Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Friday, April 28, 2006

What is Faith? (part 3)

... more on "Is Faith a Gift?"

I intend to go through each of the verses I received from my brother and two others that were posted in the comments section of the last post. These seem to have tied up for some the fatalism of the Calvinistic mindset. Somehow, they don't do the same for me. I think it is because I have many other passages of Scripture in mind that I think are very plain that would seem to indicate contrary to what some assert these to mean. I went to bed thoroughly disturbed last night and once again, decided that I must look honestly at these challenges to see what is true. If Calvinists are right, it has huge implications for me that I will not spell out here - they are very personal. But I believe the Bible is the Word of God and I want to know what it teaches. It make take a few days for me to cover these, but here is my understanding of the first two passages.

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (Acts 3:16)

Look at Romans 10:17 - There we learn that faith comes by hearing the "Word of God." Jesus Christ IS "THE WORD OF GOD." (John 1) Is this inconsistent with the idea that anyone who hears the Word of God can believe? No. It compliments that idea. Faith comes through Christ. Christ is the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. It is the faith that comes through Him.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)

This verse I think clearly teaches that faith is a gift. Does it teach that initial belief in Christ is a gift as in the anonymous billionaire depositing money into the account of a "recipient"? I don't think so. This is talking about the members of the body of Christ and how we all differ in levels of courage and trust. This is a different aspect of faith than the faith of the salvation passages. This is to those who have already been given the Spirit - those who are believers. To these this is relevant.

God has not given the same amount of faith to move mountains as he has to Paul, has He? Paul has been seen listing faith as one among many gifts that the Spirit has bestowed on believers: 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)

I will get back to the others later. Please feel free to offer any thoughts on what I have posted here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What is Faith? (part 2) ... Is Faith a Gift?

Sometimes thinking about this makes me feel like an ignoramus pondering “which came first - the chicken or the egg?” I will share my current thoughts on this question in the following paragraphs. A brother emailed some verses that may contradict my understanding of this. They are listed at the bottom of this post. Maybe I will change my mind and see that faith really is a gift - in the sense that God grants it only to His chosen, who were chosen apart from faith, thus making faith secondary to being chosen. Maybe I will change my mind! (or maybe God will grant me insight.) I have to open my mind to these verses that have been given to me. Maybe they don't mean what I think they mean. I also received some verses about God “granting repentance” but I won’t include them here. I am just looking into one question right now: is faith a gift?

Does saving faith come by grace (thus making it a gift to the one chosen to be graced) or does faith appropriate saving grace? Here are a couple of verses about that. Do they contradict one another?

… through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2) (compare Ephesians 2:8-9 – through faith)
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him… (Philippians 1:29)

OK, many people insist that faith is a gift. I heard a lady just the other day: “I believed in Jesus Christ and He saved me – but even my belief in Him was from Him.” I hear an oxymoron in that statement. Let me say that I fully understand faith to be a gift in one sense:

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. (Acts 18:27)

Without God’s enabling, His grace, we can do NOTHING! I cannot walk to the mailbox if God decides He does not want to allow me. When it comes to seeing and embracing the truth from God about His wonderful plan of salvation, if He didn’t help me see it, I wouldn’t have seen it. He draws all men unto Himself now that He has been lifted up. (John 12:32) He draws ... and we must respond ... with a very personal thing called faith. Faith is not some mystical insight into truth. It is not some deep commitment to change or serve. It is not a work. It is not an effort. It is very simple – it is when a person hears the truth, is convinced about it, and believes. This is not done to us by God or for us by God, this is what God desires of us.

Faith in Christ is the only way a sinner can stand before God, which has always been quite a revolutionary idea in and of itself, because it takes working your way to heaven out of the picture. Faith is the only way we can receive what God has to give. I was thinking about the “gift of God.” This is really the best analogy for salvation because … it is the one that the Bible uses!

