Sunday, December 25, 2005

Childlike Faith in The Child

She was a young girl, barely into her teens. Suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicably pregnant, Mary had to face a fiance who had nothing to do with the child inside her, and a society that found girls in her situation to be, at best, greatly dishonored.

He was a man of character, if not great wealth. Yet his esteem was surely tested when his young bride to be started carrying a child who was not his own. Joseph was going to do as honorably as he could, and put Mary away quietly instead of subjecting her to the harsher penalties he could have legally demanded.

They were shepherds, watching their sheep at night. Perhaps they talked about their families, perhaps the latest Roman tax increases. Maybe they spoke not at all to each other, and instead just thought about their families, or the Torah. But it was unlikely they were thinking of Messiah, or that their lives would (that very night!) be altered forever.

They were magi, wise men and astrologers watching the sky. They were of high esteem and social status, considered desirable as advisors. Yet when they saw the stars align, they knew one greater and wiser than they was near. So they packed up their camels for a journey that would bring them to the king of all kings.

Not one of these characters, so familiar to us from our Sunday School pageants, understood God's plan. All of them were tied together, though, by one little baby boy. Jesus was born in humble circumstances -- no king e'er was born in humbler to be sure. Certainly the promised Messiah would not have been born thusly: an out of wedlock birth, in a stable, with shepherds the first to worship Him.

Yet worship they did. Angels proclaimed the birth, first to Mary, then to Joseph, then to the shepherds. Angels worshipped from the beginning, shepherds and Magi from the baby's birth. This worship was informed by faith.

Mary believed the angel. So did Joseph. So did shepherds. The magi believed the star. Faith led each of them to the child, and uninformed it was. The disciples didn't know the fullness of who Jesus was, and He had spent three years trying to explain it to them. Mary, Joseph, shepherds and magi had none of this background. But they believed anyway.

Jesus commends to us a childlike faith. For these people, first to know God incarnate, their faith was certainly childlike. They had no comprehension that one day this boy would sacrifice Himself so that they each could live eternally with God. They had no idea that the babe they held, crying and hungry and happy and thirsty - like any other baby - would be the most exalted One. Their childlike faith was in this child, that someday He'd grow to be the promised One of God, whatever that meant.

The faith of these folks, simple and regal, was placed on the testimony of angels and prophecy, yet vaguely defined. But it was enough, and on that night, oh that Holy night, our savior was born and worshipped. Mary worshipped when she heard the announcement, the shepherds worshipped when He was born in a stable. The magi worshipped when they brought Him gifts. Worship and faith, hand in hand, and beautiful in their wonder.

We don't need to understand everything God does, how He does it, or why. It is enough to know He is working and to trust that He knows what He's doing. The shepherds couldn't have explained the Gospel, and the magi could not have explained His future atoning death. Mary and Joseph had no idea their son would be raised from the dead. Yet they all had faith enough to worship the savior.

In this Christmas, may we also have faith enough to worship the savior. May we have the childlike faith that doesn't demand all answers before offering worship. And may we have that childlike faith in the work, person and lordship of that small baby.

Rejoice and worship. Believe and praise. Love and serve. Jesus has come to save us from our sin. This child, oh this holy child, Christ the Lord has come!

Merry Christmas, and God bless!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

NBB Theology: Amazing Grace, How Sweet The Sound

So, we all sin, and this brings us to a debt we can't possibly pay back. Our sin brings us condemnation, but not because God enjoys sending people to Hell, but rather because He is perfectly just and righteous. Our sin is our own fault, ergo if we choose sin (i.e. we choose to go against God) then we choose our own condemnation.

That's a sad state in which we find ourselves, but we're fortunate that God is also loving. One aspect of God's love is His grace, which is "God's goodness manifested toward the ill deserving" [1]. God loves us so much, and despite our sin, that He offers us a way out of the condemnation we've chosen: His Son could pay our debt, and satisfy God's justice.

This atoning work of Christ is an act of grace available to the world. But not all who are offered this gift accept it. Which brings up the next important point.

When, at Christmas, someone offers you a gift, it's not something they "have" to do. They offer it because they love you, and want to do something nice for you (usually.) Such is grace from God. However, as with the Christmas gift, if you don't accept the gift, it does you no good. Accepting God's grace comes through faith. We don't accept grace by doing good things - as we've seen before in this series, we can never do enough good things to earn God's favor or cancel out our sin. We accept God's grace through faith. We reject God's grace by rejecting faith. And to those who reject God's grace, like those who reject the Christmas present, do not ever receive the gift and have no claim on it; they are still considered condemned by their own choosing.

Perhaps the most famous of all Bible verses says this very thing. John 3:16-17 says, "16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

Grace is offered to us though we don't deserve it. That is truly an "sweet sound" to a sinner like me. I can't save myself, but the One who can loves me enough to do so. Truly, truly amazing.

God does not want us to die condemned, but doing so is our choice. Salvation is offered to those who believe, and accept the grace offered by God. So, what is this faith by which we accept grace, and how do we exercise faith? That's the next post.

Until then,

God bless!

Have You Ever Felt Dumb?

Okay, I feel dumb, but God has a way of keeping us humble.

I'm perusing the death/resurrection story in Matthew 27 last night (hey, Christmas is all about Easter, right?) and I noticed something in two little verses that had completely eluded me for lo my 35 years upon this globe. I have a degree with a major in Bible. I'm a pastor's son. I've read the Easter stories in the Gospels inumerable times. So how in the world did this not sink in?
Matthew 27:52-53 (New American Standard Bible)

52The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;

53and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.


So, Jesus dies and is raised, and a bunch of dead people are raised and appear to folks in the city again? You'd think this'd play a much larger part in the Easter pageants, but it's treated here as an almost "oh, and by the way, dead folks rose, but no big deal." This period between the curtain being torn and the Centurion acknowledging Jesus' identity is oft missing, yet I think it's something that I'd have talked about a bit more were I a Gospel author.

We make a big deal of Lazarus, and Jairus' daughter. What's the deal here?

Anyway, just goes to show even if you study the Bible lots God still calls certain things out anew for us. Keep reading...who knows what you'll see that 'til now has been kept hidden.

God bless!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Testing Time...

Apparently, I'm not the uber geek my wife thinks I am:

My computer geek score is greater than 49% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

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Interestingly, I'm not sure I agree that my political stereotype is:
Reagan
Republican - You believe that the free market will
take care of most things, but that the
government should be there with moderate
taxation to provide for national defense and
enforcing morality. Your historical role model
is Ronald Reagan.


Which political sterotype are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
But I suppose that's better than some of the alternatives.
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Too bad on this one...my favorite color is purple:



Your Blog Should Be Green



Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.

You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.

However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.


...

And, as I found out a few days ago that I am the Tumnus character from TLTWATW, I'm in good company indeed.

So...what about you?

God bless!

