Surely Goodness Will Follow Me

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

Seems simple enough to believe, especially when our eyes see easy times. When I eat food, and I’m filled it is very easy to say. When I’m around my friends, and we laugh and have a good time it’s very easy to say. When I study enough for a test, and score a high grade. When I submit a paper, and the comments from my professor are encouraging. When I see a beautiful girl, and her speech is gentle, and her adorning is that of her inner person  surely then goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

But what about when things fall apart?

What about when I’m hungry, and I cannot satisfy it, is this not goodness and mercy from the LORD?

What about when my friends depart? Or anger (whether it belongs to me or them) tears us apart. So that my only companions are darkness and depression; Is that not goodness and mercy from the LORD?

What about when I fail? Whether it be a grade, a class, a duty, a friend; Is that not goodness and mercy from the LORD

What if I am rejected by a spouse? What if an engagement is called off? What if the significant other of your dreams has no desire to begin or continue a relationship with you, because whether for good reason not, if there be any reason at all? Is God not showering me with His mercy and blessings?

Is it that God has forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1) Is God too far off to deliver me from the turmoil that has befallen me, so that I may find rest? ( Psalm 22:2)

But God says He is good, and merciful, He said that’s His name;

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” ( Exodus 34:6-7)

Am I to conclude that the LORD’s goodness and mercy has brought me into this wasteland?

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew, Luke 4:1)

Am I to conclude that that the LORD’s goodness has brought me this trouble?

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)

Goodness and mercy is the way out of the prison of thinking I am self-sufficient, and able to do God’s work in my own strength, without any conflict or difficulty.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)

Goodness and mercy gives in spite of my faults, to repair my brokenness, and the things that I’ve broken in my brokenness.

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6)

“must believe and not doubt” means that I must know Who it is I’m asking, and what it is I’m asking for. I must begin by asking for  wisdom in how to ask.

Doubt does not know what to ask for, because doubt does not seek to be informed. Doubt seeks a quick fix

“the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:6-8)

Doubt lacks stability because doubt’s hope is spread in too many loves. When one stock crashes, it jumps to another god hoping for delivery. Of course the  person who thinks that way will never have a prayer answered,  they wouldn’t stick around long enough to see it answered. It’s not the prayer in question, but the nature of being double-minded.

But the LORD has taught the Christian how prayers are answered;

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7)

Goodness and mercy following me is not conditional to circumstances that I perceive to be good, but goodness and mercy follow me to teach me what goodness and mercy  are. Goodness and mercy surround me, but the problem is my nature (which determines my perception). This is where wisdom comes in.

“Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation”

The wisdom from above teaches me to see humble circumstances as something to take pride and rejoice in as given by . The Wisdom from above teaches me to see my “richness” and “fame” as a time to take pride in the fact that I am very small, and that I’m not as important as I would like to think. All of my achievements, absent the LORD, will be brought to nothing. It’s time to rethink why it is I do the things that I do.

“—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.” (James 1:11)

All of it is vanity.  My disappointment in those things were the result of God’s wisdom

The LORD’s mercy will not leave me in disappointment. The Love of God will never put me to shame. God will never say to me “I told you so!”

The LORD’s goodness and mercy will lead me into a good place to rest, beyond the earthy gains, even through the valley of the shadow of death.

 

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You are not your own! You’ve been bought with a price!

The LORD knows whom are His (John 10:14) , more so than we know ourselves. (Psalm 139:1,Romans 8:6,27)  He knows the number of  hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7, Matt. 10:30). Believer, He knows our suffering, and sympathizes with it, because we are united into His body, and participate in those sufferings together (Heb 4:15, Philippians 3:10-11, 2 Cor. 1:5; Romans 6:5, Romans 8:17,36; 1 Pet 4:13)

Does this not include our longings, our desires, our cravings? Whether good or evil? (Matt 9:4) Do we commit the Corinthian error of thinking that God does not care about our sexuality? (1 Cor 6:15-16) The LORD cares for this, because He uniquely crafted it for husband and wife, as a means of holiness and happiness , being manifested in the joyful giving of one another. (Hebrews 13:4, Prov 5:18-19).

