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November 2003

November 25, 2003

Day thirteen of The Purpose Driven Life begins with telling me that God wants all of me. He wants me to serve Him with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind and all of my strength. Warren offers four characteristics of worship that please God.

  • God is pleased when my worship is accurate. I need to worship God as He is revealed Himself in the Bible and not create my own version of God - a version that suits my needs and tastes.
  • God is pleased when my worship is authentic. God loves honesty and authenticity. He is not honored when I worship Him in a manner that is fake. If I am simply being emotionally moved by music, that is not true worship and He does not delight in it. Though my worship may not be perfect, it does need to be authentic. This is not to downplay the importance of worshipping God in the ways He has commanded. I am still responsible to search His Word to discover how He wants me to worship Him. He lists several ways people worship God. Though these are not directly drawn from the Bible, they are interesting. For example, he says that some people best worship God out of doors (he calls these people naturalists) while others best worship God by loving others and meeting their needs (caregivers). I am interesting in reading Sacred Pathways, the book he uses as his basis for these ways people draw to God.
  • God is pleased when my worship is thoughtful. Worship is not only emotional or physical. Worship needs to involve my mind. God wants me to think. To fall into using the “vain repetitions” the Bible warns of is not honoring to God.
  • God is pleased when my worship is practical. I am to offer myself as a living sacrifice. This means that I need to live my entire life for Him. I need to offer Him all of me.

    The chapter ends with the story of Matt Redman and how he came to write “The Heart of Worship.” Warren closes with the cute (but rather meaningless) statement, “the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.”

    Bible Passages

    Warren quotes the Bible over twenty times using six translations and paraphrases. Interestingly, he quotes John 4:23 two times, each in a different translation. He also quotes 1 Corinthians 14: 16-17 as support to his statement that “worship services must be understandable to unbelievers.” Though I agree with him, the passage he quotes is very obviously speaking to the issue of speaking in tongues. It has nothing to do with making our worship services appealing to unbelievers.

    Point to Ponder

    Today’s point to ponder is “God wants all of me.” When I first became a Christian there were parts of myself I held back. I’m sure if I closely examine each and every part of my life I would find that there are still many parts I hold back from Him. I am thankful, though, that as I look back over the years I can see that God is working in me to dedicate more of myself to Him. I think this is part of the process of maturing as a Christian. As I mature He shows me more and more areas that I need to let go of in order to truly surrender myself to Him. It is my prayer that He will convict me of any areas I need to release to Him so I can be truly and fully His.

    Up Next

    Tomorrow’s topic is When God Seems Distant

November 24, 2003

Introduction

This seeks to be an introductory study into the differences between Arminian and Calvinistic theology. This study is by no means definitive, but exists merely to introduce the five main concepts in which the two traditions have fundamental disagreements. Scripture verses used as proof texts are provided for each concept and short, unbiased comments have been added to each proof text to show how the text supports that viewpoint. The best course of study is to examine each viewpoint and then examine the Scripture passages from which they are drawn.

Calvinism Defined

Calvinism is the theology that was a product of the Protestant Reformation and was largely defined by John Calvin (1509-1564). The doctrine emphasizes God’s omnipotence, man’s depravity and the salvation of God’s elect by grace alone.

Historically, the ranks of well-known Calvinists include Augustine, the Reformers of the 16th century, the Puritans of the 17th century, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon. More recent Calvinists include Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, Gresham Machen, Martin Lloyd Jones, J.I. Packer, Francis Shaeffer, R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur Jr.

Churches that teach Calvinist theology include Presbyterian Denominations (Presbyterian Church of America, Reformed Presbyterian Churches, Orthodox Presbyterian Churches, etc), the various Reformed Churches (Dutch Reformed, Christian Reformed, Reformed Baptist, etc) and traditionally many Baptist denominations, though recently this has changed.

Arminianism Defined

Arminianism is the theology of Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) and his followers, known as the Remonstrants. Arminianism arose as a rejection of Calvinism and its doctrines of predestination and election. Arminius taught that God has given humans free will, and humans are able to freely choose or reject salvation.

