Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Reformation Day!

Reformation Day is an important event that is celebrated by Lutherans and Christians of many Protestant denominations.  Today commemorates the day that Martin Luther's nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. 

This monumental act triggered the movement in world history known as the Reformation.  While the historical date for the observance of Reformation is October 31st, most churches celebrate it on the last Sunday in October.  


For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church had been overcome by false doctrines, superstition, ignorance, and corruption.  Most people were illiterate and had little knowledge of the Bible; they relied on their Catholic Church for their religious teaching.

The monks, priests, bishops, and even the popes in Rome taught unbiblical doctrines like purgatory and salvation through good works.  The average person in the pew sought to justify themselves by works, pilgrimages, and various kinds of religious duties and devotions. 

The truth of the gospel -- the good news that God is loving and merciful, that He offers each and every one of us forgiveness and salvation not because of what we do, but because of what Christ has already done for us -- was not taught. 

Today, Reformation Sunday is simply a day, as is every day to give glory to God for His sovereign work through Martin Luther and eventually many others as God caused the recovery of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith for Christ's sake. 

By grace God's Son, our only Savior,
Came down to earth to bear our sin.
Was it because of your own merit
That Jesus died your soul to win?
No, it was grace, and grace alone,
that brought Him from His heav'nly throne.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reading James Chapter Five

Well, we did it! We read each chapter of the epistle of James to the dispersed Jewish Christians seven (7) times. Now we have spent this past week reading chapter five (5.) I trust you have a better handle on the theme of James and that you picked something up during this month that the Holy Spirit can use to draw you closer to Christ.

James chapter five (5) can be broken down into four (4) sections. The first section runs from verse one (1) through verse six (6.) These opening verses serve as a warning to those who are rich.

The second section begins in verse seven (7) and continues through verse twelve (12.) This section seals with the patience or the longsuffering that we are to exhibit during trials or tribulations. James talks of this as suffering.

The third section begins in verse thirteen (13) and runs through verse eighteen (18.) This section deals with prayer, more specifically prayer for those who are sick.

The fourth (4) section begins in verse nineteen (19) and runs through verse twenty (20.) This section serves as a last admonition calling the Christian Community to action in helping those who have fallen into sin.

Verses 1-6: This section serves as a graphic warning to those believers who are wealthy. James turns his focus from the business people of chapter four (4) to those who are landowners. James admonishes them for their materialistic accumulation of wealth and property. He also seems to indicate that one of the ways they were able to accumulate their property and wealth was by cheating those who worked for them. An even greater charge by James seems to be that the way they worked or treated their workers actually resulted in the death of some. Obviously if God blesses us with material things (which I think is more our doing than His) we are to use those things for the glory of God and benefit of others. We are not here to accumulate wealth or possessions. This life is neither our home nor our final end. This section needs to be read often, carefully, with much prayer, meditation, and soul searching. 

Verses 7-12: James turns his focus from those who are wealthy to those believers who are poor. We are never instructed, called, or directed to fight back against the wealthy, our employers, those who oppress us. Jesus, James, and the New Testament call believers to suffer, to suffer patiently. We are waiting for the “harvest.” We are waiting for the glorious hope of the return of our Lord.  We are not called to vindicate ourselves when slandered, cheated, or mistreated. God is keeping the books. Our duty is to wait patiently for Him and He will settle the books. Don’t grumble, don’t complain. Don’t react or attempt to fight. Wait patiently God will be compassionate and merciful to His children especially when they have been cheated or mistreated. (Pride fights against this attitude, doesn’t it? I can hear all the, “but’s” out there!)

Verses 13-18: This section if read carefully and followed properly could certainly end a lot of church/pastoral difficulties. First, it is not the pastor’s responsibility to know that you are sick or that you are in the hospital. Stop being miffed because he didn’t have ESP and his visit was delayed because he didn’t know. Look at verse fourteen (14.) If you are sick, you are responsible to call the Elders and inform them. You are to ask them to come and pray for you. I am not suggestion that pastors never have to take the initiative to visit you – but I have seen families angrily storm out of churches causing great hurt simply because the pastor never knew an individual was sick.

Got that off my chest (it isn’t easy being a pastor, let me tell you.) In this section James restates one of his key themes: trials. He also doubles back and brings the “tongue” to our attention once again. Prayer is crucial to a believer. If you are suffering, then go before the Lord. Forget the why me, and can you make it stop prayers. Glorify God and praise Him that He considered you worthy, ask Him for strength to endure and be faithful. If you are sick pray. Ask the Elders to pray for you asking God to heal you.

If you illness is a result of sin, then confess your sin in prayer to God. This is power in prayer. Remember prayer is not to give a wish list to a Genie or vending machine in the sky; it is to submit our hearts and will to God asking for God’s will to be revealed and one in our lives. Prayer is designed to bring our will in line with God’s will.

Prayer will help “tame” the tongue. Pray for one another.

Verses 19-20: This letter ends abruptly. There does not seem to be a conclusion.  Rather James, being a man of prayer and a man of action (read the epistle) calls the believers to action, to a response. He wants the stronger believers to help those believers who have fallen into the sins he wrote about. James summarizes these sins in a short but powerful sentence, e.g. “…if anyone wanders from the truth…whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering…”  James wants to see confrontation, confession, and comfort.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Church Bulletin Bloopers (Part I)

I know you will never get this 5:01 back, but it is worth it! Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

MUBAR! (Part II)

I realize that I made some very serious charges yesterday in part one of this two part post. I realize that I feel very strongly about the actions of those who participated in this debate and my own presence there. 

