Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Most Amazing Love Story – Part I

James Montgomery Boice wrote; “The third chapter of Hosea is, in my judgment, the greatest story in the Bible…” I am inclined to agree with Boice. This chapter contains tremendous messages of hope in the midst of the declaration of the awfulness of sin. The story portrayed by Hosea is a story that is almost beyond human comprehension in itself. Here we see God depicted as one who has been “cheated” upon repeatedly by an immoral and unloving wife, yet God pursues this wayward wife with a love that could never be portrayed by even Hollywood. Chapter three opens with these haunting lines, “Go, again, love a woman who is loved by another man, and is an adulteresses, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel…” (ESV) The most amazing thing takes place, Hosea discovers that his wife has become a slave and is about to be sold in the slave market. Hosea goes to this auction and sees his wife, naked, in chains, and displayed with all her flaws and treasures exposed. As the bidding begins, Hosea must continue to up his ante and outbid those who trying to buy his wife. Hosea finally prevails with a winning bid of 15 pieces of silver and a bushel and a half of barley. Hosea tells his wife, Gomer, that she must live with him and stop playing the role of a harlot. He must assuredly taken some clothing and wrapped it around her and then led her to their home. What an amazing love that Hosea had for his wife. What an amazing love God has for his people. We see that God will yet pursue his people in verses 4 & 5: “For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.” (ESV) Though Israel was unfaithful, God continues to love them with an everlasting love. He will pursue them. Their faithfulness is to be motivated, just as our faithfulness is motivated, by the love that God has for each of us as his children. God loved us, sought us, provided redemption for us, and purchased us when we were naked and exposed in the sin market, and clothed us in his righteous robe.
Chapter three portrays and amazing love story as it depicts God’s wonderful love for Israel. It also depicts, however, the awfulness of sin and the horrible consequences of sin. These ideas will be explored in the next couple of posts.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Time of Darkness or Dispair

During a major season of testing in my life, not so long ago, I sat down and in the midst of darkness and fear, I began to meditate on the providence of God. Here are some things that I "chewed" and ruminated on. I hope that you may find them helpful to you one day in the midst of a trial or a chastening seasoning of God: 1. Work to get a full recognition of God's working in your life from beginning until now. Fill your mind and thoughts with Him and His ways. (Ps 77:11-12) 2. Look to the Word of God and see all the promises that God has made to you (Ps 57:2) a. God's will, ways, & provisions for you won't violate His word b. The Word shows us the ways of holiness and wisdom c. The Word shows that disobedience will never allow you to profit d. The Word prohibits your trust in yourself or your abilities e. The Word shows that the cause of chastening is sin f. The Word promises that God will never leave nor forsake you g. The Word ultimately is your only consolation in the darkest times h. The Word tells you the only way to receive is to give i. The Word tells you the way to have peace with men is peace with God j. The Word is the only source for total inward peace 3. Be sure to recognize God as the sole author of your chastening or trials (Prov 3:6) a. Know that God cares for you b. Know how wise God is in dispensing His mercy to you c. Know the grace that is involved in God's mercy to you d. Know that God condescends to you in dispensing His mercy e. Know God's will in chastening is to make you more Christ like f. Know that God's mercy is from His Son who was obedient unto death g. Know God will refresh you during times of chastening/trials h. Know God is sovereign in all that He does i. Know how wise God is in choosing your trials/afflictions/chastisement j. Know how faithful and sufficient God has been, is and will be 4. Be sure to exercise you heart's affections to the particular providence of God a. Remember to remain joyful and comforted in God not events b. Put to death sinful, ungodly affections in your heart c. Exercise heavenly mindedness, set your affections on things above d. Maintain a contented heart with all that God gives or takes 1) Remember hell & damnation is all that you deserve 2) You don't deserve any mercy 3) Trials/afflictions usually bring to God & His will 4) Trials/afflictions are usually caused by your sin 5) Try and complain about all the good God has given 6) Consider your sin and what it does deserve 7) Consider how close God's help/answer really is 5. Don't give up if God's mercy and providential help is long in coming a. It is not the proper time to receive the things you pray for/need b. The trial/affliction has worked its full purpose yet c. Time causes you to search your heart more thoroughly d. Time makes the answer/blessing/deliverance more sweeter (1) The delay is for my advantage (2) It makes my heart more willing/submitted to God (3) The answer is no nearer than the darkest hour (4) Your unfitness delays God's provision (5) The blessings are pure grace/you don't deserve them (6) Appreciate the fact millions have no hope/answer 6. Don't try and figure out all the why of God's affliction/delay/purposes a. Trying to find out everything may cause great strain b. You may start to doubt or distrust God and His character c. You may try to deliver yourself by your own means

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Five Implications of the Self-Sufficiency of God

It is due to a March 2008 John Piper blog that I began blogging. Many of you recall that particular blog where he gave six reasons why pastors should blog. Those six reasons were both intriguing and inspirational for me. For what it has been worth, these meager attempts at blogging have been fun for me. They have provided an outlet for much of what I would like to say, but better yet, for what I wish I had said. Today’s blog is a result of Piper’s second reason that pastors should blog – to teach. He says in part: “Here is where a pastor has an outlet for whatever he didn’t get to say on Sunday. Your blog is where you can pass on that perfect analogy you only just thought of; that hilarious yet meaningful story you couldn’t connect to your text no matter how hard you tried; that last point you skipped over even though you needed it to complete your 8-point acrostic sermon that almost spelled HUMILITY.” (John Piper March 2008) This blog is an adult bible lesson spill-over. There were some things I just didn’t quite get finished, so here goes: I am teaching on the majestic and almost indescribable character and nature of God. Last week’s lesson focused on the absolute self-sufficiency of God. I felt like there was more to say, so I tried to say it again this week. My class is very gracious, I am given 75 minutes to teach (I take all 75 minutes, believe you, me.) You would think that I could say all that I wanted to say in that 75 minute period, but alas, I didn’t. I want to summarize my heart and what the self-sufficiency of God really means in 5 points of application and implication: Because God is infinitely and eternally full, rich, joyous, and satisfied; consider then, these implications: 1. God does not need the glorious creation he has made, either in whole or any part, including his creation of human beings. As humbling as it is true, God does not need us (Isa 40; Acts 17:25). Therefore it is not about us, it is about Him! A true understanding of this implication governs all that we teach, preach, practice, sing, for the glory of God. 2. God does not need anything from us; he needs no help, no gifts, no service, nor fellowship (Acts17:25). Though he commands our obedience and calls us to service, and we are commanded to fellowship with Him he needs nothing that we are or have to offer. A true understanding then humbles us, causes us to be absolutely dependent upon Him, and it develops and maintains a heart filled with humble gratitude. 3. God cannot receive anything from us that is not previously, rightfully, and entirely his and his alone (Acts 17:25; Jas 1:17). In fact, this is so much the case that God is both dishonored and offended when we approach him as if he needs what we have to bring him, as if we can give him something that he lacks (Ps 50). A true understanding of this causes us to give worship, our very lives, our offerings and gifts as an expression of the true worship in our hearts rather than as a means of getting something in return. 4. Every good and perfect gift, necessarily, is from him and him alone (Acts 17:25; Jas 1:17). Imagine this: there is no true thought, no good work, no discerning word, no talent, no ability; no gifting that is not from him. For every quality that exists in creation, and in your lives and mine, is there at all, and is there to the scope and extent that it is, only because God, in his grace and kindness, has granted this to us. While God possess all that he has – all that there is – intrinsically, in contrast, we have what we have – all that we have – by derivation. He gives us everything that we are and that everything that we have. We owe him everything for all that we have and enjoy. A true understanding of these causes us to be driven to God for all that we need or want rather than depending on our selves or resorting to the world to obtain what we need or want. It keeps us from obtaining things that hurt us rather than help us. 5. God alone is worthy of all honor, glory, praise, adoration, love, devotion, obedience and worship (Isa 42:8; 1 Cor 10:31). A true understanding of this will continually drive us to ascribe to God all that He is worthy of in all that we do, and will enable us to reflect His character to those around us which might in turn drive them to repentance as they become a worshipper of God.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Prayer or Panic?

