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Sunday Word of the Week: Immanence

Last week the word was Transcendence. God is apart from His creation, different from it. This week the word is Immanent or Immanence,

God’s immanence refers to His presence within His creation. (It is not to be confused with imminence, which refers to the timing of Jesus’ return to earth.) A belief in God’s immanence holds that God is present in all of creation, while remaining distinct from it. In other words, there is no place where God is not. His sovereign control extends everywhere simultaneously. Source GotQuestions

Immanence: God’s presence and activity within the creation and human history. Source: Biblical Doctrine, MacArthur/Mayhue, p 931

God is so majestic! Mysterious! How can He be both apart from His creation, and present within it?! At the same time? It shows who our God is. It’s why I chose these two words one after the other to demonstrate His essential otherness.

One other notion that is important to emphasize.

Pantheism and deism twist many people’s view of how God relates to His creation. Pantheists believe that everything is God or is a part of God, making Him equal with His creation and unable to act upon it. Deists hold that God is distinct from His creation but deny that He plays an active role in it. Contrary to these and other false views of God, the Bible says that God is both different from His creation and actively upholding it.

We must not stress His immanence at the expense of His transcendence, and vice versa.

That they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (Acts 17:27).

Note: Modern pantheism is seen in William P. Young’s The Shack, Oprah Winfrey’s promotion of Eckart Tolle, and in Ann Voskamps’s book One Thousand Gifts as an offshoot of pantheism, panentheism. It is easy to twist both immanence and transcendence, either by direct twisting or omitting one in favor of the other. It is why it is important to learn these terms so we retain a balanced view of God.

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Sunday Word of the Week 1: Justification

Sunday Word of the Week 2: Transcendence

What’s on my nightstand- and why

My church family is a family of readers. That’s good. I am a reader too. That means we are also talkers about books. We love to interact mindfully and intentionally about spiritual things. Our elders model this and encourage it. Our Family Groups, Book Clubs, and get-togethers are rife with conversations that are sparked with questions like, “Can you share any insights from your latest Bible reading?” “What do you think of the Bible Reading Plan segment for today?” “What books are you reading?”

The penetrating questions perform two functions. One function is that we are a like-minded bunch who love to read! We unite around literacy. This is good because it means we also read the Bible. Secondly, it keeps us accountable. It keeps me accountable anyway. When I read, I need to comprehend, and then retain and then share.

I’ve noticed that though I love reading and I’ve been a reader all my life, lately I was reading less. I read fewer books and the time I spent reading them was growing shorter and shorter. I was comprehending less too, and retaining almost nothing. I realized that most of my reading was done on a laptop. And that was weird because I dislike reading on screen.

I soon realized the type of reading I was doing was the issue. With my limited time to read after work, I was reading tweets, GroupMe chats, Facebook shares, short blogs, and the like. Digital reading predisposes us to reading superficially and quickly. Bible reading demands the opposite. Uh-oh.

In his book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, author Tony Reinke exposed the issue. Several experiments had been done on reading and they were summarized in The New Yorker. (July 16, 2014). Turns out there is a difference in the way people read depending on if the text is on a screen or on a page.

On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, [Ziming] Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.

Of Rakefet Ackerman and Morris Goldmsith’s experiment, published in the Journal of Psychology Applied it was discovered,

The screen, for one, seems to encourage more skimming behavior: when we scroll, we tend to read more quickly (and less deeply) than when we move sequentially from page to page. Online, the tendency is compounded as a way of coping with an overload of information. There are so many possible sources, so many pages, so many alternatives to any article or book or document that we read more quickly to compensate.

In addition, of Mary Dyson’s research, we read,

The online world, too, tends to exhaust our resources more quickly than the page. We become tired from the constant need to filter out hyperlinks and possible distractions. And our eyes themselves may grow fatigued from the constantly shifting screens, layouts, colors, and contrasts, an effect that holds for e-readers as well as computers.

Of Anne Mangen’s research,

The shift from print to digital reading may lead to more than changes in speed and physical processing. It may come at a cost to understanding, analyzing, and evaluating a text. Much of Mangen’s research focusses on how the format of reading material may affect not just eye movement or reading strategy but broader processing abilities.

Goodness! Reinke interviewed Trip Lee for the 12 Ways book, and Lee said the following. See if it resonates with you:

The more time I spend reading ten-second tweets and skimming random articles online, the more it affects my attention span, weakening the muscles I need to read scripture for long distances.

