Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another Update

Hello friends

I hope that this Christmas season has been a blessed one for all of you. I am again battling a bad infection, which seems to be upper respiratory. Please keep me in your prayers, as this latest illness caps a year of many such bouts.

At present I am continuing, as much as I can, my research and thinking for the next post in the Reformed vs Arminian series. I hope to be able to complete and post the next article soon.

Please note that I'm continuing to update resource links. I have a new section called "Featured Ministries", in which I highlight Christian resources I have found to be truly excellent.

Peace and blessings to you in the name of Christ.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Reformed or Arminian- Theological Definitions

In the introductory post of this series I asked: what practical difference does one's theology make in living out Christian faith? I suggested that although theological beliefs may not be consciously held, they strongly influence the manner in which we practice our faith.

I also observed that in popular Christianity today there is heavy emphasis on the immediate benefits in this life of believing in Christ-- a tendency to make the gospel a means to the end of improving one's life in the here and now.

It is true that the benefits of being a Christian ought to be experienced immediately; after all, Scripture says Christians are those who have received the Holy Spirit and whose fundamental identity has been changed from "darkness" to "light". Yet when popular teaching emphasizes so much what being a Christian does for me now (primarily in terms of earthly benefits-- how it improves my marriage and relationships, my lifestyle, my prosperity, my health, etc.), then the message of the gospel becomes more "man-centered" than "God-centered". I think this is a serious distortion of the true gospel.

It seems to me that there may be a connection between the "man-centeredness" implicit in this popular message and a fruit of Arminian theology. But before exploring this idea further, I want to define the positions of Arminianism and Calvinism, their similarities and differences. Since excellent materials on these subjects can be found at Wikipedia and Theopedia, I have excerpted large portions from those sites here.

Arminianism (From Wikipedia)
Arminianism is a school of soteriological thought in Protestant Christian theology founded by the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. Its acceptance stretches through much of mainstream Protestantism. Due to the influence of John Wesley, Arminianism is perhaps most prominent in the Methodist movement.

Arminianism holds to the following tenets:

* Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation
* Salvation is possible by grace alone
* Works of human effort can not cause or contribute to salvation
* God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus
* Jesus' atonement was potentially for all people
* God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe
* Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith

(From Theopedia):
The Arminian party (followers of Arminius) suggested five anti-Calvinist corrections, articulated in the Five articles of Remonstrance of 1610, which gave rise to the historic controversy (between Arminianism and Calvinism) and are summarized as follows:

1.Universal prevenient grace
This grace purportedly restores man's free will which was impaired by the effects of original sin and enables him to choose or refuse the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ. Some would say that freedom of will is man's natural state, not a spiritual gift — and thus free will was not lost in the Fall, but cannot be exercised toward good apart from the grace of God. In either case, God's universal prevenient grace works upon all alike to influence them for good, but only those who freely choose to cooperate with grace through faith and repentance are given new spiritual power to make effectual the good they otherwise impotently intend. As John Wesley stated more forcefully, humans were in fact totally corrupted by original sin, but God's prevenient grace allowed free will to operate. This is in contrast to the Calvinist view of total depravity which denies universal prevenient grace and moral ability to turn to Christ.

2.Conditional election
This point holds that man is the final arbiter of his election, and that God elects him on the basis of foreseen faith which is exercised by libertarian free will, thus making man ultimately decisive.

God has decreed to save through Jesus Christ, out of fallen and sinful mankind, those foreknown by Him who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe in Christ; but God leaves in sin those foreseen, who are incorrigible and unbelieving. This is in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.

3.Unlimited (or universal) atonement
Christ's death was suffered on behalf of all men and benefits all men alike. God then elects for salvation those whom he foresees will believe in Christ of their own free will. This is in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of Limited atonement.

Arminians believe that whatever the atonement accomplished, it did so universally for all alike, not just the elect. This point rejects that the atonement has any component which is decisive or effectual in gathering of the elect. Rather, the atonement is seen as a universally effective propitiation and the basis for a universal offer of salvation. The key verse used for this position is 1 John 2:2.

4.Resistible grace
This point holds that God never overcomes the resistance of man to His saving grace. While both Calvinists and Arminians hold that men often resist God's grace, Arminianism teaches that this resistance is never conquered by God because this would be a violation of man's libertarian free will. The grace of God works for good in all men, and brings about newness of life through faith. But saving grace can be resisted, even by the regenerate. This is in contrast to the Calvinst doctrine of Irresistible grace.