Psalm 65:2 says “O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.” (ESV) Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said, “A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.” It has been said that when Martin Luther's puppy happened to be at the table, he looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes. Luther said, "Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope."
“We may judge the state of our hearts by the earnestness of our prayers. You cannot make a rich man beg like a poor man; you cannot make a man that is full cry for food like one that is hungry: no more will a man who has a good opinion of himself, cry for mercy like one who feels that he is poor and needy.
The symptoms of spiritual decline are like those which attend the decay of bodily health. It generally commences with loss of appetite, and disrelish for spiritual food, prayer, reading the Scriptures, and devotional books. Whenever you perceive these symptoms, be alarmed, for your spiritual health is in danger; apply immediately to the great Physician for a cure.
The best means of keeping near to God is the prayer closet. Here the battle is won or lost. It appears very strange and wonderful that God should bestow any favors on creatures, so unworthy as ourselves, or pay any regard to prayers so polluted as our own.” (Edward Payson 1783-1827)
The greatest challenge that we face is that of our own supposed self-sufficiency. Our motto is usually why pray when I can worry or panic. Coming unglued in situations usually trumps going to our knees. Yet, God welcomes us like a father or mother who “bends” down and strains to hear the requests of their children.
Let’s pray…

Friday, April 24, 2009

Five Myths of Discipleship

Discipleship takes place when people attend church programs There is no doubt that in many church services and bible studies there is great teaching taking place. Most of the material is too general in nature and it is not usually targeted to the unique or specific needs of a new believer. A new believer can learn much from these services and studies. They need to be taught how to glean spiritual principles from them. Discipleship simply just happens As we look to Jesus, the Master Discipler, we see that He did not just throw out principles and teachings expecting his disciples to just get them. As a matter of fact we know that they more often than not, did not get what Jesus was teaching. New believers must be taught, helped, encouraged, and held accountable. New believers need someone who will ask them hard questions, be involved in their lives, and who will be part of the process of their spiritual growth. Discipleship is for new believers Discipleship is extremely important for new believers. It is also extremely important for all believers. Discipleship is a process that begins at conversion and continues until glorification. A disciple will continue to follow Christ all of his life. Someone once said, “Once a disciple, always a disciple.” Discipleship is a 12 step program The trouble with most discipleship programs is that they are often reduced to a 6 week, 12 week, or multipoint outline. Discipleship is for life, it is actually a lifestyle. There are certain basics every new believer must know and learn, but the training, developing, and accountability of believers never stops. We are called to be followers of Jesus Christ for life. We are to learn and live a new way of life. Discipleship is limited to bible study, soul winning, or quiet time
Unfortunately, we have the tendency to compartmentalize our lives into what we call secular and sacred. We find ourselves reducing Christianity to ideals, lists, systems, or programs. Christianity affects every area of our life and there is no secular or sacred. Christ in us governs all that we think and do whether we are worshipping in a corporate service or working in a corporate setting.
True discipleship must take all of Christ's teaching and be implemented in the lives of all believers. The goal is that we become like Christ, our Master. We cannot be content with simply passing on knowledge and tradition and assume that conviction and belief will just magically happen.
We are to live out the life of Christ before those whom we are discipling just as Christ did. Unfortunately there seems to be a large difference between today's convert and the disciples of old. Let's work to dispel the myths of discipleship!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

(I Will Arise) On The Third Day

(I Will Arise) On The Third Day by Gregg Metcalf – 4/23/09 Well my heart began to brake and my eyes filled with tears For my friend had just been placed in a tomb with the dead The pain in my chest gave way to the feeling of all my fears I looked inside and saw where they laid him then someone said Don’t worry don’t fear, don’t sorrow my friend The story is not over this isn’t the end Remember what he told you - what you heard him say They will kill me but I will arise on the third day Yes I will arise the grave won’t keep me Angels will serve me don’t weep for me Just believe all the things that you heard me say They will kill me but I will arise on the third day I don’t know who was speaking those wonderful words they made me remember everything that Jesus had said I heard a new song sweeter than the sound of the birds For my Lord was risen he was no longer among the dead [so] Don’t worry don’t fear, don’t sorrow my friend The story is not over this isn’t the end Remember what he told you - what you heard him say They will kill me but I will arise on the third day Yes I will arise the grave won’t keep me Angels will serve me don’t weep for me Just believe all the things that you heard me say They will kill me but I will arise on the third day Now join me in sharing this good news of the cross So many don’t know Him and many will perish today The blood stained tree will prevent such great loss Declared God’s son because he arose on the third day Don’t worry don’t fear, don’t sorrow my friend The story is not over this isn’t the end Remember what he told you - what you heard him say They will kill me but I will arise on the third day Yes I will arise the grave won’t keep me Angels will serve me don’t weep for me Just believe all the things that you heard me say They will kill me but I will arise on the third day No, don’t worry, don’t fear, don’t sorrow my friend The story is not over this isn’t the end Remember what he told you- what you heard him say Yes, they will kill me, but I will arise on the third day Yes, they will kill me, but I will arise on the third day I will arise, yes, I will arise, I will arise on the third day

Drinking At the Fountain of Good!

In The Company of Calvin… “But although our mind cannot conceive of God, without rendering some worship to him, it will not however, be sufficient simply to hold that he is the only being whom all ought to worship and adore, unless we are also persuaded that he is he fountain of all goodness, and that we must seek everything in him and in none but him.” (John Calvin) It is only by God’s grace and the working of His Holy Spirit, that we are brought to an awareness that God is not only our maker but that he also supports us by His power, rules us by His providence, cares for us by His goodness, and gives to us all kinds of blessings.
It is this knowledge that a real life of faith in Christ and that a beneficial knowledge of God springs up! This is what teaches us to live a life of faith and holiness to the glory of God.
What is it? The knowledge that God alone is the very fountain, or source of every good thing. It is the knowledge that we can trust Him as the supply for everything and every need that we will ever experience

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Death of Seven Deadly "P's"