We’ve all heard it before – you have to receive a gift or else it is not yours. I was thinking that if I were a Calvinist, I would challenge that idea by saying that this is not necessarily true. Some anonymous billionaire could get my bank account # and go to my bank, fill out a deposit slip, and I would have a gift that I could not reject! I couldn’t reject it because I don’t know the man and there would be no way of refusing the gift. It would be there in my bank account without my having seen or known or heard a word from the giver. It would be mine without my having received it. Is this the picture we have of our God? Does He give saving grace and deposit faith in our heart and mind without us having interacted with Him, without our personal involvement, without our belief? That strikes me as all very impersonal, but if you say “faith is a gift” in this way, I can’t see that it would be anything personal at all. Salvation by grace through faith could just as well be salvation by Grace without faith.

Acts 16:31 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved …

The greek word for believe is pisteuō, which comes from the same word used in Ephesians 2:8-9 translated “faith”.

This is something personal – it happens within a person – it is not something done to a person. Believe you must, this is all God requires to enter life. Yes, He requires something, but not works – He requires the righteousness that comes through Christ. He provides the righteousness, we receive it through faith.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

4102 pistis (pis'-tis)
From G3982; persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; - assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

Here are Webster’s definitions of these words (how can this be a “gift” in the truest sense of the word?)

Believe: to accept as true, genuine, or, to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something, to hold an opinion, to think, to consider to be true or honest, to accept the word or evidence of.

Faith: Belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, something that is believed especially with strong conviction.

Here are the verses I recieved via email:

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (Acts 3:16)
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)
8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? (Acts 15:8-10)
1Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours… (2 Peter 1:1)
1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Friday, April 21, 2006

What's FAITH? (part 1)

Below is a very long sermon by Spurgeon. I really love this sermon. My friend, bluecollar, posted it weeks ago and I still can't get it out of my head. It is so very wonderful and creative the way Spurgeon has explained faith. I was reading elsewhere last week and the blogger entitled his post ARE YOU SURE YOU LIKE SPURGEON? ( <-- click to see) He went on to post many of Spurgeon's ideas on Calvinism. Yes, these are things I don't really appreciate, being a "non-Calvinist." I had to wonder, though, on that writer's intentions - why would a Christian want to keep another Christian from liking a third Christian? What is the point of that?

I like Calvinists ... and I certainly like and appreciate Spurgeon. If I had to say that I didn't like another Christian just because they express some non-essential doctrine that I don't like or that I don't see the way they do, then I would have to leave my church! That is just silly.

Anyway, below is a great sermon by the (sometimes rejected by Calvinists and sometimes rejected by non-Calvinists) Spurgeon. It is long, but I entreat you to read it. On the subject of faith, which has generated so much discussion as to where it comes from, what it is, (is it a gift? is it some mystical vision or view into truth? does it follow the new birth? etc...) this just made such good sense to me! I'm sorry to say, I gave the article to a friend [:~)] ... and my brother, and neither thought this description of faith was good enough. It was just too simple. I have yet to hear back from my pastor about his thoughts on this sermon.

Faith Very Simple - Spurgeon
TO MANY, FAITH SEEMS a hard thing. The truth is, it is only hard because it is easy. Naaman thought it hard that he should have to wash in Jordan; but if it had been some great thing, he would have done it right cheerfully. People think that salvation must be the result of some act or feeling, very mysterious, and very difficult; but God's thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways. In order that the feeblest and the most ignorant may be saved, he has made the way of salvation as easy as the A, B, C. There is nothing about it to puzzle anyone; only, as everybody expects to be puzzled by it, many are quite bewildered when they find it to be so exceedingly simple. The fact is, we do not believe that God means what he is saying; we act as if it could not be true.

