Growing up in Oklahoma I am ashamed to admit that there was a low level, almost unstated racism in my culture. It was subtle enough that I thought it wasn’t even racism, just the reality of living in a mixed society. I am joyful to say that God has taken this away from me and convicted me mightily of my racial sins over the years. In large part He has done this through messages like this. I encourage you to take the time and watch it.
10 days ago I got married to the best woman in the world. God picked out a girl for me that is perfect for me in ways I would not have been able to ask for. His grace continues to overwhelm me.
We have decided to take up a little project (or not so little, depending on your perspective) for our first year. We are going to blog the first year of our marriage, at least one post everyday.
So, join us at http://thelundinfamily.com and see how this turns out!
Note: I still plan on keeping this blog up and running, but we will see how often I can post.
On Facebook today one of my soon-to-be cousins by marriage, whose faith and walk I completely respect, posted a link to this piece by John Piper and commented that he could not see this in the God that he knows. This intrigued me as I had read the piece and been thinking about it. So, after some time digging thorough the Bible and praying I tapped out a response on FB. I stumbled onto something good I think, so I am posting it below as well. I hope you find it useful.
First I want to state that I understand where you are coming from, completely. But I am with Piper on this and I will explain why. The scope of this discussion is well beyond a FB thread, but I think it’s a good place to discuss topics for edification of all.
The Jesus that you and I personally know is a loving, caring God who died for us, personally touched our hearts, and changed our minds to see the world more like He does. We see his mercies anew every day. This doesn’t look or feel like a Jesus that would “reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America” as Piper says.
From our point of view though, especially in the prosperous and amazingly advanced world we live in everyday, I think that we do not have an accurate picture of God’s whole character. For example, consider the picture John paints in Revelation 19 of Jesus coming back to judge the earth: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
The Jesus who humbly entered Jerusalem on a donkey is coming back on a white horse, with a flaming sword, and a robe dipped in the blood of the judged. He will come to make war and destroy the sinful here on earth. Regardless of how literal we wish to take this, the image of Jesus as the rightful and wrathful judge is an accurate part of His character. He loves His children, but hates sin and evil. The Bible tells us the day will come when most of humanity will be thrown into an everlasting lake of fire, that’s not a warm, fuzzy and popular message.
Second, Paul promises us suffering and explains that suffering in this world is good for us. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5. Tragedy and suffering is part of this fallen world. It is not the world that God desired when He created Adam, but it certainly is the world corrupted by sin that we live in.
Finally, while the nature of the covenant changed with Christ’s sacrifice, His character did not. Orthodox trinitarians throughout history have maintained that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are 3 eternal persons that are unified in substance and being and His Truth is universal and everlasting. God does not change. The God that created the world is the same one that will judge it. The God that gave us marriage and sex is the God that flooded the earth and killed almost everyone. The God that gave Christ up for a sacrifice out of love for us is the same God that let Satan run wild in Job’s life. We must pull together a comprehensive picture of God from the whole of Scripture to begin to understand Him.
But we will not be able to understand Him, we cannot grasp the contents of His will. As Piper said in this article, “Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity.” The call to repent is not new, and not targeted at those affected by this or any other tragedy, it is a universal call to life for this world. Just as Paul tells people to believe, Jesus told all people to repent.
Therefore, I stand with Piper. I do not know why this happened. I do not know what God’s will was in this tragedy. I know that He is sovereign over all the earth and that the Bible tells us His will will be done. I know that we ALL deserve death and destruction far beyond what was seen in these storms, and that only God’s gracious, forgiving, and loving hand spares our lives from destruction at any minute.
Thanks to Justin Taylor, here is a really good debate on prophecy in the New Testament and the church today. If you have any interest in the subject, or like me you have opinions that may not be anchored all that strongly, it is worth the time. My thoughts on the discussion are below.
This is a great discussion. Ian Hamilton really gets to the heart of my objection to the more charismatic view of prophecy: why are folks so set on using the word ‘prophecy’? If they are not equating to the Old Testament, ”Thus says the LORD” or the New Testament apostolic prophecies, then why the insistence on using the exact same phrase? I still have not heard an answer on this that satisfies me.
