A new year, old delays!

My grand plan to redesign my website has hit a bit of a snag. But fear not, I’m working on it and hope to have it done before too long. But, in order to prepare for that, I’ll be posting an article each week that will eventually be available for download.

I hope that the articles I post in the next few weeks are helpful and an encouragement to you.

New Year, New Website Design

I am busily redesigning my website to repurpose it from simply a blog to a more well-rounded source of free instruction in God’s Word. I will still have the blog as part of it, but I will also have areas for discussions, (hopefully) downloads, and other fun and edifying things.

I appreciate your patience as this redesign takes place and the form and function of The Bald Theologian changes. The thing that won’t change is my commitment to providing an education in the Bible for no charge to the learner. All you will ever need to take a course of mine is a heart that is willing to learn and work through the course materials.

Here is to a new year, a new website, but an old commitment to boldly proclaim the bald Word of God.

 

New Years 2017 – A Resolution worth Keeping

So 2017 is here (technically this is New Year’s Eve but since I plan to be sleeping when the new year begins I figured I’d post this now) and time to roll out the New Year’s Resolutions stuff.

Resolutions – you know, those things we resolve to accomplish to  do in the new year but never seem to do? Yeah, it is THAT time again. I’ve never been one to make a resolution at the new year. I may have done it a time or two but I never really meant it. But this year is different for me. I am going to make one resolution that I hope to keep throughout the year. I intend and will do my best to keep this resolution  in the coming years.

My resolution is not about weight loss, though I certainly be a pound or ten lighter. My resolution has nothing to do with saving money. In some ways my resolution may cause me to save less money. It doesn’t concern being kinder, gentler, or easing back on my conservative views. It isn’t about finally getting my book published or being a Pastor again. It has to do with something much more important than those temporal things. My resolution has eternal implications and eternal consequences.

So what is my resolution? Before I get to it, a particular passage of Scripture comes to mind:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 NASB

 

I resolve, beginning this year and continuing through the rest of my life to continually place myself on the altar for God to use as he sees fit. I will place all of me at His disposal.

 

But what does this mean?

Simply put, being a living sacrifice means that I sacrifice all in service to my King and God. But what is all? Well, it is everything. This includes my desires, the money I earn, the life I lead, the aspirations I have. It means every nook and cranny of my life is places on the altar as a living sacrifice.

The practical implications of this are numerous.

One thing that must occur as I do this is that I must dismiss my plans. That does not mean that I simply wander through life without  a plan. It doesn’t mean that I wait for God to miracle a direction for my life. It does mean that the ideas I have for my life come under the headship of Christ. I resolve no longer to ask God to bless my plans, I resolve to ask God to bless me with His plan for my life. So though I have one seemingly simply resolution of for this new year and for years to come, there are actually other resolutions that are contained within the simply one above.

As a part of my main resolution,

I resolve to place my desires and aspirations on the altar as a living sacrifice. This does not mean I do not have desires and aspirations. I certainly have them. For instance, I finally have the desire to pastor a church again. I desire to preach much more than the once a year I currently preach. I want to teach more. I want to disciple more. But those desires must be on the altar if I am to do things God’s way. I resolve to continue to prepare to be a pastor – with all that entails – as I wait on God to open a door somewhere to be that Pastor again. I may never be a pastor again. With that desire on the altar means that I’m OK with that outcome. And I am OK;

I resolve to reorder my life to study God’s word deeper and in a more meaningful way. I resolve to share the knowledge God has blessed me with. Anyone who desires to learn what I know is welcome to that knowledge;

I resolve to place my family, my church life, and my work life on the altar as a living sacrifice. Finding balance between many competing interests is difficult if not impossible. This is especially true for those of us with a large family. The demands of being the sole wage earner in a home to 10 folks is daunting even on a good day. Things are expensive these days. With 8 kids, a wife, two guinea pigs, two parakeets, two cats, a dog and many hens and many ducks puts a strain on the family budget;

I resolve to be spent by the time my body dies. I will not hold back but I will not simply do something for the sake of doing it. My activity shall be God-directed, not me directed. To be spent means I shall do all that God calls me to do. I shan’t do things in my own power. I shall do things under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit.

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My life is not my own. I’ve known that for quite a while. Now I will continue to live like that. Everything I am, I hope to be, or hope to do is part of being a living sacrifice to God. It is part of renewing my mind. It is about living life in a God-honoring way. It is living a Christ-centered life rather than a self-centered life.

This is my resolution not just for this year, but for all years to follow.

So, help me God. I’m going to need Your help.

