Burnout vs. Belief

Life in 2013 was going great. I was finishing my last semester of seminary and preparing to transition my family to a new way of life in East Asia. I was excited. This was what my wife and I had been moving towards for years, and it was finally happening. We were busy, sure. Our apartment ministry, part-time job, writing papers, selling and packing possessions were all keeping me busy, but I was doing everything I could to finish strong. Until I got into some heavy traffic one morning.

Something happened.

One moment I felt fine, the next my heart was racing. I gripped the steering wheel tighter and tighter feeling sick and trapped in the seat of my truck. The more I tried to figure out what was going on, the more anxious I got. Was I sick? Is this a heart problem? Should I go to the hospital? I soon came to realize that this was a panic attack.

The first time that someone suggested stress related burnout, I brushed it off. I wasn’t stressed. Everything was going great. What I came to learn was that I had crossed some invisible barrier in my head. I had moved from an area of “Optimum Stress” when high Read More »

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Gideon, Suffering, and Last Things

Our church has been preaching through Judges for the last several months. We had some great messages from Judges 6 on Gideon’s character and decision making, but when I arrived at Judges 7, I saw a connection to bigger biblical truths about how God works throughout history and his promises for the future.

James 1:2–3 (HCSB) Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

The text of Judges 7 places us in the Jezreel Valley. The collective armies of the Midianites, Amalekites, and people of the east are spread across the valley like locusts. At least 120,000 strong. Gideon has his force of 32,000 encamped beside a spring. God takes the responsibility of sorting his army down to a measly 300 men so that his glory for the victory is not misplaced. God miraculously uses these few men to incite confusion leading to confusion and victory.

This is not the first time that God provides victory through confusion. The most recent account happened right here in the Jezreel Valley as well. God delivered the people from Sisera and his chariots of iron through Deborah and Barak in Judges 4. In Exodus 14, God parts the Red Sea and throws the Egyptians into chaos. In each event, the people of God are suffering. They cry out to God, he miraculously saves them, and this leads them to worship.

Exodus 15:2 (HCSB) The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

Judges 5:2–3 (HCSB) When the leaders lead in Israel, when the people volunteer, praise the Lord. Listen, kings! Pay attention, princes! I will sing to the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.

Judges 7:15 (HCSB) 15 When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to Israel’s camp and said, “Get up, for the Lord has handed the Midianite camp over to you.”

Another great example of this comes from 2 Chronicles 20. God calls on Jehoshaphat and the people to just wake up and watch how he will deliver the people. Like Gideon, they worship just at the promise of victory.

2 Chronicles 20:17–19 (HCSB) …17 You do not have to fight this battle. Position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. He is with you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Tomorrow, go out to face them, for Yahweh is with you.’” 18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord to worship Him. 19 Then the Levites from the sons of the Kohathites and the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel shouting with a loud voice.

This type of salvation continues into eschatology as well. In Ezekiel 38 and 39, Gog, the ruler of Magog, comes with a huge army to destroy Israel. God causes this to happen. He brings this suffering. Why? So that he is worshipped.

Ezekiel 38:16b (HCSB) It will happen in the last days, Gog, that I will bring you against My land so that the nations may know Me, when I show Myself holy through you in their sight.

These promises all have to do with the ultimate Day of YHWH. The day when God will make himself know to the world, bringing judgment that leads to worship.

In these events, the Valley of Jezreel plays an important role in history and, whether physically or symbolically, in the future. 1 Kings 18, God proves himself before the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel (the western edge of the valley). Joel 3, multitudes come against God in the “Valley of Decision”Zechariah 12:11, there is mourning for the one who was pierced like the mourning at Megiddo (in Jezreel). Revelation 16:14, armies gather at Megiddo. Revelation 20:7-15, Satan instigates war against God and is defeated.

In world events or our own lives, God gives suffering to show gracious deliverance which leads to genuine worship.

Personally, I was reminded of Jesus and Lazarus in John 11. It’s clear that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Because he loved them he stayed away longer, letting Lazarus suffer and die, so that God might be glorified and many would come to belief. We have no idea what situations God allows us to endure, so that he can be most glorified.

Even as the world slowly decays and suffering increases, we know that God is not slow to return. As Peter explained,

2 Peter 3:9 (HCSB) The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

We make the most of the time that we have, calling everyone to come to repentance. We endure suffering in this life knowing that, today or in the end, God will graciously deliver us so that the world will worship him.