I have heard of a Sunday-school teacher who performed an experiment which I do not think I shall ever try with children, for it might turn out to be a very expensive one. Indeed, I feel sure that the result in my case would be very different from what I now describe. This teacher had been trying to illustrate what faith was, and, as he could not get it into the minds of his boys, he took his watch, and he said, "Now, I will give you this watch, John. Will you have it?" John fell thinking what the teacher could mean, and did not seize the treasure, but made no answer. The teacher said to the next boy, "Henry, here is the watch. Will you have it?" The boy, with a very proper modesty, replied, "No, thank you, sir." The teacher tried several of the boys with the same result; till at last a youngster, who was not so wise or so thoughtful as the others, but rather more believing, said in the most natural way, "Thank you, sir," and put the watch into his pocket. Then the other boys woke up to a startling fact: their companion had received a watch which they had refused. One of the boys quickly asked of the teacher, "Is he to keep it?" "Of course he is," said the teacher, "I offered it to him, and he accepted it. I would not give a thing and take a thing: that would be very foolish. I put the watch before you, and said that I gave it to you, but none of you would have it." "Oh!" said the boy, "if I had known you meant it, I would have had it." Of course he would. He thought it was a piece of acting, and nothing more. All the other boys were in a dreadful state of mind to think that they had lost the watch. Each one cried, "Teacher, I did not know you meant it, but I thought—"No one took the gift; but every one thought. Each one had his theory, except the simple-minded boy who believed what he was told, and got the watch.

Now I wish that I could always be such a simple child as literally to believe what the Lord says, and take what he puts before me, resting quite content that he is not playing with me, and that I cannot be wrong in accepting what he sets before me in the gospel. Happy should we be if we would trust, and raise no questions of any sorts. But, alas! we will get thinking and doubting. When the Lord uplifts his dear Son before a sinner, that sinner should take him without hesitation. If you take him, you have him; and none can take him from you. Out with your hand, man, and take him at once!When inquirers accept the Bible as literally true, and see that Jesus is really given to all who trust him, all the difficulty about understanding the way of salvation vanishes like the morning's frost at the rising of the sun.

Two inquiring ones came to me in my vestry. They had been hearing the gospel from me for only a short season, but they had been deeply impressed by it. They expressed their regret that they were about to remove far away, but they added their gratitude that they had heard me at all. I was cheered by their kind thanks, but felt anxious that a more effectual work should be wrought in them, and therefore I asked them, "Have you in very deed believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you saved?" One of them replied, "I have been trying hard to believe." This statement I have often heard, but I will never let it go by me unchallenged. "No," I said, "that will not do. Did you ever tell your father that you tried to believe him?" After I had dwelt a while upon the matter, they admitted that such language would have been an insult to their father. I then set the gospel very plainly before them in as simple language as I could, and I begged them to believe Jesus, who is more worthy of faith than the best of fathers. One of them replied, "I cannot realize it: I cannot realize that I am saved." Then I went on to say, "God bears testimony to his Son, that whosoever trusts in his Son is saved. Will you make him a liar now, or will you believe his word?" While I thus spoke, one of them started as if astonished, and she startled us all as she cried, "O sir, I see it all; I am saved! Oh, do bless Jesus for me; he has shown me the way, and he has saved me! I see it all." The esteemed sister who had brought these young friends to me knelt down with them while, with all our hearts, we blessed and magnified the Lord for a soul brought into light. One of the two sisters, however, could not see the gospel as the other had done, though I feel sure she will do so before long. Did it not seem strange that, both hearing the same words, one should come out into clear light, and the other should remain in the gloom? The change which comes over the heart when the understanding grasps the gospel is often reflected in the face, and shines there like the light of heaven. Such newly enlightened souls often exclaim, "Why, sir, it is so plain; how is it I have not seen it before this? I understand all I have read in the Bible now, though I could not make it out before. It has all come in a minute, and now I see what I could never understand before." The fact is, the truth was always plain, but they were looking for signs and wonders, and therefore did not see what was nigh them.