Let me say that this debate was the first one I have ever attended and it will be the last that I will ever attend if non-believers are involved. I have not ruled out the possibility of attending a “debate” between believers on non-essential doctrines or teachings held by various believers. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we shouldn’t have meetings with unbelievers in hopes of presenting the gospel in hopes of delivering them from darkness and deception.

I submit to you that false teachers were allowed to come into the Christian body and teach false and damnable doctrines denying the sufficiency of the savior to save, the veracity of both God and His Word, and the atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. I believe it should never have happened. God forbid that any who were “naive” as Paul spoke of in Romans sixteen were further deceived into darkness and deception.

Let me say, first of all, that I am not afraid of having my beliefs challenged by anybody. Anyone at any time can challenge me on a biblical truth or doctrine and I will take you through the interpretive process and show you how and why I believe that a particular and orthodox biblical doctrine or position is correct.

Nor am I afraid to take the time to sit with someone who is not a believer or who has been taught heretical doctrine and gently show them from scripture what the truth is. I will not enter into a debate where each side presents and opens with a statement supporting a position, defends the position with arguments, and then closes with a statement supporting a position that is heretical. That is a no “win” situation. These men were not present to hear information that might refute their position and then make a change, they were there to defend and deploy their heretical positions.

First, I am fully aware that the Apostle Paul would, upon arrival in a target city go into the Synagogues and reason with the Jews. Second, I am also aware that Paul reasoned with the unsaved citizens in Athens on Mars Hill. Paul did not debate with them, he reasoned with them, and he explained the Scriptures.  

For example, in Acts 19:8, "And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God."

The word reasoning is the Greek Word, διαλεγομαι (dee-al-eg’-om-ahee). This word is used 13 times in the New Testament. Its primary meaning is first, "to think different thoughts with oneself." In other words, you think over a concept or idea in your mind by mulling it over, by looking at the different aspects of a thought or an idea.

Secondarily it carries over the same process with others. You present different thoughts, ideas, and aspects of something in a format designed for dialogue, not argument. The KJV and the RSV attempted to give the meaning of the word but probably did a disservice by translating it as dispute. Paul was not wrangling nor arguing but he was reasoning. He stated his point or proposition and then set out to prove his point with other scriptures, and other ways of looking at the same proposition. 

Paul did not enter into an environment of "OK, I will argue my point then you get to argue your point and whoever is most persuasive wins.” I am sure he listened to the "other side" well enough and long enough to be able to refute with Scripture what was being said.

That is what we are to do as pastors/shepherds, we are charged with being able to gently, without being quarrelsome, use God's word to ελεγχω (el-eg’-kho) “to reprove, rebuke, and convict the false teacher” (Titus 1:9.) Again, we are not to allow the false teacher to present his argument in such a format as to persuade us or anyone else to their view point.

Another example of this can be found in Acts chapter thirteen, verses thirteen through verses fifty-two. Look at the language: in chapter thirteen the scriptures read that Paul and his companions went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. The rulers of the synagogue then said to Paul and his companions, “brothers if you have any words of encouragement for the people say it.” 

Paul stood up and preached. He did not debate. He preached in such a manner that in verse forty-two the Jews asked them to speak the following Sabbath. In verse forty four Paul returned and spoke, this time stirring up envy with the Judaizers. However look at the results, in verse forty eight those who were appointed unto salvation were what? They were saved and the word of God spread through the region.

In Acts chapter seventeen Paul is alone in the city of Athens. As Paul looks around at the proliferation of idols he is grieved internally in his spirit. He went into a synagogue and reasoned, he discoursed, preached, taught, or conversed with the Jews. We know that this resulted in some ridicule of Paul but it also resulted in an invitation to further teach the truth.

What is my point? When one debates, one presents an argument defending a position or teachings. When one reasons, one conversationally or didactically presents truths for the purpose of converting an unbeliever to Christianity. There is a distinct difference.

Both sides in the debate I attended presented very definite arguments of what they believed to be true about their topic. The Catholic Apologist argued very clearly and forcefully that Scripture was not sufficient and needed to be supplemented by Councils and Pope, both whose authority must be submitted to on any subject including purgatory. Pagitt argued very articulately and persuasively with the use of allegorical and spiritualizing principles of hermeneutics and deny the reality of judgment, punishment, and hell. 

Why would we have heretical and unsaved individuals teaching in a forceful and argumentative manner designed to undermine the accuracy of the truth? Dr. Sungenis passionately presented what he believed to be truths in an attempt to prove the doctrine of purgatory. Doug Pagitt passionately and very articulately presented false truths in order to substantiate his position regarding the fact that hell is not real. 

What was Paul worried about? Was he worried that God couldn’t take care of himself? Was he worried that the truth would somehow be emasculated? No, what Paul was worried about was, “…by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.” You see, “both sides,” the believers and non-believers had their “respective posse or adherents” in the audience. This means that those who have been deceived by false teaching were further confirmed in darkness and those who may have been “on the fence” could have been pushed into deception and lies.

It would have been one thing, and by the way the right thing to invite Dr. Sungenis and/or Doug Pagitt to a meeting, service, dinner, or get-together and present the gospel to each one of them. If and when questions were brought up or a defense of why either Sungenis or Pagitt believed what they believed, then sound biblical doctrine could be applied to their false beliefs. 

I know we are to contend (Jude 3) for the faith. We are to put up a vigorous defense for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not believe this includes debate, at least in the format I witnessed this past Friday and Saturday. That was not contending, it was disdainfully, disrespectfully, and disjointedly an argument where neither side heard, absorbed, or contemplated what was presented.