5.Uncertainty of perseverance
Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit, sufficient to enable them to persevere in the faith. However, it may be possible for a believer to fall from grace. This is in contrast to the Calvinist's Perseverance of the saints.

Not all Arminians have historically embraced this fifth point as stated. Some have embraced a form of eternal security which does not require perseverance in the faith and an attitude of repentance for final salvation. The majority of Arminians, regardless of their position on this point, still affirm that man retains libertarian free will throughout the entirety of earthly life.

The following are also distinctive doctrines and emphases of Arminianism:

Libertarian free will
A key tenet of Arminianism is libertarian free will. This means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. All "free will theists" hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice.

God's love for the world
Arminianism emphasizes God's love for the whole world and denies that God has any sort of electing, particular love that secures one's redemption from the foundation of the world. It infers from this universal love that God would never predestine anyone to hell or hate anyone without reference to their wickedness.

Calvinism (From Theopedia):
Calvinism is a theological system based on the understanding that God is completely sovereign and has preordained all that comes to pass. "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will..." (Ephesians 1:11). Because the Bible clearly teaches that all people are not saved and that God is not frustrated in his plans or desires, Calvinism maintains that God has predetermined who will be saved and sovereignly dispenses his saving grace accordingly. The theological terms most often associated with Calvinism are predestination and election which refer to the particularity of God's grace in salvation.

(From Wikipedia):
Calvinism is a system of Christian theology and an approach to Christian life and thought within the Protestant tradition articulated by John Calvin, a Protestant Reformer in the 16th century, and subsequently by successors, associates, followers and admirers of Calvin, his interpretation of Scripture, and perspective on Christian life and theology. Calvin's system of theology and Christian life forms the basis of the Reformed tradition, a term roughly equivalent to Calvinism.

The Reformed tradition was originally advanced by stalwarts such as Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger and Peter Martyr Vermigli, and also influenced English reformers such as Thomas Cranmer and John Jewel. However, because of Calvin's great influence and role in the confessional and ecclesiastical debates throughout the seventeenth century, this Reformed movement generally became known as Calvinism. Today, this term also refers to the doctrines and practices of the Reformed churches, of which Calvin was an early leader, and the system is perhaps best known for its doctrines of predestination and election.

Summaries of Calvinist theology
Calvinism stresses the complete ruin of man's ethical nature against a backdrop of the sovereign grace of God in salvation. It teaches that fallen humanity is morally and spiritually unable to follow God or escape their condemnation before him and that only by divine intervention in which God must change their unwilling hearts can people be turned from rebellion to willing obedience.

In this view, all people are entirely at the mercy of God, who would be just in condemning all people for their sins but who has chosen to be merciful to some. One person is saved while another is condemned, not because of a willingness, a faith, or any other virtue in the first person, but because God sovereignly chose to have mercy on him. Although the person must believe the gospel and respond to be saved, this obedience of faith is God's gift, and thus God completely and sovereignly accomplishes the salvation of sinners. Views of predestination to damnation (the doctrine of reprobation) are less uniform than is the view of predestination to salvation (the doctrine of election) among self-described Calvinists.

In practice, Calvinists teach these doctrines of grace primarily for the encouragement of the church because they believe the doctrines demonstrate the extent of God's love in saving those who could not and would not follow him, as well as squelching pride and self-reliance and emphasizing the Christian's total dependence on the grace of God. In the same way, sanctification in the Calvinist view requires a continual reliance on God to purge the Christian's depraved heart from the power of sin and to further the Christian's joy.

The theological system and practical theories of church, family, and political life, all ambiguously called "Calvinism," are the outgrowth of a fundamental religious consciousness that centers on "the sovereignty of God." In principle, the doctrine of God has pre-eminent place in every category of theology, including the Calvinist understanding of how a person ought to live. Calvinism presupposes that the goodness and power of God have a free, unlimited range of activity, and this works out as a conviction that God is at work in all realms of existence, including the spiritual, physical, and intellectual realms, whether secular or sacred, public or private, on earth or in heaven.

