Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The blessing of the Lord, it makes me rich and adds no sorrow to it.
I always thought of that as material or temporal. My brain rarely traveled beyond into the eternal or even in the emotional...until lately. Today is no exception. In fact, today is as an exclamation point on the fact that the Lord has blessed me.
My son, who is 8 years old (going on adult) helped the neighbor across the street, gathering flowers from an empty lot and planting. The neighbor paid Jason for his help by giving him whatever flowers he found he did not need.
Jason ran in with all the energy and excitement of 10 children, "Mom, Mom, guess what I got you..." he grabbed my hand and pulled me outside to show me his treasure.
That was a few days ago, yesterday, he brought home more flowers and an onion plant. Where I live, I am not permitted to have a garden, but an onion mixed in with the flowers probably won't be a problem. He wanted to know where I wanted the flowers. He decided on a spot, which I said would not work because of the clay all around. Besides, I was busy with other things and was not prepared to find a home for those plants.
This brings me to today, when he went to his neighbor and asked for help. With neighbor recruited and shovel in hand, Jason set about the job of planting my flowers and onion. Along with this, he and the neighbor weeded my front flower garden and pulled a couple bushes that I couldn't stand. My flower garden in the front is now ready for planting.
The blessing of the Lord truly does make rich. I am truly blessed.
written by Karlen Ann (Clouse) Jacobsen
North East Michigan Reformation Society
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Not so the writer claimed, Christians of the local church are to live a life demonstrating the characteristics of Christianity (regenerated men), of Godliness, of humility, of worship, of benevolence. We are to treat our neighbor as we treat our selves. We are to raise our children in godliness. We are to serve the body of Christ in humility.
How off the mark I think we may be, we the local church people. We have given up living the Christian life for the promoted activity (nearly every ministry promotes this) of carrying a big Bible telling everyone how they need Jesus. We are more than happy to point these folks to the correct place of worship, "now bow your head and repeat after me, and I will see you Sunday." It’s no wonder no one listens to us.
Here it is, My thinking altogether, I need Him (God) more and more.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?(Psalms 139:3-7)
North East Michigan Reformation Society
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
“Pursue holiness…without [holiness] no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14
In an earlier blog, we discovered that the above verse functions as a warning to believers not to give up the pursuit of holiness. The pursuit of holiness becomes an indicator of one’s spiritual life. If one gives up the pursuit of holiness he is revealing his lack of faith in Christ. But, the person who continues this pursuit in spite of the difficulty shows that he does have faith in Christ. However, still another question arises from this verse, that is, if I am going to pursue holiness, what is holiness?
The technical theological term for pursuing holiness and the process is sanctification. The Westminster divines address this question in question 36, “What is sanctification? Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” This definition implies that sanctification is a process that takes place over one’s entire life and affects one’s whole life. It is “both a status and condition” The believer's status before God is perfect righteousness because of Christ’s death. “However, this status does not mean that the believer is in a wholly sanctified condition.” Martin Luther expressed this truth with the Latin phrase simul justus et peccator (“at once righteous and a sinner”). Believers will remain in this condition until they reach heaven because “sanctification is never complete in this life…Yet, as Thomas Boston notes, the work of sanctification will progress in us because ‘of the continued application of the blood of Christ to the believer by the Spirit.’” Thomas Watson adds, “’If [sanctification] does not grow it is because it does not live.’”
The Puritans used the term universal to describe the complete change that sanctification effects. “Everything is to be sanctified. Holiness…affects our privacy with God, the confidentiality of our homes, the competitiveness of our work, the pleasures of social friendship, and our Lord’s Day worship. No time is exempt.” The change is not only universal, but it is also “inward” and “moral” as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Galatians 5:22-23 suggest.
Sanctification involves both “[dying] unto sin” or mortification and “living unto righteousness” or vivification. “Mortification… involves putting to death every form of sin…watching and praying against any sinful habits in such a way that, whenever a bad impulse arises, you immediately recognize what is happening and ask the Lord for strength to refuse it.”
“Vivification is being quickened from the heart to do God’s will” (See Heb 13:20, 21). In other words, one is seeking grace to live in obedience to God’s Law, which is received through the means of grace (the Word, prayer, and worship) both privately and corporately. Perfect righteousness or holiness is described in God’s Law. Therefore, one must perfectly follow the Law of God to be righteous or holy. However, we must remember that God’s Law does not make us righteous or sanctified. Only Christ through faith makes one righteous, and a believer behaves righteously because of being made righteous. Thus, one’s status affects his condition.
