Weakness – Making Some Distinctions

~ I have always puzzled over the theme of weakness as found in the Bible. An entire book of the Bible, 2 Corinthians, has that as one of its main themes. Here is a classic verse on the matter:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 

And … Here are some distinctions that I am processing:

(W1) Weakness Transformed:  This is of the form where you work hard at a weakness to improve on it until it is a strength. E.g. John Piper struggled to preach in his early days.

(W2) Weakness Receded: This is where you work on a strength instead of a weakness. So for example C.S. Lewis sucked at math and failed his math entrance exams. As a result he did not go into Engineering. The rest was history.

(W3) Weakness Obviated: Here God basically steps in and does what you cannot do. Your weakness is not removed, but what you needed to get done by way of the weakness gets done anyway by God. Think of Joni Eareckson Tada  and her incredible ministry, Joni & Friends.  (Tada became paralyzed from the neck down on account of an diving accident.)

(W4) Weakness Supplanted: Here God basically steps in and removes the weakness and puts in place the relevant strength. For example, the blind receiving sight by Jesus.

(W5) Sinful Weakness: Like when you just can help but tell white lies habitually or help but go out on the Net and look up porn. This is not the weakness in view when God is talking about God’s strength being made perfect in weakness. See 2 Cor. 12:9 up above.

~ In W1 and W4 your weakness is removed.
~ In W2 and W3 you weakness is not removed.

~ And … With regards to W1-W4, submit your weaknesses to God in prayer and you an have full assurance that He will come through for you.

~ With regards to W5, you have a little more work to do starting with repentance…

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  ~ 2 Cor. 12:10

Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni Eareckson Tada

Thomas Watson on God’s Promise…


~ The following is a brief excerpt from Thomas Watson’s (1620-1686) work, Body of Divinity. Watson describes God’s promises with a beautiful image.

“The Lord may sometimes delay a promise, but he will not deny. He may delay a promise. God’s promise may lie a good while as seed under ground, but at last it will spring up into a crop. He promised to deliver Israel from the iron furnace, but this promise was above four hundred years in travail before it brought forth. Simeon had a promise that he should not depart hence, ’till he had seen the Lord’s Christ,’ (Luke 2:26), but it was a long time first, but a little before his death, that he did see Christ. But though God delay the promise, he will not deny.”

~ From Part II.2 of Body of Divinity Contained in Sermons upon the Assembly’s Catechism

Guidance & Commitment

~ I just heard something very interesting in a sermon just now that I want to jot down. The sermon is titled Captive of Providence and its is about Daniel.  I found it in sermonaudio.com and think its worth noting down and thinking about.

“Commitment leads to guidance. Guidance doesn’t always lead to commitment.”

– Pastor Ken Smith


Counting the Cost… (2)

Warning: This is a somewhat discursive ramble. I will come back and clean it up later.


~ In my previous post, I blogged about how way back when I was an undergrad at the Uni, I sat down and counted the cost of becoming a Christian and decided that I was up for it even if the going was rough.  Something about this never quite settled with me. Here I am trying to process this.

So here is a thought. Suppose that as I sat outside of Harriman Hall, counting the cost – what if my thoughts were something like this:

First Thought: “Yes. I know that if I were to become a Christian, the going would be rough. My values and the values of many others would clash. I might suffer ridicule, ostracism and who knows what. It would be tough. However – HOWEVER – I can do it. I’ve got what it takes. I am a winner.  I can do it. Look at my past victories. Lets go!”

~ There seems to be something not quite right about the attitude present in this kind of thinking. It seems to run afoul of verses like:

“… not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” ~ Eph. 2:9
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” ~ 2 Cor. 10:17

Another way to think would be something like:

Second Thought: “Yes. I know that if I were to become a Christian, the going would be rough. My values and the values of many others would clash. I might suffer ridicule, ostracism and who knows what. It would be tough. However – HOWEVER – God will be with me. He will see me through everything.  I know that I bring nothing to the table, but God is there and He is sufficient. I know that I will not be alone.”

~ Why do I point this out? A couple of reasons why.

(1) Prior to becoming a Christian, if you sit down and count the cost, then I am inclined to believe that your thinking would take the form of one of the above two thoughts. If it takes the form of the first thought, then the odds are that you have missed the boat.  You are not a Christian.

After becoming a Christian however if you sit down to count the cost, then it may go as follows…

(2) Most people when they come across the Luke 14 passage on the Tower and the King’s army may likely process it in terms like I often have. They might sit down and think about some challenge that they are facing in life and about whether they have what it takes to overcome it.  If upon reflection, they find that they do not have what it takes to overcome the challenge, they abandon it.

~ The issue here is that when we count the cost, we only look at the raw material that is set before us. This might mean we look at out own skills and assets or some other ones around us, and then decide that they are not enough for the task at hand. So we drop out.

And this may well be a very accurate assessment, however it is still not adequate grounds for abandoning the task.  Not if you are a Christians. Why? Because if you are like me, you may all too often fail to factor God in all this.

This passage is about discipleship.  So it is about God discipling you. So when you count the cost, you need to think about what God is doing in your life. How is He leading you. Even if the challenge seems insurmountable, it may be His will to take you right straight through it to success.

~ I guess what I am saying is that whether we are building a tower or whether we are going to war or just trying to do the Christian walk on a given day, then counting the cost involves the recognition that of our own selves we are inadequate. We do not have what it takes to build the tower or go to a war.  Yet we might still do the very same in spite of coming up short in our calculus. Why? Because our calculus does not just simply involve the material and natural. No. It involves God.


