Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Funny or Not? Vol. 27

In this time where so many people are getting sick I thought I'd post something about sneezing. I love that different people sneeze in different ways. How do you sneeze? Quietly? Loudly? One right after the other? Or in some other strange way. Check out this sneeze and let me know what you think. What's the funniest sneeze you've ever heard?

Systematic Theology Part 7-God Unlimited

The Doctrine of God Part 1

The second topic of our study in Systematic Theology will attempt to answer the question "What is God Like?" Before we can begin to answer that question we have to ask if it is even possible for us to know what God is like. According to Jeremiah 9:23-24 it is clear that we can, at least to some extent, know what God is like.

Jeremiah 9:23-24-"Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me...'"

The question that then follows is "how can we know Him and how much of Him can be known?" This question will be answered as we begin to study the attributes of God.

During this study of God we will be taking some notes from the previous books mentioned but will add the book The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer to our reference list.

When talking about God's attributes it's important to understand that it is different than when talking about a person's attributes.

God's Attributes:

1. ...are "whatever may be correctly ascribed to God." (Tozer, p20)

2. ...are "whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself." (Tozer, p20)
-Remember that we can only know God by what he has revealed to us about himself. He has done this most directly through the Bible.

3. ...are not what he HAS but what he IS.
This is the most important distinction between attributes of man and attributes of God. God does not grow or diminish in His attributes but has them in perfection. He has always fully had his attributes and always will. In Deuteronomy 6:4 we see that God is declared to be ONE. Not only is there one true God but he is ONE in his nature. He must always be what he has always been. You cannot remove any one part of Gd and still have God. I may lose my patience but I am still Ryan. If God were to lose his patience he would no longer be God. God IS all that he is.

A person has patience. God is perfect patience.
A person has love. God is perfect love.
A person has goodness. God is perfect goodness.
A person has life. God is perfect life.

In God one attribute is tied to all others in a perfect and complete whole.

In Genesis 1:27 we see that God created us in his image. What does that mean? Does that mean that we have all of who God is in us? We have already seen that our attributes grow and change while God's do not. We can also know that God has some attributes that we do not find in ourselves. In fact, God has 2 different types of attributes: communicable and incommunicable.

God's communicable attributes are the ones that has a counterpart, to some extent, in creation. For example: spiritual, life, personality, knowledge, wisdom, faithfulness, love, goodness, grace, mercy, patience, and more. In God these attributes are seen in perfection. In man these attributes are limited.

God's incommunicable attributes are the ones that have no counterpart in creation. Fore example: unity, self-existence, unchangeableness, perfection, infinity, incomprehensible, eternal, immense, omnipresence and more.

Two of these incommunicable attributes in particular cause a problem with our study of God: God is incomprehensible and infinite.

God is Incomprehensible
Something that is incomprehensible is very difficult to understand. The same can be said about God. There is much about God we cannot know.

1 Timothy 6:16-God dwells in unapproachable light
Psalm 145:3-God's greatness is unsearchable
Psalm 139:6-God has such high knowledge we cannot attain it.
Isaiah 40:18-God cannot be compared to anyone
Romans 11:33-God's judgments are unsearchable

Our language is even limited in its ability to describe God. The est we can do is describe God in a "like" or "as" sort of way. We see this in Ezekiel 1:26-28 where Ezekiel is trying to describe the scene of glory he has been shown. The more he describes the more uncertain his words become because, in this life, there really is nothing to compare to the greatness and glory of God. What Ezekiel was seeing was real but unlike anything ever seen or imagined.

According to Tozer "We are trying to envision a mode of being altogether foreign to us, and wholly unlike anything we have known in our familiar world of matter, space, and time." (Tozer, p69)

Novation in On the Trinity says, "God is greater than mind itself, his greatness cannot be conceived...could we conceive of His greatness He would be less than the human mind which could form the conception. he is greater than all language, and no statement can express Him. Indeed, if any statement could express Him, He would be less than human speech which could by such statement comprehend and gather up all that He is. All our thoughts about Him will be less than He, and our loftiest utterances will be trivialities in comparison with Him." (Novation, p26-27)

"It is obviously impossible for a limited mind to grasp the Unlimited." (Tozer p69)

God is Infinite
And that is what God is...Infinite, unlimited, measureless.

