Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Substantial Misunderstanding of Calvinism

I ran across this sermon a couple of days ago while visiting The Resurgence blog. It is by Dr. Dan Sweatt out of Lilburn, GA and it's entitled Young and Restless. In it he goes off on a good many people including John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Al Mohler, and Mark Driscoll. Even though I like these guys, I'm not necessarily upset that he doesn't like them. It's why he doesn't like them, namely they're all Calvinists.

Now I know that many Christians do not embrace Calvinism, and that's okay. What struck me in this message however, is a blatant misunderstanding of what Calvinism really is. And it's this misunderstanding that I want to speak to.

If you don't have time to listen to all of it, try to listen to the 31 minute mark through the 41 minute mark. It is in these ten minutes that Dr. Sweatt really...well I'll just tell you what he says.

At one point he makes this statement:
"Calvinism has never, in the history of the world, survived the generation of a charismatic leader. When they die, the movement dies...Because the theology will not support church growth and evangelism. It will not do it. If you believe the doctrine you will not win souls."
I'm not really sure how he can make this statement. History is full of pastors and missionaries who have done much in the advancement of the kingdom while fully embracing Calvinistic theology (Judson, Carey, Patton, Bunyan, Owen, Edwards, Brainerd, Spurgeon, Whitefield, etc.).

There is still a greater misunderstanding to be pointed out though. It's when Dr. Sweatt begins talking about John 3:16. He acts as if when Calvinists come to this verse, they either ignore it or make it say something different than what it says. This is simply not true.

I'll defer to John Piper in response to this misunderstanding. In his sermon entitled God So Loved the World, Part 2 he says:
"We may, therefore, say to every human being, 'God loves you. And this is how he loves you: He gave his Son to die, so that if you would believe, your sins would be forgiven and you would have eternal life.'

That is what the love of God means and promises and does in John 3:16. And that’s why this verse has been so amazingly blessed of God over the centuries in bringing people to Christ and to salvation. It expresses what we love to call the free offer of the gospel. There are no limits to this offer: It goes out to all people of every ethnic group and every age and every socio-economic category and, best of all, to every degree of sinner—from the bad to the worst. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever”—indiscriminate and universal—“believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
He goes on to point out the ever-so-crucial distinction:
"The more amazing question is: Why do any of us come? Why do any of us receive Christ as the supreme Treasure of our lives? And the answer is: There is a greater love than the love of John 3:16. The love of John 3:16 is an amazing gift of Christ to the world so that the free offer to eternal life goes out to everyone: Believe and you will be saved. Believe and your sins will be forgiven, God’s wrath will be removed, you will have eternal joy with him. If you believe...

Those of you who believe on Christ, God wants you to know yourself loved, not only with universal love of John 3:16, but also with his death-conquering, hardness-removing, rebellion-eradicating, sight-imparting, faith-creating, personal, individual, invincible covenant love of which we are absolutely undeserving. He inspired the Gospel of John and I have preached this message so that you would know more fully and experience more deeply how you are loved."
It is for this death-conquering love that I am eternally grateful. And I will submit that is the only hope that a dying world has to come to know God.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kingdom work is aligning your passions with need

I like what my friend Matt had to say about how your mission and your passion should be closely connected:
What makes people effective for their passion for the mission.

I had lunch last week with David Melton, campus director for Campus Outreach at UGA. I love having David and Jenny at our church and have a lot of fun watching God use David and the rest of the CO team on the campus. We were talking about CO's Summer Beach Project and the reason why some students really embrace talking about Jesus with complete strangers on the beach while other students would rather take a 5-iron to the temple. Here's what we came up with...

The critical difference between those who thrive in that environment and those who struggle had less to do with skill or personality than it did with sheer conviction and passion. People who enjoyed having those conversations on the beach thrived; those who didn't want to be there wilted.

Here's what that means for the rest of us - go where your passions collide with real need. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit who wires you to enjoy people, places and events that desperately need the hope and freedom of the gospel. I know you don't think that your quirky hobby has any kingdom value but what if you were able to bring the values of God's kingdom into an arena that you love to be in already?

Here's how one man pulled it off - by starting a blog for fans of his favorite NBA team.

Don't wait for someone else to write your story for you. Look for needs in the people and places you love and do something about it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dancing should be required in the wedding ceremony

If my future wife lets me, this is exactly how I want to start my wedding:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Reality of Depression in the lives of Christians

Relevant Magazine recently ran an interesting article on depression entitled Can "Real" Christians Be Depressed?, written by Mattie Germer. Having wrestled with depression some myself, I thought she had some good things to say about the topic. Here's her conclusion:
"Depression should be treated and can be put into remission through a course of psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy and/or antidepressant medication, supplemented by healthy doses of prayer within a loving Christian community. It is nonsensical to tell a depressed person that if he only read his Bible more or had better quiet times, his depression would surely be lifted. That would be like telling a diabetic that faith alone will regulate her insulin levels. Faith alone gives eternal salvation, but in the meantime, God has given us resources by which to make our temporal existences more palatable. Depression is certainly healed by the grace of God, sometimes directly and miraculously, but more often through the tools of His servants, like pharmacists, therapists, pastors and friends."
These are some thoughts I wish I would have understood in my early college days. Back then, I thought it was pretty abnormal to go through periods of depression. Thus, the guilt would pile on even more for not feeling what I thought I ought to feel. But there have been many in the Bible (as Mattie points out) and many great saints in history they have struggled with depression.