If we are going to pursue holiness, we must seek the grace from God and mortify every sin that creeps into our lives so that every area of our life is holy to the Lord. The Word of God, prayer, and worship are the ways God works to apply grace to the hearts of his people. To be holy, we must make use of these means of grace on a regular basis both privately and corporately.
 Westminster Shorter Catechism. Q.35 available @ http://www.reformed.org/documents/wsc/index.html
 This blog is a summary of two chapters entitled Sanctification in Puritan Thought and Practice from Beeke, Joel R. Living for God’s Glory An Introduction to Calvinism (Reformation Trust 2008) all quotes unless otherwise noted are from Beeke. This excellent introduction to Calvinism is available @ http://www.heritagebooks.org/bookstore/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=9347
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. To some of your ideas I would say a hearty ‘amen’. You are right in suggesting that much of the church has shied away from the simplicity of the gospel, the message of the cross. John Stott wrote a great book calling for a return to the centrality of the cross.
Where I would differ with you is in your opinion about theology. Historically, theology has included faithful knowing, thinking and acting. Bromiley wrote that, “theology is that which is thought and said about God. True theology is thus given by the Bible itself as the revelation of God in human terms.” While God’s Word is objective, our reflections of God’s Word are always human and thus relative and not infallible or inspired. Still, we must wrestle with the difficult questions of life, thinking through our faith. It is true that some theological environments have been sterile and cold. Others have specialized in questionable and secondary concerns. There are also those who think it’s all just subjective interpretation and no one really knows. These objections should remind us of our utter dependence upon God, the need to hold our views lightly and humbly, but at the same time, not deter us from the hard task of diligent study. Martin Luther stated, “The primary purpose of the truth of theology is not to divide, nor to unite, but to discover and protect the truth.”
Our faith is in Jesus, but when we talk about Him we are concerned with doctrine. Doctrine is not about ideas, but about realities, persons and events. As we study God’s grand story as revealed in the pages of Scripture, we are bound to reflect on God’s declaration of His character, will and ways. While my theological perspective must be open to correction, I still hold that theology is a disciplined study that seeks to proclaim the truth about Jesus, but also studies the proper response to who Jesus is .
Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church
 I was surprised because in my limited experience it is normally Christian artists who are decrying doctrine and theology. Steve's response is refreshing.
Read this journal entry and others here: http://stevegreenministries.org/journal/?p=91#comments
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
“Pursue holiness…without [holiness] no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV).
This passage of Scripture could very easily cause many Christians to despair of ever making heaven his home because we know intuitively that no person is absolutely holy. The Christian life is fraught with dangers, which trip up even the best believers. In light of this verse, how can one have any assurance of his eternal destiny?
The first clause in this verse is the command to pursue holiness, and the second clause gives the reason one should follow the command. Consequently, the function of the passage is not to suggest that one must earn his right to eternal life by pursuing a life of holiness; rather, it functions as a warning to believers not to give up the pursuit of holiness. The pursuit of holiness becomes an indicator of one’s spiritual life. If one gives up the pursuit of holiness he is revealing his lack of faith in Christ. But, the person who continues this pursuit in spite of the difficulty shows that he does have faith in Christ.
However, understanding this does not necessarily solve the dilemma because believers are often blind to their progress in holiness. John Calvin encourages those who do not see much progress in holiness though they pursue it: “But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due [eagerness], while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God.”
Let us not forget, as well, that while believers must pursue holiness, attaining it is not ultimately dependent on human effort but on Jesus Christ. Paul informs believers that “[Jesus Christ] became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification [or holiness] and redemption.” Believers become holy through faith in Christ through the use of the means of grace (prayer, Bible, and worship); therefore, pursuing holiness is actually pursuing Christ. This is the reason the author of Hebrews charges believers to “fix… [their] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”
A believer should not despair of making heaven his home if he is not perfectly holy. One may rest assured of his heavenly destiny if he is pursuing holiness through faith in Christ even if his progress is minimal. However, beware that assurance does not turn into complacency and so turn one from the pursuit of holiness without which he will not see the Lord.
Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church
 Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion (Hendrickson 2005) 3.6.5 A special thanks to John Botkin for pointing this passage from Calvin out to me and inspiring this post. See his article @ http://deadtheologian.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/the-slow-steady-fight-for-holiness/
 1 Corinthians 1:30 NKJV
 Hebrews 12:2 NASB
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
One of the most popular arguments for not being a Calvinist is "I don’t follow man". My doctrine is not man made. Following Calvin makes me a Calvinist. I am Bible that’s all. That’s it. This is a nonsensical statement. Interestingly, Arminians never claim to follow man but do in fact follow the doctrines of Arminius, James Arminius.