As Paul brings his letter to the Galatian believers to a close, he summarizes his main point in 6:11-18. He gives a tremendous challenge to these believers to remain faithful to the message of the cross that he had previously taught them. Paul makes a statement in verse 14 that seems almost off hand if not carefully considered. Most of us catch the first phrase in this sentence and we would readily and whole heartily agree that we “boast” only in the cross of Jesus Christ. Have you really stopped and chewed on the second half of that sentence? “…by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal 6:14b ESV) What does that mean? Paul says to these believers, ultimately to us, that the world system in all of its attractions is dead to him. Not only that, he is also dead to these attractions. The things in this world are no longer attractive to Paul. They no longer have any affect on him. Why? Because he has died to them – “…they have been crucified to me…” We know when this “crucifixion” took place. Romans 6:6 states that at the time of conversion, when we are baptized into Christ our old self was crucified. Paul teaches the Galatians that those in Christ and who are led by the Holy Spirit have crucified the passions and desires of the flesh, Galatians 5:24. The next question that comes to mind is what in the world system was crucified to Paul and is no longer attractive to him? What no longer has any influence on him? Well, I am sure this list is not exhaustive; you might be able to add to it. I stopped after seven specific items. I have a long way to go in order to crucify these things so that they are not longer attractive and no longer have any influence on me, so seven was enough. These seven specific items are in no particular order of importance or significance. Powerno longer did Paul have the desire to obtain or exercise direct control over anyone or anything for his own glory or satisfaction. Authority and control for the sake of authority or control no longer attracted him. He was a messenger, a bond-slave, one sent by authority. PopularityPaul did not have a burning desire to be popular or well thought of by his peers. He told the Corinthians not to judge him nor was it any longer important what any one thought of him since God would be his judge. He told the Galatians that if he wanted to be popular he would preach circumcision and the false teachers would leave him alone. Prosperitya simple cursory examination of Paul’s life will show that he had no lingering desire for wealth. He worked with his own hands, went out of his way not to be a burden to the churches he ministered to. He often suffered with hardships, like hunger and thirst. Possessionsthis is similar, maybe even a shirt-tailed cousin to prosperity. The difference may be in the fact that he did not accumulate “things” in order to be measured successful. He did not have a 2500 square foot tent with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, bonus rooms, or two camel garages. He never mentioned the need to rent storage facilities to “store” his stuff.
Pleasure – Paul took no pleasure from the things of the world. Sex, parties, alcohol, and all things sensual were crucified to him. Paul never appears psychotic or disturbed; he took his pleasure in Christ and Christ alone. Paul would have promoted C. S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, and John Piper in his blog site. Paul’s greatest treasure was Christ, read Philippians carefully! PhilosophyPaul was crucified to the vain traditions and philosophies of the world. He told the Ephesians and Colossians to watch out for them and to shun them. The thought process of the world have no attraction for Paul with things like, “love yourself, take care of number one, who ever dies with the most toys wins, God is dead, or taste not touch not in order to obtain some sort of spiritual nirvana. ProminencePaul was probably destined to be the next great Rabbi and Jewish authority. It did not matter to him. He did not boast in himself or his accomplishments. As a matter of fact, we have his opinion in Philippians – something about dung? Paul boasted in the cross.
One little phrase in a summary as he closes his letter, but a phrase packed with powerful implications. I too want to be crucified to the world and it to me. I want to die to these seven specific items. What did Jerry Reed say in Smokey and the Bandit, “we have a long way to go and a short time to get there?”
Thank God, everyday, He through His grace and His Holy Spirit are at work in me conforming me to the image of His dear Son. I have been crucified to the world and it to me. Day by day I reckon this to be true!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama - Dobson & National Day of Prayer?

An article in the Religious News Service, by Adelle Banks caught my eye this morning. She is concerned whether there is going to be an official White House observance marking the National Day of Prayer coming up on May 7th. She also wonders if the Obama White House will maintain an open door to those from the conservative circles such as James and Shirley Dobson as well as those from not so conservative circles. The National Day of Prayer was signed into law in 1952 by President Truman. President Reagan amended the law in 1988 declaring observances would be held the first Thursday in May. Former President George W. Bush was prominent in these services during his presidency. We certainly would not diminish the value and power of prayer, individually or nationally. As a matter of fact, Paul told Timothy to teach that we pray regularly for those who are in positions of leadership. It is vital that we do so for at least seven reasons: * in order for believers to live a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and fear *in order to freely preach the gospel to every creature *in order for Government be a terror to the wicked and a blessing to the good *in order for government to use their power with wisdom *in order for government officials to be drawn to Christ and experience salvation *in order that we may be thankful for God’s gift of government *in order that we might come to trust God’s sovereignty as He works out His purposes through local, state, federal, and worldwide governments My concern that legislating a National Day of Prayer outside of the guidelines declared in Scripture is useless and even ludicrous. What good does a nationally mandated day of prayer, involving any number of unredeemed individuals praying for items outside the scope of God’s requirements? What are God’s requirements? “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14 ESV) We can see at least four requirements for prayer to be heard and effective: *Prayer is to be made by God’s people *Prayer is to be made by people who have humbled themselves before God *Prayer is to be made by God’s people who are truly seeking Him as He is *Prayer is to be made by God’s people who have repented from their sin I am more concerned that the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people who are God’s own possession, and who are now the people of God who have obtained mercy would proclaim loudly the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. I would challenge this aforementioned company to make supplication, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving for kings and all that are in high positions everyday and not just May 7th.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Decisionism vs True Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Today is Video Monday. This is a short clip from Alistair Begg on the difference between decisionism and true fruits of the Holy Spirit. How challenging it is to truly be examined by Scripture, let alone submitting to it in order to be obedient. I trust this is a blessing as it reminds us to continually look to the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