I am amazed by some of the measurements science can make. Check these out:
Nucleus of an atom-0.000000000000001 meters
Diameter of a strand of hair-0.001 inches
Deepest part of the ocean-Mariana Trench-6.7 miles
Distance of Earth to moon-287,857 miles
Distance of Earth to Pluto-2,670,000,000 miles

Our human brains have figured out how to make such extreme mearsurements but cannot and will never be able to measure God.

Psalm 147:5-God's understanding is beyond measure
Job 11:7, 9-God has no limit
Isaiah 66:1-Larger than imagination can conceive
1 Kings 8:27-God cannot be contained
Romans 11:33a-Even his attributes are limitless

Even as we attempt to study the attributes of God we need to remember that his infinity relates to this area.

"God, being infinite, must possess attributes about which we can know nothing." (Tozer, p21)

We also need to remember that, though we may have some measure of understanding God's attributes, even his attributes are unlimited so we cannot measure them by human standards. As God is infinite then all of his attributes are infinite. Unlimited love. Unlimited mercy. Unlimited Grace. And more.

At this point you might be thinking, "If God is incomprehensible and infinite why bother trying to study him or know him?"

Dr. David Nelson repsonds, " Even though we cannot know God fully, we can know Him truly!"

As we start our study of the Doctrine of God keep in mind that he is incomprehensible and infinite. Don't reduce him to human terms. Always remember that when you think you have a handle on the nature of God, He is greater still. Don't give in to the temptation to reduce God to manageable terms. Instead be OK with not understanding everything about fact praise him for his infinity and un-surpassing greatness!

Joey Update Vol. 25

Let's see? What's happened since I last wrote? We took a horse trip across
the river to a new village, visited a completely new village by motorcycle,
got a few more steps completed on a few more stories.

We heard there was a koho-zi ("to grasp hands"- it is a memorial gathering
for someone who died) in a nearby village and a gathering means there is
opportunity to meet people. So we crossed the river and met the village
chief and greeted the men who were gathered together. I think the meeting
with them went well and they invited us back (which we've since done).

We wanted to travel out with a friend of ours to a more distant village by
motorcycle. The day of travel was one of the last minute changes that seem
to characterize so much of my life. Our friend could not travel with us as
he left that day to go to the capital. So, new plan: his son and the
motorcycle taxi man would take us. Off we went after some deliberation about
price and time planning. We get there, greet the chief and are allowed to
stay overnight in the village. We stay in his guest house. At night, after
supper, I drink too much tea and tell too many stories. I think those who
heard them liked them. That night, sleep was hard to come by for me, for the
heat, the bugs and drums. That's right, there was an all night celebration
of youngsters because the crops are growing nicely. We went to it the next
day and the young girls did the dance and chant part and the young men did
the drumming. I was glad to be able to see it.

Also, we got some other stories begun on their long journey and even some of
these moved along through to their next stages. It seems like there is so
much to do and there is. Still, there is a glimmer of a possibility for
regularity in some of these stages. My hope for visiting villages to is meet
people who would be willing to hear and record stories. We broached this
subject in the more distant village, but there was little forthcoming. It
was our first visit there and it is probably best not to rush things.

As for rushing things, this is a very important pr'yer request. There is a
lot to do and I do not want to be drawn (again) to that desperation to
finish that spells disaster for stories. I notice a great tendency in me
toward this very thing, so your pr'yers to keep on the better path of
regularity are requested. We've made fair progress so far, so now I guess I
would ask for the finishing power until training at the end of this month.

-Progress in the storying panorama, as far as getting new stories begun on
their process
-Visiting two new villages and the good reception at both of them
-That God is a Rock to sustain under the heaviest of pressures

-Finishing power for until we go to training in AMS
-Continuing power for when we return
-Good follow up to the villages we visited
-Strengthening of our team communication

I've been challenged lately with being a servant. It usually catches me off
guard, as it is always when I'm off guard that I'm called again to be
servant. This serving usually takes the form of something I'm able to do but
not completely willing to do; it always involves a choice to be made on my
part. Frequently, I choose against being a servant, as servanthood is really
pretty tough. I'm reminded of when Je5us went up the mountain and his
students saw a glimpse of His glory. Immediately after, they were taken into
the valley and confronted with a demon. (Matthew 17) That must have been a
stunning blast of contrast- to see the glory of heaven and the horrors of
hell so soon after each other. But it is Je5us' plan to bring the glory down
to the valley. That's what being a servant is. That's what I'm learning
lately and it is certainly challenging.