The Amigo of Grace – again!

Grace delivers us from bondage to laws

and frees us to enjoy God in an enriching

and satisfying relationship

 

In order to grasp the reality of God’s grace we must first understand the reality of our own sinfulness. If we are convinced that in spite of the little vices which we all have, we are basically good people deserving of God’s favor, then we shall see no need for His grace. If we believe that God is obligated to let us enter Heaven because we have tried to keep His laws and done the best we can, then grace is totally unnecessary. The whole concept will appear absurd. But if we accept God’s assessment of our lives—that we are unrighteous, deceitful, desperately wicked, guilty, condemned sinners, incapable of measuring up to God’s standard and unworthy of His acceptance—then a deep appreciation for His grace will begin to dawn on our sin-dulled minds. We will get to know the God of all grace.

We learn a valuable lesson about grace from observing God’s gracious actions toward us in salvation. Just as the root meaning of the New Testament word involves joy and pleasantness, so we notice that God’s grace has an uncanny way of transforming the unpleasant into the pleasant. He takes an unbeliever, chained to his wretchedness and sin and bound for the bitterness of an eternal hell, freely gives him the lovely garments of Christ’s righteousness, then assures him of Heaven’s glory and beauty. What a transformation! That is God’s grace for salvation.

Then He continues to act toward us in grace. Not only does He bring delight to our drab existence by giving us the gift of eternal life, but He keeps on giving us good things to meet our needs and brighten our lives. For example, He gives us the resources to build us up and set us apart more fully to Himself, progressively replacing the ugliness of our daily sin with the attractiveness of holy living. That was Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders:

 

And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which

is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those

who are sanctified – Acts 20:32 NASB

 

That is grace for sanctification.

Sanctification is not slavishly submitting in the energy of the flesh to somebody’s man-made list of do’s and don’ts in order to enhance our own reputation or earn points with God. It is laying hold of God’s gracious plan to become more like Christ for His glory and praise. Grace delivers us from bondage to laws and frees us to enjoy God in an enriching and satisfying relationship. We will be motivated to please Him from within rather than pressured from without. We delight in pleasing someone who never stops giving good things to us.

God also provides grace for Christian service. We have a tendency to get carried away with our own abilities, and we begin to think that God is rather fortunate to have us on His team to do His work. We may feel that He is obligated to prosper us when we do serve Him. Those attitudes often lead to failure. The Apostle Paul admitted without shame that he was unworthy to serve Christ: “I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power” (Ephesians 3:7; cf. also 2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

We do not deserve to have the pleasure of serving the eternal God, but He has bestowed that privilege on us by His grace. We serve Him not to obtain His favor, but because we already have it. Any success we may enjoy will be the gift of His grace. He freely gives us the abilities and strength we need to serve Him. He transforms our feeble, bungling, embarrassing, unpleasant efforts into an effective, satisfying, and rewarding ministry that brings glory to Him. It is all part of His gracious actions toward us.

Grace – The First Amigo

An Undefinable Word

Grace is a subject that is broad and deep. I could take years examining the word of God and not adequately plumb the depths of grace. If I had an unlimited vocabulary and perfect writing skills, I would not be able to adequately communicate the beauty of His grace. There just are no words for it. So I will do the best I can to share what I have learned. But to describe it accurately is to try to accurately describe a beautiful sunset painted on the canvass of the sky. To adequately communicate its affect on the human souls is more difficult than to describe in detail the joy of watching one’s child be born…or their first intentional smile!

A Theological Description

God’s grace is that perfection or attribute of God that enables Him to have mercy on us. It is that part that strives with a rebellious person like me…and you. Like every other perfection (or attribute) grace just isn’t an adjective, it isn’t even just part of God. Grace IS who God is. Just like He is love, righteous, holy, just, etc. God is grace and He sheds His grace on us. Now how He sheds grace on humanity can be different but make no mistake that all of humanity experiences God’s grace one way or another.

 

Important Distinctions

Common Grace

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.                   – Matthew 5:44-45 NASB

Common grace is shed on all mankind, not just the elect. We see it in not only the rain cited in Matthew 5, but also in the healing of diseases, feeding the hungry, withholding judgement of those who scoff at God, murder others, and commit all sorts of unrighteousness. We even saw it at the beginning of man’s rebellion when God was gracious to Adam and Eve by making them clothes and graciously allowing them to live rather than execute judgement on them immediately. God’s common grace is that grace that everyone enjoys whether they recognize it as being from God or not.