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 12/21 Edition

Christian Carnival is up at The Bible Archive. The theme this week, appropriately, is Christmas. Early commendations go to Eternal Revolution's post on fighting the wrong Christmas battle - a topic near and dear to my heart, which I'll touch on again below. Another early favorite is The Marshian Chronicles' look at the date of Christmas and its decidedly non-pagan roots (also discussed here). Some people think we are really just pagans dressing up as Christians at this time of year. Hogwash. Our symbols and holidays are what we make of them, and if we're not worshipping pagan gods, the date and trappings are not pagan. Ooooh...don't get me started on this one!
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Speaking of Christmas (oh, not the "speaking of" segues again...), much conversation has been held on the idea of churches being closed on Christmas day. I've appreciated posts by JollyBlogger, Rev Ed, Parableman, and (most of all) Ben Witherington (he posts again on it here.) I'm not going to rehash all the arguments pro/con, but I will say (sorry, Ed, it pains me to disagree with you) that I don't like the idea of cancelling Sunday services because they happen to fall on Christmas this year. We don't cancel Easter services, another holiday where we often build up with all sorts of fancy to-do's through the week, so why Christmas? I understand there are good motives for doing so, but I don't see how any of them supersede the gathering of saints for worship. No, such gatherings don't have to happen on a Sunday, but some of this just feels like accomodating to the culture to me.

That being said, I think we as Christians need to ensure such dialogue stays respectful. The decision to close a church impacts other churches nearby, the community nearby, and most of all the witness of the Christian church writ large. The MSM noticed that some churches were closing, and rightfully asked why. The ensuing discussion (well, the decisions themselves too) needs to take into account how this makes the church look in a society where the church is too often looked upon as either too accomondating to the culture (so there's no distinction) or too withdrawn from the culture. We're all brothers and sisters here, and our actions are being watched by those outside the family. Let's keep the dirty laundry airing civil and loving. (Oh, and those to whom I linked above do admirably in this regard and should be role models for civil discourse. I'd do well to listen to them more often myself.)
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I wish I could mindread as well as Hewitt, though in this case it's hard to see much difficulty in the task. Funny how the UN took credit for the Iraqi election of last week when they did something akin to diddly squat during the past few years (see also, relief, tsunami).
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John at Blogotional touches on sin, a topic of recent interest 'round these parts. I agree on his general thesis, but I have a slight issue with this comment:
"We need to move past the theological maxim "all sin is the same" and re-develop a reasonable set of ethics." Yes, we need to have reasonable ethics, and in our world we do need to make distinctions among sins. Murder is more damaging to society than, say, jaywalking. Human justice appropriately distinguishes severities of sin, and it is true that God does as well. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that as far as salvation goes, any sin, no matter how small in our eyes, is sufficient to bring condemnation in God's eyes. So yes, sins are different. Some are lesser, some are evil. But all are sufficient to bring condemnation, no matter how minute we may think they are from a human perspective. (And I'm not sure John would disagree.)
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Melinda at STR points out the utter folly of the argument saying that we are led to be more moral without a belief in the afterlife, because hey, we take this one more seriously. Ugh. No, people are better behaved (i.e. more moral) because they believe there are eternal consequences from this life. Remove that belief, and soon you have Lord of the Flies all over the place. People aren't inherently good, they're inherently sinful.
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Okay, yeah, Jesus is cool, but do we really want to take this route with marketing our faith? My answer: no.
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It's awards time, and The 2nd Annual Best of Blogs Awards are here. Nominations will be taken until 1/3/06.

A new portal has arrived, called the, Best of the GodBlogs. They're also soliciting nominations for daily highlights. (H/T: Evangelical Outpost.)
...

I think I've hit my word limit (ha! like I have one of those!) so I'll end the trip here.

God bless!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NBB Theology: The Real Meaning of Christmas

So sin condemns us - as The Sheep's Crib writes, "believers must come to understand 'the utter sinfulness of sin.'" When we compare ourselves to each other, we may not look too bad; we're good folks, who God must accept. Problem is, the standard is really perfection, and God - not other sinners. While I may look okay compared to some folks on earth, I look absolutely awful compared to the standard God uses.

Good works cannot restore our perfection anymore than whitewashing a wall can remove stains. Temporary cover-ups are bound to be flawed themselves. Scripture even provides an example of this when it says "If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God." Abraham himself wasn't able to save himself through his works - before God they were nothing special, nothing to "boast about."

Fortunately for us, God has a plan that allows us salvation from the curse we incur when we choose to sin, and it starts with Christmas. God's justice, perfect and demanding, can be satisfied by substitutionary atonement. Literally, Jesus came to this world, the incarnation of God Himself, to take our place. We owed God a debt of death; Jesus paid that for us by taking our own sin upon Himself.

So God's justice was satisfied by Christ on the cross. Jesus was born to die to satisfy the justice of a perfectly holy and righteous God who loved us so much that He wanted to provide a way back from our rebellion. But there's more to the story, which I'll cover next time. How do we receive this gift? What is the role of grace? And what does it mean that Jesus died for all?

Until then - God bless!

The Miscellany of a Tuesday

Ah, the joy of winter. Not much going on at work, and school is on hiatus until the New Year. Yet still I find much that distracts me from keeping up the M-F (with the rare S-S) blogging. So, a quick-fire discussion through the latest.
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The MOB event at Keegan's on Saturday was an enjoyable time. Met lots of folks, some of whom had actually read this blog. Chatted with Jeff Kouba, whose work on Iraq is impressive. Also met (soon to be MOBster?) local Protest Warrior Brad Carlson, who it turns out lives but two minutes away. Also shook hands and/or chatted with Leo of Psycmeistr's Ice Palace, Ben from Hammerswing75 (who has a great roundup of the event here), Mitch from Shot In The Dark, Chief from Freedom Dogs (from whom I purchased a MOB shirt - the slogan "We know stuff" seems apt, as it remains vague), Kevin of Eckernet, Doug from Crossword Bebop, Dave of Downingworld, and Chad (the Elder) of Fraters Libertas. Unfortunately, my Mother's etiquette lessons took, so I didn't interrupt anyone chatting with James Lileks, and thus missed telling him that I've met his wife and daughter once upon a time, and found his daughter (same age as my eldest) to be as charming as he makes her out to be. Maybe next time. And yes, I'm looking forward to next time. Lots more MOBsters to meet.
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Finally saw The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe last night. I liked it better than the other movie I reviewed on this blog (Napoleon Dynamite - which was highly disappointing) - but that goes without saying. I think I was spoiled by the fx WETA put out there for the Lord of the Rings, as the LWW fx weren't quite as good, but the story was well handled. Acting was credible, especially by the kids playing Lucy and Edmund, and the woman playing the White Witch. Not quite as good as I was hoping, but certainly better than most tripe put out by Hollywood of late. The only real complaint I have is the snow looked very, very fake. Sorry, I'm a Minnesotan, and I notice things like that, especially since there's about 6" of the stuff in my front yard. The rest of the scenery was amazing - still want to visit New Zealand someday soon. We'll give TLTWATW an eight out of, oh, say 10. I'm nothing if not bound to tradition. (In case you're wondering, Napoleon Dynamite was a 1 out of 10.)
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This (oh, and his book God's Debris) is why I think Scott Adams needs to stick to mocking corporate America and avoid philosophy. I can't believe people actually buy philosophy based on so many misconceptions of, say, Christianity.
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Finally, I ended up in 4th place in the blogger's football league started by Nick Queen. I'm sure I would have won if only I hadn't suffered injuries to Curtis Martin and Priest Holmes, and a suspension to Terrell Owens. Okay, I didn't really suffer per se; those guys did (as did anyone who actually tried to make sense of the nonsense Owens spouted.) After winning in the first round of the playoffs, I am now in the unenviable position of having to play league winner Bill Wallo in the semi's. And yes, this is more "stuff nobody cares about, including my wife." So, I've run out of the minutiae of the day. So...

