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Posted 3/14/15 at 9:44 AM | Diane Castro
Recently I have been discussing Calvinism with some folks on another forum. I believe that Calvinism has much to offer to our understanding of the nature and attributes and works of God.
The major doctrines of Calvinism are often summed up in the acronym TULIP. Lately I have been meditating on God’s grace, so today I would like to look at the “I” doctrine—Irresistible Grace. Here are some explanations of Irresistible Grace:
Irresistible grace does not mean that God’s grace is incapable of being resisted. Indeed, we are capable of resisting God’s grace, and we do resist it. The idea is that God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it. It is not that the Holy Spirit drags people kicking and screaming to Christ against their wills. The Holy Spirit changes the inclination and disposition of our wills, so that whereas we were previously unwilling to embrace Christ, now we are willing, and more than willing. Indeed, we aren’t dragged to Christ, we run to Christ, and we embrace Him joyfully because the Spirit has changed our hearts.
—R. C. Sproul FULL POST
Posted 3/9/15 at 12:51 AM | Diane Castro
Many years ago, while writing features for a children’s math book, I learned that the term googol had been invented by a nine-year-old boy in 1938. Milton Sirotta was the nephew of Edward Kasner, an American mathematician. Kasner was looking for a name for a very large number—1 followed by one hundred zeroes—and young Milton came up with googol. This number is inconceivably huge—10 to the hundredth power, vastly more than the number of atoms in the universe.
When I think of all the sin in our world, its magnitude seems to be like a googol—so immense that it staggers the imagination. Sin has overwhelmed and engulfed our world to an extent that is incomprehensible to the human mind. Thinking of the magnitude of sin and our complete inability to conquer it can lead one to despair.
BUT where sin abounded, grace did much more abound! (Rom. 5:20)
The magnitude of God’s grace is like a googolplex—10 to the googol power, the number 1 followed by a googol of zeroes. A googolplex absolutely dwarfs a googol into nothingness, just as God’s grace is powerful enough to dwarf sin into nothingness. If you have trouble wrapping your head around a googol, you can’t even begin to fathom a googolplex, just as we can’t even begin to plumb the depths of the immeasurable grace of God. FULL POST
Posted 1/2/15 at 1:23 PM | Diane Castro
On a chilly night after Christmas, we built a fire in the fireplace with used wrapping paper and dry logs. It was pleasant sitting around the fire drinking hot chocolate, but as I watched the paper blazing up and then the logs burning with a steady flame, I couldn’t help thinking what it would be like to be in the fire. I couldn’t imagine having even one hand in even such a little fire for even one minute. And yet standard Christian theology says that all unbelievers will be in a blazing furnace for all eternity with no hope of relief! Their whole body will be engulfed in flames and yet never consumed. They will experience conscious torment forever and ever. Any pleas for mercy will be ignored.
Is that what you teach your children and preach to your friends and neighbors? Are you absolutely certain that the God you know will treat His fallen creatures that way? Has this belief been so drilled into you that you think you have to accept it in order to be a good, Bible-believing Christian? Or does the still, small voice of your conscience tell you that something is horribly wrong with this idea? Do you see any inconsistency between the picture of eternal conscious torment (ECT) and the character of the God you have put your trust in? FULL POST
Posted 12/2/14 at 2:55 PM | Diane Castro
Marriage is challenging! Primarily because both men and women are sinful, but also because we are very different. Men are mystified by women’s minds, and women get exasperated with men’s behavior. Learning to live together successfully is a life-long process, with daily lessons. One high school student didn’t quite get it. His religion teacher read Genesis 2:24, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife,” and asked, “From this Scripture, what do we learn is important in marriage?” The student blurted out, “Cleavage.” FULL POST
Posted 10/12/14 at 2:54 AM | Diane Castro
Few books I have ever read depict the depths of human depravity, the strength of the human spirit, and the surpassing grace of God more powerfully than Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. For good reason, the book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for more than three years; readers are riveted by the gripping tale and, like me, want to urge others to read it.
Author Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote Seabiscuit: An American Legend, spent seven years meticulously researching the life and times of the legendary hero of her book, Louis Zamperini. Louie was a hell-raiser as a child, but as a teenager he channeled his energy into running and became a world-class track star, making it to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin while still in his teens.
