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For the Love of the Gospel

March 7, 2011

In my home at any given time there are perhaps twenty copies of the Bible distributed among the seven members of my family. Each of us owns one or two with invaluable study notes, and three or four are written in the original languages. On top of this, at least half the books on my family’s floor-to-ceiling bookshelf are dedicated to helping believers interpret and apply Scripture – all this not to mention that two of our computers connect to the internet, which in itself is a source of truly inexhaustible information.

But how do I respond to the immediacy of the Gospel in my daily life? How do we, as 21st century American Christians, react to a privilege virtually unknown throughout the scope of human history and in many parts of the world even today?

During the weekend I watched this ten-minute video that captured the consummation of a lifelong dream for Indonesia’s remote Kimyal tribe: the translation of the complete New Testament into the Kimyal language. The video is a little long, but well worth the time.

This video shocked me because I am utterly unable to relate to the delight these people displayed at receiving the Word of God. The constant presence of Scripture in my life has hardened my heart to the wonder of a transcendent God condescending that we might share in His perfect joy, and to my shame I often find it difficult to regard studying these life-giving words as more than a tedious Christian obligation.  

I suspect that many of us regard the Bible as mundane simply because we’ve forgotten what it really is that’s written in these sixty-six familiar books. Because I was home sick on Sunday morning, I was able to spend some time rediscovering the unique and infinite value of God’s Word through what it testifies about itself. In the order that I first wrote them down, here are seven aspects of the Bible that most renew my love and appreciation for it.

1. Scripture sustains and directs spiritual life.   

  • Deuteronomy 8:3 – “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
  • Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…”
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
  • Romans 15:4 – “For whatever was written in the former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

 2. Scripture reveals truth.

  • Psalm 12:6 – The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
  • Psalm 33:4 – “For the Word of the Lord is upright…”
  • Proverbs 30:5 – “Every word of God proves true…”
  •  2 Peter 1:20-21 – …no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God.”

 3. Scripture is eternal.

  • Isaiah 40:8 – “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.”
  • Matthew 24:35 – “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
  • John 1:1-2 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

 4. Scripture is unified.

  • Luke 22:37 – “For I tell you Scripture must be fulfilled in me.”
  • John 5:46 – “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.”
  • Romans 1:1-2 – “… the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.”
  • Galatians 3:8 – And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham.”

5. Scripture effects the will of God.

  • Is. 55:11 – “…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it will accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”
  • Ephesians 6:17 – “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

6. Scripture effects salvation.

  • 1. Corinthians 15:2 – “…you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.”
  • 1. Peter 1:23 – “…you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God.”
  • John 6:68 – “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
  • John 7:38 – “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘out of his heart will flow streams of living water.’”

For more information about the Kimyal tribe and the Bible translation effort, visit www.kimyaltribe.com

Ordo Amoris and the Love of God

December 19, 2010

This entry was originally posted here.

In 2008, I attended a summer camp event hosted by my local church. The topic for the week, around which all teaching and discussion were centered, was the supreme goodness of God as described in Psalm 34. While I learned quite a bit during my time there, one of the most valuable “take-home” lessons of the week came  from Saint Augustine, a favorite church father of our speaker, Perry Garrett.

Perry outlined for us Augustine’s philosophy of ordo amoris, or “the order of loves.” This idea, which is expressed most clearly in Augustine’s The City of God, refers to a divinely ordained hierarchy of human loves and pleasures. God sits at the pinnacle as the primary object of human satisfaction, and the single pleasure that is able to provide fulfillment proportionate to and beyond our  my desire for it.

In 1 Timothy 4:4, Paul writes, “everything created by God is good.” One of God’s blessings to His creatures is that He has ordained all things for our use, benefit, and enjoyment. Money, sex, food, and other people are good gifts, but they were not designed to provide our lives with ultimate meaning. Ironically, our capacity to enjoy these things properly actually rests on whether or not God is central in our affections. Whatever we exalt above our Creator can only enslave us. As C.S. Lewis poignantly expressed in his treatise The Four Loves, anything other than God, “having become a god, becomes a demon.” Inordinate desire is never met in full; it is born of sin binds us to sin.   