Old men often look for their spectacles when they are on their foreheads; and it is commonly observed that we fail to see that which is straight before us. Christ Jesus is before our faces, and we have only to look to him, and live; but we make all manner of bewilderment of it, and so manufacture a maze out of that which is plain as a pikestaff.The little incident about the two sisters reminds me of another. A much-esteemed friend came to me one Sabbath morning after service, to shake hands with me, "for," said she, "I was fifty years old on the same day as yourself. I am like you in that one thing, sir; but I am the very reverse of you in better things." I remarked, "Then you must be a very good woman; for in many things I wish I also could be the reverse of what I am." "No, no," she said, "I did not mean anything of that sort: I am not right at all." "What!" I cried, "are you not a believer in the Lord Jesus?" "Well," she said, with much emotion, "I, I will try to be." I laid hold of her hand, and said, "My dear soul, you are not going to tell me that you will try to believe my Lord Jesus! I cannot have such talk from you. It means blank unbelief. What has HE done that you should talk of him in that way? Would you tell me that you would try to believe me? I know you would not treat me so rudely. You think me a true man, and so you believe me at once; and surely you cannot do less with my Lord Jesus? Then with tears she exclaimed, "Oh, sir, do pray for me!" To this I replied, "I do not feel that I can do anything of the kind. What can I ask the Lord Jesus to do for one who will not trust him? I see nothing to pray about. If you will believe him, you shall be saved; and if you will not believe him, I cannot ask him to invent a new way to gratify your unbelief." Then she said again, "I will try to believe"; but I told her solemnly I would have none of her trying; for the message from the Lord did not mention "trying," but said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." I pressed upon her the great truth, that "He that believeth on him hath everlasting life"; and its terrible reverse—"He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." I urged her to full faith in the once crucified but now ascended Lord, and the Holy Spirit there and then enabled her to trust. She most tenderly said, "Oh, sir, I have been looking to my feelings, and this has been my mistake! Now I trust my soul with Jesus, and I am saved." She found immediate peace through believing. There is no other way.

God has been pleased to make the necessities of life very simple matters. We must eat; and even a blind man can find the way to his mouth. We must drink; and even the tiniest babe knows how to do this without instruction. We have a fountain in the grounds of the Stockwell Orphanage, and when it is running in the hot weather, the boys go to it naturally. We have no class for fountain-drill. Many poor boys have come to the Orphanage, but never one who was so ignorant that he did not know how to drink. Now faith is, in spiritual things, what eating and drinking are in temporal things. By the mouth of faith we take the blessings of grace into our spiritual nature, and they are ours. O you who would believe, but think you cannot, do you not see that, as one can drink without strength, and as one can eat without strength, and gets strength by eating, so we may receive Jesus without effort, and by accepting him we receive power for all such further effort as we may be called to put forth?

Faith is so simple a matter that, whenever I try to explain it, I am very fearful lest I should becloud its simplicity. When Thomas Scott had printed his notes upon "The Pilgrim's Progress," he asked one of his parishioners whether she understood the book. "Oh yes, sir," said she, "I understand Mr. Bunyan well enough, and I am hoping that one day, by divine grace, I may understand your explanations." Should I not feel mortified if my reader should know what faith is, and then get confused by my explanation? I will, however, make one trial, and pray the Lord to make it clear.

I am told that on a certain highland road there was a disputed right of way. The owner wished to preserve his supremacy, and at the same time he did not wish to inconvenience the public: hence an arrangement which occasioned the following incident. Seeing a sweet country girl standing at the gate, a tourist went up to her, and offered her a shilling to permit him to pass. "No, no," said the child, "I must not take anything from you; but you are to say, 'Please allow me to pass,' and then you may come through and welcome." The permission was to be asked for; but it could be had for the asking. Just so, eternal life is free; and it can be had, yea, it shall be at once had, by trusting in the word of him who cannot lie. Trust Christ, and by that trust you grasp salvation and eternal life. Do not philosophize. Do not sit down, and bother your poor brain. Just believe Jesus as you would believe your father. Trust him as you trust your money with a banker, or your health with a doctor.Faith will not long seem a difficulty to you; nor ought it to be so, for it is simple.