Thanks for hanging in there with me on this project. I praise God for you
all frequently.


Monday, October 19, 2009

3000 Miles of Stories to Tell

Jim and I are BACK from Mexico! We had a great week! Thank you for your prayers while we were gone.

According to the leadership in Muzquiz there were around 17 people that gave their lives to Christ last week during our ministry! We also had some great times of encouragement with the men and women who are leading the work down in Muzquiz. The next time we go, why don't you come along?

Here are a few pictures from the ministry of week. For all of the pictures from the week go to

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Virtual Deep End Part 6-The Most Powerful Canon in the World!

Well, since I'm about to hit the road for Mexico and won't be here next Tuesday for "The Deep End" I thought I'd at least give you something to read while I'm gone. it is...our next study in Systematic Theology and the last part directly dealing with the Doctrine of Revelation.

I have always been fascinated by cannons. I am amazed at how accurate artillery men can be with them and the sheer power they possess. I can't imagine the full extent of the intensity that is an artillery shelling. I probably also like cannons because I'm a math guy and using cannons correctly requires math.

Cannons are just cool and are a great asset to any army if used correctly. As Christians we have the most powerful cannon in the world...actually CANON...with 1 "n".

The Bible with it's collection of books is called the "canon" of Scripture. These are the 66 books accepted as inspired special revelation from God. A canon is a rule or standard, in this case for authoritative scripture.

But, who got to decide which books were a part of the canon of Scripture? Did man really determine which books of the Bible would be accepted? If so, how did these people determine which ones would be accepted as inspired and which ones wouldn't? Why were some writing accepted while others were left out?

As in previous discussions this topic has received exhaustive treatment from a number of scholars. The information that follows is brief and is only meant to give you a basic understanding of canonization. For a more thorough study on canonicity see A General Introduction to the Bible by Norman Geisler and William Nix, pp203-317.

Clearing up some misconceptions:
As men we often mistakenly set ourselves, or other men, as the ultimate determining authority. Often it is assumed that men determined the canon of scripture. It is important to distinguish between man's determining the canon and discovering the canon.

"Canonicity is determined by God. A book is not inspired because men made it canonical; it is canonical because God inspired it. It is not antiquity, authenticity, or religious community that makes a book canonical or authoritative. On the contrary, a book is valuable because it is canonical, and not canonical because it is or was considered valuable...Canonicity is determined or established authoritatively by God; it is merely discovered by man."
(A General Introduction to the Bible, p221)

If we get this mixed up then we will find ourselves incorrectly thinking that the church stands above Scripture. We may even consider the church the regulator, judge and master of scripture instead of recognizer, witness and servant of the canon.

But if man only discovered the canon of scripture, how did it happen? The books of the Bible mention other writings like the Book of Jasher and the Book of the Wars of the Lord. There are other books such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Shepherd of Hermas and the Gospel of Judas. Why weren't these books included in the 66 accepted books we now have in the Bible? What about the books defined as the apocrypha in many catholic Bibles?

It is important to realize that someone didn't just show up one day and say, "here they are...the books of the New Testament. Enjoy!" There was much discussion, much prayer, must testing of the books and must truth in the Holy Spirit over four centuries of church history to find us with the collection of books we have today.

23 of the 27 books of the New Testament were accepted as canonical within 100 years of the original autographs because of their reference to each other. Disputes over books such as James and 1-3 John were settled by the 4th century. But how did these men test these books leading to their recognition as canonical?

Here are several test used: (from A Theology for the Church, p168)
1. Was the book authored or sanctioned by an apostle or a prophet?
2. Was the book widely circulated?
3. Was the book Christologically centered?
4. Was the book orthodox, that is, faithful to the teachings of the apostles?
5. Did the book give internal evidence of its unique character as inspired and authoritative?

The Bible as we know it today was not settled on lightly and writings were not selected "willy-nilly". In fact, man did not select or determine which books were inspired scripture. That was predetermined by God and communicated to man through the Holy Spirit and through intelligent theological study.

