Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Adam, Where Are You? (3 of 3 Parts)

In this post I will address four areas where the man is supposed to work out his role as a leader in his family. These four applications follow the example that Christ demonstrates in loving the church.

The first is this, you should take the lead in seeking and strengthening your own relationship with God.

Hold it Bob, shouldn’t the wife pursue God on her own. Yes, we all need to pursue God, but husbands, YOU are responsible to make sure that your wife and children are pursuing God. How can you teach them the deep things of God unless you go deeper into God yourself? Are you teaching youself about the love of God so that you can teach them about it and more importantly demonstrate the love of Christ for his church?

You must pray in order to be equipped and to teach your family about prayer. You must go to the Word daily if you will convince your family of the daily need of God’s Word. How does Christ love his church, his bride? Christ is working to present the church without blemish, he is making her pure. We are to do the same with our wives. Husband, are you concerned with your wife’s purity. Is God using you as a means to her sanctification. He’s certainly placed you in that role.

Perhaps you have a wife who is growing spiritually and in fact has outpaced you in your sanctification. That’s awesome, that’s wonderful. But the son of Adam will say, “I’ll let her be the spiritual leader, I’ll just provide the food and take care of the bills.” Adam, where are you? That response is not biblical and it’s not satisfying to you or your wife.

You, man in Christ, go hard after God and your family will reap the benefits.

And so the second application grows out of the first, you should take the lead in shaping the spiritual life of the family. As you train yourself to think biblically it is your responsibility to teach your family to think biblically. The bible addresses the issues of money, of dating, of what should occupy our time, of how we should treat others. Every place that the scripture touches on any topic is an opportunity to learn how to think biblically about that topic.

Eph 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Bring them up! Fathers, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Children do not raise themselves. Martin Luther said, “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”

Deut 6: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Children do not learn to think biblically on their own. It takes diligence and effort on the part of parents. But the father is held responsible to make sure instruction is taking place. We parents are not responsible for what our kids do with our instruction but we are responsible for their learning how to think biblically.

The third application, is the head the husband should take the lead in gathering the family for prayer and Scripture reading and worship.

A fews days ago Teresa said on the phone that we need to get back into our evening devotional time. We have a book that I try to pull out at supper each evening and we have a short devotional and a scripture and talk about it. She reminded me, gently, that we fell out of our intended habit. She was supporting my role as spiritual leader. That evening she placed the book and my Bible beside my dinner plate. Not in a condescending manner although I may have felt threatened for a moment.

I can give you lot’s of excuses about why we fell out of or haven’t established the habit of daily pursuing God as a family. Someone said, “Excuses are like armpits, everyone has a couple and they both stink”. In my old nature I was Adam’s son. Like Adam I was standing by passively when there were important decisions not being made and responsibilies not being met. Teresa submits to my headship as the church submits to Christ but Christ is infallilble - I am not. I need her help and her reminders when I fail.

When I fail there is only one response to this. Repentance! I have gone to God and repented that I have been lazy. I have apologized to my wife.

John Piper counsels married couples that the devotional life of a couple is the soul of a marriage. Husbands and wives praying together is the source of healing in areas that we don’t even know are hurting. The most compelling reason that convinces me that this is true and foundational is that it is the hardest thing for me to do and that doesn’t make sense.

It’s weird, it feels awkward. In the morning while I’m driving to work I will think, “I will pray with Teresa tonight before we go to sleep”. Then night comes and the kids are tucked in and I’m tired and I just want to go to sleep. I will finally satisfy my guilt by saying, ‘well, we can start tomorrow night’. Adam, where are you? Just do it! Confess your failure. Does fear stop you? Does pride stop you? Those are such scrawny little enemies. Be a man, do it.

The last application I MUST emphasize because it is the one most obvious in Christ’s love for the church.

Husbands, take the lead in reconcilation. This doesn’t mean that wives should never say they are sorry. But look at the example of Christ.

Who took the initiative to make things new in his relationship with the church?
Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Who left left his throne to come and bring mercy to sinners?
Phil. 2:5 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Peter denied Jesus three times, who made the first move toward reconciliation? Mark 16: 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Has the Lord ever come to you after you have failed him. Being the head of the family doesn’t mean you can wait for your wife to come to you. You take the lead. Let’s summarize -

Take the lead in seeking and strengthening your own relationship with God,
take the lead in shaping the spiritual life of your family,
take the lead in gathering the family for prayer and Scripture reading and worship,
take the lead in reconcilation.

These things take grace, they take humility, they take courage, they take the Spirit of Christ working through a godly man. Save oh Lord, save us through godly men.

