Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Habakkuk 1:12-17 “Whatchu talking about, Jehovah?”

I praise God that He gives us what we need not what we want. I am so thankful that He’s sovereign and in control of everything and that in spite of how scary things look I know I can trust Him to be good. But when life gets scary, sometimes it’s hard for us to remember His faithfulness especially when facing the unexpected. Habakkuk talked with God and asked Him why He allowed sin to go unpunished. God replied that He was going to punish sin and He was going to use the Babylonians to do that. This announcement that an cruel nation that worshipped its own military might was going to be God’s instrument of judgment was beyond shocking to the prophet—crushing might be a better word for how Habakkuk felt. He knew the kind of people the Babylonians were and therefore he knew the danger his people, friends and family, were in.

First of all, notice in Habakkuk 1:12, the prophet appeals to the eternal character of God and His promise to Israel. God had made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the children of Israel. Because God is eternal and His covenant was an everlasting covenant, the prophet reasoned “We shall not die”. He assumed that with such a fierce enemy that the nation of Israel would be wiped off the face of the Earth. And from the descriptions we read in God’s revelation to Habakkuk that sounds about right. One thing is for sure, they weren’t coming over to play tiddlywinks.

The prophet’s second point is that because God is holy and pure, it doesn’t make sense for Him to use sinners to accomplish His purposes. In fact, Habakkuk sees this as out of character for God. The latter half of verse 12 in most Bibles is punctuated with a period. I think it would be better taken as a question. “God, how can you use them?” The fact is, God can use all circumstances, people, and places to accomplish His sovereign will. God never causes sin and God is not evil, but even sin and evil are no surprise to God and they can do nothing to thwart His purposes. As vile as the Babylonians were, God was able to use their vileness as a tool to discipline His people Israel.

Finally, Habakkuk asks “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” His point in Habakkuk 1:13-17 seems to be “You know what they’re like, Lord. How can you look at them when you know they treat people like the catch of the day in a seafood restaurant?” The Babylonians treated the people they conquered harshly and eventually that would come back to haunt them. But when God revealed the fact that they were going to conquer Israel to the prophet, all Habakkuk knew was that his people were going to be treated as little more than raw material for them to build the Babylonian empire. Because of their conquest, Habakkuk 1:16 tells us, the Babylonians lived well—on the backs of those they conquered and enslaved. Ultimately, Habakkuk wonders “Will they go on like this forever?”
Now, friends, you and I know that God will ultimately punish sin. So, when we face a situation like Habakkuk and there are people acting in ways that we know are sinful and we wonder where God is, we can remember that He is where He was—in Heaven, on His throne, right where He was when He punished His Son on the cross for that sin that grieves us. Because He is faithful, we can trust Him, no matter how much we hurt.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2007

Monday, October 24, 2011

Matthew 9:18-19 Surely He Has Borne Our Grief

In Matthew chapter 8, we read several accounts of Christ healing people of various ills. Some people teach, wrongly, that supernatural healing is normative for Christians and cite Christ’s healing ministry as proof that physical freedom from sickness is somehow part of the atonement. However, the evidence in scripture, not to mention the life experience of millions of Christians living and dead all over the world proves quite the opposite. Because of the effects of sin, our bodies and this world are both corrupted and therefore subject to disease and death. However, during His ministry on earth, Christ healed people not just to demonstrate compassion on them and certainly not to allow them to live their “best life now”. Rather, the primary reason was to be obedient to God and demonstrate that when He claimed deity, He wasn’t just making stuff up—it was true and the miracles were the proof.

As we come to our text in Matthew 9, we need to keep those truths in focus as we attempt to interpret the text. What Matthew is teaching us here is not that, as Christians, we will never get sick. Rather, he intends for us to understand that Jesus is God and as God can do things only God can do. The fact that people knew He was able to do these things is pretty evident. While He was correcting some misconceptions on the part of the Pharisees and John’s disciples (Matthew 9:11-17), He was approached by a leader of the local synagogue whose daughter was close to death (Matthew 9:18). Now, Matthew just gives us the general details about the scene—the man came to Jesus, worshipped Him (“knelt”—proskyneŇć 4352) and begged Jesus to come heal his daughter. Mark and Luke fill in the details for us as they did in Matthew 8:5-12. The man’s name is Jairus and his daughter was on the verge of death. Matthew records that the synagogue leader says his daughter “has just died”, but the English translation doesn’t really do the Greek justice—it could just as easily mean “by this time she must have died”.

Now, remember when Jesus healed the centurions servant, the Roman soldier refused to allow Jesus to come to his home, He claimed he was unworthy and cited Jesus’ authority in the matter. “If I have authority over soldiers, I don’t have to be present to make sure something is done. Likewise, since I recognize your authority over disease, I know you don’t have to be present for the disease to obey you” he essentially said. The man, who was considered a “dog” to Jewish people, had faith enough to trust Christ to heal his servant.

Observe here (Matthew 9:18), this man who knew God, knew the scriptures, and apparently recognized Jesus as able to heal His child, or else why would he have risked his position in Jewish religious life to call on Him, came to Jesus, worshipped Him, but needed Him to come to where the girl was dying so that He could heal her. He didn’t have the faith to believe that Christ could just speak, where they were, and heal his little girl.

However, this lack of faith doesn’t dissuade Christ. Out of His love, compassion, and obedience to His Father, Jesus agrees to go and brings His disciples with Him. As we read this and contemplate on the situation and Christ’s response, we should be touched by the compassion that Christ shows here and elsewhere for those who are sick and hurting. We should also be thankful that even when our faith is weak and we find it hard to trust Christ, Christ still loves us and accepts us where we are. He truly is our faithful High Priest.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2007

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Habakkuk 1:5-11 “Be careful what you wish for”

On Sunday evening, our pastor has been preaching through the book of Job. All throughout the book, Job proclaimed his innocence and wished for an audience with God to please his case. At the end of the book, Job gets his wish. However, I’m thinking about half a chapter in, Job wishes he had not gotten what he asked for. God of course give him a scathing rebuke that basically says “I am God. You are not. Be quiet”. Here, in Habakkuk, the prophet pleads his case before God. As I read verse 4, I almost wouldn’t be surprised if verse 5 read “And the Lord dissolved Habakkuk before His eyes, and Job was no more”. I mean, Habakkuk begins his conversation with God basically accusing God of not caring about the evil people did and not acting as judge of sin. I imagine, much like Job, Habakkuk envisioned his discussion with God ending with him setting God straight. However, much like Job, the conversation did not turn out at all like he thought it would.

Habakkuk asked God “What are you going to do about judging the sin of Israel?” God chooses, in His wisdom, to reveal His plan to Habakkuk. He tells him in verse 5 to prepare to be shocked—“You are not going to believe this. You think I’m not working. Well, just wait till you see what I’m going to do”. To judge the sin of His people, God has chosen the roughest, toughest, meanest bunch of hooligans the world had seen up to that point—the Chaldeans (Habakkuk 1:5).
The 101st Babylonian Infantry
Of course, we read about them elsewhere in the Bible as the Babylonians (Kings, Daniel, and Isaiah). The name may be changed here, but the carnage is the same. The Babylonians were the first real world power. Sure, the Assyrians conquered multiple nations, but the Babylonian empire was bigger and their armies were fiercer. In my mind, I imagine this group like a biker gang—they were some bad dudes and God revealed to Habakkuk in verses 5 and 6 that they were going to be His instruments of judgment to punish Israel for their continued sinful disobedience.

Notice the chilling description Habakkuk records of these people. In verse 6, we’re told they are “…bitter and hasty…dreaded and fearsome”. They stab first and ask questions later. They saw themselves not as above the law, but rather they saw themselves as the law (“…their justice and dignity go forth from themselves…”). They didn’t answer to anyone. Their motto was “I’m the boss, apple sauce” and they had the military might to back up their bully-like attitude.

They were the best there was at what they did.
Their cavalry, Habakkuk 1:8 tells us, was swift and deadly. The terrible picture painted leaves little hope for escape or mercy. You can’t outrun a leopard, you can’t out fight a wolf, and you can’t hide from the high flying eagle. No matter where you run, these guys are going to get you and when they get you, they’re not there to play tiddlywinks or Monopoly. Verse 9 further portrays the deadly peril that Israel faces—we’re told the Babylonians come marching with “all their faces forward”. In other words, they are persistent, determined. They didn’t come to negotiate. They’re not looking for your money so you can’t buy them off. They want territory and they want to enslave people. And we read in Habakkuk 1:10 that the people can’t even depend on their leaders for protection because the Babylonian see them as little more than the punch line to a joke. Your walled cities? They build up siege ramps and take your city like a hot knife through butter. They don’t worship God but rather this godless, heathen nation worships their “own might” (Habakkuk 1:11).