According to this viewpoint, the plan of God is worked out in every event. God is seen as the creator, preserver, and governor of each and every thing. This produces an attitude of absolute dependence on God, which is not identified only with temporary acts of piety (for example, prayer); rather, it is an all-encompassing pattern of life that, in principle, applies to any mundane task just as it also applies to taking communion. For the Calvinist Christian, all of life is the Christian faith.

The five points of Calvinism
Calvinist theology is often identified in the popular mind as the so-called "five points of Calvinism," which are a summation of the judgments (or canons) rendered by the Synod of Dort and which were published as a point-by-point response to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance. Calvin himself never used such a model, and never combated Arminianism directly. They therefore function as a summary of the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism but not as a complete summation of Calvin's writings or of the theology of the Reformed churches in general. The central assertion of these canons is that God is able to save every person upon whom he has mercy and that his efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or the inability of men.

The five points of Calvinism, which can be remembered by the English acronym TULIP are:

* Total depravity (or total inability)
As a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. According to the view, people are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures.

* Unconditional election
God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy.

* Limited atonement (or particular redemption or definite atonement)
The death of Christ actually takes away the penalty of sins of those on whom God has chosen to have mercy. It is "limited" to taking away the sins of the elect, not of all humanity, and it is "definite" and "particular" because atonement is certain for those particular persons.

* Irresistible grace (or efficacious grace)
The saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith in Christ.

* Perseverance of the saints (or preservation of the saints)
Any person who has once been truly saved from damnation must necessarily persevere and cannot later be condemned. The word saints is used in the sense in which it is used in the Bible to refer to all who are set apart by God, not in the technical sense of one who is exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven.

Calvinism is often further reduced in the popular mind to one or another of the five points of TULIP. The doctrine of unconditional election is sometimes made to stand for all Reformed doctrine, sometimes even by its adherents, as the chief article of Reformed Christianity. However, according to the doctrinal statements of these churches, it is not a balanced view to single out this doctrine to stand on its own as representative of all that is taught. The doctrine of unconditional election, and its corollary in the doctrine of predestination are never properly taught, according to Calvinists, except as an assurance to those who seek forgiveness and salvation through Christ, that their faith is not in vain, because God is able to bring to completion all whom He intends to save. Nevertheless, non-Calvinists object that these doctrines discourage the world from seeking salvation.

An additional point of disagreement with Arminianism implicit in the five points is the Calvinist understanding of the doctrine of Jesus' substitutionary atonement as a punishment for the sins of the elect, which was developed by St. Augustine and especially St. Anselm. Calvinists argue that if Christ takes the punishment in the place of a particular sinner, that person must be saved since it would be unjust for him then to be condemned for the same sins. The definitive and binding nature of this "satisfaction model" has led Arminians to subscribe instead to the governmental theory of the atonement in which no particular sins or sinners are in view.

Now that we have looked at the history and defining characteristics of these two theological systems, I want to examine the similarities and differences between them. I think doing so will help us understand them both better, and perhaps we can create for each system a brief but accurate definition. However, I leave this further pursuit to the next post, which I will try to produce in shorter order than I have this one.

Related posts: Reformed or Arminian: What Difference Does Theology Make? (Introductory Post)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Blips on the Blogosphere 9- Christmas Edition

It has been a long time since I did a "Blips on the Blogosphere" post. But I have encountered some great articles on various blogs that I have found inspiring and challenging, just in time for this Christmas season.

Speaking of Christmas, I came across not too long ago an article titled Should a Christian Celebrate Christmas? that presents a detailed case against Christians celebrating Christmas. The main argument presented is that Christmas, being rooted in pagan origins, cannot be tweaked enough to become a fit, acceptable way to celebrate our Lord's birth. I am not quite sure how to respond to it as I did find some of the arguments presented sensible, though not all of the points are equally persuasive.

I suppose that if this season somehow presents opportunities for the Christian to more deeply reflect on the implications of Christ the Savior coming into this world, and if this reflection can lead to greater thanksgiving and appreciation in one's heart for all the Lord has accomplished for us, then Christmas would be of benefit. But if on the hand, Christmas becomes all about traditions that bear no true connection to the real Spirit of Christmas and becomes a sentimental, worldly, materialistic substitute for true celebration of our Lord, then the author of this article may have a point.

