Influences: The Thread of Logic

I believe, trust, understand, love, and think by this principle: my entire grasp, knowledge, relationship, salvation, and love to God, for God, by God, from God, and through God is according to these three Scriptures:

Hebrews 6:1-3 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

1 Corinthians 3:21-23 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

1 Corinthians 2:12-13 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Here is the thread of logic I see here:

  1. Knowing God is by the will of God (Hebrews 6:3)
  2. All truth comes from God and since we belong to Christ, all truth is ours (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)
  3. For us to understand anything given to us by God, including and especially the free gift of salvation, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

This thought is neatly summed up by the theologian John Calvin:

“finitum non capax infinitum”

In other words, “The finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite.”

In his Introduction to his Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof compared and contrasted the two realms of knowledge: Science and Theology. Science comes about because we can, in certain ways, control the subject of which we want to know more about. We can dig deep into the subject. We can prod it. We can expose it. We can cut it in two. What Berkhof contends is that what is true for Science is not true for God and hence, why we have true and proper Theology. In Theology, it is actually the Subject that controls, reveals, and enlightens how much we know about the Subject.

Could you imagine an ant determining how much or how little we know about the ant? That is a preposterous thought. But that is precisely how God reveals Himself to us: by His will through His Son by the almighty power of the Holy Spirit.  The root question now for our hearts and minds is whether we dismiss any theology and war against that very notion or do we humbly approach the throne of grace.

You might be thinking, “If this is true, how can we know God at all?

Can we know God at all or are you wanting to know all of God? The latter is not possible. Think about your spouse, your best friend, or your kids. You feel as you know them well but can you say you know all of your spouse or your best friend? God reveal Himself to us, in as we might not know all of Him, we can take full confidence that we can truly know Him because we are His people saved by Him, for Him, from Him, to Him and through Him forever and ever.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul gives a small warning about this sort of knowledge—the knowledge of God and knowing God in order to love and care for one another. It is by this wonderful knowledge of God that can easily puff up our chests and create the wrongful desire that all people would come to you as the foremost expert on all things God as though you are some sort of priest and mediator between them and God. We can never be that because we have One Great High Priest and the Perfect Mediator in His Son, Jesus Christ.

But in order to rightfully guard against that sort of deceit and pride, we do not bring about that protection by increasing our ignorance of God. For God has said:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
     because you have rejected knowledge,
     I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
     I also will forget your children.
Hosea 4:6

Whatever can we do?

Always know that God passionately desires you to know him truly and deeply—more true than you closest best friend a more deeply than the richest diamond mines of all the earth. In that, His heart’s desire, is that you would come to truly know His beautiful love for you and the untold riches of His grace so that your desire and love for Him would swell your heart and satisfy your soul.

I say all of this not because it has been perfected in my life. When God shown himself to me, I was grateful and in love. When He started to pour knowledge of Him in me, I became haughty and arrogant. Can we say that was from God? I would think not except the fact that I know one other part of His will for me: my sanctification. That is, He that began the good work in me will bring to completion on the faithful day I get to hold my lovely Savior’s face in my hands and get to kiss him ten thousand kisses.

That day has not arrived yet. But it will. Until then, I can do nothing else but trust in Him, love Him, and love others the best way that I can. So help me God.

Here is Love: Perfectly—Matthew 1:21

And here is love: Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I have heard it said many times from the pulpit, “The Bible does not say, ‘Jesus died on the cross for only his people.’”

Then why did Jesus die on the cross?

Did He die for the mere possibility that you might be saved? If for one moment you could suspend your theological conviction that hope is in Christ alone, entertain this thought: If Christ died on the cross in hopes that you would receive Him then that means you alone have the power to switch on the power of His death on the cross. If individuals had that sort of activating power, then by all accounts, Jesus died for nothing.

That cannot be true.

Did He die for the entire world so that the entire world would be saved? It is true that the Apostle John uses the phrase ‘the world’ and ‘the whole world’ quite often when it comes to saving with verses like John 3:16, 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:14 come to mind. Yet, when you go back and look at the over context of the verses (chapters of John 3, 1 John 2, and 1 John 4), you can clearly see that John did not dare imply that all would be saved, especially to the fact that Christ said himself, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

With the ‘many’ and ‘few’ in mind, look how careful John is with noting Christ’s salvation:

John 3:17-18 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Can we say that Christ would save everybody for all time? That cannot be true.