Just reading the description of the terrible judgment that God has prepared for the nation of Israel is gut wrenching. Can you imagine how Habakkuk felt when God revealed that to him? He had come to God with a legitimate concern, even if it was expressed disrespectfully and God gives him news that had to have turned his stomach. The same thing, brothers and sisters, happens to us all the time. Oh, God doesn’t directly reveal His plans to us like this but we face scary, trying circumstances. How should we respond? Where is the hope in our trials? We can hope in God. God is sovereign, in control of all things, and we can trust Him even in the midst of the saddest, scariest, most pain circumstances because He is God and He is faithful.

In this post, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2007

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review—Give Them Grace by Fitzpatrick/Thompson

First of all, stop what you’re doing now and go buy this book. If you’re a parent, you need to read this. If you’re not a parent but you’re a Christian, you need to read this. We need to be constantly reminded of the gospel and so I want you to stop reading this book review and go buy the book.

Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me say first of all that I appreciate the message in this book and the sincerity of the messengers. Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, a Christian mother and daughter, did not write this book to give a method or set of steps to improving your child’s behavior. If you’re looking for Twenty Ways to Change your Kid in Twenty Days you are going to be sorely disappointed. In fact, if I had to summarize the book’s message in one sentence, it would be this: Believe the gospel and preach it to your kids.

So often as parents we just want our kids to behave—in my case, I just want quiet. We focus on encouraging good behaviors and punishing bad behaviors and, as the book points out, this kind of training is necessary and has its place. However, what most of us tend to do as parents is focus on doing good and not doing bad as a goal as if it’s the be all end all of existence. In contrast, the gospel tells us the exact opposite. The gospel tells us that we are lost, sinful, and wretched and could never do anything good enough, let alone good. The fires of hell will burn for all eternity all around many good, moral people who showed up on time for work, never talked back to authority, helped little old ladies across the street. If all we do is teach our kids to be good, or worse, to feign goodness when someone is looking, we have failed our children and failed God in the calling He has given us as parents.

Rather, as the authors point out, we should look at our children’s misbehavior and recognize our own sinful heart and open rebellion against our heavenly Father. Further, we should use those opportunities to encourage our kids to see their own sinful heart and remind them that their sin condemns them before God but that God loved us. Because God loved us, He sent a Savior, Someone to rescue us from our sin. This is not to say that we don’t discipline our children and correct them when they misbehave, but rather that we don’t just stop there. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves and our children and using their own sin to remind them of their need for a Savior is a great way to do just that.

In short, I would recommend this book to anyone for that very reason—these ladies explain the gospel clearly and remind the reader of the depths of human sin. They also explain effectively the dangers of moralism. Those are two lessons no Christian can hear too often.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Habakkuk 1:1-4 “Yeah, well if God is so good…”

Stop me if you’ve had this happen to you. You’re sharing the gospel with someone who is trying to come up with some rationalization why they refuse to believe. They get irritated or whatever and blurt out something along the lines of “Oh yeah, well, if God is so good then why…”. And the “why” could be any number of things from something really significant (“…why did my little brother die of cancer when he was 8 years old…”) to some things that are somewhat less than significant (“…why have the Yankees won the World Series so many times…”). I know God is sovereign and we’d be condemned as committing a heresy if we admitted it, but the fact is you and I (those of us who have trusted in Christ’s death on the cross as payment for our sins and have repented) have asked the same question even if we’ve never asked it out loud. I might surprise us to know that people asked the same sort of question in scripture—more than one person actually. For the next few weeks (months?) we’re going to take a look at just such a person, the prophet Habakkuk.

Habakkuk lived in Jerusalem during a time of great spiritual wickedness. If we looked at a two minute highlight reel of the history of Israel from when they entered the land, one pattern would become painfully obvious. They would fall into sin, God would punish them through various means, they would repent, and God would save them. Rinse, lather, repeat. According to Adam Clark’s Bible commentary, Habakkuk probably lived during the reign of Jehoiakim somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 B.C. II Kings 23:37 tells us that this king did “what was evil in the sight of the Lord according to all that his fathers had done” So, while the nation of Judah had good kings from time to time, this guy was not one of them. And, as was typical during the reign of an evil king, he led the nation into committing sin against the Lord. To say the least, our friend Habakkuk lived in troubled times.

So, Habakkuk did as the Holy Spirit inspired him to do—he recorded this prophecy. The first verse tells us that this was an “oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw”. He didn’t make this up. We do not find here the ramblings of some guy who is just ticked off at the government or at God and wanted to vent. In fact, the word “oracle” can be translated “burden” which, as you read the book, becomes pretty descriptive of what the prophet probably felt when he received this divine revelation. He had a burden for his people and what he saw going on. He was burdened when God revealed to him that He was going to do. I suspect, also, that he was still burdened even when he had accepted that God was sovereign and would do what pleased Him, but it was a different kind of burden—a burden to see God glorified even in the midst of horrifying circumstances.

As Habakkuk opens his prophecy, we observe the man being completely raw and honest about how he feels. If I had to characterize his tone I would call it angry. To me, he sounds angry at God. In the second verse of the book, we find that he complains “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?” In other words, “God, why are you not doing anything?” And, lest we think that Habakkuk thinks it’s just that God doesn’t see or hear what is happening, he spells it out for us very plainly in verse 3 when he asks “Why do you look idly at wrong?”

He doesn’t just question God’s apparent inaction, but goes so far as to question His character. He continues to describe the awful conditions he lives in as he concludes verse 3 saying he is surrounded by “destruction…violence…strife and contention”. Because of all the evil Habakkuk sees, he believes God should act and judge. However, since he doesn’t see God acting in judgment, he concludes that “the law is paralyzed…[and]…justice never goes forth”. Or to put it more bluntly, “If God is so good, why is there so much evil in the world.”

Habakkuk, then, asks exactly the same question that we are asked so often when we share the gospel. As we continue to study this book, we’ll see the answer he’s given and I believe come to praise God for His sovereignty and justice.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2007

Monday, August 15, 2011

Matthew 9:14-17 A Pair of Skewed Perspectives—John the Baptist’s Disciples part 2

The Pharisees had a wrong perspective about Jesus and what He taught. They perceived that He was not up to their standards of holiness because He ate with people they considered sinners. They also believed that they were themselves righteous. Of course, we know that there is no one who is righteous—we all stand before a holy God justly condemned for our sins apart from faith in Christ and His finished work. However, it wasn’t just the Pharisees that did not understand Christ. The disciples of John the Baptist also had a skewed perspective. As we saw the last time we looked at these verses, the disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus about fasting. He helped them come to understand that His disciples did not fast because, first of all, it wasn’t time for them to be fasting. Let’s take a look at another reason why His disciples didn’t fast like John’s disciples did.

In verses 16 and 17, Jesus used two illustrations that pretty well everyone in the Middle East would have understood. He told these disciples, in essence, that the new truths He taught didn’t fit with the Jewish religion as they practiced it. In verse 16, he compared the truth of the gospel to a piece of new cloth. Trying to fast as the Pharisees and priests taught while believing the gospel that Christ preached would be like taking that new piece of cloth that was not shrunk and sewing it onto an old coat that had a tear. When the patch shrunk, and it would shrink, it would pull away from the coat and make an even bigger tear. One cannot take the truth of the gospel and pair it with forms of external, man-centered self justification and not expect a problem. The Pharisees and religious leaders taught that it was by keeping the law and ceremonies that a person was made right with God. I don’t think that Jesus is forbidding anyone from fasting but rather he was giving the proper perspective on it. A person cannot be made right with God because they observed some ceremony. Trying to do that is disastrous—it just doesn’t fit.

In like manner, He said trying to take the new wine of the gospel and pour it into the old forms of the religion practiced by the Pharisees would be a complete waste. The truth of the gospel could not be contained by those old forms and customs. The gospel of forgiveness of sins based on faith and repentance could not fit with the doctrine of self-atonement. Because true righteousness is received through faith as a gift it could not be earned through human work. Therefore, the gospel was, and is, incompatible with the attempt that many people, even some of them believers, make to secure their right standing with God by being good. As I had preached to a congregation before, salvation is not about right doing producing right being but rather it is about right being producing right doing.

How sad it is when people try to justify themselves by being religions. It is vain, futile, and ultimately, as Jesus says here, leads to ruin. The gospel that He preached was a pure, life giving gospel that actually saves not a works based gospel that only serves to remind a person that they’re never good enough. We are not good enough to stand before a holy God, but because of the finished work of Christ on Calvary, we are declared righteous. Brothers and sisters, may we rest securely in the finished work of our Lord. As He said from the cross, “It is finished”.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Matthew 9:14-17 A Pair of Skewed Perspectives—John the Baptist’s Disciples part 1

John the Baptist was a pretty interesting character. He probably wouldn’t have been invited to preach in our churches if he was around today, which wouldn’t make much of a difference to him, I would bet, because he’d be in the “boondocks” or some part of town that most of us wouldn’t be caught dead in preaching the gospel. His disciples, as we observe here came to Jesus with questions that were born out of a skewed perspective just like the Pharisees—skewed ii a different direction, perhaps, but skewed none the less. In short, the disciples of John had an incorrect perspective on the situation of Jesus’ disciples and the scope of Jesus’ ministry.

