Thursday, December 31, 2009

Us for them – them against us!

In yesterday’s post I made reference to a remarkable piece of scripture in I Peter 2:11-12. The main idea of this passage is almost too fabulous for words.

Peter wrote to believers in five provinces who were experiencing persecution. We do not have much information concerning this persecution, either internally from Peter’s letter or externally from historical sources. It does not seem to be an official governmental persecution from Rome or the surrounding Roman officials. It may have been local and engineered by the Judaizers.

What do know is the persecution was great enough to cause some to doubt their decision to leave Judaism and declare their allegiance to Christ. It was severe enough to prompt Peter to write his letter of encouragement. Listen again, as Peter writes in I Peter 2:11-12:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (ESV)

These believers in the midst of severe persecution and hardship are to remain faithful to Christ and to conduct their daily lives in such a manner that the beauty of their profession shines visibly in such a manner that Christ in them is made beautiful and attractive. As a matter of fact as they live in such a manner Christ will be made so attractive that on the day of their judgment they will give the glory to God.

Why do I mention this again? On Wednesday’s I have chosen to pray for those who are in authority. Paul told Timothy to pray for all those who are in authority. (I Timothy 2:1-7) Paul gives us a “grocery list” of things to pray for them. I have posted this list before but let me do once more:

• That we may live a quiet & peaceful life characterized by godliness & fear

• That we may freely share the gospel & evangelized every creature

• That government would be a terror to the wicked & a blessing to the good (Romans)

• That they would exercise their God-given power with the utmost of wisdom

• That they might be drawn to Christ by the HS & experience the blessing of salvation

The next two things weren’t really specified by Paul. I developed them as a result of coming to the understanding of God’s sovereignty concerning government and my response.

• That we would be thankful for God’s wisdom & provision in providing us with government and government officials even when they oppose Christ

• That we would trust God implicitly as He in His sovereignty works out His will and purpose in and through local, state, federal, and global governments

There is the reason for today’s post. As I was praying for those in authority – from the President, our Governor, down to our local mayor and city council it dawned on me how the evangelical community views government: us (meaning evangelical Christians) against them (meaning all government rules, regulations, and restrictions against us.)

It is not us against them! That is what Satan would love for us to think! With that mentality we can become both disobedient to God and distracted from the real deal. You say how?

• First, we become disobedient because we do not pray for them as we are commanded

• Second, we become disobedient of them because we begin to speak evil of them

• Third, we fail to pray for, work towards, and otherwise evangelize them for Christ

• Fourth, we develop the mindset that we can disobey government because it opposes the cause of Christ – (not saying that at times we must disobey in order to obey God)

• Fifth, we lead others astray into hate, disgust, disdain, rather into love, patience, suffering, etc.

So, if it is not us against them, what is it? It is US FOR THEM – THEM AGAINST US!

It doesn’t matter whether they are the President, the Governor, the Mayor, the Senator, or a mere councilman they all have an eternal soul. They have been either specifically raised up or allowed by God’s sovereign will to their respective place of office. They are no different from a middle class housewife in the suburbs who needs redemption to the drunk and homeless “bum” at the local rescue mission who needs redemption.

I guess this is coming on the heels of my devotional readings in Luke 12. I have spent the last three weeks in my morning devotions in Luke 12. The chapter concluded today with the illustration given by Christ of the man who was being dragged before a judge concerning an unpaid debt, probably a tax bill. Christ said that man should settle while even on the way to court with the accuser, lest the judge after hearing the case turns him over to the officer of the court, who in turns books him in prison. As we know you could not come out of debtor’s prison until every last penny of the date had been paid.

That was a warning to the Jews in the crowd that Christ had been addressing since chapter one. After all he taught them he concluded with that illustration. The man represented the crowd, in reality the Jewish nation, the accuser represented Christ, the judge represented God, the debt represented sin, and the prison represented hell. The man, those in the crowd, if they did not settle their spiritual accounts with God the judge; they would be cast into hell and would not come out until their “debt” had been paid.

What does that passage do to you? It gives me the chills. I causes me great grief for those who “are on their way to the judge” and don’t even know it. It impacted me this morning. As I meditated on that passage and then began to pray for those in authority it dawned on me how many believers (and so called believers) view government. It isn’t hard to deduce this, it isn’t a difficult stretch – just read, watch, listen, and pay attention to what they blog, write, say, and do that is captured by the media.

Many believers view government as us against them. It is not to be that way. It is to be us for them as they are against us. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit might move in their hearts that God perhaps might grant them repentance before it is too late and they are thrown into prison from whence they will never exit.

As 2009 ends tonight at midnight and 2010 begins at 12:01 AM lets decide to make an impact on those around us including government officials by first, changing our attitude against them, second, by praying for them biblically and fervently, and thirdly, by conducting our lives in such a manner that the beauty of Christ is made visible and attractive for them to truly see. Let them give God the glory on the Day of Judgment!

What say ye?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Purpose of our Lives

What is the purpose of our lives? I know most of my readers would simply quote the Westminster Catechism which says: “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Of course that is a correct answer. Unless John Piper is on to something when he rewords the catechism a bit and states says: “To glorify God by enjoying Him forever,”

Our goal, our mission, our purpose is to glorify God. Thomas Watson put it this way, “Our life’s end is to glorify God.”

