Saturday, October 31, 2009

God did something good

In Rogers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, Maria finds true love, and is overwhelmed by her good fortune; she can only suppose that, “Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good.” That’s not at all how life works. In spite of our sinfulness, God chooses to do something good, and not because of any foreseen goodness in us. We’re unworthy of His love. God takes the initiative; apart from His intervention, we would remain children of wrath.

This doctrine of grace says that we have been chosen by God the Father. This is the Biblical doctrine of “election”. God has a plan to save us. We cannot save ourselves. We don’t generate faith; it is a gift. We were chosen, set apart, according to God’s plan. God has a special use for us. Nothing can happen to us apart from God. We are part of His ultimate purpose. The Apostle Paul says in II Thessalonians 2:13, “from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” God is sovereign in salvation; our destiny is in His hands.

God isn’t searching for people who are able or willing to accept salvation. He knows that, apart from His involvement, none would. But God is not limited by our choices. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I have chosen you…many are called, few are chosen” (Jn 15:16 & Mt 22:14). Someone said, “God has reasons of His own for choosing me for salvation, but I did not supply Him with those reasons.” It remains a mystery.

It’s important to understand that God does not owe any of us His mercy. If He had wanted to simply be just, He could have condemned the entire human race. Since none deserve salvation, in saving some, God is merciful. Some receive mercy, and others receive justice. No one receives injustice.

Election means that we’ve been adopted, taken into God’s family. We’re given a new identity and destiny as His children. We’re outsiders no longer. Peter says in his first epistle that we have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade” (1:4). This is a great comfort.

After considering this teaching, you might wonder: “Am I one of the elect?” The answer to that question is easy: Trust in Jesus as Lord. If you do that, you are one of the elect. God’s free invitation is simple: Look to Jesus, and live.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Churches...different streams

There is much diversity within the Body of Christ, and rather than categorize according to denominations, there are other ways to describe our pluralistic fellowship of believers…

Contemplative~ Quiet listening and intimacy with God through silence, spirituality, and solitude to illuminate the dark.

Holiness~ Striving against sin and seeking after virtue and righteousness

Charismatic~ Yielding to the power of the Spirit to transform us into Christ’s image.

Evangelical~ Proclaiming the Good News of God’s Kingdom.

Incarnational~ Focusing on Christ within us, through symbolism and liturgy.

There is a place for everyone in the Church...we simply find where we best fit.
(adapted from Michael Mangis)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We don't believe in Hell

I was recently thinking how most evangelicals don't really believe in Hell...being conservative in our theology, we claim we do, but in all practicality, I doubt it. We don't act like we believe in Hell; if we did, we might have a greater sense of urgency in our proclamation of the remedy, Christ's path to life. This is an unpleasant topic, particularly in an age of friendly (kind & gentle) evangelism. We gladly tell the Good News but we're embarrassed by the "bad news". Yet what are we saved from? Punishment. This is something one rarely hears much in preaching anymore. Maybe we've moved beyond this emphasis, perhaps a reaction to the "hellfire & brimstone" preaching of past years? I wish we evangelicals would all read C.S. Lewis' book The Great Divorce and ponder what lies ahead for those who refuse the free gift of eternal life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, gift or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you—we are in charge of our attitudes. –Charles Swindoll

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Fear not"

Review: Conquering Fear – Living Boldly in an Uncertain World; Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, 2009.

Rabbi Kushner offers encouragement to all who suffer fear and dread, and he addresses various types of fears; not phobias, but anxieties common to the human condition. His objective is to achieve mastery over (not the absence of) fear. He states, “Our goal should be to recognize legitimate fears, dismiss exaggerated fears, and not let fear keep us from doing the things we yearn to do.”

Naturally he encourages spiritual resources, and especially prayer--not to seek removal of things we fear, but to ask God to be present, so that we may be less alone as we face our fears. We can then be happy in an unsafe world. “Fearful people cannot be happy.” We may even find that we hurt less by resting in God’s care.

Topics include: terrorism, ageing, rejection, job-loss, natural disasters, end-of-the-world anxiety, change, failure, and fear of death. He points out how God does not explain why life hurts (there is much we cannot grasp about God’s ways); instead He challenges us to respond with hope and rebuild our lives.

I found this an engaging, encouraging book. While I didn’t agree with every point, I felt enriched by Rabbi Kushner’s wise insight, born of experience.