Monday, February 25, 2019

Dort, A Rich Heritage Celebrated

On November 13, 1618 over a hundred men assembled in Dordtrecht of the Netherlands. Their main purpose was to examine and rebut the heresy of Arminianism. It was called Arminianism because it was linked to one of the men who espoused its doctrines most abundantly, not because it originated with him. Rather Arminianism was merely a restated version of Pelagianism, which had long before been condemned by the church as a heresy. Arminianism was presented as different from the teachings of Pelagius, though in reality it based its teachings from those of Pelagius with very little to distinguish itself as being set apart, merely a re-purposed ideal. After about six months of deliberations and examinations, on May 9th in 1619, the Canons of Dort were born.

Not only are the canons the greatest defense given against Arminianism, they also provide a context and background for the length of time that this controversy was examined. It was not something that was examined lightly and then pushed aside. It was not an issue that these men gathered so that they could figure out how to manipulate the truth. Rather, it was a sacrifice of love for the truth that led these men to examine this issue for such an extended period of time. Men (mostly pastors) were called from most corners of Europe to convene together about this issue. This was not something that these men were able to go home every night, sleep in their own beds, and be with their families. These men sacrificed for half of a year in order to best present the doctrinal position of Scripture in regards to this issue.

Personally, this means a lot. To step away from everything that would be normal, to pray, discuss, even argue the varying issues at stake, would have taken a deep reliance upon God for strength and mercy. Knowing this background is what leads me to so deeply appreciate the work that my 10th great-grandfather (Herman op den Graeff) took part in. He was one of the several delegates to join the synod from Germany. Through his actions and those of his descendants, God worked to preserve the truth of Scripture. Not only through their lives and actions, but through the working of the Spirit in leading several of his descendants to join him in pastoring God's flock.

I do not take pride in my 10th great-grandfather the man, for he would have been the first to proclaim that he on his own was unworthy of any praise. Rather, I take a deep pride in knowing that God has been at work since at least the early 1600's in my family to shine His truth and light to others. I pray that if one day I need to make a sacrifice like Herman did to stand for the truth, that God would give me the strength to do so. The way that America is currently headed, I could see that coming sooner than later.

It is when thinking about my ancestral heritage that I begin to think about one of the biggest issues of our day, the murder of millions of unborn children. I think about Herman and the stance that he made to make sure that the Church understood that all people are born with a sin nature, completely depraved. I think about the fact that so many children have been torn to pieces before they could ever hear the Gospel preached to them. (I do not believe that every child murdered in the womb faces hell and eternal destruction, for God may work in the hearts and minds of anyone of any age.) To think that God still works in these situations amazes me. He takes the hateful, sinful actions of men and uses them for His glory. Thankfully, God is sovereign over all. Not just some, but all.

Even though He uses abortions for His glory, He does not leave those committing the sin of murder unaccountable. For them, there are two options. The first is that they will be held accountable for the life they have taken and will be destroyed for all eternity in hell for what they have done. The second option, is one wherein they receive mercy. Jesus has already paid for their sin and forgiven them, for they are His. These are the only two options that exist. Knowing that Herman helped to preserve this truth brings me joy. Knowing that God is the One to uphold His Word, brings me strength and courage, the same that I believe He gave to Herman. If we are unwilling to stand against sin, then we have failed in the very calling given to us. We cannot make disciples if we are not leading and standing for righteousness. If we back down from the popular opinion, we will abdicate everything that we claim to believe in.

If we look to our past, we can gain great insight into the actions that we should and should not take. I am thankful to God that many of those in my ancestry fall within the 'actions that should be followed' category. Some of the very first and greatest abolitionists in our country are among my family tree, many pastors, city officials, and even royalty. But my family tree is not what gives me faith, or the ultimate example to follow (there are many in my tree that were horrible people). My hope is in Christ alone. This is what Herman and the other men met at Dort to determine and produce. A knowledge that no matter how horrible a person you are, there is hope found at the cross. At the cross one may lay down all of their worthless baggage and kiss the feet of He who was hung for their transgressions. Mankind is evil, by every definition. But we do have hope. However, it is only through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus that we find this hope. It can be found by no other means.