God bless!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Tune In Tomorrow...

Okay, so this isn't anything other than an "I'm still here" post, but I have a paper due tonight that I'm wrapping up. So, I'm still here!

But, for tomorrow, I have planned a review of the weekend's MOB event, a review of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the next post (or two?) in my series.

Plus tidbits from around the 'sphere, and maybe a cute kid saying or something.

If all that sounds interesting, I'm sorry...and tune in tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

NBB Theology: Sin

Before I get too far from yesterday's topic of us, I'd like to touch a little more on sin. Sin is the four letter word in a three letter word's body for most culture today. It's not talked about, and when it is people tend to soften it by using words like mistake, or indiscretion, or quirk. Sin is "too judgmental" a term to be used in hyper-tolerant America.

But sin is too important a concept to abandon in the hopes that we won't hurt too many feelings. If sin be real (and I believe it be - and scripture agrees) and has real consequences of the eternal sort, we'd best pay attention to it a bit more than we do. At the very least intellectual honesty demands we at least consider the concept; and mere self-preservation in the matter of Heaven v. Hell seems another motivation to contemplate the matter before dismissing it out of hand.

But what is sin, exactly? I talked yesterday about what it does, in brief terms, but not what it is. (Probably a flaw in my argument strategy, but hey, this is informatl theology. I hope flow of thought flaws can be overlooked.)

Sin is more than just violating God's rules, though it is that. It is also failing to meet God's standard of holiness. Sin is not excused on the basis of ignorance, nor is it merely something you commit: sins of omission are just as bad.

Sin, in God's eyes, is also always evil, with one sin being equivalent to violation of all God's laws. It is for this reason that we must not try to excuse our minor sins before God. Yes, we put sins into hierarchical relationships in society because, well, some sins are worse for society than others; maintaining peace and justice are important. And God recognizes this, and even says some sins lead to worse punishment in the hereafter. But the smallest of sins to us is still the biggest of deals to God.

Why? Because at the root of sin is selfishness, which we use to put us above God. And God cannot abide idolatry - even the tiniest little bit of it.

Sin is serious business, and as I noted yesterday, leads to death and separation from God.

But there is hope. We are not doomed, necessarily, by our sin. More on that next time.

God bless!

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 12/13 Edition

As usual, our trip includes a pointer to this week's Christian Carnival. This is the 100th edition, and the host is none other than Christian Carnival originator, Nick Queen. Other carnivals of note include God or Not (with the theme "morality", and hosted at The Goddess) and the Carnival of Christmas hosted by Adam's Blog. Check on deadlines and entry requirements as interested.
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In Narnia news, I'm sad to say our babysitter fell ill the day we were planning to see the film (and yes, I'm sad she is sick, not sad that I didn't get to see the film on Monday - she's a great kid and I hate to see anyone sick at this time of year.) That means I won't be able to get my review in for Hugh Hewitt's contest this week. There are enough entries at Radio Blogger already that it's probably fine I not add my voice to the chatter.

There are more reviews at blogs4God too.

And, just 'cuz you wondered - I'm (w/a HT to Catez:

(It's the beard...gotta be the beard.)
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Speaking of Allthings2all, Catez has instituted a new award called the "Aroha" award, and congratulations are in order for inaugural award winner Daring Young Mom (who by the way has the best photo I've seen on a blog - love the halo!).

(All this NZ stuff is appropriate - I'm watching The Two Towers while blogging).
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Speaking of congratulations (sez king o'the segues), congrats to The SHEEP'S CRIB for the recent blogaversary! Many more are hereby wished for the fantastic blog on my daily routine.
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And speaking of anniversaries (continuing the segue theme unto which he's so eloquently attached himself), 12/17/2006 will be the anniversary of my first appearance at an official MOB event. And yes, I stretched veeeerrrrry far for that segue. Remember, if you're in the Cities, Keegan's is the place to be on Saturday, say, 5-ish.
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And, (insert the phrase "speaking of" here - and no, I'm not going to retroactively insert segues into item #2 above) Minnesota bloggers, Powerline takes on the ridiculous once again. Good for a laugh to end the post.

And speaking of ending the post,

God bless!

Monday, December 12, 2005

NBB Theology: Humanity

So, we're all caught up now on the series, right? I've left off at the transition from how scripture describes God to how it describes us: humanity. That's right, scripture tells us about, well, us as well as about God. In fact, as much as we learn about ourselves from school, we learn the most important things about us from the Bible.

Scripture tells us that we were created in God's image. This is certainly something we don't learn in public schools today. A vital truth, this one, that demonstrates how absolutely special and valuable we are. Without this knowledge, we'd be doomed to making up our own value, as nature (being, you know, unconscious and impersonal) can't give us any value of our own. (Note: regardless of your position in the creation/evolution/ID debate, scripture is still very clear that we are created in His image, and deemed valuable by God - even if the mechanism is in doubt, which I'm not going to address here.)

The Bible also tell us that we have both body and soul. Why is this important? Namely because it means we have free will to choose either good or evil. Without a soul, naturalistic determinism is in place, which means we have no control over our thoughts, desires or actions. Without a soul we cannot be held morally accountable for our actions, be they good or bad.

Scripture also informs us that mankind (in the persons of Adam and Eve) were created holy and righteous. Creation of humanity was declared to be very good. This state, though, as we've learned did not last. Adam and Eve violated God's law, thus abrogating their righteousness and holiness. They used the free will available via their souls to choose against God. Ever since, all humans save one of course) have made similar choices to sin. The Bible goes on to tell us that this sin (aka disobeying God, or violating His commandments) does two things: it separates us from God, and brings death and suffering.

We learn many important things about humanity from other places, but these most vital things we learn from scripture. We were created with body and soul, in God's holy and righteous image. Yet we chose (and still choose!) to rebel against God, thereby reaping death and suffering. We accumulate a debt that God's justice demands be repaid. And there's one more thing the Bible tells us regarding this: we cannot pay that debt on our own.

So where do we go from here? Sin separates us from God, condemning us to death. We cannot repay God for our rebellion, which suggests life is futile; there is no point in living if we cannot ever "earn" eternity. But thanks to God's love and mercy there is no need for us to repay God our debt. To that I'll proceed in the next few posts.

God bless!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Anecdote of the day

My wife and youngest daughter (I really need to come up with a snappy nickname for my family members) were out shopping yesterday. When they walked into the store, an elderly gentleman, looking as if he were a bell ringer on a break, came up to them quickly and started talking about how cute my daughter was. This, of course, made her smile, which got him going on how beautiful her smile was.

He asked my wife if she had other children, and she told him about our eldest too. To which this gentleman said, "you should have more children if they are this beautiful."

I have no idea who that guy was, but he is obviously a man of discernment and refined sensibilities.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

NBB Theology: Review

Before continuing to the "Us" portion of this series, I thought I'd catch up those of you joining this series mid-way.

The impetus for this series was a discussion over at Evangelical Update regarding salvation. I thought the topic was a bit too complex to handle in the comments section of that post (at least my views on the subject) so brought the question here for discussion. The first post was an introduction to the series.

So far, I've broken the series out into sections in order to keep my own thoughts somewhat straight on the matter. I started with scripture, since as Christians that is where our theology does start. I am assuming, of course, that scripture is authoritative. Questions about that basis can be addressed later if people are interested. But for this series I made some basic assumption. With that assumption in place, I looked at scripture - specfically the concepts of inerrancy and inspiration.