I certainly noticed a decline in my own analyzing, processing, and retention abilities. I needed to do something about this! I purposed to make a schedule of all the books I wanted to read this summer. I had a bunch laying around that were half read and others had been ‘on deck’ for over a year.

I’m blessed to have 9 weeks off from school during the summer, and my deep desire was to use the time well for Jesus. I also wanted to revive that atrophying reading muscle. So here’s what’s on my nightstand so to speak:

I am going through Exodus with Dr Abner Chou’s lectures, and Romans 1-8 with my church family on Tuesday nights. Also, I’m reading John MacArthur’s Romans commentary. Review: What can you say about the Bible! It’s great! A JMac Commentary? It’s great!

A few months ago, I  read Erik Lundgaard’s The Enemy Within, a summarized version of Puritan John Owen’s Indwelling Sin. I was irked that I remembered little of it. I decided to read it again, and pair it with Owen’s actual book Indwelling Sin (an abridged and slightly modernized version.)

I like this pairing. The topic is difficult, as it necessitates a deep look into one’s own heart to purposely uproot the sin there. Lundgaard’s version is sort of like a Cliff’s Notes which gets me ready to read the same chapters in Owen the next day. Owen’s Indwelling Sin in Believers is a monumental, wonderful, convicting book. I highly recommend it. I bought the Banner of Truth Puritan Paperbacks version.

Here is a resource for Owen. He wrote three towering books on the subject of sin, a trilogy if you will, Indwelling Sin as mentioned, Mortification of Sin, and Overcoming Sin and Temptation. This writer has created a “Monster Cheat Sheet for the Mortification of Sin in Believers” that you might find helpful if you decide to read that Owen book.

Grace Abounding in the Chief of Sinners is a book by Pilgrim’s Progress author John Bunyan, another Puritan. The version I’m reading has not been modernized and I love it. Owen’s language is dense with lengthy run-ons. Bunyan’s isn’t, hence is easier to read. Hugh Martin said of the book,

Grace Abounding is among the greatest stories of God’s dealings with the human soul– to be put on a shelf beside such treasures as Augustine’s Confessions, Law’s Serious Call, and Baxter’s Autobiography, and Wesley’s own account of his spiritual travail.

One great thing about reading the Puritans and older books is that the thread of sin, evil, guilt, despair, salvation, comfort, and assurance is the same no matter what century one lives in. Here is a resource on Bunyan’s works- 3 Lessons from the Life of John Bunyan.

Art and the Bible is a small book dealing with the topic of beauty. We should use the arts to the glory of God, author Francis Schaeffer wrote, and I agree. “Francis Schaeffer first examines the scriptural record of the use of various art forms, and then establishes a Christian perspective on art.” Recommended.

For secular books, I’m into Moby Dick, with cliff’s notes. Here is RC Sproul on Moby Dick in his essay The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby Dick:

It seems that every time a writer picks up a pen or turns on his word processor to compose a literary work of fiction, deep in his bosom resides the hope that somehow he will create the Great American Novel. Too late. That feat has already been accomplished and is as far out of reach for new novelists as is Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six-game hitting streak or Pete Rose’s record of cumulative career hits for a rookie baseball player. The Great American Novel was written more than a hundred and fifty years ago by Herman Melville. This novel, the one that has been unsurpassed by any other, is Moby Dick.

I agree. Moby Dick is THE Great American Novel. It’s towering, lyrical, breathtaking. It is also demanding, difficult, cumbersome. Is it worth it? YES. But again with this one, I needed notes. I use Read Moby: A Guide for First Time Readers. Why did Sproul believe this is one of the greatest hundred books, ever?

its greatness is found in its unparalleled theological symbolism.

Read Dr Sproul’s recommendation above for why we should read this book.

Some Writer! The Story of EB White by Melissa Sweet. This is a graphical book, one that includes ephemera, notes, and drawings. It’s a sweet and lovely book and I’m enjoying it tremendously.

PS if you like graphical books, Up The Down Staircase is another one that contains ephemera to tell the story.

