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Posted 7/30/12 at 7:43 PM | Diane Castro |
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see.
Certainty is good. The saints of Hebrews 11 were commended for their faith; they were sure of what they hoped for and certain of what they did not see. They were still living by faith even when they died without seeing the fulfillment of the promises they were clinging to:
They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.... They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (13-16).
God is pleased when His people exhibit this kind of bold faith—when they steadfastly keep on believing that He will fulfill His promises, just because He said so. Those who have conviction and certainty are held up as models for us; we honor God—and He honors us—when we exercise such faith and assurance.
Luke wrote his gospel and the book of Acts so that Theophilus would know the certainty of the things he had been taught:
Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:3-4). FULL POST
Posted 7/25/12 at 11:53 AM | Diane Castro |
Lewis Carroll is best known for authoring Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, but he was also a brilliant logician. In some of his writings he used logic to explore religious ideas. We cannot draw people to Christ through logic, but we should not for that reason conclude that logic is of no value. It is the Holy Spirit who enlightens the mind, and no amount of logic will convince a hardened skeptic who is determined to resist God, but if we want to give a reasonable defense of our faith, we should not discard the sense of reason that God has given us. There are many mysteries and paradoxes in the faith that are beyond our comprehension, but at the same time there is also a beautiful simplicity that is satisfying to our God-given sense of reason. As Paul did, we can use logic to appeal to people whose minds are so inclined, and also to understand and appreciate the wonderful beauty and coherence of the gospel.
In this piece, Carroll examines the doctrine of eternal punishment. He takes propositions about the nature and purposes of God and tries to put them together to form conclusions that follow logically. Trying to follow his reasoning is not for the faint-hearted, but it provides a good challenge to your mind and your faith. The more you understand your faith, the better equipped you are “to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15). Carroll raises many questions but often leaves it to the reader to answer them. How would you answer these questions? FULL POST
Posted 7/22/12 at 6:41 PM | Diane Castro |
The title of this week’s chapter of the Bible study I’m doing this summer is “A Faulty Focus,” and it is about defining your life purpose. As I have been thinking about why God put me on earth, it seemed to be a good time to put into writing the thoughts I have had on this question over the last couple of years.
As stated in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” The primary purpose of every believer is to glorify the Triune God—to honor the Father, to know Christ, to walk in the Spirit—and in so doing we will find our greatest delight in Him. In addition, I believe that God also has a unique purpose for each of His children. If we understand the reason He put us on earth, we can live each day purposefully, as Jesus did:
My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work (Jn. 4:34).
And when we come to the end of our life we can say with Jesus,
I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do (Jn. 17:4). FULL POST
Posted 6/28/12 at 1:39 PM | Diane Castro |
Reading a recent post entitled “8 Most Dangerous Leadership Traits” reminded me of a set of “rules” I wrote a number of years ago that complement the principles in the post. My list was prompted by the stark contrast I observed between the leadership style in the corporate world and the servant leadership practiced in our Bible study.
Worldly leaders who want to lord it over others might follow these rules, but let it not be so among Christian leaders!
1) Don’t bother to learn people’s names. You have weightier matters to think about—you shouldn’t have to clutter your mind with details like people’s names. They don’t care anyway.
2) Don’t mingle with the commoners. You are too important to be spending your time with ordinary people. If you want to be the chief, you have to maintain distance between yourself and the Indians. Make them think you always have it together; never reveal your own weaknesses, fears, and failures.
3) Don’t listen to their sob stories. Let them know that you are too busy to hear about their problems and woes. FULL POST
Posted 6/28/12 at 1:59 AM | Diane Castro |
In a comment on my last post, someone accused me of believing that “God’s will trumps man’s free will.” I happily plead guilty as charged. God is sovereign almost by definition, and I have never questioned the fact that God created and rules the universe. But the discussion got me thinking about what the Bible actually says about God’s sovereignty and what exactly it means. I started looking for passages that speak to this question, and the evidence is overwhelming that God’s will does indeed trump man’s free will.
From Genesis to Revelation, the sovereignty of God is affirmed. Nave’s Topical Bible helped me find passages about God’s sovereignty in every section of the Bible. (All quotes are from the English Standard Version, ESV.) In the Pentateuch, starting with the opening verse of Genesis, the Lord is declared to be the Creator and Ruler of the universe:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).
God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:19, 22).
The Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth (Gen. 24:3). FULL POST
Posted 6/16/12 at 12:55 PM | Diane Castro |
I come from a family of five children. I have always known that my parents love all of us. As a kid, I might have wanted to be the favored child or I might have fancied myself to be the favored child, but as an adult and a parent myself, I know that good parents love all their children equally—not identically because each one is unique, but not unequally.