Faith is trusting, trusting wholly upon the person, work, merit, and power of the Son of God. Some think this trusting is a romantic business, but indeed it is the simplest thing that can possibly be. To some of us, truths which were once hard to believe are now matters of fact which we should find it hard to doubt. If one of our great grandfathers were to rise from the dead, and come into the present state of things, what a deal of trusting he would have to do! He would say tomorrow morning, "Where are the flint and steel? I want a light;" and we should give him a little box with tiny pieces of wood in it, and tell him to strike one of them on the box. He would have to trust a good deal before he would believe that fire would thus be produced. We should next say to him, "Now that you have a light, turn that tap, and light the gas." He sees nothing. How can light come through an invisible vapor? And yet it does. "Come with us, grandfather. Sit in that chair. Look at that box in front of you. You shall have your likeness directly." "No, child," he would say, "it is ridiculous. The sun take my portrait? I cannot believe it." "Yes, and you shall ride fifty miles in an hour without horses." He will not believe it till we get him into the train. "My dear sir, you shall speak to your son in New York, and he shall answer you in a few minutes." Should we not astonish the old gentleman? Would he not want all his faith? Yet these things are believed by us without effort, because experience has made us familiar with them. Faith is greatly needed by you who are strangers to spiritual things; you seem lost while we are talking about them. But oh, how simple it is to us who have the new life, and have communion with spiritual realities! We have a Father to whom we speak, and he hears us, and a blessed Savior who hears our heart's longings, and helps us in our struggles against sin. It is all plain to him that understandeth. May it now be plain to you!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

AOL News - Ohio Priest to Be Tried for Nun's Slaying

Gerald Robinson
This is quite an uproar in the circles where my mother runs.

This priest had involvement at the all-boys school my brothers attended. They remember him and say he was very mild-mannered and kind.

Not only is this is the talk of the town, but it is getting national attention.
I wonder if he did the murder.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Christians Should do Good Deeds

If I could pick a couple of key phrases to categorize what has been on my mind in the last few days, this is what those phrases would be:

What man sees

What God sees

I was looking around on Bible Gateway and I found some passages relating to those topics.

Paul says:

... 7You are looking only on the surface of things.
… 10For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing."
… 12We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10)

These people were going by what they could see; he was exhorting the folks in Corinth not to "judge a book by its cover." Apparently, he was not that impressive to look upon. However, the work that God has done in and through this man, Paul, is quite glorious for us to behold on the pages of Scripture. (He also mentions the folly of the self-congratulatory types. I think it is good to keep company with those who challenge you and not just with those who commend you.)

The Lord laid this principle out long before, through Samuel. He told Samuel: "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king." (1 Samuel 16:1) When Samuel saw one of those of Jesse’s sons, He thought this of him: "Surely the LORD's [chosen] ..."

7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

God has chosen David to be King, even though by the looks of things, that wouldn't be David's aptitude. Back to the New Testament ... Jesus had some harsh things to say about some people that looked pretty good:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." (Matthew 23:27)

As I thought of what God sees and what man sees, I couldn’t help but think of this verse:

15"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:15-17)

I see this verse as saying that we should be very concerned with the evidence of one who would venture to speak for the Lord (prophet). This verse is a little controversial to my mind. If Jesus is talking about “deeds” when he speaks of “fruit” then maybe I should listen to the very kind priest who has seemingly dedicated his life to serving God ... or get insight from Mother Teresa as to what God wants for my life – perhaps they have a word from the Lord for me? They are showing good deeds, are they not? Then again, perhaps Jesus is talking about “words” or “ideas” or (dare I say?) “doctrine” when he speaks of "fruit." Deeds, words, ideas and doctrine are all things that we can evaluate through our senses. We cannot see into the heart of others, but we should be able to recognize false “prophets” if we use the Word of God to test the species (wolf or sheep? wolf or sheep?) before we think them to give us truth from God.

Actually, (I'm thinking "out loud" here...) does this verse even speak to us? Does the church today have prophets? The Word of God is complete. I am just now thinking that maybe this is for the early church before the canon of Scripture was established. It certainly has a principle for us, either way.

Finally, I found this verse below, (and there are many others) which reminded me that even though we shouldn’t be so concerned with looking at fellow Christians to judge, (only God judges the heart) we, as individuals, should be letting people see God’s light in each one of us … Christ in us! People in Christ should do good deeds!

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

I submit these thoughts for your analysis.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Two Reasonable Bloggers!

Back in December, I was impressed with a certain Erlenmeyer Flask because he took the time to see someone else’s point of view and that person's passion, and although he disagreed with much of the other Christian’s theology (he being a Calvinist and the other not), he appreciated what the other guy was doing and he said so. I wanted to tell him how much I respected that and so I came up with this silly invention called the Reasonable Blogger Award. It was just my way of saying that I respected what Earl had done, as it blessed my heart. (I wish he would start posting again.)