Steve Camp's recent article, What's the Answer for a Culture in Decay, Decline and Despair? Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, reminds me of what is supposed to be at the heart of the Christmas story-- the miracle of the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ, coming to be our Immanuel, "God with us". Steve goes on to reflect upon the implications of Jesus coming to be with us and giving us His gospel message. Am I faithful to the call of Jesus upon me, His absolute claim on my life, or am I deceiving myself about truly following Him? Steve rightly points us to the gospels to read, and to challenge ourselves, about these important questions.

Peace on earth? During a season when it is easy to get all caught up in endless activity, it may also be easy to look the part of a happy Christian at peace, but not really be living in that experience. Dan Edelen reveals some of his own struggles with this in Staples of Christmastime: Peace.

My friend Charlie Lehardy has been doing a wonderful series of posts: Christmas Encounters 1, 2, 3, and 4, which I only discovered today... I feel like I've been asleep.

Meanwhile my other GodblogCon 2005 friend, Mark Daniels, pastor of Friendship Church has a terrific Advent series on spiritual gifts. I especially like the advice he gives in today's post in the series, Opening Your Spiritual Gifts. I could especially relate to what he was saying about being a "closet perfectionist" who spends a wee bit too much time categorizing and labeling my gifts, when I ought to get busy using them (ouch)!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Progress Update on my "Reformed vs Arminian Theology" Series

Dear friends:

In taking on the topic of Reformed vs Arminian Theology I recognize that I have stepped into very deep waters. The points these systems talk about are complex, delving into the nature of God and man, the means by which people are saved, and the mystery of election, among other incredibly challenging topics.

Additionally, I am attempting not only to analyze the two systems and compare them scripturally, but also to come to some conclusions for practical application. The fact that the subject is one I have not extensively studied until recently (and I have yet much more studying to do) means that as I write this series I am learning, doing my homework and trying to synthesize all my learning into something coherent and helpful.

I share this as a way of saying, please keep me in your prayers and be patient as I work through this series. In the end, I hope you will find something of value in what I share. In the meantime, as you may know, the wealth of information available on the web regarding Reformed vs Arminian theology is vast. Tim Challies of has done several excellent series of articles on this subject, writing from the Reformed, Calvinistic point of view. There are also many sites and articles that challenge the conclusions of Calvinism. One I found through a search, and which looks to be well-written is by Allan Turner.

For me, the bottom line is which system more correctly interprets Scripture? It may be that both miss the mark in some ways. Or, that each system emphasizes a particular side of truths that are antinomical, that is, seemingly contradictory, but only so to our natural minds. For example, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God. It would seem to natural reasoning that He would have to be one or the other, but the Bible teaches that He was flesh and blood just like us (Hebrews 2:14), and yet also "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3)".

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Calling All Blogger Beta Hackers

Update 12-16-2006
Well, Stephen at Singpolyma has come to the rescue and fixed the bug in his "Peek a boo" link lists code, helping out me and others who were "stuck". The links now seem to be operating beautifully in both Firefox and Internet Explorer. At last!

By the way, check out Stephen's blog for some great Blogger Beta hacks. Also see my new Blogger Beta Hacks/Hackers resources section...

Finally, look for my new post on Reformed vs. Arminian Theology early next week.

Update: 12-11-06
I've heard from Stephen, who thinks his hack code has a bug in it that can be fixed. Hopefully the "+/-" links will soon work in IE just as well as in Firefox (though the glitch seems to affect both browsers at times). Please be patient!...In the meantime, I have been working on follow-up posts to my series on Reformed vs Arminian Theology and hope to have them published shortly.

Update: 12-9-06
I have implemented "+/-" style links for many more sections, since Stephen at Singpolyma updated the code, correcting the previous "float" problem with the "+/-" symbol.

However, there seems is another glitch that is giving me a headache! Sometimes the link sections just don't open correctly. I am finding that this happens particularly in Internet Explorer browsers. Firefox seems to get much fewer errors and right now seems to open/close all links perfectly. So if you're reading my blog in IE and having trouble with link lists, I would highly recommend getting the Firefox browser to view Jordan's View (also in my opinion, it's a much more user-friendly, fun browser to use in general). Please also try refreshing the page if a link section doesn't open correctly.