When the logical reasonable truth that is Christ’s particular, definite, perfect atonement for sin starts to set in, there is two ways to react to this.

One reaction would be rejection. Rejection because we have hoped in possibility and chance that one of our loved ones would be saved because they did something good or right in their lives. But when our God saves, there is no chance or possibility that would not save them or once saved, then they fall through his fingers. (Isaiah 59:1; John 10:29) Salvation does not rest on man but on God alone because salvation is of the Lord and He is the mighty one to save. (Jonah 2:9; Zephaniah 3:17) In other words, as Christ faced His disciples, he would also turn to us and say, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26)

The other reaction is that with sheer and audacious boldness, conviction, and faith that Christ did not save you because of your best day. No. When he looked upon your life, He saw you on your worst day, you with committing your most terrible sin, you thinking your most incredible blasphemous thought, and adamantly declares to hosts of heavens, “I need to have that wicked sinner into my family. I know he is far. I know he doesn’t know me. I know he is running away. But right now, because of his birth and choice, he is running quickly into destruction and death. But I got to have him with me because I love him. I am going to take care of this once and for all. I am going to save him from his sins. I am going to save him.”

Upon hearing the news that his virgin fiancé was pregnant, Joseph was heart-broken. He didn’t want to shame her. So he figured he would quietly divorce her. That would be the kind thing to do.

An angel intervened.

“Don’t be afraid of marrying her. Listen, Mary is about to have a son. You will call Him, Salvation is of the Lord. Name him: Jesus. Why? Because He will freely, powerfully, perfectly, definitely, particularly, humbly, lovingly, graciously, mercifully, justly, righteously, and gloriously save His people from their sins.”

There is no ‘might save’ in that verse as to indicate some sort of mere possibility.

There is no ‘try to save’ as though my Lord and God is somehow impotent.

There is only ‘will save’ because of the power of the Holy Spirit through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Jesus by the sovereign, gracious choosing, adopting, sanctifying and glorifying love of the God alone.

With our hearts bursting forth, we can proclaim:

That is love.

Influences: How Did I Get Here?

Answer: God.

Well, that was easy.

In all seriousness, I got a tweet from a friend of mine:

Which, in turn, made me think: How did I get here? Why do I think the way that I do? Who has God used to shape my faith in Him, my knowledge of Him and my love of Him?

So, being a mere Kindergarten pupil in God’s kingdom, I thought I would take some time and write up what and whom influences me and shapes my worldview, philosophy, theology, doctrine, and love. In no real order, I am going to go through and list out the Biblical verses, books of the Bible, other books, people (dead and alive), blogs, ministries, and relationships that have been used by God to make me what I am now. I do this to help me step back from myself, see if I can see where I am going and more importantly, ask God if that is where He wants me to go.

This is me just externally processing but I am eager to see what all of this will look like.

How Can A Denomination Come Back From Liberalism?

. . . it is always wise to have a governing structure where the highest governing offices in the church and the highest positions of influence are open to lay people as well as ordained people. The denominations where only clergy have the highest of authority seem to be the ones that are never able to be brought back once they drift into liberalism because the ordinary lay people who have common sense and are reading their Bibles every day don’t have any way to regain control of a denomination that has gone astray if it has that kind of structure.

– Wayne Grudem, Interviews Highlights and Reflections

Here is Love: For All Time—Psalm 103:15-18

Photo: ©Amber Louthan

And here is love: Psalm 103:15-18 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

This is an amazing declaration. Not that life is short, but that God’s love is declared from infinity past and does not stop all the way to infinity future.

What that means to me is that no matter how I chop and slice up the space-time continuum, His love was always there.

This is what I mean about space and time. There is a common notion among Christians that God loved us because he looked upon my life, saw that I would trust in him and thus, He started loving me. However, this passage dismisses such a notion.