Adam, Where Are You? (2 of 3 Parts)

In this post we will turn to Ephesians 5 and enter boldly into God’s Word without tiptoeing, without making apologies and I know we will find something so liberating for men and women that we will be inspired to be changed by God’s Word instead of kowtowing to our twisted culture. Perhaps we can shake off the PASSIVITY that we have been too long encouraged to accept and too content to embrace.

Ephesians 5:21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Ok, now the first verse we read is where most people like to stop. “21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

One of my bible profs from college wrote a book in which he comments on this verse. Gilbert Bilezikian writes in his book Beyond Sex Roles, “By definition, mutual submission rules out hierarchical differences.”

In other words, there are no SPECIAL responsibilites in marriage We have the same, mutual responsibilities and need to work together to nurture one another. There is no LEADER. In all due respect Dr. Bilesikian is wrong and every other preacher, counselor and talk show host who shares that opinion.

Paul does indeed say that we are to submit to one another but we submit in different ways because we have different responsibilities and the rest of this passage spells them out quite clearly. There is a HEAD, a leader and there is one who submits to that leadership. The leadership is Christ-like and the submission is church-like. Now let’s unpack this truth. Let’s define our terms.

The most heated discussions between believers usually get heated because the participants fail to define their terms. What is headship? What is submission? I turn to Pastor John Piper here. I love the concise economy of his definitions.

“Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection and provision in the home.” Stop and read that again if you will. That is rich. Headship is not MORE and it is not LESS than that. It is not oppressive, it is not dictatorial, it means that God holds the man responsible for his wife and children. In 1920 the Brittish banker Josiah Stamp said, “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilites.”

“Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.” This is not an issue of who is better or who has ability. It is the divine order.

When we, men and women, hear terms like ‘headship’ and ‘submission’ our response is usually discomfort and queasiness. This response goes right back to the beginning. Eve took the lead when she should not have, Adam stood by passively instead of being a leader. We have reverted to this pattern over and over. Adam stood right there and did and said nothing while the serpent deceived his wife. What should have happened?

As soon as the crafty serpent said, “Did God really say.......?” Adam should have stepped forward and said, “Excuse me sir”, then left jab, right hook, serpent down, kick to the ribs, find a stake and drive it through his scaly head while giving the directive, “DON’T... EVER... TALK... TO MY... WIFE... AGAIN!” GAME OVER! That’s what Adam should have done. Adam was right THERE but he wasn’t THERE! He didn’t show up. Adam, where are you? Our ancestor took a passive role and to this day his son’s must fight the urge to follow his wimpiness. Eve took the lead and to this day her daughter’s want to step into the role that the son’s of Adam left vacant.

But men, if the first Adam was a wimp let me remind you the second Adam was not. Adam was passive, Jesus is active in making all things new. I pray that you are in the second Adam as you read this and not still tied to the first Adam. Apart from Christ you can do nothing but IN Christ you have the opportunity to fulfill your God given role and transform your families.

Single men, you are not exempt from this message. Your church needs godly men. Some day one of the young children in your church are going to be asked if they can remember someone in their church who was godly. Perhaps a boy growing up in a home without of father who is missing through death or divorce needs an example. Will you be that godly man? Will you be that example? Where is the godly one? Are you him? Now remember, Ephesians 5 is describing order within the family. Church order is taken up in other passages of the bible. A man does not have headship over a woman who is not his wife. A woman does not need to submit to a man who is not her husband.

In the next post I will address four areas where the man is supposed to work out his role as a leader in his family. These four applications follow the example that Christ demonstrates in loving the church.
Go To Part 3

Adam, Where Are You? (1 of 3 Parts)

Over the next few posts I would like to offer a blunt challenge to men and husbands and fathers in order that we as men can bring more glory to God. We glorify our Eternal Father by pursuing godliness.

I want to begin with an urgent plea written by King David. Sometimes in our prayer life, there isn’t time to form a nice long eloquent prayer. Sometimes the urgency and tragedy of the moment requires a simple cry, “Save, O Lord! Help, Lord!

Psalm 12:1 Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
2 Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
4 those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

5 “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
6 The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.

7 You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
8 On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

I read this psalm early one morning and meditated on what kinds of troubles would lead David to cry out like this. It was not even an hour later I read a news story online:

News story from the NY Post.
They’ve had 10 wives between them, but that didn’t keep Larry King and Donald Trump from being toasted as fathers of the year Tuesday.

The National Father’s Day Council feted the talk-show czar and the billionaire developer at a charity luncheon at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.
“These fathers play a vital role in the lives of their children,” said Rich Wurtzburger, chairman of the committee that selected the honorees.

He said King and Trump had shown “great dedication to raising their families.”

