Pray for Zimbabwe: Election on March 29th

Friday, March 28, 2008

In a previous post, I relayed the horrible situation dealing with  Zimbabwe's economy.  The presidential election will be held tomorrow, and anything could happen.  The hope is that a civil war will not break out.  We put our trust wholly in the Sovereignty of God, and we affirm the words of Daniel:

"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding."  (Dan 2:20b-21)

This recent article from the BBC may be helpful as you pray over the Sovereign Lord's appointment tomorrow.  Yes, He is sovereign, yet we are still responsible for our action/non-action!  It is a sad thing when the bride of Christ is numb to the suffering in the world.  May she weep over the terror in the world, but may the tears shed not be shallow.  They must be tears of action and compassion.

Interview with Tim Keller

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I came upon this interview that held with Tim Keller and felt it to be very interesting and useful. Tim Keller is author of The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism. He is also pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. In the interview, he addresses:

  • His method of evangelism in preaching.
  • His view of sanctification

  • Books to help train people in apologetics.

  • How he approaches the skeptics questions.

  • Various ways to approach specific questions from skeptics. This one is particularly useful.

The interview can be found here.

"Good at Math": What Counts?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Recently, I was asked “What does it mean to be ‘good at math’?” I thought it through, and here is an edited response. Even if you don't like mathematics, it is a good exercise to go through for anyone. What does it mean for someone to be good at what you do? There are a few points that I would address in being “good at math”:

  1. The proficiency of the student in the narrowest sense of mathematics,
  2. The student’s reasoning ability in dealing with philosophical arguments, and
  3. The religious motivation behind the student’s study.

At the most superficial (disregard the negative connotation) level, being “good at math” is about knowing the language of mathematics. The student who is good at math will begin to have both a competency with the tools of mathematics and an intuitive understanding (a “gut feeling” if you prefer) of what will work. These appeal to those situations where the student sees a theoretical result developing from the material and where the student models mathematically a physical phenomenon. In other words, the student sees the ramifications of the learned theory with regard to (a) the broader scope of the theory and (b) is able, if it is possible, to handle the theories and applications in the physical sciences. I do believe that the second (b) is of lesser importance relative to the first (a). The student should be able to write clearly, concisely, and logically to express the theory.

Next, we deal with a philosophical understanding of the math. The student who is good at mathematics is able to see into the world of philosophy. The student, able to navigate through arguments, can think critically through the philosopher’s logic and develop an opinion (given an appropriate amount of time). This view comes from an understanding that philosophy and mathematics have been intertwined throughout history. In fact, Plato inscribed over the door of the Academy, “Let no one who is not a geometer enter.”

Finally, while the other two are based in skill and intellectual adeptness, this one is based on motivation. I mentor a mathematics student, and my focus in our meeting time is not ultimately on the mathematics; though, we both appreciate it. Instead, our shared passion for mathematics and the beauty of reason provide a springboard to worship God as revealed in the Bible. The following is a sampling of passages that deal with this particular topic:

a.) “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men...” (Colossians 3:23).

b.) “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

c.) “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4a).

d.) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

e.) “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3a, emphasis mine).

This is the ultimate reason why I study mathematics. This is the characteristic I want to see in myself when I desire to be “good at math”. If the student is to be good at mathematics, the student must understand from where math comes. Math is part of the way that God has revealed himself to creation, and students miss something crucial when they (a) ignore it and (b) do not use it to contemplate joyfully the manifold beauty of God as revealed in the complexity of his handiwork through the providence of Christ’s word of power. Because biblical Christianity teaches that there are no rogue molecules in all of existence, it is rebellion against the Creator not to consider the beauty of Christ when studying the laws, i.e. the mathematical principles, that govern creation which find their root in the Creator. Therefore, I do not encourage people to be good at math for math’s sake; that would be meaningless, absurd even. In the truest definition of good, it would not be good to deny the fundamental truth that undergirds all the truths you are analyzing. I would encourage them to see why there is meaning in studying math. There are two immediate quotes that come to my mind:

a.) “For he loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake.” – Augustine in his Confessions, writing to God

b.) “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – CS Lewis in The Weight of Glory

Why the Father loves the Son: The Ground of Our Salvation

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."

John 10:17-18

We have approached Easter this year. We will gather in congregations to remember the ground of our salvation. The New Testament resounds with importance of the resurrection. It is unavoidable: if you want to understand the depth of your salvation, you must have a theology of the resurrection. Paul states,

  • "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us" (Romans 8:34).

  • "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:17-20).

I have been lingering over the above verses from the Gospel according to John, and I thought it would be edifying to share my thoughts.

