Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thankfulness Enriched by Relief

The more absorbed I am in the gospel, the more grateful I become in the midst of my circumstances, whatever they may be.
Viewing life's blessings as water in a drinking cup, I know that I discontentedly focus on the half of the cup that seems empty, or I could gratefully focus on the half that is full. Certainly, the latter approach is the better of the two, yet the gospel cultivates within me a richer gratitude than this.
The gospel reminds me first that what I actually deserve from God is a full cup churning with the torments of His wrath. This is the cup that would be mine to drink if I were given what I deserve each day. With this understanding in mind, I see that to be handed a completely empty cup from God would be cause enough for infinite gratitude. If there were merely the tiniest drop of blessing contained in that otherwise empty cup, I should be blown away by the unbelievable kindness of God toward me. That God, in fact, has given me a cup that is full of "every spiritual blessing in Christ," and this without the slightest admixture of wrath, leaves me truly dumbfounded with inexpressible joy. As for my specific earthly circumstances of plenty or want, I can see them always as infinite improvements on the hell I deserve.
When I look at any circumstance that God apportions me, I am first grateful for the wrath I am not receiving in that moment. (The empty part of the cup never looked so good!)
Secondly, I am grateful for the blessings that are given to me instead of His wrath. (Life's blessings, however small, always appear exceedingly precious when viewed against the backdrop of the wrath I deserve.) This two-layered gratitude disposes my heart to give thanks in all things and it also lends a certain intensity to my giving of thanks. Such a gospel-generated gratitude glorifies God, contributes to peace of mind, and keeps my foot from the path of foolishness and ruin.
What do you think?
from Milton Vincent's, A Gospel Primer for Christians, pp. 47-48

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What is Ungodliness?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18 ESV) “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk with spread like gangrene.” (2Ti 2:16 -17 ESV) “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self–controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age...” (Tit 2:12 ESV) The average believer is rarely aware of the danger of ungodliness in their lives. The reason for this is that we typically reserve the use of this word for those who we categorize as the most wicked, evil, or sinful people. We tend to think of “ungodly” as the opposite of Godly. As a result we fail to see how we as believers who love the Lord could be guilty of such behavior. The confusion comes from understanding the meaning of the word. It basically means to have or be guilty of a want of reverence towards God, or in other words an attitude of impiety. Let’s look at this way, anomia is a disregard for or a defiance of the law’s of God. With this type of an attitude, one has absolutely no respect or allegiance to any of the commandments of God. There is a blatant absence of a proper attitude towards God’s laws. Asebea, ungodliness, is the same type of attitude, except this attitude is towards God himself. An ungodly person may not necessarily be engaged in any particular sinful or evil behavior, though we see Paul warning against irreverent babble, worldly passions, or a lack of self-control in these afore mentioned scripture references. An ungodly person may simply have a disrespect attitude or a complete disregard for the person of God, which arguably some would construe as evil or wicked behavior. The point is simple, one does not have to be involved in wicked and sinful behavior to be ungodly. One can even be a believer, saved, washed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and still be ungodly in attitude or action. Let me give you at least five (5) ways that anyone, including a believer can be considered, particularly by God, as ungodly. If you see that you are guilty of even one of these ways, stop right now, repent and renounce this behavior and cry out to God for mercy and forgiveness of being so guilty of such horrific sin against our Lord and Savior. May the goodness of God lead us all to repentance and an abhorrence of any of these things. Ungodliness: Living with little or no thought of God in our daily activities
Living with little or no thought of God’s glory
Living with little or no thought of dependence upon God
Living with little or no thought of accountability to God
Living with little or no thought of an intimate relationship with our God
What do you think?

Friday, September 25, 2009

What’s The Plan?

"If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail," someone once said.
Sir John Harvey-Jones wrote: "Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression." As I open my devotions in the morning with the Lord, one thing that I thank God for is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ which makes my time of devotion with Him possible. I like to periodically read Hebrews 10: 19-25 back to the Lord. I know He wrote that and is well aware of it, but just the same I am moved by the fact that Jesus provided access to the Father for me by his own blood. Also, in that familiar passage is the admonition to each of us to “... consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24 ESV) As I called my Adult Bible Class to order this past Lord’s Day, I asked the class, “how can we do this, what do we do this morning as we meet together to stir up one another to love and good works?” Quite frankly I was amazed. The class did not know how to respond. In other words there were no suggestions offered that would instruct and encourage each of us to be obedient to this scripture. It dawned on me that if we don’t talk about and develop plans to stir one another up, we won’t. I write this not to embarrass my class but to point out if we don’t determine goals, develop a plan, and work that plan (with a willingness to reevaluate and with a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit) we will fail to be obedient to the many admonitions to help, serve, love, support, teach, admonish, build up, edify, encourage, and/or rebuke the body of Christ. Needless to say, I am in the process of drawing up some specific and concrete things that we can do as we gather together in order to be obedient to this scriptural mandate. I am hoping we can plan ways of stirring up one another rather than planning on failing because we have no idea at all how to accomplish this goal.
What do you think?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eat, Drink, and be Merry?