Note: I am privileged to serve on the Austin Stone Story Team as a writer. I have been with the team a few months and it has been great for me, it’s an opportunity to serve the church body with my meager talents and tell the stories of what God is doing in our community and in the world. I encourage you to check out the 100 People Network. It is a ministry of our church focused on sending out members of our church body to proclaim Christ to the unreached people groups of this world. I will double post my articles here with the hope of humbly drawing more attention to the great work of Christ. I hope you are moved by this story. If so, please consider supporting the network’s work, or work through your local church body.
Originally posted at: http://100peoplenetwork.org/blog/uproot_and_follow
Story by: Brian Lundin
Photo by: Scott Wade
Noah Burns has deep roots in Austin. He grew up in the Texas capital and has strong connections all around. There is the high school he graduated from, the university he loves, and the church where he came to know the Lord. It’s where his family and friends are.
Recently, though, Noah has felt a tug to uproot from Austin and his tight network here to follow Jesus to his new home, in a nation thousands of miles away where he knows almost no one – except the Lord.
After being saved as a high school freshman, falling away for a time, and then graduating from college, Noah’s faith was refreshed and the Lord drew him near. “His faithfulness and steadfast love for me is very real in my day-to-day life,” Noah stated. In this renewed closeness with Christ, Noah felt a call to pursue a lifelong interest in acting that took him to Los Angeles.
It was a tough time professionally, but he found a home in a local church that welcomed him, where people were committed and the worship was powerful. God continued to grow Noah’s faith during that time in a very evident way. “It’s the coolest thing in the world when God is actually moving in your life,” he said. Noah’s acting career, however, didn’t take off and he felt God’s call to return to Austin – and, as it turns out, to a lofty calling to another faraway place: North Africa.
Noah had no concept of what it meant to serve internationally when he moved home to Austin and started attending The Austin Stone. “I never knew about missions, never thought about missions. I didn’t know what an unreached people group was,” Noah said.
Upon hearing a recommendation, he began reading Let the Nations Be Glad John Piper and the first paragraph hit him hard. It said:
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.
This thought, this concept of worship, compelled Noah to leave his hometown in order to serve his Lord. In addition to worshipping the Lord through his obedience, Noah also finds sustenance in the promises of God.
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)
And that’s exactly what Noah and his team are doing in North Africa. “We’re going there to gather God’s children. I have brothers and sisters there, and my job is to go over and find them,” Noah proclaimed. “I know God’s promises; He will bring them to Him.”
The freedom that Noah found in those promises has begun to put his personal idols to death. Before he answered the call to overseas missions, Noah struggled with seeking the approval of others. “I was the last person to look for an opportunity to share my faith with my friends,” he confessed. “I was just really cowardly.”
Once Noah committed to serving in North Africa, he found that God would sanctify him through his obedience, and he started to see victory over his idol of approval. “Now, by God’s grace, I am always talking about Jesus,” he said. “I look back just nine months ago and think about the person I was and how God has used this to bring me to where I am today.”
Noah’s calling has already produced fruit in an unexpected place: “Both my parents have just fallen head over heels in love with Jesus over the last few years,” he told me. “Two years ago if I had come home and said, ‘I really feel the Lord taking me overseas’ I think they would have not understood it, but now they are incredibly passionate about it.”
He laughingly relayed a small suspicion that that his parents are a bit envious of his calling. And who can blame them? “I worship him for calling our team,” he said. “I worship him for calling me. I mean, how humbling is that? God is calling me to gather his children!”
Doug Wilson’s novel is a piercing and direct critique of the uniquely American religious institution, the mega-church. Wilson takes the gloves off in this story and aims straight for the heart of a mega-church, its pastor. Make no mistake, for any Christian that reads this book there will be discomfort, and probably a lot. But it is worth the read.
