is taking audiences with all who will call upon Him in faith.  

There is nothing that befalls us that is not ordained by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Keep all your gods, America.  I have met the only One who can save a man like me.  

This God is in control.

Sentences (Part 3)

  

*For previous installments, see here and here.

Brevity is a skill I’m trying to hone.  I think it’s good to be able to say something you believe to be true and meaningful plainly and in just a few words.  With that in mind, for the third time, here are a few simple theological or moral propositions I contend are true, none longer than a single sentence:

  • The natural position of a human is to see his good deeds as examples of who he really is and his bad deeds as deviations from who he really is; the God who says we are born sinners is going to take some umbrage with that.  
  • The most freeing thing in the world is not being loved for who you are, but being loved despite who you are, and that is precisely what the Gospel offers you.  
  • Doing what’s right is better than doing what’s successful; if they’re the same thing, great, but they won’t always be.
  • The more God makes a man like Jesus, the more the man will love God’s people; becoming more Christlike will always, by definition, mean loving true Christians more and more, because Jesus loves them more than you can imagine.   
  • There are virtually no new heresies, just old heresies with new publishers.  
  • Faith is thoroughly good only when the faith’s object is real and is itself good; faith in false religions and in false prophets is not a good sort of faith.  
  • God made men and women to be and do some things differently, and God is good and knows very much what is best.
  • It is impossible to depend on your having been a good person or having done good things to get to Heaven and actually get there.  
  • We do not live in a day and place that is too afraid of God; there have been such cultures, but ours is not one of them. 
  •  Under the heading of providing for our children we should include the task of praying for their salvations.  
  • It is as comforting to the believer as it is offensive to the hard-hearted that there is not one set of knees on Earth that won’t be bowing to Jesus at the end of all things.  
  • The New Testament doesn’t prescribe a form of government (unless you count the coming absolute kingship of Jesus Christ), but it does command submission to governing authorities.  
  • The hardest thing in the world is also one the most freeing:  Repentance.  

Grace, all, and happy Monday!

    Sentences (Again)

      
    A month or so ago I wrote a post simply made up of theological sentences that I held to and believed.  The idea was based (ridiculously loosely) on Peter Abelard’s classic Medieval theological textbook Sentences.  It was I think, the most read post I’ve ever had, so I figured I’d re-gift it.  

    Here are a few more theological/Spiritual/ecclesiastical sentences from the heart (via the IPhone) of yours truly:  

    • There is an almost universal temptation to assume the best possible motive for what you yourself do and to assume the worst motive for what other people do; resist that temptation. 
    • It is generally best not to trust the man who claims to know God but does not know his Bible.  
    • One of the things the Bible’s existence undergirds for me is this:  My belief that it is appropriate for entities, whether they be churches, marriages, or governments, to be built on written documents; if it’s worth having, it’s worth writing out.
    • If you are a Christian, then I can virtually guarantee that you have underestimated God’s love for you; I can do that because the love of God for His sheep in the crucified Jesus surpasses all the knowledge you could ever collect and store in your brain.  
    • Generally speaking, I don’t find it to be good to invest Christian leadership in someone who hasn’t shown (over a pretty good period of time) that he is ready to do the slow, steady work of personal holiness.
    • I know it’s a word whose definition isn’t as clear as I’d like (depending on the circle you’re talking in), but I am still more than ready to wear the label “evangelical.”
    • Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to interpret and exposit well. 
    • Evangelism can be both a dutiful hard work and an overflow of the heart; after all, the best kind of tired is joyful tired, where you’re worn out from doing something hard that you really love doing.  

    Happy weekend, all!

    60 Seconds On Heresy Hunting

      
    They’re far less frequent than the encounters I’ll have with Christians who don’t seem to care enough about truth, but from time to time I’ll end up observing (or embroiled in) a conversation with a Christian who seems to enjoy pointing out the errors of others.  Who seems to love the fight.  Truth be told, I’ve probably been that Christian at certain moments.  

    And, since it was fresh on my mind as I wait on Sarah and the kids at the mall, I’ll offer a few quick thoughts on the professional heresy-hunter, the guy (or girl) who thoroughly enjoys the hunt:

    • A mature Christian won’t run from conflict if the moment calls for it. An immature Christian seeks it out.  
    • Heaven will be boring to you if you like fights more than reconciliation.
    • It’s not discernment to call every doctrinal disagreement “heresy.”  It’s actually a lack of discernment.  You’re not a discerning person if you’re unable to tell a rainstorm from a hurricane.  Someone with good discernment is able to distinguish true doctrine from false doctrine, but he is also able to distinguish deadly errors from non-deadly ones, and is able to react to those different types of errors proportionately.  He is also able to tell the difference between what he has good Biblical grounds to be certain on and what he has simply drawn out from the Bible as the most likely conclusion.  I am certain on my Gospel.  I am not certain on my eschatology.  
    • Conviction about doctrine should have as its primary aims love for God and love for man, not love for doctrine.  I want to be deeply invested in justification by grace through faith alone, credobaptism, and the second coming of Christ because I love the triune God and the people He’s made.  I don’t want to be firm in my doctrines because I love my doctrines, and then have to have somebody remind me to leave the study so I can go talk to people or take Lord’s Supper. 

    I love truth because I love the One who is truth.  

    Happy weekend, all!

      Augustine:  Better Hopes

        
      I want to share one of the most beautiful descriptions of a conversion I’ve ever read, from Augustine’s Confessions.  It’s his brief account of 2 young men who were born again while reading as visiting guests in the house of a Christian.  