This post is in response to Eddie Eddings last comment:
I couldn't agree with you more. Normally I don't mess around with anything Hybel's or Willow Creek does but when I read that article I was angry, broken hearted, amazed, and flabbergasted. Instead of commenting on it I decided to reproduce it and let it be its own comment. Spiritual growth can't be put on hold - you are either moving forward or backwards, there is no "holding zone."
Here is the fatal danger in designing a ministry around "what people want." Apart from the moving and working of Christ in our lives we don't want to be accountable, responsible, or expend the energy necessary to die daily in order to conquer sin.
No more bloated air conditioning bills for a room that’s only half full,” he said, eyes gleaming. “All that money being saved for God’s kingdom and not being wasted on a scant congregation that would rather be on vacation anyway. It’s a beautiful thing.”
I wonder what those who are part of the "scant congregation" are thinking? Gee, I am not worthy of the dollars it takes to keep the doors open for a service that is to be designed for the worship and glory of God?
What happened to, "I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Psalms 122:1, ESV)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Greatest Menace to the Church

"The greatest menace to the Christian Church today comes not from the enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within the Church of a type of faith and practice that is anti-Christian to the core." —J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Is Systematic Theology?

Systematic theology is a study of biblical topics or doctrines. Systematic theology includes the idea of collecting, evaluating, and understanding all of the relevant passages in the bible on a particular subject or theme which is then summarized in such a manner that the student clearly understands all that is said in the bible about that particular subject. In other words, when a study is completed on a particular subject it is clear what is too believed about that subject.
This definition of theology leads us to conclude that there are at least four (5) aspects involved: • Choosing a topic within the bible to study • Collecting all of the scriptural passages on that particular topic • Evaluating all that is said within context concerning that topic • Summarizing those passages related to the particular subject • Understanding clearly what the bible teaches about the subject I have to say that “doing theology” is not as complicated as this definition has made it sound. The question that naturally comes up at this point is why should Christians study theology in the first place? Why should a believer spend the time once an interest in a particular topic has been established to collect, evaluate, and summarize all relevant passages? Shouldn’t just reading the bible be enough? Jesus made it clear that as his disciples we are to teach and observe all, or everything that he commanded while he was here on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) In order to teach all that Jesus had commanded we need to know what he taught, but also what did he mean by what he taught? It is important to note that the great commission is not just evangelism, but it also includes teaching. We are to teach the entire bible. To effectively teach the bible and what Jesus taught we need collect, evaluate, and summarize biblical passages in order to first understand them, and second to teach them to others. What this means is that we are all “theologians.” You are a theologian, the question is, are you a good one or a bad one? Do you know what the bible teaches about the Church, or about the end times, or about salvation and redemption, or about angels? Let’s look at an example shall we? If you wanted to know what does the bible teach
about the atonement, you could start at Genesis 1:1 and read until you came to Revelation 22:21. Now you would learn everything the bible taught about atonement, but that would take a long time and a lot of reading. We can teach ourselves and others by looking to systematic theology and seeing what has already been collected, evaluated, and summarized about atonement. So, the basic reason to become students of theology is to teach both yourself and others what the bible teaches on any given topic. Let me ask you then... are you doing?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Come, Let Us Sing Unto The Lord!

"Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. "Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory." (Isaiah 48:8-13 ESV) Today marks twenty-one (21) days of being out of work. I thank God that He is a sovereign God who knows the beginning from the end. I realize that this passage deals with Israel and his promises to them. Yet I also know that God knew the day the decision was made by those guys who make the decision to close our branch and end our jobs. Not only did God know that day, He knows the day the phone will ring and I will be back among the employed. I thank God that I know Him, more than that, I thank God that He knows me.
There are over 13% in our county (highest in WA state) that are also out of work and many of those people do not have the assurance that I have, that I can come to God, boldly, in the time of need and find grace and help. My heart goes out to them and I pray for them as well. What is heart breaking is a job is not going to matter for many in light of eternity. They need Christ! How can we reach them with the good news? I don’t know what God has in store for me during this time. He certainly is not under any obligation to explain Himself to me. I am grateful for everyone who has emailed me to tell me that they are praying for me. Thank you everyone! Join me as I praise the ever living, righteousness, magnificent and loving God whom there is none like anywhere: Come; let us sing unto the Lord New songs of praise with sweet accord For wonders great by Him are done His hand and arm have victory won All lands, to God lift up your voice Sing praise to him with shouts rejoice With voice of joy and loud acclaim Let all unite and praise His name.
(Based on the 98th Psalm; Associate Reformed Presbyterian Psalter; Trinity Hymnal # 15)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Vain Self-Flattery of the Sinner