I have recently been so impressed to present this award to two others in blogdom. H. K. Flynn (a.k.a. Jodie) is just such a kind and reasonable person. She presents her points of view without apology, but she never seems to get flustered ... and doesn't lash out at anybody, not even in the slightest way. (I need to follow her example more closely.) Last week, she got into a 224 comment long interrogation discussion over her beliefs about the gospel of John. She never once “cracked under the pressure” of being put on the spot, but handled herself with such grace that she made me proud to be on a group blog with her. I love this sister! She truly has some different ideas than what you typically hear from modern day or “historical” Christian thought. This post woke me up to the fact that there are methods or polemic devices called diatribes, that were commonly used in the Hellenistic world. I have noticed that she has gotton herself involved with the Centuri0n on his Debate Blog and he has not put down the idea of the objector and the diatribe while they discuss James 2:18-20. There must be something to it! I want to know more.

There is another somebody who I have noticed over the past months as he has become very admirable in my opinion. The Bluecollar (a.k.a. Mark ... or Mr. Pierson) is quite a guy! He has said that he types real slow and, at one point was even considering giving up posting because of wrist problems. Then, he discovered that he could post other people’s writings and edify the Christian blog universe in this way. The truth is, he edifies by his comments also and his general attitude. In the early days, I noticed Mark lash out a time or two, but he now tells of how he asked forgiveness for curt words and he has not flared up like that again to my knowledge. He interacts with us “Non-Calvinists” in a very kind, tolerant and loving manner. His purpose, he says, in this realm, is to edify believers, not just the Calvinist ones like himself. I love this brother! He loves Spurgeon. My favorite posting that he did of Spurgeon is here. I also liked this post where he shares a little more passion, such that I can truly appreciate. (I know I am biased, but I am not giving myself the award, am I?) Mark has written a lengthy article called Abba, Father that he posted Sunday, which I haven’t read yet, but I intend to.

So there you have it. I have two Calvinists and One Free Grace advocate in my sidebar under "Reasonable Bloggers." Maybe next I will find some non-labeled bloggers that I can add to the list. ;~)

The idea of handing out an award is fun because it exercises my sense of self-importance which is so amusing. (Who am I?)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Does Ephesians 2:8-9 say that faith is a gift?

(For those who saw me post this Monday on the group blog, I apologize for the redundancy. I wanted to put it here for any readers that may have misssed it there and for my own records. I did change the last paragraph.)
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Bible Knowledge Commentary
Ephesians: Harold W. Hoehner, AB, THM, THD, PHD, (Director of Doctor of Theology Studies, chairman and professor of NT literature and exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary)
offered this exegesis:

These verses explain "the incomparable riches of His grace" (v. 7), expanding the parenthetical statement in verse 5, It is by grace you have been saved, and adding that the means of this salvation is, through faith. Hence, the basis is grace and the means is faith alone. (cf. Rom. 3:22, 25; Galatians 2:16; 1 Peter 1:5). Faith is not a "work." It does not merit salvation; it is only the means by which one accepts God's free salvation.

Paul elaborated, And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Much debate has centered around the demonstrative pronoun "this" (touto). Though some think it refers back to grace and others to faith, neither of these suggestions is really valid because the demonstrative pronoun is nueter, whereas "grace" and "faith" are feminine. Also, to refer back to either of these words specifically seems to be redundant. Rather, the nueter touto, as is common, refers to the preceding phrase or clause. (In Ephesians 1:15 and 3:1, touto, "this", refers back to the preceding section.) Thus it refers back to the concept of salvation (2: 4-8a), whose basis is grace and means is faith. This salvation does not have its source in man (it is "not from yourselves"), but rather, its source is God's grace for "it is the gift of God."

Verse 9 reinforces this by showing that the means is not by works since its basis is grace (Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:1-5; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; 2Tim 1:9; Titus 3:5), and its means is faith (Rom 4:5). Therefore, since no person can bring salvation to himself by his own efforts, no one can boast (cf. Rom. 3:27; 1Cor. 1:29). Their boasting can only be in the Lord (1Cor. 1:31).