T

U
L
I
P

Five simple letters. Yet, months were spent to make sure they were formatted correctly to reject and repute the teachings of Pelagius/Arminius. My hope and prayer is that we may find the time and courage through leaning on the Holy Spirit to reject and refute any considerations for the murder of unborn children. I truly believe that it is only when a high view of God is held that we may begin to see real change in our cultures and world. It is when God is seen as Almighty that His Word is seen as valuable. If we do not stand upon His Word, then nothing we do will hold any weight.

Let us have hope in the One who lives. Let us live for the One who suffered. Let us suffer for the One who brings life. And let us bring life to those who are helpless.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Peace In This Place: A Poem

My sins You already know
And yet You call me to confess them so
I lay them down at Your feet
As I lay on the ground and weep

Your love is written across the sky
Bidding me to come and die
I’m only a sinner saved by grace
So give me the peace that fills this place

You came to earth and died
All I can do is constantly hide
A crown of thorns You did not pass
So all my sins You’d pay in their mass

Your love is written across the sky
Bidding me to come and die
I’m only a sinner saved by grace
So give me the peace that fills this place

Your law revives my soul
How could You die to make me whole
Your love was displayed on the cross
So all my sin could be counted as loss

Your love is written across the sky
Bidding me to come and die
I’m only a sinner saved by grace
So give me the peace that fills this place


Written: 10/2/2010

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

His Splendor: A Poem



His Splendor

The grassy fields and flowery meadows Show the peace of God when you rest in His shadows The mountains high and rolling hills Show the greatness of God when you follow His will So sing with all that you have For nothing on earth will ever last Store up your treasures on high Looking to the One whose coming is nigh The gentle breeze ruffling the leaves Shows the tenderness of God when we come on our knees The flowing river molding the rocks Shows how a lump of clay can become something that sparks
So sing with all that you have For nothing on earth will ever last Store up your treasures on high Looking to the One whose coming is nigh The deer dancing in the field Show the grace of God and what it’s like to be healed The sunset in all its array Shows the beauty of God when His love is on display

So sing with all that you have For nothing on earth will ever last Store up your treasures on high Looking to the One whose coming is nigh

Friday, July 20, 2018

Do You Build Walls or Bridges?

One of my favorite songs recently has been "Walls", by Derek Minor. I think that he nails a lot of the issues going on in our country right on the head. You can find the song on just about every music site; itunes, youtube, spotify, etc. Below are the lyrics for the song, and I would highly encourage you to look it up to listen as well.


[Chorus: Jordan Frye]
We build walls
All around us, all around us
Try to keep what we don't know
At a distance, at a distance
We don't listen

[Verse 1: Derek Minor]
Now if I stood on a corner and asked you for $2 for a Whopper
Would you let your cynicism stop you? Would it stop you? Would it stop you? I mean would you?
I mean we spend $9.99 on Spotify, but hearing my stomach rumblin', not worth a dime?
Not worth a dime? Not even one?
Look, or if I had suit and tie, maybe I’d be worth your time?
Only money on your mind, cuz we are so selfish
Jesus walked with the poor
Are we too good for that?
Kissing up to God in our prayers to get a promotion
To make more money and buy more things, that we don’t need
That we just buy to show off for the next guy and still feel poor inside
Still feel homeless as the person that we just denied
By the way, how have you treated the least of these?
Pride and money, are you a slave to them?
Cause you ain't gotta be black to pick cotton off a shelf of an
H&M

[Chorus: Jordan Frye]
We build walls
All around us, all around us
Try to keep what we don't know
At a distance, oh, at a distance
We don't listen


[Verse 2: Derek Minor]

Pray to God for the day that we can
Put our guns down and see Him in all of our faces
Can't you see with the hands of the master we made?
But we don't enjoy the creation of art on display
So blind when we look at each other
I don't want you not to see my color
See our differences are not the weakness
And in this puzzles we gon' need the master's master pieces
Feel like we all conceited thinking you'd be better if you was more like me
Not knowing it was God that made you more like you
Made in His image, we are all His kids
So if I look down on you, I look down on Him
I'm a sinner, you a sinner, what's the difference?
We all need love, joy, Jesus, and healing
We got a lot in common if we would just listen
Instead of building more walls, let's build more bridges
Let's build more bridges

[Chorus: Jordan Frye]
We build walls
All around us, all around us
Try to keep what we don't know
At a distance, at a distance
We don't listen

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Allegiance

As July 4th approaches, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be loyal or to have allegiance to someone or something. My mind continues to return to a piece of Scripture, Mark 12:13-17. It is here that we see Jesus' response to being asked if people need to pay taxes. But this passage speaks to much more than this. It helps us to see that whatever country we belong to, that country only deserves the things that are theirs. They are not owed the things that belong to other nations, or peoples, or are God's. They do not have the right over our thoughts, desires, and hopes. Whichever country we are a part of deserves to get what it is due, but not everything that we have and are.

