Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Annihilationism by Benjamin B. Warfield

Here's a good article on the topic of Annihilationism by B.B. Warfield. Annihilationism, aside from being hard to type and not appearing in spellcheck application, is the teaching that Hell means destruction for a non-believer, not eternal, conscience torment. I was introduced to this idea a by a work called "Two Views of Hell" that my Dad used to own, and I've been strongly convinced that this viewpoint is consistent with scripture. I'm linking the Warfield article here, but I'd recommend the "Two Views of Hell" book, which is actually a theological dialog of both sides of the issue.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ruth 3:7-9

I've always found this particular portion of Ruth a little strange, where Ruth uncovers the feet of Boaz:

Ruth 3:7-9 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. "Who are you?" he asked.
"I am your servant Ruth," she said. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer."

I recently listened to Ruth again on MP3, and this one had me curious. I did a little research, and also asked a Rabbi about any meaning behind "uncovering feet", and his comments were basically that there's really nothing more to read out of this than, when you uncover your feet at night, you get cold and you wake up! The passages sort of support this, too: something startled Boaz and he woke up (no doubt, having chilly feet added to a sense of alarm) and then the text continues. Nothing like waking up startled with cold feet!

Curious thing is, I always sleep with my feet uncovered, so not sure how this verse would work for me, heh, but all the same, this was just one of those minor things I've wondered about in my study of the Word. The book of Ruth is a beautiful book of the Bible and paints a very beautiful image of romance within the cultural context of Old Testament Israel, and also reveals how, through this union the lineage of David would be established, and ultimately, the Messiah.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Matt. 7:1-6

I didn't get to church Sunday due to a flat tire (I didn't want to drive the fam with a donut on the van) so here are last week's sermon notes, when Pastor Paul spoke on the infamous "judge not" passage of the gospel account of Matthew. Past Paul pointed out how this is one of the most abuse/abused passage in our post-modern culture, in which there are no absolutes. This is frequently taken out of context and used as a stick to beat back Christians. But the text is actually not saying do not judge, but rather, don't judge hypocritically. If you know the law and don't follow the law, and then judge someone else in regards to what the law says, you judge hypocritically. In our post-modern society, the modern world does not want to be challenged in their beliefs and practices, and, ironically, once given a judgment, the world replies with "you're being judgmental and harsh" (basically, evidencing hypocrisy in return.)

Pastor pointed out some of the recent examples from the headlines, such as the AIG folks testifying before congress. Basically, the spotlight was put on these corrupt executives and their spending, while at the same time the congress is just as guilt of spending ridiculous sums of money that it doesn't have. I thought this was an excellent parallel of modern-day hypocrisy in our own time.

Nominal Christians were also addressed in the message - those individuals who abide by the name Christian yet who live by a pattern of life that is immoral. They need to hear the word hypocrite, as a judgment being made against those who claim to be believers but don't evidence it in their walk. Shepherds (elders) are called to judge wolves in their flock, and in today's churches there is often (sadly) very little actual church discipline or accountability.

The text speaks of "why do you see the speck in your brother's eye".... in other terms, pride. You can't judge rightly with a log in your own eye, and you need to take care of your own sin's before addressing the sins of another. Another angle of this that Pastor Paul pointed out was that we tend to find something that we happen to do particularly well, and we judge everyone else by that standard (in other words, name an area you happen to be strong in, and judge everyone else by that.) This is just as much an example of hypocrisy.

We are all obligated, out of love for others, to help them out of their sin. And if you proclaim the gospel to others and the reaction is an adversarial one, do not continue to give the pearls of the gospel to be trampled. You're obligation is over, and you don't have to continue to proclaim the Word to those who reject. The Sadducees and Pharisees heard the gospel then turned and condemned Christ. If the gospel is rejected, we should pray for those who reject the message.

