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“Psalm 81…leads us to contemplate first the idolatry of feelings, which is terribly destructive in subverting Christian worship. The pervasive notion that our self is what is most important and that what we get out of worship is what determines whether the worship service is a good one or not is a total reversal of what genuine worship truly is…

When we gather together with others for worship, the truths of God we celebrate can subvert the idolatry of our selves so that we can discover who our true self really is. Our true self is much larger than the way we happen to feel at the moment. If worship can easily be subverted by the contemporary culture of narcissism, then one gift of genuine worship is that it invites us to know God, to praise God, to sing for Joy, because no matter what’s going on in our lives, God is there.”

– Marva Dawn, Living in the Lamblight

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This is just too good to pass up:

U.S aggression has forced Mexicans into a life of hopelessness, drugs and underemployment.

Netanyahu Urges U.S. Return to 1845 Borders

Israeli PM calls for “just solution” to end the conflict.

Aboard Air Force Aleph (Reuters) – Speaking to reporters accompanying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his long flight to the United States tonight, Netanyahu spoke of the injustice and hardship Mexicans have endured since American forces annexed Texas in 1845. “Tens of thousands of ordinary Mexicans were driven out of their homes – the only homes they had known for centuries – and forced to live in poverty and squalor south of the border imposed by American aggression,” Netanyahu said. “The Israeli and Mexican people agree on this: This festering wound will never heal until America takes bold steps to return to the internationally accepted lines of 1845. Clearly the settlement activity that’s taken place in occupied Mexico since then is illegal. When I meet the President tomorrow I will tell him to halt all building activity in Texas immediately. Two lands for two peoples, yes, but not on land taken by force from Mexico,” the Prime Minister said.

Asked if his hard-line stance could hurt the U.S.-Israel relationship, Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s commitment to America’s security and the unshakeable friendship shared by the two countries, then added, “But who was it who said, part of friendship is being able to tell your friend the truth. The ball is now in Obama’s court.”

The full story is posted here.

Thanks to Fr. Stephen Smuts for posting the story (and lots of other good stuff).

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When God raised the crucified Jesus, this present age & its structures was exposed, illuminated, unmasked – but not destroyed. Cross & resurrection seen together mean both judgment & grace, both wrath & endless patience. God still upholds the structures; without them the world would collapse & human life would be unthinkable. But the structures lose their pretended absoluteness. Nothing now is absolute except God as he is known in Jesus Christ; everything else is relativized. That is the bottom line for Christian thinking & the starting point for Christian action in the affairs of the world.

Leslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

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The list of issues on which Christians have disputed & divided is almost endless. One thinks for example of the sacraments…or of episcopacy and papal primacy, or church polity, or scripture, or spiritual renewal, or women’s ministry, or abortion, or human sexuality. In every case there have been those who have regarded the issue as definitive of Christianity.

To all of these, Paul in effect gives the same message: the fundamental issue is that of faith. Do you trust in God through Christ? Do you trust in God alone through Christ, or do you also require assent to other articles of faith? Then, in so doing, you are actually weakening faith, not defending it. You are beginning once again on that downward slope which puts trust in things on a par with, or even in place of, God alone.

– James DG Dunn, Romans (Daily Bible Commentary) pp. 163

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Americans have always been a hard-working, resilient people. That is, until FDR.

The Jesus Paradigm, pp. 65

Now that’s funny (and probably true).

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So, over at Boston Bible Geeks, Danny posted an interesting list of the 5 scholars that the average churchgoer would benefit from reading. That sounded like a great idea to me, and I was interested to read his list, so I’m stealing his idea and making my own. I’ll raise my hand and admit that a good bit of the reading that I do would not be of much benefit to the non-academic. And since I’m confessing here, I’ll also admit that I felt a twinge of guilt at  the statement that Danny quoted about Gordon Fee, whom I admire very much. Too much of my studying is about the Bible as an object, rather than the God it reveals, and that’s not okay.

So on that theme, I’ll list the five scholars that I think the layperson should read.

1. Gordon Fee

I’m with Danny on this one. I haven’t read his book on exegesis, but I have read God’s Empowering Presence, and if there’s any one academic book that I would encourage a layperson to struggle through, it’s probably this one. I’ve read many (too many) scholars that rebuke (rightly) our current churches, but don’t give any possible solutions. Fee isn’t afraid to offer solutions and practical advice to the average church on the corner, which is what scholarship should really be about anyway.

