Four Fun Updates on the Writing Project

1. A new name

After months of deliberation and prayer and conversations with friends, I think I’ll call the book The Reality of Jesus.

The Reality of Jesus:

(sub-title) Exploring the Implications of a World Created By, Through, and for Him. Continue reading Four Fun Updates on the Writing Project

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Chapter 2: Typology

Typology is the study of images of Jesus in the Scripture and in the world. A “type” is any person or thing or event which God designs and uses as an image or illustration of Jesus and his kingdom. In essence, God creates a type to say, “This is what Jesus is like, and therefore it is what I am like.” Continue reading Chapter 2: Typology

Chapter 1: Jesus

Humans are driven to make sense of reality.

One philosopher has said we are “hurled into existence.” And now we find ourselves asking the question, “What just happened?”

All of us engage with “metanarrative” and “metaphysics,” which are just fancy words to describe the basic question, “What is this life all about?” The question addresses the entirety of our reality. This is not a question about America, or about snowboarding, baseball, history, psychology, or topics like these. This is a question regarding all things. This is a question about life. Continue reading Chapter 1: Jesus

6 Ways Peter Identifies the Church: Part 5 (Obedience to Jesus)

The opening of 1 Peter gives us 6 phrases which help us answer the question, “What is the church?”

Today I am commenting on phrase #5 “… for obedience to Jesus.”

What is the church?

The church are those people who have decided to obey Jesus. This decision immediately differentiates a person from the rest of the world. This decision is the great ultimatum. Continue reading 6 Ways Peter Identifies the Church: Part 5 (Obedience to Jesus)

What Does Her Name Mean? Theology of Acacia Trees

Meaning in the Bible and the World

We are convicted that the Bible and the universe are both filled up to the brim with images of Jesus and his Kingdom.

After all, the Spirit of Jesus’ Father is the Author of both Life and the Scripture (Gen 1:2; 2 Pet 1).

When Jesus walked the world he explained how one thing after another found its meaning and significance in his life and kingdom. Vines. Shepherds. Bread. Water. Light. Wind. To only name a few.

Acacia trees are one more image that could be added to the list.

Acacia in The Bible

The name Acacia first stood out to us as it is used in Scripture, namely, in association with the holy presence of Yahweh.

  • The wood was used for the Ark of the Covenant
  • The wood was used for the poles for carrying the Ark of the Covenant
  • The wood was used for the Tabernacle
  • The wood was used for the Table for Bread in the Tabernacle
  • The wood can be used as an alternative offering to God
  • The wood was used for the Bronze Altar
  • The wood was used for the Altar of Incense

These examples all involve God’s holy dwelling with his people in the Old Testament.

Notice the Table of the Bread. God wanted this image to stick in our minds when we think about his holy presence; a dining table where a meal would be shared (Ex 24:11 is an awesome picture of this).

Life isn’t about anything except being near to Jesus. Holiness is not about legalism or religion; it’s about being near to God and being present with him in each moment.

In Psalm 27:4 David says his prayer boils down to one request, to one inquiry that truly matters above the rest:

“One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.”

That’s what we want her life to be about. More than anything else, we want her to be a person who is alive with the presence of Jesus.

Acacia in The World

Doing more research on the tree, we discovered some amazing images of Jesus.

Like Jesus…

  • The wood is hard, dense, and strong – difficult to be penetrated by decay agents
  • The wood’s density and strength makes it ideal for a structure that would endure for generations
  • The tree survives in a desert by storing up water
  • The tree produces fragrant flowers

God has given these trees a special role to play in the Bible and the world. Both the tree and the wood from the tree are awesome images of Christ.

Pray for Acacia

  • Pray she would live a life filled with God’s presence
  • Pray she would know Jesus in the midst of suffering and hardship
  • Pray she would love to pray
  • Pray she would bear fragrant fruit for the Lord

6 Ways Peter Identifies the Church: Part 3: Foreknown

The third distinguishing mark of the church is that they have been loved before the foundation of the world.

Before the world existed we were objects of God’s hesed loyal love.

The idea of foreknowledge is not simply that God had a factoid in his head about who we would be and what we would choose. Rather, the word emphasizes God’s act of affection toward his particular people before they were born and could do anything good or bad (Romans 9:11).

These opening verses in 1 Peter have reignited my passion for the sovereign grace of God.

There are basically two ways to understand the Church’s distinction from the world:

1) The Arminian would say that God’s election is his free grace toward all who believe in Jesus; he CHOOSES those who have faith in him. This concept of election emphasizes his choosing the KIND of people who would be in his kingdom, namely, those who have faith and repentance and believe in Jesus. From this perspective, God’s “purpose in election” is his decision to save repentant sinners rather than physical descendants of Abraham.

2) The Calvinist would say that God’s election means he chooses to save certain people prior to their personal decision to respond to him. This concept of election emphasizes his choosing specific people according to his free grace. He does not choose people because of their repentance and faith, but rather, people’s repentance and faith are a result of his choosing them.

We can learn a lot from the Arminian. To name a few:

1) God saves all who call upon him (John 1:12, Rom 10:9)

2) Human choice is infinitely significant, and God holds all persons accountable for their decisions (Deut 28-29)

3) We are to call all people to faith and repentance (Acts 17:30)

4) God is all about love and relationship (1 John 4:8, 16)

In short, I love the way Arminians emphasize the significance of human will and choice. God is a God of Relationality and covenant love between a multiplicity of persons, each exercising a willing engagement with the other.

Sometimes Calvinist circles fail to recognize this and make God seem fatalistic. He is not.

Yet, that said,

1) The Bible clearly teaches that new birth precedes faith (1 John 5:1).

Jesus speaks of Peter’s faith as a gift from the Father by the Spirit (Matt 16:17).

2) The Bible explicitly connects people’s belief in Jesus to God’s choosing (Acts 13:48).

3) The Bible explicitly says 100% who are called are justified and glorified (Rom 8:29-30). This means there is a specific, selective call to a distinct group of people. Precisely the people Peter here calls “elect” and “foreknown.”

4) The Bible uses metaphors that intentionally exclude the operation of human volition to emphasize the freedom of God’s grace to save, like people being given a new heart and people being raised from the dead (Ezek 36; Jeremiah 31; Eph 2)

5) The Bible uses the image of the nation of Israel, who was chosen not because of their faith or volition but because of God’s freedom, as a metaphor for the Church (Deut 7:6-11).

I would gladly affirm the significance of human choice. And all the good Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin would too.

However, I would not affirm the significance of human choice to the exclusion of the realities below:

1) The reason I know Jesus is because God chose me.

2) The difference between me and my friend who hates God is not my choice, but rather God’s choice to not leave me in my hatred of God.

3) I owe Jesus everything.

My problem with Arminianism is that it tends to exclude the above realities and belittle the fullness of God’s grace toward those who believe.

I believe this excludes the biblical idea and weight of God’s foreknowledge.