An Excursus In Suffering

The central theme in the first letter of Peter is that of suffering. At some point, sooner or later, in varying degree, all believers must come to grips with suffering. The problem that must be addressed is the fact that the Greek word for suffering in the New Testament is so obscured by our English definitions.
For example, the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines suffering: “to undergo pain or grief or damage or disablement…to undergo martyrdom” Webster’s New Seventh Collegiate Dictionary includes the same but also adds: “to submit to or to be forced to endure martyrdom, to feel keenly, to endure death pain, distress, or handicap, to sustain loss or damage, to be subject to disability.” It seems that the basic idea that we derive from this word is pain, loss, grief, defeat, change punishment, or wrong. It seems that the church as a whole deals with these meanings in a singular fashion. In other words, when we think of suffering we think of pain, discomfort, or hardship. We tend to focus on pain from sickness, disease, or even the grief we experience from death. If we are not careful we will “read” these same definitions back into our exegesis of first Peter. It goes without saying that we need to have a biblical understanding of suffering, in other words we need to develop a scriptural definition of suffering. So let’s look at the …
A. DEFINITION 1. Classical Greek The typical Greek word for suffering is pascho. This is one of the two words used in I Peter. In classical Greek it originally meant simply to experience something, something that came from outside of one’s self and came upon one self. Something encountered you, or something came upon you was a basic meaning. It meant to undergo, to experience. In classical Greek it meant to experience things like: · Misfortune · Blows of fate · Disfavor of men or of gods What I find interesting is at first this word had no thought of painful feelings. Let’s look at this idea from the … 2. Biblical Usage Suffering is a very complex issue in the bible. It is approached from several different angels: · You can begin with a particular type of human suffering – this can be things like testing or oppression
· You can begin with a particular relationship to suffering and theology – affliction produces endurance in our lives
· You can look at the total vocabulary of suffering
Suffering is used some 42 times in the NT. The word that is typically used is pascho. Another word used in a secondary manner is flipsis, which means oppression or affliction.
In First Peter our study is easy, only pascho or a form of this word is used in First Peter. In the Old Testament our study is much harder, there is no single word that can be translated from the Hebrew into English for suffer. The closest is seems is the word that is used to translate poverty, or oppression. It seems that the Old Testament speaks of suffering by concrete types of suffering rather than “suffering” in general.
B. THE OLD TESTAMENT 1. There is a connection in the OT between suffering and sin For example, both the Adam and Eve experience labor and pain as part of the curse placed upon them for their sin in the Garden of Eden. Also, you can see how the law of God connects suffering to sin very explicitly by looking at Deut 2:15-68. In Joshua you see a connection between the defeat at Ai and the suffering of death by Achan and his entire family as punishment for his sin. The biggest connection or link between sin and suffering is probably seen in death itself. Death is very definitely connected to sin in Genesis 3. So, the idea is this in the OT, that suffering mentioned in the OT is connected with things like sickness, military defeats, untimely or violent death. The think to keep in mind here, is number one, none of these things were to be the norm for Israel, but they did occur, and they usually resulted in some form of suffering due to the sin. And secondly, suffering in the OT is the norm for sinful humanity. So the problem of suffering isn’t that sinful people suffer, but that holy or pious people suffer. So, we can plainly see a connection between suffering and sin in the OT. But we also can see that … 2. God is the main agent behind the suffering. First of all, yes there are some places where Satan is connected with suffering, like in Job, or hinted at in Daniel. But look carefully in the OT, it doesn’t hide the fact that God sends suffering. If God sends suffering, He must have a reason or a purpose for sending it. So the idea developed in the OT that suffering was view as testing or for discipline. Second thing to keep in mind then, is that when suffering falls on a person as testing or discipline, that person now has to make a decision. One either obeys God or does not obey God and suffers the consequences. What test can you think of in the OT that might be the epitome of all tests? Abraham in Genesis 22 when He was told to offer his only son Isaac as an offering. What test was the cardinal example of failing a test? Israel who failed to obey God after the 12 spies returned and suffered the consequence of disobedience and died in the wilderness rather than entering into the land promised to them by God. Third, we also see that suffering in the OT is mainly persecution or oppression by Israel’s enemies. How many times was Israel attacked, ransacked? Of course they eventually went into captivity, first the north and then the south. Fourth, when we see that suffering is usually the result of sin in the OT, we are always faced with the question, well why do the righteous suffer? Right? · Job God calls Job righteous. We mistakenly define his suffering as “innocent suffering.” Even when we see that it was God initiating the contest that horribly affected Job.
· Psalm 73 In Psalm 73, the righteous are suffering and it appears that the wicked are not. This leads Asaph to almost madness. So suffering in the OldTestament seems to be connected with sin. It is retributive and educative. God also seems to be the one in most cases who sends suffering, primarily on those who sin and disobey Him. Occasionally the righteous suffer leaving us to wonder why? [Lets transition to the NT and take a look at suffering.] C. THE NEW TESTAMENT 1. We seem to have more clarity in the NT. · There seems to be a break with the sin-suffering equation. Lk 16:19-31, for example we have the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man did not seem to suffer in his luxurious life time, but it was obvious he was not righteous. It is also obvious that Lazarus who suffered his whole life was not unrighteous. My main point here is that sin can not be used as the defining reason why someone is suffering in the NT. Now some real discernment must be used. · We see in the NT a development of the concept of innocent suffering. Jesus is our prime example. He was an innocent sufferer. He was without any sin. The early church as a whole suffered untold persecution and suffering, not for sin, but simply for being the church. So, I Peter is written to encourage believers who are suffering as a result of being a Christian and do to no sin on their part. James states that suffering is a test of one’s faith. Hebrews addresses the issue of suffering for one’s faith as a means of discipline or instruction. Now, in the NT we see an almost totally new idea of suffering than we see in the OT. In the NT we rarely, if ever, see God specifically as the one who brings the suffering. Tests of faith and even discipline are evident, but it is more that God allows Satan, society, or even sin to bring persecution or affliction in order to further mature His children. Not only does He allow suffering, but He overrules its original intent and uses it as a tool or means to purify, make more holy, and mature His children. So, while God allows or permits, and uses suffering, God is seen in the NT as the one who comes along side of us on or side arming us and delivering us and even limiting Satan in our suffering. Don’t forget we have been looking at the idea and concept of the main word used in I Peter for suffering and that is pascw. This word refers to that which comes upon us from outside of us and we it is something we experience. Of course, usually in our definition, we experience something evil, painful, or hurtful. The other word that is used is thlipsis. This word and its derivatives is used some 55 times in the New Testament. It is used once in John 16 as a reference to childbirth, which is the closest that it comes to describing sickness. All the other uses refer to persecution or oppression. The reason that this is important is that we today think of suffering in connection with illness. We think of those who suffer with cancer. The NT does not connect suffering with illness. It connects it with persecution. The English word suffer is misleading. It includes to much. The problem with this then is that we read our definition back into the NT and come up with ideas and applications that are not there. So our caution then, is not to read into I Peter a concept of suffering that is not in the text. [Let’s move from the NT to church history as a whole and take a quick peak.] D. CHURCH HISTORY The early church maintained the basic distinction between sickness and suffering. Suffering was to undergo persecution or martyrdom for the faith. Many, unfortunately thought so highly of martyrdom that they sought it out and desired it. As a matter of fact suffering for the faith and dying for the faith were exalted to the point of raising a person who so suffered to ha higher status in the church and presumably in heaven itself. So the church developed three classes of people: · Outcasts – they compromised the faith in order to avoid suffering or death · Majority – who did not suffered much persecution or fled to other areas to avoid it · Confessors – who were imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith Persecution stopped when Christianity became legal and acceptable. This happened with Constantine around AD331. Now believers could build buildings, meet openly, and as a matter of fact, you were persecuted if you didn’t accept Christianity. Now a new problem developed in the church. First, the unsaved were forced into the church. Second, standards dropped dramatically. Thirdly, wealth and marks of privilege were seen in a positive light and became the benchmarks of blessing. Suffering no longer was strictly associated with persecution or oppression. It began to be associated with loss, pain, poverty, sickness, etc. Today, we still think that if we are healthy, full, clothed, own our own house, free from most sicknesses that we are blessed. We think if we loose our job, get sick, or the car breaks down, either we are have lost the blessing of God or we are suffering. We run to the bible looking for comfort and answers to our suffering. CONCLUSION So, what is our conclusion then? The need today is to recapture the biblical meaning of suffering. The doctrine which I have tried briefly to establish is the eschatological necessity of suffering. Suffering, because of our union with Christ, is consistently represented in the NT as a fruit and proof that we are united with him. Because we are Christ's body, and the antithesis between Christ and the World continues, the world pours out its hatred for Christ upon us. We in turn receive assurance of faith, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit as we fill up and share in Christ's sufferings. Christian suffering, which the Apostle Peter distinguishes sharply from suffering for the sake of wrongdoing, is part and parcel of being a Christian. It is to be expected. Inasmuch as it is a mark of this age, for the Christian, it is necessary. Therefore we ought to expect it. We ought not be surprised when "fiery trials" come upon us. This sort of other-worldly behavior invites suffering because this world is “under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). When the life of heaven is invited to earth through our words and actions, the thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10) seeks us out. We have caused an interruption of his usurped dominion, and have irked the “rulers ... the authorities ... the powers of this dark world and ... spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood...” This is the true meaning of spiritual warfare.
Therefore, when you encounter this type of suffering, endure it “like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). And take heart, your suffering will end and you will be vindicated, because Christ has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). So we need to meet sickness properly, with prayer. We need to face persecution with endurance We need to ask what is wrong with our faith and our lives if Satan or society is not bothering to oppress or persecute us. I am not encouraging us to look for or to scare up persecution
We are not to act sinfully or obnoxiously which would result in persecution It is the need to understand the biblical information about suffering and live by Scripture rather than reinterpreting scripture to fit our own ideology.
So, this is the concern that we bring to the text of First Peter. We need to read from the text the concept of suffering that is there, and not read into it a concept of suffering that is a product of a worldview foreign to the New Testament.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Which Way To Happiness?