When we look at what the Bible has to say about who Christians are called to be, we do not find instructions on how to be the most loyal subject or on how to hold allegiance to our country (though both of these things may be done when we are living out godly lives). However, what we do find is beautiful and simple, while also being deep and complex.

In Matthew 22:34-40 (just following the events from Mark 12) we see the Pharisees ask Jesus about what the greatest commandment is. His answer is very simple, but also so complex that He covers everything that could be thought of from the OT commandments. Jesus said, "[37] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. [38] This is the great and first commandment. [39] And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [40] On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)

Now, one may wonder why I would bring up these two passages when speaking about loyalty and allegiance. The answer is quite simple. If we as Christians do not have our priorities straight, we end up making an idol out of something else. If we do not love God first and foremost, then we are commiting idolatry. If we do not love our neighbors and fellow man second, we are failing to live in a Christlike manner.

We can love our countries and the unique aspects that they each have. We can spend the 4th of July celebrating the beginning of a land that tries to exemplify freedom and justice, though many times fails to do so. There are many times when our country shakes its fist at God and declares that it knows better than He does. It is for this reason that we must hold the first and second greatest commandments above our allegiance to any land or place. Before we pledge allegiance to a country, may we first and foremost devote our lives to the service of the One who instilled our country's claimed values in the minds of its founders. The ideals of liberty and justice are not merely the social foundations upon which this country has been built, but are rather divine truths taken from God's Word. God is just, and because of His justice, we should strive to see justice reign among all situations. God sets the captives free from sin and lives of misery, and only He can sustain freedom. Therefore, we should strive to bring freedom to those who do not have it, in any situation or experience, even if their experience and situation is not our own. God creates all people, and therefore we need to live in such a way as to reflect that truth. There is no one on earth that has been created less than another. We are all created equal. Not in the eyes of a country, but in the eyes of God!

This July 4th, my hope and prayer is that the Church in America would begin to reflect and display the glories of Christ that are uniquely written into our constitution. Not because our country is the fountain of these glories, but because those that wrote it saw the beauty and majesty of a God who redeems those who are unredeemable and frees those that are dead in their chains. To care about our fellow man is not politically based propaganda, it is the second greatest commandment given to us by God. And it can only be done when we are fully committed and faithful to the first commandment.

May the Church rise to the occasion and shine light upon areas of darkness and bring hope to those who have none.

Happy 4th!

Friday, May 18, 2018

I Will Give You Rest


What does it mean to rest? To live life contentedly? What is it that causes one to rest? Such simple and yet deep questions. The very thought of which can cause one to ponder and become lost in thought for hours at a time. Or, one may simply glance at the question and become bored with the realization that they do not rest and have no idea how to achieve it.

To rest, something that most people refuse to do even on the most basic of levels. They would rather be on the go continuously, rather than provide for a physical rest; even for a mere moment. However, physical rest is just the beginning. It is when we rest physically that we can begin to rest emotionally and spiritually. We cannot rest in the knowledge that those who have been called by God are firm held by His love and mercy, if we believe that our physical actions will carry us further and more true than God has already promised. How foolish are we. God declares that He will give us rest. Yet, so much of the time we spend trying to gain rest on our own. We fail to truly understand what it means to be firm held by the Savior.

[28] "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ( Matthew 11:28–30, ESV)

If we live in such a way to be content with every situation that we are placed in, would we not learn to trust God more? If He is the One who has planned our entire lives, knowing everything about us and forming us in the womb, should we not rest in His plan for us?

[11] For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. [12] Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. [13] You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. [14] I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:11–14, ESV)

However, the reason that we cannot rest is because we do not believe/trust in God's promises. He has promised to never leave or forsake us. Yet, we seem to refuse to believe this simple truth, even in its most basic forms. We doubt that we will be provided for, loved, nurtured, and even live another day. If God has not called those who love Him to His side, then He will provide for, love, nurture, and sustain us every single day. Many times we refuse to believe this, but its not because we do not see the evidence for it, but rather because we want to control our lives instead of surrendering everything that we are to our Savior.