We are to magnify and reflect the glorious nature of our Majestic God. I always cringe when I hear some say that they want to “bring glory to God.” I think that most times I know what they really mean. Let me say at the outset, that we cannot bring glory to God nor can we make him any more glorious than he already is and has always been.

We cannot add to nor can we diminish God’s glory. He is as glorious as he has ever been and ever will be. God is an unchanging God. He is absolutely immutable. Therefore, our purpose as individual believers or the purpose of the church is not to make God any more glorious.

Our life long pursuit is to magnify the glorious nature of God. How do we do this?

Well John Piper gives an illustration of how we are to do this. He states that we must magnify God like telescopes. He says, “Magnify him, but not like a microscope. You know the difference between two kinds of magnification, don't you? There's telescope magnification and microscope magnification, and it's blasphemy to magnify God like a microscope. To magnify God like a microscope is to take something tiny and make it look bigger than it is. If you try to do that to God you blaspheme. But a telescope puts its lens on unimaginable expanses of greatness and tries to just help them look like what they are. That's what a telescope is for. “

Our job, what a horrible choice of a word – our opportunity, our responsibility, and our life mission is to magnify God’s character by making visible the unimaginable expanses of greatness in God’s character as our lives serve as telescopes.

How do we do this? Peter caught a vision of this as he wrote to the Christians in Asia Minor. Listen to him in I Peter 2:11-12:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (ESV)

The word that Peter used for honorable is the Greek word kalos. It be translated a number of ways, but it carries the idea of “ beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, or admirable.” Another way to understand this word is to say something is beautiful to look at, or it is shapely, and magnificent.

Peter is suggesting that his readers, who by the way are undergoing a tremendous amount of persecution to live their lives in such a way that their daily conduct could be considered good, or excellent in its nature and characteristics, and therefore well adapted to its ends.

Peter wants his readers to live their lives even under the most trying and difficult of circumstances in such a way that it makes the character of God stand out to these pagan people. But as the character of God is displayed in these believers lives it will be so attractive or admirable (the character of God not their lives) that the pagans will to “telescope” God’s character on the day of judgment.

With 2009 just two days away from being over and 2010 ready to begin, what is your goal for this coming new year? What will your purpose be for the next 365 days? Let me challenge you to regardless of the circumstances by God’s grace to conduct your life in such a way that it reflects and reveals the magnificent character of our God so that even the pagans will give Him glory on the day of judgment.

What Say Ye?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thank You Lord for Philip P. Bliss!


On this day, December 29th, 1876 a passenger train crashed when the trestle bridge it was crossing collapsed near Ashtabula, Ohio. Ninety two people died in what became known as the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster. Among the number of passengers who died that day was Philip P. Bliss.

You may not know who Bliss was but you certainly know his hymns. Bliss was an accomplished composer, conductor, gospel singer, and evangelist. He wrote many hymns, some which you still sing today – that is if your church or fellowship still sings hymns.

Among the hymns that Mr. Bliss wrote are; Almost Persuaded; Hallelujah, What A Savior; Wonderful Words of Life; and Let the Lower Lights Be Burning. Thank God he also wrote the music to one of the most precious poems ever written. A man named Horatio Spafford wrote the words to It is Well with My Soul after receiving a telegraph that the ship his wife and daughters had been traveling on had sunk, and that his four daughters had drowned at sea. Philip Bliss wrote the tune to those words that we love and sing today.

How did he die? He actually survived the crash and had made his way out of the passenger car that he and his wife had been traveling in. While waiting rescue the passenger car caught fire and he went back into the flaming car to rescue his wife. In God’s sovereign plan both died in the fiery car and neither body was ever found.

The Bliss’s were survived both their two sons, George and Philip who at the time were aged 4 and 1 respectively. Eventually a monument was erected in Rome, Pennsylvania in Bliss’s memory.

By the way, one more fascinating piece of information, though neither body was found, his traveling trunk somehow survived both the crash and the fire. Inside the trunk was the manuscript for a song that he had written. However, no music for those lyrics was found in that trunk.

Soon afterwards as providence would have it, a man named James McGranahan wrote the music which allowed Thomas Edison to make it one the first songs ever to be recorded. Oh, what was the name of that song? It was I Will Sing of My Redeemer.

The night before that terrible railroad accident at Ashtabula... he said to his audience, "I may not pass this way again." Then he sang a solo entitled, I'm Going Home Tomorrow. This proved to be prophetic of his own home-going.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Bible and the Economic Downturn

On December 23, 2009, an AP story by Jay Lindsay ran entitled, “Many mine Bible for money wisdom during downturn.” The article gave as an example a Mr. Bob Vigliotti. It seems that in 2007, the economic downturn killed a major project of Mr. Vigliotti. For the next two years, quote, “Vigliotti, 58, battled depression as he bled $1 million cash.”

But Vigliotti said just when he thought that there were no answers, he found answers in the Bible: “debt reduction, simpler living and, most of all, faith that God would provide what he needed.” Now, Vigliotti won't buy on credit, he is selling his expensive vehicles and is looking for a condo in order to downsize. "

Bob Vigliotti was quoted in the article as saying, “The angst, anxiety and the depression is gone, and that's huge." The Bible's words are alive today and not just history book words."