Having set forth what I see as my view of scripture (in a very summarized fashion), I started looking at how scripture describes God. We've seen here that God is a living spirit with the characteristics of personhood. I also started looking at the attributes of this living God, such as the omnis: Omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient (and immutable, which isn't technically an "omni").

Getting closer towards the issue of salvation, the series then started examining God's moral attributes. These are things like goodness, benevolence, graciousness and mercy. He is truth too. On top of this, God is also (in a seeming paradox for some people) both perfectly loving and perfectly just. None of these attributes is more or less important than the other, and none is in conflict with another. God is all of these things at once, and defines these attributes for all of us as well.

Having an admittedly limited view of God (His revelation is certainly sufficient, but an infinite God cannot be completely comprehended by finite creatures), I want to next turn to the next actor in the salvation drama: humanity. The way I see this series completing looks something like this:

-Humanity
-Sin
-Wages of sin
--God's justice
-Atonement
-Grace
-Faith
-Wrap up

If you see something missing in the equation (and remember, this is a layman's view of theology - I'm not intending to delve deep into the technical vernacular) let me know and I'll add it. Hopefully I can compress some of this, as I have other things I wish to post on, but this is for a Christian the most important thing: ensuring people hear what scripture says about the savior and our need for Him. So if I don't get to politics, Christmas or any of the other topics floating around in my head, please be patient. I'll get there when I think I've covered salvation enough.

(Of course, I may just start posting more times each day to get everything in too...)

God bless!

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 12/7 Edition

I haven't heard much about Pearl Harbor today. (The exception being a few other blogs.) Odd, since this is the anniversary of the last major "never forget!" day before 9/11. I'm not sure if we're in a state of tragedy exhaustion (after a couple of hurricanes and a tsunami in the past year, added to the GWOT) or if it's just a time thing. Looking at how little emphasis is placed on the "real" meanings of other holidays (cf. Memorial Day, Labor Day, Christmas) I fear it's the latter. Sad if that's true. A country that forgets things like this is, as the saying goes, doomed to a repitition.

Michelle Malkin has some more on the lesser attention seemingly being paid to this anniversary too.
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Want to write a successful blog? Joe at Evangelical Outpost offered this advice a while back, and it's worth looking at again. I still have lots to learn!
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Rev Ed is hosting the 99th Christian Carnival this week, and has done a great job organizing the theme around the number 99. There aren't 99 entries, but the ones that are there look good. Early favorites include:

  • Matt Jones talks about something that's apparently a growing trend: churches cancelling Christmas services. Of all the ridiculous...anyway, hopefully other churches thinking of this will reconsider.

  • Alex Jordan talks about how churches too often have a misguided sense of excellence. Instead of focusing on making disciples, they measure excellence in the world's terms instead of God's. I'm starting to see a trend in these first two recommended posts, and it doesn't bode well for the American church if such behavior isn't reined in. We need a revival.

  • I found the wife Micah Girl commends to her son, and I hope to raise two more of them.


Check out the rest of the posts too. Good stuff all around.

God bless!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

NBB Theology: God - Part VI

So far in this series, I've discussed some of the various things we know about God from scripture: He is omnipotent, omniscient, immutable, benevolent, gracious, merciful, loving (and love itself) and truthful (and truth itself). Before I move on to what the Bible tells us about us (followed by what it tells us about God's works in response to us) I want to cover one final attribute of God: His justice.

This is a oft-misunderstood attribute. Many people think justice is the opposite of love, and therefore God is either loving or just. Or, that the two are on opposite ends of a continuum, and that God is to the loving end of the spectrum, say 75% loving and 25% just. Neither belief is true. Just as Jesus is wholly God and wholly man, God is wholly loving and wholly just.

How do we know this? Scripture tells us this. Just as we saw before, that God is love itself, so too we see that God is justice itself. Justice underlies His very reign; it is the foundation of His rule. He judges the world, and does so with full sovereign rights and perfect justice. Because of this perfect justice, we cannot even stand before Him - His perfection cannot abide sin.

This justice is described throughout the Bible, in the OT and the NT. God is called just by Jesus Himself. God isn't a God of love in the NT and a God of justice in the OT. He is a God of love in both testaments, and a God of justice in both. We can't escape it - our God is righteous and just. His justice demands He punish wickedness and rewarding faithfulness. Perfection is His standard, and He defines what perfection is. This causes problems for us, since not one of us is perfect too. Which is a good segue to the next section of this series: Us.

Until then,
God bless!

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 12/6 Edition

So...lots happened in the five days since I last was around. In my effort to catch up, I found the following.

Rev Ed is hosting Christian Carnival this week. Get the entries in ASAP. [Update: Misread the God or Not entries elsewhere, so I'm correcting the info here:]In related carnival news, the God or Not carnival - to be held on 12/19 at The Goddess - is accepting entries through the week by 12/16 (if I read the directions correctly) on the topic of miracles morality. This week's God or Not (on miracles) is up at The Evangelical Atheist. (BTW, last week's lack of 'net access prevented me from mentioning that Cadmusings did a fine job with last week's Christian Carnival.)
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Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. RazorsKiss!
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Wizbang's 2005 Weblog awards are now open for voting. And Eric's Evangelical Blog Awards are still in need of nominations. I made mine (check the forum to see if you're there - and I tried to be balanced and so may not have nominated the same blog for multiple categories). Don't let the need for registration slow you down; it's relatively painless. And Adrian is seeking nominations for the last Warnie of 2005. My nomination? Rev Ed, of Attention Span fame. The guy just knows how to take the things of life and turn them into (often touching) applications of God's word. Post your own nominations and link back to Adrian.
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Come one, come all to Keegan's Irish Pub on 12/17 for the next MOB get together. I am planning on attending so I can transfer my mail-order membership for an actual senior varsity membership. If you always wanted to know what I really look like, show up and let your curiosity be assuaged. Just don't blame me for any disappointment as any preconceived notions you may have about my appearance are bound to be too kind.
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Can't think of what to buy me for Christmas? How about nothing on this list.
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And finally, it's Narnia week. Lotsa links on the movie and C.S. Lewis, from Adrian to Catez to JollyBlogger to Stones Cry Out. I'm looking forward to the film with a great deal of excitement, especially after watching the nine minute trailer, but I fear Evangelicals may be expecting too much from the movie. Great story, likely a great movie. Just make sure we remember, it is a movie, and not intended to be a sermon in disguise. If you're interested in chatting about the story, Mark Lee has a book club post open for comments.
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I'm Back!

And boy is it cold. Per Weatherbug, we're a balmy 8 degrees (F) at the moment. That's a long way south of the upper-60's/lower-70's we saw out in L.A. over the past week. But then, L.A. doesn't have snow for Christmas and you can't play outdoors hockey. So we win.

That being said, Cali was nice. Had the beach to ourselves (what, 70 degrees isn't beach weather out there? Crazy 'sotans) which suited the girls fine. And the fresh fruit from the roadside stands was quite good.

Disneyland was a huge hit with the girls, although one day in the happiest place on earth isn't sufficient time for princess-happy youngsters. Our eldest said, "this place is very princessy." An apter expression may ne'er been spoken by someone so young. The holiday Christmas decorations were wonderful, though I enjoyed them much more on the It's a Small World ride than the Haunted Mansion -- I missed the hitchhiking ghosts. The only problem was the weather, which dampened the allegedly-"best ever" fireworks show. Not bad, but not quite shock-n-awe.