[25] “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? [26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. [34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:25–34, ESV)

The only rest that can be found in life is through belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is only through this simple surrender that hope, joy and grace may be found.

May we all surrender who we are in favor of resting in who He is.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

All the Poor and Powerless



Over the last several months, I have felt burdened and heavy under the weight of life and the struggles that come from living in a world filled with sin. I have struggled to find the joy and desire to write, not only within this blog, but also in the book that I have been working on "A Land of Shadows". It is hard to know that while in the midst of trying to write about the shadows and pictures seen in this life that reflect God and His beauty that my eyes continue to find the taint of sin. The taint of sin isn't found anywhere in God, for He is just, pure, and holy. The taint comes when we begin to examine those who are supposed to reflect His glory and yet fail miserably to do so. I have been so discouraged that even the thought of beginning to write another chapter or refine an already established one sounded like the worst chore and burden that someone could lay upon me. How could I write about the glory of God when those who are supposed to reflect His love and grace display such horrid actions of hatred, contempt, self-righteousness, and a lack of mercy? How could I begin to proclaim the glories of God when my soul felt crushed by this world, by the actions and deeds of those who would attempt to proclaim that they are children of God? How could I express thankfulness, when so much in this life was bringing me sorrow and pain? How could I show others the love of God, when I felt so low and broken?

Over the last month, God has been good. He has been gracious and kind to me. He has provided me with comfort and care, and I want to be clear that in all of my struggles over the past few months, God has never been the one to let me down or fail me in any way. His mercies have been sweet, and are the only thing that has carried me through. God has used many things to carry me through this time, and I am so very thankful for that. He has caused me to become more reliant on Him and to understand how horrid we are on our own.
I am so thankful for music. It has always been one of my greatest joys in life. It can lift the soul to heaven, all while causing self to be laid very low. There have been several songs that have brought me peace and have been used by God to carry me throughout the past several months. I would like to share them, and to share the reasons that they have been so merciful to me.
The first song is, "Cry for You", by Lecrae. This song has been the perfect reflection for so many of my thoughts. If you haven't listened to it because you don't like rap music or just because you haven't had the chance to, I would highly encourage you to do it today. It is an expression of what God has been doing in Lecrae over the past year or so. It also reflects the brokenness that I have felt and also the peace that resting in Jesus brings. When we rest and cry for God to draw near to us, we draw near to Him. It is a very emotional song, one that often brings tears to my eyes as I think about how sinful I am, and yet how loving and merciful God is and has been to me. The second is also by Lecrae, entitled: "I'll Find You". It expresses the joy of knowing that we can't do anything on our own, but we have a God who will never leave us or forsake us. He fights for us, even when the pain is so deep that we feel like it would be impossible to carry on.
The third song is "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North. It expresses the deep pain and burden of living in a world filled with sin, but follows that by expressing the joy found by resting in the only thing that we can rest in; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who sits on the throne and intercedes for us before the Father.
The fourth song, "After You", by Britt Nicole is one that continues to provide me with encouragement that all I need to do is seek after God and everything else will fall into place. When we hold Him first and foremost, nothing else can draw away our joy. For all true joy is found in Christ and only in Christ. It is a reflection of the truths expressed by Solomon, that nothing in this world is worth anything, that it is all vanity and worthless. The only thing of worth is found in Christ.
The next few songs have brought me encouragement and hope. Broke and 8:28 by Lecrae, Get Through, Bring You War, Sing to You, and Not Today Satan by KB. All of these songs have pieces that have helped me and given me strength. Broke speaks about the way that being brought low, physically and mentally can actually help us grow. 8:28 is from Romans 8:28, speaking towards that fact that God always works everything for the good of those who love Him. The songs by KB are anthems of hope and resistance to temptation and sin. Satan has no hold over us, for those who believe Jesus is God, because Christ has already conquered the grave and holds the bounds to what Satan can do.
So, to answer the questions that I posed at the beginning of this post, I have been blessed to be called by God. I have been given a gift, that only means something when used for Him. He is the one that carries and upholds His children, we cannot do it on our own accord. When we are weak, He is ever strong. When we are hurt, He heals. When others seek to destroy us, He fights our battles. When we feel crushed, He restores.
May we all seek to live in a manner that glorifies God alone. When others fail to do so, may we have an overabundant amount of mercy and grace, for have we not all been given much! The Lord is good and His love endures forever.