Many people are looking at the teaching on finances and attempting to see how they transcend individual faith and the differences in the time they were written and the economic times of today.

Matt Bell, Christian author of "Money Strategies for Tough Times was quoted as saying, “ The Bible's core financial principles aren't pliable, as the varied interpretations might suggest. During an economic downturn, people can be pulled every which way by someone holding up a Bible and handing down their version of financial wisdom, he said.

"Any time someone is in a point of pain, they're especially vulnerable," Bell said. "That's where they especially need wise counsel."

Plenty are willing to give it. The AP article stated that financial guru Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course has enrolled more than 750,000 families. Crown Financial Ministries, based in Gainesville, Ga., says it will give 300 seminars and "coach" 10,000 people this year.

Even though the bible talks extensively of stewardship, money, responsibility care must still be taken. Any teaching, any doctrine, and any verse can be yanked right out of context and given an ego-centric interpretation.

The Word Faith movement, the prosperity movement, and those connected with TBN have all developed their pet doctrines and mantra to bilk the untaught greedy out of their money. The poor and biblically ignorant are the ones that get hurt the most.

The bible is a great book with tremendous principles that transcend both time and the human experience. Each verse regardless of whether it is dealing with forgiveness, parenting, redemption, faith, or money must be carefully examined in its historical, grammatical, and literal context.

James Hudnut-Beumler, who is the Dean of the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University and author of In Pursuit of the Almighty's Dollar, said “the Bible is ultimately a profound account of God's relationship and enduring love for humanity. There's a danger its greatness can be diminished if it comes to be viewed as a sort of financial fix-it book for helping people manage personal finances. Suddenly, you're crediting the Bible for something quite less than what it might have done for you."

Be careful how you read the bible. Be careful how others interpret the bible. It is good that there is a resurgence of interest in what the bible has to say about money, but remember two things:

• Do not use the bible as a means to get rich quick

• The bible was not written to, white, Anglo-Saxon, 20th century westerners but to oriental, 1st century easterners.

This realization can be used to keep sound exegetical principles involved when dealing with such a sensitive topic as money. There is no doubt that in these times we all need to make sound economical decisions. There is no doubt that the bible has much to say about money and finances. Let’s just make sure that we understand what the bible writer was saying in a passage about money or finances and that we know what the bible readers would have understood.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Grace Upon Grace

In John 1: 16-18, John is declaring the result of the incarnation. John now declares that the fullness of grace contained in the divine logos has provided an infinite supply of blessing [grace] for believers. The word fullness suggests the abundance of the supply that Christ has. The idea is that of an unending supply of divine grace.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

God Glorified In Man’s Dependence

God Glorified In Man’s Dependence
Your Weekly Exposure to Edwards


Gospel Driven Disciples posts some highlights from the prolific works of Jonathan Edwards. The following excerpt is taken from his sermon entitled God Glorified in Man’s Dependence, preached on the Public Lecture in Boston, July 8th, 1731.

I Corinthians 1:29-31 - “…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (ESV)

THOSE Christians to whom the apostle directed this epistle, dwelt in a part of the world where human wisdom was in great repute; as the apostle observes in the 22nd verse of this chapter, "The Greeks seek after wisdom." Corinth was not far from Athens, that had been for many ages the most famous seat of philosophy and learning in the world. The apostle therefore observes to them, how God by the gospel destroyed, and brought to nought, their wisdom. The learned Grecians, and their great philosophers, by all their wisdom did not know God, they were not able to find out the truth in divine things. But, after they had done their utmost to no effect, it pleased God at length to reveal himself by the gospel, which they accounted foolishness. He " chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and the base things of the world, and things that are despised, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are." And the apostle informs them in the text why he thus did, That no flesh should glory in his presence, etc.- In which words may be observed,

1. What God aims at in the disposition of things in the affair of redemption, viz. that man should not glory in himself, but alone in God; That no flesh should glory in his presence, --that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

2. How this end is attained in the work of redemption, viz. by that absolute and immediate dependence which men have upon God in that work, for all their good. Inasmuch as,

First, All the good that they have is in and through Christ; He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. All the good of the fallen and redeemed creature is concerned in these four things, and cannot be better distributed than into them; but Christ is each of them to us, and we have none of them any otherwise than in him. He is made of God unto us wisdom: in him are all the proper good and true excellency of the understanding. Wisdom was a thing that the Greeks admired; but Christ is the true light of the world; it is through him alone that true wisdom is imparted to the mind. It is in and by Christ that we have righteousness: it is by being in him that we are justified, have our sins pardoned, and are received as righteous into God's favour. It is by Christ that we have sanctification: we have in him true excellency of heart as well as of understanding; and he is made unto us inherent as well as imputed righteousness. It is by Christ that we have redemption, or the actual deliverance from all misery, and the bestowment of all happiness and glory. Thus we have all our good by Christ, who is God.

Secondly, Another instance wherein our dependence on God for all our good appears, is this, That it is God that has given us Christ, that we might have these benefits through him; he of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, etc.

Thirdly, It is of him that we are in Christ Jesus, and come to have an interest in him, and so do receive those blessings which he is made unto us. It is God that gives us faith whereby we close with Christ.