I highly recommend visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. Unless you've been to a real aquarium or two, in which case this one will be a disappointment. The highlights here were the lorikeet forest where yours truly, wife, and youngest offspring all held the birds, and the touch pools. Other than that, fairly ordinary.

So, yes, I wasn't posting because I was in a foreign land. I have returned to civiliation, and as I close I have the following (short) notes on the trip:

Likes:

  • Disneyland = no brainer

  • Need to drive 80 mph in open traffic to avoid being, well, killed

  • Beachfront property I have no hope of ever affording, but which provides good dream fodder

  • Oceans and mountains in one place - me likey since we have neither here

  • Fruit - fresh and cheap (no cracks about my dating life waaaay back please)

  • Being comfortable in weather that made the locals bundle up. Wimps



Jury's still out:

  • In 'n Out Burger - didn't live up to the hype, but wasn't terrible

  • Traffic - when it moves, it really moves. But it stops too often (cf. the 405)



Dislikes:

  • Dude, what's with the motorcycles passing between two cars (i.e. ON THE LANE LINES!!!!!!!!)? That's the stupidest thing legally allowed on any road I've ever travelled.

  • Smog. Air quality may have improved since I was last there, but wow that city doesn't smell very good.

  • Related to smog, you have to drive a while to get anywhere. Explains the oft-stalled traffic and smog.

  • For such a big city the radio options are rather poor - and reception is kinda icky too, owing to the mountains.

  • LAX. A city that big should have a nicer airport.

  • Cable Internet. Okay, not a problem w/L.A. per se, but my hosts' ISP didn't like my laptop, so I had very limited 'net access for five days. I started having withdrawal symptoms about day 2.



All in all, a good trip. Regardless of the traffic-related problems and air quality you could cut w/the proverbial knife, the folks were all very nice. I look forward to going back when I have more time to spend sightseeing in L.A. itself, and exploring other areas of the golden state appeals to me. But it's good to be home - and blogging again.

God bless!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

NBB Theology: God - Part V

Rumor has it I was working on a theology series. I left off talking about God's love. Today I'd like to touch on one additional attribute of God before I get to the last one, which'll be justice/holiness. This post is on truth.

As I first noted way back here, one of God's attributes is truth. God is, in addition to love, mercy, grace and benevolence, truth. God not only is truth, He is the source of all truth and the one true God. That's a lot of truth.

This is also one of my favorite attributes of God. I think truth is the most important thing we should seek. If a worldview is false, there is no benefit to living one's life by it. If it is true, though, there is great risk in living one's life another way. If, for instance, Islam is true, then I want to know. If there is no God, I want to know. If Jesus is the Christ and the only way to God, I want to know. This is especially true when dealing with the afterlife. Sometimes believing a lie is easier, and in many cases more appealing: the truth can be difficult. But the truth is always better.

But I digress. Assuming, as I have for the purposes of this series, that the Bible is true (and it should be obvious I have found it to be so considering my faith), then God is true. This is another one of the things we learn about Him in scripture. He is the one true God. He reveals Himself truthfully too. Both the OT and NT speak to this.

Whatever He promises, He delivers; He never lies. His promises never fail. (The caveat is that absolute promises are always kept. There are some conditional promises where, such as in the case of Jonah and Ninevah, God's threat was withdrawn when the city repented.)

God is true, and what He tells us is trustworthy, even when we're not. What is revealed in scripture, then, having come from God, is also trustworthy. What scripture tells us about God covers at least one more attribute, His justice. To that we'll turn next.

God bless!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Tag, I'm it!

Okay, Catez tagged me for another meme. Since I still feel guilty about my lack of posting last week, I take this as an opportunity to make up for things with a flurry of posts today! So, sans further ado, the seven sevens (and no, it's not a Seagram's-related drink.)


  • Seven things to do before I die:


    1. Learn Russian

    2. Learn a new instrument (haven't decided between guitar, bass, or piano)

    3. Travel to Ireland, Russia, Australia and New Zealand (LotR, Narnia films make that place look gorgeous, and hey, Catez lives there so it's gotta be cool, right?)

    4. Be a (winning) contestant on The Amazing Race

    5. Get a PhD or JD degree (I'm either a big fan of school, or a glutton for punishment)

    6. Have another six or seven decades' worth of birthdays

    7. Be the tool used by God to bring people to Him


  • Seven things I cannot do


    1. Speak Russian

    2. Truthfully claim to have been to Ireland, Russia, Australia or New Zealand

    3. Play guitar, piano or bass

    4. Hit a golf ball straight - unless I'm playing a dogleg that plays to my slice

    5. Figure out Lost

    6. Figure out why I needed five calculus classes for my C-Sci degree when I haven't used anything aside from algebra and boolean logic

    7. Avoid participating in blog memes when tagged


  • Seven things that attract me to [my spouse or significant other or best friend]


    1. Her sense of humor

    2. Her smile

    3. Her compassion

    4. Her creativity

    5. Her passion

    6. Her faith

    7. [Item deleted due to the possibility children may be reading this site]


  • Seven things I say most often


    1. "Actually..." (my five year old now says this too much too...guess they really do listen when we speak)

    2. [When watching movies] "That so wouldn't/couldn't really ever happen" (especially useful for scientifically incoherent films like Twister or The Day After Tomorrow)

    3. "Whatever"

    4. "Riiiiiight"

    5. "Nice!"

    6. "Huh. Who'da figured?"

    7. "I love you sweetheart" (to wife and daughters, throughout the day)


  • Seven books (or series) I love


    1. The Bible

    2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

    3. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis

    4. The Brothers Karamazov, but Fyodor Dostoevsky

    5. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

    6. Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville

    7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    8. (Only 7 for this category? Yikes!)

  • Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)


    1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy

    2. Casablanca

    3. The Princess Bride

    4. Schindler's List

    5. Star Wars, especially Empire (I'm a child of the 80's - sue me. And yes, I realize the writing is pure dreck, and the acting is subpar too often. Consider this the junk food on the list.)

    6. Twelve Angry Men

    7. White Christmas (since we're in the season...Danny Kaye is a highly underrated talent.)


  • Seven people I want to join in, too


    1. Anyone who wants to

    2. Anyone who is looking to fill space on his or her blog

    3. Anyone who is bored

    4. Anyone who hasn't done this meme yet

    5. Anyone who likes the number 7

    6. Anyone who hasn't posted a new blog entry in over a week

    7. Anyone who hasn't linked to, or commented on, this blog in the past week




There! All finished. Now, should I wait to post this until 7:07? Nah...have at it.

God bless!

Happy, um, Thanksgiving + a Few Days...

I know, I know. Just because Thursday was a holiday, and Friday was the day after a holiday, and the weekend was, well, the weekend, that's no excuse for me to slack off from blogging. Fortunately, I have other excuses!

But anyway...this Thursday past was, as you know, Thanksgiving. This is one of my favorite holidays, and not just because of the food (see more, below.) This is one of my favorite holidays because of the public emphasis on gratitude. I regret that it often takes this special day to call attention to the appropriateness of gratitude, especially in a country as blessed as the U.S. Even our "down years" are the envy of many other nations. Yet we often take it for granted. I'm thankful Thanksgiving helps remedy that, if only for a day. (Oh, and don't get me started on how many people today are thankful - at least nominally - but aren't really thanking anyone in particular. Such as the One from whom all blessings flow.)