First of all, notice their perspective on Jesus’ disciples. They ask Jesus in Matthew 9:14 why His disciples do not fast as the disciples of other teachers did. Now, observe the tone they used. It doesn’t appear that they were accusatory or combative. They were just asking a question—clarifying. Furthermore, while the Pharisees fasted according to Jewish tradition on holy days as well as regularly during the week, it’s possible that at this point when they spoke to Jesus that John’s disciples were grieving the loss of their teacher after he was executed by Herod the Great. Therefore, they may have been asking Christ why His disciples were not fasting to mourn with them, since he was Christ’s cousin, or they may have been asking why they didn’t follow the same ceremonies as the disciples of other teachers.

In any case, Christ loving clarifies His disciple’s situation for them. Please notice, as I’m sure you have, that Christ does not forbid fasting or abolish the practice. Rather, He points out the unique situation of the disciples and why they are not fasting. Borrowing from the custom of Jewish weddings, which were basically huge parties, he makes the analogy that He is the bridegroom, the disciples are the wedding guests and as such it would not be proper for them to mourn (Matthew 9:15). While Christ is with them, they don’t have any reason to mourn. The Messiah has come and is preaching to good news of the gospel. The dead are being raised, the lame walk, and the blind see. For the person who had their eyes opened to this truth, there couldn’t possibly have been any happier time. Rejoicing, not weeping, would be the response you would expect of someone who had been given by God the revelation of Who Christ was.

Furthermore, as we continue to read in Matthew 9:15, Christ notes that there will be a time in the future when His disciples will fast—they will have reason to mourn. As He did several times in His ministry, he predicts a time when “…the bridegroom is taken away…” referring to the time when He was crucified. Of course, we know how sad and fearful the disciples were immediately after the crucifixion but at the time neither the disciples of John nor Christ’s own disciples realized exactly what lay ahead. However, though John’s disciples couldn’t have known exactly what Jesus meant, Jesus did point out to them the fact that they didn’t have a clear perspective on why His disciples didn’t fast. In short, the time wasn’t right.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Psalm 1:4-6 There is a Payday--Count on it.

I know I blogged through Psalm 1 sometime back a few years ago (see here).  However, I've recently had the chance to preach through that psalm.  Here is the link to the 3rd and final sermon I preached out of that psalm, which if truth be told should have been the 2nd half of the 2nd sermon I preached.  Oh well, c'est la vie.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Colossians 1:1-2 The Power of the Gospel

I began preaching through the book of Colossians this past Sunday.  Here is the link to download the audio.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Audio Sermon Links

Here is the link of the new page I added where I'll post links to audio from sermons I have the opportunity to preach.  At the moment, I'm using a freebie audio hosting site so the links won't play audio directly--you have to down load them.  But come on, you've got room on your mp3 player for some more sermons, right?  Of course you do. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fundamental Friday's--God's Revelation in Scripture

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

But there is another revelation which God has given of Himself to men-a more definite and personal one. He gave them up to the thoughts of their own heart, and selected one man, Abraham, to go out from his friends and kindred, so that in his seed all the nations of the world might be blessed. Then, first, out of Abraham came the people of Israel, to whom were committed the oracles of God; and from this period began the history of the written Word. Moses narrates the beginning of things, also records the law, and holy men of God speak and write as they are moved by the Holy Spirit. That is inspiration—a divine in-breathing.

In giving us these narratives it may be said, moreover, that God, who numbers the very hairs of our head, exercised a providential control, so that what was reported by His chosen men should be the real facts, and nothing else. To what extent He inspired those men with the very words used by them, it is not for us to know, but probably more fully than we suspect.

But when God, after having communicated the law to Moses on Mount Sinai and in the Tabernacle, communes with him as a friend with friend, and Moses writes "all the words of this law in a book" (Deut. 28:58; 31:24), then Moses really becomes the pen of God. When God speaks to the prophets, "Behold, I put my words in thy mouth," and "the words that thou hearest thou shalt say to this people," then these prophets become the very mouth of God. When Christ appears to John on Patmos, and says, "To the angel of the church write these things," this is an instance of verbal dictation.

But just here we are amused at those weak-minded critics who, with hackneyed phrases, talk so glibly about "mechanical instruments" and "mere verbal dictation." Does then a self-revelation of the Almighty and a making known of His counsels, a gracious act which exalts the human agent to be a co-worker with Jehovah, annihilate personal freedom?The Bible is, consequently, a book which originated according to the will and with the co-operation of God; and as such it is our guide to eternity, conducting man, seemingly without a plan and yet with absolute certainty, all the way from the first creation and from Paradise on to the second or higher creation and to the New Jerusalem (Comp. Gen. 2:8-10 with Rev. 21:1, 2).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Acts 2:36-38 Now THAT'S An Invitation

This past Sunday, I had the chance to preach in the church I pastored before I moved to Tennessee, Matthew's Memorial Baptist Church.  Here is a link to download the audio from the sermon.  I pray that you are encouraged.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Psalm 1:3--True Sucess According to Scripture

I know I blogged through Psalm 1 sometime back, but I've had the oppotunity to preach through it recently.  Here is the second sermon I preached on Psalm 1:3.  I think you have to download it as it won't play in the browser when you click the link.  I pray that you are encouraged.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fundamental Friday's--God's Self Revelation in Nature

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

But now the question arises whether God, who is both the Creator of all things and the Father of spirits, has revealed Himself to his creatures, or to His own children, the work of His hands. Such a question might surely provoke one's laughter. For what is the entire universe? what is this created nature of which we form a part? what is air? and water? and fire? what are all organized beings, my body with its many parts put together in such a highly artistic and inscrutable fashion; my soul with its infinite capabilities so little understood by myself? What are all these matters but a progressive revelation of God, given to us, as it were, in a series of concentric circles rising one above another toward their Source? For this purpose it was that God created the visible, so that through it we might perceive the invisible, and for this purpose the whole creation was made, so that through it might be manifested the invisible things of God, even his eternal power and godhead (Rom. 1:20). Creation-is only the language of "the Word that was in the beginning, and was with God, and was God, and by Whom all things were made" (John 1:1-3). What does this Word declare? What else but the great infinite name of God the Father, the primal source of all things, the name that must be hallowed? There was a time, however, even before the world was, when there existed nothing but God and his name. All the different works of creation are only letters in this great name.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Security of Sound Doctrine--Philippians 3:1-2

I published a blog post from Philippians 3:1-2 some time back.  However, I had the chance to preach this past Sunday and chose that text for my sermon.  Here is the audio.  I pray that you are encouraged.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Psalm 2:10-13 You Betta Reck-ah-nize

I was a school teacher some years ago. In one of my classes, a couple of the lunk-heads (i.e. students) were picking at one another. The one boy said something about the other one’s mother I think (“Yo’ momma breff so stank…”). The other boy didn’t like it and proceeded to go across the room to teach the other kid the error of his ways. Now, some of the students got in front of the kid that was about to be pounced on and I got in front of the kid that was headed over there. I don’t remember his name, but we’ll call him Bob. Bob was a good kid, basically, but he was highly ticked off right that second. He was standing in front of me and I had my hand on his chest to keep him from plowing forward. Did I mention he was about 6’5”, 220ish? Yeah, so he had stopped walking forward and was just standing there and I realized “You know, if dude decides to roll me over and go after that kid, there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it.” I knew I was in real trouble if he didn’t get control of himself because he could have hurt me badly. As we read the last few verses of David’s second psalm, we see the focus of the psalm come full circle. It started with humankind plotting their rebellion. It ends with humankind being warned against that rebellion.

As we saw in Psalm 2:4-6, God has already decreed that Christ will be exalted above everything and that the plans of rebellion plotted by mankind are just a joke to Him. We find in Psalm 2:7-9 that Christ has been promised total dominion and will judge those who will not bow to Him. Now, with that in mind, we find the kings and rulers are given sound advice. They are told first of all to “be wise” (Psalm 2:10). Since God has settled in His mind Who will be King and since the Son has announced that He has been given total dominion over everything, committing treason and rebelling against the omnipotent authority of Christ would be the exact opposite of wisdom. It would be more like suicide. The wise thing to do, then, would be to submit because as we read in verse 9, you are not going to be standing when He gets finished with the judgment.

They are further told to “be warned”. In other words, pretend like this is a life or death choice, because it is. The judgment that is coming is real. It will be final. There will be no surviving or standing there and taking it like a man. When Christ comes to execute His judgment, there will be no one left standing that opposed him. Therefore, when it happens, don’t act like you haven’t been told it was coming.