Our crucified Savior has recreated us, He has realigned us to something that the best of this world can barely foreshadow.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:17)
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Sex within the confines of the marriage of a man and a woman is something  enjoyed in the temporary, but it something that God has attached with eternal implications. For what is temporary gives way to what is eternal. What we see through the mirror dimly (in this age), we will see clearly in the next (1 Cor 13:12)

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (Eph 5:31-33)

We must therefore flee immorality, and especially sexual immorality. We desecrate God’s temple when we commit those acts (1 Cor 6:19) . We sin against our own body (1 Cor 6:18).  Paul tells us that sexual sins are uniquely heinous, and asks a rhetorical question to highlight this;

Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! ” (1 Cor 6:15)

he adds;

 For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Cor 6:17) and then makes the distinction “outside the body vs. against the body”; “the immoral man sins against his own body.” (v.18) 

There is something very significant about our sexuality, that displays God’s handiwork. When it is enjoyed in the confines of marriage, it testifies to the mystery of Christ being United to His Bride when He finally appears again. (Rev 19:7, Isa 54:5, 2 Corinthians 11:2)

It is in this context  that we can understand why  God sees any other expression as detestable (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27; Lev 20:13; Exo 22:19, Lev 18:23)

There is forgiveness in the LORD, sexual sins (along with others) was something that the Corinthians practiced, yet Paul says to them “ Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11),”

We who are in Christ  have been given everything we need for godliness, and God will not hold anything back from us. We all need wisdom, let us pray for it. We all need the love and mercy of Christ to constrain us to the freedom that He has called us to. The Lord lovingly and gently sanctifies us by introducing trials into our lives, (Eph 1:10, James 1:3).

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”

Putting the wisdom that originates from our evil hearts to death is calling out to God, and the wisdom of the cross of Christ. May we all cling to the gospel. To rejoice in sexual immorality is to preach another gospel.

 

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Breaking Blog [Silence]

This is certainly something worth breaking blog silence over. Free June 5 and 6!

 

van-asselt-introduction-reformed-scholasticism-300x463

 

This work supplies a long-standing need in the field of early modern studies by providing a basic introduction to Reformed Scholasticism. Although technical studies abound and interest in the subject continues to rise, until the appearance of this work by Willem van Asselt and his colleagues, students of history have lacked a concise guide to help them navigate the difficult waters of Reformed Scholasticism. This book carefully defines the phenomena of scholasticism and orthodoxy, concisely surveys the era, notes the most significant thinkers together with the various trajectories of thought, and references the relevant secondary scholarship. In short, this Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism surveys the topic and provides a guide for further study in early modern Reformed thought.

 

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He is both a Fountain and a Light

On earth, a fountain is one thing, light another. When you are thirsty, you look for a fountain, and to get to the fountain you look for light; and if there is no daylight, you light a lamp to get to the fountain. But He is both a fountain and a light: to the thirsty he is a fountain, to the blind a light. Let [your] eyes be opened to see the light; let the lips of [your] heart be opened to drink of the fountain. That which you drink, you see and hear. God becomes everything to you, for He is the whole of the things you love. If you attend to visible things, well, God is neither bread nor is He water, nor light, nor a garment, nor a house. For all these things are visible, individual, and separate. What bread is, water is not; what a garment is, a house is not; and what these things are, God is not, for they are visible things. God is all of these things to you: if you are hungry, he is bread to you; if you are thirsty, He is water to you; if you live in darkness, he is light to you, for he remains incorruptible. If you are naked, He is a garment of immortality to you when this corruptible shall put on incorruption and this mortal shall put on immortality.