This Week's Quality Quote:
"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. "
--C. S. Lewis

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Gospel Driven Disciple Part III

The first reason that discipleship is so important is that it proves salvation to be true. Simply having accurate and cognitive knowledge is no sure sign of spiritual life. We can never forget that the demons believe and tremble.Satan has knowledge of God. Take some time and look at James 2: 14, 19-20, 26: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe––and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” Moving emotional and “spiritual” experiences are no sure sign of spiritual life. It is possible for an individual to have some spiritual light without ever coming all the way out of darkness (Luke 13:25-26 Heb 6:4-8). The parable of the Sower and the Seeds makes it quite clear that not every decision is from the Lord. A convert who refuses to submit to biblical teaching and training may not be a convert of the Lord. A second reason that discipleship is so important is that it prevents false conversions. No genuine Christian is absolutely perfect. Sin is still present within our lives and we are not free from the presence of sin. Even in imperfect and sinning believers the most reliable indicator of true conversion that is distinguishable from false conversion is the production of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. There is an ever increasing conformity to the person of Jesus Christ. If we can not detect and increasing conformity to the character of Christ, then we have reason to examine whether or not God has even begun a work in the live of an individual. I fear we have far more conversions than the Lord does. The third reason discipleship is so important is that it previews spiritual problems. When there is an intense relationship with a disciple, spiritual problems are more readily seen and then more easily handled. In a discipleship relationship, problems, challenges, and even sinful behavior can be identified and then eradicated by direct confrontation, scriptural principles, and fervent prayer. There is so much for a new convert to learn! There is so much that must be unlearned also.
In a discipleship relationship there is support, prayer, and accountability. You may never get those things from just attending a Lord’s Day Service or even a mid-week bible service.
We can not simply be content to see someone come to the Lord and then leave them to fend for themselves. There is no substitute for a one on one relationship with a new convert than taking them under your wing and training them as Christ trained the Twelve disciples.
The Gospel Driven Discipleship Face Book Group, the Gospel Driven Blog, and the Adult Bible Class at my local church were born from the fact that we have so many fads "driving" evangelism and discipleship that I was compelled to jump in the "swirling waters" and offer biblical wisdom that is driven by a commitment to the gospel and example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Did You Get The Order Right?

This Week's "In The Company of Calvin..."
"A rule is prescribed to all God's servants that they bring not their own inventions, but simply deliver, as from hand to hand, what they have received from God."
Pastors, Elders, Shepherds, and preachers have, without saying, the most awesome responsibility of all those who labor. Each week they have the God mandated task of feeding God's most precious sheep. As difficult as this task may be in a number of ways, the menu has already been planned and laid out for them.
There is no guess work nor room for any creativity in the menu. Much study, sweat, and supplication goes into the preparation of each meal in order to satisfy the hunger and needs of the flock. Like a waiter or waitress who takes from the chef that which has been prepared and then delivers it to the waiting table of those who are about to eat, pastors and preachers take the gloriously nutritious bounty prepared by God and delivers it without delay or deviation to the waiting flock.
J. H. Merle D'Aubigne observed, "In Calvin's view, everything that had not for its foundation the Word of God was futile and ephemeral boast; and the man who does not lean on Scripture out to be deprived of his title of honor. The preacher has nothing to say apart from Scripture." [1]
No diner at any eating establishment would tolerate the wait staff upon receiving an order from the cook or chef to change what was on the plate, either by adding to it or subtracting from it. Why then, each week, a number of precious, blood bought lambs of God tolerate the "wait staff" to play fast and loose with God's menu?
May we settle for nothing less than men who have been locked in their study until the fruit of prayer and preparation has been born and they are able to deliver to us "as from hand to hand what they have received from God!"
[1] J. H. Merle D'Aubigne, History of the Reformation in Europe in the time of Calvin (1880; repr. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 2000, 7:85

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Abandoning the label "Christian?"

In an article in World Magazine, Tony Woodlief admits slipping into practical atheism everyday and argues for the abandonment of the Christian label rather than make it meaningless. His argument includes the facts that American’s are becoming more atheistic, conservative religion has turned people away, sexual abuse in the Catholic organization, and a cultural shift that has made atheism more acceptable. Regardless of any of these things, the problem does not lie in the fact that a label like Christianity is in danger of becoming meaningless, it is a failure to recognize that a label like Christianity has always been meaningless to non-Christians. This should not be any surprise to anyone. We cannot blame a blind man for walking into a wall, nor should we blame men and women who walk in darkness and deception for their “abandonment” of so called Christianity. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God , for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14, ESV) The problem that Mr. Woodlief might not see is that primarily the New Testament refers to the followers of Christ as disciples. The primary idea conveyed in this word is learner, pupil, follower, or adherent. Disciples follow after and learn all that they can of their “master or Lord.” The qualifications for discipleship are extremely difficult and demanding. Take a look at them in depth some time: “…does not hate mother and father, and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and his own life, he cannot be my disciples.” “…does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” “…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Now, we know from careful exegesis and exposition that simply or merely hating our family or ourselves, or drudging up some uncomfortable tortuous situation as a cross to bear, or even accepting a life of poverty or asceticism is going to make us a disciple. The point is that discipleship or becoming a follower of Christ, like a “Christian” is costly and it does mean something. It was in Antioch that the disciples who were such avid followers of Christ that they were first called Christians. The Greek word simply means a follower of Christ. By the end of Peter’s life when he wrote his first letter to the churches in Asia the term had gained such recognition that he could say, “…if any man suffers as a Christian…”
The answer is not abandoning a label but properly defining the label. Secondly, the answer is not being surprised when those who are not disciples or Christians don’t get it. No, Mr. Woodlief, though your article was interesting and caused me to say hmm, I don’t think we need to abandon the label of Christian. For I see that would be the first step in abandoning other significant and pertinent things relating to our faith. Let’s just maintain the true definition of Christian and continue to preach the gospel to every creature, thus making others disciples, Christians, or followers of Christ.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Teachable Frame

"Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for
the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge
of the truth which accords with godliness..."
--Titus 1:1 (ESV)
"Make me to know your ways, O LORD;teach me your paths."
Psalms 25:4 (ESV)
As Paul wrote his letter to Titus, whom he had sent to the Island of Crete, he gave a brief description of his heart and commitment. Paul classifies himself both as a servant and as an apostle of God and Jesus Christ. Here he establishes his credentials and his authority giving reasons for his expected compliance of Titus. Paul, also in this powerfully packed verse, gives the reason for his servant hood and apostolic ministry, it is for the "sake of the elect" and for "their knowledge."
Why is Paul so concerned about the knowledge of the elect? The knowledge that Paul is speaking of is that conviction of the truth of God's word about God or the things of God. In the New Testament, it refers to the conviction of a man’s relationship to God and divine things, it includes the idea of trust and holy fervour that is born of faith and with what flows out of that knowledge or conviction.
In other words, the elect, you and me, are not merely converted in order to be justified, but we are converted from ignorance of God to the knowledge of God and His ways. This knowledge leads to godliness. Our hearts and our minds are rendered to a frame of teachableness. God, through His Holy Spirit, works in our hearts and brings us to a spirit or frame of teachableness. From this teachableness comes a fervent spirit to learn more of God and to grow in godly living.
To have a heart for God means to have a desire to grow in the things of God. The sad truth that so many in the church today do not have evidence of this teachable frame or spirit. We have a growing number of "Lone Rangers" who think that a pursuit of godliness is either not necessary or simply a legalistic burden of bondage.
Oh, that today, the Holy Spirit would continue to soften the hearts of God's people in order to fill them with the knowledge of God, which we know leads to a fervent desire to live godly. It is my hope and prayer that God's precious Spirit continues to soften my heart and continues to develop a teachable frame within me, for the joy of all people, and for His glory!