Edificatory Exposure to Edwards!
The Vain Self-Flatteries of the Sinner by Jonathan Edwards
Edward's teaches that sinners flatter themselves with the hope of impunity.
Psalms 36:2, "For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful." In the foregoing verse, David says, “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes;” that is, when he saw that the wicked went on in sin, in an allowed way of wickedness, it convinced him, that he was not afraid of those terrible judgments, and of that wrath with which God hath threatened sinners. If the sinner were afraid of these, he could never go on so securely in sin, as he doth.
It was a strange thing that men, who enjoyed such light as they did in the land of Israel, who read and heard those many awful threatenings which were written in the book of the law, should not be afraid to go on in sin. But saith the Psalmist, They flatter themselves in their own eyes: they have something or other which they make a foundation of encouragement, whereby they persuade themselves that they shall escape those judgments, and that makes them put far away the evil day.
In this manner he proceeds, until his iniquity be found to be hateful; that is, until he finds by experience that it is a more dreadful thing to sin against God, and break his holy commands, than he imagined. He thinks sin to be sweet, and hides it as a sweet morsel under his tongue. He loves it and flatters himself in it, till at length he finds, by experience, that it is bitter as gall and wormwood. Though he thinks the commission of sin to be lovely, yet he will find the fruit of it to be hateful, and what he cannot endure. Pro 23:32, “At last it will bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder.” Here observe, the subject spoken of is the wicked man, of whom the Psalmist had been speaking in the foregoing verse. — His action in flattering himself in his own eyes; i.e. he makes himself and his case to appear to himself, or in his own eyes, better than it is.
How long he continues so to do, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. Which may be taken for either his sin itself, the wicked will see how odious sin is to God, when he shall feel the effects of his hatred, and how hateful to angels and saints. Or rather the cause is here put for the effect, the tree for its fruit, and he will find his iniquity to be hateful, as he will find the hatefulness and feel the terribleness of the fruit of his iniquity. — Hence it appears that Wicked men generally flatter themselves with hopes of escaping punishment, till it actually comes upon them.
There are but few sinners who despair, who give up the cause and conclude with themselves, that they shall go to hell. Yet there are but few who do not go to hell. It is to be feared that many go to hell every day out of this country. Yet very few of them suffer themselves to believe that they are in any great danger of that punishment. They go on sinning and traveling in the direct road to the pit; yet by one they persuade themselves that they shall never fall into it,
Sinners flatter themselves with the hope of impunity. WE are so taught in the Word of God, Deu. 29:18, 19, “Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God. Lest there should he among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood, and it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst.”
Where it is supposed that they whose hearts turn away from God, and are roots that bear gall and wormwood, generally bless themselves in their hearts, saying, We shall have peace.
See also Psa. 49:17, 18, “When he dieth, he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him, though while he lived, he blessed his soul.” And Psa. 50:21, “These things thou hast done, and I kept silence: thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thee.”
It is very evident that sinners flatter themselves that they shall escape punishment, otherwise they would be in dreadful and continual distress. They could never live and go about so cheerfully as they now do. Their lives would be filled with sorrow and mourning, and they would be in continual uneasiness and distress, as much as those that are exercised with some violent pain of body. But it is apparent that men are careless and secure, that they are not much concerned about future punishment, and that they cheerfully pursue their business and recreations.
Therefore they undoubtedly flatter themselves, that they shall not be eternally miserable in hell, as they are threatened in the Word of God. It is evident that they flatter themselves with hopes that they shall escape punishment. Otherwise they would certainly be restrained, at least from many of those sins in which they now live. They would not proceed in willful courses of sin. The transgression of the wicked convinced the Psalmist, and is enough to convince everyone, that there is no fear of God before his eyes, and that he flatters himself in his own eyes. It would be impossible for men allowably from day to day to do those very things which they know are threatened with everlasting destruction, if they did not some way encourage themselves [that] they should nevertheless escape that destruction.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mortifying the Flesh with Fullness