 

Saving Grace

But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.  – Acts 15:11 NASB

 

The saving grace of God is on full display during the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. In Acts 15 the Council has been convened to discuss the issue of gentiles getting saved. A question arose that centered around the issue of whether the gentiles needed to become Jewish and hold to the Law before they could be saved. It was an honest argument that later turned into a legalistic requirement by some. Anyway, the result of that discussion is the verse quoted above: ALL mankind are saved by the grace of God.

 

In Ephesians 2 Paul states

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.                                            – Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB

 

Some Questions for Thought

God’s grace is what saves us. So what does this have to do with justification and sanctification? And what about security? Can we once saved ever be not saved? Does God’s grace keep us as well?

All these questions are good ones that need straightforward answer. They all will be addressed in the next few weeks as we continue to consider the three amigos of grace, justification and sanctification. It may get a little tangled, but there are very important things to understand about these three amigos and how they apply to life. We’ll also be able to understand how each is distinct from the other but how each works with and enhances the other. I hope you stick around for the ending. It is really awesome.

And I do mean AWE-some

 

 

The Three Amigos

I’m at about 35,000 feet in the air as I write this article. I’m flying to a conference in St. Paul, Minnesota that will take a week of my life. This type of thing isn’t necessarily the most fun I have on my job, but it is part of my job. Sometimes understanding why I have to leave my family for a bit of time is difficult. Like this time. I just don’t always understand the need for me to go somewhere. But my job demands it, so I go. I plug away and work hard to get through it, not just slog through it –  but get through it well. Why? Because everything I do, even the things I don’t fully understand – I do for Christ my King.

This article is the first in a series that examine the relationship between grace, justification, and sanctification. The reason I am examining these three amigos is a dear brother in the Lord asked me a question. I didn’t have an answer for him and I struggled a bit forming one. But I kept going. Not just to get an answer, but for the glory of Christ my Savior and King. Do I fully understand everything? Nope. Does my lack of understanding in any way detract from the truth of God’s word? Nope.

My plan is to examine each of these three important doctrines. I will then put it all together in (hopefully) one article that will try to put these three amigos together. I hope I communicate the truths I have discovered well because, quite frankly, they are nothing short of awesome. So let’s jump in and discover God’s wonderful three amigos – Grace, Justification, and Sanctification.

These three doctrines are important to understand on their own. It is also important to understand how each of them interacts with the others. And not for just these three essential doctrines but for all essential doctrines. Getting that done is not always easy – well, truth be told, it is never easy. But it is important because none of these doctrines works its way out in our lives in a vacuum.

There is a logical progression of sorts in the order these doctrines become effective in the life of a believer. This is only a logical order since there is very little (if any) time between these doctrines becoming active in the life of a believer. The logical progression of these three amigos can be illustrated simply

 

Grace——————->Justification——————->Sanctification

As I said before, this is simply the logical – not chronological – progression. In real time, the three amigos essentially happen at the same time but do have an affect on each other throughout the Christian’s life.

I hope you  enjoy this short series concerning these three very important doctrines. As usual, we will proceed as fast as the subjects allow. I’m in no hurry to get these done. I am, though, wanting to communicate precisely and clearly the subjects. I trust you will profit from this.

 

 

I’m Baaaaaack

I’m baaaaack! I’m not sure how many missed me in the weeks since my last article, but I’m back at my keyboard refreshed, full of ideas (not sure how many will make to this page), and full of thankfulness. So where was I?

In a very real way I experienced in real time God’s radical grace. No I did not get saved again (once is all one needs). No, I experienced God’s radical grace through the birth of our daughter, Rebeka Alain. She was born on May 20, 2016 after 22 hours of labor. Yes,  I wrote 22 hours of labor. Twenty-two. Wow! That was some kind of labor! Watching my most recent child arrive safely was once again an awe-inspiring experience. She was tiny at birth and still is kind of tiny. But she is a rather large reminder of how God is gracious to us every single day.

I realized how gracious God is to us every day when I was holding little Rebeka. He graciously delivered to us an little baby to our family. She is healthy though small. She is a little beauty. And a reminder of God’s graciousness to us. I shouldn’t need a reminded of God’s graciousness toward us, but I do. But isn’t that the way we all are?

Each day we wake up to magnificent sunrises or rain feeding the ground so our crops may grow. Bit still we look for God’s favor. God paints our sunsets with brilliant hues of blue, yellow, and red. He paint the sky more beautifully than any of the so-called master artists of history. And still, we look for God’s favor.