- Augustine, Lectures on the Gospel of John, tract. 13.5 (on John 3:22-29)

 

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Come Out Of Our Rebellion and Unto Jesus’ Rest

God is near to the broken hearted, and those humbled over their sinfulness. He is patient and kind to the weak, and provides an abundance of mercy to we who limp through life. God’s grace is about a lifetime of recovery and rehabilitation, but we never really do until death do we part, but by grace we are confident that in Christ our feeble attempts are pleasing to God. But what of those who trample Christ underfoot, by calling evil good? How can you say Christ cleanses you of unrighteousness and transgression, when you don’t agree with His Standard of it? In that case there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, because there is a theft of God’s glory as Just, Holy, and True in exchange for a lie. The LORD of hosts declares He is patient, and kind, and merciful beyond our comprehension, but He also declares that He will by no means clear the guilty, and that those who remain in opposition to Him should have a ” fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (Heb 10:27) How much worse for those who continue to trample underfoot the Son of God, in exchange for the delusion that we are the determiners for what is right and what is wrong.

“Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31)

“‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” (Eze 33:11)

“”Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

It is tiring to continue on in delusions of self-righteousness, as a sinner, I know this from my very own experience.  I don’t know what it’s like to have a same-sex attraction, but I know that Jesus does. I know that Jesus knows you and I more than we know ourselves.

” For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrew 4:15-16)

As sinners, let’s together drop our weapons of war against God. Let us flee to Christ, our Rock, and resting place. Today is a day of repentance, for me, for you, for all those who have ears to hear.

God is reconciling the world to Himself by grace through faith in Christ, and in Him we are a new creation.

Let us abide in His love and His righteousness, because we are constrained to joyful obedience.

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Three Influential Books

The LORD has gifted many people, by grace, to equip people  (minister or layperson) to fight the good fight of faith in their various callings. Though He does this primarily (and most importantly) through the local church, He works through other means as well. This layperson has had  some of the most significant influence through reading a good book. Not just The Good Book (66 good books that are essential  and  necessary to  the Christian Faith to be exact) but books written toward educating people on the various applications of that Faith. In my journey of  “fides quaerens intellectum”   (The term that St. Anselm of Canterbury used in describing an “Active faith and love of God seeking understanding”)  these three books have been some of the most influential.

1. Reasons For Faith by K. Scott Oliphint

0875526454m

In this book, Dr. Oliphint (with Paul’s worldview presented in Colossians in mind, particularly 2:2-8) surveys the history of philosophical thought, from ancient to modern, and demonstrates the philosophical bankruptcy in each system of thought. He also examines the Christian theologians and apologists of the Church, and how their thought has contributed to us in ways that we take for granted. In and among all of this, Dr. Oliphint presents what he calls “philosophical good news”, and encourages those of us in Christ in Him we have “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.

2. In Christ Alone by Sinclair B. Ferguson

9781567690897m

In this book, Sinclair Ferguson walks through the scriptures, and demonstrates that the central theme is Christ. He walks us through the biblical doctrine Union with Christ, by grace,  what it means to be “abide in Him”, and the importance of understanding that “without Him, you can do nothing”. The chapters are very short, and the books works very well as a devotional.

3. “The Infallible Word”  edited by N.B. Stonehouse and Paul Woolley

0875525431m

This book is a compilation of essays from gifted theologians in the 20th century on the doctrine of Scripture. The essays have to do with Scripture’s attestation, authority, transmission, and relevancy; scriptural preaching; and Scripture and Nature (Yes, trees, plants, animals etc.). This book is one of those volumes that demonstrate how the skepticism that surrounds the scripture is anything but new. In fact, the particular essay written by 2oth Century apologist, Cornelius Van Til, traces the question back to the Garden of Eden. This is an important work for any and every student of the Faith.

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Ah L’amour?