Recommended Reading:

God’s Empowering Presence

Paul, the Spirit, & the People of God

How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth (w/ Douglas Stuart)

2. NT Wright

NT Wright can be a polarizing figure and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. As far as I’m concerned everything I have read by him has been top-notch stuff that would benefit both the scholarly world and the Church. That doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that he says, and sometimes I wish he would stop blaming “our Western post-enlightenment thinking” for every problem facing our world, but I have found him always to be worth reading, and I agree with him wholeheartedly that we desperately need to recapture the new creation/resurrection eschatology of the New Testament if we are going to have any impact at all on our culture, which is dying while we sit back and watch.

Recommended reading:

Surprised By Hope (Seriously, I wish I could get a copy of this into the hands of every Christian in my city)

Following Jesus

Christians at the Cross

The Meal Jesus Gave Us

3. John Goldingay

Because he makes the Old Testament simply come alive, and his love for the God revealed there comes through on every page.

Recommended Reading:

Old Testament Theology volume 1: Israel’s Gospel

Old Testament Theology volume 2: Israel’s Faith

Old Testament Theology volume 3: Israel’s Life

God’s Prophet, God’s Servant

4. Eugene Peterson

Because he’s so practical that you didn’t even know he was a “scholar”. No really, the Christian faith is a lived out faith, not just a book to be read (no matter how inspired). Peterson knows that and communicates it like no one else.

Recommended Reading:

Pretty much anything.

5. Thomas Oden

Because (at least where I live, which is supposedly the most “Christian” region of the United States), the Body of Christ in the present has almost no knowledge of the generations within that body that have come before us. That’s generalizing for sure, and Lord knows there are Presbyterians here that know (or think they know) John Calvin up and down, but that’s about it as far as I can tell. Oden is doing his best to let us in on the millennium and a half  that transpired before Calvin. (Note for some John Piper fans: That was not hyperbole, there actually were Christians before John Calvin).

Recommended Reading:

Classic Christianity

Anything in the ACCS series

Ancient Christian Doctrine (5 volumes)

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The Calvinist Dictionary

"Dude, no way. 'All' does mean 'the elect'!"

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NOTE: This is a joke, obviously. Don’t take it too seriously.

Thanks Wesleyan Arminian for starting my morning with a laugh. Head on over and check out his Calvinist Dictionary. (I know this is old, but I still think it’s hilarious). I especially liked this one:

Doctrines of Grace: Term that helps illustrate how God has given us Calvinists superior insight. Usage example: “I was an Arminian before being illuminated by the Doctrines of Grace.

I think I’ve actually heard that one. It’s funny because it’s so true! 😉

Here’s the whole list:

A dictionary to help Arminians better understand Calvinist terminology.
(Don’t take this too seriously, this is meant in good fun)

All: The elect

Altar Call: An insult to God

Arminianism: Man centered theology

Assurance: hoping that you’re elect

Augustine: The first church father.

Calvinism: The gospel

Call (effectual): to be irresistibly dragged

Call (general): God’s justification to condemn the reprobate.

Catholicism: What Arminianism leads to.

Compatiblism: We are free to do whatever the Potter decrees us to do.

Contradiction: a mystery

Doctrines of Grace: Term that helps illustrate how God has given us Calvinists superior insight. Usage example: “I was an Arminian before being illuminated by the Doctrines of Grace.”

Doris Day: Singer of truth

To Draw: To drag

Easy believism: The false idea that you can believe in Jesus Christ and be saved. Can a rotten corpse believe? Nope, neither can you.

Eisegesis: Any Arminian interpretation of a difficult passage (thanks Ben)

Emergent: Synonymous with “heretic”, unless your name happens to be Mark Driscoll.

Esau: Someone God hated, not for any reason though.

Everyone: The elect

Exegesis: Any interpretation by James White, after all he’s a Greek scholar.

faith (1): Something that the elect are zapped with after regeneration.

faith (2): A work that gives pride to Arminians.

Fatalism: Nothing to see here, move along.

Faux Pas: Coming to church with a Bible translation other than the ESV.

Finney, Charles: Wicked man who ravaged the evangelical movement. (Really)

To Foreknow: To decree or to love, absolutely nothing to do with knowing before.

Four Point Calvinist: An Arminian

Frankenstein: Cool story about a dead monster that got zapped with lightning and then became alive. Great parallel to the way we are regenerated.