Although all four men professed friendship, respect, and affection for each other the forum was adversarial. I don't know how this format could possibly lend itself to effectual reasoning with the truth. I don’t know how the Holy Spirit would choose to breathe out the glories of God in this environment.

Let me address some very good questions from my friend Pastor Scott Weldon of Faith Baptist Church in Missouri:

First, I have not listened to a debate with Dr. James White. I have heard his radio program a number of times and I have a few books he has authored. I had always respected him. I am not a covenant theologian nor do I hold to covenant theology, although I very solidly affirm the five SOLAS, the doctrines of grace, and the sovereignty of God.

I was amazed that an apologist, radio host, and Elder would behave as he did. First let me say, he was cooler, collected, calmer, and more courteous than I would have been. Yet, even he at times was rude, disdainful, and demeaning and argumentative - not the characteristics that Elders must have (gentle, non-quarrelsome, able to teach, persuade, convict, etc.) 

Second question Scott, what I witnessed was not the expected outcome based off of my presupposition going into the meeting. I apparently was naive. I did not expect Elders to argue nor did I expect such egregious and patently false doctrine to be presented in order to be believed and/or accepted. 

I have never really looked at the rules of debate. I did not realize that each side would be given 20 minutes to make an opening statement about the topic, then given 15 or 20 minutes to rebut the other side and then time for some "cross-examination" that was more like toddlers on the playground saying repeatedly, "Yes you did, no I didn't, yes you did, no I didn't."

I naively thought error might be presented but the truth would be convincingly, triumphantly, gloriously, passionately presented and would prevail as a champion over the error. This did not happen. It especially did not happen in the second debate where false teacher/heretic Doug Pagitt cleaned the clock of the Lutheran apologist. False doctrine triumphed in the debacle, oops I meant debate.

Well, I bared and shared my heart with you. My friend knows how I feel and went to the Scriptures himself and came to the same conclusion. He has since emailed Chris Rosebrough and informed him of his convictions. These convictions my friend Bryan came to are based on these Scriptures, take a look at them. (2 Peter 2:1; 2 Cor 11:13-15; Romans 16:17 and 2 John 10)

Well, I don’t think I am 5150 (to be detained or held involuntarily for a psychiatric evaluation in order to determine if a person is a danger to himself or to others at large.)

 Hopefully I have shared with you my heart concerning the danger of bringing false teachers and doctrine into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Unfortunately the SITREP (situation report) on this event was MUBAR, Messed Up Beyond All Recognition.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

MUBAR! (Part I)

I was once a Marine. I know you wouldn’t know by looking at me today but I was once one of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. I was a Leatherneck, a jarhead, a Marine. Our military has always been found of acronyms and the alphabet to label conditions, equipment, units, and situations. 

Our military, like many occupations also has a reputation and penchant for utilizing some filthy and uncouth sayings and designations. Some of these sayings and designations can not be used in mixed company.

An example of one of the more “infamous” and utilized acronyms, particularly by the lower ranked enlisted men was FUBAR. Another form of the same sentiment was SNAFU. Since I don’t want to utilize the language involved in this acronym I changed the first letter in the first one and the fourth letter in the second one to “M.” Now I can give its meaning; Messed Up Beyond All Recognition. The other acronym would read Situation Normal All Messed Up.

This past Friday evening and the majority of Saturday I attended an event where it could be easily labeled MUBAR! Let me say first, I was invited by a dear friend of mine who paid for all my expenses, including hotel room, meals, registration fee, snacks, and coffee. My friend truly thought that this would be an enlightening event that we all could profit from and give God the glory. His motives were beyond any and all reproach and I am eternally grateful for his sincere, royal, and selfless treatment of myself.

What was the event? It was labeled a “Debate.” It was a debate between Dr. James White, a leading reformed Baptist and Christian apologist and the leading Catholic apologist Dr. Robert Sungenis on the subject of Purgatory. A second debate was conducted by Chris Rosebrough, Host, Fighting for the Faith and the President of Pirate Christian Radio and Doug Pagitt, “pastor” of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis on the subject of “Is Hell a real place?”

What a debacle! What a MUBAR SITREP (situation report.) I would say that there was nothing that could glorify God in this debate but I would be contradicted by the fact that God can use even our sin to accomplish His purposes and give praise to His glory. (Psalms 76:10)

I am convinced that an egregious error if not sin was committed with this event. I believe the Newberg (OR) Christian Church and those responsible for this debate are guilty of participating in the doctrine of heresy (II John 10.) Thank God, He is able to override our sin and often uses it for His own purposes and glory.

I think the sin that was committed was welcoming heresy and false doctrine into the church of Christ, giving those who hold and propagate false teaching a welcome. The result or penalty of such actions is incurring those false teachers guilt. 

Paul spoke against this practice in Romans chapter sixteen, verses 17-20. We are to watch out for and avoid those who do not serve our Lord and are used to deceive the naive. The doctrines of demons will be soon crushed under our feet. We are not to invite them into our home or the meetings of our church body.

I did not think of these things when I accepted this invitation. As a matter of fact I was excited to attend and see Christian apologetics in action. It was while I was there I was grieved in my Spirit and began to see the wickedness in what was taking place. Near the end of the MUBAR debate I walked out of the auditorium and sat in the lobby grieving over my actions, the actions of those who name the name of Christ and over the actions of the ungodly and heretical minions of Satan.