Counting the Cost… (1)

Harriman Hall

Many many many moons ago when I was an undergrad at a U, I sat down outside the hall up above – Harriman Hall – and counted the cost of what it meant to be a Christian. My pastor had suggested that I do as much. So I sat and counted. Suppose the cost was high – would I be willing to go the route? Suppose the cost was low, then what? After doing a bit of thinking, my answer was “Yes!” and in the weeks to follow I told my pastor as much. He didn’t buy it.

Here and there I have thought of my Harriman Hall moment. Its bugged me a little  actually. Today during my quiet time, I came back to a passage in the Bible that more often than not is referenced in sermons and discussions of counting the cost. Here it is along with a comment or two following:

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 

Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

~ So as I said up above, something has not settled in me with the idea of “counting the cost” and discipleship.mw

First I want to put a thought out on the table. This is an idea that comes from a Michael Wilkins book on discipleship, that I read years ago.  Wilkins states in his book, that a person becomes a disciple the moment she accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. She does not repent of her sins, turns to Christ for forgiveness, accepting Him as Lord and Savior and then just lives undiscipled until she enters some church program on discipleship or until some person comes along and disciples her.  No. She becomes a disciple the moment she puts her trust in the Lord.

Now what does this have to do with counting the cost and the passage referenced up above. I am not sure as yet.  I am processing as I write and hope something will come out.



J.C. Ryle on Six Ways to Spoil the Gospel ~ Jots from Knots

J.C. Ryle was an Anglican bishop out in Liverpool, England back in the 1800’s. He was known for being a powerful preacher and for writing many books and tracts that the average Joe or Jane out on the streets could understand.  Here I want to just quickly jot some notes from a book of his, Knots Untied which was published back in 1974. You can access the book here.

Ryle said that there were a number of ways that one could spoil the Gospel. While he did not number them, I have been going through Knots Untied, finding his statements and cataloging the ways.john_charles_ryle_vanity_fair_26_march_1881

1. You could spoil it by way of addition. 

“You may spoil the gospel by addition. You have only to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honour, and the mischief is done.” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ One contemporary example of this is the New Perspective on Paul teaching. Legalism also comes to mind.

2. You could spoil it by way of subtraction.

“The plain truth is that false doctrine has been the chosen engine which Satan has employed in every age to stop the progress of the gospel of Christ. … If he could not destroy it, he has too often neutralized its usefulness by addition, subtraction, or substitution. In a word he has “corrupted men’s minds.”  ~ pg. 275, Knots Untied

~ Here one can think of Arianism (in my terms, the “Jesus was just a dude heresy”). The Jehovah Witnesses believe as much (or rather as little).

3. You could spoil it by way of substitution.

“You may spoil the gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to faith — Jesus Christ, and substitute another object in His place — the Church, the Ministry, the Confessional, Baptism, or the Lord’s Supper — and the mischief is done. Substitute anything for Christ, and the gospel is totally spoiled! ” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ I think is very easy to fall for this one.  Life can very easily become Churchianity and not Christianity, and all the while we think we are doing just fine.

4. You could spoil the gospel by interposition.

“You have only to push something between Christ and the eye of the soul, to draw away the sinner’s attention from the Saviour, and the mischief is done.” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ A example of this is Mary worship.  Mary comes between you and Christ.  You do not go straight to Jesus.

5. You could spoil the gospel by disproportion.

“You have only to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done.” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ Here I think of those people (and I was one of these once) who spent hours upon hours brooding over eschatological issues.

6. Lastly, you could spoil the Gospel by confusing and contradictory directions. 

“Complicated and obscure statements about faith, baptism, Church privileges, and the benefits of the Lord’s Supper, all jumbled together, and thrown down without order before hearers, make the gospel no gospel at all!” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ I think that this last one might just be a matter of poor communication.

Some Notes – from an Eric Alexander sermon.

~ I am reading a book, Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul. In it Sproul mentioned a person, a Eric Alexander who he said was a great Scottish preacher. So I looked him up, found this: Eric Alexander.  You can read more about him at the website.

And … and I just now listened to a sermon of his on The Sermon on the Mount and must say – he indeed is a fine preacher.

Here are some very quick and short notes:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6)

Three areas in this verse which need to be examined:
1. What hunger and thirst signify
2. What Jesus means by righteousness
3. What it means to be filled or satisfied

So what does Jesus mean by righteousness?

Three Senses:
1. What God graciously provides in His Son for sinners. This is Jesus’ perfect righteousness that is given to us.
2. What God produces in every believer’s life by His Holy Spirit
3. The righteousness that God prescribes in society. The kind that belongs to human relationships. God is concerned about the oppression of poor, integrity in national life, etc.

~~>Personal righteousness and social righteousness always go together. The righteous care about the poor and disadvantaged.

Re:3 – What does it mean to be filled and satisfied for Jesus said “Blessed are they … for they will be filled.”

When you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, an abundance of grace is given us. Ephesians 3 – we are filled now with the fullness of God. The very riches of all that God is in Himself fill us as we hunger and thirst for righteousness.

It is important to add that the fulfillment of this promise is never final in two senses.

~~> It is never final in the sense that when we hunger and thirst for righteousness and find ourselves being satisfied, we are satisfied in order to hunger and thirst again.

Because the promise that we will never hunger or never thirst belongs to Heaven and thats the second sense in which our hungering and thirsting is in a sense imperfect here in this world. Our being filled waits for that day when in His presence we shall be able to say “We hunger no more. Neither thirst any more, for we are in the presence of the Lamb.”