To deal with this problem I have been experimenting with layout, trying to place these "+/-" sections in such a way that they are not right next to each other, since this seems to help. However, this hasn't completely eliminated the issue. Also, not being able to place the link sections exactly where I want them (in terms of logical order) is frustrating. Hopefully a solution will be found, or I may need to switch back many sections to regular link lists.

Update 12-6-06:
I'm no longer using the "+/-" style links for the "Inspiration for the Mission" section. I am, however, using it for the "Best of Jordan's View" section.

Update 12-2-06:
I've used the hack I was kindly provided, but I'm not entirely satisfied with the results. For example, see the "Inspiration for the Mission" section, which I have recreated as an expandible/collapsible link list, near top of the left column. Functionally it's fine, but the fact that the "+/-" symbol is so far above the Link Title bar is not satisfactory.

I have seen examples in other blogs of great looking expandible/collapsible links that when opened appear within scrollable boxes. However, this is beyond my technical ability to create. Unless I can find someone to help me I don't want to spend too much time with trying to figure out how to make them. In any case, I am happy with the layout improvements I've been able to implement thus far. I'll get back to some thinking and writing now...

Well, I threw down the gauntlet to some of the best Blogger Beta hackers out there, sending them a private email to see if anyone could come up with a widget that I could install to make regular link lists into collapsible/expandable ones. With all the links I have here on Jordan's View and my desire to continue expanding these lists, it makes sense to try and consolidate space by using collapsible/expandable links, or some other space-saving way of presenting links, as I have seen ingeniously implemented on other blogs.

Also, I figured such a hack would be useful to many other Blogger users who are making the transition to Blogger Beta.

Stephen/Singpolyma has risen to the challenge and created an article titled Peek a Boo Link Lists, in which he describes how to add a widget that will accomplish this goal.

I have however been having a bit of trouble implementing his solution so far. First, I noticed that the results were appearing differently, depending upon whether the blog was opened in Internet Explorer or in Firefox (my preferred browser). Then also the little +/- symbol seems to be floating around rather than going where I want it to. Singpolyma has given some helpful follow-up answers to my questions, and I will continue to try to implement his solution. In the meantime, please be patient if you find some of this blog in disarray while I'm trying to make the changes.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christian Carnival CLI (150)

Christian Carnival CLI (150) is now up at Nerd Family. My recent post "On Fulfillment" is there, my first article in the Carnival after a long absence. I haven't read through all the Carnival articles, but found a couple of posts that, interestingly, complement the themes in my article well.

Like my post, Strategic Living's Sure-Fire Guaranteed Success and Every Square Inch's Spurgeon on Choosing Your Occupation both touch on the way God is sovereignly working to bring about the purposes He has in our lives, and how that purpose emphasizes not so much the size of our accomplishments--which providentially is not in our control-- but the importance of working on our character.

Creating Categories via Labels in the New Blogger Beta (for Dummies)

A shortcoming of the old Blogger was the lack of a built-in feature to categorize your posts/articles. I overcame this by finding a solution via the Web. Indeed there were many ingenious solutions to the problem, as devised by hackers. If you're still on the old Blogger platform and would like to add categories to your blog, I would suggest my previous article for a simple method, How To Add Categories to Blogger (for Computer Illiterates).

However, before you do that, please be aware that the new Blogger Beta offers the ability to add "categories" to your blog, in the form of "labels"...

Using the labeling system is a much easier method of adding and maintaining categories on your blog, and the new Blogger Beta offers other advantages as well. However, you must be willing to migrate your template from the old Blogger platform to the new Blogger Beta platform. This will involve some work, but as I understand it, in the future all Blogger blogs will be switched to the new Blogger Beta anyway (so might as well do it now)!

Here's what you must do to switch to Blogger Beta then add Labels/Categories to your posts:

    1. Get a Google account, if you don't already have one. If you have Gmail, you will already have a Google account (Note: you must be invited by someone who has Gmail in order get Gmail, or use one of the methods describe in this article). If you need an invitation and don't have any friends in the world with Gmail, I'll invite you...just kidding, I can send you an invitation if you really need one).