In part two, Lord willing, I hope to explain to you why I believe this event was wrong. I also hope to explain the difference between reason and debate. I hope to show you that Paul reasoned with unbelievers rather than participating in debates. I hope to show you that I am not a candidate for 5150.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Walking with God

“…so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…”
Colossians 1:10

The will of the Lord is not a difficult thing to find for a Christian. We have a tendency to miss-define the will of God. As a result we painstakingly attempt to “find” Gods’ will as if we were on a quest to find the buried treasure of a long forgotten high seas pirate. God has a secret and sovereign will that we will never be able to discover. We merely are made aware of His sovereign will as God unfolds it through time.

God also has a moral will. This will deals with what God has determined to be His standards of “right and wrong” based on His glorious character. This moral will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and can be easily discovered by diligent searching by the children of God. We are free to do as we please and make decisions as we choose as long as our desires and decisions do not violate this moral will of God revealed in the Scriptures.

What of everyday life? What is God’s will for each and every day of our lives? This this not complicated either. The Apostle Paul prayed consistently for the Colossian believers that they would be “filled,” to be fully supplied or abounding in the knowledge of God’s will, or what God desires. What is that God desires? What is it that God would have us to be fully supplied with or abounding in?

The answer is as follows, that we would make use of every opportunity as we make our way through life in such a way that is suitable to the character and nature of God. In other words, Paul prayed continually that the Colossian believers would be made fully aware of how to take every opportunity to live in such a way that pleased God.

In every decision that you make and in every opportunity that you face God desires that you live in such a way that pleases Him. It is not a question of what blouse to wear today or what suit to put on. God doesn’t care if you become a fireman or an insurance salesman or if you move to Akron, Ohio. He leaves those decisions to you as long as they do not violate His moral will which is clearly revealed in His Word. God cares a great deal of how you are living in relationship to His glorious character and your redemptive status as a Son of God. 

The question then, is how are you doing? Are you taking advantage of every opportunity to live in a manner that pleases God? Does your attitude and actions reflect His glorious nature and character? Are you living in a manner that is consistently with your standing as a child of God? 

I am praying for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will (moral will) in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Should I Be Afraid?

During my quiet time this morning I found myself reading Psalm 49. The leading question of this Psalm is, “why should I become afraid during times of trouble or tribulation? If we are honest, at one time or another we have all become afraid during the times God has tried us or in troubling times. Regardless of what the pundits and the talking heads are saying we are in the midst of a very troubling time.

First of all, Psalm 49 is what is called a “Wisdom Psalm.” Psalm 49 is a song or hymn that promotes a topic that is taught in what we call the bible’s wisdom literature. This Psalm is given by God through the sons of Korah to remind us of the wise and right course of action to follow when we find ourselves in what we sometimes call deep “do do.”

Second, the main theme of this Psalm centers on the uncertainty that the children of God often face when trouble comes “a callin’.” The main issue is the questions that leap into our brains when we as faithful and obedient children suffer trouble or trials and the wicked seem to carry on with no problems. The first question that comes to our mind, alright maybe the second question after, “why me,” is shouldn’t God treat me better than the wicked are seemingly treated?

Listen to this Psalm. Again, it is a Psalm of wisdom so; don’t miss the wisdom the Holy Spirit has provided. The Psalmist begins with a very definite call to listen up. He says, Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all habitants of the world both low and high, rich and poor together!”

The Psalmists wants everyone to hear this. Yes, that means you and me! Why? He is going to speak wisdom. There is a lesson here which needs to be learned by all of us. He asks the question in verse five that summarizes all of us at one time or another; “Why should I fear in times of trouble?”

This is an excellent question, don’t you think? We need to etch this one into our forehead. What is the answer to this question? Our Psalmist gives us the reasons why we should not be afraid in times of trouble.

God has a different plan for those who are His children and those who are not the children of God. The end of the line (death) will be different for those who are His and those who are not. Look at some things that you should mediate on:

First – no one can prevent the death of anyone. No one can purchase a life or give God enough money to prevent the death of anyone. I remember when Red Skelton’s boy was dying; he said that he would give all his fame and fortune for the price of his son’s life. His son died. No man can pay God to prevent eventual death.

Second – all men die. The smart and the stupid die. Every man dies. Not only does every man die but they leave all that they have accumulated when they die. We can’t take anything with us when we die. I have conducted a number of funerals and I will tell you one thing I have never seen at any one of them – a U-Haul truck. Ken Holiday wrote and sung a song called, “You Will Never Find a Hearse with a Trailer Hitch.” So those who have trouble and trials and those who seem never to have trouble or trials will die.

Third – God has provided a means of blessing for those who are His children even after their death. God will raise His children into an eternal life of blessing. God’s children are not lost forever to the grave. God’s children have a hope of entering into the blessing of God when they pass from this life into the next.

Therefore, we are not to become afraid, worried, concerned, or even jealous when some men become rich and/or famous. Why? When he dies he can’t take any of the wealth and possessions that he has accumulated during this life time with him into the grave. Even though during his life he counts himself “blessed” or wealthy, he will still die. When he dies, unfaithful, apart from Christ, he will be raised to an eternal life of suffering and punishment.

Why should we not be afraid when trouble comes “a callin’?” It seems God might be dyslexic. The wicked receive blessings and good things in this life because it is all that they will ever have. They can’t take any of it with them when they die. When they die they will receive an eternal life of terrible trouble of the wrath of God.

God’s children receive a life of suffering and sorrow (with some refreshing raindrops of blessing) because that is not all that they will ever have. Their trouble and trials end with their death and they enter into an eternal life of blessings and good things prepared by God.