I thought the last part was one of the most convicting to me, and one of the most difficult: it's hard to get to the point where, when the gospel has been shared and rejected, to just accept this and move on (especially when this is in regards to a close friend or family member.) But at this point, the matter is in the Lord's hand, and our responsibility really becomes to pray for the lost friend or family member, that the Holy Spirit will draw them back to repentance and belief.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

John Calvin's 500th Birthday

It's intesting (and a little unusual) to read about John Calvin in, of all places, the AP, but in Yahoo! news there's a collection of John Calvin images in a slideshow. Calvin, in addition to being a principle figure historically in reformed theology, also wrote a remarkable collection of works that I wish I had more time to read and study (namely his commentaries.) Remarkable theologian (but mistaken on his views of credobaptism.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Matt. 6:25ff

Last week Voddie spoke on Matt. 6:25ff and I never got around to recording my notes and thoughts on these passages. The message addressed "anxiety" and the thought behind this is that anxiety, contextually, is not always bad or sinful, and this helps in establishing the context of Matt. 6. Throughout Paul's teaching, there are usages of the term "anxious" (I Cor. 7:32, Phil. 2:20) in which the usage of this term is not sinful (with the I Cor. passage, the teaching is that the unmarried man is "anxious" in a positive sense about pleasing God.)

Voddie also talked about some of the distorted teaching of this day and age, namely the "prosperity gospel" that distorts Christianity into health, wealth, and material things all as a sign of blessing, or more specifically, redefining our purpose as existing to acquire things (as told in books like "The Secret" and other works aimed at nominal Christians.) The false teaching here is that God is little more than a genie listening to us, granting us whatever we like. Our mainstream culture is anxious about getting "things", when Christ taught the exact opposite. And beyond just things, the thinking can also extend into marriage, that finding the perfect partner will be the satisfying end (until the point that the person says, "they don't satisfy me" [in an eternal sense, they never will]).

Verse 27 speaks about how anxiety is unproductive, and how, as an example, anxiety in a marriage relationship can be compounded, or unnecessarily multiplied (e.g. spouse is upset over something, husband isn't, wife expresses concern that husband "doesn't care", etc, etc..) This is a good point, and I think it really hit close to home for a lot of people (self included... :)

He also pointed out that anxiety is ultimately a symptom of faithless self-reliance. Verse 28 speaks about how God has given us life, and yet we still do not believe that God can meet our EVERY need, no matter how insignificant. The false distortion of this is that if you see God's kingdom that he'll give you treasure and riches. As Voddie pointed out, you don't do "A" to get "B". You do "A" and don't worry about "B". At a very basic level, this text is talking about God's provisions of clothing and food (the basics) and not gold, jewels, sports cars, mansions, etc. God will see to it that you have food and clothing. I'm reminded of another message on this text, too, that talks about the DAILY reliance that we should have on God for provisions of food and clothing. It's not something to pray about once, but rather daily, as the Lord's prayer states, "give us this day our daily bread", which implies a daily reliance of God to provide for us.

Statistics show that one-half to two-thirds of the world live on roughly $2 a day. In light of the "prosperity gospel" of seeking spirituality for wealth and treasure, are we to assume that those in this poor population are not "seeking the kingdom"? Of course not. Americans are incredibly blessed and wealthy people, and this wealth can also be an incredible burden (and ultimately, an interference between us and God.)
To me, so much of this text brings home to me the message in works such as "Imitation of Christ", that talk in great detail of our sanctification by avoiding the material of the world to grow closer to God. Things of the world tend to be a hindrance in our walk, and there is considerable blessing in simplicity.

The text of Matt. 6:25ff should not be abuse: this is not endorsing a "prosperity gospel" that we should seek to grow closer to God in order to gain material "blessings." Rather, this texts speaks of reliance on God to provide for our basic needs such as food and clothing, and gives instruction to avoid fruitless, godless anxiety, which is nothing more than faithless self-reliance. Trust in God and know that He will provide for your needs.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Message Bible on MP3 and unnecessary intermission segments

I've listened to several books of the Bible in the Message translation on MP3, and aside from some silly translations in the Psalms it's not bad. It does have me hungry, though, to hear the Word again but in a more mature translation, such as the NKJV or NASB.