Monday, April 13, 2009

John Piper is Bad?

This has been around awhile I know, but I get a quick out of it everytime. So, here we go for Video Monday!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Every Lord's Day - The Tomb is Empty!

"I was minded, as I thought over this passage of my discourse, of that time when Jacob journeyed to the house of Laban. It is said he came to a place where there was a well, and a great stone lay upon it, and the flocks and herds were gathered round it, but they had no water till one came and rolled away the great stone from the well's mouth, and then they watered the flocks.
Even so the tomb of Jesus is like a great well springing up with the purest and most divine refreshment, but until this stone was rolled away, none of the flocks redeemed by blood should be watered there; but now, every Sabbath day, we gather round our Lord's open sepulchre, and draw living waters from that sacred well.
O ye weary sheep of the fold,O ye who are faint and ready to die, come ye hither;here is sweet refreshment;Jesus Christ is risen:let your comforts be multiplied."
--Charles H Spurgeon

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Light Afflictions ... Eternal Glory!

Today's Quality Quote comes from Arthur W Pink:
"[Afflictions] are light when compared with what we really deserve. They are light when compared with the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. But perhaps their real lightness is best seen by comparing them with the weight of glory which is awaiting us."
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day."
"For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison"
(II Cor 4:16-17 ESV)
With the resurrection of Jesus Christ in view, we who trust in Him are also guaranteed that we will be resurrected. There is no need for us to worry or grow weary even as we persevere under persecution, tribulation, or trials. We are only too aware that these things wear on us and can wear us out, however, as we continue to look to Jesus in faith we are revitalized every day.
The reason we do not "loose heart" is the fact that Paul reminds us that are afflictions are actually very useful and educational. What, educational? Useful? Yes!
First, in relationship to eternity they are very light. Secondly, they are temporary. The word the Holy Spirit chose to use means "for the moment." They do not nor will they last very long, again, if you compare them to eternity. Thirdly, they prepare us for "an eternal weight in glory."
Don't make the mistake of thinking Paul did not feel his pain or that he did not suffer. He was well aware of the beatings, torture, and the pain that he experienced. He obviously felt the full force of the scourgings, the hunger, the thirst, harassment, and the various anxieties he faced.
We cannot make an additional mistake of thinking that we are to deny the pain, sorrow, or the suffering that we experience in this life. God will often use these "afflictions" to purge sin from our lives, develop Christ likeness, and foster spiritual maturity.
It comes down to proper perspective. When we compare the temporary things that we might be suffering against the eternity that we will experience in glory, they seem as nothing. These things may last from the cradle to the grave, but they really are short lived. It is like comparing a sixty minute period of time to three years.
For whatever reason our loving and wise Father has determined to make us ready for our eternal stay in heaven by "afflictions." As somewhat veiled to us as it may seem, God has determined to give us joy as a reward for our suffering but also to use these things as the means to work out joy in our lives.
This of course is a whole other idea in itself. God has promised to us a joy that is indescribable and unassailable. Yet, He works that joy out by various things (afflictions) that could and often produces sorrow. We will save that for another time.
Suffice to say, that we are not to look for afflictions, but when they come we rejoice in them and recognize the significance that they contain. The are preparing us for an eternal weight (heaviness) of glory!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Gospel Driven Disciple Part II

The Call of the Disciples of Jesus There is a fundamental mark of the NT disciple; they are called by Jesus to discipleship. This aspect dominates all the instances in the gospels where this word is used. Now, this is different from the disciples of the Rabbis. These types of pupils, learners, students, apprentices, had to seek out an amiable and willing teacher and attach themselves to a teacher. Jesus did not seem to permit an individual to simply attach himself to Jesus. Jesus made the initiative. He called disciples to Himself. Luke 8 is a classic example. Jesus heals a man possessed by demons. He was naked, lived in the graveyard, he had been chained and shackled but would and could break the chains, he often was driven by the demons into the wilderness. Jesus cast out the legion of demons in him, and if you remember, Jesus put them into a herd of pigs that ran off a cliff and killed themselves. The locals were so afraid that they asked Jesus to leave, to get out of town. Verse 38 records the man’s request to go with Jesus, as a matter of fact; the word used there is begged. What did Jesus say? Sure, jump on board? No, he would not let him join the group. He sent him to his own town. Jesus calls disciples. He calls today. He has called you to be his disciple. If you are called by Jesus you will be a disciple and you will persevere to the very end. If you are not a disciple called by Jesus then you will eventually fall away, either, you won’t believe and will simply go away, or when trials or temptation comes upon you, you will go away, or when distractions appear, you will go away. The Commitment of the Disciples of Jesus The relationship of the disciples and Jesus is very unique. It is a very personal relationship. Since Jesus is the one who initiates discipleship, Jesus gets to set the form and content for the relationship.
Jesus was committed to His disciples. Later in John 17, He told the Father, that He had lost none of those who had been given to Him by the Father, except Judas, but that was predicted and determined by the Father to take place. The disciples were equally committed to Jesus. They lived with him, traveled with him, suffered with Him, and died because of Him.
As disciples, Jesus has a tremendous commitment to you, he says that he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:15) But He calls the shots. He says you must deny yourself, he says that you must die to live, you must be last to be first, you must wear a cross before a crown. The Command of the Disciples of Jesus
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 2:18-20) What is Jesus calling us to in Matthew 28:18-20? Is this a command or is it a suggestion? Do we simply “evangelize” and leave the converts on their own? Do we teach believers, particularly new believers the precepts of the bible and the character and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ? Does being a disciple mean that I can show up on Sunday morning and participate in church, or does it require obedience and action on your part? Well, the passage at the end of Matthew is called the great commission. It could very well be called the great omission. This seems to be the main command Jesus gave His church and the one command that seems to be the most ignored. Chew on this a minute, this is the main reason for churches to exist, but how many churches do you know that actually teaches the basics of Christianity and then moves them deeper into the precepts of fellowship and the Word through all the challenges of life? Many churches may be “good” at evangelism. Many churches may be good at preaching, especially on the Lord’s Day. But now many actively develop their membership? What happens is a few believers longing for more than warmed over meals on the Lord’s Day, eventually end up developing and discipling themselves. Where discipleship is missing from a local church, most Christians will not understand how to live out their Christian life, and they are horribly cheated by their local church. Why? Because they will not be able to handle problems, they will not be able to handle temptations, they won’t be able to share the gospel, and most tragically they will not be able to grow spiritually. Why? There is no one to show them the way, no one to model for them. We have become adept at warehousing Christians. We store them in the pew. There they sit week after week after week after week. Being a disciple is more than just “asking Jesus into your heart”, it goes far beyond that. Our election, calling, regeneration, conversion is just the entrance if you would into the Christian life. It would be like joining a club and never going to the club. The average church encourages people to accept Christ, get baptized and then join a Sunday school class or small group. But Sunday classes and most small groups are dispensers of information and not vehicles for discipleship. Sadly, the church as a whole has left the new believer to figure it out on their own. Some believers give up, others become confused, most just stay infants who celebrate their attachment to their heavenly Father and they never mature. The church is called to make disciples. Again, it is our chief duty, but it is also the chief neglected duty. Why is that? We will consider this next Friday as we consider the Gospel Driven Disciple.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What is True Conversion?