King, 71, is the father of six kids and has been married seven times.
Asked how a serial husband could be heralded as a great dad, Wurtzburger told The Post:
“The award here is for ‘Father of the Year,’ not ‘Husband of the Year.’ You can see that he is very close to each of his kids.”

Wurtzburger was close-mouthed when asked about Trump’s dalliance with Georgia Peach Marla Maples — while he was still married to Ivana Trump and had three small kids.
“No comment. I don’t know anything about that,” he said.

1 Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
8 On every side the wicked prowl (or strut),
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

It was this psalm and the sad state of affairs indicated by that story that led to this series of posts.

Back to the Garden
Where are the godly men? The sweet psalmist knew the danger in society brought on by the lack of the faithful. Where are the godly men? David was not the first to ask that question. God asked this same question in the garden of Eden. Eve had been deceived by the devil in the disguise of the serpent. She chose to let her conscience be her guide and to seek knowledge apart from God’s Word. Fortunately, she was not the representative of the human race, Adam was. Adam stood there and watched and listened and then took the fruit and ate it himself.

Genesis 3:8
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

WHO sinned? Eve sinned. She sinned as soon as she began to consider that God was holding back something good from her - that God had lied. She then encouraged her husband to do the same, so they both sinned. WHO was held responsible? Well, Adam tried to hold his wife responsible and Eve tried to pass the buck to the serpent but WHO did God come looking for. The serpent? Eve? “But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Where is the godly one that I left in charge? The faithful one has vanished. There are responsibilities to be met but the one I placed here to meet them is missing?

Men, I want you to forget the role that popular culture has tried to fit you into. I want you to turn from the feminized message that even much of the church has taken the lead in teaching. I ask you to turn with me to the ONE authority, God’s Word. You are not accountable to the pattern of this world, you are accountable to the Scripture. If transformation is necessary then I plead with you, let God’s Word change you into the image that God intended for the man.

Men and women were created differently and were given specific roles. Some people teach that after the fall domination and submission came into being - that man and woman were created to be equals and sin changed the man into a domineering barbarian and the woman into a submissive doormat. That is partly true. Sin brought about a distortion in their relationship but man was created to lead and woman was created to submit to his leadership.

Now some of you are beginning to squirm. Every message I have heard preached on Ephesians 5 has been given in a defensive tone and that is sad. God established a beautiful order for all creation. An orderliness that was designed to glorify himself and benefit his creature, but we tip toe around this fact as if God had made a mistake. “Well, God is getting old you know. He’s from another generation. He’s a bit old fashioned in his thinking.”

Every good gift comes from our Father in heaven. God gives good gifts. There’s an intense alliteration. Jesus asked, “if you ask your earthly father for a loaf of bread, will he give you a rock?” No, unless he’s mentally deficient. Well, your heavenly father is not mentally deficient and he gives good gifts and he provides exactly what his creatures need. “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”

In the next post we will turn to Ephesians 5 and enter boldly into God’s Word without tiptoeing, without making apologies and I know we will find something so liberating for men and women that we will be inspired to be changed by God’s Word instead of kowtowing to our twisted culture. Perhaps we can shake off the PASSIVITY that we have been too long encouraged to accept and too content to embrace.
Go To Part 2

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Examining Entertainment

Entertainment is a gift from 'the angel of light' to the world to pacify it on it's way to judgment.

Entertainment is a gift from the world to cultural christianity to attract the masses.

Entertainment is a gift from cultural christianity to it's converts to 'protect' them from self-examination.

2 Cor 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Eph. 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not associate with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Character: Is it something you HAVE or something you ARE?

Body modification is a subject that comes up from time to time in christian circles. Used to be that only crusty sailors, bikers and a thug sub-culture would get tattoos or radical piercings. Now the mainstream rushes to get their 'ink-therapy' or 'skin-art'. Even many church people, following, the pattern of this world, struggle with the ethics of it for a short season and then rush off to get there body modified.

Body modification is one of those topics that avoids a head-on, plain teaching from the scriptures. I believe a strong argument can be formed from two verses in 1 Corinthians. In verse 7:4 Paul reminds us,
For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

This verse makes it plain that our bodies are not our own but we must take into account how we present our bodies to our spouse, present or future.

Even more compelling and direct is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20,
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

It is my opinion that this verse may be applied to forming a rejection of the temptation to modify our bodies. Our bodies are not our own - we may not do as we please with them. I believe that deciding that we MAY do what we want with our bodies is a slap at our heavenly Father and his sovereignty over us. It's a vulgar declaration that we are little gods, child-kings who establish our own rules.

I'm not writing these things to try and make you feel uncomfortable about your tattoo or the steel through your tongue. In fact, I didn't really start this article to look at the morality of body modification. I want to turn our attention from the right or wrong of it to the WHY? Why do people do it and why has it gotten so popular?