Be that as it may (in other words, sermon mode is now off - we PKs and our tendency to go on...) I am grateful for many things. Hopefully I express that gratitude frequently, but at least on this occassion I want to do so publicly.

-I'm grateful for a family that is diverse enough to include Phillipino, Polish and traditional American food in the Thanksgiving meals. (My wife's aunt, being from the Phillipines makes the most wonderful lunch spread - all sans turkey.)

-I'm grateful for a country that guarantees freedoms to speak and disagree, to worship as I please, and to be actively involved in making things better for my family and for others.

-I'm grateful for the opportunity to interact with other bloggers through this medium. And I'm grateful for all of you, who read this blog and discuss things in a spirit of fun, friendliness and civility.

-I'm grateful for friends galore, and all the blessings we share throughout the year.

-I'm grateful for softball and golf, which allow me to take out my latent aggression on white spheres.

-I'm grateful for a wife and daughters whom I love, and who love me in return.

-I'm grateful for a God who loved me so much that He gave all He had, His own Son, so that I could spend eternity with Him; who wanted me to know Him, and so left His word for me to read, and His Spirit for me to hear; who wanted me to love, and so taught me by example; who wanted me to praise Him, and so declared His magnificence in His creation. All this despite the fact that I've never done anything worthy of Him.

All thanks and praise to God from whom all blessings flow!

God bless!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 11/23 Edition

Happy Anniversary to my folks! (Okay, they don't read the blog, but I have to brag 'em up.) Married 37 years today:)
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Welcome home Dadmanly! Thanks for your service in the military, and God bless your readjustment to civilian life.
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So for what (and to whom) are you thankful this year? Post comments here, and on your own blog. Then let Cross Blogging know for this week's symposium.
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Christian Carnival is up at Thought Renewal. The theme is county fair, which goes over well with this midwestern boy. I didn't have time to get anything in this week (not sure if that means average quality is up or not) but there's much to recommend in the Christian arm of the 'sphere.
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C.S. Lewis, rock star? I guess it kinda makes sense from this perspective...I just don't see him saying "hello Cleveland! Are you ready to exegete?" (and not just because he's gone home to his savior.)
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I know it's winterish (though I'm soon to spend a few days in L.A., where it won't be as winterish as here) but I'm always up for a baseball-related item. Are you fast enough to hit a baseball?
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Christian arts should be promoted. God is a God of beauty, and Christians should give no quarter in the culture when it comes to the arts. Check out their new idea in connecting Christian artists. (Way to go Natalie and Wayne.)
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The 2005 Web Log Awards are taking nominations for just a few more days. Yet another opportunity to nominate Northern 'burbs blog your favorite blogs. But hurry...deadline is 11/26. (Don't forget about the Evangelical Underground's Evangelical Blog Awards either.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 11/16 Edition

Christian Carnival is up at Jordan's View. Early favorites include:

  • This post by Lyn Perry touches on the topic of Hell, promoting (if I read it correctly) an annihiliationist understanding. Appropriate topic as I'm working on a theology of salvation series, and I'll be posting on my view (hint: not the same as Lyn's) sometime soon.

  • Ed talks about something I used to find annoying - the plethora of people intentionally avoiding the use of the phrase "merry Christmas" in public. I've recently realized that if I say "merry Christmas" in response to "happy holidays!" nobody seems really offended, and 10 out of 10 people (in my experience) will return the merry Christmas greeting.

  • Alex Jordan also touches on Hell, in a post discussing how both Heaven and Hell are reflected in this world.


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Nominations for the 2005 Evangelical Blog Awards are open at Evangelical Underground. Check out the categories, and nominate Northern 'burbs blog your favorite blog for whatever categories you find appropriate.
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Eric also posts this on inspiration and inerrancy, something I touched on recently.
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The Red Green Show is hilarious - but apparently soon to be no more. It will be missed - especially that episode where they talked about duct tape...you know, that one?
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Cool...a MOB aggregator Apparently I need to write more linkable posts, though, since the Rollyo search doesn't include me in the top 25 MOB blogs. (Note to self: start posting controversial topics on politics and sex.)
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Speaking of the MOB, there's a discussion going round on city life vs. suburban life. Having lived in South Minneapolis for 15 years, in St. Paul for 3, the hick woods of Wisconsin for 2 and the remainder of my 35+ years in the suburbs/exurbs, I can (from experience) say I much prefer the suburbs or exurbs. I get more for my money (a conservative financial position) than I would in the city - both from a value perspective and a safety perspective. I even named my blog after the suburbs. But if people choose to live in the city, that's their issue, and I have no qualms with it. Keeps more space and quiet available for me.
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JollyBlogger adds to the salvation discussion. Excellent point about how salvation isn't simply to do with the eternal; there are very direct implications on earth which should drive us to additional humility. Even salvation isn't "all about us" - everything is "all about God." I hope to touch on this later in my series.
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For Alice, I found this to be amusing. Wonder if this comic would fly in theSan Fran schools?
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Tim Challie's got another giveaway. An outdoor (i.e. waterproof) Bible and another book are the prizes. Details and sign-up here:

November Giveaway

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And finally...I know you've all been wondering, so yes I must confess: I'm really from Middle Earth.
Rohirrim
Rohirrim


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla


Gotta love the horsemen.

God bless!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

NBB Theology: God - Part IV

I left off with a start on God's "moral" attributes: His goodness, mercy, grace, and benevolence. These aren't all of God's attributes, of course, as there are additional moral attributes (justice, holiness, love and truth) as well as non-moral attributes. Today I'll be moving along in the discussion to God's love.

The phrase "God is love" is almost a cliche, but it about the most perfectly accurate cliche around. God is not just loving, nor does He just love. He actually is love; His character defines what love really is (hint: not a fluffy emotion promoted by teen pop songs and susceptible to the whims that make divorce lawyers rich.)

Unlike many of the pagan gods, who are ambivalent about humanity, or the gods of ancient Rome and Greece, God is the God of love. His love is not choosy either, granted to some but withheld from others. God's love for the whole world is the initiation of the Gospel itself: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

There is a myth, though, that God is only shown as a God of love in the New Testament. As we saw before God is immutable, so the loving God of the NT is also the loving God of the OT. He loved the rebellious Israelites. God turned curses into blessings out of love. God's love was unique in the OT, in fact, in contrast to the gods worshipped by other nations - He loved His people to the point of patience instead of wrath.

The OT God of "wrath" is also the OT God of love. God is love, and I'm grateful for that. In the next post, we'll move on to another attribute. I haven't decided whether it'll be truth or something in the holiness/justice realm. Guess we'll find out together how I'm inspired.

Until then,

God bless!

Friday, November 11, 2005

NBB Theology: God - Part III

Last time I started talking about how God's attributes are described in the Bible - a prime source from which we draw our understanding of who He is. The attributes I covered were the so-called non-moral attributes: omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and immutability. These attributes, or qualities of God are not directly moral in nature, but I don't want to lose sight of them. All of God's attributes come into play when we work through the salvation question, and we'll be touching on them all again.

Today I'd like to start covering some of the "moral" attributes of God: holiness, justice, goodness and truth. There is so much to say about each of these that I won't attempt to cover them all in one post. So, we'll start with God's goodness, and go from there.