I wanted to see if this verse truly says that faith is a gift (although I know there are other verses that are used by the Calvinist to say that faith is bestowed on a person who is totally depraved, uninterested in the Lord, and God regenerates him, puts faith in his heart, and then he believes the gospel after having already been regenerated.) ... but I just wanted to see if it was in this verse. This verse causes me to praise God! Salvation is by grace though simple trust in Christ and it is absolutely free! (Free to us, costly to God.) He is so generous!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Does this blog take a terribly long time to load onto your screen?

It has recently been brought to may attention that one of my friends has a hard time viewing this blog. He said it takes a very long time to load. I recently (4-6 weeks?) redesigned the blog, and I am wondering if this contributed a problem. Reader, can you tell me if takes a long time to load my blog onto your screen? Please share any other helpful observations.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Wine or Grape Juice?

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. He told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." (John 2:1-10)

I have heard Christian people over the years, some pastors, some from all walks of life, declare that Jesus changed the water to grape juice. I have read a book that is against Christians drinking in any amount, and it says firmly that this was grape juice. They even did a word study to prove it. I have also seen other word studies that say this was real fermented wine. What do you know/think?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Birth, Breast and Beef

Warning: sensitive content for bashful readers!

quick sketch I did last year
My little girl turned 8 today. I have never written a post about her (seems the boys get all the attention), so I hoped I would find some inspiration from her to share on this, her birthday. I did!

I held Charlotte on my lap this morning and I stroked her head, telling her how glad I am that she is my little girl. She smiled. I told her I remembered the day that I had her … how they put her in my arms and she cried like a pterodactyl … (that is how John and I described it at the time – how would we know what a pterodactyl sounds like?) She and I tried to replicate the sounds that her tiny new vocal chords had made, but we just couldn’t get the right pitch. She asked me what happened next and I told her a little about the apgar test and how the nurses cleaned her up and wrapped her in a green blanket.

She reminded me of how, when she was a baby, (she has heard about this before) she wouldn’t take a bottle from anyone. I told her about that first day in the hospital and how she stopped her crying when I took her to myself to nurse (breastfeed) her. She seemed a little surprised at this: “Did you have to teach me how to get the milk?”
I explained to her that, quite to the contrary, she knew just what to do … and was quite a natural at breastfeeding. I have heard this is not always the case, but with my three children, it was never a problem! The first child nursed until he was _!

In the next few minutes, thinking about this, I was awed again at how fearfully and wonderfully made we are. How is it that these babies come out and know just how to find sustenance from their mothers? God has put it within them to do what they need to survive if the means are provided.

How does this apply to God’s spiritual children, those born-again believers?

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3)

Peter says that we have been born again by the Word of God and we need to find nourishment there. While the sweet newborn Charlotte was beautiful as a suckling, if she was still only into milk, something would be terribly wrong! Similarly, we must move on from jealousy and quarrelling in our fellowship and stop acting like babies. (1 Cor. 3:1-3) We need to mature in our walk with the Lord so that we can handle training in righteousness, which those who aren't maturing in Christ aren’t always receptive to. (Heb. 5:12-15)

We had hamburgers for her birthday dinner - this is what she wanted and we were happy to share that meal with her.

Charlotte is my precious little sweetie. I am so glad that thinking about her as an infant brought this to mind today.

Happy Birthday Charlotte!

Friday, April 07, 2006

My Little Buddy

My son Simon is almost 6. We let him pray at dinnertime tonight. He prayed with his voice becoming very emphatic toward the end of the prayer:
"Thank you Lord for the food, thank you for everything, and please make the Devil get nicer!"
My husband, John and I both tried to cover our faces so as not to be seen laughing during prayer time. We were seen.

Reagan Quotes

"Here's my strategy on the Cold War:
We win, they lose."

"The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant: It's just that they know so much that isn't so."

"Of the four wars in my lifetime none came about because the U.S. was too strong."

"I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandment's would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress."

"The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination."

"Government is like a baby: An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."

"If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under."

"The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program."