What can these rebels do to avoid their fate? Submit. Surrender is the only option. They are told, basically, to become willing servants of this King. They are advised to “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling”. Further, they are told to humble themselves and “Kiss the Son”. When you know you’re completely outmatched and overwhelmed, throwing yourself to the mercy of your opponent isn’t a bad idea. Particularly when you realize that if you don’t you may “perish in the way”. Depending on how one understands the next Hebrew phrase, the time to judgment may be short (“for his wrath is quickly kindled “ (ESV)) or even the slightest bit of his anger may be too powerful to withstand (“his wrath is kindled but a little “(KJV)). In any case, those who look to Him for salvation (“refuge”) will not be put to shame.

So, as we have examined this psalm of David, I wonder, have you examined yourself—your heart? Are you one of the proud, brave rebels who says “I will not have Him to be God over me”? Or are you instead one of those who has trusted Him to save you? The consequences of that decision are very real and eternal. I pray that you have trusted Him, because if you have, He will not turn you away.

Unless otherwise indicated, in this post scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fundamental Friday's--God the Creator

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

There remains, therefore, only this alternative: either the world produced itself, or it was created. That all things came into existence spontaneously, and therefore that we must suppose an origination of immeasurably great effects without any cause, or believe that at some time a nothing, without either willing or knowing it, and without the use of means, became a something-this is the most unreasonable assumption that could possibly be attributed to a human being. How could anything act before it existed? or a thing not yet created produce something? There is nothing more unreasonable than the creed of the. unbeliever, notwithstanding all his prating about the excellence of reason.

But if this world did not produce itself, then it must have been created by some Higher Power, some Cause of all causes, such as was that First Principle upon which the dying Cicero called. Or, to use the words of Dr. Klein, that originating cause must have been a "Supreme Intelligence that has at its command unlimited creative power" (Kosmologische Briefe, p. 27). Hence what that Intelligence does is both illimitable ante anfathomable, and it can at any time either change this world or make a new one. It is therefore prima facie silly for us, with our prodigiously narrow experience, to set any kind of bounds to the Supreme Being; and a God who works no miracles and is the slave of his own laws implanted in nature; such a God as the New Theology preaches, is as much lacking in being a true Divinity as is the unconscious, but all-wise "cosmic ether" of Spiller, or the "eternal stuff" of other materialists.

We conclude, then, that the universe was created, or that God is the author of all things.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sermon--Psalm 1:1-2 What does the Bible say about happiness?

I know I've blogged through this psalm already, but I've had the opportunity recently to preach it so I've uploaded the audio here.  It is something of a pain because you have to download it but surely your iPod has room for one more sermon, right?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Gospel isn't Everything-It's the Only Thing II Corinthians 5:21

I had the opportunity to preach this past Sunday.  Here is the audio from the message in II Corinthians.  I'm using free file hosting so I don't think it will play for you in the browser.  Instead you have to download it.  But come on, you've got enough room on your MP3 player for another sermon, don't you?  :-)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fundamental Friday's--The Creation of the Universe

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

The eternity of the universe is most clearly disproved by its evolution. From a scientific point of view that hypothesis is now discredited and virtually abandoned. Astronomers, physicists, biologists, philosophers, are beginning to recognize more and more, and men like Secchi, Dubois-Reymond, Lord Kelvin, Dr. Klein and others, unanimously affirm that creation has had a beginning. It always tends towards an entropy, that is, toward a perfect equilibrium of its forces, a complete standstill; and the fact that it has not yet reached such a condition is proof that it has not always existed.

There remains, therefore, only this alternative: either the world produced itself, or it was created. That all things came into existence spontaneously, and therefore that we must suppose an origination of immeasurably great effects without any cause, or believe that at some time a nothing, without either willing or knowing it, and without the use of means, became a something-this is the most unreasonable assumption that could possibly be attributed to a human being.

But if this world did not produce itself, then it must have been created by some Higher Power, some Cause of all causes, such as was that First Principle upon which the dying Cicero called. Or, to use the words of Dr. Klein, that originating cause must have been a "Supreme Intelligence that has at its command unlimited creative power" (Kosmologische Briefe, p. 27). Hence what that Intelligence does is both illimitable ante anfathomable, and it can at any time either change this world or make a new one. It is therefore prima facie silly for us, with our prodigiously narrow experience, to set any kind of bounds to the Supreme Being; and a God who works no miracles and is the slave of his own laws implanted in nature; such a God as the New Theology preaches, is as much lacking in being a true Divinity as is the unconscious, but all-wise "cosmic ether" of Spiller, or the "eternal stuff" of other materialists.

We conclude, then, that the universe was created, or that God is the author of all things.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Psalm 2:7-9 The Anointed One Speaks

As we have examined this Psalm, we have heard from the wicked, sinful rulers of the earth conspiring together to revolt against God (Psalm 2:1-3). We’ve heard God have a good, old fashioned belly laugh at the very thought of these creatures imagining that they could defy Him (Psalm 2:4-6). Now, we will hear from yet another Speaker in this psalm. God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, enters the scene in answer to those who wish to rebel against His rule. As we will see, He’s not there to negotiate with them or try to win their affection. Actually, He boldly declares His sovereign rule which should be enough to frighten sinful mankind to the core.

Notice, as Christ comes in verse 7, He’s not speaking on His own authority. Christ will rule and reign over all and everyone will recognize Him as the Lord of all creation but they will do so to the “glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). Therefore, since ultimately God the Father will be glorified by God the Son, it is only natural here that the Son acknowledges the authority of the Father and announce that He is declaring “the decree of the Lord”.

In fact, the first item Christ mentions is His Sonship—His special relationship as the only Son of the Father. I think that’s an important point for us all to take note of. God has not installed an underling to serve as ruler over all creation. He has put everything under the feet of His Son—One just like Him (Hebrews 1:3). Since God is holy, righteous, merciful, and faithful then we can rejoice because that’s exactly what the Son is. He is perfectly like His Father and will therefore faithfully carry out His rule.

Next, observe with me the completeness of Christ’s kingdom. God declares to Him that He will give Christ “the nations” and “the very ends of the earth” (Psalm 2:8). Now, is there anything that does not fall into those two categories? No!! Christ will rule over all men, women, boys, girls, dogs, cats, rocks, buildings, seas…you get the idea. There is no place that His rule does not extend to and there is no one that will not fall under His jurisdiction. Praise God, He will be able to fully and faithfully execute justice because He will have completely authority over everything. Where our governments fail us many times and people in different countries or cities can’t agree on things and have to negotiate, He will be able to do the right thing all the time and have the authority and power to back that up. Hallelujah!

Finally, notice that this authority does not come without the ability to enforce that authority. Those in Psalm 2:1-3 who believed that they could rebel against God and against His Christ are in for a most rude awakening. You see, Christ is certainly merciful and tender-hearted, but He is also perfectly just, holy, and all powerful. His rod, the symbol of His rule, is a “rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9). The people who rebel against Him? They’re just “earthenware”. What happens when iron strikes a clay pot? It gets shattered—completely destroyed. When Christ comes to execute judgment on the wicked, I can promise you one thing, He’s not coming to play pat-a-cake. His judgment will be swift, sure, and terrible.

As we read this, if we have trusted Christ to save us, we can rejoice as we imagine the coming rule of our Messiah. However, perhaps you’re reading this and you have not trusted Christ to save you—you have not repented of your sins. Friend, please take these verses as a warning to do that, before it is too late.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Matthew 9:13 A Pair of Skewed Perspectives—The Pharisees Part III

As we observed last time in studying this passage, the Pharisees had a problem. They thought they were righteous before God whereas the people Jesus ate with (and by implication Christ Himself) were not. The truth was, of course, that they were just as sinful as those they disdained and in some ways they were worse off because they were sick with the spiritual cancer of sin and they didn’t realize it. In short, Christ had the correct perspective on their condition while they did not. In a similar fashion, their perspective on their devotion to God and their responsibility to man was likewise skewed. As we will see here, Christ again shows them that what they think is true and right differs greatly from reality.

You see, the Pharisees thought that by not associating with sinners that they were proving their devotion to God. In their mind, remaining pure and separate from those who lived godless lives was, in a sense, an act of worship. However, Christ points out the error in their thinking by referring them to Hosea 6:6. He reminded them that they should already have known this by telling them to “go and learn what this means” which was the first century equivalent of saying to them “I guess you were absent the day they taught scripture in Hebrew school, huh?” Again, these masters of scripture might have known the words but the truth of those words had not pierced their hard hearts. They had the quote from Hosea backwards in their practice. They had majored on the “sacrifices”—the external demands and duties of their religion. They had ignored the requirement for “compassion”. Instead of being a witness of the truth to those who lived in disobedience and calling them to repent, they sat in self righteous judgment and condemned those on whom they should have had compassion just as God and Christ had compassion on them.