“largely assembling her story through an accretion of found objects: bureaucratic circulars, homework assignments, wastebasket contents, doodles, and interoffice memos among teachers”

I am also reading a hilarious and wildly interesting book about the summer of 1927 in America by Bill Bryson aptly called One Summer 1927 America. He is such a good writer that the detailed sections on aviation (It was a Charles Lindbergh summer) and baseball (Babe Ruth summer) interesting, and I don’t gravitate to either subject but he makes them so fascinating I can’t put the book down. Recommended.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows. A friend sent me this book and it is soooo good. It is a story told through the exchange of letters. This, like Up the Down Staircase the Some Writer! are episolary novels.

Fun Fact: An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic “documents” such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use. The word epistolary is derived from Latin from the Greek word epistolē, meaning a letter (see epistle).

The Elusive Mrs Pollifax is on deck for August when school starts again.

I am noticing that when I push away from the laptop and just read, whatever book it is, I feel more relaxed. Moreover, my mind is slowly adapting to literature again, and my comprehension is lengthening. Slowly.

Watch out that digital reading might be changing your mind for the worse. Set aside a time to read without distraction some good theological books, leisure books, and of course the Bible. The Bible demands attention, study, and meditation. Our minds are being shaped away from that kind of reading and this impacts our Bible reading.

The thing I hated worst was that after I read the Bible, I’d remember some fun insight or nugget about it to share the next day at work. Of late, I’ve not done that, because I can’t really remember. I dearly want to proclaim His glories among the people with whom I work. Hence, my summer of reading recovery.

I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word. (Psalm 119:15-16)

 

Magnet Fun and Irresistible Grace

First, the original intent of the video, to show science. Here is the original poster’s comment:

Nice slow-motion footage of smaller magnets engulfing larger magnets. The self-organization is beautiful to watch…

I love magnets. Don’t you love magnets? I remember in grade school, science lessons where they gave you magnets to experiment with. It was fun and absorbing.

As is this video is absorbing, mesmerizing, actually!

And now for the spiritual twist. As I was watching the little magnets be drawn to the Master Magnet, I was reminded of the verse from John 12:32,

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

Salvation is like that in the video. The little magnets were minding their own business, at enmity with God, apart from Him. And along comes Jesus, inexorably drawing the ones He has elected since before the foundation of the world, to draw unto His grace, His body, his faith.

“God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it.” RC Sproul

Think on that ladies. He sought us, easily overcame our formidable enmity, cleaned us with His righteousness, and is now interceding for us at the throne as we draw ever nearer to Him!

Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25).

There is nothing that will happen to us today that is stronger than that reality.

All that the Father giveth me will come to me. (John 6:37).

 

He did this … so He could do this

Satan tempted Jesus with hunger. (Matthew 4:3)

Satan tempted Jesus with suicide. (Matthew 4:6).

Satan tempted Jesus with power. (Matthew 4:9).

Satan tempted Jesus with life, to avoid the cross. (Matthew 16:23).

Jesus resisted it all, answered with the word of God. He remained sinless, never falling into any of satan’s wiles.

He went to the cross, taking all of God’s wrath, dying as a humiliated sacrifice, separated in darkness for hours, “Father why have you forsaken me?” and then He died.

He did this,

powers

Illustration by Chris Powers, fullofeyes.com

The Father resurrected Jesus. He took our wrath because God placed our sin onto Him…He gave us His righteousness, which we could never possess.. Double imputation. (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So He could do this:

robe

Robe of Righteousness, by Lars Justinen

Let us take a moment to praise, honor, and glorify our precious Savior.

Mailbag: Do people who commit suicide go to hell?

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Today’s question was Do people who commit suicide go to hell?

The query came on the heels of fashion designer and celebrity Kate Spade’s suicide on June 5, 2018 and celebrity chef, television personality, and author Anthony Bourdain’s apparent suicide on June 8. It was a devastating week for those two families, their work families, and the watching world. Once again people questioned why, if someone has it all, depression still creeps and suicide becomes a solution. The Christian knows it is the vanity of vanities to pursue all of life’s offerings without Christ, it only ever adds up to emptiness. One should read Ecclesiastes for wisdom on emptiness in life without Christ.

But the non-Christian world still reels in shock when they look to the pinnacle of success, see their idols up there, only to see them cast it all away and tumble.

David Leavitt, a freelance writer for CBS, Yahoo, and the Examiner, tweeted,

If you’re religious, then you believe there’s a special place in hell or purgatory for people like Anthony Bourdain who take their own lives.