      16 centuries between us and these 2 guys.  But there’s a common thread, stretching across that time.  The same Spirit who could breathe eternal life into their sinful souls offers to regenerate us.  

      Here’s to better hopes.  

      Happy Monday!

      He spoke these words, and in anguish during this birth of a new life, he turned his eyes upon those pages.  He read on and was changed within himself, where Your eye could see.  His mind was stripped of this world, as soon became apparent.  For as he read, and turned about on the waves of his heart, he raged at himself for a while, but then discerned better things and determined upon them.  Already belonging to You, he said to his friend, ‘I have broken away from our former hopes, and I have determined to serve God, and from this very hour and in this very place I make my start.  If it is too much for you to imitate me, do not oppose me.’  The other answered that he would join him as a comrade for so great a reward and in so great a service.  Both of them, being now Yours, began to build a tower at that due cost of leaving all that they had and following You.


        

      Christian Grief

        
      Christian grief always has hope buried deep inside it.  The reason for this is that a Christian is waiting for the returning King, and the King loves him and knows him by name.  Earth, spoiled as she is, is His countryside, and He rules her, and He is coming to throw out all the monsters and tyrants, chief among them Satan and death.  

      So it isn’t that a Christian’s grief feels any less like grief.  It’s that it feels less like despair.  Martha wept fiercely not too far from the corpse of her brother Lazarus, and she did this while telling Jesus that she knew her brother would be raised to eternal life on the last day.  Martha was certain the best was yet to come for her brother, and yet she was still heartbroken that she wouldn’t see him (or so she thought) there in Bethany, there in their home again for Passover dinner.  Her sadness was intense, piercing.  It drove her to Jesus’ arm in passionate mourning.  Her sadness was great.  But it wasn’t bleak.  

      And of course Jesus grieved with her.  

      When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.  And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’  They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’  Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 

      From John 11

      A Christian has the freedom to grieve like Jesus. 

      For the Christian, hope and heartbreak aren’t like summer and winter.  You don’t make it to the one after bearing up under the long discomfort of the other.  No, for the one who knows the Holy Spirit hope and heartbreak are like seed and soil.  The one was always there, living and sprouting and taking strong root, but it was just under the surface, just beneath the blanket of the ground. 

      There’s no two ways about it:  Grief has been spun into this story.  God has allowed it.  Our fleshly father Adam and our mother his beloved Eve trusted the whispered lies of Satan, and they waved death and pain and groaning right up onto the front porch and offered them sweet tea.  Death was invited in to God’s astonishingly good world.  And Heaven grieved.  

      And then right there in Eden He told the Deciever that a Son of the woman would crush his head, though the crushing would bruise Him.  And so God the Son was bruised for us by God the Father, tortured and killed in shame for sin on a Jerusalem hill.  And Heaven grieved.  

      No two ways about it.  Grief is here in the house with us.  

      But its seat at the table is not permanent.  

      And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

      From Revelation 21

      Bear with some poetry for a moment.  

      Daylight will chase down this dusk, because the Son is returning.  And when He arrives again, and sunlight spills over the hills and puts every shadow to flight, grief’s evening is over.  God Himsef will be His people’s light, strong and bright enough to make this burning star named Sol above our heads seem to memory’s eyes to be a halfhearted firefly.  And all our old tears will find their place in a song of praise to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  

      And the  death’s last echoes will be like those of a drunken man falling down stairs.  All its power sapped, all its sting left hollow by the glory and might of God.  

      Grief is an intense thing.  I know.  But it’s also a temporary one.  

      Jesus is coming.  

      And I’ve never been much of a dancer, but if I’m given the chance I’d love to slow dance on death’s grave to Amazing Grace.

      Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’  Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’

      From John 11

      And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 

      From Revelation 21

      Sentences

         
      One of the classic medieval Christian texts was a book called Sentences.  It was by Peter Lombard, and is, I’m sure, available right now on Amazon.  As best as I can understand, having read only about it (and even then, not very much), it’s a collection of theological statements.  

        

      Well, I had a couple of thoughtful holiday days off work and a series of trips to Dunkin’ Donuts, and so I jotted down a collection of caffeine-aided theological and/or ethical statements myself over the last week or so.  Some are just restatements of smarter and older Christians, and at least one came while watching How to Train Your Dragon with my oldest daughter.

      Happy 2017, all!

      Good is when you love the right thing and then act upon it.   

      Nothing that we envy (if we envy something on Earth) is trouble-free.  

      Jesus Christ did not see through my screw-ups and foibles to the real, good-at-heart me; He saw through my good deeds and pretended righteousness to the real, self-loving and idolatrous me.  

      A Christian, of all people, is able to grieve simultaneously with deep sadness and abiding hope.  

      Faith is the means of our justification, but it is not the grounds; the righteousness of Jesus Christ is the grounds.  

      One of the best things the Holy Spirit does for a man is changing what he does by changing what he loves.  

      There is almost no less Christian of an attitude than that of complaining.  

      I don’t want to neglect doctrine and theology and I don’t want to love them for their own sake; I want to treasure them because I treasure Christ.  

      There is a kind of person who constantly points his finger at others and then complains about being marginalized, who will describe his own vocal disagreement as necessary but another person’s towards him as an attack, and this type of person is difficult to win over through argument alone.  

      One of the most surprising ways you can learn about the character of a man is by finding out what he enjoys.