Character is a fascinating word, for in defining the word we can arrive at two definitions nearly opposite in meaning. On the one hand 'character' can be defined as 'moral and ethical quality', 'good repute', 'qualities of honesty, courage and integrity', 'strength and originality'. Some have said that 'character' is who you are when you are alone in the dark. When there is no one to pretend or act for, who are you?

On the other hand, 'character' can be defined as 'a part played by an actor' or 'an odd, eccentric or amusing person'. A 'character actor' is 'an actor who specializes in playing unusual people rather than leading roles.' (Compact Oxford English Dictionary) So one definition is the essence of true being and the other is the practice of fakery.

Character, as in the qualities of virtue, used to be taught in schools. It was exalted in books and stories. It was expounded from the pulpits and encouraged in communities. Then there seemed to be an assault on the means of spreading these messages. The Bible was thrown from the schools, the Ten Commandments were no longer welcome in the public square. Virtues have been replaced by the anti-virtues screamed in popular fiction, television, music and movies. There is no longer a premium put on such attributes as respect, honor, manliness or femininity. Where character was once the foundation of the individual who contributed decency to the community there is now a vacuum. We once could go to our beds at night with the satisfaction that we had purpose and dignity.

Now we have stripped our young people of the virtues that form a foundation. The result is an entire generation who are looking to have character but finding no source they are forced to CREATE character. So we watch our young people become actors, eccentric, odd - specializing in playing unusual people. They trick out their cars, they wear long bright chains and jewelry, they color their hair, they tattoo their skin, they pierce the most unconventional places in their flesh, they invent new words, they use the most vulgar expressions and they don't care who hears them. Why? Because they lack character? Yes, of course but in the lack for character they are creating a character. They will have character. If we don't create a culture where they can learn true, inner character, then they will create a character of their own. To them, an obnoxious, self-absorbed, self-destructive, iconoclastic character is better than no character at all. If our culture continues to fail in planting seeds of character then society will certainly continue to reap what it has sown.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How Do We Know What We Know? Part Four

Some Misunderstood Terms

Before we begin to build upon this foundation and make the pieces fit, we need to understand a few matters about how the structure of our beliefs will be organized.

Do you have a ‘systematic’? Yes, you do. You just found out that you have a first principle and now I’m telling you that you have a ‘systematic’ as well. By ‘systematic’ I mean a systematic theology. I have spoke to people, even some pastors who insist they don’t follow a systematic theology and they don’t like the term, but every believer has one. Once we have established our foundation, the Word of God, we are ready to start building our framework upon it. A systematic theology is a summary and organization of what we believe.

You may believe that your sock drawer has no system of organization but ‘no system’ IS a form of organization. It may not be very efficient and it may take you longer to find what you’re looking for but that is your system. A systematic theology of what we believe is necessary because it forms the link between the numerous topics and teachings of the Bible. I cannot say to you, “Ok, let’s learn what the Bible teaches about sin. Everyone turn in your Bibles to the Book of Sin.” There is no such book. There is no book of God’s Mercy, there is not Book of Prayer, instead we find books titled with ancient people’s names and the names of ancient cities. Each book is organized according to the purpose of the writer but they are not systematized according to specific topics. We need an outline to help us organize the wonderful truths that we learn each day in our Bible reading. This outline is like a tree for the leaves of gold that we will find in scripture.

Another word that gets a bad rap is ‘doctrine’. I have heard more than one preacher who, if they use the word at all, will add qualifying adjectives to the front such as, ‘cold’, ‘dry’, ‘dead’, ‘stale’. I’m not sure how this distrust of the word ‘doctrine’ got started. Perhaps they are remembering the tests and pop quizzes on doctrine from their school days but the association is not fair.

‘Doctrine’ simply means ‘teaching’. In other words, when we speak of Bible doctrine we are speaking of Bible teaching. When we say, “Let’s see what the Bible has to say about divorce” we are asking, “Is there a doctrine of divorce and if so, what is it?” Doctrine is the topic heading, and the information brought together and organized beneath that heading. Our systematic will contain a Doctrine of Sin, a Doctrine of the Cross, a Doctrine of Salvation and so on.

A well organized systematic theology begins with the fundamental or basic doctrines that form a new foundation for the doctrines that grow out of the first level. So we ask ourselves, “What is the most important doctrine?” You may be thinking that the most important doctrine is the doctrine of God. Without God there could be nothing else and so it must form the basis of our beliefs. However, the question quickly arises “Which god?”
Many believers have said things like, “Just look at a tree, doesn’t that tell you there is a God?” Well, yes it does because for the believer the Holy Spirit is interpreting everything we see to speak of the glory of God in light of His Word. But to the mind that is still in spiritual darkness it may be saying that long ago there was a great tree and the tree was god and the tree created lots of little trees.