We seek to invent ways of God granting grace to us and our children but ignore the signs of grace all around us. We do this to our shame. We have become so ignorant because we have treasured knowledge rather than wisdom. We lose sight of the beauty of God’s creation in the science of botany. We analyze, theorize, and master the nuances of why the sky is painted with brilliant colors and lost the simplicity of appreciating the One who painted the evening sky.

We have eyes but we don’t see. We have ears, but we don’t hear. We read, study, memorize, and regurgitate things but we lack wisdom. All these things happen because we choose to do them. We make choices each day that blind us to the simple – yet radical – grace of God.

I have decided to try as much as I can to slow down and actively recognize the many ways God displays His grace to me. Today (Sunday) He shared His grace with me through the humility of my Pastor. I’m not sure how He will display it tomorrow but I do know I will be seeking to recognize it.

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When you recognize God’s grace – His radical, loving, undeserved grace – in your life, it changes you. Please share your grace experiences with me in the comments or through email. There are many out there…if we only choose to recognize them.

Go!

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God calls us to exercise faith in Christ’s sacrifice of the cross.

 

Do you like leaving home in the middle of a moonless, starless night? I don’t. But I did exactly that when I was in Boot Camp aboard MCRD Parris Island, SC. I was in Individual Combat Training at an old airfield aboard Parris Island. This was to simulate a night movement when in combat. It was also meant to develop trust between us as recruits and in our leaders, the Drill Instructors.

We were roused from our sleep by one of our Drill Instructors. We had to break camp, pack our backpacks and form up along a road all in the pitch black darkness of night. It was so dark I could not see more than six inches in front of me. It was dark! I was able to tell where we needed to go by holding onto a strap on the pack of the recruit in front of me. It was this way for everyone. We had no idea where we were going but we had to go and we had to believe the one leading us knew exactly where he was going.

We went through the woods, up hills, down hills, around bends, and finally arrived at a resting place. But it wasn’t just some old resting place, it was Elliot’s Beach. What’s there? Gas Chambers. We had to enter a gas chamber, experience being blinded by that gas, and then trust the instructors to get us out of the gas to safety. That was a lot of fun. We then continued to march to our final destination. Throughout this ordeal, we would march at a near run (it was called a force march) clutching tightly to the strap on the recruit on front of us. We simply had to go where we were led. We had faith that the leaders would lead us where we needed to be. In essence, we were led by the grace of the leaders where we needed to go.

We had to exercise faith to get where we needed to go. We had to make a choice. God’s Radial Grace is a lot like this experience.

God’s grace leads us where we need to be. You can bet that if God has shown you His Radical Grace and bestowed it on you, He will take you where you need to be. Do you need an example? Would that help? Lets turn to Genesis 12 for what I believe is a wonderful example of just how God’s Radical Grace is guaranteed to take us where we need to be.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” – Geneis 12:1-3 NASB

In this passage we see the beginning of God’s plan to bring salvation by grace through faith into the world. While this passage pertains specifically to Abram, there is application to us today. Let’s unpack this and see what God wants us to learn about His Radical Grace this week.

 

It begins with a command

Verse one begins with a simple command that must have been difficult to hear: You go! God told Abram to leave the only place he knew as home, leave his family, his surroundings – Abram was told to leave.Basically God told Abram to leave all that he knew. Leave it all behind. That is no easy task. But surely God had something good in mind and would share that with Abram. Well, not really. Continuing with the passage, God chooses not to tell Abram where he is going at the moment. There is only a promise that God would lead Him to that place and reveal it to him at some later date. My journey in darkness in boot camp was a  lot like this. “Just follow me” God tells Abram. But this wasn’t all that was happening.

God made some specific promises to Abram if he did indeed leave and go where God was graciously calling him. God promised to make Abram into a great nation, God would bless Abram, God would make Abram’s name great, and Abram would be a blessing. Now those are some really good promises. Surely Abram had to do something to earn those things. Well sort of. But it isn’t what you are probably thinking.

 

The syntax here in Genesis 12 is interesting. There is what is termed an indirect volitive chain. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that this chain is a way of guaranteeing the outcome for an obedient heart. These syntactical devices begin with an imperative, followed by a series of other verbs.  This combination demonstrates that whenever the action that was commanded is performed, then the promises made in the following verses of the chain are guaranteed to pass.

So what was God doing? And what does this have to do with God’s Radical Grace?

God was implementing His plan to bring salvation into the world. Remember that salvation is by grace through faith. In a very real way, God’s Radical Grace gets its first publicity here. God is proclaiming His intention to save by grace by extending a gracious call to Abram. 