I read this portion this morning during my devotions and it was very informative and very moving. I think it is worth posting here. Please take a care look at it - I think it will be a real blessing to you. It comes from Milton Vincent's A Gospel Primer.
Though saved, I am daily beset by a sinful flesh that always craves those things that are contrary to the Spirit. These fleshly lusts are vicious enemies, constantly waging war against the good of my soul. Yet they promise me fullness, and their promises are so deliciously sweet that I often find myself giving into them as if they were friends that have my best interests at heart.
On the most basic of levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands. When my soul sits empty and is aching for something to fill it, such deceptive promises are extremely difficult to resist.
Consequently, the key to mortifying fleshly lusts is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel. Indeed, it is in the gospel that I experience a God who glorifies Himself by filling me with His fullness. He is the One, Paul says, "who fills all in all." He is the One who "fills all things" with the gifts He gives. And He lavishes gospel blessings upon me with the goal that I "be filled up to all the fullness of God." This is the God of the gospel, a God who is satisfied with nothing less than my experience of fullness in Him! The first command God spoke in the Garden was, "eat freely." And with similar insistence He says to me now, "be filled.
"What happens to my appetites for sin when I am filled with the fullness of God in Christ? Jesus provides this answer: "He who continually comes to Me will never hunger or thirst again." Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all of His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply lose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free. Eyes do not rove, nor do fleshly lusts rule, when the heart is fat with the love of Jesus!
Preaching the gospel to myself each day keeps before me the startling advocacy of God for my fullness, and it also serves as a means by which I feast anew on the fullness of provision that God has given to me in Christ. "Eating freely" of such provision keeps me occupied with God's blessings and also leaves me with a profoundly enjoyable sense of satisfaction in Jesus. And nothing so mortifies fleshly lusts like satisfaction in Him.

Why Four Gospels? Part II

We come back to the question, Why four gospels? We are trying to answer that question by providing four distinct reasons. Last time we looked at the first reason. The first reason was seen by examining their Distinctive Peculiarities. We stated that each gospel has at least two distinctive peculiarities – their design and their deficiency. Now we will look their Distinctive Purpose. Why four gospels? Well, because one or maybe even two gospels would not have been sufficient enough to give to us a perfect presentation of Jesus Christ. Each gospel when studied carefully reveals a distinctive purpose. Let’s take a moment and examine the distinctive purpose of each gospel. We will begin with Matthew Matthew was written to present to the Jewish nation Jesus as Messiah and King. Matthew is considered the Jewish gospel. Matthew presents the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in such a way so that it appeals to the Jewish mind, particularly for the Jew who knows his Old Testament. Matthew presupposes knowledge of the Old Testament. Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. His message is, “Behold, your King.” All the material that he chooses to use or not use supports his primary purpose. Matthew crafted his gospel to demonstrate Jesus’ messianic identity, his inheritance of the Davidic kingship over Israel, and that he is the fulfillment of the promise made to his ancestor Abraham to be a blessing to all the nations. Matthew wrote his gospel for at least three (3) specific reasons: to encourage and confirm the persecuted Jewish Christians in their faith to confute their opponents and to prove that the gospel was not a contradiction of the teachings of the Old Testament. He makes 65 references to the OT! Only Jews would have appreciated and benefited from such references. to prove that the gospel is a fulfillment of the promises made to both Abraham and David The Jews needed a clear proof of the nature of Christ’s person and mission along with a clear refutation of the objections of unbelieving Jews. Next, let’s look at the purpose of Mark. Matthew traces the spread of the gospel to the dispersion of the Jews that came on the heels of the stoning of Stephen. Then the gospel, or the good news, spread from Judea to Samaria. At Caesarea a Roman centurion became a Christian. Acts records for us the forward movement of the gospel through Syria, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, and to Rome. Many people became converts – the majority of these converts were Romans. So the time came for a gospel designed specifically for Romans. The tradition states that many Roman believers asked Mark to write down the preaching and teaching of Peter. So it seems that after Peter and Paul’s death in Rome, Mark took some time and wrote what he had learned and heard from Peter. What did he learn?
Well Mark presents Jesus as the servant and prophet. The Romans were active people. They were interested in actions & activities. Romans didn’t care about beginnings or pedigrees. Jesus is in the world to do, to do the will of God. Mark’s ultimate purpose seems to be to present and defend Jesus’ universal call to discipleship and service. As you read Mark you see that Mark designs his gospel to categorize his audience as either a follower or an opponent of Jesus Christ. Mark clearly delineates that discipleship is a relationship with Jesus not merely following a certain code of conduct. In other words, you be active in faith. Mark writes primary to a gentile audience. It appears that his audience is the Romans. His message is, “Behold My Servant.” Third, we move to Luke. Luke was moved by the desire to confirm Theophilus in the faith of Christianity. Theophilus had become a believer and needed further instruction and confirmation in his new found faith. On a secondary level, it is agreed through church history that Luke’s gospel was also intended for a public distribution. It seems that Luke’s gospel was intended to be released to the Greek public, or to Greek Christians. Many who heard the gospel were bi or even tri-lingual, the primary language was Greek. At Antioch the gospel had been given to Greeks. So a need for a gospel suited to the Greek mind became evident. In keeping with the Greek mind this gospel would have to have a world-outlook. It would have to be excellent in its form, presentation, and style. God knew this and used Luke to produce this gospel that would appeal to Greek Christians. Luke reveals the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke presents Jesus as the Perfect Man. As a matter of fact the only perfect man to have ever lived. Luke presents Jesus in any number of circumstances with all types of people. Luke’s message is, “Behold, the Son of Man.” So, in trying to answer the question, why four Gospels, we see that first of all each gospel had distinctive peculiarities which we saw in both their design and deficiency, and that each gospel has distinctive purposes which we saw displayed in a three fold view of Jesus given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We move to the third reason that answers the question, why four gospels? We see their Distinctive Preferences. There are really only two (2) preferences that I want to bring out and each one can be seen briefly. These preferences are their chronological meter and their cataloging of material. Let’s look first at Their Chronological Meter If we did not have John, and only had the first three gospels it would appear that Christ only attended one Passover in Jerusalem and that his ministry only lasted approximately one (1) year. John records 3; if not 4 Passovers and more than one visit to Jerusalem and give us the chronology of a three + year ministry by Jesus. The three gospels center on the ministry of Jesus in Galilee and the surrounding areas. John focuses more on Jesus various visits to Jerusalem to observe various feasts Finally, we also see their preferences in their Cataloging of their Material. The center of the OT is the manifestation of the glory of God revealed to his chosen people. John declares that this glory appears essentially in Christ. Each of the gospels catalog specific material akin to their purpose. None of the gospels contradicts the other gospels, including John. John, written last, and possibly some 20-30 years after the others, does not set out to find the errors in the other gospels in order to correct them. John does imply knowledge of other events in Jesus’ life that he does not record or tell us about. He just catalogs what is necessary to his peculiar purpose or design. Well, we wrap up this lesson on why four gospels, with a look at their Distinctive Partisanship. It should be obvious by now that each gospel stand independently on their unique purpose and design. These gospels can not be harmonized perfectly or completely. They were written as God directed through inspiration to complete a divinely ordained task. Just like the democrats, the republicans, and the independent party have their own partisan platform, the gospels have theirs. Remember - the gospels were not written to complete each other. They were written for specific purposes directly related to what the individual writers intended to say. Look for that purpose and interpret accordingly. When you interpret accordingly you can then make proper applications. Matthew – partisan to the Jewish Christians with an OT background Mark – partisan to the Roman Christians who were concerned about action Luke – partisan to the Greek Christians who were contemplative & intellectual
Secondly, I want you to Resist -, trying to synthesize them when you study these gospels individually. Don’t try and put them together. Use them together to properly interpret scripture but don’t try to harmonize them.
Thirdly, I want you to Recognize their individuality, their unique and specific purpose, their definite partisanship and increase your knowledge of the gospel and of Jesus Christ.
Next week we will take a look at the purpose of John. See ya then!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Would You Join Me In Prayer?

