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Those of us who are saved were chosen for salvation before the world was even created. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV Since God has already decided who will be saved and who won’t there is no point in praying for the salvation of another person. If he has been predestined for salvation he will be saved; if he hasn’t been predestined he won’t be. Our prayers will have no effect. This seems like an unanswerable argument against praying that someone be saved. But Paul, the author of the above quote, wasn’t persuaded by it. He prayed for the salvation of his fellow Israelites. Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Romans 10:1-3 ESV Why would Paul pray for their salvation if God had already determined whether they would be saved? He understood that God doesn’t experience time the same way we do. We only experience one point in time. Some events are in the past and we can do nothing to change them. Some are in the future and the choices we make now can affect them. God doesn’t experience time this way. To him the past, present, and future are all the same. One of his attributes is omnipresence. His omnipresence is temporal as well as spatial. He not only exists everywhere at the same time, he also occupies all of time. The things we do can only affect the future. Our prayers can affect the past. If you know people who are unsaved, pray for them. God can answer the prayer you make now by selecting that person to be saved before the creation of the world. Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 ESV
As parents, we are our children’s first theology teachers. Like the women at the tomb on Easter morning, we run fearfully and joyfully to tell the people we love, “The tomb is empty! Christ has risen.” With hope-filled hearts, we teach our children about the living Lord. God has ordained a means for teaching our children how to love him—and not primarily by sending them to AWANA, or buying another picture Bible, or using the right curriculum. Learning about God begins with wonder, and worship is our great goal. Teaching our children theology is as simple as having conversations with God and conversations about God “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:7). We have conversations with God by reading his Word, giving thanks and praise, and praying to him. In our family, we have conversations about God as we go about our daily routine—sharing meals, walking outside, and perhaps most delightfully, reading books. Book Adventures Every new book is a new place, a new journey into new worlds. My husband is our courageous captain. He navigates our ship through the shining seas of Bunyan, Lewis, and Tolkien. These days, we are on an excursion in a dragon’s lair. Theology, like food, tastes better when one is hungry. Young sailors are often hungry for definitions and explanations, while being full of questions and interruptions. When our captain recently explained various heretical views of the Trinity, our living room roared with laughter. I didn’t know that was possible. Before the current days of chapter books, however, there were years of shorter adventures in picture books. These too held truths and metaphors helpful for understanding the things of God. Illustrate and Illuminate The following picture books aren’t theology books. They should be enjoyed for their clever plots and likeable characters. But they can also illustrate biblical concepts. Through conversations, these picture books may illuminate truths about God in unexpected ways. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown Mother bunny gives us a great picture of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. The Lord never leaves us or forsakes us. He is faithful to pursue us when we run away. He is the fisherman who fishes for us and the “tree we come home to.” His sovereignty is like the wind that blows us where he wants us to go. The little bunny is a lot like Jonah, the runaway prophet. But unlike Jonah, we see the bunny repent. What Do You Love? by Jonathan London The question “What do you love?” echoes Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections. Parents can help our children to see that the child in the story loves his mommy not for “park slides and piggyback rides.” Rather, he enjoys these good things because he is with his mommy. The nature of true religion is to find our greatest happiness in Christ, not merely his gifts. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Sam Barnett This book hilariously illustrates double-mindedness. As Sam and Dave dig down, down into the ground they miss enormous chunks of diamonds because they keep changing their minds about which direction to dig. Let us pursue the Lord single-mindedly! The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy,” or where a big hungry bear might break in and steal. Our hearts are bound up with our red ripe strawberries. I asked my children: What are your red ripe strawberries? How may we store up treasures in heaven instead? Waiting Is Not Easy by Mo Willems This book helps us think about why we need patience and serves as a lesson in eschatology for toddlers. How do we answer the question, “Mommy, when is Jesus coming again?” This humorous book gives us five surprisingly profound answers: One, a surprise is a surprise. Two, waiting is not easy. Three, it will get darker before the surprise arrives. Four, sometimes waiting feels like a waste of time. Five, it will all be worth it. Wonder at the Light Like John the Baptist, parents who have seen the light are called to be witnesses to the light. Reading with our children will not save them. But we can be the voices crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the LORD” (Isa. 40:3). We can look for clues to Christ and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Learning theology begins with a sense of wonder at our risen Lord. May the families of the world fall down and worship. View the full article