One other thing on an entirely practical note.

Many of us may be saying “How do I find that kind of hunger and thirst for God?” I look into my own life and find that I don’t know it in any measure. How then do I find that kind of hunger and thirst for God?

Two things:
(1) No question that it is God who produces it. We need to cry to God to produce it.
(2) French Proverb: The appetite grows with eating.
~ The appetite diminishes as you eat less.

Thats the experience of many Christians who are in a condition of spiritual malnutrition. They eat less and less and they hunger less and less. But you eat more and more and the appetite grows with eating. It is one of the reasons why we need a regular disciplined diet of God’s Word and God’s grace. That is how the appetite grows …

The Wound

Dr. Helen Roseveare recently passed away. She was an amazing woman. Years ago I did a decent bit of biographical reading on her and am right now reading the following: A WOMAN OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY: HELEN ROSEVEARE (1925-2016).

The article is prefaced with the following quote:

hr“God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply.
The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay.
The privilege is greater than the price.” —Helen Roseveare

~ I find the quote intriguing. And as I think over scripture, this seems to be true because,

(1) Jacob was given a limp.

“The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.” ~ Genesis 32:31

(2) Moses may had some kind of speech problem. When God’s call came, he said:

“Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” ~Exodus 4:10

If it was not something medical (e.g. stuttering), it at least could have came about as a result of not speaking Egyptian and Hebrew for 40 years. Read more here: Bible Contradiction? Was Moses a good speaker? Yes, some people think he was just making excuses, but I think its quite possible that he had some kind of verbal handicap. Even aging can affect ones speaking for the worse.

(3) Jeremiah was young and inexperienced. This is a kind of weakness. Perhaps within a context, a kind of a wound.

“Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.'” ~ Jeremiah 1:6

thorn-735190_960_720(4) Paul was given a thorn in the flesh.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” ~ 2 Cor 12:7

Aside: On the flip side, we have the case of Samson who exercised raw power in brutal ways. We see how his life tragically ends.

The stories can be multiplied from Church History too. David Brainerd, William Cowper and Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers struggled with severe depression. The Christian mathematician Leonhard Euler would go blind and still do math!

~ This is not the case with everyone in the Bible nor with history, but it does happen enough that we notice. People are given a wound of some sort.

I think the Bible is all about weakness and strength. The weakness it describes is that of dependence upon God, whether that be by way of pouring out prayer, turning to His people, etc.  The strength that it describes is again really about weakness because it is a strength born of weakness. Weakness is the soil from which God’s strength arises.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Cor. 12:9-10

Joseph: When Gifts Direct (or Misdirect)

~  I just read through a good bit of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.  As I read the story, its occurred to me that Joseph basically had three gifts and those three gifts of his basically directed the course of his life.

These are the three gifts and how they shaped the direction that his life took. His gifts either got him into trouble or out of trouble.

(1) Dreams: It is obvious that Joseph had a gift here. By way of dreams he could foretell the future.  His first two dreams had to do with how his father, mother and his brothers would some day bow down to him.  That is to say, he would somehow be over them some day.

Joseph naively went off and told it to them and this did nothing but stoke his brother’s preexisting jealousy and anger even more. The end result of this all was that they sold him off as a slave to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt and re-sell him to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officer.


~ Now, what if he had kept mum about the dreams that he had had? What would have happened? Would he have continued his life in Canaan rather than Egypt?

(2) Good-looks: This is also a gift. Joseph was good looking.

“… Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.”~ Genesis 39:6b

This was a gift that Joseph couldn’t help but “exercise” and unfortunately this landed in some trouble with Potiphar’s wife who tried to seduce him. To make a longer story shorter, the end result was that upon her best attempt and failure to seduce Joseph, Potiphar’s wife makes some false accusations about him and had him thrown in jail.

~ Now what if Joseph was just some plain vanilla looking kind of a guy? He was nothing special. A nondescript blah. Would this have a happened? Would his life have been different? Would he have continued to work for Potiphar for the rest of his life? Good-looks kill. No? Maybe not, but they can land you in prison at least.

(3) Managerial Skills: That Joseph was gifted in this way is very clear. The Bible repeatedly points out that whatever and wherever Joseph put his hands and feet, he found success. And his success was so noticed by his bosses, that he basically moved up the ranks. This did not simply just happen. It happened because God was with him.

~ This was the case while he was working as a slave for Potiphar:

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands … and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.” ~ Genesis 39:2-6

~ This was the case while he was in prison:

“But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”  ~ Genesis 39:20b-23

~ This would continue to be the case later on when Joseph would miraculously leap up the ladder and becomes second to none but Pharaoh. Joseph was basically blessed with good managerial skills.

~Now what if Joseph had poor managerial skills? Would he have been put in charge of anything while in prison? And were that the case would he have ever met the baker and the cup-bearer later on? – the latter of whom would eventually get him freed from prison. Perhaps he would have continued the rest of his life in prison.

Joseph Dwelleth in Egypt by James Jacques Joseph Tissot
Joseph Dwelleth in Egypt by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

Evaluation: I think of the above three gifts, the best gift to have is managerial skills. These skills will be with you for the entirety of your life and take you far.

Dreams on the other hand – well, there is something involuntary and uncontrollable about their nature. You no have no guarantee as to when they will come about. You could also get bad dreams which horrify you.

And good-looks , well everyone ages. Your lose your looks over time.

*Aside: Note also that he started his life off as an extremely naive teen, but ended his life as one pretty shrewd guy.