The ranks of well-known Arminians include historical and current day Roman Catholics, the Remonstrants of the 17th century and John and Charles Wesley. Recent Arminians include Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, Billy Graham, Rick Warren and most other “mainline” preachers and evangelists.

Most churches teach Arminian theology. Among them are most Baptist denominations, Wesleyan, Pentecostal and Catholic.

Important Information

It is important to note that not all Calvinists will subscribe to all five of the tenets of Calvinism. Likewise, not all Arminians will agree with all five pillars of Arminianism. Generally speaking, though, an Arminian can be defined as someone who believes in human free will and that humans are free to accept or reject God. See the definition of free will later in this series for more insight into this. A Calvinist is someone who rejects the Arminian concept of free will, believing that the will of all humans is bound by their sinful nature and will remain bound until God performs His regenerative work. The two systems of theology diverge at the foundational issue of human depravity. Calvin says “That man has the best knowledge of himself who most thoroughly knows his depravity.” Calvinism is founded on the belief that man is completely and utterly unable to make a choice to follow God because the will of the unsaved person is bound by his sinful nature.

Interestingly, despite the fact that Arminianism arose in response to Calvinism, it is the Calvinists that are on the defensive today, needing to defend their beliefs against the majority of Christians who are Arminian. Whereas by rights Arminianism should be defined in light of Calvinism, the opposite is generally true.

It is also very important to note that the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is not a salvation issue. Though the two viewpoints stand in contradiction to each other, meaning that one must be right and the other wrong, there are no beliefs in either tradition that would leave people believing the opposite outside of salvation. Christians should not allow the differences between these viewpoints to become divisive in their unity with other true believers. That being said, it is still important for Christians to search for the truth and to discern for themselves, in the light of the Bible, which viewpoint is more Scriptural.

Tomorrow we will look at the five main teachings of Calvinism.

November 24, 2003

I am as close to God as I choose to be. Like any friendship, my relationship with God requires work. Just as a human relationship would die out if ignored, so my relationship with God will only improve with dedicated effort. In this chapter Warren presents several ways I can have a deeper connection with God.

I must choose to be honest with God. God expects honesty. He does not want me to sugar coat the way I feel about life, myself or about Him. Time and again the Bible shows how God’s friends related to Him honestly. They complained to Him, pestered Him and argued with Him. The Psalms show example after example of David baring his soul before God, showing his deepest emotions. God does not view our honesty as audacity; He views it as authenticity.

I must choose to obey God in faith. Generally in our minds obedience and friendship to do not go hand-in-hand, but in our relationship with God we must obey Him. We must obey out of love for Him and because we trust in His love. When we trust Him and do what He says, even if we do not understand it at that time, we deepen our friendship with Him.

I must choose to value God’s values. The closer I grow to God, the more I will value what he values. Above all else God values people. Therefore, if I love God and want to grow closer to Him, I must love people and do all I can to share the good news of Jesus with them.

I must desire friendship with God more than anything else. David, throughout the Psalms, shows his desire to know God. He values his relationship with God above anything else. Similarly, to be God’s friend I must desire Him more than anything the world can offer, be it money, relationships or anything else.

Bible Passages

Warren quotes the Bible eighteen times using seven translations and paraphrases. Three of these caught my attention. With all three of them I found the NASB was vastly different than the paraphrase used by Warren. He quotes 2 Corinthians 11:2 as saying “The thing that has me so upset is that I care about you so much - this is the passion of God burning inside me!” The NASB reads, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” I checked and double-checked and that is the verse Warren quotes. Perhaps the citation is wrong?

The second verse is Phillipians 3:10 where Warren quotes the Amplified Version. It reads, “My determined purpose is that I may know Him - that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly.” The NASB reads, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Again, there is a vast difference between the two.

Finally, he quotes 1 Timothy 6:21, and again, I double-checked this reference to make sure I got it right. The Living Bible reads, “Some of these people have missed the most important thing in life - they don’t know God.” The NASB reads “which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.”