We have many good conversations about predestination. But we seldom define the degree to which predestination affects the universe and all. At the least it appears many think God imagined the universe before he created it. Let it run its own course without his intervention. And then created what he saw. Making it unchangeable and therefore predestined to happen just as he foresaw it. Another view, the most extreme says: God created all, including every thought and act of every creature in the universe when he created the universe. That not a grain of sand on the furthest planet shifts position without God who also created its path and movements in the appointed time. Both extremes depend on God’s perfect knowledge. If God only energizes but doesn’t control all, he then must watch and learn what might or might not happen. And this would mean he is not all knowing as the bible says. Other theories emerge but the Westminster Confession (London Baptists Confession) Chapter 3:1; God's Eternal Decree defines biblical predestination this way. 1. God, from all eternity, did—by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will—freely and unchangeably ordain whatever comes to pass. Yet he ordered all things in such a way that he is not the author of sin, nor does he force his creatures to act against their wills; neither is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. So as I understand, we freely choose for the reasons God created along with us. Reasons we would freely base our choices on as we meet up with them at the right time and place in life. This resolves free will and divine sovereignty.
Derek Rishmawy I'll admit, this isn't a typical question most Christian singles, or even couples, are asking. Most are still stuck on, "Wait, I'm supposed to date Christians?" That said, once you've established the importance of marrying someone who will be your partner in the faith and has the mutual goal of encouraging you in your relationship with Christ, you may start to wonder, "Well, does it really matter what kind of Christian they are? How will our theology affect the way we point each other to Christ? I mean, does it affect things if I'm a Protestant and he's a Catholic? Or what if we have different views on the end times? What about speaking in tongues? Can I date someone who 'quenches the Spirit' and thinks I worship with 'strange fire'?" As I've thought about the issue while talking with friends, considering my own marriage, and searching through the Scriptures, I've concluded there isn't any quick, easy answer. Instead, I want to simply put forward three questions, and a couple of caveats, to help singles and couples navigate the dating and marriage decision. Do You Agree on the Core? This question can simply be another way of asking, "Is this person a Christian?" That said, you should definitely have some bottom-line requirements like, say, agreeing to the content of Apostle's Creed, Nicaea, Chalcedon, and so forth. Of course, the person doesn't have to be a theology expert such that he or she knows the names of these councils. But you should agree that God is triune and Christ is the God-man, that he lived, died, and rose again in history for the salvation of mankind. Also, you should make sure you both hold a fundamental commitment to the Scriptures as the final authority in these issues; that way, there's common ground for discussion and dialogue on other issues. Beyond that, I don't think couples have to agree on every point of theology to have a solid marriage. A Calvinist and a Wesleyan (preferably of the Fred Sanders sort) could do well enough together, unless they're both super crusty about things. People with conflicting eschatologies could probably love and care for each other without an unnatural amount of friction (that is, until one of you reads the paper and decides its time to go down to the bomb shelter). Can You Go to Church Together? A further question to ask after the core questions is, "Can we go to church together?" Note, I don't simply mean, "Can you put up with his church?" or "Can you suck it up at hers and then podcast later?" There are going to be seasons where one of you likes your church more than the other, but the point is that worshiping and growing together in your marriage needs to happen in the church context. Going to different churches for a while during the dating process is fine, but eventually you're going to need to knit your life together in the broader church community. If you're theologically so far apart that one of you is thriving and the other is dying, that's not going to make for a healthy spiritual life and will likely lead to strife in the marriage. Can You Raise Children Together? The third question is one my pastor asks of couples seeking premarital counseling. Practically speaking, theology is going to play a role in the way you parent and disciple your children. For instance, right off the bat, if one of you is a credobaptist and the other is a paedobaptist, that's going to be a tough conversation when you have your first kid. My wife and I are going to have that conversation in time, because