The Mission of Faith – Missio Fidei alt. Faith on Mission.

The Wrestle of Jacob by Gustave Dore (1832-1883) - edited in Xara by me
The Wrestle of Jacob by Gustave Dore (1832-1883) – edited in Xara by me

It seems to me that at times, we need to take stock of what has been taking place in our life in order to grow in faith.  I am going to look at the life of Jacob to see some of this.

The Backdrop:
1) The Promise
1.1) Abraham is told by God multiple times that he will be the father of many nations, that he will have descendants as many as the stars in the sky. In addition Abraham is told that he will inherit a large amount of land – the Promised land and also that God will bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. This is the Abrahamic Covenant. I like to think of it as God promising Abraham a family, a home and security. These are the three most basic wants of most every human.
1.2) This promise is reiterated to Isaac, Abraham’s son.
1.3) Jacob knows all this because … well because its all in the family and because its been reiterated to him also.
~ This means that when danger arises, Jacob’s life is not going to just simply fold and disappear. Security.
1.4) Family & Security: The Promise seems to be visibly playing out in Jacob’s life as after a certain point, he has become very wealthy and has a large family.

That all said…

2) Home: God tells Jacob to go back to Canaan, the Promised Land. He does so secretly without notifying his venal relative Laban, who he has been working for.
3) En route to the Promised Land, an angry Laban pursues him intending to have it out with him, yet God prevents Laban from harming him. Unbeknown to Jacob, God comes to Laban in a dream and in so many words tells him to be careful of what he says to Jacob. ~ Back to security.
4) En route to the Promised Land, Jacob meets angels
5) En route to the Promised Land, Jacob also meets God, yea wrestles with Him.

So now Jacob is on his way back to Canaan, when he gets news that Esau his brother, is coming with 400 of his men. Hearing of this fills Jacob with fear. Jacob basically thinks that Esau is going to take revenge.

The question – and yes, I know – easier said that done is – is Jacob’s fear rational? If anything at this point, he should be full of faith. No? I know… easier said than done. However let us work through this.

Would it make sense if the story ended like this?

Jacob is on his way to the Promised Land, when Esau suddenly shows up and wipes out Jacob and his entire household? Does this make sense?
– Because if so then the Promise given to Abraham, Isaac and then reiterated to Jacob becomes nullified in an instant.
– Because if so then it makes no sense for God to tell Jacob to go back to Canaan. God basically sent him to his doom. What kind of direction would that be?
– Because if so then it makes no sense for God to protect Jacob from Laban. He should have just let Laban carry out his bad intentions toward Jacob and his household. Maybe this would involve an attack or captivity and being taken back to Padan Aram. So much so for God directing Jacob back to Canaan. It would have been better if Jacob were not directed thus.
– Because if so then the whole episode of Jacob meeting the company of angels and meeting/wrestling with God himself to obtain a blessing was of no use. Why? ***

– Does any of it make sense?

Faith aligns with mission.

The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau by Peter Paul Rubens(1577-1640)
The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau by Peter Paul Rubens(1577-1640)

C.S. Lewis on Joy

pbs~ I need to think about this later… its a quote from C.S. Lewis that I am excerpting from PBS.org which in turn is excerpting from Lewis’s book, Surprised By Joy.

I perceived (and this was a wonder of wonders) that just as I had been wrong in supposing that I really desired the Garden of the Hesperides, so also I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself. Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body at all. In a way, I had proved this by elimination. I had tried everything in my own mind and body; as it were, asking myself, “Is it this you want? Is it this?” Last of all I had asked if Joy itself was what I wanted; and labeling it “aesthetic experience,” had pretended I could answer Yes. But that answer too had broken down. Inexorably Joy proclaimed, “You want — I myself am your want of — something other, outside, not you nor any state of you.”

Providence is in the Indicative….

thomas_watsonThere is the Indicative and there is the Imperative.  The descriptive and the prescriptive. The is and the ought.  These are found all over Scripture. Take for example, Ephesians 5:25,
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” 
“Husbands love your wives” is the imperative while “just as …” is the indicative.  The imperative is the command. The indicative is (a description of) a state. And … and the indicative grounds the imperative.  In this verse, the Gospel is the indicative, yea, the Grand Indicative for the command enjoining a husband to love his wife.
Another example – also from Ephesians: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~ Eph. 4:32 
Whats the indicative? Whats the imperative?
Quite often we misinterpret scripture when we treat an indicative as an imperative or try to elicit an imperative from an indicative. So if a verse is describing something that the disciples did like handle a snake, we tell people that snake handling is a command for all. (Sorry. I can’t think of a better example off the top of my head.)
~ Anyway… all that to say…whew!flavel
I think that Providence works in the indicative, not the imperative.

Hard to believe but true, an open door is indicative of an opportunity. However an open door is not a command.
“Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and a door stood open for me in the Lord, 13 I had no peace in my spirit, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.… ~ 2 Cor 2:12-13
~ Question: By way of Providence, an open door was presented to Paul. He did not walk through it. Did Paul sin? Did people die in their sins as a result of Paul not entering that door?
Indeed, it is as the Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said “God’s providence is greatly to be observed; but we are not to make it the rule of our actions. “Whoever is wise will observe these things.” It is good to observe providence — but we must not make it our rule to walk by. Providence should be to the Christian as his diary — but not his Bible.

~ I believe John Flavel (1627-1691), author of a The Mystery of Providence also said something similar.