God has revealed himself to us through nature and through Scripture. He protected the writers from error and directed the collection of that revelation into the Bible we know today. Praise God for preserving his revelation for us. May we be faithful to study it and hide it in our hearts, spreading it's Truth in this generation and passing it on to the next.

When I get back we're starting our next doctrine: The Doctrine of God

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Systematic Theology Part V: Trustworthy Words?

"The Bible is was written by men over 2000 years ago!"

This is a classic argument against the validity or trustworthiness of scripture, but is it a valid argument?

There are two major problems posed by this argument that have to be answered if we are going to defend the trustworthiness of scipture:

1. The Bible is Old...
a. so it can't be trusted because mistakes MUST have crept in over the past 2000 years.
b. so it is irrelevant to us today.

2. The Bible was written by men and men aren't perfect so you can't trust it's fully true.

Can we trust that a 2000 year old is not significantly different from the original?

Much work and research has gone into the area of textual criticism and the recreation of the original text of the New Testament from the available copies and fragments of handwritten manuscripts. Norman Geisler in A General Introduction to the Bible dedicates several chapters and hundreds of pages to this topic. He also recommends a book by F.F. Bruce titled The New Testament Documents, Are they Reliable?

For our purposes I will briefly give a reasons why we can trust the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament. If you would like a more in-depth scholarly look at this topic refer to one of the above books.

The number of existing manuscripts of the New Testament is overwhelming compared to other readily accepted ancient texts. There are at least 5366 fragment to full copy hand-written manuscripts of the New Testament. Comparably there are only 643 of Homer's Illiad, 19 of Livy's History of Rome and 10 of Caesar's Gallic Wars.

The earliest known fragment of the New Testament is dated within 50 years of the original autograph. For Livy's and Caesar's work the earliest know manuscript is 1000 years removed from the original. All this is to say that the evidence supporting the transmission of the text of the New Testament through the ages without change from the original autographs is overwhelming. In this case the fact that the Bible is 2000 years old is not a good enough argument to say that it's content is different today than it was when it was first written.

Is a book that was written 2000 years ago relevant to us today?

To answer this question we must first understand the purpose of the Bible. Here are two quotes dealing with the purpose of the Bible:

"To place men and women in a right standing before God and to enable believers to seek God's glory in all of life's activities and efforts." (Dockery and Nelson, A Theology for the Church, p130)

"The climax of God's special revelation is Jesus of Nazareth, the personal incarnation of God in the flesh; in Jesus Christ the source and content of revelation converge and coincide." (Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority)

Sin is what separates us from that relationship with God, so it would stand to reason that, if sin is the same today as it was 2000 years ago, then the purpose of the Bible is still relevant to deal with the sin problem.

Genesis 8:21 and Jeremiah 17:9 both are clear that the condition of man's heart is wicked and evil. This fact has not changed since the first sin. Lust, murder, hatred, anger, jealousy, theft, idolatry, greed, and more have existed in the heart of man since the fall. The bible still answers the problem of sin and therefore remains relevant and will remain relevant even thousands of years from now.

If the Bible was written by men, and men are not perfect, then how can there not be error in the Bible?

To answer this question there are 3 words that have to be defined:
Inspiration-"God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16)
Inerrancy-there are no errors in the text
Infallibility-It does not mislead us if rightly interpreted


How was the Bible written? Was it written by men or by God? We call it God's word but it's written in the language of does that work?

2 Peter 1:20-21 and Hebrews 1:1-2 are very clear that both man and God had a role in the writing down of special revelation. This is called double-sided authorship. The question is to what extent? Did God whisper the exact words in the ears of the writers or control their hands to write exactly what he would have them write? Did the writers just have a general influence from the Spirit but full freedom to write about what they wanted?

The Holy Spirit protects believers from error and leads us into Truth (John 14:26 and John 16:12-15) but it is also clear that individual books or sets of books in the Bible have different personalities and perspectives behind the writing. The personality and perspective of the writers comes through in the Truth the Holy Spirit led them to write about. There is both a divine fingerprint and a human fingerprint on the Bible.

(again...this goes SO MUCH DEEPER than space allows here. Much has been discussed and written on various views of inspiration. I challenge you to pick up some good books that I've mentioned in this series of posts for a more in-depth and complete study of the issues presented here)

The human fingerprint on the Bible is important to the discussion of inerrancy/infallibility. If man wrote the Bible then it must have errors in it because men aren't perfect...right?