Point to Ponder

Today’s point to ponder is “I’m as close to God as I choose to be.” I first came to this realization about two years ago, shortly after I began attending The Sanctuary (my church). My pastor said in a sermon, “you are as spiritual as you want to be.” It is such a simple concept and is so obvious, I was amazed I had not thought of it before. Before that time when I would feel distant from God I would blame my church, my family or anything other than myself. I would even think that God was far from me. The reality, of course, is that my family and my church are not responsible for how close I am to God. I am wholly responsible for my walk with God. Other people may help me in my Christian walk - they can provide support, enouragement and even chastening - but I alone am responsible for maintaining a close relationship with God. When I feel He is distant, I can be assured that I am the one pulling away from Him. He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me, yet I leave and forsake Him all the time. What a loving God I serve that He is patient when I run from Him!

Up Next

Tomorrow’s topic is Worship That Pleases God

November 23, 2003

God is my Creator, Redeemer, Master, Judge and Saviour. Yet about all of these, He is my friend. What an incredible thought it is, that God desires to be my friend! The Bibilical model for this friendship is what we see with Adam and Eve in their relationship to God. They delighted in God and He delighted in them. Since the fall, humans, created to live continually in God’s presence, have been seperated from Him, but now, through becoming Christians, we can once again have communion with Him.

Warren provides two ways I can become God’s best friend. The first is through constant conversation. This involves including God in every area of my life. Through constantly praying to God throughout the day, I can stay close to Him. Most of this section is drawn from Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God.” I was disappointed to see so many references to a book written by a monk. Admittedly I have not read the book, but was concerned that his suggestions might lead to a restrictive, rote type of Christianity. He even recommends setting my watch on an hourly cycle so when it rings I will remember to pray. This is rooted in the traditions of Benedictine monks. I agree that it is important to think about God and to focus on Him more than just during a daily devotional time, but there is a danger in creating rules about such things. Rules can lead to the type of restrictive religion from which Warren is trying to free me!

The second way I can grow close to God is through continual meditation. This involves recalling verses of the Bible I have read or messages I have heard and thinking about them throughout the day. Simply beginning and ending my day with God is not enough. I need to think about Him continually!

Bible Passages

Warren quotes the Bible twenty three times using six translations and paraphrases. Generally the use of the Scriptures seemed solid.

Point to Ponder

Today’s point to ponder is “God wants to be my best friend.” Only God could conceive of such a thing. Only God could be all powerful and yet truly desire to have a relationship with his created beings. So many other religions are based around a God who would never deign to have a close, initmate relationship with humans. But God is different.

I have been thinking lately about Christianity and how much of my belief in God is based on how different Christianity is from other religions. I see so many evidences of this. For example, the Christian faith is based on grace whereas every other religion is based on works. Christianity is unique.

Up Next

Tomorrow’s topic is Developing Your Friendship With God

November 22, 2003

Surrendering to God is the heart of worship. My natural response to an understanding of what God has done for me should be to surrender my life fully to Him. There are three barriers to trusting God:

  1. Fear. Before I can fully surrender myself to God I need to be able to trust Him. Fearfulness can keep me from fully trusting Him and trusting His plans for me.
  2. Pride. My human pride can keep me from surrendering to God. The desire to control my life is the oldest temptation; the one Satan used to cause Adam and Eve to sin. Warren quotes A.W. Tozer who said, “The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.” When I face my own limitations and realize that I truly do need God, I am able to surrender myself to Him.
  3. Confusion. I may be confused as to what it means to surrender to God. One common misconception is that surrendering means giving up rational thought. This is not the case. I need to allow God to let me become what He wants me to be. I need to be obedient to Him. I then need to fully trust in Him to make changes in me that will be for my good, even if at the time it seems painful.

Warren discusses the blessings that will come from surrendering to God. First, I will experience peace, then freedom and finally God’s power in my life. As a fully surrendered person I can be used by God for great things.

