Monthly Archives: March 2013

Thoughts on Wrath and Grace

I recently started reading The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. Writing on the wrath of God, he says: “The universe shudders in horror that we have this infinitely valuable, infinitely deep, infinitely rich, infinitely wise, infinitely loving God, and instead of pursuing him with steadfast passion and enthralled fury–instead of loving him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; instead of attributing to him glory and honor and praise and power and wisdom and strength–we just try to take his toys and run. It is still idolatry to want God for his benefits but not for himself.”

While contemplating the chapter, I wrote the following. I hope it will help you gain a greater understanding of God’s wrath and a greater appreciation for His grace.

“There are some whom I pass every day–at the store, at the co-op I attend, at church–that will spend countless eons in conscious torment. Writhing under the just condemnation of a holy, righteous, and angry God, they will have nothing to look forward to but the coming endless ages of fire. All they have endured so far is but a dot on the immeasurably long line of the time they will spend in hell. And they will despair.

That is what my sin deserves.
That is what my sin deserves.
That is what my sin deserves.

But.

But that is not what I will receive.

On the contrary, I will be given all things! (Romans 8:32)

I will spend eternity in the blessed presence of my Savior, Who gave His life for me. He bore the wrath I deserved.

The infinitely majestic, holy, awesome, transcendent Creator of the universe–He entered into this wold, lived blamelessly, and took the infinite anger, wrath, and punishment that my sin deserved. He Himself bore my sin in His body on the tree, that I might die to sin and live to righteousness. (1 Peter 2:24)

That’s grace.

I pray you understand it.”

 

 

A Story—The Purpose of Apologetics

Why compete in Apologetics? The ultimate answer lies in two verses, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 1 Peter 3:15.

Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So the ultimate goal of Apologetics speaking is to develop men and women of God who are thoroughly equipped. In the real world, what does that look like? First Peter 3:15 gives a more specific explanation when it states, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

If you are thoroughly equipped, you will always be prepared to make a defense of Christianity. Moreover, you will be prepared to take the truth you hold in your heart and head and apply it to a real-life situation.

I had an opportunity to apply this principle at my last tournament. Before speech breaks on Saturday morning, all the students were sitting in the sanctuary listening to announcements. When the announcements were over, breaks weren’t quite ready—so, the tournament coordinator decided to “stall” a little bit. She asked whether one of the senior students wanted to give any sort of testimony. I had something on my heart, so I volunteered.

Recently, I had been reading through the book of Numbers. I told the students and parents in the sanctuary that Numbers—and other books like it—often get left out of our consideration when we say, “all Scripture is…profitable.”

I then briefly discussed Numbers 7:1-9. For context, the full passage reads:

“On the day when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle and had anointed and consecrated it with all its furnishings and had anointed and consecrated the altar with all its utensils, the chiefs of Israel, heads of their fathers’ houses, who were the chiefs of the tribes, who were over those who were listed, approached and brought their offerings before the LORD, six wagons and twelve oxen, a wagon for every two of the chiefs, and for each one an ox. They brought them before the tabernacle.

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Accept these from them, that they may be used in the service of the tent of meeting, and give them to the Levites, to each man according to his service.’ So Moses took the wagons and the oxen and gave them to the Levites.

Two wagons and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service. And four wagons and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.

But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because they were charged with the service of the holy things that had to be carried on the shoulder.” [italics mine]

That seems unfair! Why is it that the Gershonites received one-third of the gifts, the Merarites received the other two-thirds, and the Kohathites received nothing?

Verse 9 provides the answer. The Kohathites had a special job—they carried the holy things, which couldn’t be pulled along on carts. They didn’t receive the gift of oxen and carts because God had something better for them.

How does this apply to speech and debate? Well, at every tournament many students break and advance to outrounds—but many do not. The metaphorical “oxen” of breaking are not given to every student. Here’s the key: If a student doesn’t break, perhaps it is because God has something even better for them. God had good reasons for not giving the Kohathites the oxen, so why shouldn’t we assume that He has good reasons for not giving certain students the gift of breaking?

Or perhaps the oxen just haven’t arrived yet. Before the oxen arrived, the Gershonites and Merarites had to work without that gift. Perhaps the student will break in the future, but God wants to develop aspects of their character, such as trust and patience.

So if you don’t break, don’t despair—it may be that your oxen haven’t arrived yet, or it may be that God has something even better in store for you if you are only willing to trust Him. Overall, we find comfort in our knowledge that our God is the Sovereign Lord who works all things together for our good.

How I Won Apologetics–Again

I recently returned from a tournament in Birmingham, AL–my last qualifier of the season before Regionals. Although I expected to do at least moderately well, I never anticipated the final results. I ended up placing in the top 4 in all five of my speeches. I also won three of them–Biographical Narrative, Illustrated Oratory, and (most significantly) Apologetics again. My performance was all God’s grace–I always say that I’m not an extraordinary speaker. Rather, I’m an ordinary speaker who by the grace of God does the ordinary things extraordinarily well.

But I digress. The point of this post is to explain a bit of how I won Apologetics again. First, here are the topics I drew in order of the three preliminary rounds through Semis and Finals.

Round 1: Explain the meaning and significance of the image of God.
Round 2: Analyze and respond to the statement, “We can’t believe in a Bible that is full of contradictions.” Anonymous
Round 3: Why is the resurrection essential to the Christian faith?
Semifinals: Explain the meaning and significance of justification.
Finals: How can God be both merciful and just?

You might have noticed that my Finals topic is one I drew at a previous tournament in Semifinals.

I chose that topic in Finals because of one word: Passion. That topic is one of my absolute favorites! To see who, you can read about my approach to the topic in Lessons From Listening, Part 7. Basically, I get to discuss the grace of God for six minutes. How great is that! God’s unmerited favor towards us is something I always enjoy talking about. What areas of theology can you get excited about? For you it may be the authority of Scripture, or the deity of Christ. Whatever area it may be, jump at opportunities to discuss it! When the judges can tell that you care about your topic, they’ll care too.