Look at what is promised to Abram. a great nation, a great blessing given, fame, and Abram would be a blessing. But how is all this somehow gracious of God?

Abram was descendant of Noah’s son Shem. He was polytheistic so he obviously didn’t share the same faith as Noah. He was just another one of many who believed there were many gods who controlled everything. But God chose to intervene in this one polytheists life and change the course of history forever. God graciously interrupted Abram’s road to nowhere, placed him on the road to heaven, and in the passing of time brought salvation to the world. Through the journey that Abram took once he left his homeland until he died, God graciously provide for his needs. Does this sound familiar?

God calls us to exercise faith in Christ’s sacrifice of the cross.

God further states that if we exercise faith, our destination is secure and waiting for us – eternity with Him in heaven. All we need to do is obey that call. There is no promise that the road we will walk is going to be easy. There is no promise that we will not experience sadness or challenges. God promises that our destination – heaven – is sure. God promises to show us that place one day. Until that day we need to hang on to God as He graciously leads us to Him.

God chose to bring us to Him. God chose to bring salvation to the world even though the world rejects Him. God chose to love us in spite of our being unlovable. Just like Abram, we were on the road to nowhere good and God intervened and interrupted our lives to offer us a way out. A way to spend eternity with Him as His friend.

God did all this, just like He did with Abram, by His grace.

God’s grace. It is radical!

 

 

 

Sorry for the delay

I’m having some technical difficulties…otherwise known as life getting in the way of this blog! Work has been hectic and my other commitments have eaten away at the time I reserve for writing. I hope to have a new article up this week. I apologize for the delay. But one good thing that has come from this delay. I have thought about a possible next series!

When Grace Looks Harsh

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God’s grace has many facets but is the same grace no matter which way we look at it.

When someone utters the word Grace, more often than not the mind wanders to a warm fuzzy feeling. We often think of grace in terms of warm feelings, allowing for differences, and other nice actions. Seldom do we associate a judgement with grace. But did you know that one of God’s most gracious acts was wrapped in a judgement?

Genesis 3 details how Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden. They were given free reign in the Garden. They were supposed to tend the Garden but I’m sure they enjoyed other things as well. I’m positive it was a beautiful life. Imagine living in a perfect world with a beautiful wife and daily walking with the perfect God. What an amazing life. To remain in this place all Adam and Eve had to do was obey. Simple obedience. Well, it isn’t so simple is it.

Adam and Eve sinned. The took and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was the only tree that God had told them not to partake. But they didn’t obey and they broke God’s command. The immediate effect of their sin was apparent – their eyes were opened to a world that went way beyond what they thought. Instead of being enlightened as the serpent said they would be, their minds were darkened by sin and shame. God found them and judged them all. After pronouncing His judgment on the serpent, Adam, and Eve, God continued

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24 NASB

God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden – their home – for their sin as a gracious act. Now you may wonder how in the world can expulsion from the very presence of God, His perfect world can be viewed as an act of grace? Let’s take a look.

The key to this is that God wanted to prevent Adam and Eve  from eating from the tree of life and thus living forever. Now why would living forever be a bad thing? Isn’t eternal life a good thing?

Eternal life in Christ is a very good thing. We can be sure of our destination. But eternal life also includes life in eternal separation from God. That means forever being separated from being God’s friend – never being redeemed, always being condemned. That eternal life isn’t such a great thing for those who experience it. But it is the destiny of the unredeemed. And it is exactly what God was graciously preventing from happening to Adam and Eve.

If Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life while in their sinful state, they would have never died, never been redeemed and never been reconciled. As the head of the human race, this means that their children (read us) would probably be in the same status: unredeemable. God’s grace said NO! to that proposition.

God expelled Adam and Eve in order to redeem them. He expelled them so they could not live forever in their sinful state. He expelled them so that He would draw them closer to Him. He expelled them because He loved them and desired them to spend etenity with Him. That is grace.

Amazing grace. Radical grace

When you think of God shedding His grace on you, remember that

When He disciplines you, He is beng gracious to you. He doesn’t want you to continue in unrighteous behaviours, but to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

When God takes through trials – whatever type they may be – know that He is acting graciously towards you so that you will grow in Him.

When you face hardships, whether those are of the financial type, health type, or some other type, know that God is acting graciously towards you.

 

God’s grace has many facets but is the same grace no matter which way we look at it. It is His grace that He extends to us. His unmerited favor that He grants to us. The fact that He extends it to us – a sinful, rebellious, self-absorbed people – is something truly amazing.

God’s grace IS radical.