The chapter closes with showing how everyone eventually surrenders to something. If I do not surrender to God I will surrender to money, lust or even to my own ego. “The greatest hindrance to God’s blessing in your life is not others, it is yourself.” So it is crucial that I surrender to God, not just once, but in a way that is ongoing. On a daily basis I need to tell God and myself that I am fully surrender to Him and that I do trust Him and His plans for my life.

Bible Passages

Warren quotes the Bible twenty seven times using ten translations and paraphrases. A few of these merit mention. He speaks (correctly) of how God has good plans for my life. To do this he quotes Jeremiah 29:11. This passage presents a promise God made to Israel. To say that this promise applies to all Christians is a stretch. A few chapters later in Jeremiah 44:27 God says, “I will watch over them for adversity and not for good…[they] shall be consumed by the sword and famine.” I suspect Warren would not say that the latter verse applies to us today, but logically, according to his use, it should.

In speaking about “the blessing of surrender” Warren quotes Job 22:21, saying that this verse shows how a surrendered life will help me experience peace. Job 22:21 reads, “Stop quarreling with God! If you agree with him, you will have peace at last, and things will go well for you.” Do you know who is speaking in that verse? That was Eliphaz, the friend of Job! Job’s friends are hardly the source of godly wisdom. That verse is taken far out of context. Warren knows better than this!

Immediately afterwards, he says that when we surrender we experience freedom. He does not define what he means by freedom, but the passage he quotes very obviously discusses freedom from sin. He quotes Romans 6:17. What he leaves out is the next verse which says that since we are freed from sin, we are now “slaves to righteousness.” So yes, we are freed, but at the same time we are again bound. Furthermore, this verse does not talk about freedom we obtain through surrendering to God. Rather, it speaks about freedom we obtain by becoming Christians. This freedom is given to all believers the moment they become Christians. It is not withheld and given only to those who surrender.

Finally, he quotes the Amplified paraphrase of Phillipians 4:13 as “I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me, that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.” The pop-psych phrases in that verse make me squirm! A more accurate translation the verse is, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The meaning of the verse gains nothing with the addition of the extra words and concepts.

Point to Ponder

Today’s point to ponder is “the heart of worship is surrender.” We live in a culture that frowns on the very idea of surrender. That word has become, like submission, a word that carries negative consequences. How many jokes have been made using France as the punchline because of her long list of surrenders? Yet God calls me to go against my natural instincts and to surrender my life to Him. It seems that God is good at forcing me out of my comfort zone. As he calls me to surrender, so he calls me to submit myself to authority, even if the authorities are not godly men. He tells wives to submit to their husbands and tells us all to submit ourselves to God. Part of the Christian life is going against my natural instincts and trying to recover some sense of the relationship men had to God before we fell. When I surrender myself to God and submit myself to His will, I can begin to understand the relationship as it was before sin, where man and God walked in perfect communion.

Up Next

Tomorrow’s topic is Becoming Best Friends With God

November 21, 2003

Every Man�s Battle is the first book I have read in my adult life on the topic of sexual purity. In my teen years I was given books on the topic and I read, enjoyed and learned from them. However, this is the first book I have read on the subject as a married adult. Because I have not done a lot of reading on the subject I am unsure if Every Man�s Battle is a great book that presents ways of escaping a life of sexual temptation, or if it is a book that is deeply and irrevocably flawed.

November 21, 2003

Day nine of The Purpose Driven Life begins with the statement, “The smile of God is the goal of your life.” And certainly Rick Warren has been building to this statement. Because pleasing God is the first purpose of my life, it is crucial that I understand how to do that. To illustrate how to please God, Warren uses the example of Noah. Noah was a man who pleased God and in his time was the only righteous man on earth. When God decided to wipe out the human race, he spared Noah. We learn five acts that make God smile.