My favorite example of someone who has been used by God in a great way, but severely struggled with depression almost his entire life was William Cowper. He penned my favorite hymn of all time, God moves in a mysterious way. The reason I love this hymn (and most hymns redone by Red Mountain Music) is the deep-seated hope in God that is revealed so beautifully from those struggling with guilt and sorrow.

One final note on this subject. The biggest practical lesson I've learned regarding depression comes from the book (that I've mentioned before) called Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones. The idea is that we listen to ourselves for more that we speak truth to ourselves. We must constantly be reminding ourselves of who we are in Christ and that God loves us no matter how we might feel.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Hurt Locker

I went to see The Hurt Locker last night with a few buddies. I thought it was really well done and a great movie about the war in Iraq. I would recommend going to see it. It should be playing at a indie film theater near you.

I thought Brett McCracken had a good review of the movie (without any spoilers); thoughts that I would agree with.
"It’s a visceral, affecting action film about contemporary urban warfare (perhaps most akin to something like Blackhawk Down) and it will leave you utterly drained and yet thoroughly satisfied, with a newfound appreciation for the complex and frightening experiences of our servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Read the whole thing here

Friday, July 10, 2009

A different definition of success

Tonight, I started my Church and the World class at RTS. We talked about the idea of calling and success for the Christian. From the parable of the talents we see that Jesus rewards faithful service, not necessarily a big return for Him. That's a hard thing to really believe because of how pervasive the idea of the importance of a large impact is in the Western world.

Through this, I was reminded by a video my friend Bert posted on his blog a couple of days ago. It's about a man who was faithful in God's call on his life. He didn't quite know the impact he had...but his name is famous in heaven. It's an incredible story that hopefully will encourage you to be faithful to what God calls you too even though you might not necessarily see a lot of fruit. Check it out (If you get impatient, at least watch from the 6:00 mark):

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Reflecting on this mortal life

Two weeks ago yesterday, with the death of Ed McMahon on June 23, there began a string of celebrity deaths that has left much of the media-saturated world in shock. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died June 25, Billy Mays June 28, and NFL quarterback Steve McNair died four days ago on July 4. Most of the attention has obviously been given to MJ. But all of these deaths combined have sobered up a lot of us to the reality of death...which is a great thing.

We were not meant to forget our mortality. The decisions we make every day should be in light of the fact that we will not live forever on this planet. I love Mute Math's song Progress. They say that "every moment in time is just an answer to find what you're here for, what you breathe for, what you wake for, what you bleed for." That's so true. If you get distracted, like I do almost every day, by the cares and comforts of this world, you'll forget that it's all going away someday. And if it's all going away someday, what's the point of life?

Thankfully, we don't have to despair. One of the benefits of Christ's death is that we would have purpose and meaning in this life. By repenting and trusting in His propitiatory sacrifice on the cross, we can be reconciled to God to receive freedom and abundant, everlasting life. And then, we don't have to fear death any longer because we have the favor of God on us.

Reflect on your mortality and live in light of eternity. I think that is what David is getting at in Psalm 39:4-6:
"O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreaths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!"

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

10 interesting facts about Twitter

This article cited ten interesting facts about Twitter, reported by a social media analytics provider named Sysomos. Here are the abbreviated points:

1. 21% (One Fifth) of Twitter accounts are empty placeholders.
2. Nearly 94% of all Twitter accounts have less than 100 followers.
3. March and April of 2009 were the tipping point for Twitter.
4. 150 followers is the magic number.
5. A small minority creates most of the activity.
6. Half of all Twitter users are not "active."
7. Tuesday is the most active Twitter day.
8. APIs have been the key to Twitter's growth & utility.
9. English still dominates Twitter.
10. Twitter is being led by the social media geeks.

(HT:What's Best Next)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Can an Arminian be a Christian Hedonist?

Here's the conclusion of John Piper's answer to that question:
Because I think God's glory consists very much in his sovereign grace to conquer my fallen rebellious dead sinful heart, and irresistibly compel me and bring me into the kingdom. Whereas an Arminian believes that God overcomes my original sin, makes me able to choose, and I then cast the deciding vote.

I don't think that's a distortion of the way it really works in Arminianism: that is, that sovereign grace is necessary for everybody, and it conquers the deadness and inability of the human heart and sets a person in the position where, as they act with their will to believe, then grace plus their will saves them.

Now I don't think that is a faithful, biblical rendering of the glory of God in my salvation; and therefore, I don't think the structural "yes" to this question is a practical "yes" to this question. In other words, yes, there can be Christian hedonists who are Arminians, but they won't flourish to the degree that they should as Christian hedonists because they won't see the glory as fully as I wish they would.
Read the whole thing