So that in this verse is shown our dependence on each person in the Trinity for all our good. We are dependent on Christ the Son of God, as he is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. We are dependent on the Father, who has given us Christ, and made him to be these things to us. We are dependent on the Holy Ghost, for it is of him that we are in Christ Jesus; it is the Spirit of God that gives faith in him, whereby we receive him, and close with him.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Season Greetings…



To our Christian Friends


– Merry Christmas!


To our Jewish Friends


– Happy Hanukah!


To our Secular Friends


– Happy Holidays!


To our Atheist Friends


– Good Luck!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Calvin Commenting on the Incarnation

John Calvin’s Institutes, Book II, chapter 12, section 1:

————————

It deeply concerned us, that he who was to be our Mediator should be very God and very man. If the necessity be inquired into, it was not what is commonly termed simple or absolute, but flowed from the divine decree on which the salvation of man depended. What was best for us, our most merciful Father determined? Our iniquities, like a cloud intervening between Him and us, having utterly alienated us from the kingdom of heaven, none but a person reaching to him could be the medium of restoring peace. But who could thus reach to him? Could any of the sons of Adam? All of them, with their parents, shuddered at the sight of God. Could any of the angels? They had need of a head, by connection with which they might adhere to their God entirely and inseparably.

What then? The case was certainly desperate, if the Godhead itself did not descend to us, it being impossible for us to ascend. Thus the Son of God behooved to become our Emmanuel, the God with us; and in such a way, that by mutual union his divinity and our nature might be combined; otherwise, neither was the proximity near enough, nor the affinity strong enough, to give us hope that God would dwell with us; so great was the repugnance between our pollution and the spotless purity of God. Had man remained free from all taint, he was of too humble a condition to penetrate to God without a Mediator. What, then, must it have been, when by fatal ruin he was plunged into death and hell, defiled by so many stains, made loathsome by corruption; in fine, overwhelmed with every curse? It is not without cause, therefore, that Paul, when he would set forth Christ as the Mediator, distinctly declares him to be man. There is, says he, “one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim. 2: 5). He might have called him God, or at least, omitting to call him God he might also have omitted to call him man; but because the Spirit, speaking by his mouth, knew our infirmity, he opportunely provides for it by the most appropriate remedy, setting the Son of God familiarly before us as one of ourselves. That no one, therefore, may feel perplexed where to seek the Mediator, or by what means to reach him, the Spirit, by calling him man, reminds us that he is near, nay, contiguous to us, inasmuch as he is our flesh. And, indeed, he intimates the same thing in another place, where he explains at greater length that he is not a high priest who “cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” (Heb. 4: 15)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Key Traits of a Disciple

A most common mistake concerning discipleship revolves around the actual definition of the word disciple. The word disciple is translated from a Greek word commonly known as mathetes.The most common definition is leaner, followed by pupil. This word is used some 268 times in the New Testament in this sense.

According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament it “denotes the man who directs his mind to something.” The earliest known usages of this word took on the idea of someone who is or has become a pupil. Another way of saying this, is that someone has become a learner or adherent of a teacher or master.

A great amount of ink and no doubt blood has been spilt regarding discipleship. Even with all that has been written and said about disciples and discipleship there seems to be a fog that shrouds this tremendously astute biblical term. No doubt that one must be a learner or pupil of Jesus Christ in order to learn all that He taught and to become like Him.

If we take just a moment and allow our minds to turn to Luke 9:23 and focus our attention on what Christ said I think we will find that we can “define” a disciple by carefully examining the key traits of a disciple.

“And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (ESV) If you look carefully you can define a true disciple by three (3) key traits. It may very well be that these three (3) key traits are what keeps most people from becoming a true disciple.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Taste Great? Certainly less filling!


Today’s devotion drove my thoughts to the death of Oral Roberts. His passing made a number of headlines including, USA Today whose headline summed up his contributions this way: "Oral Roberts brought health-and-wealth Gospel mainstream." The Los Angeles Times headlines read: "Oral Roberts dies at 91; televangelist was pioneering preacher of the 'prosperity gospel'"

As I worked my way through my passage this morning my heart was grieved and a bit of fear gripped my heart. Today’s passage was Luke 12:13-21 which sets forth the account of whom we designate as “the rich fool.” You know the story well, a man had an abundant crop one year and mused that he had no place to store it. So he devised a plan that was hatched upon four “I will” statements. He determined to tear down his existing barns, build new ones, store everything including this bumper crop, and then retire. He was going to take it easy which he depicted by eating, drinking, and making merry.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Report on Madilynn's Birthday


I am interrupting our normal post which would be things that relate to Theological News and issues to bring you a report of Madilynn’s birthday party last night. It went splendidly!


Irene and I drove the 50 + miles from Longview to Vancouver, WA to be part of the festivities. Shannon (my oldest and mother of said birthday girl) had lots of help with decorating her condo and preparing food and goodies. My wife’s sister and youngest daughter was down from Sitka Alaska, Madilynn’s four cousins from Portland were there along with Madilynn’s two of three aunts. Of course her grandparents were there. Madilynn’s best friend was there also to help her celebrate. We also had Shannon’s mother and father in law along with their three adopted children and friends.