Those who believe that God chooses only a fraction of humanity to be His own try to tell me I should feel great assurance of His love by the fact that He chose me. But I’m not convinced. What confidence can I have that His heart is truly loving if there are many more He did not choose? Is His love not great enough to take in more people?
Recently I learned about the shocking secret in the life of Dominique Moceanu, the pixie gymnast who captivated the world with her astonishingly skillful and artistic routines. Dominique’s father invested everything in his golden child, who became the youngest gymnast ever to win the U.S. National Championship and was a member of the “Magnificent Seven” at the 1996 Summer Olympics. FULL POST
Posted 6/12/12 at 11:03 AM | Diane Castro |
Reading the comments on George Sarris’s article “No, John Piper…It’s NOT a Sin!” reminded me of a similar debate that was ongoing in the eighteenth century.
George Whitefield, a famous preacher and evangelist in Britain and America, and John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist movement, disagreed vigorously about election and predestination. Whitefield was a staunch Calvinist, and the Wesleys were equally committed Arminians. They spoke very strong words defending their own positions and criticizing the opposing views, but those of us on all sides today can learn from their graciousness toward one another.
In 1740 John Wesley preached a sermon entitled “Free Grace,” to which Whitefield responded with a long letter defending the Calvinist doctrine of election. Telling his reasons for writing the letter, Whitefield wrote to his “very dear brother,”
I desire therefore that they who hold election would not triumph, or make a party on one hand (for I detest any such thing)—and that they who are prejudiced against that doctrine be not too much concerned or offended on the other.
Known unto God are all his ways from the beginning of the world. The great day will discover why the Lord permits dear Mr. Wesley and me to be of a different way of thinking. FULL POST
Posted 6/10/12 at 10:09 PM | Diane Castro |
Parts 1 and 2 of this series were adapted from a paper I wrote more than 20 years ago. Those principles for finding joy are just as true today as they were 2,000 years ago or 20 years ago. But at that time, I did not know about what is now my greatest joy of all. I would like to conclude this series by sharing with you what I now believe to be the source of the most exquisite joy and hope we can possibly have.
About ten years ago I wrote a letter to my pastor describing some of the struggles I was going through and asking for his help in sorting out the issues that troubled me. Under the heading “Joy” I wrote the following:
One of the hallmarks of a Christian and perhaps the quality that is most attractive to unbelievers is joy. Part of the secret of joy is keeping things in perspective and seeing them in light of eternity. The prospect of heaven can make sorrows fade into insignificance. For example, if my house and all my possessions were to burn to the ground, I would grieve the loss, but I know that we are just passing through this world and that God is preparing mansions in heaven for us that will make our houses here look like the temporary tents that they are. Similarly, if (or I should say “when”) my body breaks down, I will be sad, but I can still have joy. I know that in light of eternity it doesn’t really matter what my earthly body is like because I will be getting a new body in heaven. FULL POST
Posted 6/3/12 at 8:07 PM | Diane Castro |
One of the hallmarks of the Christian is joy. Part 1 presented five choices that we can make in order to experience the joy of the Lord. Here are five more principles from the book of Philippians.
6. Rather than getting frustrated or angry with others, take the opportunity to intercede for them.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (1:3-4).
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (1:9-11).
Many of us have a tendency to hang onto anger, to nurse it and to justify ourselves in holding something against someone else. It may feel good momentarily, but anger can be a destructive emotion, eating us up without solving anything. We would be more joyful if we could learn to take our feeling of irritation toward another as a cue to pray for that person. Praying for others can soften your heart toward them and help you to see them through God’s eyes. FULL POST
Posted 6/1/12 at 1:48 AM | Diane Castro |
In the summer of 1989 I had the opportunity to go on a wilderness trip with La Vida, a Christian Outward-Bound-style program. We spent eight days camping and hiking and canoeing in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. One of the themes of our time was “Choose Joy”—the idea that joy is not something that happens to us when all the circumstances are right, but rather a choice that we can make at any time. We don’t have to be lying on the beach in the warm sun with a good book; we can be lying on the ground in a soggy sleeping bag in the pouring rain.
Toward the end of our trip we each went on a solo, a 36-hour period of being alone in the woods with no food, no flashlight, no fire—just the clothes on our backs, a jug of water, a sleeping bag, and a Bible, notebook, and pen. During that time I decided to explore the theme of joy in the book of Philippians. Paul knew about finding joy in difficult situations; he understood that real joy is not dependent on circumstances or emotions; it is a choice. His letter is full of references to joy despite the fact that he was suffering in prison.
Here are some of the practical choices we can make to free ourselves from hindrances to joy: FULL POST