  • God smiles when I love Him supremely. I need to love God more than anything else in the world. In this section Warren speaks about God desiring my love and longing for me to know Him and to spend time with Him. I am not completely comfortable with those types of sentiments, but am not sure if that is a legitimate concern or not. That is something I need to do some research on.
  • God smiles when I trust Him completely. Noah trusted God even though what God said seemed crazy. Noah had to build a boat hundreds of miles from the ocean. But he did it without complaining and without questioning. What an amazing example to me of obedience!
  • God smiles when I obey Him wholeheartedly. Noah obeyed God to the smallest detail. He did not try to do things His own way, but trusted that God’s ways were best. Any parent knows that delayed obedience or partial obedience is no different than disobedience. A paragraph in this section is the highlight of what I learned today:

    God doesn’t owe you an explanation or reason for everything He asks you to do. Understanding can wait, but obedience can’t. Instant obedience will teach you more about God than a lifetime of Bible discussions. In fact, you will never understand commands until you obey them first. Obedience unlocks understanding.

  • God smiles when I praise and thank Him continually. God loves it when I praise Him. It brings Him pleasure when I give Him the praise and worship He deserves.
  • God smiles when I use my abilities. This is similar to what has been discussed in past chapters. Every activity I do can be an act of worship. Every ability God gave me can be used to His glory. I enjoyed the reference to the movie Chariots of Fire (one of my all-time favorites). Eric Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Even something like running can be done to God’s pleasure if we are using our God-given abilities for His glory.

The chapter closes by asking, “Is pleasing [God] your deepest desire?” When I live in the light of eternity I should come to the realization that the amount of pleasure I get out of life is far less important than the enjoyment God gets out of my life.

Bible Passages

Warren quotes the Bible twenty seven times using nine translations and paraphrases. I noted a couple of concerns. First, concerning Noah Warren says that God saved Noah from the flood because he brought pleasure to God. In support he quotes Genesis 6:8 which The Living Bible renders as, “Noah was a pleasure to the Lord.” The NASB reads, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” In the context of the more accurate translation we see that Noah found favor, which when coming from God always indicates unmerited favor, in God’s eyes. In the paraphrase it is made to sound like Noah deserved God’s favor. This is more than simply a different translation but a vast difference in doctrine. One speaks of grace and the other of works.

Hebrews 11:7 is quoted in The Message’s paraphrase and bears little resemblance to the original meaning. An accurate translation says nothing about “As a result, Noah became intimate with God.”

Warren speaks about Jesus’ sacrifice meaning the end of animal sacrifices. This, of course, is accurate. He then says that, among other things, we are now to offer “the sacrifice of thanksgiving” which David speaks of in Psalm 116:17. However, the sacrifice of thanksgiving David speaks of is just that! It refers to the regular sacrifice the Jews offered to God in the Old Testament. Though I agree that we can now offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, Warren chooses a strange way to back this claim.

Question To Consider

Today’s question to consider is “Since God knows what is best, in what areas of my life do I need to trust Him most?” For me, as for most people, I find that finances is a tough area to trust God. Though He has never let me down in this area, I still find it difficult to trust that He is in control and that He knows best. I often feel that He has overlooked something and that He really should be giving me more. Deep inside I always know that I can count on Him, but I do know this is an area where I need to develop trust.

Up Next

Tomorrow’s topic is The Heart of Worship

November 20, 2003

Two completely unrelated events gave me the inspiration for this article. The first was an awards show that I did not watch and the second was a drive home from a rather dull meeting.

The American Music Awards were presented this week and for just the third year, one was presented in the category of Favorite Artist in Contemporary Inspirational Music with Steven Curtis Chapman taking home the award. Not being a fan of award shows, I merely read about this the day after the event. The second event was devoid of any real significance. I happened to be driving home from a meeting with a client of mine and flipped on the radio. I heard a song I used to enjoy in my youth but had not heard for a number of years. The song was Bryan Adam’s Everything I Do which of course was the most popular song from the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Soundtrack.

So what do these events have to do with each other? I already told you! Absolutely nothing! However, they combined to make me start thinking about something.

What is Christian music? What makes one song Christian and another mainstream? What makes an artist Christian while another is mainstream?