Once God is seated in his rightful place in our affections, our love for Him will sanctify our hearts and passions, leading us to value the things of this world appropriately. We will view God’s gifts not as ends in themselves, but as rays of light that draw our eyes up to the great and glorious Source of all that is good, of whom all earthly joys are mere shadows. God’s status as chief of our desires is not arbitrary; in 2008 I came to understand that He is in fact worthy of all my heart, all my soul and all my strength. His excellencies far outweigh, and His glories far outshine, all else that is offered. As Augustine prayed at the opening of his Confessions, “God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.”

Moving, again

September 28, 2010

About a week ago my friend Gabe Tribbett extended an offer to me to become the third member of the blog he shares with John Mueller. After a little bit of thought I accepted this honor, and hope to post there once or twice a month.

Since that blog is oriented more towards biblical exposition than mine, which tends to focus on the implications theology has on culture, I won’t be posting the same articles on both blogs. Most of what I put there will probably end up here, but not vice-versa. 

So, check out the site, which has been up and running (and posting very good things) long before I became part of it. I’m excited about this opportunity and hopeful that the new arrangement is beneficial to everyone involved.

Thanks for reading!

Art and the Image of God

September 18, 2010

        On Friday, September 10, Nathan and I made the half-hour trek to Wheaton College with my mom’s sister and two of my three fantastic Brigham cousins to attend the Vos Concert Grand Piano Dedication concert there in Edman Memorial Chapel. While for me the whole point of the evening was to fulfill a Music Appreciation course requirement, along the way I picked up a few thoughts and ideas I thought I’d share with the rest of you.

        After a brief introduction by the college’s president, Philp Ryken, the concert began. Aside from a piece by Chopin and the surprise appearance of my former teacher, Sung Hoon Mo, I wasn’t familiar with either the works or the performers. And while I’m all for classical music, I’ve never been a huge fan of works that are more technical than emotional. Listening to music like that has always seemed a little like giving up To Kill a Mockingbird or The Lord of the Rings in favor of something more like my math textbook or Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. But although what I heard at the concert last week wasn’t what I might choose for my own leisure time, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the whole idea of music as a form of human creativity.

        For some years now I’ve thought quite a bit about what it means for man to be created “in the image of God.” It’s true that eventually I’ve come to the conclusion (or a lightly-held conviction) that it has a lot more to do with our representational status as stewards of the earth than with actual psychological or physiological similarities. Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem reasonable to completely disregard other aspects of Man’s being when trying to determine his place in the created order. Though I’m hardly a materialist, for most of my life I have found it almost impossible to see in what way other than spiritual mankind is elevated above the status of other organic life on our planet. We look the same as any other animal, inside and out. We move the same, sound the same. We have the same basic needs. We act and react similarly to the beasts in almost every situation. As far as biology goes, the only difference between us and the rest of kingdom Animalia is that we have a more complex neurological system.

        Yet it’s hard to admire a painting, become engrossed in a novel, or be entranced by a song with this thought in mind without wondering whether any increased capacity for logical thought could ever engender what we call art. I have no doubt that use of Nature’s laws for productive ends rivaling our own would be found in any species of our intelligence, image of God or no. But would we ever find order wrested from the world around us for Beauty’s sake – or, as we might also put it, for its own? I’d never seriously considered until last Friday that our business of attributing meaning (isn’t that the root of real perceived beauty?) to intrinsic structure might be far more of a spiritual behavior than a psychological one. What is it that evokes awe when I gaze across miles from the top of an Appalachian mountain, or brought me to tears the first time I heard the opening measures of Grieg’s Morning Mood?

        If we’re going to say that this sort of sehnsucht begins and ends with chemical reactions in my brain then I for one am not going to bother with either ever again. But if in awe and wonder and all the rest my created spirit is recognizing and rejoicing in the likenesses of God portrayed by necessity in what He has made, then I will continue to seek these out and give my praise to the Being reflected in the mirror of the universe, understanding this privilege to be something unique to God’s image-bearers. And I’m no specialist when it comes to the human mind, but this seems to me to be the more likely option.

        My other (mostly unrelated) thought popped into my head while I was watching Dr. Mo, my piano teacher some years ago, give an incredibly adept exhibition of his talent. Meaning he performed beautifully for a solid twenty minutes entirely from memory. Sitting in the audience, it was hard not to feel some measure of regret as I wondered what I might have been capable of by now if I’d stuck to my lessons. After taking piano for eight or so years, Nathan and I dropped out in 2008. We wanted to be able to focus on high school, and neither of us was interested in music as a career. So although it was tough letting years and years of practice slip away, quitting lessons was academically convenient at the time.