Also, it is more spiritual to be Arminian than Calvinistic. The reason is, it is more spiritual to choose God, to fight for God, and to keep following God on our own by our will. Calvinists who are less spiritual actually believe man cannot come to God of his own will, cannot follow God on his own, and that God helps man by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit giving man the power to do the will of God. And, Calvinists believe God preserves man until the end of his life. That it is by the power of God that man is brought into eternal life. This is considered by Arminians to be less than spiritual. Can it be imagined?
I have often heard the remark, I wouldn’t consider myself a Calvinist. I am just a Christian. There seems to be an embarrassment calling oneself a Calvinist. In the end, one cannot escape the fact that protestants are one or the other, Arminian or Calvinist(By the way, there are no 4-point Calvinists).
Now here is what it’s all about. In the year of 1618 the remonstrants (a strong expression of protest, a formal statement of grievances) were made by James Arminius a Dutch seminary professor and his followers. They insisted that the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism be changed to conform to the the Remonstrants. Now here it is, the five points of Arminiansm. This is how the five points of Calvinism originated.
The five points of Arminians are as follows:
1. God elects or reproves on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief
2. Christ died for all men and for every man although only believers are saved.
3. Man is not so depraved that divine grace is necessary unto faith or any good deed.
4. Grace may be resisted
5. Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by failing to keep up their faith. (Some Arminians believe in eternal security)
The Synod of Dort in 1618 rejected the five points of the Armenians as heretical teaching. The remonstrants were rejected. The Synod of Dort reaffirmed a system of theology in response to the five points of Arminius submitted by the remonstrants and has been since known as the five points of Calvinism. John Calvin did not write the five points of Calvinism (John Calvin 1509-1564 note his date of birth and death). Fifty-four years after the death of John Calvin the five points of Calvinism come on the scene. So, don’t blame John Calvin for the five points of Calvinism. Usually this long after the death of a person, he is long forgotten. Evidently, a standard was set by the teaching of John Calvin among those refuting the remonstrants of Joseph Arminius.
The five points of Calvinism issued by the Synod of Dort in 1618 are as follows
1. Total depravity - The Sinner is spiritually dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free but is in bondage to his sinful nature.
2. Unconditional Election - God chose individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world. The complete choice was based upon God’s own sovereign will. The choice was not based upon foreseen faith or repentance but was a gift to those whom He selected. This glorious election was determined not by any condition or virtue in man but entirely upon the good pleasure of God’s grace.
3. Limited Atonement - Christ’s redeeming work was intended for the elect alone. The substitutionary work of Christ upon the cross endured the penalty for our sin.
4. Irresistible Grace - The Holy Spirit extends the call to the elect, a special work of grace that brings salvation. The Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ to be saved. The spirit is not dependent upon man’s response or cooperation at all.
5. Perseverance of the Saints - All those who are redeemed by Christ have been given faith by the power of God and thus preserve to the end.
J.I. Packer clarifies, "The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God who saves, and the other speaks of God who enables man to save himself. Calvinism presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind. Election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly."
Packer continues, "It is very important not to equate Calvinism with merely five points because it tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. Although the five points are really inseparable, they stand together. If you reject one you are really rejecting them all. The major point of Calvinistic soteriology is concerned with the fact that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all. To God be the glory; Amen."
I wish for all reading this to really look at the five points of Calvinism and ask are these arguable points in my life? I believe after giving careful thought each Christian would say yes they are. Who can truly say, I saved my self by my decision, and I keep my self by my merit. Who is good enough? Who truly seeks God? Scripture teaches there is none righteousness no one seeks after God.
I am not saying I want people to become Calvinists. I am saying if anyone wishes Bible doctrine that is tight and beautiful and holy and God centered then check the two five point systems out. Do you want a God that saves by His power or a God that is dependant on man?
This is the God that saves to the uttermost.
And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom,And we would have been made like Gomorrah” (Rom. 9:29)
Meaning, He is the Lord of the hosts of armies of the heavens. He rules the world and He will reign. He alone saves by His power, by God the father, by God the Son, and by God the Spirit. Thus the doctrine of the Arminians were labeled as heretical and rightly so.
North East Michigan