Look at the line: the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting. The fact we are talking about everlasting to everlasting suggest that God’s love for us did not have a starting point. And if the Psalmist called this love everlasting to everlasting then the love of God for us does not have a starting point does not have an ending point. That is the whole definition of infinity. (Didn’t think this would be a nerd-erfic post, did you?)

Look at the line once more: But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him. It does not say, “because of those who fear him.” It clearly says, “… The steadfast love of the LORD is on those who fear him.” Not because but on. God’s love is there. It was on us because He put that on us. Why? He saved us.

We know that is truly amazing. And yet, the amazing doesn’t stop there. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him  and his righteousness to children’s children. What does that mean? The children and the grandchildren of those who are saved will also be saved? We have the entire history of mankind that states otherwise. Have you read the Samuels, Kings and Chronicles? Then you know it isn’t true.

My grandmother knew this verse. She never assumed that my dad’s, my own and my son’s salvation would be automatic. My grandmother prayed—prayed for 50 years before my dad was saved, prayed for 32 before I was saved, and prayed for 5 before my son was saved.

Therein lies the blessing. Children in a godly home are grown up blessed. The fact that you trusted in God and because you trusted God, you kept his covenant close, and obeyed His Word, your children will be blessed and their children will be blessed.

Now you might say, “I trust in God but my kids are balling out of control!” Let me tell you one story about one particular kid: my Dad. My Dad balled out of control for 30 plus years. God grabbed his attention by smashing his face through a windshield while driving drunk with no seatbelt. God pursued him by allowing brain cancer to threaten his life, but only to cure it through surgery. God rescued his family safely as my dad’s house burned to the ground. My dad still sinned even more. My dad’s life was spiraling out of control into the active wrath of God that is hell.

But my God loved my Dad before the heavens and the earth were formed. You would not know that for most of my Dad’s life. In his merciful, beautiful, gracious sovereign love, my God sent my Dad to prison. My Dad came to a place where he had nothing better to do than to engage with the Living God or rot in prison and die like he is suppose to do.

Now my Dad says this:

“Now my God did everything humanly possibly to grab my attention and He saved me. He finally put me in a place where I had no choice. Now, this is my home. This prison is my mission field. If my God would keep me here, to serve Him and to point others to Him until He calls me home, than I would be more than blessed.”

My Dad has done wicked things. So much so, that it landed Him in prison. But out of that wickedness and what my Dad intended for evil, God turned it around, used it for good to save my Dad’s soul.

The irony: He was saved before I was. Me who thought I was saved since I was 8 because said some magical words that I thought that could get me into heaven. God could have done it any other way but I know because the blessing started not with him or me but it started out with my grandmother.

Now the blessing is on my Dad with some of his kids balling out of control.

Now the blessing is on me and my kids are freakin’ awesome.

My hope and prayer is that, as God was beautifully merciful with my Dad and me, that he would be so beautifully merciful with my children and my grandchildren.

Mercy. Grace. Hope. Faith. Sovereignty. Power. Might. Holy. Righteousness. Blessing. You know what is called?

That is love.

 

Here is Love: Precious in His Sight—Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Photo: ©Amber Louthan

And here is love: Deuteronomy 7:6-8 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

I get the fact that I am not a Hebrew. I am not an Israelite. I get that God had certain promises given to Israel that he did not give to Gentiles. I get all of that.

However, when I read the New Testament, I cannot be so quick to dismiss or downplay the Old Testament. I read Jesus’ account of the Vinedresser, Paul’s exposition of that particular teaching, Paul’s further clarification on the offspring of Abraham, and Christ’s confirmation that all of the Scriptures are about Him. Based on that string of logic, I am left to conclude that “Father Abraham had many sons and many sons had Father Abraham.” Furthermore, if you and I are saved by Christ, then “I am one of them and so are you.” (So, let us just praise the Lord.)