A Charge Given

The Father commanded the Son to do something. What is it? A quick answer could be to sacrifice his life for the sheep. Expounding upon the exultation of the Father over his Son's sacrifice, Piper writes, "God deeply and joyfully approved of what the Son was doing in that hour of sacrifice. In fact, he had planned it all together with the Son. And his love for the God-Man, Jesus Christ, on earth was owing to the very obedience that took Jesus to the cross. The cross was Jesus’ crowning act of obedience and love. And this obedience and love the Father profoundly approved and enjoyed." Have you ever thought about the attitude of Christ as he carried the cross? Did he grumble the entire way? When he sent Judas, did he do so second-guessing himself? Would that have been pleased the Father? Does a grumbling son bring honor to a father's command? The Father commanded the Son to do something. Our quick answer that it was to sacrifice his life for the sheep is only part of the story; it's on the way to something deeper. Let's dig. Of course, the sacrifice does fit the context and is part of the answer. However, what else do we see?

Purposeful Obedience in Joy

We read in verse 17 that the Father loves the Son because

  1. The Son lays down his life.
  2. The Son does so purposefully.

What do we know about Jesus' attitude concerning the cross? Jesus knew the agony and ignominy of the cross. He was to be crushed by the Father for the sake of the lambs' sins. However, we see in Hebrews 12:2 that he despised the shame of the cross but endured it. Why did he endure the cross? It was for the joy that was set before him! What was the joy that was set before him? It was the glory in the resurrection. There, he inherited the name above all names:

"After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs" (Hebrews 1:3b-4).

In the sacrifice, Jesus purposefully and joyfully laid down his life. He declares that the reason the Father loves Him is because his sacrificial laying down his life is grounded in his purpose of taking it back up again. We read later that Jesus prays to the Father:

"Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed" (John 17:1-5, emphasis mine).

The Ground of God's Love for Us

It is Jesus' joyful, purposeful obedience to the Father's command that provides the basis for God's love for us. In our meditations on the cross and resurrection, our thoughts are often a repetitive, common phrases and stories. Paul states, "[Faith] will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Romans 4:24b-25). It would be good to bring our hearts to linger over passages instead of just checking off a reading list. There are those little phrases that should bring us to are knees.

For this reason the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
John 10:17

Holiness and Incarnation

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

John 1:1-5,14,17

The Holiness of God
Moses asks God for His name (Exodus 3:13). The name God gives Moses will speak to the very character of God. I am sure Moses was very curious as to what God would say. And what does God say? “I AM WHO I AM.” Well, that’s odd. You and I would never say that. And that is exactly right. God cannot say, “I am like ___________.” There is no point of reference outside of Himself to which God can point and say, “There, look at that, I’m like that.” He is. He is like none other. All of who He is is. We are to talk about the attributes of God, i.e. what He is like, we must understand that whatever we learn about God, we must learn this: He is other. We say that God is “holy,” or separate.
RC Sproul writes,

There is a special kind of phobia from which we all suffer. It is called xenophobia. Xenophobia is a fear (and sometimes hatred) of strangers or foreigners or anything that is strange or foreign. God is the ultimate object of our xenophobia. He is the ultimate foreigner. He is holy, and we are not. (The Holiness of God, 45)

God does the defining. We are subject to His definitions. He is original. We are derivative. God is being. We are becoming. Hannah was right when she prayed,

My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:1,2).

We read in Isaiah 40:25:

To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.

And then in Hosea 11:9

…for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst…

Because of His holiness, God is unable to tolerate sin (
Hab 1:13). He is pure, and we are impure.

Now you may ask me, “That is nice, but what does this have to do with the passage from John 1?” It is an act of gracious condescension for God to dwell among us. It has been rightly declared that God, in all of His holiness, has been made accessible through the finished work of Christ. Christ has made the holiness of God not merely tolerable; Christ has brought the impossible to reality by making the holiness of God enjoyable (cf. Psalm 2:11-12)!

Reason for God: Tim Keller addresses Google

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I have been waiting to watch this video! Thanks to Reformissionary for posting it.

Easter, Too Much for Children?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Russell Moore draws our attention to a perplexing situation arising between a church and the publisher of the Sunday school curriculum. I encourage you to read the letter that the publisher sent to try to explain the removal of the crucifixion and the resurrection from their preschool lessons.

Feeling the Divine: Holy Jealousy

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

“I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.”

2 Corinthians 11:2-6

Reading Too Quickly
The first thing we read here is that Paul feels a divine jealousy. We sometimes read too quickly through our Bibles and don’t linger. There is something mysterious in this first sentence. What does it mean to feel a divine jealousy? To know the answer to this question, we first must probe the concept of divine jealousy. Then we look to how the finite human can experience a divine emotion.

Divine Jealousy
Something that is missing from most Bible studies is an understanding that God is uppermost in His own affections. After all, God is righteous and must value something in proportion to its worth. That which is infinitely valuable must be esteemed as such. To do otherwise would be injustice--improper. When God sees that His worth is not being esteemed rightly by others, He sees an injustice. We encounter this often throughout the Scriptures:

“You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:3-6, emphasis mine)

“Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.” (Exodus 34:11-16, emphasis mine)

“Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:23-24, emphasis mine)

In fact, the Lord says in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (emphasis mine). When we read of God’s jealousy, we must realize that it is an integral component of His righteousness.