I have been contemplating for the last couple of years to return to pastoral ministries. I have been mulling over for the last couple of years whether or not to plant a new church, and where to plant this new church or to seek an existing church in need of a Teaching Pastor.
What has made this decision difficult is three things:
1. My gift is Teaching, supported by administration. I am a teacher. I am committed to evangelism but do not consider myself to be gifted as an evangelist. I feel it will be difficult for a Teacher to plant a work vs an evangelist. However, I am committed to the fact that one plants, one waters, but it is our Sovereign God who gives the increase of His choosing. So, it is not me nor any evangelist who "builds" the church - it is God. To Him be the glory forever and ever!
2. I have no "organizational" backing. I was unable to continue as a member of the IFCA due to my commitment to the Doctrines of Grace. The last year that I was a member, the doctrinal statement, which had to be both subscribed to and signed each year, contained a prohibition against holding a position of limited atonement. Since I believe the cross was limited to those whom God determined to redeem I could not subscribe to nor sign the doctrinal statement. Since leaving the IFCA I have fellowshipped with "independent" churches. So, I would be planting a new work without the backing, support, or even prayers of an "organization."
3. I have made the commitment to begin with people whom God has specifically supplied and not "stolen" sheep from existing fellowships or by collecting disgruntled church hoppers with a consumer mind set. As a result I have waited for someone to come along who shared my similar convictions and beliefs.
I have made the decision to plant the Christ Community Church in Longview, WA. I recognize that man proposes, Proverbs 16:33 "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." I also know that I can make decisions, and have, that have been by my own desire rather than actually having come from the Lord. So, I have decided to make a decision and then pray for the next two weeks, along with periods of secret fasting in order to see if this decision is from the Lord or from merely myself. I ask you to join me in concentrated and regular prayer for the next two weeks for either confirmation or non-conformation concerning my decision.
I believe as I make a decision that God will either give me peace or unrest, open the doors or close doors, lead further into this decision or lead me away from this decision and towards His will. I rest in Psalms 37:4 that if I meditate on the Word, and seek God with my whole heart, that He will give to me His desires in my heart and that my desires will be His desires for His glory.
Will you pray with me and I trust that as September 25th rolls around that God has clearly revealed His will one way or the other?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Review: Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography

Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography
Iain Murray The Banner of Truth Trust D. Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote of Jonathan Edwards: “No man is more relevant to the present conditions of Christianity than Jonathan Edwards... He was a mighty theologian and a great evangelist at the same time. If you want to know anything bout true revival, Edwards is the man to consult. My advice is read Jonathan Edwards. Go back to something solid and deep and real.” Murray records these words in his preface; “Imperfect as it is, it has cost me much time and labor; much more than I thought of when I undertook it’, so writes Samuel Hopkins on the completion of his Life and Character of the Late Reverend Jonathan Edwards in 1761. Subsequent writers on Edwards have probably all experienced similar difficulty.” The book is well done, an easy and exciting read about this legendary pastor, theologian, and College President. It is one of those stories that grips you and you can not put it down until long after your eyes are tired and strained from trying to squeeze out every word from each page. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography begins with an introduction that is designed to help us understand the man who is the subject of this great book. A number of descriptions and opinions are drawn together for your consideration from previous biographers and writers. The book then develops the life, background, ministry, and accomplishments over twenty three chapters. This book consists of four hundred seventy two pages with the addition of four appendixes. Strengths: The first thing that I appreciated about this book is it’s seeming affinity with Mr. Edwards. Murray writes with a great respect and appreciation of this noble man. Murray also seems to possess some wonderful insight into the character and nature of Edwards that helps one to see Edwards as a living, breathing, red-blooded human being. This book also is a very easy read. It has certainly been painstakingly researched, yet it is not stuffy, stodgy, or void of “spirit.” Both the story and the character live and it is easy to befriend Edwards as Murray moves through the various stages of his life. A third strength comes from the dustcover itself. The dustcover reads, “Murray believes that Edwards cannot be understood apart from his faith. Only when seen first and foremost as a Christian does his life and writings make sense.” Murray does allow Edwards to speak for himself without forcing a personal bias or interpretation upon him. Murray sums up his book with what seems to be three definitive statements: “The propensity of Edwards’ Works to regain attention and to re-assert their message is an historical fact worthy of notice. More than once, as we have seen, they have been forgotten and judged obsolete only to re-appear afresh with new power and significance. “The key to understanding Jonathan Edwards is that he was a man who put faithfulness to the Word of God before every other consideration. At critical points in his life, most notably in not deferring to the ‘advice’ of Israel Williams in 1734, and again in the communion controversy of 1749-50, he put the truth first.” “The ministry of Jonathan Edwards is, very clearly, not yet concluded. He is being read today as he has not bee read for over a century and in more countries than ever before."
I highly recommend this book. It will be a beneficial addition to any serious library. I can not find any criticisms to add to this review. I am sure some one will find at least one, but I was well pleased with the material, the manner in which it was presented, and the mission accomplished by that of Ian Murray.
Ian Murray is a prolific writer, has been in Christian ministry since 1955, served as an assistant to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Murray is the co-founder of the Banner of Truth Trust. He has served at Westminster Chapel, Grove Chapel, and St Giles Presbyterian Church.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Weaned from the World

On Thursday, February 21, 1723 Jonathan Edwards records the following entry in his diary:
“I perceive that I never yet have adequately know what was meant by being weaned from the world, by not laying up treasure on earth, but in heaven, by not having our portion in this life, by making the concerns of another life our whole business, by taking God as our whole portion. I find my heart in great part yet adheres to the earth. O that I might be quite separated from thence.” Weaned from the world; what a concept to take up the mind of a young man as he seeks a relationship with his God. It causes me to stop and consider whether I have been or even at the very least, am I being weaned from this world? Matthew 6:20 says: “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (ESV) 1 John 2:15 says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (ESV) When I stop being concerned about accumulating items promoted by this world for my satisfaction, and I become concerned about doing that which enables me to “lay up” or store up treasure in heaven, then I enter into the process of being weaned from this world in order to live for the next world. The only way to stop desiring the things of this world is to stop loving this world. The only way that I can stop loving this world is to start loving the world to come more. When God becomes my greatest treasure, or as Edwards puts it, “my whole portion”, then and only then, can I maintain that I am being weaned from the distractions that pull at my heart. It is my prayer that God will always be my greatest treasure! I too, as Edwards pray that I might be quite separated from this world and all that it offers.
What do you think?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sobering Message of Warning