Zamperini enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1941 and became a bombardier in the Pacific. Hillenbrand graphically describes the harrowing missions flown by the Pacific airmen. The casualty rate was astronomical, even greater in accidents than in combat. In 1943, Louie and ten other men were sent out on a notoriously unreliable B-24 bomber to look for a lost plane and its crew. The B-24 went down in the Pacific, leaving only Louie and two other survivors on rubber rafts with little food or water. FULL POST
Posted 9/26/14 at 9:30 AM | Diane Castro
It has become my custom, on the anniversary of starting my blog, to post a list of all my essays with a brief description of each. Today is the third anniversary of “Ambassador of Reconciliation,” a name suggested by my husband from 2 Corinthians 5. The reconciliation of people to God and to one another is a subject that is close to my heart and is a theme of many of my posts. Another prominent theme is love, including a recent post on loving our enemies (94).
Over the last year I have posted a number of pieces prompted by studying different books of the Bible: four essays from the gospel of Mark (72, 73, 77, 78), seven from 1 and 2 Peter (76, 83, 85, 87, 88, 89, 90), two from Revelation (91, 93), and one from Romans (81). Some of my posts pose questions that I wrestle with and invite readers to think about: “Does God Love Everybody?” (80), “Are You Free?” (88), “What Are the Fruits?” (90), “Does God Have a Split Personality?” (91), “Is God Like Gargamel the Great?” (92), and “Who Changes the Human Heart?” (93).
Sometimes I reprint works by other writers, like a testimony by a young woman (75) and a poem by Anne Brontë (79). I asked readers to share their favorite Easter hymns, and I collected them in one post, with lyrics and links to audio (84). I also did an article about sharing our faith with atheists and scoffers (76), and a follow-up to my two posts from April 2013 about the Boston Marathon bombing (86). FULL POST
Posted 9/4/14 at 3:45 PM | Diane Castro
This week’s Epistle reading in church was Romans 12:9-21. These thirteen verses contain some thirty (count ’em!) directives about how we should live. As in all his epistles, Paul is presenting kingdom values—the standards for living in the Kingdom of God—which are usually at odds with worldly values.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught the true ways of God, which often meant unteaching the false ideas held by the people. We see this correction clearly in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus’ pattern is “You have heard…, but I say to you…” Over and over He states a commonly accepted idea and then proceeds to give the true understanding of that concept. He is not at all abolishing the Law; rather, He is fulfilling it and teaching what it really means (Mt. 5:17).
Posted 7/28/14 at 3:22 PM | Diane Castro
Our Bible study lesson in Revelation took us to a passage in Jeremiah about the heart:
I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart (Jer. 24:7).
It made me wonder, “Does God give them a heart to know that He is the Lord because they have returned to Him with their whole heart? Or do they return to God with their whole heart because He has given them a heart to know that He is the Lord?”
Later in the book Jeremiah makes some similar statements about the heart:
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart (Jer. 29:13).
I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them (Jer. 32:39).
Do they find God because they have sought Him with their whole heart? Or do they fear God because He has put it in their heart to do so? Who bears the responsibility? Who takes the credit? Who gets the blame? FULL POST
Posted 7/18/14 at 2:00 AM | Diane Castro
The other day I was reading some library books to my granddaughters. One of the books was Gargamel the Great, about the evil wizard who is the archenemy of the Smurfs. The vain and wicked Gargamel has a magic show and uses trickery to try to get his audience to admire him. In one scene, he forces the crowd to bow to him:
Gargamel looks at the crowd.
“Get on your knees and bow,” he says.
The crowd laughs.
“I said BOW!” Gargamel shouts.
Gargamel waves his wand at his fans.
He puts them under a spell.
They all fall to their knees and bow.
“That’s better,” Gargamel says.*
As I read those words I thought, This is not so different from what many Christians believe God will do to His enemies: He will force them to bow the knee and say Jesus is Lord against their will. For example, the notes in the NIV Study Bible say of Philippians 2:9-11, “Ultimately all will acknowledge him as Lord (see Ro 14:9), whether willingly or not. [emphasis added] FULL POST
Posted 7/4/14 at 11:38 PM | Diane Castro
Some friends and I are doing a summer Bible study in the book of Revelation, and this week we were talking about the wrath of God in chapter 14. The image there is one of severe judgment:
If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name…. The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes, and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia [about 180 miles] (14:19-20).
Later in Revelation, seven bowls of God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth. These are terrifying pictures of what God will do to His enemies!
Do the descriptions of God’s wrath represent one personality, while the descriptions of His love show another, very different one? Sometimes it seems that God has two opposite natures: On the one hand, He can be abundantly compassionate and forgiving, even going to the extreme of sacrificing His own Son. He lavishes love on His children and tenderly cares for them. On the other hand, He can be exceedingly wrathful, not only toward His enemies, but even toward His own children. In fact, it’s not hard to see why some have maintained that the God of the Old Testament is different in character from the God of the New Testament. FULL POST