From the very first paragraph Wilson sets his sights on the hypocrisy of “Christians” and let’s the bullets fly. While his critique is direct and relentless from start to finish, he also wisely gives us a proxy and example of realistic Christian struggles. By sitting Chad Lester, pastor of the enormous Camel Creek Community Church, opposite of John Mitchell, the pastor of the tiny Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Wilson shows a consistent view of two models. Through this point of view he takes direct aim at hypocrisy without inflicting collateral damage to faithful Christians.
Pastor Lester is the confident, smooth charismatic celebrity pastor caught in a sex scandal that threatens his career and church. Having been accused of molesting a young male counselee, he is outraged at the charges. The thing that really stings about this accusation is that it is false. He does of course sleep his way through the congregation, but he is absolutely straight and offended that anyone would think otherwise. From there a dense web of relationships bring Pastor Mitchell in and out of the narrative through to a fitting and true to life conclusion.
To many Christians I am certain that this sounds like a malicious hit piece, a blind and frantic attack, or simply something we should not take the time to consider since it is all just so low and, well, dirty. I assure you this is not the case.
Wilson’s attacks and criticisms land on deserving and valid targets. The hypocrisy on display here is not that of a well-meaning but flawed leader, or of someone at war with sin. Rather it focused on the blatant pandering leaders who willfully, intentionally and without shame lie through their teeth while pursuing the pleasure of this world off the backs of their people. From the philandering senior Pastor, to the web of adulterous elders, the church members outraged at the idea of confessing sin, to the church CFO who has zero faith or belief but has rather found the perfect target for embezzlement, Wilson creates a cast of characters who are disgustingly realistic and illustrate exactly how the major scandals we hear about every once in a while can take root in our churches. If you want a case study that inspires you to design an accountability and oversight process for your church I doubt you could better than this.
Wilson’s writing is on display in a very fine case in this book. His insight is great and his skill as a writer brings this story and its evil to light starkly and powerfully. Many times Wilson surprises with a clever turn of phrase, an unexpected laugh, or well crafted plot point. He crafts a fine story that was genuinely a pleasure for me to read.
I would heartily recommend this novel to anyone. Even if this in no way resembles the average mega-church, we would all do well to heed the warning present in this story. Sometimes it takes just the right fictional story to bring an undeniable truth to light in a way that directly hits home. I believe Doug Wilson has done just that.
The life of the mind is critical to the growth of a Christian, and my fear for our generation is that we have not been taught this from childhood and today we still have not committed ourselves to that pursuit.
We are a people who value the Word of God. God chose to speak to us in this day and time through the written Word. Even when He spoke audibly to Israel it was words with which He communicated. His visible signs and wonders were preserved in the written and oral traditions of their day and still speak to us actively through the power of the Holy Spirit. Words matter to God, and they matter for our faith.
In light of this, reading and writing are crucial to developing our knowledge of God. Doug Wilson sums up why this is true when he writes, “for Christians … this means that we are people of the Word, and therefore we are to be people of words. Because we are people of words, we may, later on, be people of essays, poems, blog posts, screenplays, and novels.” In my estimation, he is absolutely right.
The Puritans knew this truth as well. The Puritan sermon was, and still is, considered an art form. It was the finest oratory of the day. In fact, I read ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in high school and I bet I am not alone. The Puritans also religiously kept personal journals, detailing and recording their lives, spiritual growth and social connections. This is all made even more impressive when we remember that the Puritans never let their scholastic expectations fall, even in the light of harsh conditions, new settlements and conquering the wild.
For this reason I restate my thesis, every Christian should be a writer… and a reader. We all need to be reading everything we can get our hands on. The Bible, books on doctrine, good novels, unusual poetry, all of it. I would add that we should not just restrict ourselves to the Christian bookstore either. We need to read widely, understand the world, concepts and beliefs. We need to cling to the Bible while surveying the rest.
We need to write. We need to have more blogs and conversation. We need more private journals. We need more writing in and about our churches. We need to teach our children how to write. And we need to pray that we glorify God in all of it.
So, pick up your iPad, the laptop you are reading this on, or even old school pen and paper. And write. It will be good, I promise.