All that to say: when I read this passage in Deuteronomy, I cannot dismiss this as some obscure Jewish fact. This passage applies to me.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God – This is simple enough. I am holy because God is holy. (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44)

The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples. – Of course, I am just one person. I am a born sinner. My family name is not that great. My city and country are not supreme over all historical cities and empires. I am but a mere mortal—not the strongest, not the richest, not that wise, and not that smart. Only because of Him for him by Him to Him that out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth, He has chosen me. While I was a sinner and I kept on dying and kept on sinning, Christ loved me and gave his life up for me. I have no room to boast. Salvation is of the Lord alone and He is the mighty one to save. (Romans 5:12-21; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:20; Jonah 2:9; Zephaniah 3:17)

it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers – God set his love, thoughts, mercies, affections, grace upon me. He did infinitely before he made one promise to either of my fathers Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, or David. He had his mind made up, He alone had the audacity, power, will, freedom, might, boldness, humility, holiness, righteousness, perfection, just, and love to save me. He handed down those covenants and He is the only being in this universe that cannot possibly lie or break a promise. (Hebrews 6:17-18)

that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand – He is the mighty one that saves. (Zephaniah 3:17 cf. Isaiah 63:1; Romans 7:24-25)

redeemed you from the house of slavery – I have not been given the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but as a son of God, I have received the Spirit of Adoption by whom I cry, “Daddy!” (Romans 8:16)

from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. – Jesus conquered, defeated, and reigns supreme over Satan, demons, sin, hell, and death. (Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-18; Romans 8:28-39)

Way before I was even born, before the heavens were made manifest, the earth was formed, the seas filled and the mountains put into place, He saw my destiny of disease, destruction, decay, and death and would have none of that. In His infinite power and might, He predestined me to life with Him, fullness of joy in His presence, and unlimited pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 90:2; Ephesians 2:1-10; Psalm 16:11)

Simply put, the greatest love ever known is not the possibility of salvation by God but that in God actually saves. That guaranteed salvation of love is wrapped up simply and completely in one little verse:

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:30

So what shall we say to these things?

That is love.

Here is Love: The Cross Was Never Plan B—Genesis 3:15

Here is love: Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The cosmos shattered.

The universe cracked.

The world broken.

Sin has entered into our lives and began its wanton destruction leaving billions dead and the sons of Adam damned to the eternal wrath of the Holy God.

But the Holy God was not put off by sin. God did not have to alter His eternal plan because of sin. He did not have to re-arrange His calendar due to our sin. Out of His great immense love, He created humans in His image—male and female. In His great omniscience, he knew humans would choose not-God over God. He knew this.

He knew this and He knew us anyways.

He knew this and He created us anyways.

He knew this and He chose us anyways.

He knew this and He loved us anyways.

He knew this and He saved us.

The first given to Adam in the garden: “Choose Me. Choose not Me and you will surely die.”

Instead of the fullness of life, joy, satisfaction, and pleasures forevermore, we choose not-God. Sin began its death march. However, God stepped into our dying world and into our dying lives and gives not a commandment but His love:

“Adam, you have already felt some of the effects of this curse. You now feel cold and ashamed. Lost and bewildered. Frightened and alone. There are many things that are going to work out. Life will be difficult and hard and you are die.

But I am still God. I am still your Creator. I still love you. When you were too scared, I came after you. I still want you. Turn back to me. I will make all things right. I will crush Sin. I will destroy Death. The Serpent will be tormented and utterly controlled forever.

I will make all things right. I will make it better than you had it before. Do you trust me?”

The Serpent was the first false preacher to give a false gospel: be like God and you will know like God.

The God responds to this horrific lie preached to his children, comes to his children and then proclaims the absolute truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The absolute truth is this: We cannot make things right. He alone can make things right. Man has to live a perfect life and die so that he in order to be saved. The honest truth is that we cannot be God but the good news is that the ultimately omnipotent God with true free will who has the all-power to become man to live the perfect life, die in our place, buried with our sins, and rose to conquer Satan, demons, sin, hell, death in order to save His people from their sins.

Adam and Eve believed this. They believed this with all of their heart. On the first day of their sin-infested lives, they believed and then, they laid down to rest in His presence. What does a loving God do? God strips them of their self-righteousness used to cover their condemnation and covers them in the warmth, grace, and loveliness of His own righteousness.

Children, his forever.

Mercy, renews forever.

Grace, pours forever.

Holy, forever and ever.

And that is love.

Here is Love: All Sin Future Sin—Romans 5:8

Here is love: Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I am confident that 99.8% of people reading this was born in the 20th century. Historically speaking, Christ died about 2000 years ago. I am going to link these two ideas in one moment.