A Human with Divine Jealousy
When Paul says, “I feel a divine jealousy for you,” what does he mean? Paul has been commissioned as an “apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13, cf. 1 Timothy 2:7). Paul was calling Gentiles to repentance. He was calling them out of polytheism—and more broadly, pluralism. In our day, we could easily see Paul as an apostle to the post-modern. He was calling people out of culture where many realities were affirmed to an objective reality. He was calling them out of happy ignorance (read agnosticism) to the plain truth of Christ. This was the whole point of his sermon in Athens:

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols…So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, “To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown [i.e., in ignorance], this I proclaim to you.”’” (Acts 17:16,22-23, emphasis mine)

Our post-modern society is no different. We laud ignorance by affirming all propositions as true. In so doing, we affirm nothing but our rebellion against truth (Romans 1:18). Paul is passionate to see plainly the truth of Christ. In this, God has allowed Paul to share in the divine passion for the exaltation of singular Truth. Many of these “super-apostles” with their brilliant speeches come saying, “Here is a Jesus to worship.” It doesn’t matter to these Corinthians if this Jesus that is proclaimed is the true Jesus; they affirm an idea without validating it. In this, they affirm too much. In fact, this is what happened to Eve. Eve was deceived because she affirmed the serpent’s statements as true without validating against what God had really said. Paul says the Corinthians are in danger of prostituting themselves out to many gods, to many christs. In the same way, the post-modern whores out themselves to many “truths” but will not stay sincerely and purely devoted to the truth, namely Jesus Christ. They may say that they serve Christ, but the question would then be, “How do you know that your christ is the true Christ?” Your understanding – your knowledge – must be based on the objective reality of Jesus Christ that is proclaimed plainly throughout Scripture. Propositions about Christ are not like springs on a trampoline that can be removed. Paul was not martyred for springs on a trampoline. No truth about Christ is optional, negotiable, or removable.

Do you, like Paul, have a divine jealousy for the church? Do you care if people are worshipping the true Jesus or a Jesus of their own construction? As RC Sproul said, “[I]f we are to desire God, it is imperative that we desire the God who is and not a god of our own imagination.” We are commanded by the true Christ that if we are to worship, we “must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

Many thanks to Allison for encouraging those around her to be truth-centered!

Resurrection Realities

For the Christian, a theology that exults over the resurrection of Christ is crucial. As we approach Easter, God has been building up my theology of the resurrection of Christ and its connection with the resurrection of the believer. It is with great joy that I can refer you to John Piper's newest Taste & See Article: Let These Results of the Resurrection of Jesus Revive Your Passion for His Supremacy Over All Things.

Zimbabwe & Prayer

A BBC News article from July 2007 states,

"In Zimbabwe's case, the near-5,000% annual rate of inflation means that a loaf of bread bought today is about 50 times more expensive - in cash terms - than it was a year ago. And prices are continuing to accelerate, in some cases doubling in weeks - or even, on occasion, days. Wages, on the other hand, are nowhere near keeping up. One correspondent recently told the BBC News website that one candle can cost twice the daily official government wage for a farm worker, while the price tag for a single banana is 15 times what she paid seven years ago for a four-bedroom house. "

A more recent article from CNN from March 5, 2008 observes that

$1(US) = $25,000,000 (Zimbabwe)

That is absolute insanity. The article goes on to say,

"Currency dealers said uncertainties ahead of elections scheduled March 29 and the world's highest inflation of 100,500 percent led holders of hard currency to hang on to their money at the same time as the state central bank pumped more local cash into the market for election costs" (emphasis mine).

It is an interesting thing to juxtapose this situation with the all-too-common apathetic, naval-inspecting American, while thinking of the passage from Ezekiel 16:

"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it." (Eze 16:49-50)

It would be a wonderful thing if we would get our heads out of our belly-buttons and do something. March 29th marks the presidential elections in Zimbabwe, and they could get out of control. John Simpson from the BBC says, "[T]he recent violence in Kenya over a disputed election worries many Zimbabweans" (hyperlink mine).

Please keep the people of Zimbabwe in your prayers. Pray for President Mugabe; he is not a just man. Pray that the Lord changes his heart or removes him from office.

The Consummation of All Things and a Memory

Monday, March 10, 2008

There are those memories that you hope God allows you to keep. You hope that they are held by His sovereign will in your heart to be cherished. For me, there is a collection of some of my most treasured memories, namely evening conversations with my momma. God provided Lois and Eunice for Timothy, and He blessed me with Sadie and Kathy. Through many evening conversations in my childhood, my momma taught me the beauty of Christ, the majesty of God, and the suffiency of the Scriptures. Our conversations were not the typical ones that mothers and sons have. We talked theology over a glass of tea or a Coke. My earliest memory of these conversations is of momma "reading to me about heaven." -- or should I say "weadin' to me about heaven"? I couldn't say my r's (among other things). As far as I can tell, it was what my momma read to me at this request that has been the most foundational. My momma read to me out of Revelation 20-22 in these instances. These passages illustrated for a little boy the grandeur of God. I'll leave you with two things. The first is one of my favorite passages from what my mom read to me. The second is a poem by John Piper.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." (Rev 22:1-7)

The information for the poem can be found here.

"Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"