In Amos 3, we are made privy to a very strong and stern warning of impending judgment on the chosen people of God. Not only are we made aware of this coming judgment we are told by God in a most point blank and matter of fact manner why the chosen people of God are being judged. “Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: ‘You only have I know of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:1 ESV) It was no surprise to read of the judgment on the nations that surrounded Israel. More than likely the Israelites shook their heads in agreement or made the normal signs and sounds for utter approval. I can hear them now, ‘yes, give it to them, or it’s about time, or finally, they had it coming for a long time.’ Oh, but how would the mood change and how quickly when Amos began what we know as chapter three and verse one? When you read verse one you get the idea that they are being punished because they are God’s chosen people. Listen, “You only have I chosen... therefore I will punish you...” It seems that being chosen by God gives a higher level of both expectation and obligation for holiness. It appears that because God has selected them as His own people and because of His dealings with them they would be judged more severely for their sin than even those pagan nations around them. This makes me think of my own election. I have been chosen by God, in Christ, prior to the creation of what we know as this universe. God has dealt with me graciously and mercifully. He has as we all know and are more than aware of, given me what I don’t deserve – a full pardon and inheritance in Christ and has not given to me what I do deserve – eternal separation and painful punishment. The lesson for me is that being one of the elect, one of God’s chosen (Eph 1:3-14), I have a greater responsibility and obligation concerning my election. I must forsake the sins of my youth, I must seek holiness (Hebrews 12:14) and I must expect God to chastise me, even severely, for failing in my obligation. I realize that though I have been delivered from both the penalty and power of sin, I have not yet been delivered from the presence of sin.
Therefore, sin I will. Thank God he has provided a remedy; I may confess my sin seeking full pardon, forgiveness, and release. Thank God I may confess my sin and forsake it and stave off the chastisement of God. So, what do I learn from this? What do I “journal” as my application? What do I wish to pass on to you today? I am glad you asked, for there are three things I have learned: --God’s people, whether they be Israel or the elect of this age can not sin without chastisement
--God’s people have a higher standard of expectation and obligation to holiness than is expected from those who do not know him. -- God’s people must live up to their responsibility of holiness and righteousness. Does this remind you of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48? “...everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (ESV)
What do you think?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thomas Watson: Regarding riches and worldly wealth

The bee may suck a little honey from the leaf, but put it in a barrel of honey and it dies.
Christians must stave of the world so that it does not get into their heart (Psalm 62:10).
Water is useful to the ship and helps it to sail better to the haven, but let the water get into the ship, if it is not pumped out, it drowns the ship. So riches are useful and convenient for our passage. We sail more comfortably with them through the troubles of this world; but if the water gets into the ship, if love of riches gets into the heart, then we are drowned by them
(1 Timothy 6:9).
- The Puritan Pulpit - Thomas Watson