You may not know this but I married thirty six years ago in to a Mexican-American family. Needless to say their birthdays are a little different than what mine were while I was growing up. We had home-made; did I say home-made? We had home-made Tacos, Enchiladas, Tamales, Re-fried beans, Spanish rice and much more! The music was festive and it was a fun evening.




We did have one little interruption when Shannon reached overhead for a knife to cut veggies and somehow as the knife slipped due to her reach, cut her deeply and her husband rushed her out for five stitches and a tetanus shot. She will be fine.


Madilynn “scored” in the gift department. Somehow first grandchild and daughter makes out! The “gift” however was a beautiful bass guitar. Madilynn is very musical, seems she is a chip off of good ole granddad (plays drums). We are all looking forward to her new adventure of learning to play the bass guitar along with the trumpet and clarinet which she does well with.


I didn’t get to stay for the cake. I needed to head back to Longview, sans wife who is staying in Portland with our daughter Sonja in order to spend time with her sister and nieces, to let the dog out for her “evening constitution.” Long drive in the dark blinding rain but I made it home safe and sound. Settled down to a glass of Merlot and to watch an episode of My Name is Earl.

All and all, stitches, rain, long drive, it was a fantastic time of being with family and friends to celebrate the birthday of my oldest grandchild. What a gift; in eternity past, before creation, God determined it would please Him to ordain her life and direct events toward her birth on December 20, 1995. Thank you Father for your amazing gifts!


This is one of my favorite picturs of Madilynn. She is on my boat "Shadowfax"
on Mayfield Lake  about 5 or 6. Isn't she a living doll? I thought so too!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Strangely Moved


“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” John 1:14a (ESV)

What does it mean “the Word became flesh?” As we answer this question it is important to note that the verb “became” is a different verb than the verb in verse 11. The coming of Christ in the flesh has already been mentioned in verse 11 – “He came to his own...” In verse 11 the viewpoint is his relationship to the land of Israel and to his Jewish countryman. Of course there we see that he is the object of the unbelief of the Jews.

John declares a similar truth but this time from the viewpoint of his relation to faith and mankind. This is why we have two different verbs used – vs. 11 He came and verse 14 He became. Verse 14 declares to us his full entrance if you would into human life. The Word entered into the human mode of being while setting aside his divine mode of being. He remained the same with no change to the essence of his being.

James Boice in his commentary on John makes this poignant observation – see if you can appreciate what he is saying. “I wish it were possible to approach John 1:14 as though reading it for the first time. The verse contains something that we new and quite startling when it was first written, and yet for us who read it nearly two thousand years later is has become common place. This was the great sentence for which the Gospel of John was written. Nevertheless, because we have heard that verse from childhood, we read it and are often strangely unmoved.”

Let’s read this verse in view of the holiday season which we are now celebrating. It can be as Boice stated, very moving. It can be God-exalting worship. Let’s rejoice in the knowledge that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Love the Sum of all Virtue

Love the Sum of all Virtue
Your Weekly Exposure to Edwards

Posted by Gregg Metcalf



Gospel Driven Disciples posts some highlights from the prolific works of Jonathan Edwards. The following excerpt is taken from his book Charity and its Fruits, edited from the original manuscripts by Tyron Edwards and published by The Banner of Truth Trust, originally published in 1852.


“When God and man are loved with a truly Christian love, they are both loved from the same motives. When God is loved aright, he is loved for his excellency, and the beauty of his nature, especially the holiness of his nature; and it is from the same motive that the saints are loved – for holiness sake. And all things that are loved with a truly holy love, are loved from the same respect to God. Love to God is the foundation of gracious love to men; and men are loved, either because they are in some respect like God, in the possession of his nature and spiritual image, or because of the relation they stand in to him as his children or creatures – as those who are blessed of him, or to whom his mercy is offered, or in some other way from regard to him. Only remarking, that though Christian love be one in its principle, yet it is distinguished and variously denominated in two ways, with respect to its objects, and the kinds of its exercise; as, for example, its degrees etc.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

Classified Ad – Help Wanted Section

Position: Local Body of Christ, aka church

Experienced Pastor is seeking applications for an independent or loosely associated evangelical and Doctrines of Grace Church to provide opportunities for expositional, exegetical, edifying bible study through verse by verse study. Church need not be experienced but areas of responsibility will be: to grow in love and worship of God through prayer and personal bible study, should love, encourage, support, and spiritually strengthen families, the pursuit of God given role of investing energy, talent, gifts, to each member of the body which results in the building up of the body, and the sharing of the gospel to the community at large.

No degrees are necessary, exposure to and a desire for life long and solid biblical teaching a must. Compensation for the right applicant church is many hours of solid bible teaching and fellowship with growth in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ with the opportunity of earning gold, silver, and precious stones at the Bema Seat of Christ.

Applications will be accepted at this blog site. Liberal, main-line denominations, Emerging Church, Deep Church and related need not apply. (Armenian churches may apply if willing to submit to bible teaching and make necessary adjustments.) If applicant church is unwilling or unable to relocate this Pastor will.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Metcalf’s Musings


Today I have decided to ramble. I thought I would share some news and events that are fresh on my mind. I am in a bit of a funk or a fog today. I am not trying to think too hard.


I have decided to take a shot at reviewing books for Thomas Nelson. I think it will be a stretch for me since I am not impressed with most of the titles or authors that are offered. However, I think it can be a good ministry opportunity to suggest what may be valuable or helpful. Of course much of what is published is strictly commercial with little or no spiritual value at all.