We need to understand that the God we are speaking of is the God of the Bible. We may then conclude that the most basic doctrine is the doctrine of the Bible and again we are close. It is my hope that chapter, however, demonstrated that we must first establish that there is something called truth, that we can know it and that there must be a way to measure and confirm truth. So the first doctrine we encountered is the Doctrine of Knowledge. Once we establish that we recognize the Holy Scripture as the rule of knowledge and truth we are ready to build upon this sure foundation and place the rest of the great blocks of glorious doctrines upon it. This foundation and no other foundation will hold the weight of all that we will read in God’s Word and encounter in God’s marvelous creation.

All scriptures have been taken from the The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How Do We Know What We Know? Part Three

There Are No Atheists
When God created the first man and woman they of course shared the same worldview. God was the creator and owner of all things and all truth came from Him. There was no way to acquire knowledge except to hear the Word of God and define our perceptions in accordance with His Word. Eve was the first to try an alternative worldview. Being encouraged to do so by Satan she changed her worldview to include other means of learning knowledge outside of a dependency on God.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6

Satan was telling the truth, where as Adam and Eve had only known good, (for why would a good God teach them anything that wasn’t good), they now knew good AND evil. They willfully decided to seek knowledge apart from God. The fall of man did something terrible to nature, to the promise of eternal life and to the way we perceive the world around us. Our minds had been great tools for learning and discovery before the fall; after the fall our minds became tools of delusion that work overtime to hide our guilty conscience from a holy God. We will discuss atonement in a later chapter but for now I want us to understand that the fall deeply effected our ability to know the truth.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1:18-23

All mankind, all who have ever lived, are alive now and shall ever live know that there is a God and that we have offended Him. The apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of God in the first chapter of Romans is telling us that there is no such thing as an atheist. The person that says he does not believe in God is really saying, “I cannot face God for I have offended Him. I am justly under his wrath so I will do anything and everything to escape this Truth. I will create alternate ‘truths’ that are really delusions, but like the fig leaves that my grandparents sewed together they will cover my guilt.”

So men and women are addicted to fig leaves. We sew fig leaves of evolution, hedonism, drunkenness, religion, loud music, drug use and whatever we can find to stop the Truth from indicting us and reminding us that we owe a great debt - man has sinned against his Creator.

Now that we have established our authority to be the Word of God (and the God of the Word) and committed our hearts to this first principle we are ready to build upon a solid foundation.

(Go To Part Four)

Monday, October 16, 2006

How Do We Know What We Know? Part Two

Because we are trying to justify, or prove that there is a basis for knowledge by presupposing a starting point, this way of reasoning is called presuppositionalism. Presuppositionalism offers some great benefits:

• Your first principle is the basic commitment of your ‘heart’, the core of your thinking and therefore the greatest authority when reasoning.

• You do not have to prove your first principle and therefore it does not have to be settled or negotiated every time you enter into a discussion. You need only to demonstrate that it is more consistent in explaining truth than an opposing first principle.

• By making God’s Word the basis of your first principle you have established an authority outside yourself, in fact your authority is none other than the sovereign Creator of all things.

The Bible Is Self-Athenticating
Until now I have not included a single bible verse in this discussion. Before we may begin to form a biblical doctrine (bible teaching) we must establish that the bible is our authority. This means that there is no test by which we can prove the bible, the bible is the highest authority and the ultimate source of truth and knowledge. The Bible cannot be put to any test by which we would measure other literature. Science cannot test the bible for science is not a higher authority. The Holy Bible must be presupposed to be the test of all things. Therefore, the only acceptable validation of the Bible is the Bible itself - the Bible is self-athenticating.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

What does the Bible say about knowledge, truth and itself? It is far from silent on these great issues.

“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” Proverbs 1:7 What a marvelous first principle that makes!
“all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ” Col. 2:3

Taking these two verses together we are introduced to the key element of presuppositionalism. Truth and knowledge cannot exist outside of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is no basis for reasoning outside of an understanding that God is the source of truth and knowledge. This being true, our unsaved friends and neighbors are working and arguing from an extreme disadvantage. They must borrow from our worldview in order to establish anything to be true. Will my neighbor use logic to prove there is no God? Impossible! He must use logic that only exists in and because of God in order to use logic, therefore, as soon as he or she argues logically against the existence of God, God has been established by the use of God’s logic. Reality begins with and within Jesus Christ. “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

We may assume the worldview of our unsaved neighbors only long enough to show them that their worldview is lacking but we must argue from our biblical worldview for only it can make any sense of reality. What is morality without a biblical basis? Morals change with each government and convention. Ethics get defined in the context of the culture of the times. But if the Bible is the basis of morality we have a real and true authority to turn to. It is not changed by the whim and fancy of mortal and fallen people.