God's goodness describes, in the words of Thiessen, "all the qualities that answer to the conception of an ideal personage." [1] This goodness of God covers His love, mercy, grace and benevolence. It also includes His other attributes of righteousness, holiness and truth. The perfect nature of this attribute is incredible, and a standard to which nobody but God could attain.

God's benevolence is His kindness and compassion, even to those who don't follow Him. God takes care, loving care, of us.

He also is gracious to those who don't deserve the benevolence and compassion He shows. In fact, His grace is what makes salvation possible by providing an (undeserved) atonement for sin. God's grace is provided not just to believers, though, but is shown to all people. Grace allows us salvation, but it also allows us time on earth and delayed judgement in the hopes that we'd return to Him from whom we've strayed. God's grace could take up a series of its own.

Grace is also related to mercy, though they aren't the same thing. Mercy is God's compassion on those in need. God's compassionate to us because He loves us. His mercy is for all: Jews, Gentiles and (as if that didn't cover everyone already) those who fear God - who hold Him in awe and reverence. This mercy, too, could take up multiple posts to merely scratch the surface of understanding.

God's love, though, which is tied to His grace and mercy (and everything else, including His justice) will be covered in the next post. Until then, may the grace, mercy and lovingkindess of God be showered upon you this weekend, that you may be blessed with the knowledge of truth and the favor of our Creator.

God bless!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

NBB Theology: God - Part II

Tuesday I left off talking about some of the things we learn about God’s essence from the scripture: He is alive, eternal and immense. God is a spirit and a person. These are rather obvious traits for God. Any being without them is hardly a God to be worshipped or served. A dead God can’t help us, and a finite God would be too limited. And if God were not a person, we couldn’t enter into relationship with Him – or even know Him.

As important as these aspects of God are, though, they do not comprise the entirety of who God is. Scripture reveals oh so much more about Him. There are also numerous attributes of God about which we learn from His written revelation, of types that theologian Henry Clarence Thiessen calls non-moral and moral attributes. I’ll speak to the former type first.

God’s non-moral attributes are similar to the characteristics of His essence discussed Tuesday. The first of these is omniscience. When we say God is omniscient, we say basically that God knows everything. This comes through in many places, both in the Old Testament (Isaiah 46:10), and the New Testament (Hebrews 4:13.)

A second attribute is omnipresence. This means He is everywhere. Again, this attribute is described in multiple parts of scripture. Psalms 139:7-10 and Acts 7:48-50 for starters. One key point to note, though, is that (theologically speaking, as I’m sorta tryin’ to do from a lay perspective) God’s omnipresence does not mean that God is limited by space. God inhabits space, but is not bound by it; He is transcendent above it at the same time He is within it.

God is also immutable, which means He doesn’t change. This is important because it helps us to trust His promises. He’s always, immutably, faithful to His word. Neither His love, nor His justice ever change. For those who think the OT God of wrath is superseded by the NT Jesus of love, scripture does not leave this option to us. God is who He was and who He always will be.

And finally (for the purposes of this post) God is omnipotent. This is perhaps the most often misunderstood attribute on this short list. Omnipotence in this context does not indicate that God can do anything. Instead, it means that anything God purposes to do, He can do. God’s nature does not allow Him to lie, for instance. But God can certainly create a universe from nothing (being, as noted above, transcendent above creation) or perform other miracles according to this attribute.

Next come the moral attributes. And that’ll cover multiple posts methinks.

God bless!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 11/9 Edition

So I'm 8-1 in the blogger football league (tied for first with Bill Wallo, but I have Priest Holmes and Terrell Owens on my team. It's going to be a long second half.
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The Evangelical Underground's Evangelical Blog Awards are nigh upon us. Register with the forum to be ready to nominate and vote.
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Please pray for this pastor. And for China's abdication of religious persecution.
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Happy blogiversary #2 to La Shawn Barber. Oddly enough, I just found this blog a few months ago despite her being fairly well known among the poli bloggers I read. Better late to a good party than to not arrive at all.
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Carnivals and symposiums everywhere. Cross Blogging's weekly symposium is up, with the topic "To Be Good or To Be Nice?" Great question. Christian Carnival is at Eternal Revolution - as is God or Not - 2nd Edition, an atheist/theist symposium offering posts on the topic of "proof." Great place to enter civil discussions with people holding differing views.
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And, for a couple of meaningless and amusing quizzes so you can learn more about yours truly...first, the inkblog personality quiz (cheesy graphic removed for size.)

FUN LOVING- Most of the time, you are awesome to be
around. Right? People notice your warm
personality and they are automatically
attracted to you. You must have a lot of
friends, or a few really close ones. Either
way, you're nice, relaxed, and you know how to
have fun. You get a little stressed out every
once in a while, either from school work or
from your social life, because you feel like
you have to keep everyone happy. Don't worry
about things like that. You should live your
life for yourself. Besides, youre naturally
kind, so people will like you for whatever you
do and whoever you are!


INKBLOT TEST--->Discover your personality with this Inkblot test!!!!
brought to you by Quizilla
...

And a political leanings quiz...

You are a

Social Liberal

(68% permissive)


and an...

Economic Conservative

(68% permissive)


You are best described as a:


Libertarian


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test



Of course, this last one may come as a shock to some people...social liberal?

Tomorrow, back to the series on theology. 'Til then,

God bless!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

NBB Theology: God - Part I

Yesterday I touched, briefly on my inerrantist view of scripture. While there is much more to say on the matter, I'm going to assume that the foundation for what I come next is sufficiently explained. Before I drop the topic completely, though, I'm going to point you to an excellent series by Dr. Mark D. Roberts that covers the reliability of the Gospels. He touches on some of the same points I hit in my series on Biblical reliability back in March (I really need to put up link pages to the series I do), but more eloquently.

If we hold that scripture is inerrant, and inspired, we necessarily put some value in what it says, and about whom it says things. The primary person about whom the Bible speaks is God. For the inerrantist in me, I see that there is truth to learn about God as He revealed it (via inspiration) through the Bible.

Of course the Bible isn't the sole source of revelation. We have evidence from philosophy, nature, personal experience and testimony (not to mention miracles) that tell us things about God. But the scriptures are the most explicit and universal tangible source of material about God.

What kinds of things can it tell us? Quite a few things. Today I will start by talking about God's essence, so to speak, of what God is. Following posts will cover the attributes of God, as well as the works of God.

Scripture tells us that God is, first of all, spirit and not a physical being. He is also living - contrary to Mr. Nietzsche. Being a spirit, though, and being alive doesn't necessarily tell us much. Fortunately, there's more! (Insert infomercial music here...)

God is also a person, with the attributes of personhood. (Here, of course, I am talking about the philosophical view of personhood, which differs from the legal view of personhood.) Some of these attributes are self- consciousness, and self-determination. God is eternal and immense.

God is all of these things and more; I've barely scratched the surface, but we're starting to see a picture of God from scipture. He is real - alive and eternal, the literal Alpha and Omega of creation. Coming up next we'll take a look at the attributes of this awesome God.

God bless!

Note: For the references and list of "essence" characteristics, I relied on Lectures in Systematic Theology, by Henry Clarence Thiessen - Eerdman's Publishing, Grand Rapids - 1979. I highly recommend this text for those looking for a more in-depth, yet quite readable, treatment of theology.