The American Music Awards distribute awards based on genres. They give out awards for rap music, jazz, pop and heavy metal. Each of these forms its own musical genre. Though the lines dividing the genres may not be perfectly clear, there is usually little doubt as to what constitutes a jazz album versus what constitutes a blues album. But then there is the award for Christian music (or, as they call it, Contemporary Inspirational Music). This one is not awarded based on a style of music, but on lyrical content, or further, on the beliefs of the artist. Is it not strange that Christian music forms the sole exception to the rule? Is it not strange that in a system divided by genre, a hard rock Christian album can be considered in the same category as an adult contemporary album?

I have no answers except to suggest that according to the American Music Awards, a Christian album is probably one that has been distributed by a Christian label. How those labels define a Christian album or song is anyone’s guess, though I’m sure it varies greatly from company to company. I know the Gospel Music Association holds to the following definition. A Christian song is one:

  • substantially based upon historically orthodox Christian truth contained in or derived from the Holy Bible
  • and/or apparently prompted and informed by a Christian world view.

Now, let’s bring Bryan Adams into the mix. I already mentioned that as I was driving home today I heard Everything I Do. I noticed that it does not have any words in it explicit enough to tell the listener for whom it was written. The only object he refers to is “you,” with no reference to the usual “baby,” “girl,” or “lover.” Therefore, it could be a song sung from a woman to a man or a man to a woman. Fair enough. I’m sure we can all think of examples of songs that are written in such a vague fashion. As I listened to it I began to wonder what would happen if we were to sing that song in our church. Couldn’t we just direct the song towards God? Listen to these words:

Look into my heart - you will find
There’s nothin’ there to hide
Take me as I am - take my life
I would give it all - I would sacrifice
Don’t tell me it’s not worth fightin’ for
I can’t help it - there’s nothin’ I want more
You know it’s true
Everything I do - I do it for you
There’s no love - like your love
And no other - could give more love
There’s nowhere - unless you’re there
All the time - all the way

There are songs we sing in church that are little different than that. Consider Sonicflood’s I Want To Know You:

In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness You are there
In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait only for You
Cause, I want to know You more
I want to know You more
I want to hear Your voice
I want to know You more
I want to touch You
I want to see Your face
I want to know You more

Surely if heard outside a Christian context no one would guess that I Want To Know You is directed to God. Similarly, inside a Christian context I doubt if anyone would guess that Everything I Do is just another mainstream love song. Evidently this further complicates the matter.

So again I ask, what constitutes a Christian song? Though certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some options. Perhaps a Christian song is:

  • A song written by a Christian. This speaks of the songs’s authorship.
  • A song written to be a Christian song. This speaks of the motive of the song’s author.
  • A song sung as a Christian song. This speaks of the motives of the individuals singing the song.
  • A song with explicitly or obviously Christian lyrics. This speaks of the song’s content.

Does any one of these, taken alone, provide a definition of Christian music? I don’t think so, as each of them seems to have an obvious flaw.

[Note from Tim] I wrote this far into the article and got stuck. When I began writing I had a pretty clear idea of the conclusion I would reach, but suddenly found it was not so clear. I was truly stuck, so decided to define �Christian� before proceeding.

Maybe it would be helpful to look at a definition of the word �Christian.� A Christian is a person who professes a faith in Jesus Christ. A Christian is a person who has been saved by the blood of Jesus. The very essence of the word �Christian� speaks of people. In that light, can any song truly be Christian? No, in reality no song, book, bumper sticker or t-shirt can be called Christian. They may be read, sung or used by Christians, but that does not make them Christian.

So what are we to do with music? Again, at this point I am without answers. All I can suggest is that there are songs that are honoring to God and there are songs that are dishonoring. If singing a song draws attention from ourselves and focuses our attention on praising God; if it helps us to learn about God and to glorify Him, it honors Him.

So might Everything I Do become the “Heart of Worship” of the next generation. I certainly hope not as I simply can�t imagine my church singing anything by Bryan Adams, but if it helped Christians bring glory to their creator, who would I be to complain?

I would love to get some feedback on this, so if you have something to say, please post a comment.