So, next time a trial, trouble, or tribulation comes knocking on your door, why will you be afraid?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Reality of Theology

How Do We Do Theology?
(Part V)

God has revealed Himself to Us!

We could never know God if God had not chosen to reveal Himself to those whom He had created. God chose to disclose Himself by communicating certain truths about Him which could not be known any other way. God’s revelation of Himself has come in single acts and over a very long period of time.

Experts have chosen to classify this revelation of God to his creatures two ways; general revelation and special revelation.

General Revelation of God

God has revealed Himself in nature, history, and even in the human conscience. God communicates this revelation of some part of Himself though the means of natural events that occur in creation and/or history.

The Revelation of God in Creation

Creation testifies to the conviction that God exists. The universe and all that is in it testify of the manifestation of the power, glory, divinity and even the goodness of God. (See Psalms 8:1, 3; 19:1-2; Isaiah 40:12-14, 26; Acts 14:15-17; Romans 1:19, 20)

The shortcoming of the revelation of God in creation (as if one can classify any shortcoming the revelation of God) is that it leaves man with no excuse of seeking reconciliation with that God which has been revealed, but the revelation of God in creation is insufficient for salvation. The purpose of the general revelation of God in creation is to show mankind that God exists and serves to spur man onward in a search for more complete revelation of God. 

The Revelation of God in History

We find in the Psalms a very interesting concept that demonstrates that God is involved in history. The fortunes, the kingdoms, and the success or failures of kings is in the hand of the Lord. (Psalms 75:6, 7)

We find in the New Testament that God has determined the time, place, the limitations and set man to know God. (Acts 17:26, 27)

We note that God has revealed Himself in the history of the Israel. From the very calling of Abram until the present God has been active in the life and fortunes of the nation of Israel.

God is involved in history. Whether he is setting up a king or tearing a king and kingdom or whether God is determining the time, place, and purpose of your birth, God has revealed Himself within the confines of what we know as history.

The Revelation of God in Conscience

 The human conscience is discriminative and impulsive. The conscience determines whether an action or an attitude is in harmony with a moral standard. The conscience then tells us whether to do the thing that is in harmony with the conscience or to refuse to do that which is in conflict with the human conscience. The prohibitions, commands, decisions and even urges would have no authority if it did not come from a higher and authoritative source. The conscience reveals the fact there is an absolute standard of right and wrong in the universe. Therefore there is a Supreme Law-giver who sets this standard of right and wrong within His own person. 

Special Revelation of God

Special revelation of God is those acts of God where He makes Himself and His Truths know at special times to specific people. Some of these areas in which God had revealed Himself are no longer viable means of knowing God today. They served their purpose in their time and place but as the transitional period came to a close, the revelation of God through inspiration and inscripturation was completed there was no need for special revelation and it ceased. Having said that, let’s take a look at some avenues of special revelation:


A miracle is an unusual event that is accompanied by some useful activity that reveals the presence and power of God.


God has chosen at various times to reveal Himself through the means of a prophet or prophetess. For example Christ’s birth, genealogy, tribe, lineage, place of birth, anointed with the Holy Spirit, a death, burial, and resurrection were all foretold.

Jesus Christ

The general revelation of God did not lead man to a relationship with God. It didn’t even give mankind a clear apprehension of God or His character. Jesus Christ has become the center of both history and creation, God doesn’t speak audibly any longer, He doesn’t speak through Thomas Manton, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Paul, or through the healing of blind eyes, dropsy, deafness, and lameness. He revealed even more of Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is called “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15.) 


We have a revelation of the character and nature of God in the Bible. This is a clear revelation and it is even a perfect one since the bible is inerrant (means not only does it not contain errors, it is incapable of containing errors [in the original autographs].) The scriptures work together with creation, history, and conscience as it records the full extent of God’s revelation to us. The Christian is able to go to the Scriptures and find them to be the only supreme and infallible source for theology.

We are not left in the dark about God and His character or nature. God has revealed Himself. Theology grows out the fact that God has revealed Himself to His creatures. God revealed Himself through general and special revelation in order to reveal all that He determined in His good will that we need to know at this time.

To be continued…

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reading James Chapter Four

James chapter four can be broken into two (2) sections or divisions. The first division or section is verses one through twelve. The second division or section begins in verse thirteen and ends in verse seventeen

In the first section, James describes and rebukes the divisive and destructive behavior by those in the body who have been exhibiting the characteristics prohibited in chapter three and verse fourteen. James writes in what we call a rhetorical format by asking his readers’ questions and then answering them. James rebukes those who are destroying the peace of the various churches that received this letter by condemning their bitterness, jealousies, and selfish ambition.

In the second section James denounces and rebukes the divisive and destructive behavior in the body by those who are wealthy business men. James condemns the sins of the arrogant and wealthy believers.

The Description (4:1-12)

In verses one through three James describes the condition of these Christian communities by asking questions that actually serve to expose the source of the problems. He opens with a diagnostic question, what has caused the fights and quarrels that you are experiencing.  James also asks a hard hitting question to establish or pin-point the exact source of the trouble; from within these believers themselves. These problems are not coming from outside the church but they have risen up due to their own selfish desires.

In verses four through six James denounces the condition of these Christian Communities by administering a sharp rebuke. James’ rebuke covers three (3) major areas. First, the friendship that these believers have adopted with the world makes them spiritual adulterers. These believers have become spiritual idolaters. Second, their flawed view of the authority of the Scriptures. James is probing their attitude toward the bible.  Thirdly, James demonstrates Gold’s response to these individuals is in relation to their inner attitude. 