Missions is a Part of the Church – William Edgar

William Edgar (linked from wts.edu)
William Edgar (linked from wts.edu)

~ The following is an excerpt that I am transcribing from a talk given by William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary.  The talk can be found here.  ////>

“I think often times when it seems the Church is defeated, it only becomes an opportunity for the Gospel to spread in a more pure fashion.  In a country where I have spent a great deal of my time, which is France, there is drastic secularization.  Churches are emptying.  In the Roman Catholic Church, for every 10 priests that retire or move on, only 1 younger priest can be identified that is there to take their place.  Do the math and in just a few years, there will be no leadership at that rate in the Roman Catholic Church. 

And its not a whole lot better in the Protestant churches where people just aren’t attending and they are drawn to things like believing without belonging.  They want to be spiritual. They don’t want to be religious in the sense of being doctrinally driven. 

And into the midst of what seems a completely hopeless situation, the Lord is bringing immigrants with robust faith who are founding new churches every week, particularly in the urban areas. And the liveliness of these immigrant churches is attracting not only fellow immigrants, but the mainstream French person

What seems like a dark providence of secularization is turning into this marvelous opportunity to hear the Word preached and lived in a way far more fresh than anything thats been heard and preached in old Europe. 


~ I have heard a similar story elsewhere with regards to something similar happening in Spain.  The secular Spaniard does not listen to believing Spaniard when the latter shares his faith.  On the other hand, when the Filipino nanny shares her faith with the same secular Spaniard, then the person listens. 

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” ~ Mark 6:4

Pessimism & Optimism Quote

~ There are things in the world that we can so consume that ultimately they wind up consuming us.  Moderation is the key.  Here in the States, I have been trying to avoid consuming politics too much and in light of it, to avoid prognosticating too much about the future.

That said I like this statement by Al Mohler:

                                 “For the Christian, optimism is naïve, but pessimism is atheistic.”


If Reality has a Storified Character …


I have written about this before and just am thinking it over again with an added fact I suppose.

There are some writers of fiction, whose works are understood to be apologias for Atheism. Jean Paul Sartre, I believe was one of them. Camus, quite possibly. Carl Sagan, in terms of this writing, not his movie, so also.

What I am not able to get is the following: In literature we use devices such as allegories, foreshadowing, symbolism, etc. to make certain points or convey certain ideas or thoughts. If you think about it, these sort of things are features of the world of literature. They are not features of the world that we live in.

So for example, the paperweight on my desk – it does not foreshadow anything. Nor the pen and pencils on my desk. If I look out the window, the trees out there – they are not in anyway allegorical of anything. They are just trees. Nothing more. Nothing less. It would be absurd of me to say something like, the trees are allegorical of the fact that human life will always flourish.

Absurd indeed. No? For after all reality unlike fiction does NOT have a storified character.

This is why I find atheistic writers of fiction to be perplexing. If they are trying to argue for a world without anything supernatural, then why utilize literary devices such as symbolism, allegories, synedoches, etc. to describe the going-ons of the world.

(And not just writers – movie makers also. Take for example, the movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock. The movie ends with Bullock’s space-capsule crashing into a lake on the earth and she then swimming to shore and finally crawling up on a beach. This crawling – it is apparently supposed to symbolize evolution. Huw? I argue that if evolution is the case, then symbolism is impossible. Sandra Bullock crawling on the beach is just that – crawling on the beach. Nothing more. Nothing less.)


Yet – on the flip side, it makes sense when writers like C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien and such argue for something opposite all this and utilize such literary devices.

And… all that to say this one extra thing… my added (inchoate) fact.

If literary devices can be used within literature without any inconsistency as the Inklings did, then can they be used in this world also? That is to say, does reality have a storified character?

Where the Inklings used to meet
Where the Inklings used to meet

Romans 12:12


~ For the last 4 days I have been thinking about this verse… strangely enough even in the dead of the night, in mid-sleep. I have wanted to pass it on to someone going through some struggles and been thinking about it a whole lot.

I’ve been thinking a lot about it because it seems as though it can be translated in both:

  • a descriptive sense and a prescriptive sense
  • an indicative fashion and an imperative fashion
  • in the form of an is and the form of an ought
  • as being and as a be.

Both are important and yet my preference is for the indicative, for being over be (= doing). The indicative seems to be more passive-oriented and about the work being done in you by the Holy Spirit whereas the imperative is about the work that you have to do.

First the Greek:
   τῇ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες,  (= in hope, rejoicing)
   τῇ θλίψει ὑπομένοντες,
   τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες, ~ Romans 12:12

~ Which I need to think though and come back to later… but post for now for future reference. Also I will quickly note the οντες for now… These signal participles or ______-ing words.

And now… the English…
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12, NIV).

~ Notice that this verse in the NIV begins with a “be”. The NIV is a more user-friendly version.


 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12, ESV).

Two be’s.

 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer (Rom. 12:12, KJV).

~ The above is the classic King James Version in its 1611 English. No be’s. Just being?

 “… rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer …”  (NASB)

~ No be’s… two -ings for being but all three describe states of being.

One more…

“… rejoicing in hope, enduring in affliction, being devoted to prayer” (Lexham)

~ this one even has a being in it…

Going back to the context in Romans – I do want to note that verse 9 which precedes it states the following:

“Love must be sincere. …” Romans 12:9 (NIV)
“Let love be genuine” Romans 12:9 (ESV)

So am I being told to allow love to be of a certain sort (= being) or do I do something so that it is expressed sincerely?

Words cannot describe why I like this verse – in the Indicative. I basically like the NIV minus the be.