    2. Once you have your Google or Gmail account, switch your blog and the template over to the new Blogger Beta, following the instructions on this page. [NOTE: It may take you a while to update the template, if your blog had many customizations and you want to keep them. I took switching over to Blogger Beta as an opportunity to give a fresh new look to my blog, as I updated to a three-column template that I find much more useful. Once on the Blogger Beta platform, layout changes are much easier, as you can drag elements where you want to put them. Also these changes are instantly updated, unlike on the old Blogger where pages must be re-published and can take a long time to do so. In any case, once your template is updated to Blogger Beta, you will be able to use the labels feature to create and easily maintain categories for all your previous posts].

    3. Decide what labels (categories) you want to give your posts.

    4. Log in to Blogger Beta, using your Google/Gmail account and go the dashboard. Click on "Posts".

    5. Click on "Published" to see all your published posts. Now you can add a label to each post, or to multiple posts at the same time.

    6. Click the "Label Actions" drop-down box, click on "new label", and type the name of your label. Then apply the label to whichever posts you want by clicking the box next to the post title(s).

    7. Once you have labeled all your posts, you must then add the Labels "widget" to your blog. This will create a Labels sidebar in your blog. Go to the Template screen. Click on "Add a Page Element". Choose "Labels". Select whether you want the labels to appear in alphabetical order or in order of frequency. Also you can give whatever title you want to the sidebar (you don't have to call it "Labels").

Now if you would like a fancier version of labels, there are ingenious Blogger Beta hacks out there, such as the one for Multi-Style Labels widget by Hackosphere that I'm currently using. Also, check out my new resources section, Blogger Beta Hack Creators, to find links to the blogs of the talented people creating these hacks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On Fulfillment

For a long time now I have subscribed to the notion that somehow the gifts, talents and even the deep desires God gives individuals are meant to give them direction as to the type of work they ought to be doing, clues to one's vocational purposes in life. Additionally I have thought of such gifts as a deposit that God has left with us, one we are obliged to be good stewards of (Matthew 25: 14-30).

I still believe that this is true, and when I think of God as the Master Designer of the universe, it makes sense to me that as He works all things together for his glory (Romans 8: 28), He also has made each of us in such a way that we may play our parts in His grand purpose (1 Cor 12: 11, 1 Cor 12: 18). The things I am good at and that I am motivated to do are not accidental. I believe that so long as the things I want to pursue are not sinful-- on the contrary-- if they are beneficial to the world and people I interact with, then I have liberty in Christ to pursue them (1 Cor 10: 23-24, 31-33).

Still, because I have believed so strongly in this idea of attaining to all the potential God has placed within me, I often am discontent in my current situation, feeling and thinking that if only I was doing exactly what God created me to do, then I would experience more fulfillment...

But lately, in keeping with thinking about life from a more reformed theological perspective, I have been trying to view current circumstances more in the light of the sovereignty of God. From the vantage point of eternity, it seems much more important that daily my character is becoming more Christ-like, and that I live in the moment-to-moment abiding with the Lord that He has so graciously made possible, and apart from which I "can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Of course, there is this great yearning within to fulfill all the dreams and desires in me, to achieve them, that I might be able to look back at my life and say that "I have fulfilled all my potential".

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:7)

And yet, as I ponder the drives that make me feel so frustrated with my lot and so covetous of wanting more, I find that my motivations are often tainted with envy of others (Eccl 4:4), and lack of faith in what God is doing and has already done in my life.

I have written on this theme before, and I think it is beneficial to periodically examine myself and ask: Is my desire to achieve mostly the desire to make a name for myself, or do I really want to give glory to God for what He has done in and through me?

Yes, I must be a good steward of the things God has entrusted to me, including any talents and potential within. Yet even as I pursue this potential, it is not all about me becoming "actualized", but ought to be about me becoming the kind of person who, because of good and careful stewardship, bears much fruit (Luke 8:15).

The world has a romanticized notion of the Artist as the ultimate individualist/achiever, who gives himself over completely to his art in his noble quest to be "great", achieve immortality, and transcend the ordinary. We have similar notions regarding the life quest of the great Athlete or the genius Scientist, seeing them as people who, through incredible discipline, native talent and steely determination to achieve their goals, attain to greatness.

While there is much to admire in accomplishment, the Lord values even more our faithfulness. Accomplishment is so often self-driven and self-centered, but being faithful to God requires a heart that is right with Him, and that values Him supremely.

Forgive me, Lord, for my self-focused perspective and help me to become the kind of man who desires, above all, that Your name be glorified in my life.