I would rather avoid to write about dating, simply because it is a lot of wild land to cultivate. To me, dating (and/or that grey zone that comes before dating)  is like hacking out a path through a primitive jungle. I’m sure it’s like that for both male and female in some sense, but I can only speak from my perspective. I also can’t speak to the dating of those who are outside of Christ (though the scripture that’s discussed, as the Word of God, is transcendent and authoritative). Rather, I’m speaking as one who has been redeemed in Christ, and being sanctified into His image by the power of His Word and Spirit. In this case, someone who isn’t a Christian probably won’t be interested in what I have to say, though they can (and should) still read.

My comments are aimed toward some features of “pop” evangelical dating. For what it’s worth, I find Josh Harris’ two books on it to be quite helpful. He addressed things that needed to be addressed.  We have a way to approach relating to women we are attracted to as single men in the dating culture (along with everything else), we’ve always had a way given to us in Scripture, whether explicitly, or by way of implication (2 Tim 3:16-17). However, things become clouded over time, because of our sinful tendencies, even as Christians (Rom. 7:14-21); we need teachers commissioned and ordained by God, through the means of grace provided in the context  of a local church, to remind and correct us (Eph 4:11;Heb. 13:4,7-9,17).  Josh Harris, along with plenty of other men, have had the opportunity to do just that (their material is available to everyone, but one still needs to find a local congregation that is built on the foundation of the Word of Christ).

So then, what’s the rub? 

The problem is bad applications. It’s been six years since I’ve read Harris book (Boy Meets Girl), and I’ve had time to see the approaches that have been taken. One of which I understand was great, but Harris’ circumstances don’t happen in every situation. But he did point to how the  Word of God sheds light onto the dark fog of human relationships, and how there  is a constant need for careful application. All relationships (not just boyfriend-girlfriend) are messy because of sin (otherwise, why would Christ need to have shed blood?) While there needs to be high standards maintained, many think of this in terms of an unrealistic, spiritual checklist. Keeping in mind that dating is certainly not marriage, the former (learning to relate) still need to take place before the latter. Relating isn’t something that is going to all fit together perfectly. Going back to the imagery of the jungle, obstacles need to be overcome, character is developed, and the fruits of the Spirit are cultivated, because Christ is LORD over all, including any relationship.

The “dating” and “courtship”, on the popular level of evangelical circles don’t follow these principles. Even if they started out under good intents and purposes; if something goes wrong, and hard feelings develop, then the relationship is abandoned. Worst of all it’s done under the pretense of “God is leading me another direction” or “God taught/told me..” or “I think the LORD has something else” or “I don’t think the LORD would have me date right now”

While there are legitimate reasons to end a romantic relationship with someone (all of which have been highlighted elsewhere), if we were honest, we’d recognize that the reasons that we give, don’t really reflect the actual reason. I can’t even begin to imagine how many times I’ve heard that God has “changed His mind” about the dating relationships of me, or the dating relationships of my friends. As self-conscious Christians (those thinking in terms of God’s self-revelation in Scripture) we ought to know better. God isn’t like man that He should lie or change His mind (Num. 23:19), He’s a God of peace and order (1 Cor 14:33). If we’re going to relate under the name of God in Christ (or theologically), then we need to understand the ramifications of it. We’re chaotic because of our problems, God isn’t. By  grace through faith in Christ, we all move closer to each other, even through the obstacles.

God has given the gift of romance, which should be brought to consummation  in marriage, and it’s normal to desire it (Gen 2:18), even as a Christian. Obviously we can make it an idol, but just because one has the strong desire to marry, doesn’t mean they are sinning or less of a Christian (Matt. 19:10-12). I’ve seen too many people proof text 1 Cor. 6:7, which states “I wish that all were as I myself am (single) , to bash the Christian desiring to be married. Even though it’s “concession” not “command” (v.6) and continuing the sentence; he says “But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another”. This is perfectly consistent with Jesus’ very teaching. So by way of implication, marriage is normative, the gift of singleness is in very special circumstances. Though neither circumstance is greater, both are given by grace.