In verses seven through ten James makes an appeal for these believers to repent of their sin and return to fellowship with God. In this section there are ten imperatives, or commands forming an urgent call by James to correct their attitudes and actions. These commands demand decisive action.

In verses eleven and twelve James makes a plea for these believers to stop their censorship and denunciation of one another. There is no connecting particle between verse ten and verse eleven so some think this is a new section. The context lends itself to seeing verses eleven and twelve continuing the instructions James began in verses seven. As these believers fix their relationship with God, it will then enable them to turn to their fellows believers and fix those relationships which had been broken.

The Denunciation (4:13-17)

In verses thirteen through seventeen James speaks to “businessman” as he demonstrates the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God James states prohibits both arrogance and presumption in their decision making process. James rebukes these believers for acting independently from God and who have become self-willed. James demonstrates the proper attitude of a believer as one who plans and prepares, yet is submitted to the Lord.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ten Things Not to Ask the Lord

Think before you speak or react is a very good policy, don't you think? Sometimes we might not blurt out our questions to God, but have we ever "thought" these questions to God? If one could check in with God and ask Him directly for 10 specific questions He definitely would not want to hear, do you think any of these would make the list? What questions do you think could be added to this list?

10.  Oh no, manna again?

9.  After I hit 490 times I don't have to forgive Deacon Jones any more right?

8.  Since Al Doit volunteered for missions, I don’t have to think about it anymore, right?

7. Are you sure I can’t skip church this week, after all the Giants made the playoffs?

6.  I already gave up one bad habit; do you really want me to give that one up too?

5.  What do you mean “what’s in your wallet?”

4.  Can I have some more leaks, onions, and garlic please?

3.  How can I submit to and love the pastor when he preaches such hard messages?

2.  With all the people you created why do I have to show brotherly love to him?

1.  You expect me to do what?

Thursday, October 21, 2010


He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2, ESV)

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loves us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:10, ESV)

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17, ESV)

Propitiation is the turning away of God’s holy wrath by the providing of an offering. The New Testament uses the Greek words ιλασκομαι, and ιλασμος. These words carry the idea of averting the wrath of God.

Contrary to what people think, part of God’s glorious character is His wrath. The idea of God’s wrath is deeply rooted in both the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament God’s wrath is referred to some 585 times. God forgives sin and that forgiveness includes the turning away of God’s wrath from the one who is forgiven.

Romans chapter one makes it very clear that God has unleashed His wrath toward those who are unrepentant and outside of His family. The Bible makes it clear that man receives a just reward of punishment because God’s wrath is directed toward sinners.

What is amazing to us as believers is that God Himself  provides the means of turning away His wrath from us. God demonstrated His love in the fact that He provided His unique Son to be that which turned His wrath away from us. The very purpose that Jesus was born of Mary was to become the offering, the only offering that would turn away the wrath of God from the sinner.

Wrath, anger, and indignation are integral parts of the glorious and magnificent character of God. These character traits are exhibited and directed at sin. God’s love seems to spontaneously arise from His character; However wrath is generated by the wickedness of those whom God has created. All opposition to God’s Holiness and righteousness evokes the wrath of God.

Please be aware that the wrath of God is not so much as an emotional frame of mind nor is it a “knee-jerk” reaction such as anger. God’s wrath is a settled opposition to unholiness and unrighteousness. This is why we see the wrath of God in its effects upon sin and sinners. 

We find particularly in the New Testament the call to repentance and faith in the means of the turning away of the wrath of God and from the wrath which is to come (I Thessalonians 1:9-10.) The good news for man is that Jesus Christ, a lamb provided by God, who took upon Himself the sin that offended God’s holiness and righteousness and suffered the wrath of God averted God’s wrath from those who in faith repent.

Propitiation – a great word!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Did I Miss That?

“Trust in the LORD will all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)

This passage is one of the most quoted bible verses when it comes to determining God’s will particularly in relationship to a specific item in your life. Usually, because of its longevity and former popularity, the KJV is quoted:

“Trust in the LORD will thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV)

The last phrase of verse six lends itself to the development of a mental picture of God actually leading someone onto and then down the correct path. We search for this “image” in regards to a particular decision that we need to make from time to time. These two verses are the “life verses” of a number of people. They believe very sincerely that God will lead them into a very specific answer when needed.

We all come to these dilemmas or crossroads in life when we need to make a tough choice. For example, at some point we had to decide to marry and then choose a person. Looking for the “one” is tough. Other decisions are just as tough such as what college or university to attend, what career to embark on, or which house to buy. Traditionally it has always been comforting to know that I could “whip out” this handy gem and “hold God to His Word.”

Well, sometimes good old fashioned and hard study destroys traditional Christian “good-luck” charms. Don’t get hyper or if you do grab a paper bag and hang on.

The first thing we have to do is discover what did the original author have in mind when he wrote this. In our case, the author was King Solomon, son of King David. 

Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries state that the wording of 3:6b is “…and He shall make your paths strait, smooth, or successful.” The noun “path” is used in both Psalms and Proverbs. When used it signifies a general course of life or the “fortunes” of life. When the verb “make straight” or “make smooth” is used with the noun “paths,” the meaning is “He shall make the course of your life successful.” Now, hold on a minute, this is not a health and wealth prosperity pitch.  Stay with me!