In addition, they had a goofed up perspective on what God expected from them while also having an incorrect perspective on other people. Jesus reminded them, therefore, that God was a God who saves people and shows compassion. This salvation, though, was for those who were humble enough to acknowledge their need for it. As He said back in Matthew 5:3, it is those who are poor in spirit who are going to be blessed. Those who recognize their need for a savior and will turn to God and say “Have mercy on me” are the ones who will find a God willing to forgive and save them. Jesus, as He said here, “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners”.

The Pharisees rejected Jesus and His message because they rejected God’s word in spite of their protestations that they knew Him and followed Him. They, as a result, didn’t have a right perspective on themselves, on sin, and ultimately on God and His righteousness. What we see here then is a reminder that rejecting the truth is dangerous and carries consequences. If we want to have a right perspective on our situation, we need a right perspective on God and we only get that right perspective from His holy word.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fundamental Friday's--The Fallacies of Higher Criticism Part VIII

In the early 1900's. a twelve volume work on theology titled The Fundamentals was published. This massive work, in my most humble of opinions, is just as relevant today if not more so with the ever increasing attacks on the faith of Christians--and that's just from folks inside the church. I wanted to publish some excerpts from this work that I think will be greatly encouraging to you.

Another case of forgery is found in the origin of the priestly legislation, if we are to believe the higher critics. This legislation is contained in a large number of passages scattered through Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. It has to do chiefly with the tabernacle and its worship, with the duties of the priests and Levites, and with the relations of the people to the institutions of religion. It is attributed to Moses in scores of places. It has a strong coloring of the Mosaic age and of the wilderness life. It affirms the existence of the tabernacle, with an orderly administration of the ritual services. But this is all imagined, for the legislation is a late production. Before the exile there were temple services and a priesthood, with certain regulations concerning them, either oral or written, and use was made of this tradition; but as a whole the legislation was enacted by such men as Ezekiel and Ezra during and immediately after the exile, or about 444 B. C. The name of Moses, the fiction of a tabernacle, and the general coloring of the Mosaic age, were given it in order to render it authoritative and to secure the ready obedience of the nation. But now:

1. The moral objection here is insuperable. The supposition of forgery, and of forgery so cunning, so elaborate, and so minute, is abhorrent. If the forgery had been invented and executed by wicked men to promote some scheme of selfishness, it would have been less odious. But when it is presented to us as the expedient of holy men, for the advancement of the religion of the God of righteousness, which afterwards blossomed out into Christianity, we must revolt.

2. The theory gives us a portraiture of such men as Ezekiel and Ezra which is utterly alien from all that we know of them. The expedient might be worthy of the prophets of Baal or of Chemosh; it was certainly not worthy of the prophets of Jehovah, and we dishonor them when we attribute it to them and place them upon a low plane of craft and cunning of which the records concerning them are utterly ignorant.

3. The people who returned from the exile were among the most intelligent and enterprising of the nation, else they would not have returned, and they would not have been deceived by the sudden appearance of Mosaic laws forged for the occasion and never before heard of.

4. Many of the regulations of this legislation are drastic. It subjected the priests and Levites to a rule which must have been irksome in the extreme, and it would not have been lightly accepted. We may be certain that if it had been a new thing fraudulently ascribed to Moses, these men would have detected the deceit, and would have refused to be bound by it. But we do not hear of any revolt, or even of any criticism.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Matthew 9:10-13 A Pair of Skewed Perspectives—The Pharisees Part II

The Pharisees, as we examined the last time we looked at this passage, looked down on Jesus because He, in their minds, was not righteous because He was associating with those known to be unrighteous. In their way of thinking, the sinfulness of the people with whom He was eating made them unfit for Jesus or any respectable person to be around. As much as you and I might chide the Pharisees for this attitude, how often are we like that? I’d say more often than we admit. As my pastor pointed out in his sermon Sunday, picture two couples in your mind: one couple comes in, cleanly dressed, hair neatly combed, a man and a woman in their mid 30’s with two children who don’t make a peep the entire service. The other couple is a fairly haggard looking with greasy, matted hair, the man has tattoos on his neck that look like they extend beneath his shirt. The woman is carrying a baby that is screaming loudly and wearing a diaper and a t-shirt that has what looks to be dried squash, peas, and maybe ketchup. Now, which couple would be more readily welcomed into our churches? Which couple needs the gospel more, would you assume?

Hold on to both of those questions for a little bit while we examine how Jesus responded to these people who criticized Him for the company He kept.

First of all, notice that Christ had a different perspective on the condition of the people with whom He ate as well as a different perspective on the Pharisees’ condition than they themselves had. The Pharisees thought they were righteous. As far as people measured righteousness, they were righteous. They kept the letter of the law in the eyes of people and were considered experts in knowing how to live rightly before God. Jesus, in Matthew 9:12, reminded these men who proclaimed themselves righteous that “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” Now, Jesus was not talking about physical sickness. Rather, He was referring to the spiritual cancer of sin that was in the heart of those with whom He was eating.

However, it wasn’t just the publicans who had a problem with sin. In fact, the Pharisees should have known that better than anyone because they knew, or should have known, what God’s word said in the Psalms. Psalms 14:2-3 says “The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.” In other words, while the Pharisees might have heard Jesus’ reply and assumed they were the “healthy” ones that He was talking about, the fact is there are no people who could be called “healthy” in the example Jesus gave. We are all sick—sick with the disease of sin and it is terminal. Only Jesus, the Great Physician, has the ability to cure that disease and save us. Therefore, Jesus had a different perspective on the people He ate with and He had a different perspective on the Pharisees than they themselves had. They saw themselves as whole. He saw them, as He sees all sinners, as diseased.

Next time, we will return and examine how Christ’s perspective on the responsibility of the Pharisees to the publicans and sinners was different than that of the Pharisees. However, as we close out, based on what we’ve read now, which couple from our hypothetical situation above needs to hear the gospel more? Most people in church would probably act as though couple number 2 needed the gospel more, but in fact we often times would be more welcoming to couple number 1. Let these verses we have studied remind us that Christ sees everyone as spiritually sick and needing the services of the Great Physician who died on the cross to suffer God’s wrath in their place.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Psalm 2:4-6 The Lords Response to Rebellion

I normally am very easy to get along with at work. In fact, on more than one evaluation, that I get along very well with the auditee and am able to ask them questions that might be hard or direct without becoming abrasive. There’s a simple reason why I am able to do this—I know my position. I know that the people that we audit are legally required to answer our questions and provide us with the information we request. One time, however, I had to become a bit, how you say, forceful with someone. I asked for some information. She told me “No one has ever asked for that before. WHY do you want to know?” I responded casually “That’s a great question. Thank you for asking.” She said “You didn’t answer my question.” I told her “I don’t intend to.” She asked who my supervisor was. I am sure in her mind she thought “I don’t know who this dude thinks he is, but I’m going to get him in a real pickle.” I laughed at her and told her the woman’s name and asked “You want her phone number?” I know that, in the end, the folks in the office had my back. I was in the position of authority and she had to do what she was told. As we read this scripture, we see God, who is the highest authority, having a similar reaction to the rebellion we read about in Psalm 2:1-3.

When we left this scripture the last time, the kings of the earth were conspiring together in a plot to rebel against God. They planned to “tear their fetters” and “cast away their cords”. They had had enough, dagnabit, and they wanted to be free of His authority. We read in verse 4 God’s reaction to their sinful plans. He has a good ol’ belly laugh. They are the butt of His jokes. I can see him turning to Michael the archangel “You know what these creatures think they’re going to do? Snicker…they’re planning on rebelling.” Michael tries to hold back a guffaw because, after all, he realizes the doom of anyone who rebels against the sovereign Lord of the Universe—remember Satan? He can’t help himself though. The joke is just too good. If you close your eyes, you can hear the booming, thunderous laughter resounding through the throne room in heaven.

Those who rebel against God have sealed their fate. The Bible is replete with warnings of God’s wrath (II Peter 3:7, Revelation 19:11-15). As we read in verse 5 of this Psalm, God will “speak to them in His anger”. His wrath may be restrained for the moment, but ultimately, those who reject the gospel and live in sinful rebellion against God will feel His “fury” in judgments.

You see, they may believe that they can pull themselves out from under the authority of God—that they can live as they want without His burdensome word ruining their fun. But what they don’t know is that the real punchline has already been written. The story is already over—God wins and they don’t even realize it. You see, while they were planning their rebellion, they didn’t realize and mankind has constantly tried to ignore one simple truth. God tells us in verse 6 “I have installed my King”. It is done and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, you can do about it. God has already declared victory because it has already happened. God has anointed Christ as the One to whom every knee will bow. The forthcoming judgment and punishment with the wicked is perfunctory really. The end for them is closer than they realized and their fiery, eternal punishment is right at the door.