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why Four Gospels? Part I

God has given to his church four separate gospels with the intention of revealing himself and the plan of redemption for those whom he calls sinners. The first question that should come to mind is, Why Four Gospels?
We will attempt to answer the question of Why Four Gospels? by looking at the following four areas:
Peculiarities of each gospeleach gospel has peculiarities unto itself
Purpose of each gospeleach gospel was written with a distinct purpose
Preferences of each gospeleach gospel includes only what the particular author believed was necessary to serve and suit his distinct purpose
Partisanship of each gospeleach gospel is independent of the others
It goes without saying that the Gospels have always been very precious documents to the church. They have been loved and reverenced with great care from the moment they were written and circulated in the early church. So, Let’s take just a minute and answer the question, What is a gospel? A gospel is a theological narrative about Jesus Christ; a gospel teaches its theology while recounting the events surrounding the live of Jesus Christ. A gospel is told from the perspective of an observer of the events, who then guides you and me through the actions and thoughts of those who occupy this history. There is a second question you might ask, How does a gospel make its point?
A gospel makes it point through dialogue, narratives, speeches, activities and actions of the subjects involved. The gospel of John concentrates on portraying Jesus – it reveals to us his life, his character, his person, his values, his mission and his ethics.
Harry Ironside wrote: “In beginning a study of any of the gospels it is a good thing to ask and try to answer the question, why are there four gospels and why do they seem to differ one from another? Our God surely could have inspired one of His servants to write a continuous record of what Jesus said and did. Men write books in that manner, but it did not please the Father to do this. Instead of that He has given us four distinct records…” [1]
Keep in mind...
1. No section of the bible has been studied more than these four gospels.
2. The peculiar design and the character of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are rarely understood. 3. The need to study each gospel in its specific context, setting, grammar, and design is imperative to get the proper and intended glimpse of Jesus Christ and His Father, whom He was sent to reveal.
4. When you read through the four gospels you find very quickly that none of them provide a complete biography of the life and ministry of Jesus.
So, we come back to the question, Why four gospels? We will try and answer that question by providing for distinct reasons. This morning we will only look at the first reason. The first reason is seen by examining their Distinctive Peculiarities. All four gospels have several distinctive peculiarities. Let’s look at the first peculiarity and that is Their Design Their design is to provide us with pertinent details about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. I think the key is pertinent, not every detail. Jesus himself states that he came to reveal the Father to those who had eyes to see and ears to hear. Matt 11:27 – “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and know one knows the Son except the Father, and none one knows the Father except the Son and anyone whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” John 17:25-26 – “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these (apostles) know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” So, what is their design? It is to reveal the Father who up until now had been really hidden behind, first, his glory, and secondly behind clouds, fire, smoke, fear, or mystery. God was a mystery to the Jews in the Old Testament. Now we are seeing God revealed in and by Jesus Christ. We can’t miss that when we read and study the gospels. We need to see more of and learn more of God the Father each time we read the gospels. Or we miss their design. It isn’t just the Christmas story, or parables, or miracles, or an encounter with an immoral woman at Jacob’s well. Each passage in the gospels is designed to reveal to us more and more of the character and the nature of the Father. So, when you read the gospels, and as we study John, look prayerfully and carefully for the character and nature of God. Never come to a passage in the gospels without learning more about God, about who he is, and what he has chosen to reveal to us through Christ. So, we see the first distinctive peculiarity of the four gospels by examining their design. The second distinctive peculiarity of the four gospels is Their Deficiency As I have already alluded to, none of the four gospels form a complete collective biography of the life of Jesus Christ. When we look at the accounts of Jesus ministry we soon discover that even these accounts are bits and pieces. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John select portions of Jesus teaching and they describe only a few of his miracles. Even John makes this clear when he writes, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 ESV)
Wouldn’t you like to know more about Jesus Christ?
Well, if the gospels are not complete biographies, what are they? First of all, they are four different accounts fully inspired by God We can have complete and absolute confidence in these four books. They are inspired by the HS and therefore are flawless, without error, they are true and they are perfect. Secondly, they are four different accounts, complete within themselves, written with distinctive design that by God’s choosing are deficient only in the fact that they are limited in what they record. What each author chose to include and what they chose to exclude is based upon their own distinct design and purpose for writing. What ever Matthew included, or John did not include was chosen because it was strictly relevant and pertinent to their peculiar theme or subject. Each one wrote exactly what supported, illustrated, or completed their design. Everything else was left out. This was why each writer was very selective in his material. Each writer selected material to help him accomplish his goal. Ernest Burton wrote: It must be remembered that it in accordance with the literary method of the first Christian century and of the adjacent periods to employ historical material into the form of an argument, or even stating anywhere in the course of the narrative what the facts were intended to prove. It was assumed that the reader or hearer would be shrewd enough to discover this for himself and this assumption was apparently amply justified.” [2] Thirdly, they are four different accounts with limitations that cause us to search all of Scripture to “fill in the blanks” We have to dig deep into various parts of the bible to fill in as much detail as we can. Otherwise it becomes easy to accuse the bible of having mistakes, errors, or discrepancies
To Be Continued....
[1] Harry A. Ironside, Addresses on the Gospel of John, (Loizeaux Brothers: Neptune, N.J.), p. 9
[2] Ernest DeWitt Burton, A Short Introduction to the Gospels, p.13

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Petri Dish called Family!

If there ever was a place specifically designed by God for the development of our spiritual life, that place would be called Family. God, in His wisdom designed the family unit or structure to be the Petri dish as the environment where the culture of Christian character can develop under the most intense circumstances. The Family is where we live in the same house and share most of everything in that house under the most strenuous and trying of conditions. In God’s infinite wisdom He places individuals with the most base, sinful, and depraved nature in a 24/7 developmental laboratory. No wonder things get so tragically out of hand and such dysfunction develops. Raising children can be difficult under the best of conditions. Bill Cosby once said; "You know the only people who are always sure about the proper way to raise children? Those who have never had any."
George Will wrote; “We are given children to test us and make us more spiritual.” I don’t know anything about Will’s spiritual persuasion or make-up, but I think he is on to something. Sometimes children can test us beyond our imagination. We certainly are not above making some serious mistakes as parents. Of course this is not God’s fault. He gives us the Bible as a guidebook and as an instruction manual. He gives to us the Holy Spirit (those who are believers) and He gives us everything that we need to live godly in Christ Jesus. It is amazing how the spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit are needed to maintain godly peace and order in a home. Thank God for the home and for family! Thank God that each day we need to turn to his guide book, depend on His indwelling Holy Spirit, and for the opportunities to use the fruit of His Spirit in various situations and circumstances in order to grow more Christlike in character as we are tested and tried by living together in the wonderful Petri dish called family. It is my prayer that the “cultures” developed in my Petri dish be an honor and glory to God and a joy and treasure to my family! The microscopic evaluation by our Heavenly Father and by the world around us will reveal what has been developed in my life.
What do you think?