His is a common view if one has been raised Catholic. They teach that to take one’s own life (and anyone helping to take a life) is in mortal sin. A mortal sin means you’ve now lost your salvation forever. They base their teaching not on the Bible, but on principles that the Christian can identify with nonetheless. For example, to take one’s life is to assert lordship over it, when it is God who gives and takes life. It is God who counts your days and sets the boundary line for when you step into eternity. Suicide also lets down the people you are connected to, either family by blood or church family by Jesus’ blood. We are each given the gift of the Holy Spirit to operate with in the gifts the Spirit in us has dispensed, and to take one’s life leaves a hole in the family fabric where God has installed you. Even the Christian can understand that suicide is a heavy sin.

But can we go so far as the Catholic to say that a Christian who takes his own life for sure will go to hell? No. Again, no. If a person is indeed saved by faith, they can never lose their salvation. The Spirit indwelling us is the secure guarantee of that. (Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 1:22).

We are careful with terms here, the original tweet said the religious believe there is a special place in hell for the successful suicide. Muslims actually believe jihadi suicide in Allah’s name gets you INTO heaven, so, not ‘religious’, but if one is Catholic, then they do believe there’s a special place in hell or purgatory for people like suicides.

Christians know than any person would be in hell only because they rejected the Gospel. The people in hell are the people who died in sin and not in Christ. The only unforgivable sin is rejecting the offer of salvation by Jesus. It stands to reason, though, that any other sin is possible for a Christian to still commit.

Can a truly Christian person even contemplate suicide, let alone successfully throw their life away? Perhaps, or perhaps not. It is not for me to say. I do believe that it’s possible there are many Christians struggling with depression. Charles Spurgeon famously struggled with depression, though he never attempted suicide.

Suicide is detailed in the Bible. Many people did kill themselves. Judas, King Saul, King Saul’s armor bearer, and many others. They were all men and they were all apostasizing or non-believers. No truly saved person is documented in the Bible as attempting or carrying out suicide, not even King David in the throes of his deepest depression. Jonah in fact, though seemingly depressed and unhappy, pleaded for his life in the belly of the whale.

Observations;
All of the biblical examples of successful suicide are men.
All of the biblical examples are dubious characters and none are personally praised for their actions.
All were spiritually bankrupt or went through a period of spiritual collapse before their suicide.
Many of the biblical examples were in pain and/or afraid before suicide.
Scripture generally presents these examples of suicide as a fitting end to a wicked and unrepentant life (cf. Judg. 9:56; 1 Ki. 16:19). (Source)

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote an enduring and classic Christian book called Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure. He and preached on spiritual depression also, here. The entire series of 24 sermons on spiritual depression is here.

I think suicidal deaths could be the group referred to in 1 Corinthians 3:15,

If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Here, Paul was teaching about the levels of rewards in heaven. Believers will appear before Christ to account for their lives, how they worked for His glory and in what level of obedience. Any person’s work that is not worthy will be burned up and works done in His name that glorify Him will be turned to gold and silver. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

In verse 15, there will be people who will have all their works burned up. Will some of those people lose their rewards because they ended their own life, effectively supplanting God for their own will be done, to the uttermost? Perhaps, because in throwing their own life away, they thus became God of their own days. It may be also that in so doing, they threw away all their works done in His name, their rewards, too. What else could engender a complete loss of rewards? Even the thief on the cross made three good stabs at bearing fruit; confessing his guilt, proclaiming Jesus as Christ, and rebuking the other thief for his blasphemies. It may well be that 1 Corinthians refers to some people who ended their life and thus, though salvation is eternal, they lost their reward in heaven.

David Murray with 7 Questions about Suicide and Christians, and many other good and helpful resources on that page.

The recent suicides are truly sad. It is written in the news reports that Bourdain was seeking help but had ignored his doctor’s advice. However, it is also reported that Kate Spade was doing everything right, heeding doctor advice, calling and checking in with her family. She still went through with it.

The ultimate tragedy and one that is unalterable, is that if a non-believer seeks suicide as a solution to their pain or despair, they wake up the next second in worse pain, unimaginable pain, and one that they can never escape. Not because they committed suicide, but because they had rejected Christ. Their hopelessness will go on and on.

In the Christian, depression is real, spiritual depression is real. One never knows what is going on in the mind of another. But we do have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16). The best we can do is encourage each other, come along side to help and love. We are not alone, we are tied with a threefold cord of scarlet to the King of eternal life. Cling to that.