“The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:7,8

(Go To Part Three)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How Do We Know What We Know? Part One

“Do you really believe all that Bible stuff?” my colleague asked me.
“Yes I do” I quickly replied.
“But how do you know it’s true?”

My friend had a curious mind. I don’t know how much he had thought about that question. I’m not sure if he was asking the first question that came to mind or if he had thought about that question before. It’s the GREAT question. How do we know anything is true? How do we know what we know?

I asked my friend,
“What color shirt are you wearing?” He looked down and answered with great confidence, “Orange.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I can see it.”
“Do you always believe what your eyes are telling you? Is sight the determiner of truth? Have you ever watched an illusionist perform his tricks, have you ever been fooled by special effects in the movies?
What if I am color blind, can I trust my eyes to tell me what color anything is. No, I hope you are not depending on your eyes and even any of your senses as a good source of knowledge.”

My friend stared at me with a worried smile and so I continued.
“What is color? What is orange? Light reflects off of your shirt and we measure the waves of light at a certain frequency within the visible spectrum. We get a large convention of people together and by majority vote we decide that the hue that falls within this frequency is ‘orange’. We have discovered nothing about it’s essence, we have revealed nothing about it’s nature, we have only named it and the name is an arbitrary label created through common convention.”

I had seen the look in my friend’s eyes before. It’s the look of one’s world starting to shift and teeter. His mind was racing down familiar avenues but everything was beginning to blur. Names were falling off of once familiar items - the deck of cards was slipping toward collapse and he was finding no means to stop it.
He looked back down at his shirt and then at me and asked, “Then what color IS my shirt and how do we know anything?”

What a wonderful question! It’s a question that strips away all of our self-delusions about perception and searches for a solid foundation for truth.

Our Worldview and The First Principle
Everyone, whether or not they have taken the time to mentally organize it, has a worldview. One’s worldview is a frame work, a skeleton on which we hang and support our thoughts and conclusions, our system of morality, our motivations and purpose. Your worldview guides your decisions and the way you live. The entire world is presented with the very same evidence and data, how we process that evidence depends upon our worldview. The evolutionist, the creationist and the proponent of intelligent design are not looking at different bodies of evidence. They see the same things but their means of collecting and forming conclusions is directed by their worldview. You have been forming your worldview since the day you were born and began collecting information. Your worldview is a complex web like processor but it sits upon one first and foundational principle. This first principle is the one statement that you assume to be true and you believe has enough integrity to support your entire worldview. A first principle, like an axiom in geometry, is unprovable. It is unprovable because it is the first principle and there is no principle before or above it that we may measure it by. What are some typical first principles?

“Life is short so grab for all the ‘gusto’ you can.”
“Let us seek the greatest pleasure in all things.”
“Do unto others as you would have then do unto you.”
“Look for the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”
“Science will answer all our questions and give us a greater future.”
“It’s a dog eat dog world and I’m going to watch out for me.”
“There is no God, we are here by random accidents so ‘whatever’.”

Here is a great way to redeem the time. Spend some time thinking about what your first principle is. Examine the way that you make decisions about how you spend your time and your resources. Look at those things you consider important and find the life principles that lie behind your considerations. Try to work back to a first principle. It will be a conviction that is unprovable and yet you have committed everything you believe to it, it IS your foundation.

The ultimate challenge for your first principle is this: though you cannot prove it, you can demonstrate that your first principle (axiom) leads to a more consistent structure of beliefs (worldview) than any other first principle.

When I began to ponder as to what my first principle ought to be I first settled on “There is a God”. This fell short in a hurry for this axiom didn’t explain which God. I eventually arrived at this slightly lengthier first principle.
“There is a God and He has revealed himself in His Word, the Bible.”

I have found that this principle has demonstrated itself to be a durable foundation for my beliefs. First it presupposes that there is a God. Second, that God reveals himself. Third, that God reveals himself in the Bible and fourth, that the Bible IS God’s word. The Christian’s axiom may be longer than my own but it MUST include these elements at the least in order to justify knowledge.

(Go To Part Two)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What Is Faith? Definition Four - Knowledge

Faith is all the elements and teachings that make up the body of what we believe. This is faith as knowledge.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God... Ephesians 4:11-13

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 1 Timothy 4:6

This faith is not just knowledge of God or the Bible but it is a knowledge that has been established and built up by faith as a vital connection and assured by faith as the ability to believe. Through this channel we are being transformed into the very image of Jesus Christ. Part of putting on that image is to learn the mind of Christ, the knowledge of the Son of God. So this knowledge is a knowledge not as the world learns knowledge but knowledge empowered by the Holy Spirit through faith. Because of the working out of our faith we work to share the gospel and God’s revelation with others. This is the faith we have in mind when we speak of sharing our faith with others and of defending the faith.