John Calvin came in contact with the truth of the gospel while he was studying law in Bourges, France. It is recorded for us that "a growing restlessness with his way of life" came upon him along with a deep awareness of his sin. It is said that this awareness of sin drove him to "seek relief in the grace and mercy of God." Here is how he characterized his experience:
"God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that I did not altogether leave off other studies, yet I pursued them with less ardour."
Compare that with today and we find find very little subdued minds that have been brought to a teachable frame. There is certainly nothing wrong with the gospel. It is still the "the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes." What then seems to be problem?
The problem lies in "the gospel presentation." The gospel is peddled as a panacea for every ill that a potential convert might be suffering. Or the gospel is peddled cheaply with no value other than as a means of making one healthy, wealthy, and wise.
The average gospel presentation begins in the wrong place with the wrong emphasis. You have heard the presentations, "God loves you, God sent His Son to die for you, and God has a wonderful plan for your life."
Psalms 5:5 says that God actually hates the sinner, " hate all who do iniquity." Psalms 11:5 reads in part, "...the one who loves violence His soul hates." (NASB)
If we began a presentation, not with "God loves you" but with "God is angry with you and has condemned you, and there is judgment waiting for you, however there is good news, I wonder how many would hang around to hear what the good news was? Of course the good news is that this same God who has been offended by your sin and has condemned you has also commanded you to repent, and has provided a means of reconciliation and redemption, so cry out to Him now for mercy and forgiveness, perhaps He will grant you repentance and faith for salvation.
The Puritans wrote extensively on conversion. The content of their doctrine of conversion contained the following seven points:
1. We must show the horribleness of sin without clouding the grace of God.
2. There must be a "felt consciousness of sin" in a sinner without impeding the sinners access to God.
3. There must be deep and thorough repentance from sin with a turning to God. Otherwise, there would be no need of a saviour.
4. There must be a clear understanding that Christ is received as both Lord and Saviour. In other words there can be no misunderstanding that in repentance a sinner is aware of both his need and sin and is committing himself to a saviour who is sovereign who demands absolute allegiance.
5. There must be a clear understanding that salvation is God dominant. God's goal is conversion is to bring a sinner back to his original reason for the sinners creation, namely, that He is to glorify God in all that he does. God has "engineered" salvation from beginning to end and therefore receives all of the glory and the sinner none.
6. There must be an understanding that though the gospel is simple, and that God is the author of repentance and conversion, apart from God, there is no salvation.
7. There must be a clear understanding of Scripture when the gospel is presented. Biblical truth is necessary as a part in conversion. Unclear, vague, or even unscriptural presentations will not lead to conversion to God but merely another victim in the downward spiral of cheapening and devaluing grace.
These things may need to be shared, taught, supported and otherwise repeated to the sinner until God opens their heart and mind. Their conversion, like Calvin's may be sudden, or over a period of time like Spurgeon's. We just might have to fore go the sinners signature on the dotted line on Thursday night soul winning the first time that they hear a "gospel presentation."
So, in conclusion, I thank God that He "subdued" the mind and heart of Calvin and "brought" him into a teachable frame. What God has wrought these past 500 years as a result of the work of salvation in John Calvin. May God continue to do the same work of conversion and subdue the wicked and sinful hearts of countless others through the means of people just like you and me for His glory and the good of the sinner!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

From the files of; "To Good To Pass Up"
BASRA, Iraq — Call it fowl play.
Open Doors, the legendary missions network led by Brother Andrew, recently smuggled one Bible into the Middle East. The big deal? Not in traditional format—print, cassette tape or MP3—Andrew’s crew floated all 31,103 verses of the Bible down the Euphrates River, via rubber duckies.
Visioneered in late 2006, the Rubber Ducky Bible took flight during Ramadan, when Muslims fasted and devoted themselves to prayer, and thus weren’t expecting a shock and awe campaign of bath toys.
“You got your KJV and your NIV,” Andrew said from his Webcam somewhere in the Iraqi desert. “But them Iraqis got themselves an RDV. And if we do it again, it’ll be an NRDV.” Andrew readily admits that the toughest part was literally squeaking past the TSA when, a la the hashish smugglers in Midnight Express, his team taped the ducks to their bodies.
“Yeah, customs was rough, but in the end, you’re dealing with government workers. They pat you down, and, you know, especially around the unmentionables. If you start squeaking down there, you just cough or sneeze and look around. They don’t notice a thing. I could hear Brother Zack getting his Habbakkuk squeezed a bunch of times, but he still got through. Squeeze. Squeak. Sneeze. That’s how we roll.”
Shiite Cleric Skandar Akbar was incensed at the outreach, citing passages from the Koran at a news conference in Basra: “In the name of Allah and his prophet Mohammed (peace be upon me), I issue Edict 17: The Rubber Ducky Fatwa.”
A jihad was declared against the Rubber Ducky Bible.
“Fatwa? What in Sam Hill is a Fatwa?” Brother Andrew asked. “Sounds like one of those special effects from that campy Batman in the sixties. You know, the one where the Caped Crusader would give a knuckle sandwich to The Riddler’s cronies? BAM! BOFFO! FATWA!”
Brother Andrew was unfazed after he got schooled on Fatwa. “We have prayer partners around the world, each sponsoring a ducky. I think they’re up to the challenge. We basically told them, ‘if anything happens to your ducky, we know how spiritual you are.’”
Open Doors plans to release the Rubber Ducky Bible on the Tigris and Jordan rivers during Ramadan in 2008.
Hee hee hee,” chuckled Andrew. “This is about the only instance I can think of where it’s OK for a Christian to give someone the bird.”
Lifted from "The Holy Observer"

Monday, April 6, 2009

It Really Is All About Him!