Free Will: Something that can’t exist because it would make God helpless if true.

Glory: Praise we give to God for anything wicked that has ever happened (except for the birth of Charles Finney).

God’s secret will: To save a few and reprobate the rest (secret to Arminians but not to us)

God’s revealed will: a mystery

Gospel of John: anything by John Piper

Hebrews: Skip this book and read the Gospel of John instead.

Hyper-Calvinists: Calvinists who care more about consistency than looking good.

Infralapsarianism: See “Four Point Calvinist”.

Infant damnation: Something that brings God glory.

James: Book that Luther wanted thrown out of the canon.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know: Misleading children’s song.

Jesus Loves the Little Children: Another terrible song, obviously written by someone who didn’t take the time to do a proper exegesis of scripture.

John 3:16: Enigmatic verse. One must be a scholar to properly understand this passage. James White’s unbiased insights are recommended.

Kosmos: Greek word that means “elect”.

The Living Bible: I hope you’re joking.

Missions: A complete waste of time, see “altar call” for more info.

Mystery: The way God decrees sin but is not responsible for it.

NIV: Word for thought translation is heresy.

Paul: Author of Romans 9

Pelagian: Name to call Arminians, extra points if they don’t know what it means.

Polemic Atheist: Another name to call Arminians, good diversionary tactic when appealing to John Owen doesn’t work.

Preaching the Gospel: Something God commands, but the reason why is a mystery.

Pride: Something that works-based Arminians have in abundance, but we Calvinists don’t after being chosen by God.

Regeneration: See “Frankenstein”.

Reprobate: Those whom God justly damns to maximize His glory.

Rick Warren: worthless author, read something by John Gill instead.

The Road to Rome: Where synergism always leads to.

Robot: Don’t say that word!

Servetus: A heretic who got what he deserved.

Shipwreck: Misleading term, because the “ship” wasn’t really floating in the first place.

Sovereignty: meticulous micromanagement

Supralapsarianism: God orchestrated the fall for His glory, the central truth of scripture.

Wesley, John: A false apostle of free will (not kidding)

Whitefield, George: Wesley’s superior

Whosoever: The elect

World: The elect

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‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.’ (Exodus 6:6)

…the book is not about liberation in general or about political or religious freedom in particular, but about deliverance from bad servitude to good servitude. The Israelites served (‘abad) Pharaoh but were called by God to serve (again, ‘abad) him instead. It was not a question of needing freedom from being under the control of a national leader; it was a question of a good, divine, national (and universal) leader rescuing his chosen people from a bad, human, national leader.

…In the New Covenant, bondage to the greatest power, sin, and its consequence, death, constitutes the last enemy. But this is not merely a New Covenant concept. Sin is whatever offends God, and sin is an enslaver. But this slavery can be escaped – not by skill or cunning but by changing masters from sin to God”

Exodus (NAC), pp. 34

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In the Mail

Thanks to P & R Publishing, 3 books were in the mail today:

Richard C. Gamble – The Whole Counsel of God, vol. 1

John Frame – Apologetics to the Glory of God

Tremper Longman III – Immanuel in Our Place (Seeing Christ in Israel’s Worship)

I thumbed through each of them, and they all look great. The Tremper Longman III volume looks particularly good. I have to admit that I was most excited about The Whole Counsel of God, but after reading a few snippets that happened to be about Genesis 1, I think I’m going to have plenty to disagree with here. It should definitely be an interesting read, and will probably need multiple posts to review in detail (which I plan on).

In any case, these should definitely scratch my “Reformed” itch for awhile. I’m looking forward to getting into them.

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…For Paul and his contemporaries the cross of Jesus was not a didactic, symbolic, or speculative element, but a very specific and highly offensive matter which imposed a burden on the earliest Christian missionary preaching. No wonder that the young community in Corinth sought to escape from the crucified Christ into the enthusiastic life of the spirit, the enjoyment of heavenly revelations and an assurance of salvation connected with mysteries and sacraments. When in the face of this Paul pointed out to the community which he founded that his preaching of the crucified messiah is a religious ‘stumbling block’ for the Jews and ‘madness’ for his Greek hearers, we are hearing in his confession not least the twenty-year experience of the greatest Christian missionary, who had often reaped no more than mockery and bitter rejection with his message of the Lord Jesus, who had died a criminal’s death on the tree of shame.

Crucifixion in the Ancient World & the Folly of the Message of the Cross, p.18

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