...and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ...

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:6,27

So in summary, faith begins as a vital connection with Jesus Christ. It is established with God’s chosen people according to his own good purpose. It is a gift of grace. Having received this faith we are also enabled to believe the Word of God - particularly that God sent his Son into the world as a sacrifice for our sin and that Christ rose from the dead. Because God has reconciled us to himself he begins to transform us into the image of his Son. He gives us new desires and teaches us to reject old patterns of behavior (repentance) and to establish new patterns (sanctification). This is the outworking of faith. Finally, all our new knowledge of Christ and His Word can be called faith. He calls us to share and defend this faith for the glory of God alone.

Keeping these definitions in mind helps us when we encounter the word faith in scripture. A good example is the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Called the faith chapter it begins with it’s own definition of faith.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Hebrews 11:1-3

The assurance of things hoped for follows definition two, the conviction of things not seen, definition one. The vital connection is invisible yet it brings both assurance and conviction. The people of old were commended for the working out of their faith (definition three), and finally, faith informs our understanding (definition four) of the universe and it’s origin through the word of God. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is NOT the history of great heroes for God, but rather, of our almighty Creator sovereignly working through weak and stubborn folks just like us all. Faith is the channel through which God redeems His people and accomplishes all His purposes.

All scriptures have been taken from the The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What Is Faith? Definition Three - Faithfulness

Faith is faithfulness, the working out of the first two definitions.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18

An important distinction must be made here between faith and faithfulness. No one is saved by works, the believer is saved by saving faith and it is the gift of God. Saving faith is the combination of the first two definitions. Faith is always alien to the believer, it comes from the outside. There is nothing we can do to get it, it is a gift of God’s grace -

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:4-9

Paul gives a similar teaching to the young pastor Titus -
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,... Titus 3:4-5

In these passages and in numerous others Paul gave many reminders that saving faith is not of us and is all of God. However, James points out that true saving faith worked in us by the Holy Spirit must bear fruit. Though good works do nothing to gain us salvation, good works is the clear evidence that God has done a saving work inside us. Paul refers to this connection in his letter to the Philippians.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

Great confusion can and has occurred when verse 12 is read without verse 13. We are able to perform the good works of the Spirit because and only because God first works IN us. It is important to understand that the unbeliever may appear to be doing good works but it is only appearance. Because God has not worked in them first the works of the flesh are really works apart from Christ (faith as a vital connection) and whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:23b

Therefore, the third definition of faith that we find in scripture is actually the working out of faith, or faithfulness. What does this working out of faith look like? Paul gives a wonderful list in his writing to the Galatians, we call this list ‘the fruit of the Spirit’.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24

(Go To Part Four)

Friday, October 06, 2006

What Is Faith? Definition Two - Ability to Believe

Faith is the ability to believe God’s Word.
24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:24-30 (emphasis mine)

Jesus in addressing the Jewish leaders speaks here of the vital connection, I know them, and the immediate result of this connection, that is, the ability to believe Christ and his word. If a person is part of His flock than his ears are opened and those who hear the voice of Jesus will follow him.

The faith that we call the vital connection immediately leads to faith as the ability to hear and understand spiritual things. The believer takes this ability for granted but it is such an important gift from our Father and absolutely crucial to our understanding. Paul describes this gift in his first letter to the Corinthians -

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:12-16

We should point out here, as scripture does, that faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. This transforming work that takes place at the time of regeneration permits us to make sense of the revealed Word of God. The very things that once seemed foolish to us when we were unregenerate now not only make sense but are the only explanations the have true value to the exclusion of the things we once believed in the flesh.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. There seems to a veil over the eyes of the natural person and therefore intelligence and worldly wisdom give us no ability to discern spiritual matters. Believers will only be frustrated in any argument of spiritual things with an unbeliever. Believers will find that they speak a different language than the unbeliever, for our worldview has been expanded to include the supernatural and miraculous. The unbeliever will not accept the supernatural. The truths of the cross and the resurrection will be foolish babel to the unsaved -

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1:18-21

(Go To Part Three)

What Is Faith? Definition One - Vital Connection

What is faith?

There are certain words in the bible that seem very difficult to grasp. Just when you think you understand what the word means you read it in another passage and your previous definition doesn’t fit. Some good examples of this are the words, glory, world, walk and faith. Trying to nail down the meaning of these words seems as simple as stapling jello to plywood.