Proverbs 11:5 says, “The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.” This verse contrasts the righteous man who experiences true success in life with the wicked man who brings trouble upon Himself by his own wicked behavior. This is a common thread that runs through Proverbs.

The point of Proverbs 3:5-6 is those who trust in God and trust in His wisdom rather than their own humanistic understandings and they acknowledge God in each area of their life will reap a life that is successful by God’s standards.

You and I both know that God’s view of success is not the same as the world’s view. Therefore, when God promises you a harvest of “success” from His standards it may be that you have been laid off from your job and you may lose your home to foreclosure. The success is that you treasure God more than brick and mortar; you are trusting in God rather than your own ingenuity etc. This is not a blanket promise of basket full of goodies. It is not a promise that God will steer you in every specific decision you will ever make. As you mature in Christ, God gives more and more freedom to His children to make their own choices within His revealed moral will.

It is promise that trusting God rather than trusting yourself and surrendering every area of your life to Him is far better than living according to your own strategy.

It was a little disconcerting to me to find that I had misinterpreted and misapplied my “life’s verse” all these years. I was stunned to learn that this verse had nothing to do with guidance or direction. I am pleased that when I comply with the truth or principle in this passage God will bless me with His approval.

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to study so diligently, or does it?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

RIP, really?

Most of you know by now that TV “Mom” Barbara Billingsley died this past Saturday. I don’t know much about Miss Billingsley other than what I garnered as a small child by watching the re-runs of “Leave it to Beaver.” 

Tributes, biographies, and memorials have been produced extoling her life and her many accomplishments. She seems to have been loved and appreciated by many people as a result of that early situation comedy.

I have heard all of my life that, “They go in threes.” Each time an actor, singer, or highly profiled individual dies I find myself scanning the news to see who else might have died within a few days of the report. I certainly don’t wish nor take joy in the deaths of one, or two, or even three famous people. I am simply curious.

One of the things said about anyone who passes is, “May they rest in peace.” We have quite possibly unintentionally immortalized that short but sentimental phrase. It is said when speaking of a past loved one and when we hear of the death of an individual whether we actually knew them or not. We have even abbreviated this phrase to RIP. It is almost universally recognized even in this form.

You have seen it I know. Whether it was on a tombstone, in a newspaper clipping, in a cartoon, or even in an editorial, we express this sentiment. I think this phrase, rest in peace, becomes even more verbalized when a particularly troubled, or “haunted” individual dies. This sentiment is offered as if it is a reward for the suffering, hardship, or heart-ache one experienced in while living.

What troubles me the most is to hear so many Christians use this phrase. I hear it spoken over or about so many individuals and situations that it troubles me. It is offered or at least expressed over some of the least likely candidates whom will actually experience or enjoy eternal peace.

Now, I know the cards and letters (email) will pour in wondering if at best I have lost my mind or at worst, am I a horrible monster waiting to be slain. I can assure you that I am neither. I have not lost my mind nor am I a horrible monster.

First, let me assure you that I don’t know anything about the spiritual life and eternal residence of anyone including Miss Barbara Billingsley. This post is not in reference to her nor is in reference to anyone specifically.

Second, let me assure you that I don’t know the hearts of any individual nor do I know who is written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

Third, I am like many of you when it comes to the spiritual condition of some folks. I will be as surprised as you by some whom we meet in heaven and if it is possible, we may be shocked by those whom we don’t find. (I am the most surprised that I was granted eternal life.)

So, you say, what is your point? Well, I am glad you asked. I think we need to be careful what we say, even at the most vulnerable times such as the loss of an individual. Even while comforting those who are grieving we need to think and keep watch on our words Yes, even when we are using words such as, “rest in peace.”

Why? Truth is still truth. We need to be very cognizant of biblical truth. What does the scripture say?

“…the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace says my God, for the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:20-21, ESV)

It might make us feel good to say those words. It might make the bereaved feel somewhat comforted. The truth of the matter is that there is no peace, no resting in peace for those who die apart from the grace and salvation of the living God.

We, especially as believers need to be reminded constantly that there is no peace and no hope for those outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be reminded so that we faithfully, fervently, and frequently share the gospel with every individual that we possibly can.

Granted, there is nothing we can do for those who have passed on, particularly those who did not know Christ. I don’t think we need to be setting up opinion polls and surveys as who made heaven and who did not. I don’t think we need to needlessly and cruelly afflict those who are grieving. I just want us to think about what we say, even in moments of tender and compassionate comforting of those who lost loved ones.

The reality of heaven and hell of salvation and damnation needs to be constantly before us. If it isn’t we become complacent.

No big deal here, just something I thought of as I read and hear a proliferation of RIP.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rescue the Perishing

Fanny J. Crosby is probably one of the most prolific hymn writers of all times. She wrote over 8,000 hymns during her life time. Of course most of you know that she was blinded as an infant and never regained her sight. Almost all American hymnals contain numerous songs that she penned.

Crosby did not spend her life in bitterness and defeat, but instead dedicated her life to Jesus Christ. At the age of eight she wrote these verses about her condition:

Oh what a happy soul I am,
Although I cannot see;
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy,
That other people don't;
To weep and sigh because I'm blind,
I cannot, and I won't."

She also wrote these sentiments:

It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.”

She also once said, "When I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior"

One song she wrote in particular deals with one of the most tragic words in the English language; perishing. This is word so vividly describes death or destruction. Jesus and the bible use this word to describe people who are spiritually alienated from God.