When looking at a passage of scripture and determining whether it is contradictory or "wrong" in a scientific or historical sense don't lose sight of the perspective of the writers. The writers wrote within the context of their community and addressed scientific and historical matters from their perspectives and from the historical and scientific accuracy expectations of the day.

For instance some would argue the Bible is wrong because it refers to the sun as rising and setting. But this is the way the sun is observed and communicated about even today. For the biblical writers to communicate in this way does not mean they erred. If a biblical writer estimated the number of troops in a battle or the circumference of a lake does not mean that they erred. Their intent was not to be exact to the 30th # of pi but to describe something with regard to their cultural expectations.

We also need to remember the infinite nature of God when critiquing passages of scripture that try to communicated great truth about the attributes of God. Sometimes human language and analogies fall short of full understanding of God's nature. God doesn't change but from a man's perspective it may appear he is repenting. We know he doesn't really repent, but that's the best way our language can describe it. This is not an error, just the best way we can describe an infinite God.

The fact is that we can TRUST the Bible, as we have it today. We can trust that it is accurate to the original text. We can trust that it still communicates truth about sin and salvation because man's heart condition has not changed. We can trust that it is accurate in all matters it discusses. We can trust the Holy Spirit will help us interpret it truthfully in the context of the original writers. We can trust that, as Christians, we do not have to blindly accept the truth of the Bible just because that's what we've always been told. It has received much attention and much support.

Questions Answered: Is It Ok that I Don't Like the President?

Think about some things that you just don't like. Here are a few that come to mind for me:

-Country Music
-Cream Cheese
-Stores that only have one register open at the busiest time of day
-Yard Word
-Ice Dancing
-House (the TV show-it's the same thing every got annoying), CSI Miami, CSI New York, CSI Clarksville (any CSI but the original)

Is it OK that I don't like these things? Absolutely! It is completely within my rights to not like these things.

How do we usually treat the things we don't like?
-we ignore them
-we tear them down with our words. Criticize them. Make "disgusted" sounds when presented with them
-we criticize others who like it
-we try to convince others how bad it is

I hear a lot of talk these days (and heard a lot of talk the previous 8 years) about people who don't like the President. Today it's talk against President Obama. In the past (and even presently) it was talk against Presidents Bush (1 & 2), Clinton, Regan, and on down the line (even Lincoln). Is it OK that people don't like the president? Absolutely! It is completely within anyone's right to not like the policies or even the personality of the leader of our country.

BUT! There is a BIG problem. Here it is...

If we, as Christians, react toward the President in the same ways we react to other things we don't like (onions for instance...blech!) then, I believe, we cross a line into sin. We Christians are good at showing hate toward something or someone and calling it passion or righteous anger.

Understand that I am not saying we can't dislike or disagree with current policy and that we cannot voice our disapproval of certain positions. We should defend what is right and speak against what is wrong. It's about HOW we do it and how I have noticed Christians expressing their disapproval of the President. Using words like "clueless", "idiot", "antichrist", or comparing him to Batman's Joker, Hitler and Cuban revolutionaries may be protected under our right to freedom of speech but is a "right" Christians should be quick to give up.

Here are 4 Biblical ways to speak of the President or any authority in your life:

1. Ephesians 4:29-Avoid corrupt speech. Understand the issues and discuss them intelligently. Know why you hold the position you hold on an issue. Don't resort to verbal attacks and cutting words to pinpoint your dislike for the President and his policies.

2. Colossians 4:6-Season your speech with grace. When speaking of authority, don't forget Grace. Remember the Grace that was poured into your life that rescued you from sinful pursuits and a futile mind.

3. 1 Timothy 2:1-4-Pray for those in authority over you. The next time you start to criticize and tear down any authority ask yourself if you have been faithful in the command to pray for them. We are often too quick to speak out with man's answers when we have not spent any time seeking the face of God.

4. Proverbs 21:1-Remember God's Sovereignty. God is not surprised by who is in authority. In fact he holds the hearts of kings in his hands. He is the King of kings. Speak truth and continue to trust God's plan for his world and the leaders he has established.

We would do well to remember these as they apply not only to our president but to the way we deal with our parents, pastors, teachers, coaches, band directors, bosses and more.