Reading List: Progressive Covenantalism

Description

Via B&H

Progressive Covenantalism continues the research project of Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J.
Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012). In that latter work, Gentry and Wellum propose a slightly different way of “putting together” God’s plan of redemption in contrast to the dominant biblical-theological systems of covenant and dispensational theology (and each of their varieties). Gentry and Wellum argue that the biblical covenants provide the backbone to the nar51t-ozlbbyl-_sy344_bo1204203200_rative plot line of Scripture, and thus, it is essential to think through the interrelationship between the biblical covenants starting in creation and culminating in Christ, in order to rightly grasp the “whole counsel of God.” In fact, as one walks through the biblical covenants, one discovers how the plan of God is disclosed from seed to full bloom, and how through the progression of the biblical covenants, we discover God’s glorious plan of salvation come to its telos, terminus, and fulfillment in our Lord Jesus Christ and the new covenant he inaugurates. Progressive Covenantalism continues to develop the insights of Kingdom through Covenant by a team of scholars who accept the basic biblical-theological framework of the latter work, but now in this work developing that framework in areas which the initial book did not. Where Kingdom through Covenant could only hint at some issues and not develop them fully, Progressive Covenantalism picks up where the former book left off and provides further discussion and argumentation for the position. So, for example, New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner writes on the Sabbath command from the Old Testament and thinks through its applications to new covenant believers. Christopher Cowan wrestles with the warning passages of Scripture, texts which are often viewed by covenant theologians as evidence for a “mixed” view of the church. Cowan disputes this reading of the warning texts and instead demonstrates how they can fit within a believer’s or regenerate view of the church. Jason DeRouchie provides a biblical theology of seed and demonstrates that the covenantal view is incorrect in some of its conclusions and Jason Meyer thinks through the role of law in both the old and new covenants. John Meade unpacks circumcision in the OT and how it is applied in the NT, providing further warrant to reject covenant theology’s link of circumcision with (infant) baptism. Oren Martin tackles the issue of Israel and land over against a dispensational reading and Richard Lucas offers an exegetical analysis of Romans 9-11 arguing that it does not require a dispensational understanding of this text. Other essays wrestle with the nature of typology and the role of the Mosaic law in the life of the Christian. All of the essays are seeking to advance the discussion within evangelical theology and to commend progressive covenantalism as a better way of thinking through God’s one plan of redemption as it is revealed and accomplished through the biblical covenants in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Take Away

This has been my favorite read this year. Mainly because I feel relieved to not be the only one that has struggled with aspects of Reformed Theology and Dispensational Theology. I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition, and while I have been surrounded by, studied under, and worked with believers from the Reformed tradition, I cannot call myself Reformed in the popular way of placing everyone in a box. Maybe one day. For now though, I am following the points brought up in PC, because there arguments are deeply rooted in scripture that I long to understand.

  • The biggest idea that I completely support is the need for supporting typology with regard to events, persons, places, and covenants within the Old Testament. Reformed Theology doesn’t always take into account how much Christ shifted importance of beliefs. Everything within the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in Christ. The temporary place holders of the OT were shadows, easily misunderstood. But now we have Christ and the Holy Spirit at work within us and the world. All this happened at the appointed time.
  • The Tripartite (moral, civil, ceremonial) division of the law – This tradition goes back as far as Aquinas or maybe Tertullian, but who in scripture defines the law this way. Reformed Theology claims that at the very least God’s moral laws remain in effect. But in Matthew 5-7, Jesus gives rules that go above and beyond these moral laws. Paul is very clear that we no longer live under the Law of Moses but the Law of Christ.
  • A New Covenant, not a Renewed Covenant – 2 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 8 shows that things are different now, in fact, they’re better.
  • Am I a Son of Abraham? – God has adopted me into his family, calls me a son, gives me an inheritance. Isn’t this also what Abraham saw and placed his faith in.

They are counted as “seed” only because they are identified by faith with the “seed, who is Christ.” 30 The makeup of the new covenant community is shaped around the connection with Christ through a faith like Abraham’s (Gen 15: 6; Rom 4: 3– 5). Whether Jew or Gentile, covenant membership requires adoption into Christ by faith (Rom 8: 15; Gal 3: 26; 4: 4– 5; Eph 1: 5). This new covenant community stands distinct from that of the previous era because: (1) the members include elect from both ethnic Israel and many other nations of the world (Gen 17: 4– 5); (2) all of whom are heirs of the life-giving, barrenness-overcoming, miraculous power of God (17: 21; 18: 14; cf. Rom 4: 19); (3) who have witnessed a pattern of faithfulness (Gen 12: 2; 17: 1); and (4) through this have become recipients of divine blessing (12: 2– 3; 22: 18); and (5) who are now serving together under a king in the line of Abraham who bears global influence and rule (17: 6; 49: 8, 10). All of these are features of progressive covenantalism that highlight the centrality of Christ in God’s redemptive purposes (KL 502-512).

While there have been a number of criticisms raised against the treatment of Reformed Theology in Kingdom through Covenant, I am thankful for this book for taking issues that I have seen and wrestling with them within scripture. After all, we can only go so far in defining how God operates. We are all grateful for the redemption that he has given us. I pray that men wiser than me continue to work out these issues with fear and trembling. We must also be cautious in how we portray our European/North American theology to believers around the world as the only truth. Even in the way we talk about their theological work as African Theology, Asian Theology, and South American Theology. May we always discuss these matters in humility. I have convictions that Progressive Covenantalism is a step in the right direction, but I welcome being shown more clearly the truths of God and his word.

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