With this in mind, how have you responded to the gospel? Have you repented and trusted Christ alone to save you based on His substitutionary death on the cross? If you haven’t, why not take this verse today as a cautionary tale that God’s judgment is real and it’s coming, but you can avoid it through faith in Christ.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Matthew 9:10-12 A Pair of Skewed Perspectives-The Pharisees Part I

It’s difficult to make an informed decision when you don’t have all the facts. Several times in my career as an auditor, I have had moments where I thought I had found something that was a problem—a “gotcha” moment. I don’t want to oversell how excited I get, but I’ve been known to stand up at my desk and do the “Joey-Patch” and then practice my Ricky Ricardo imitation—“Auditee, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.” More often than not, the issue has not been nearly as interesting as I had thought because, due to a lack of information, I had a wrong perspective. In like manner, the two groups that raise objections to Christ in this chapter of scripture (the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples) had a skewed perspective due to a lack of insight into the truth.

Let’s take the Pharisees, for instance. In Matthew 9:10, we read that Christ is eating at a dinner that Mark and Luke tell us was held in Matthew’s home (Luke 5:29). Since most of the people Matthew knew, due to his station as a social outcast as a result of his former occupation, were tax collectors and assorted irreligious folk, we find Jesus surrounded by just such a crowd. The text does not explicitly say so, but it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine that Matthew used this occasion for evangelism. He was so thankful that Christ had called him from his life of sin (Matthew 9:9) that he wanted to share the same opportunity with his friends. After all, if Christ could save a thieving tax collector, surely He could save anyone.

So, with the stage set as Christ ate with this motley crew, the Pharisees come along and see Jesus keeping company with people that they themselves would view as undesirable. Cowardly as they are, they don’t directly present their accusations to Jesus but go to His disciples and ask “Why is your teacher eating with tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 9:11). The obvious implication being that Christ was defiling Himself by associating with such sinful people. Frankly, their question might appear biblical if you didn’t think too hard about it. After all, we read in Haggai 2:13 that uncleanness is contagious while holiness is not. And we are exhorted in other scriptures to avoid immorality (1 Thessalonians 5:22, for instance). Therefore, if we are to imitate Christ, how does this fit into the mold which we are called to imitate?

I would suggest, first of all, that we should observe the setting Christ is in. He has not gone down to a brothel or the temple of some Roman god where sinful activity was going on. He was in a home, an invited guest, eating supper. He was not participating or encouraging immoral behavior, rather He was going about His business—the business of His Father God. I’ve heard of people saying “Yeah, I went down with ol’ Joe to the Grub and Pup last night and shot some tequila with him so I could have a chance to share the gospel.” Friends, we’re not supposed to follow the world into immorality but rather we’re supposed to point them to the Light. As we go though our lives at school, at work, in the store, or wherever we are, we will have opportunities to do as Christ did and interact with people who have not heard the gospel or have not yet repented and trusted Christ to save them. So, just as He did, we need to take those opportunities to be found “eating with tax collectors and sinners”—not engaged in sin with them but living our lives among them.

Christ did not call us out of the world but He called us to live here and share the gospel with those we meet. Rather than isolating ourselves from contact with “sinners” like the Pharisees did, we need to have the perspective of Christ and take the opportunities we have as we live our lives to share the life changing gospel of Christ with a world that desperately needs it. We will look more specifically next time as to Christ’s response to their object and what He taught them, and us, about a proper perspective on evangelism.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Perry Noble Is Still An Idiot

I wrote a post some time ago titled Perry Noble is An Idiot in response to something he posted on his blog where he opined that the reason people don’t accept the gospel is because Christians are so doggone mean, bigoted, and narrow-minded. In other words, the gospel has no power to save, it must be packaged correctly. Poppycock!!

Well, Perry Noble has proven once again that he is a dimwit in his latest post on the Rob Bell brouhaha. He writes that, again, all those who are criticizing Rob Bell are just so mean. Why, Bell’s wife and kids might have to read the stuff written about him. Further, he says that Bell’s only error in the book is that he denies the existence of hell as revealed in scripture.

Let’s take the second observation first. I’m actually very surprised to read Perry Noble say that Rob Bell is wrong about his view of hell. I didn’t think Noble was that orthodox. However, he claims that Bell is a sincere follower of Christ and a nice guy. He gushes like a school girl numerous times how Bell has preached sermons that helped him grow in his faith so he obviously believes that Bell is an orthodox Christian pastor who is wrong on this one issue. The fact is, though, that he’s not just wrong on this one issue but in fact denies the gospel as revealed in scripture. Bell says on page 154 of his book, Love Wins, that “[Jesus] doesn‟t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn‟t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him”. Boys and girls, this is a theological heresy called “Inclusivism” which means that people from other religions will get to heaven through Christ without knowing that it was Christ who saved them. For instance, a muslim will get to heaven and say “Huh? This whole time I was praying to Allah but it was God who saved me…through Jesus Christ?? Seriously?? Wow, never saw that one coming.” Bell makes perfectly clear that he believes in inclusivism one page over (155) when he says “There is inclusivity. The kind that is open to all religions, the kind that trusts that good people will get in, that there is only one mountain, but it has many paths. This inclusivity assumes that as long as your heart is fine or your actions measure up, you‟ll be okay”. This is heresy and the fact that Perry Noble doesn’t call this out should be a HUGE red flag.

Rob Bell is a false teacher??  No way!!
Now, as to his second assertion that Christians have been so mean in attacking Bell proving, in Noble’s words, we are an army that shoots our own wounded (thereby including Bell in the army which means he affirms Bell as a Christian rather than a false teacher). I have read reviews of the book by Denny Burk, Kevin DeYoung, and others. I have read blog posts about the book and the press before and after. After reading that material, I can say, pretty confidently, that the writers were direct, firm, and pointed in what they wrote critiquing Bell. However, to call them mean-spirited and un-Christlike is patently absurd. Sorry, Perry, but if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, well don’t sit there like Macaley Caulken with your hands on either side of you cheeks acting all shocked when people call it a duck. And if people close to Bell don’t want to see him called out for being a false teacher, maybe he should think about repenting, trusting Christ to save him, and renouncing his false teaching.

So, in short, Perry Noble once again demonstrates that he is an idiot.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Psalm 2:1-3 Rebellious Humanity

You’ve probably heard the old saying “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Truthfully, if we really pay attention, we see that proverb lived out all the time. We experience the same ills as a society as societies from centuries ago—we just experience them faster. This is because at its heart, mankind is desperately wicked. The theological phrase many use to describe the human condition is “total depravity”. From the top of our heads to the soles of our feet, there is not one single part of our mind, will, or heart that is not tainted by sin. This sin is both a result of nature (we are born sinners) and choice (we choose to sin). Things were not much different in the time of King David. As we begin to study this psalm, we will see mankind’s wicked heart fully displayed in attitudes and actions.

Notice with me the fact that David describes the world as being in chaos. He inquires in verse one “Why are the nations in an uproar?” Truth is, mankind has been in an uproar since the rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Human life is chaotic as a result of our sinfulness. In the United States today, we see that sort of uproar as people argue over politics, morality, financial policies, and national borders. Rather than turning to God and the Bible to learn how to order our lives, human beings have always had a “do it ourselves” attitude. In short, the nations rage at the suggestion that God has authority over us and has revealed Himself in His inerrant word.

Because the idea of God having authority over us is so repugnant to unregenerate men and women, we seek ways to enthrone ourselves and dethrone God. While David doesn’t explicitly say this, it’s a pretty obvious conclusion to draw given the context. After all, what other “vain thing” (v 2) would these people who are trying to rebel against the authority of the Lord be “devising”? Mankind wants freedom to sin—to pursue earthly pleasures with no thought of consequences. As a result, men and women will do anything to try to free themselves from the authority of God and His word. They will make choices that harm them, they will believe lies, and they will mock the truth. However, it’s all in vain. There’s really nothing they can do to ultimately rebel against the authority of a holy, omnipotent God. Their rebellion is all in vain.

The futility of the task doesn’t stop them from trying, however. In fact, the world over there is one thing that the unregenerate agree about whether they’re left wingers, right wingers, rich, poor, middle class, English speaking, socialist, or capitalist. The whole world is united in rebellion against God and His word. You can’t get Iraq and the United States to agree on much of anything. Israel and Egypt don’t have much of a middle to “meet in” and getting Middle Eastern countries to sit down and discuss their differences is an arduous task. However, notice how David points out “the kings” and “the rulers” come together to strategize against common foes—“the Lord and…His Anointed”. They rage against God, shaking their fists at heaven as if to say “We will not have this God to be ruler over us”. But it’s not just God that is the object of their ire. Christ, the One who was God in human flesh, the Lamb who took away the sins of the world, is also an object of their scorn. They reject the Father, they reject the Son, and in doing so they condemn themselves.