…  joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12, NIV).

When I first met this verse in the NIV I think, it seem to have wrapped up within it some sort of a beautiful contemplative silence.  A pensive, emotional silence. Something of that sort. I am not sure how to describe it.

Eternal Life & Abundant Life

The following stems from a conversation I had with someone. Had to do some digging around and reading after words.  A couple of things  or points emerged basically.

The First Point: The Bible teaches that there is such a thing as Eternal Life.

~ If you ask a random person out on the streets – someone who is unfamiliars with the Bible – what they thought Eternal Life was, they would probably tell you something like, “Its living endlessly. Never dying. Being immortal.”

This is quite a contrast from what the Bible teaches.

And .   .   .   Annnnnnnnd . . .

Second: The Bible also teaches that there is such a thing as Abundant Life.


~ If you ask a random person out on the streets – someone who is unfamiliars with the Bible – what they thought Abundant Life was, they would probably tell you something like, “Its having a nice, big, fat paycheck. A good retirement. Lots of money in the bank. A fancy sports car.  Etc.” I.e. An abundance of goods.

This is quite a contrast from what the Bible teaches – not that having an abundance of things in life is bad… (Its about the why’s of it all)

~~~>So what according to the Bible is Eternal Life?

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” ~ John 17:3

And what according to the Bible is Abundant Life?


We are not given an exact definition, however it is mentioned in John 10:10:
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

The word abundant as used here has the idea of fullness. It means something along those lines. It is as if Jesus says “I have come that they may have life and have it exceedingly.” (I am going literally from the Koine here.) To understand better what it means however, we also have to look at how John uses the word life all through the Gospel of John. Do that and you will find that Abundant Life = Eternal Life and Eternal Life = Abundant Life.

*The amazing(!!!) artwork is by  Mr. Mostpato (Hernan Jacome) whom I follow out on DeviantArt.

Honor / Shame Cultures – Note from The Big Story

The Big Story by Justin Buzzard

~ I am reading a book, The Big Story by Justin Buzzard. In it, in a section titled Act 4:Rescue, he discusses The Parable of the Prodigal Son. With respect to this he relates the following story:

“I had a chance to preach through this parable while traveling and teaching in Cambodia. It was in a rural context, and the culture had many similarities to first-century agrarian societies like the one where our story is set. I asked the people what would happen if a son in their society came to his father and made the same demands as the younger son in our story did.  Their response was quick and stark. The son would be beaten for his disrespect. Beyond that, if the father was wealthy, he would take out an article in a local paper or publication to definitively disown his son.”

~ I am not really surprised at this reaction from the rural Cambodians. I think similar responses can take place in many Asian and Middle Eastern societies.


The Things of Earth & the Lord’s Supper…

~ The following is an excerpt from Joe Rigney’s book, The Things of Earth. It is a brief comment on the Lord’s Supper.


“In cultivating creation, subduing the earth, and faithfully naming God’s world (in all its varied forms), we are fulfilling the cultural mandate and participating in God’s mission to fill the world with his glory.

    When we write, perform, or listen to good music, we are being invited into the life of the triune God, who is the supreme harmony of all. When we write poetry or immerse ourselves in a novel or watch a good movie, our heart and mind can be enlarged so that we have greater capacity to worship God and love others. When we tend our gardens, change the oil, study for a math test, discover the characteristics of electrons, serve our customers, or build a new house, we are assisting in the enrichment of God’s world, and we ought to enjoy these activities and their results with clear eyes and full hearts.  Joe Rigney

   The Lord’s Supper is a regular reminder that human culture can be a means of grace and a divine invitation. After all, we partake of bread and wine, not grain and grapes. In other words, God mediates grace to us through created goods that have been cultivated and transformed by human effort. Bread is grain, but transfigured. Wine is grapes, but glorified. Human creativity and labor mingle with the stuff of God’s creation, and then God establishes the result as the church’s sacramental meal. And this special sacrament testifies to the potential of all human activity to communicate the grace of God. Our cultural efforts are fully capable of enlarging our heart and mind to know God more fully.      

   But this process of heart expansion through human culture is not automatic. As we saw earlier, it requires receiving culture (or making culture) with a heart of gratitude that is governed by the Scriptures and dependent on God in prayer. It requires believing and knowing the truth, so that our efforts align with God’s purposes, so that our creativity runs in biblical ruts, so that we cut with the grain of God’s world and not against it.

~ Rigney, Joe. The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts (pp. 147-148). Crossway. Kindle Edition. 

Inspiration ~ Evangel Notes

John Wesley and the Mob
    1. Erwin Lutzer – How to respond to an Atheist  ~ On Youtube with The One Minute Apologist although its [2:02] long
    2. A sermon: Door to Door Evangelism – from out in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. I found this on sermonaudio.com. Very good sermon… Very good and very encouraging.
    3. Everyday Evangelism Stories – from South Western Baptist Seminary out in Texas
      1. Suicidal woman restored, rebuilt by good news of Christ
      2. FIRST PERSON: Door-to-door evangelism actually works
    4. Lex Loizides
      1. ‘A Fire was Kindled in my Soul’ – Howell Harris and Revival
      2. Methodism and the Mob – what it really takes to change a culture
      3. Methodism and the Mob – Part 2: Changing Cultures
      4. Methodism and the Mob – Part 3: Howell Harris Gets Beaten up While Preaching
      5. Methodism and the Mob – Part 4: Threatened at Gunpoint – The Methodist Revival Advances
      6. Methodism and the Mob – Part 5: Preachers Pelted with Dirt, a Cat and a Dead Dog
      7. Methodism and the Mob – Part 6: Violence Seems to Triumph – The First Methodist Martyr