After reading Doug Wilson’s excellent post on Ephesians chapter 1 I wanted to create my own outline of Paul’s prayer in the first fourteen verses of this chapter. I find it helpful for me to parse Paul’s writing into a logical outline in order to really begin to grasp his intended meaning. I’ve posted it below, and I hope you find it helpful.
- Praise God, who have given us every blessing in our future heavenly home
- He chose us for these blessings before the creation of the world, and he chose us in order to make us holy in His eyes
- Because of His love he picked us for adoption, as his very own children, according to His own purpose
- His purpose in this predestination is for the praise of His grace
- Our forgiveness and redemption, which make us holy in God’s eyes, is through Christ very own shed blood
- He has lavished this grace on us wisely, and again for His own purpose, which is a plan from the beginning of time to unite all things in Christ
- This inheritance has been predestined for us, according to God’s perfect will
- When we heard the truth of the gospel and believed in Christ and His promises, we were sealed with promise of the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our salvation until the day God calls us home
The density of this is astounding, but at the same time standard for Paul’s writings. I feel as if I could understand this basically in 2 minutes. But to truly comprehend the depth, breadth and truth of this would take a lifetime.
My twin granddaughters were born in a Catholic hospital last December. On Christmas Eve, they were rushed back into that same hospital, fighting for their lives. For nine days, we prayed without ceasing for their recovery. Protestants don’t usually do Novenas. This one did. Happily, the twins were released earlier this month.
Our family trusted a Catholic hospital with the lives of those most precious to us. Catholic hospitals have the latest technology in their pediatric intensive care units (PICU). But they have something more: They have an unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life.
He goes on to compare Obama’s radicalism to previous Democratic Presidents.
How radical is the Obama administration? Franklin D. Roosevelt was the most liberal president in our history. A Democrat, FDR would have found most Catholics practicing in those hospitals — and the patients being treated in them — among his warmest supporters.
So beloved by Catholics was FDR, and so many of them Irish, that it was said the president’s rolodex looked like the Dublin phonebook. FDR would not have dreamed of so violating conscience rights of Catholics.
His thesis is valid, and a good summary of the stakes at hand:
The Obama administration is threatening the very life of Catholic hospitals. This administration wants to compel these hospitals to join the culture of death by forcing them to provide insurance coverage for their employees for sterilization and drugs that cause abortions. In so doing, the Obama administration violates not only the conscience rights of practicing Catholics, but also the conscience rights of millions of “separated brethren,” protestants like us, who rely on Catholic health care to uphold the sanctity of life.
It’s worth your time to read the whole thing.
This is just a short entry, but an important one. If you are in church circles I would bet my tax return that you have heard the term ‘post-modern’ tossed around by now. But do we really understand it?
If you do not have a full grasp on the concept and its effect on the church and our culture you will quickly find yourself lost in the insanity of our times. Post-modernism is not just a trend, an artistic movement or a subject for philosophy students. It is a very real change in our society’s metaphysical viewpoint. It has changed the way our society, in its hive-mind-like consensus, views reality. The best description of this concept I have seen comes from a site for poets:
For Postmodernists the world exists only through our understanding of it, and the prime medium of that understanding is everyday language. There is no further or ultimate reality that words point to, and we deceive ourselves by seeking deep spiritual meanings in art.
Obviously this explanation is geared to the arts, but the principal holds true for the whole school of thought. A post-modern view of art ascribes no deeper meaning to an artists work, only what you may see in it. A post-modern novel may have an unreliable narrator so the reader is not able to trust the story as told. A post-modern view of language posits that words only have the meaning that the speaker and the hearer gives them, and they do not have to even agree. A post-modern theology is one where there is no absolute truth, and the only truth we can uncover is what we find ourselves.
As you can see this viewpoint stands directly in opposition to orthodoxy of any kind. Must we ignore post-modern artists, writers, and other culture makers? I would say no. As a technique in the hands of an artist it can be entirely benign, or even beneficial to Christians. Should we entertain the teachings of post-modern philosophers, thinkers, ethicists and theologians? If you are an orthodox, confessional Christian I would daresay you know that answer already.