I have always said that the second best job in the entire world would be to get paid for reading. In this case Thomas Nelson offers the book for free. I will do my best to be honest, charitable, and scriptural in each review. So, stay tuned! My first book to review has been shipped. I am anxiously waiting for it to arrive in order to dig in.

We had a great time preaching and ministering to the believers in Bremerton this past four (4) weeks. However, there were some differences that they felt were deal breakers. As a result we will not be going to Bremerton – I am grateful to God that He worked His will out perfectly. We are still praying about planting a work or waiting to see if God opens another opportunity.


Our oldest granddaughter turns 14 Sunday. I can’t imagine that. How did she do that? I remember, believe it or not, when my parents became grandparents. Now my oldest daughter is 35 and our grandaughter is 14 and the youngest grandson turns 9 in January. Did I blink or something?

I am currently re-reading John Calvin’s The Institute of Christian Religion. How I love to read Calvin! Yet my heart is grieved over the condition of the church at large. Who will be the next Calvin, or Spurgeon, or Knox? Where are we headed? Thank God He is in charge and providentially is working out His will perfectly and right on time.


No, there is nothing new on the job market. I have applied from Portland to Bellingham. I know that God has heard our prayers, knows our need, and has an answer already. After four months I am ready for that answer. Thank you for praying and I ask you to continue to pray for us.

Thanks Jeff Nading for coming by last night and diagnosing an electrical problem in the house. Your friendship means a lot to us and we thank God that He brought you to the Longview area last year.

Well, so much for the first Metcalf’s Musing. Until next time, may God bless you and thank you for your friendship and readership.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mentors Can Help Christians Grow Spiritually


A major benefit of having one or more mentors in your life is their capacity to be honest with you and to keep you honest with yourself. A mentor or spiritual advisor is a person that helps you hold yourself accountable to God. Gospel-Driven disciples value the advice, admonition, and instruction given by godly mentors in their lives.

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” An open rebuke by a mentor who is truly a friend maybe painful, but their rebuke gives you the opportunity to reflect on the path that you are walking. The painful wounding (rebuking) of a true friend and mentor are designed to cut deep to the heart of a matter, particularly a matter of sin for your good.

Psalms 141:5 says, “Let a righteous man strike me…” Why? “…it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” Only a very foolish and proud individual refuses the rebuke of a godly friend and mentor.

This incident has often been quoted – “when a certain person was asked why he had derailed from his Christian walk, it was noted that, “He had nobody in his life who was honest with him.” Yes a friend’s poking around in your personal lives may strike a very tender and sore spot, but the result is only beneficially good for you.

Having stated this opinion clearly and even conclusively, let me give you seven benefits of having a spiritual mentor in your life:

1. Mentors can give biblical perspective at a crucial time in your life

2. Mentors can suggest times of rest & refreshment in order to charge spiritual batteries

3. Mentors can detect and warn you of sinful behavior or tendencies that may be developing

4. Mentors can graciously stimulate spiritual growth in particular areas of your life

5. Mentors can spot times of spiritual stagnation

6. Mentors can identify some of those blind spots that we cannot see ourselves

7. Mentors can give encouragement especially in those times when it is desperately needed

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Preaching the Word

“We see that God, who might perfect his people in a moment, chooses not to bring them to manhood in any other way than by the education of the church. We see the mode of doing it expressed: the preaching of celestial doctrine is committed to pastors.”

John Calvin

Institutes of the Christian Religion, (4.1.5)



“Christian preaching is an immense tool. No reader of the Bible can fail to be impressed by its place in the forwarding of God’s purposes and the coming of His kingdom. It has changed the face of world history. Anyone who has sat under authentic preaching must long for it to be the norm; and it can be.


The fact is that the preached word is the chief evangelist and pastor in a church. There is no experience quite like that encounter with God when he makes the Scripture, reverently and rigorously unleashed, his life-giving agent. By it he imparts Christian salvation, rips up the conscience, comforts the trembling, enlightens our understanding and empowers our obedience; yet how rare is such a living voice, week by week!”

Peter White, The Effective Pastor

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Beginning of the End of Christianity?

There is a new study and report that “Christians” are mixing up their beliefs. The question has been posed – is this the beginning of the end of Christianity?

Christ, himself asked a very interesting but thought provoking question in Luke 18:8: “…Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

As we draw closer to an end of this age as we know it, the attacks on biblical Christianity and faith are monumental. The onslaught to destroy, dilute, or dismiss the “one true faith” comes from every direction.

Ecumenicalism has been with us almost since the beginning of the church. It has been defined as, in its broadest sense, a unity or cooperation which refers to a worldwide religious unity; by the advocating of a greater sense of shared spirituality across the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Most commonly, however, ecumenism is used in a more narrow meaning; referring to a greater cooperation among different religious denominations of a single one of these faiths.

Ecumenism is an interfaith dialogue between representatives of different denominations, and does not necessarily intend reconciling their followers into full, organic unity with one another but simply to promote better relations. It promotes toleration, mutual respect and cooperation, whether among Christian denominations, or between Christianity and other faiths.