      8. The Emerging Mob: Why Whitefield began open air preaching
      9. Surrounded by the Mob – Wesley in Wednesbury 
      10. John Wesley Speaks to a Violent Mob
    5. From the UCC to the PCA? A Story of God’s Grace ~ A wonderful story coming from the website of Westminster Theological Seminary
    6.  Is This The Revival Generation? – Johnny Derouen @ A Chapel Message at Dallas Theological Seminary. The story that begins at [22:00] and ends at [26:00] – listen to that without fail!
    7. It Happened to George Washington’s Church – The Falls Church Anglican—A Story of Gospel Awakening by J.B. Simmons @ The Gospel Coalition

Count it all joy … ~ James 1:2

~ James 1:2 states:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

That up above is the NIV.   In the ESV, we have: 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds …”

~ If you look up other versions, such as the NASB, NKJV and so on, you will most often find either “count” used or “consider”.   Lets quickly look at the Greek which I will excerpt out from Logos:

2 Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις

Greek from:  Nestle, E., Nestle, E., Aland, B., Aland, K., Karavidopoulos, J., Martini, C. M., & Metzger, B. M. (1993). The Greek New Testament (27th ed., Jas 1:2). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

~ The word of interest from up above is: ἡγήσασθε – hegesasthe which comes from ἡγέομαι – hegeomai.  This is the word that has been translated as “count” or “consider” in verse 2.  Logos has a nice chart showing the words various meanings. Here it is:


~ You can see that “consider” and “count” are primary meanings.  So what is my issue here?

Quite often when we read this verse, we think it is telling us to enjoy suffering somehow.  We think that someway, somehow we are to experience our trials as pure joy.  So we at times meet people who talk as though they are enjoying their suffering, delighting in their pain. How godly they are!

~~> I don’t think that that is what is going on in James 1:2.

~ Abraham was justified by faith alone. That is to say that righteousness was reckoned or credited to him. He was regarded by God as righteous. He was counted by God as such. Did he commit sins again for the rest of his life? Yes. But God considered him as righteous. In God’s eyes, he has the status of righteous on account of Christ righteousness being imputed to Him.  Like so…

Abraham by József Molnár (1821-1899)
Abraham by József Molnár (1821-1899)

When we repent of our sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness, we are regarded as being righteousness from that point on. Yet this does not mean that we feel righteous from that point on.  In fact we may feel like scum quite often.

So ??? James 1:2 ??

So James is telling us that when we go through a fiery trial, we credit what is happening to us as joy. We may not feel joyful, but we credit it as such. We regard it as such. We count it as such. We are taking joy to the bank.  And what we put away in the bank, will be something that we use or will experience in the future.

So when you go through a trial, it is as if you are making an entry in a ledger for future joy. Credited today. Experienced in an even greater fullness tomorrow.

No Gift of Evangelism?

The following is an excerpt from an article that I am reading:


Second, some claim that since only some people have the “gift of evangelism,” not everyone is obligated to witness. Space prohibits a full discussion on the topic of “the gift of evangelism,” but a few observations are in order.

First, evangelism is not recorded in the common spiritual gifts listings in Scripture; instead, the office of evangelist is mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Some (myself included) question whether “evangelism” should be seen as a distinct spiritual gift, such as giving, serving, and so on.

In addition, even if evangelism is a spiritual gift, it is also a command for all believers, just like giving, serving, and so on. Not having “the gift of evangelism” does not excuse a believer from his or her call to share Christ with others.

…” – taken from Must Every Christian Evangelize? by Tim Beougher

~ I am not 100% clear on his comment regarding the office of the evangelist and how that might mean that there is no gift of evangelism. I will have to continue to read up.

One thought that I have is that the gift of evangelism might be a species of the gift of healing. If the latter is still around today, then…

*Note: I am not denying that healing is around today. I am questioning whether there is a gift of healing that inheres in a particular person. Sometimes Joe may pray and you get healed. Other times Joe may pray and you do not get healed. Yet still Jane may pray and you get healed…

To be read: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2010/july/no-such-thing-as-gift-of-evangelism.html

The Songs of Ascents ~ Some Quick Notes

~ What is today regarded as Mt. Zion

There are a set of Psalms that bear the subtitle “A Song of Ascents”.

There are fifteen of these Psalms, viz. 120-134.

Why do they bear the subtitle, “A Song of Ascents”?

Here is why . . .

~ During certain times of the years, the Israelites used to observe certain festivals (Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, etc.)  Part of what this observance involved was a pilgrimage – a pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem.  This is where the temple was.

Here is the thing about the city of Jerusalem though… It was situated on top of a hill. And this was no small hill. It was fairly sizable.


So as the Israelites would converge upon the hill from the various parts of Israel, and then proceed to climb the hill, they would sing certain Psalms. Can you guess which Psalms they sang as they ascended up the hill to get to Jerusalem?

Exactly. The Songs of Ascent.

Actually beautiful picture emerges from all of this. The picture is that of various groups of people coming from all over Israel and surrounding the hill and then climbing up. And as they climb, they also sing.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?” 
~ Psalm 121:1 (A Song of Ascents)

And as various groups of Israelites would make their journey up the hill, all the while singing, they would meet other groups of Israelites – fellow pilgrims. And as they met one another, they would all join their voices and sing together and the praise would get louder and louder as they ascended up the hill.

Volcano in Antigua, Guatemala

Finally as they got to Jerusalem, here even the priests would be involved in playing musical instruments and in singing and and the city would in effect explode in praise. The city and the mountain in effect were turned into a mountain of praise and a city of praise. Almost like a volcano of praise!