It is funny how you can read a passage of scripture or even a single verse a number of times as you read through the bible and then one day it happens-something jumps right off the page and knocks you over. This happened to me just recently. As a matter of fact I read this verse a number of times and it kept knocking me over, so I decided to stay down and see what the fuss was all about. I am currently reading Bob Kauflin’s Worship Matters and it is a profoundly riveting book. He has dedicated this book to his grandsons and in doing so he left them a scripture passage to ponder. I decided to look up this passage in my bible and it reads, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:18 ESV) Kauflin’s premise or proposition is “leading others to encounter the greatness of God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, it is not about us, it is about Him. His book is a clarion call to each individual, who participates in what we call worship, to inspire the members of the body of Christ to live for the glory of God. This is my passion; the heartbeat of my life. I desire to lead God’s people to behold a vision of the greatness, the glory, the majesty and the magnificence of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I too, desire God to give me the strength to make known the character and nature of God and His glory to this generation and even to a generation to come. Too many times we gather as a body on the Lord’s Day expecting something to happen to us, for us, with us, or based on us. Since we are such ego-centric beings, we sometimes think, “now that I am here, God can make much of me.” No, no, no, a thousand times no! We gather with grateful hearts to make much of Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit for His unmerited favor in our salvation and continuing sanctification. Oh, the utter wickedness of those who ignorantly (not judging heart or motive) make much of movies, T. V. clips, jokes, and themselves in pursuit of narcissistic glory. How I have grieved when I have heard people as they were leaving a worship service say to the effect, “I sure didn’t get anything out of that.” They missed it. They missed the greatness, the glory, the majesty, the might, and the power of the one true and living God. Oh, that God would give each of us the strength even when weathered by age to boldly, loudly, and vigorously make conspicuous the character and nature of our God.

How Important is the Church?

This is my former pastor, Jeff Seavey, from Living Water Community Church in Vancouver, WA. ( I think it is worth a listen! He is talking about one of my "true loves", the church of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Whom Do We Worship?

What comes to mind when we think of God?
Worship is only Theo-centric or ego-centric depending on our view/thoughts of God
The greatest fact that we need to face is what we think God to be like deep in our hearts
We will only and always move in the direction of our mental image of God
A right conception of God is basic to sound theology but also to practical living The religion section of the Dallas Morning News contained an article entitled, “Letting God Grow Up.” [1] Rabbi Jack Bemporad, a leader in Jewish-Christian circles, had co-authored a new book Stupid Ways, Smart Ways to Think about God. Bemporad seems to be saying that we must forsake what we have learned about God as children and think of God in more adult terms. While we can agree with some of the author’s ideas, overall, we must reject them. For example: To a large extent, atheists seldom reject a credible God but usually reject some stupid way of thinking about God, the authors say, calling some ideas about God so ridiculous they are not worth believing. There are some “childish” ideas about God that are wrong and should be rejected. Like the idea that God is a “cosmic bellhop…ready to serve you.” However, another idea that needs, he says, to be rejected is the idea that includes the concept of God’s wrath as a childish idea. Basically he is saying: “Men believe in the kind of God they wish to believe in and reject the kind of God they dislike.” Bemporad places little emphasis on the description of God that is given in the Bible. He seems to believe that we need to adjust our theology to our desires, rather than recognizing that we must adjust our theology to who God really is. If we don’t we then become idolaters! The end product of devising a God of our own imagination is very serious. When we devise a God of our own thinking, liking, desires, or understanding we create a false God, an idol, and we become idolaters. The truth of the matter is this; that many so called evangelical believers are idolaters. They have invented a God of their own imagination and they worship that God, not the God of the bible. We have a tendency to think of God as someone that we can relate to on our level or that we can love since we think of Him as being more like us. In reality due to our sin nature we want a God much like ourselves. We even have a tendency to create or desire a God that we can control. Anything less than the God of the Bible is an idol, for whatever we can imagine about God is less than God really is. Many professing Christians have a non-biblical, nonsensical, and shallow view of God. We desperately need to radically revise our thinking about God. So, the purpose of the next several lessons (Sunday Posts) is to explore the excellencies of our great God. The purpose is to realign our thinking about God considering what godly men have written. It is to realign our thinking with what is revealed in the Bible about the God of the Bible. Stay tuned!
[1] “Letting God Grow Up,” by George W. Cornell, The Dallas Morning News, Saturday, March 5, 1994, p. 44a

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Let's Shake the Tree!

Since future German reformer Martin Luther, at age 21, was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic church in 1507 on this day, our "Quality Quote" for this week comes from him. This quote reflects his method of studying the word of God. Well worth considering!
"First I shake the whole Apple tree, that the ripest might fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf."

Friday, April 3, 2009

What Is A Gospel Driven Disciple?

The first time we come across the word disciple in the New Testament is in Matthew 5:1. The Greek word "mathetes" is translated as “disciples.” It is used and translated some 269 times in the rest of the New Testament. In general usage, this word “denotes the man who directs his mind to something.” Very early in its usage this word took on the sense of pupil. The emphasis seems to be on the fact that one so designated as a "disciple" is engaged in learning.
The oldest usage and description of this word is in relationship to a man named Anacharsis, where he is called "the disciple." In this sense he is said to have adopted Greek wisdom and culture, and has become their champion. According to the Theological Dictionary of Greek Words, the emphasis is never on the deficiency of knowledge or learning, but the emphasis is on the fact that one is engaged in learning. Also, important to note, is that the education process or learning process consists of specific knowledge or conduct, and that it proceeds from a deliberate and set plan. Secondly, it is also important to note that there is a direct implication of dependence of the person who is under instruction upon a person of superior character of knowledge. Mathetes is the usual word for an apprentice. There is a very close bond between the discipler and the disciple. There is a close fellowship that developed over time. This relationship became so close that rarely did groups who met around various teachers disintegrate if and when the primary teacher or discipler died. We see this with the disciples of Jesus. Yes, for a short time they returned home discouraged, defeated, and depressed. But they reassembled and later it was said in Acts that they turned the world upside down. Now our word occurs primarily in the gospels and the book of Acts, as I said some 269 times. For the most part it is used of the men who attached themselves to Jesus. It is used of the men who attached themselves to John the Baptist, Paul, and of some who followed Jesus. This term came to be applied to believers, believers who followed Jesus, His teachings, and His doctrine. What is significant about this term, it describes a very personal and indissoluble union. These men in the NT committed themselves to Jesus.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In The Company of Calvin...

"Let us, then, unremittingly examine our faults, call ourselves back to humility. Thus nothing will remain in us to puff us up but there will be much occasion to be cast down."
--John Calvin

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Whose Fool Are You?

They say that today is April Fools Day. It is also known as All Fool's Day. It is not a legal holiday in the sense that we can skip work, head to the back yard and fire up the ole grill. It however is "celebrated" in many countries around the world on April 1st, today. We know that day will be filled with hoaxes, practical jokes, and juvenile attempts to embarrass our family, friends, and fools.
It is hard to say how April Fool's Day came about. There is a theory that it began shortly after the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in place of the Julian Calendar. There was a time when the first day of summer was celebrated as "May Day", or the first day of May. May day was the time the spring planting was begun. Someone who began planting on April 1st came to be known as an April fool.
A second theory says that when King Charles IX changed January 1st to the first day of the year in France from April 1st, that some held stubbornly to the original date of the new year. These folks who continued to hold to April 1st were considered April fools.
God's Word has quite a bit to say about fools: "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." " Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding." (Proverbs 17:28) "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him." (Proverbs 26:12) "A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards." (Proverbs 29:11)
We have even had some great quotes about fools:
“You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”- Abraham Lincoln.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to speak out and remove all doubt. Abraham Lincoln
“You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.”- James Thurber (1894 - 1961), New Yorker, Apr. 29, 1939 “The Owl who was God”
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”- the Bible
“He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave.”- Sir William Drummond
The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart. Benjamin Franklin
"He is no fool who will give up what he cannot keep for what he cannot loose to gain what he cannot loose." Missionary Jim Elliot
So, have a great April Fool's Day, this April the 1st, 2009. Consider eternally as you consider this day and all the jokes, surprises, hoaxes, and fools errands; whose fool are you? I am a fool for Christ!