I've shifted in that area since we started dating and got married (moving from credo to paedo), but it's important for this act to not be taken unilaterally. Theology Changes The other thing you need to remember is that theology changes. You need to be ready. I just mentioned I've been shifting from credo- to paedobaptist over the past couple of years. That's just one of the many changes my wife and I have been navigating. The person you're dating now might have different beliefs by the time you get married. They could have shifts in theology after you're married, too. So will you. And in a lot of cases, given you're not an inspired apostle, that's a good thing. Actually, I'm convinced one of the reasons God gives you your spouse is to sharpen you, challenge you, and correct your understanding of God in light of the Word. I know I've learned from my wife and she's learned from me over the years as we've sought to submit to God's Word together. Word to Reformed Guys On that note, I have a special word to Reformed men—or rather, guys. A while back I wrote a joke blog on how to meet Reformed men. In the comments one fellow said he didn't mind dating a non-Reformed girl since he'd take it as a point of pride to "conquer" her theologically. Let me just say this loud and clear: This is arrogant, foolish, and must not be your attitude. Your future bride is not a notch to add on your theological belt but your sister in Christ with a mind of her own, given by her heavenly Father to be used properly, just like yours. In fact, hers might be sharper than yours. You may be a Reformed complementarian, but the command in Ephesians 5:21 says to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, and that command isn't revoked by the next few verses, however much you think they nuance it. Yes, you are called to "wash her with the word," as Christ does the church, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean with a firehose of theological argument designed to cow her into mental acquiescence. Basically, treat her like a person. If you keep these points in mind, prayerfully listen to input from trusted, believing brothers and sisters, and keep God as God in your heart (i.e., avoid the temptation to compromise because you're desperate), you should be fine.
Worship is the expression of praise, glory, thanks, honor, submission and devotion and is to be given to God alone. All else is idolatry. Therefore, Reformed worship is intentionally God-ward, celebrating all that He is and all that He has done in creation and redemption. Worship is not about our feelings or ‘worship experience’ and therefore is not devised according to what will attract or satisfy the sinner. God alone is our target audience in worship. It is for God,about God, and focused solely upon God. We recognize that if God is pleased it does not matter who is displeased, and if He is displeased, it does not matter who is pleased. Triune in Orientation
God has revealed Himself in creation and especially in the Bible. Biblical worship recognizes we worship the one true God who is eternally existent in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All of our worship is shaped by this revelation. Covenantal
Biblical worship is based upon a covenant relationship. Not everyone can legitimately call Him ‘Father’ but only those in covenant relationship with Him. We also recognize that this relationship is made possible only by the sin bearing, atoning cross-work of the Lord Jesus Christ in His death for us, and the perfect obedience and righteousness He achieved for us in His life. Based on the sure foundation of Scripture alone, justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Regulated by Scripture
God determines how He will be worshiped and He has not left us to guess what that involves. The Regulative Principle of Worship acknowledges that we are to do only those things in worship which God has commanded in His Word. We are not free to innovate, revise, or supplement the elements of worship commanded by God in Scripture. We are to be careful to do according to the mandates laid out for us. Sober, Yet Joyful
The Bible makes it clear that worshiping God is a highly serious matter and yet Christians ought to do so with reverent and overflowing joy. Worship is not a concert for man’s enjoyment. Preaching is not a public speech to dispense information or to entertain. Preaching is a central component of our worship. God addresses His people through the reading and proclamation of His word, and His people respond in faith, thanksgiving, and praise. A Holy Dialogue
Worship in the Bible was a dialogue between God and His covenant people, and so should it be in churches today. Our service begins with God addressing His gathered people in His solemn call to worship. Hearing His call, we respond with joy.God reveals His holy Law and we recognize our guilt and confess our sins. God, through the preacher, makes proclamation of His word, and we believe and renew our commitment to Him. He serves His people a family, covenant meal at His Table and we believe His gospel promise and feast on Him. As we turn from sin and trust the finished and perfect work of the perfect Savior alone, He assures us of His full pardon. We respond with thanksgiving and praise. Our worship ends with God addressing His children with words of benediction. This dialogue between God and His assembled covenant people is the rhythm of worship in Scripture, and it shapes the structure of our liturgy every Lord’s Day. - John Samson
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