For some Catholics it may, but not always, have the goal of reconciling all who profess Christian faith to bring them into a single, visible organization, i.e. through union with the Roman Catholic Church.

For some Protestants spiritual unity, and often unity on the church's teachings on central issues, suffices. Many who advocate this push towards spiritual unity think that we should not focus on what separates us but a simple focus on Christ.

Statistics are showing that 26% of people polled are seeking to add various forms of “spiritual energy” to their existing faith, 25% of people polled are adding astrology to their existing faith, some 24% stated that they think that people will be born again and again and again through various forms of reincarnation, and some 23% have added yoga and its principles to their existing faith.

The Manhattan Declaration recently advocated a coming together of various “faiths” for social order and social causes. The so called Emerging Church is a major player in the advocating of and practice of adding mysticism, Catholicism, and handpicked tenets of Christianity to what they call a new faith.

The good news is that God is not taken by surprise. This is not new to Christ nor those who have a clear understanding of the Scriptures. We know that one day there will be a “one world church.” Since Scripture predicts it, it is inevitable. So, we should not be caught by surprise nor be dismayed. It is inevitable.

Jude reminds us of our responsibility – “Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Paul warned the churches through his son in the faith Timothy – “But evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

The more of the truth (Scripture) that we know the more error it will expose. Attacks will come. Persecution will come and will expose many false tares in the church. But Christ will prevail and Christianity will not be destroyed. We are on the winning side and we have read the last chapter in the book!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jeremiah Burroughs: On Peace and Contentment


The world proudly proclaims “he who dies with the most toys, wins!” In other words, our life is characterized and summarized by what we can accumulate during our life time. One could even say that our life is measured by all that we are able to acquire. The proliferation of storage facilities are both a testimony and a monument to this philosophy.

In his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment English Puritan and Pastor Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) preached a long series of sermons that dealt with Christian contentment. As a matter of fact his purpose is found in his statement, “…peace and contentment in the hearts of individual believers during sad and sinking times.”

Burroughs further stated, “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”

What would Fifth Avenue or the marketing gurus in the advertising world have to say to that? They work feverishly around the clock to convince us that we are unhappy, unsatisfied, and lacking in every conceivable area of our life. There is a sour, outward, loud, ferocious tangle in dissatisfaction which freely submits to and delights in worldly materialism as we denounce God’s unwise and dastardly handling of “gifts” in our lives.

Burroughs with gifted and keen insight shared with his people this text, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am; therewith to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)

Pick up Burroughs book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I think you will find it be totally true that, “there is an ark that you may come into, and no men in the world may live such comfortable, cheerful and contented lives as the saints of God.” (Cited from back page of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Delighting in God’s Glory!

This Weeks Exposure to Edwards

Posted by Gregg Metcalf

Taken from: A God Entranced Vision of All Things

"No man is more relevant to the present condition of Christianity than Jonathan Edwards."    
                    
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

God glorifies Himself toward the creature in two ways; by appearing to their understanding, and in communicating Himself to their hearts and their rejoicing in and delighting in Him, and enjoying manifestations He makes of Himself. God is Glorified not only by His glories being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that he might communicate and the creature receive His glory, and that it might be received both by the mind and the heart. He that testifies His idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.

- Jonathan Edwards

Friday, December 11, 2009

One Pilgrim’s Persistent Progress

At the risk of being repetitious (although I attribute repetition as the mother of learning) I continue to reflect on the fact that 2009 is coming to a close. As a result, a new year is off in the distance waiting to gently descend upon us. As I think on this, two passages of scripture come to my mind:

Ephesians 5:15-17 – “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Psalms 90:12“…teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

I am nothing more than a stranger and a pilgrim traveling toward a city that is heavenly and not earthly. This pilgrimage that I am on is the most unique journey that any human mind could imagine. I am to walk not by sight but by faith. I am to continue to press on toward a mark, a prize, a reward that I cannot see and simply have a mere glimpse of in this life.


I don’t know fully how carefully I walked in 2009. I believe that earlier in this past year I was more unwise than wise. I am not sure at this point how well I used the time God gave me in 2009, but I am sure if there was a “do over button” I would not hesitate to hit it.

Let me say, I am not melancholy nor has these moments of introspection and reflection caused me any distress. I am grieved in the sense that I may have blurred the glory and nature of our glorious God by being unwise at times and not making the best use of my time. We are all aware that we can never recapture the moment – we can never relive the hours or days we misspent. I thank God for His grace that He has given me a set amount of days and helps me to live them to the fullest for His glory.

So, I am persistent in my pilgrimage. I am pressing onward and upward. I am making forward progress in my journey toward that City of God. As I look forward to 2010 with the hopeful and prayer expectation of “even so come quickly Lord Jesus”, I am trusting in God to continue to teach me five (5) things:

1. To live my life carefully or circumspectly

2. To live by and with Godly wisdom

3. To make the best use of my time in 2010

4. To not be foolish or to spend the precious time allotted to me as a fool

5. To understand what God’s will is for this coming year

How say you?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nine Nifty books of 2009


I thought I would share with you nine of the many books that I have read this year. I found value in each one of them even if I found some things I couldn’t agree with. Most of us know how to eat a good piece of fish – if you come to a bone, you just eat around it. Heaven forbid that you would throw away the whole fish for a couple of bones!