Monday, November 07, 2005

NBB Theology: Scripture Part II

Inspired and inerrant. Those two words rarely describe this blog, but they do describe scripture quite well. What those terms mean to different people, though, varies. I hope that the following serves to clarify what I (at least) and many other Evangelicals actually mean by those terms. If we don't have those terms clear, the conversation about salvation gets muddied.

Often we find critics of Christianity, or at least of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist varieties, ridiculing the idea of inerrancy and inspiration as literalistic naivete. It is naive to believe God dictated the scripture, the argument goes, and to believe in literalism you need to give up any sense of rationality; contradictions abound, and the man-made book of books is nothing more than fairy tales for those who can't think for themselves.

Such critics miss the point of what inerrancy and inspiration really mean. Much of this is the fault of Christians, who use the words without defining them. And much of it is a lack of training in theology and religion in America in general. In reality, the concept of inspiration is rarely understood by Christians to equate to dictation from God, and inerrancy does not equal literalism.

The concept of inspiration is drawn from II Timothy. The phrase "God breathed" in this verse is descriptive of how scripture came to be: God inspired it. Throughout the Bible we find additional claims of God's participation in the Bible's authorship.

That being said, inspiration does not necessarily equate to dictation. Sure, there are times God speaks directly: to Moses at the burning bush, to Adam and Eve in the garden, to the prophets who declare "thus sayeth the Lord." But these are the exception. All we mean by "inspired" is that God is behind the words of scripture and that He has protected and managed the writing, compilation and maintenance of it. The Holy Spirit, I don't think, whispered the words to the writers. The differences in style, language, literary devices and purpose between the various books is evidence to the contrary. However, He oversaw the work, guiding the authors to produce material that is trustworthy, sufficient, and perfect for the purposes of God's intended revelation. While we don't know the mechanism, we hold that God is behind the scriptures.

Inerrancy, likewise, is an oft-confused concept. Inerrancy does not mean "perfectly accurate down to the minutiae of every historical and scientific fact, and to be taken 100% literally." Inerrancy means that scripture is without error, yes, but "without error" is a term with some small measure of latitude. An example might clarify. There are many rather obviously round numbers in the OT. Numerical precision is not mandated by inerrancy, and where the Bible reports 150,000 men instead of 149,733 we don't take that as an error. Other examples could be taken from the poetic imagery of the poetry books and passages. A literalist view may hold that Solomon's wife really had sheep for teeth - an inerrantist realizes this is poetry, and the image is what's important.

Inerrancy does not ignore context, figures of speech, purpose or custom. Rather, inerrancy requires that the text be understood in the light of how it was written. Poetry is poetry, history is history, prophecy is prophecy and parables are parables. A literalist approach would turn the parable of the Prodigal Son into an actual happening, where an inerrantist would say Jesus did tell the parable (the inerrant part) but that the parable itself was a piece of fiction designed to make a point (the context part.)

There is much, much more that can be said about what inerrancy means, and for that I refer you to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. What I don't explain clearly is laid out pretty well in that statement.

If the Bible is inspired and inerrant, which I believe (and the discussion about the evidence on which I believe these things - as they aren't irrational decisions I've made without studying the matter - is for a different day) then what can it tell us about God? That's the next post in this little mini-series on my theology.

God bless!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 11/4 Edition

Oh, no he din't. Oh, NO he din't. Okay, he did. Blogotional called out the MOB. Head on over to Radioblogger and vote, preferably for Jeff Kouba's entry. Minnesota has enough also-rans and Jeff's too good for that particular company at the moment.
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Christian Carnival is up at Dory's. A couple of noteworthy posts this week (though many more are also noteworthy) include / musing / struggling / dreaming / with a discussion on inerrancy (soon to be discussed right here at NBB) and this from Crossroads on the difference between what's legal and what's ethical. I look forward to parts 2/3 of the series.
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Deadline's tomorrow for the God or Not carnival. The topic is "proof" which should give you some good latitude in coming up with a post.
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Adrian posts on the possibility of losing one's salvation, something which may come into play in my current series (interrupted by occassional trips 'round the 'sphere and the like.) I pretty much concur with Adrian's analysis, but may expound when I get to that point in the next week or so.
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I love politics, but really as Michelle Malkin reports this kind of stuff is absurd, inane, inappropriate, and a whole buncha other bad words. And this from the party that is trying to convince me they're the ones who care about equality???? File this one away as another exhibit in my soon-appearing "Why I'm not a Democrat" post. Captain's Quarters also posts on the subject, and while I think Ed goes too far when he says, "That shows the leadership of the Democrats as they truly are -- a hate-based faith system that takes any means necessary to win elections. Cheating, violence, smears, and now racism are all acceptable as long as Republicans are the targets. If the Republicans happen to be members of minority communities, so much the better," I think the hypocriscy in evidencehere is appalling.
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Another fun little site from the makers of Lost. If you don't get it, check out iTunes where you can catch up on the series for a mere $1.99/episode. I'm assuming they don't have commercials, which may make it worth it to me.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

NBB Theology: Scripture Part I

A conversation has sprung up at Evangelical Update regarding salvation. What is it, who "gets" it, who doesn't, how do you know if you are saved, etc. The discussion to date is illuminating, but really the topic is too big to cover without a post (or a series thereof, as you'll see here over the next week or ten) here as well. I mean, I like the conversational utility of blog comments, and I hate to consume long stretches of such with my verbosity to the detriment of participation by others. So, I'm going to do a series addressing the topic at hand.

Many assumptions may be made for the sake of space, and I'm not going to defend every statement with detailed follow-up; that's what the comments section is for if you have questions. This series is coming from my perspective as an Evangelical, and I don't propose to speak for everyone; let's have a discussion and see where it comes out.

Salvation isn't a simple topic. Well, in some senses it is. I could say that salvation is offered to all, accepted by few. I could say it's something God offers out of love, through His grace. I could also say we don't deserve it, as we (being imperfect and sinful) cannot earn the favor of God (being perfectly just and righteous). And in truth, it's all of these things. It's the why's and wherefors that take more time. Each of these statements is simple - yet explaining them can take lots and lots of time.

I'll try to be concise.

When we're talking about salvation, though, it is a theological topic. That is, it has to do with the knowledge of God. Without God, the topic makes no sense. When "doing theology," or discussing spiritual matters ala Christianity, we need to go therefore to the source to get the information from which we derive our beliefs. There are a couple of places we can go for information on salvation: God Himself, and the Bible. The former is obvious - who better to ask about His gifts than, well, Him? God, through the person of the Holy Spirit does speak to us and give assurance of salvation. But that's a topic for later in the series.

The other main source of information regarding our eternal state is found in scripture. This, being God's revelation to us about Himself and His actions is another good source. In fact, aside from scripture and the direct revelation of His "still, small voice" there really aren't any authoritative sources of data regarding the afterlife. So I'll start the series by explaining how I see and interpret the Bible as that will inform how I come to my perception of God. That in turn leads to how I see salvation, since above all it is an act of God.

I've gone a long way, so far, and said very little about how I see scripture, so this will just be a flyby, to be fleshed out in the next post or two. My view of scripture is that it is inspired and inerrant. It is useful for teaching, correcting and edifying. It is the prime source of information about and from God outside our experience with Him. And the Bible is also fully sufficient to explain all we need to know about salvation and how to receive it.

Some of these terms (inspired, and inerrant in particular) are interpreted in different ways so I'll turn to what I mean by those two "i" words next.

God bless!