However, even in their doom they persist in prideful arrogance. Observe their estimation of God’s authority. They see His authority as simply being “fetters” and “cords”. Just trivial little wisps that they can “tear” and “toss away”. Oh really?? You think you’re strong enough to do that. Quite obviously, they have (and humanity still has) a severe problem of perspective—they don’t see God rightly and they don’t see themselves rightly. Apparently they have forgotten who is the Creator and who is the creature. They see this rebellion as a foregone conclusion. Notice, they’re not saying “Let us try” or “We should see if we can”. Their arrogant defiance is preposterous. “We have had enough of this God and His Christ. Let’s stand up to them. It’s time for us to be men and stand up to the bullies who wish to rule us.”

Oh, friends, let’s not make their mistake. As we reflect on these verses, let’s make sure we remain mindful of the fact that God is God---and more importantly, we are not.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Matthew 9:9 God’s Mercy and Forgiveness

I was in a training seminar for auditors and accountants today. Yes, 350 auditors and accountants in the same room. I’m surprised we were able to walk out of there under our own power. It’s a wonder any of us were not brain dead.

Actually it was pretty interesting. One of the presentations was on ethics for accountants. The presenter showed a chart from a study someone had done ranking various professions based on how much integrity you’d expect someone in that profession to have. For instance, nurses ranked the highest—everybody trusts nurses. Auditors and accountants, well, we didn’t fare as well. We were the second lowest right above lawyers.

Things were not that different in Christ’s day. I mean, sure, they had not invented double entry bookkeeping but they had men who collected money for the government. Matthew, the author of this gospel was one such man. We read about his call in this single verse of his gospel but as we read this verse, we need to remember some things, bearing in mind that he was a tax collector.

His people hated him—the Jews that is. Tax collectors worked for the Romans and there are no words for how badly the Jews hated being under Roman occupation. The Romans would sell the rights to collect taxes to people, like Matthew. So, the tax collectors were seen as sell outs. They were ranked right down there with harlots, so Matthew and I have something in common since I’m in a profession that is ranked right above lawyers (Harlots/lawyers, is there a real difference there?). He was a societal outcast. They hated him for another reason as well—tax collectors were crooks. They were given an amount that they had to collect in taxes but they were not told what the maximum they could collect was. Therefore, standard practice was for them to collect “a little something extra” for themselves. So, they sold out their people by helping the Romans and they were crooks who stole from their countrymen by collecting more than was required in taxes. In short, most people liked them about as much as they do any auditor.

Matthew, therefore, was probably not part of religious life in his community. Likely as not, he didn’t have friends who were not engaged in his occupation. The very idea that this governmental accountant could be called into the service of Christ would have been laughable to anyone from “polite society”. He wasn’t just from the wrong side of the tracks—he wasn’t even on the same continent. He had made his choice and there is nothing he could do that would make him clean. He was a sinner, hopeless, helpless, and completely doomed.

And then Jesus enters the picture. I have to imagine as Matthew wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that he had a tear in his eye. There’s no tricky Greek verb tenses going on here. No difficult vocabulary to wrestle with. Here was Jesus, soverignly reaching out to Matthew for no reason other than it pleased Him to do so. He knew who Matthew was. He knew what he had done. In spite of all that, He extended the call “Follow me”. And Matthew did so.

As we reflect on this verse and Matthew’s call, let us remember our own call. I remember how God, when I was in 7th grade on a Thursday afternoon in September, convicted me of my sin by the Holy Spirit and called me to Himself. I remember when I was in 8th grade, a little snot nosed punk, I heard His call and wasn’t sure what He was calling me to do. I remember Him calling me back to repentance after I had spent all of my college, no, wasted all of my time in college living as though I didn’t know Him. I remember him allowing me to serve as a minister of music and a pastor. He called me in spite of everything I am knowing full well exactly what I was. Remembering our call should cause us to burst out in praise to our kind, gracious heavenly Father who loved us in spite of our sin. Praise His holy name.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

II Peter 3:18 Four Imperatives of a Forward Looking Faith Part IV

Scripture tells us that we, who have trusted Christ to save us, are new creatures (II Corinthians 5:17). In fact, Ephesians 2:1 tells us prior to our conversion we were dead. So, not only are we new creatures, we’re new creatures who went from being stone cold dead to being alive. Now, living things have certain characteristics in common. One of those characteristics is growth. Living things grow. My children, a flower, a colony of bacteria, and a puppy dog will all grow during their lifetimes. Therefore, it’s no surprise that one of the four final imperatives that Peter leaves with his audience is the command that they should grow.

Notice, that the command he gives is a present imperative. In other words, he is calling them to a lifestyle—this should be a pattern of life for a believer. Living things grow and if they’re not growing, they’re dead. Because we have gone from being dead in our sins spiritually to being made alive with Christ spiritually, we should grow spiritually. However, observe with me that this is a command. We’re told to do this. Now, the question becomes then “How?”

The key, I think, is in the next phrase we read. Peter says we are to grow “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” As we read that, we might still question “Ok, how?” If we remember, though, Peter’s opening address in the first chapter of this book, where he told us in verse 4 that “by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature”. His precious and magnificent promises are recorded in the word of God. Therefore, we can conclude from what Peter has told us that the answer to the question “How” that we have asked is the word of God. Brothers and sisters, it has the power to change lives. A Christian simply cannot study the Bible and remain unchanged. When we encounter the truth of scripture, we are hearing God speak to us through that truth. Consequently, for us to grow in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord” we must meditate and study the deep, rich truths of scripture and apply that truth to our lives as we seek to live out the faith that we profess.

And by doing so, we glorify God. And make no mistake about it, friend, Jesus is God. Jesus was God incarnate—fully God and fully man. As we ponder all the wonderful things Peter has taught us in this epistle, we need to remember these are that Peter was an orthodox Jew who was raised to worship only God. Therefore, for him to leave his boat and follow Jesus was surprising. For him to stand up and preach on the day of Pentecost, though, was earth shattering. He was able to write this epistle, extolling the word of God and raking false teachers over the proverbial coals, for one simple reason. He recognized that Jesus was not just a great teacher or some moral guru. Rather, he came to realize that Jesus was God. Therefore, he could say, and we should join with him, that to Jesus belongs “the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”


Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile

In the last 30 or so years, church shopping has become something of a national pastime. People feel like if they’re not getting their “needs” met, they can and should look around for a bigger, better deal. The idea of discipleship in a local church is almost an oddity in the church today—the exception rather than the rule. With that in mind, I would like to commend to you a wonderful book by Thabiti Anyabwile (thah-bee-tee ahn-ya-bweel-ay is about the closest I can phonetically spell it) called What is a Healthy Church Member (Crossway, 2008). The book is an examination of church membership with emphasis on what scripture says about how a Christian should relate to the body of Christ. In short, the author examines how a healthy church member should view scripture, how they should respond to the gospel, and how they should relate to the body of Christ.

First of all, in chapters 1 and 2, Mr. Anyabwile examines how a healthy church member should view scripture. The first chapter, titled “A Healthy Church member is an Expositional Listener”. The Christian, he posits, should be listening to the sermon (and this rightly assumes the sermon is scriptural) to hear what the author of that scripture intended to say rather than listening “…for practical how to advice…” or for “messages that bolster our self esteem” (page 19). Rather, the healthy church member will listen to hear what God has to say and seek ways to apply that truth to their life. Further, in chapter two, Anyabwile explains that a healthy church member is a biblical theologian. In other words, a Christian should be a student of scripture—all of scripture. They should study not only the New Testament but also the Old Testament. A healthy church member recognizes that “knowledge of God comes only from drinking deeply from the message of the Bible with all of its rich themes” (pg 36).

Secondly, in chapters 3-5, Anyabwile examines how a healthy church member responds to the gospel. In chapter 3, he describes such a member as being “gospel saturated”. Rather than viewing the gospel as something that happens to you and then you move on from there, he exhorts readers to constantly meditate on the truth of the gospel and what it means in their lives. With that in mind, he also describes a healthy church member as genuinely converted (chapter 4). If a person has not responded to the gospel in repentance from sin and faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, one can hardly be a healthy church member. The logical outgrowth of these implications of the gospel is, as he notes in chapter 5, a healthy church member is a biblical evangelist. When a healthy church member shares the gospel, it is the true gospel revealed by Christ and taught by His apostles. Furthermore, a healthy church member will seek to order his or her life around the gospel and seek opportunities to share that gospel with those they encounter.