Many of you may have already discovered one or more of these books. I have always wanted to post a “top ten” list on my blog but haven’t been able to think of one funny or interesting enough. I thought since 2009 is almost gone, I could share the top ten, or should I say top nine books did I enjoy this year. So, here goes! For the record these are in no particular order.

1. Faith Undone by Roger Oakland

2. God Gave Wine: What the Bible Says About Alcohol by Kenneth Gentry

3. Exegetical Fallacies by D. A. Carson

4. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

5. Growing Up in Grace: The Use of Means for Communion With God

6. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges

7. Finally Alive by John Piper

8. God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards by John Piper

9. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Ian Murray

Some other books I enjoyed Worship Matters by Bob Kaufman, Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch (for the third time), Humility by C. J. McHaney. There were quite a few more but I have already violated the “top nine.”

Solomon was right when he said in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “…of making of books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”

I am looking forward to becoming very weary in 2010!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What are you Aiming At?

It is hard to believe that not only is this December, but 2009 is almost over. Each year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas I take some time and write out my goals for the coming new year. I started in 2002 with the headings of Spiritual, Financial, Career, and Physical goals.

It helps me to consider a destination and then chart the direction that I want both to travel and then arrive at. The physical goals aren’t always that difficult; I still want to lose some weight and have some dental work completed. This year my career goals took a definite turn in the direction of, “Whoa Nelly, I didn’t see that coming. I was laid off in August and have not yet been able to find a job – so that is an easy, no brainer: Lord, all I want for Christmas is a JOB!

I love working through my spiritual goals. I like to look back and see where I have been, where I have come from, and how much of the previous year’s goals did I actually accomplish? (Is that a run-on sentence?)

I start off with goals that concern my devotion life. I then turn to spiritual and inspirational books that I want to read in the coming year. I then think of some areas of my life that need adjusting, changing, re-arranging, or just plain fixed.

I share this with you so that you might consider something similar. Many of you have a similar program and you have goals, but for those of you who have yet taken to meditating on spiritual things for the coming year let me encourage you to begin.

The reason for this is obvious. Someone once said, “if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.” Start small and if necessary take baby steps. Set a course, hang a target, set up a destination so that you have something to aim for.

Someone also said, “If you aren’t moving forward, you are moving backward – there is no standing still.” So, determine to move forward in our Lord. Remember the words of the Apostle Peter (II Peter 3:18) ESV:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Why?

“To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Satifies Your Soul?


"The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean."



— Jonathan Edwards

Monday, December 7, 2009

Beware of the Silence of Sin

“When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all”

-- John Owen

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This is my Father's World




This morning we are waking up in Bremerton, WA. Once again I have the privilege of worshipping with and preaching the Word of God to the wonderful people of the Central Valley Christian Fellowship. The coffee has been started.

Our text this morning is John 1:3-5. Our subject will be the relationship of creation to the Word. As we read this text we have to ask ourselves, what relationship exists between the Word and everything that has ever been created? The passage answers this question as we examine it – everything is intimately related to the Word as a result of being directly created by the Word.

Everything that exists has passed from nothingness into being by the direct action of the Word as the agent of creation commissioned by the Father. Everything that has existence passed through the mind and the will of the creator.

John 1:3-4 says All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”(ESV – emphasis mine)

Therefore, this is my Father’s World. Everything in this world including Christian people are to grasp the significance of the Word as creator. We are to worship him! We are to give him praise for his wonderful acts of creation. We are to appreciate the variety of colors, shapes, sizes, textures, smells, and design of all that the Word has created.

Psalm 111: 2-3 “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.”

Praise the Lord! Amen? Amen!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Six things that seem rational to suppose;

EXPOSURE TO EDWARDS




This week’s Exposure to Edwards comes from his book The End for Which God Created the World. Edward’s book is printed in its entirety and original form in John Piper’s God’s Passion for His Glory. It is well worth picking up and working through.

This is a hard section to meditate and let rattle around the ole brain. Let me encourage you to read and re-read it and spend some time doing some hard thinking. Don’t run away from a wonderful section of his book. He really is saying that the creator is not dependent upon the creation for anything. There was nothing that the creator receives from creation.

“As to the first of these (reasons) I think the following things appear to be the dictates of reason:

God’s acting for the sake of his ultimate end implies no insufficiency in himself.

That no notion of God’s last end in the creation of the world is agreeable to reason, which would truly imply any indigence, insufficiency, and mutability in God, or any dependency of the Creator on the creature for any part of his perfection or happiness. Because it is evident, by both Scripture and reason, that God infinitely, eternally, unchangeably, and independently glorious and happy; that he cannot be profited by, or receive anything from, the creature; or be the subject of any sufferings, or diminution of his glory and felicity, from any other being.

The notion of God creating the world, in order to receive anything properly from the creature, is not only contrary to the nature of God, but inconsistent with the notion of creation; which implies a being receiving its existence, and all that belongs to it, out of nothing. And this implies the most perfect, absolute, and universal derivation and dependence. Now, if the creature received its ALL from God, entirely and perfectly, how is it possible that it should have anything to add to God to make him in any respect more than he was before, and so the Creator become dependent on the creature?


Taken from John Piper’s God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards, (Wheaton: Crossways Books, 1998), pp 138-139