I was glad when they said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet have been standing
    within your gates, O Jerusalem!
~ Psalm 122:1-2

In this world, Christians are pilgrims. We are headed up Mount Zion, on our way to the New Jerusalem. As we make our journey, we too sing songs – songs of ascent.

Courage, Fear, Weakness and Strength {Scratchwork}

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two ways that courage plays out in our lives.

1. Co-existing:
~ I am afraid to do something (e.g. talk before a large crowd) but in spite of the fear I go ahead and do it.
Here fear co-exists side by side with courage. And what happens here in fact involves courage. I after all went ahead and gave a talk.

2. Replaced/Displaced:
~ I am afraid to do something but then pray, reason or talk to someone about the thing that I fear and courage arises and fear disappears.
In this case, the fear is either completely driven out or becomes displaced in good measure. For the most part what remains is courage.
It seems that something of a similar sort is at work with weakness and strength, although the way it plays out is different.

1. Co-existing:
~ C.S. Lewis was horrible at math. He flunked his entrance exams and such. He could appreciate math, but just could not do it. It was his weakness. Here is the thing though… what if Lewis was good at manage math and had gone on to become an engineer or something? Then the world would never have seen Narnia or Perelandra and so on. There would have been no Mere Christianity or The Abolition of Man. What a loss that would all have been!

And yet Mathematics remained his weakness throughout his life and co-existed side by side with his strength in writing to develop. In fact this weakness paved the way for him to develop his strength.

2. Replaced/Displaced:
~ The C.S. Lewis example falls under this also in the sense of being displaced – to the very margins. However I am also thinking that there are cases where the weakness is driven out by a strength. Like you work on that weakness such as being lousy at basketball or cricket or whatever.

~ Finish this later.

Good Things & Bad Things . . .

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.
~ Psalm 84:11

A little of a bad thing is a bad thing.
A lot of a bad thing is a bad thing.
A little of a good thing is a . . . good thing.
A lot of a good thing is . . . ? . . . bad thing.  Quite often anyway…

God sometimes withholds good things in our lives because if he gave the good thing, we would not be able to handle it and thus it in effect would have really been a bad thing.

~ So for example if God did not allow me to get promoted to the position of a manager at work, it might be because the promotion really would have been a bad thing for me.  Had I been promoted, perhaps I simply would not have been able to handle the stress level, the added multitasking, the higher workload, managing difficult people, etc. and I would have wound up on a psychiatrists’s couch.

~ So for example… if God allowed me to win the Pulitzer Prize next week, my head might inflate with pride and that would be not be good. And so the Puliz would really have been a bad thing.

If a good thing really were a good thing for us, God absolutely would not withhold it. In real life however, I think we tend to receive good things in increments.

“How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”
~ Psalm 31:19


The following is an excerpt from a blog post, titled WHY SEX ISN’T THE BEST THING EVER that is well worth reading in its entirety.  Not only that Lore Ferguson of Sayable is generally worth reading always.

” . . .

Sex is good, God created it, he blessed it. He made it the integral piece in the procreation of humanity—science thwarts it and succeeds it but even science admits the masterful design of two humans making more humans. Sex is great, but it does not make all the angsts of longing for intimacy before marriage go away. All those angsts still exist within marriage, they just take different forms.

I know it’s easy for the married person to say this, you protest, because at the end of the day I can still have sex. But what I wish I could tell every unmarried person I know is until we realize our issues are much deeper and more profound than a sexual itch for satisfaction, we will still find our desires unmet. Within marriage and without.

. . . “


Yet Another from – E.M. Bounds on Prayer (2)

The following is a sentence that I have excerpted from Ch. 6 of E.M. Bounds book, Power Through Prayer. 

bounds“I am sorry that I have prayed so little,” was the deathbed regret of one of God’s chosen ones, a sad and remorseful regret for a preacher.” 

~ I find this to be quite a thought.  When I am on my deathbed, I cannot say something like, “Yeah. I have not prayed much in life, but thats ok. I will make up for it now by praying non-stop until I make my exit from this life.”

No. Its not going to happen. Likely not going to happen anyway.  Lost time is lost. Lost time is dead to you. It cannot be resurrected. It will not come back. You could have prayed during all that time, but did not. You could have poured it out and you life and other peoples lives could have been so much different, but – but – its all gone now. It never happened. It never will happen.


One More from – E.M. Bounds on Prayer (1)

~ These words from Ch. 4 of E.M. Bounds(1835-1913) book, Power Through Prayer, are words that I always will need to be reminded of.

” … The character of our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Light praying will make light preaching. Prayer makes preaching strong, gives it unction, and makes it stick. In every ministry weighty for good, prayer has always been a serious business.

The preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer. His heart must graduate in the school of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the heart learn to preach. No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack.

Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still. He will never talk well and with real success to men for God who has not learned well how to talk to God for men. More than this, prayerless words in the pulpit and out of it are deadening words.”

~ The entire book is online. Its very powerful.

~ Elsewhere Bounds uses the term, “oil of prayer”. I really like that. We all know that whether it be mixing ingredients when we cook, or wiping our hands or the hinge on a door or the engine in a car – oil makes everything go smoother. Everything flows better.


~ Like so with prayer and the things of our life.  So we must pour prayer out into our lives and the lives of others.