Finally, in chapters 6-10, Anyabwile shares how members ought to relate to the body of Christ. They should be committed (chapter 6) rather than nominally involved. They should seek discipline (formative and corrective) and be available to discipline others (chapter 7). A healthy church member will also experience spiritual growth and humbly support their leadership prayerfully as they follow them (chapters 8 and 9). Lastly, a healthy church member’s spiritual life involves a continual attitude of prayer (chapter 10).

The book is fairly short and you could likely read a chapter a day without great difficulty. The book would make a great devotional and worked really well in our church’s small group study this past fall. Thabiti’s book would be a welcome addition to the library of any Christian.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Happy Belated Blogiversary to me!!!

I have a confession to make.  As is obvious, my posting has been way, way off for several months now.  In the fall, I started something related to church and continuing education that I couldn't finish.  I was stressed beyond belief.  I was very, very close to cracking up.  It was the second darkest time in my life that I'd ever been through and I decided I couldn't live like that for 3 years.  So I dropped.  But, and I know I'm being vague here-sorry about that, by dropping I also gave up on something that I've always wanted to do. 

In short, I have experienced a crisis of faith.  Maybe I'm still experiencing it.  In any case, it has been difficult to motivate myself to get to work.  It all seems so pointless.  To be perfectly honest, I'm still wrestling with it.

I'm going to break protocol here--I'd like to ask you for a Blogiversary present.  I'd like you to take a moment and pray for me.  Particularly:

1)  Pray that I will remain faithful to what God has called me to do where I am--specifically, being a good husband and father.

2)  Pray that I will remain devoted to blogging.  I still believe it is a great avenue for proclaiming biblical truth.

3)  Pray that I will not feel as discouraged and defeated as I have.  Pray that God will give me the strength to reach out to those I need to reach out to for help.

Thank you.  I'll be back on my game next week.  Here's to another 4 years!!!!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Shack Turned Into A Movie!!!

What?  I bet it'd be at least as good as Kazzam.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

II Peter 3:17 Four Imperatives of a Forward Looking Faith Part III

The Bible is a simple yet complicated book. It’s simple enough that there is truth that a child can understand yet complicated to the point that men and women have devoted their whole to the study of it and still feel they have barely scratched the surface of what’s there. Because of its simplicity and its profundity, the Bible touches all believers that study it. In fact, I would dare say that no one can truly study scripture, come face to face with the truth it reveals, and walk away unchanged. The truth of God’s word should change how we think and how we live. As Peter has noted in these concluding verses of his second epistle, because of the truth of God’s word our faith is a forward looking faith—we look to the future where sin will be done away with and Christ will reign to the glory of God the Father. To that end, Peter gives us here two last imperatives of a forward looking faith.

The first of these imperatives comes as a warning in verse 17—“be on your guard”. Notice further in the verse that Peter’s audience, and by implication us as well, have motivation to be on guard (present tense in the Greek—better translated “be on your guard continually”). They have been forewarned about the false teachers and heresy that is coming and therefore they “[know] this beforehand.” Now, I grew up in South Alabama and we had hurricanes occasionally. One in particular was pretty devastating but one thing that I learned was you are given fair warning. Like 2 days out they are able to predict with a fair degree of accuracy where that sucker is going to hit so if you’re in a mobile home or a low lying area you should have time to get someplace safe. Generally speaking, you have ample time to prepare. Now, Peter has written this book warning them that “there will also be false teachers among you” (2:1) and he has even told them the sorts of lies they would teach (3:3). Therefore, as a result of knowing what was coming, Peter gives them a command to “be on [their] guard”—they are to act as spiritual night watchmen, looking out for danger because, rest assured, danger is coming.

They need to be on guard because these false teachers could seduce them with false teaching. His readers, if they are not watchful, could be “carried away by the error of unprincipled men”. These unprincipled (lawless) men would come and teach doctrine that was contrary to the truth that had been taught by Peter and the other apostles. Their “error” would be presented by these false teachers as if it were true and if accepted by the church would put the souls of men and women in danger—the gospel saves, false doctrine does not. Because of that, it was paramount that these believers, and those of us reading Peter’s letter today as well, stay on their toes and be on the lookout for false doctrine so that it didn’t pollute the life saving message of the gospel.

Now, if these people to whom Peter wrote were to be deceived and follow these false teachers (which I’m sure happened then and certainly happens now) it would mean them “fall[ing] from [their] own steadfastness”. That steadfastness, of course, was the bedrock truth of God’s word. False doctrine provides no support, no foundation for anything. In contrast, the truth of scripture is a solid rock on which to build (Matthew 7:24-26) and no one who builds on it will be ashamed. The way to prevent falling for a slick snake oil salesman peddling false doctrine, then, is to study the scriptures and by studying them come to know more fully the God of the Bible.

Friends, false doctrine was not just a problem in the early church. As we have seen in recent days, it’s a problem here and now. Just like Peter, I exhort you to cling to the truth of God’s word. There is no better way to defend yourself against the lies of Satan than studying the truth of God’s word.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Matthew 9:3-8 True Spiritual Blindness

Almost two years ago, my retina in my right eye (my one good eye) detached. I was laid up for about 2 weeks after the surgery unable to see well at all. In fact, initially, I was blind as a bat. I was blessed to have a great surgeon (Dr. Trent Wallace) do an excellent job and I am now able to see pretty much like I could before. The Pharisees, though, had a blindness that even my friend Dr. Wallace couldn’t cure. They could see fine, physically. Spiritually, however, they were blind to the truth even though Truth Himself, Jesus Christ, was staring them right in the face.

Now, remember that Jesus has just performed an amazing miracle here—He has just forgiven a man of his sins based on faith. What an amazing, beautiful thing for these people to be privileged to witness. However, the reaction of the scribes was not one of praise and thanksgiving to God. Rather, they were incensed that Jesus would proclaim this man to be forgiven.

Actually, the principal behind their indignation was actually correct. For someone to declare to a person “Your sins are forgiven” would be blasphemy, as they correctly observe in verse 3 of this chapter. I mean, I couldn’t make that statement. You couldn’t do that. Oh, we can forgive people when they wrong us and we can declare to someone that has trusted in Christ that their sins are forgiven because the Bible says so. But we can’t ultimately forgive any person for their sins eternally—only God can do that.

However, Jesus is God. “Maybe they didn’t know it” one might argue. I would invite you to look at the parallel account of this story in Mark 2:1-13. Mark includes some details for us that Matthew wasn’t inspired by God to record (such as the homeowners got a brand new skylight [v. 4]). Notice in verse 2 that Mark records that Jesus was “speaking the word to them”. Christ was preaching and they heard Him. Now, I dare say that it is more than reasonable to assume that as He spoke it was obvious who He was. I cannot imagine someone hearing Christ preach and not having sufficient evidence just in His words that He was God in human flesh. Further, this was not the first miracle recorded in Matthew’s gospel nor was it the first one that Jesus had performed. His forgiving of this man’s sins was one of many miracles that had no doubt been talked about all around the land of Palestine. Therefore, these men had plenty of evidence of who Christ was and they chose to reject it. Their spiritual eyes were blinded to the truth.

Jesus, because He was God and omnipotent, knew what they were thinking. In fact, even someone who wasn’t omnipotent could probably have read their facial expression and gotten a pretty good idea of what was in their heads. Christ called their thoughts what they were in verse 4—“evil”. They had taken a work of the Holy Spirit, this man being forgiven of his sins, and called such a proclamation an offense against God when it was God Himself doing the forgiving.

He then sets before them a pretty imposing question in verse 5— "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? Now, I think you could understand this question in two ways. Which would be easier to say and actually have the power to do or which would be easier to say and not be able to prove it. Well, one could say the words “Your sins are forgiven” and not be able to back it up but it would be hard to have tangible proof that what you said wasn’t true. If you said “Get up and walk” and the person couldn’t do it, well, everyone would know then that you were a shyster. But as miraculous as being able to heal someone who could not walk would be, the ability to cleanse someone from their sins and declare them righteous before a holy God is infinitely more imposing a task. To prove to them that “the Son of Man [had] authority on earth to forgive sins” He healed the man of his impotent limbs. Not only was the man spiritually whole, which was by far the greater miracle, he now could walk. He wasn’t dependant on having other people carry him everywhere anymore. He was now able bodied and could do things for himself that he was not able to do before. Notice, those of you who claim that physical healing comes with spiritual healing, that the healing of his legs took place after his sins were forgiven and it took place only to prove a point.

Now, it’s easy for us to look at the religious leaders of the day and say “How could they miss it?” Brothers and sisters, how could we miss it? We have all the evidence we need to convince any sane person to follow Christ as Lord. Do we really do that? Are we willing to follow a Savior who has so graciously performed in our lives the greatest miracle of all—He has forgiven our sins? We dare not count such a blessing as cheap. Let’s take note of the spiritual blindness of the scribes and Pharisees and follow Christ as if our spiritual eyes have been opened…because they have been.