These are my observations with my thoughts included, and if anything, I hope to strike up new conversations on how we think about God’s beautiful gift of romance fulfilled in marriage. He gave us romance to glorify Himself (Rom 11:36) in Christ (Eph 5:22-33).

I hope to write on this again concerning the priority of wisdom in relationships, but perhaps after hearing some insight.

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A Word From The Past: Geerhardus Vos

In the fourth place the Reformed theology has with greater earnestness than any other type of Christian doctrine upheld the principles of the absoluteness and unchanging identity of truth. It is the most anti-pragmatic of all forms of Christian teaching. And this is all the more remarkable since it has from the beginning shown itself possessed of a true historic sense in the apprehension of the progressive character of the deliverance of truth. Its doctrine of the covenants on its historical side represents the first attempt at constructing a history of revelation and may justly be considered the precursor of what is at present called biblical theology. But the Reformed have always insisted upon it that at no point shall a recognition of the historical delivery and apprehension of truth be permitted to degenerate into a relativity of truth. The history remains a history of revelation. Its total product agrees absolutely in every
respect with the sum of truth as it lies in the eternal mind and purpose of God. If already the religion of the Old and New Testament church was identical, while the process of supernatural revelation was still going on, how much more must the church, since God has spoken for the last time in His Son, uphold the ideal absoluteness of her faith as guaranteed by its agreement with the Word of God that abideth forever. It is an unchristian and an unbiblical procedure to make development superior to revelation instead of revelation superior to development, to accept belief and tendencies as true because they represent the spirit of the time and in a superficial optimism may be regarded as making for progress. Christian cognition is not an evolution of truth, but a fallible apprehension of truth which must at each point be tested by an accessible absolute norm of truth. To take one’s stand upon the infallibility of the Scriptures is an eminently religious act; it honors the supremacy of God in the sphere of truth in the same way as the author of Hebrews does by insisting upon it, notwithstanding all progress, that the Old and the New Testament are the same authoritative speech of God.

(“Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, pp. 232-33)

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Andy Stanley on Marriage

So apparently Andy Stanley is under the impression that we cannot use the phrase “biblical marriage” to define marriage. His reasoning;

“The more we know about the nature of a biblical character’s marriage relationship the less likely we are to reference them So… Let’s start talking instead about NewTestament marriages. Easier to define. Easier to defend.”

A couple of problems come to mind.

1)For one, we aren’t trying to model marriages off the characters in the bible. He’s confusing Holy Scripture’s descriptive character (for example, the hundreds of Solomon’s concubines) with Prescriptive character (for example, God’s Laws on marriage). There are points where the bible describes what the character does (descriptive) going against God’s laws (prescriptive).  So Andy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Tim 3:16)

2) Christ references the OT in defining marriage (Mark 10:8) as does Paul (1 Cor 6:16;Eph 5:31) in describing its telos.

Andy wants to focus on the NT teaching on marriage, but in doing so, one would still have to go back to the OT, which the NT presupposes in its teaching.

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G.K. Beale on Genesis and Revelation

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4)

Dr. Greg Beale makes an interesting note of this passage, and how it alludes to Genesis 19. I’ll summarize a brief point he makes in the beginning

Particularly v.13-22 it’s repetition of the commands “Get Out! Up! Escape!” in light of the coming judgment of the city. Another note he makes is the force in which the angels took in getting him out. They not only commanded them to leave, but because he “lingered” ” the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand” and this was paired with “the LORD being merciful to him”. Then they commanded again to “Escape”.

The LORD’s commands, Lot’s refusal, and The LORD’s force and constraint in the obedience of those commands against his “lingering”. This says a couple of things, mainly that the LORD is sovereign, and concerning us, He is merciful on us despite the fact that we linger in sin, in dragging us out of it.

The audio is here

 

Some of Beale’s works are here and here

Dr. Gregory K. Beale is Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia

Posted in Commentary, Exegesis, Genesis, Revelation, Short and Sweet(?), Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary | Leave a comment