"I've laid down the law, though, to everyone from now on about anything that happens: no matter what time it is, wake me, even if it's in the middle of a Cabinet meeting."

"It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."

"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book."

"No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."

I love that man!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

God Created! by J. Vernon McGee

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27)

This is one of the great statements of the Word of God. I cannot conceive of anything quite as wonderful as this. What does it mean? Well, man is like God, I think, as a trinity. Immediately someone is going to say, "Oh, I know what you mean. Man is physically, mentally, and spiritually a being." Yes, I believe that is true. Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, says that very thing: "And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Although this is true, it actually means more than that. I think that it refers to the fact that man is a personality–he is self-conscious, and he is one who makes his own decisions. He is a free moral agent. Apparently that is the thing which is unique about mankind. I believe this is what is meant by God creating man in His own image.

"Male and female created he them." These verses do not give to us the details of how man was created and how woman was created. We won't find that until we come to the second chapter. That is the reason that I say that God did not intend to give us the details concerning the creation of this great universe that we are in or He would have given us another chapter relative to that. But He offers no explanation other than He is the Creator. This puts us right back to the all-important truth which we find in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews: "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (Hebrews 11:3).

Things we see today were made out of things which did not even exist before. The creation was made ex nihilo, out of nothing. Somebody says, "Explain that." My friend, I can't explain it. And evolution doesn't explain it either. Evolution has never answered the question of how nothing becomes something. It always starts with a little amoeba or a garbage can or a little piece of seaweed or an animal up in a tree. Our minds must have something to start with, but the Bible starts with nothing. God created! This is the tremendous revelation of this chapter.

From Edited Messages on Genesis by J. Vernon McGee

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Samaritan Woman:
Did She Receive Living Water?

John 4
1 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Here she comes …

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

That was interesting. I wonder what her attitude was here. Was she amazed and humbled that he asked her for water – or was she sassy?

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

There is a condition to this.
Here is a “truncated” version of Jesus statement, without conditions:
“[Ask] Him and [He will give] you living water”
However, Jesus didn’t simply say that. He gave her some conditions. What were the conditions? Well, judging from that verse – the conditions were these:
1. IF you knew the gift of God
2. IF you knew who it is who is speaking to you

11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do you get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

Now that does sound a little sassy.

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

That verse gives me goose bumps.

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

She still thinks He is talking about the wet stuff. She was concerned with the physical.

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

In my estimation, Jesus is telling this woman that He knows who she is and what she is about. Nothing is hidden from Him. That must have been a very disconcerting thing to hear.

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Jesus has shifted the meeting to a spiritual (religious) discussion. She doesn’t shy away from the dialogue.

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus has jsut told her that the Samaritans are .. how to say this ... clueless (?) about worship, but that the Father is looking for people to worship Him in a way that transcends the limitations of location. Next, the woman makes what sounds to me like a very humble statement. She is basically saying that she doesn’t know just what all the answers are, but she is waiting for the Messiah.

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (Wow!)

28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.

She was so excited that she forgot her water jug!
In the Greek, her statement is something like this:

[not?] This is the Christ!

It is a question that makes a negative answer seem unlikely. It was the best way a woman of her standing in the community could make a declaratory statement about such an important matter. She told them the Messiah was there! Come and see!! This Samaritan woman truly led some people to Christ that day.

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”

Many of the Samaritans believed in Him. It started because the Samaritan woman testified that this man knew all about her ‘skeletons in the closet.’ It certainly was easier to convince these Samaritans that He was the Messiah ... than the religious leaders who were “waiting for the Messiah.” He did great miracles before the eyes of the Pharisees and they refused to believe Jesus was the Christ, yet coming to faith began for these people at His miraculous knowledge of one woman’s (of questionable reputation) secret affairs.

40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word.

Those two days must be part of what was described here in the last verse of the gospel of John:

25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:5)

42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

To my readers: These Samaritans became convinced that Jesus was the Christ and it all began at His conversation with the "woman at the well." Jesus spoke to her of the gift of God: the living water that He, the Messiah could give her – "springing up into" into eternal life. What do you think the living water is? Do you think the woman received the living water at that time? Did any of them?


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