She described the writing of this hymn in this manner:

“I remember writing that hymn in the year 1869. Like many of my hymns, it was written following a personal experience at the New York City Bowery Mission. I usually tried to get to the mission at least one night a week to talk to ‘my boys.’ I was addressing a large company of working men one hot summer evening when the thought kept forcing itself on my mind that some mother’s boy must be rescued that night or he might be eternally lost. So I made a pressing plea that if there was a boy present who had wandered form his mother’s home and teaching, he should come to me at the end of the service. A young man of 18 came forward –

‘Did you mean me, Miss Crosby? I promised my mother to meet her in heaven, but as I am now living, that will be impossible.’

We prayed for him and suddenly he arose with a new light in his eyes – ‘Now I am ready to meet my mother in heaven, for I have found God.’

A few days before this event, William Doane, who was a composer of music and who had composed music for a number of Crosby hymns had sent her a tune. This tune became the music for a song entitled “Rescue the Perishing.” This song is based on Luke 14:23, “And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in that my house may be filled.” (ESV)

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grace;

Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen; tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

Every human being has been created in the image of God and this alone gives human life intrinsic value and dignity. So, regardless of race, color, sex, or social standing, each human being is worthy of being rescued from eternal damnation. Our duty is to share the gospel with every creature, and to pray for those who are lost. The increase is left to our loving and sovereign God, to whom all glory, honor, and power belongs.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Need for Theology

Why is Theology Important?
(Part III)

 The Need for Theology

Is there a need for theology? If I go to church, read my bible, and love Jesus, isn’t that enough? 

Unfortunately, due to gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of theology, theology has gotten a bad rap. Theology is often portrayed as something for scholars that seem to be far above the “average” Christian in the pew.

Look at how H. L. Mencken viewed theology, “A theologian is like a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat which isn’t there - and finding it!” H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

The above quote by Charles H. Spurgeon reads, "I learned when I was a boy that the chief end of man was to glorify God and enjoy Him forever: but I hear now according to the new theology that the chief end of God is to glorify man and to enjoy man forever, yet this is the turning of things upside down. "  This stems from ignoring biblical theology.

Others charge “theology” with being divisive and antithetical to developing unity within the body of Christ. One can certainly point to the myriad of denominations that have developed over so called doctrinal differences. Almost every day a new “flavor” of the month opens up in a community near you as a result of some difference in bible doctrine.

I am here to tell you that theology is definitely needed. Theology is not some abstract theory for the erudite. Theology is simply biblical doctrine recorded in the Scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let me give you three reasons why theology and a study of biblical, systematic theology are needed.

Reason One

Theology is needed due to the fact that accurate doctrinal beliefs are essential to the relationship between you as a believer and God.

Biblical theology teaches us about God and His character. It tells us how and in what manner we may approach God and conduct a relationship. Theology informs us as how we are able to come to know and delight in the God of biblical revelation.

Simply having a warm and fuzzy emotional feeling about God is not enough. We must have accurate information and understanding in order to love, serve, obey, and cherish God.

Jeremiah made this point clear when he said,

 Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the
mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,  but let
him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am
the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV
emphasis mine)

Theology is needed in order to define and establish a relationship with our God. Theology is not extraneous. God has explained how we may understand Him and how we may know Him.

Reason Two

Theology is needed since truth and experience are related.

We live in an age where many “believers” do not want their experiences hindered, interpreted, or governed by biblical truth. Someone once shouted at me in a rather heated manner during a discussion, “I don’t care what the bible says, I know what I experienced.” Experience seems to “trump” biblical doctrine, or theology more and more these days.

This story has been told more than once but it still demonstrates the fact that experience is governed by truth:

“A , man who falls from the tenth story may shout as he passes each window on the way down, ‘I’m still doing fine,’ and he may very well mean it. However, eventually the facts or the truth of the matter will catch up with his experience.”

The meaning of biblical truth has significant bearing upon experiences. We cannot deny biblical truths in order to validate personal experiences.

Reason Three

Theology is needed because of the proliferating false doctrines and false teachers

How serious is the problem of false teaching? Does the Bible contain many warnings about religious error and false teachers? Should we compromise and overlook differences in doctrine and fellowship people regardless of their errors? How important is spiritual truth? How concerned should we be about false prophets?

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false
teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even
denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift
destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the
way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with
false words.”  (II Peter 2:2-3, ESV)

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith
by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,  through
the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and
require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving
by those who believe and know the truth.” (II Timothy 4:1-2, ESV)

There are so many false teachings and doctrines today that I wonder
if they can be numbered. The “isms” are rampant and are designed to
deceive. We have humanism, secularism, cults, eastern religions, the 
Emergent Church, psychology, and more seeking to erode biblical
teaching and principles. 
The answer is not to roll over and play dead or listen to the “siren call
that begs us to play nice.”  The answer is not simply to try to identify
false doctrine and then debate it, but we need to become even more
proficient at understanding biblical doctrine or theology. The answer
isn’t simply to lay down our bibles and throw out anything that is
seemingly divisive or prohibits “unity.” 
How does the treasury department train its agents to detect
counterfeit money? They do not have them study counterfeit bills.
They have their agents examine numerous samples of genuine
money. They have them look at it, feel it, and scrutinize it. When the
agents are given counterfeit money the agents immediately recognize
When it comes to understanding biblical theology or doctrine we don’t
need to study the false teachings of all the “isms,” we simply need to
study the Scriptures, learn biblical doctrine or theology and when the
counterfeit appears we will know it immediately.
After all that is why Christ told Timothy and the church through the
apostle Paul, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that
needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  But shun profane
and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (II Timothy
2:15-16, KJV)

To be continued…