One thing completely unnecessary, though, are these sappy intermission segments between books read (and written by?) Carol Nix. There's nothing to glean from these whatsoever, and as I've been transferring the books of the Message translation, I've been deleting these. Ironically, they are by Carol Nix, and I've been nixing these from my MP3 player...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

More thoughts on Matt: 6:19-24 and treasure on earth

I'm still kicking around the message in my head from a few weeks ago, about Matt. 6:19-24 and Christ's teaching about not building up one's "treasures on earth." Pastor played down the angle of the Christian possessing wealth with the (somewhat tired) expression of "there's nothing wrong with a Christian having wealth", which unfortunately I've heard from a few too many pulpits over the years, and each time I hear it I have trouble with it. In a way, it feels as if the teacher is trying to appease the token rich person/people in the audience, or it could just be a type of spiritual complacency towards Christian wealth possession, as if this, if anything, is just one of the "lesser sins". I dunno. My struggle is, if anything, taking for granted the DESTRUCTIVE power that money has in a person's life (my own life is no exception. I'm dirt poor and saddled with plenty of debt, but that doesn't mean that the world of the material doesn't hold sway on my heart and hinder the progress of my own sanctification. Don't even get me started in dreaming about some of the cool stuff they have at Frys...)

Anyhow, let me try to break out my thoughts out this a little more, in my own reasoning, at least. When a pastor says that "there's nothing wrong with a Christian having a lot of money," to me this is similar to saying, "There's nothing wrong with a Christian who wants to live on snake island" (with the number of venomous snakes directly proportional to the amount of earthly wealth.) Is there anything wrong with living on snake island? In and of itself, no. But the greater the number of snakes, the greater the likelihood that the individual can get struck, and venom can infiltrate one's life. Wealth in abundance can sometimes be like a venom: corrosive bodily and potentially lethal. But the snakes may never strike, and the venom may not be an issue. But the RISK factor is there.

It's not my intention to judge or condemn here: a believer with great wealth has a type of blessing from God (I do NOT believe that wealth is always a blessing though. I've been MASSIVELY blessed in my own life, and I have been and remain to this day dirt poor financially.) I'm breaking this down because, frankly, I've been kicking around in my own head how I'd ever handle great wealth if God brought this into my life. Say my web comic is picked up by a major studio (don't laugh, it could happen.... ok, it won't ever happen) but say I'm introduced to wealth - how would this translate into my walk? What does wealth do to the heart of a believer, and is it's influence ultimately more corrosive than anything? Is it more of a blessing to NOt receive wealth? What was Jesus really getting at in his message in Matt. 6 (and in other texts, such as when he tells the rich young ruler to sell what he had and give it all to the poor. Why does something like that seem so unthinkable this day an age?)

Just some pondering lately. Happy 4th. May God continue to bless this nation.

Friday, July 3, 2009

How to read the Bible easily in a year

One of my resolutions for the year was to read the entirety of the Bible this year, and I just recently finished it. This is how.

1) Find a cheap MP3 player. You don't need to get a top of the line iPod thing, but you can easily pick up a half-decent MP3 player at Walmart for around $30. I've got an old Coby MP3 player that I've been using for a long, long time (I've had to purchase more memory, as one of my cards died recently, but memory isn't expensive.) The player will likely have a couple of gig built into it. I think the ESV required about 4 GIG, so I only loaded up about half of it, and then once finished, deleted it and loaded the second half.

2) Pick up a copy of the Bible on ESV. You can get a relatively inexpensive copy of this from Christian Book Distributors for about $11.

3) Start doing dishes and cleanup and laundry at night, and put on the MP3 and headset and listen away. I've found that, while doing chores, my brain just recycles nonsense, news, politics, or old television theme songs if I don't feed it with something, so having a steady stream of the Word has been a wonderful blessing. There is such a richness to listening to the Bible, and since chores take up part of every day, why not multi-task and include the Word with it?

This system has worked for me, and I was able to finish the entirety of the ESV from Jan-June, and now I'm listening to the Message tranlation on MP3 (it's a little cheesy at times, but the translation actually did an excellent job with how it described the reign of Josiah and his destruction of the false gods from the land.)

MP3 player + the Bible + chores = a good way to multi-task and grow in the Word.