Christ is fully God. That means He fully sees all and fully knows all. This goes beyond what you and I can see. We might stand in one room, look around and see all that we can see but we know that there are certain things that can our block our views. We can’t see everything in the room or better yet, we can’t see everything within everything in the room. That is not a problem for God. In your house, he clearly sees—not crystal ball see or video camera see—but clearly sees everything within everything in all of your rooms. Lights on or off, it doesn’t matter. As for the everything within everything, he also sees what’s going on inside your body. Further still, he sees what’s going on inside your mind, your emotions, your will, and your desires.

What makes God really God is not that any one moment he chooses to see all these things—from the dust bunnies behind your desk to deepest darkest recesses of your heart—but rather, he continuously, actively, fully processing all those things all the time.  He can’t shut that off. He is God. He has to fully know everything for every moment of every day since time began. For Him to be God, He has to know every single thought, motivation, and desire you have ever had or will ever had.

You were born some time in the 1900s or if you are so happened to read this a few years from now, 2000s. If Christ was historically crucified some 2000 years ago and as a believer, he died for yours sins, then that means that before you were born, before you could do anything about any of your sins, Christ died for you.

Look at the verse again: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Here is the good news: that verse never says, “but God shows his love for us based on all the good stuff we did and the bad stuff we didn’t do, Christ died for us.” It certainly never says, “God shows his love for us in that time he saw that I went forward in church, said the sinner’s prayer, Christ died for me.” It clearly says, “while we were still sinners”.

There is no other religion, no other faith that makes these claims. The rest of the world wants you to try really hard to be perfect, do the right thing and don’t do the wrong things.  But God says, “You are going to fail because I know. I already know. Even when you do good things, you sometimes do them for the wrong reason. Even when you had good intentions, sometimes it goes bad. I already know.”

In other words, He looked upon me and saw that I was a horrible guy. He looked at my life and knew I was going to die apart from him. He saw that by my birth and by my choice, I was destined for destruction, decay, disease, and death.

He saw everything about me. He saw it all, and despite my worst, he chose me and loved me anyways and went ahead sent His Son to die for me so I could be with Him instead.

That is love.

Here is Love, An Introduction

What is love?

Isn’t that a question for the ages and especially, in our day and time? Some think it is abstract and for some, more substantial. Some flee from love and desire it all the more. Others attempt to change love in order to fit their lives and their hearts.

Often, we see these questions in our culture even when culture are not using those three little words, “what is love?”. Look at the political realm: what are the hot-button topics of our day?

Who should have the right to marry?

Should women have absolute, sovereign rights over their bodies and everything within their bodies?

What should the government do, if anything, to combat poverty?

Should illegal immigrants be allowed to stay in this country or should they be treated like common crooks?

Even these questions get easily broken down into those three little words if we know the heart and love of God and examine them from the Christian viewpoint:

How should we love the widow (divorced, single moms)?

How should we love the orphan (the unborn baby, kids with no dads)?

How should we love the poor (homeless, underemployed)?

How should we love the lost (the immigrant, the stranger in our land)?

The world might ask, “What is love?” Yet, once we know and love God and trust in Word, the rightful question ends up:

Who is love?

In 1 John 4:7-8, John ends the thought with the ultimate declaration that “God is love“. If that is really the case, how do we evaluate love? How do we really know love? If what we call love does not stand in the light of an Almighty gracious, wonderful, beautiful and righteous God, then what do we really have?

Are we so brave to examine our thoughts about love? Maybe what we know about love is wrong. Maybe what we call love is not fulfilling, not satisfying—not loving.

In midst of all our perspectives, upbringing, hurts, desires, pains, torments, frustrations, abuses, and sin, God mercifully, majestically, humbly, and graciously responds to all of the world’s guesses and theories to the eternal question of love and altered the course of the world forever.

God, through his Word, powerfully proclaims, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10

Here is love: love of God made manifest, tangible, and real.

Here is love: love of God was sent into the world.

Here is love: that we might live through him and be with him forever.

Join me as we throughly and joyfully walk through the God’s declaration of “Here is love”.