        But was it the right decision? I’m not sure. Though it seems very unlikely that I’ll end up “needing” excellent piano skills in whatever path of study I end up choosing, it seems like all gifts should be furthered and developed to their fullest capacity. To abandon the gift of music looks no less than to squander talent given by God, and He gives nothing without purpose. I conveyed this concern to my cousin Lindsey, a freshman at Wheaton, and she warned me about what she called “utilization theology” – the error that God is only glorified by our abilities when we make what an observer might consider the “fullest” use of them, when what he really only means is the “public” use. But is God glorified equally in the practice room as on the stage? Can it be that the number of participants in an act of glorification is irrelevant? What does it mean for God to be glorified through art or secular work, anyway?

        So, there are the first random thoughts and questions to appear on this site in quite some time. I hope somebody, somewhere, benefits from them.

Is Anyone Out There?

August 2, 2010

Hey all,

Over the past few days I’ve considered starting this blog back up. Problem is, I have no idea if anyone’s still with me. If you read this, please comment and let me know if you’d be interested in seeing posts here more often.

If the audience is substantial, I’ll see about getting more up on this site. No promises…

Humility

February 22, 2010

O Jesus!  Meek and humble of heart, hear us.

   From the desire of being esteemed, deliver us, O Jesus.

   From the desire of being loved, From the desire of being extolled, from the desire of being honored,

   From the desire of being consulted, from the desire of being approved,

   From the fear of being humiliated, deliver us, O Jesus.

   From the fear of being despised, from the fear of being forgotten, from the fear of being ridiculed,

   From the fear of being wronged or suspected, deliver us, O Jesus.

   That others may be loved more than we, O Jesus, grant us the grace to desire it. 

   That others may be esteemed more than we,

   That others may increase and we may decrease, that others may be chosen and we set aside,

   That others may be praised and we unnoticed, that others may be preferred to us in everything,

   That others may become holier than we, provided that we may become as holy as we should,

O Jesus, grant us the grace to desire it.

                                                                                                                       

Rafael Merry del Val (1865-1930)

Is the Created World Good?

October 27, 2009

In lieu of an actual post (soon, I promise!), here is a short essay I wrote for literature class. Enjoy… and let me know what you think!

Summa: Is the Created World Good?

According to the Marcionites, a Gnostic sect formed by Marcion of Sinope around the year 144, the creator God of the Old Testament was a being inferior to God the Father first introduced by Christ. This God, called Yaltabaoth, was a wrathful, depraved entity, and His creation, subsequently, is imperfect, filled with sin and suffering. Though Scripture is clear that there is one perfect God, both the Father in Heaven and Creator of all, the question aroused by the Marcionites’ claim is a valid one. Is the created world “good?” If it is, how can evil exist in a good world? Is creation evil? If so, why?

“God saw everything He had made, and behold, it was very good.” This passage from the first chapter of Genesis seems to offer an unequivocal answer to the question posed above: the created world is “very good.” The discussion, however, is far from over. The assertion that sin and suffering do exist in the world is unavoidable. Evil has plagued humanity almost since the beginning of time. The Bible itself addresses the question of its source in its opening chapters, where we read that man was tempted to disobedience with the promise of great knowledge: “And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:22) In Romans 5:12, Paul makes a claim that both confirms our suspicions throws our once black-and-white answer into a world of doubt: “…sin came into the world through one man (Adam) and death through sin.” Can the world still be considered “good” even after the advent of sin? Or has a once-good creation been ruined entirely?ist1_230478-bitten-apple

Nature is under a curse (Genesis 1:17), “subject to futility” (Romans 5:20). These assertions are undeniable. The underlying question is not, “is the created world good?” but rather “can evil exist in a good world?” Or stated differently, “is creation itself evil or is it merely bound by evil?” Can a good creation exist in the presence of sin?

My answer is yes. God looks upon His work even today and calls it “very good.” Paul writes in Romans 8:20 that “His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” In other words, God’s creation has never ceased to reflect God’s good character. The image has been distorted some due to the sin that binds creation, but remains nonetheless. Nothing can be corrupted and remain truly good, for just as a half-truth is a complete lie, “evil is simply good spoiled.” – C.S. Lewis

The inherent goodness of God’s creation is perhaps best expressed by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:4: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” And though creation has long been held in bondage, a day will come when the chains of sin will be destroyed, and all the universe will partake in the glorification of the saints.

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:19-21)

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