In fact, the words are not that complex but they do have several different meanings and each meaning is activated by it’s immediate context. When studying the scriptures it is of utmost importance to keep the verses and the thoughts contained in those verses in their context. The word is defined by the sentence, the sentence by the paragraph, the paragraph by the chapter and the chapter by the book. “Faith” has a certain set of definitions and once understood it is simply a matter of determining which definition you have encountered in the Bible. Faith is a very important word in establishing how we acquire truth and a misunderstanding of the word can greatly distort our worldview.

You have heard someone use the expression, “It’s a matter of faith.” This phrase is often used for example in setting our system of religious belief apart from science. The implication being that science is based in fact and religion is based in belief of the unseen. This is true in part but it is wrong to conclude that science is based in fact and it is equally wrong to propose that all facts can be seen. Science is based on unseen presuppositions as well. The so-called facts of science are interpreted through the filter of someone’s worldview. In the end both science and religion stand on a foundation of belief in the unseen.

So what is faith?
Definition one -
Faith is the vital connection between you and Jesus Christ. By vital I mean it is life itself, the abundant life that Jesus spoke of. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 By connection I mean a link, a channel through which new life flows. Before Adam and Eve sinned this vital connection was evident in all the dealings between God and man but sin and the fall broke this connection. Without this connection man became a wise fool. Having been made in the image of God he was still able to reason and make decisions but his perception of God and the world around him now passed as through a dark glass. Our thinking became dull and distorted.

This distortion was compounded by the fact that we tried to cover our guilt by trying to hide from a holy God. The pursuit of self-atonement guided our thinking. The apostle Paul explains this tragedy in the first chapter of Romans.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Without the vital connection between God and man, man at his very best possesses a debased mind. Apart from this connection man can only sin and therefore we are all lost and we are by nature God haters. So as God seeks out his sheep, gathers his people to worship him the first thing that must be done is to restore that very vital connection between God and man. God does this by what the bible calls atonement and this important work of the Son will be taken up in a later writing.

Here is an illustration to help you understand faith as a vital connection. Those of us who have used land phones know what it’s like to wait on the phone company to establish phone service. You can pick up your phone and listen but you will hear only silence until someone at the company throws a switch. You can push all the buttons you want and it will have no effect. The switch thrower is acting according to his pleasure and won’t throw it until he is ready. Furthermore, the switch is either on or it’s off, there is no middle condition. If the switch is off the line is dead, if the switch is on there is a link to the world. This is what I mean by a vital connection.

Faith as a vital connection is a gift from God, there is really nothing we can do to acquire it. Jesus says it this way - No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. John 6:44 We also see this kind of faith at work in Jesus healing the man with the withered hand - Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. John 12:13 It would be foolish to say the man in his own power stretched out his hand. Jesus commanded the man to stretch out his hand because Jesus supplied the healing and power to do so; a vital connection took place between Jesus and the mans’s hand and life flowed into it for the first time.

Faith as a vital connection is either on or off, it is there or it isn’t. Jesus refers to this aspect of faith when he says - For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

It’s not the amount of faith that is important here it is whether or not faith is present. Faith is as powerful as its object. Faith does not give us power to do anything but faith as a vital connection links us to the Creator himself and nothing is impossible for God. Again Jesus reaffirms our own inability when he says - I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 Jesus makes this truth more sure by pointing out that he works through this same vital connection - So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. John 5:19

(Go To Part Two)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Alert! Madonna Flaunts Sin On TV. No kidding.

I got an alert from the American Family Association. God bless the AFA for their vigilance in standing in the gap and fighting for decency. Their most recent alert is titled:

NBC, Madonna Set To Mock The Crucifixion of Christ

I get one of these AFA alerts nearly everyday. Besides getting one from AFA directly I have several christian brothers who forward the same alerts to me. So I get a formidable collection. After a while I suffer something similar to the compassion fatigue that one gets from viewing so many pleas to help the hungry and oppressed.

Madonna is going to do something nasty of TV. Ok, but that's like saying I changed the flow of an open sewer so now it runs through my living room and guess what? IT STINKS!!! IT SMELLS AWFUL!!!

It's television. Are we really shocked? Television, for the most part is our window into the lowest common denominator that culture has to offer. Thankfully there are the Food Network and Home Decorating programs to redeem some of the air waves but for the most part, TV is apostate and not about to reform.

Are you shocked to discover Madonna is sinful and proud of it? That she's anti-christian? That NBC, ABC, CBS, Blah-Blah-Blah are businesses that show train wrecks for profit?

The problem with our society is that nothing has a CONTEXT anymore. Two weeks ago I preached on the history of redemption and demonstrated the proper context, the underlying theme for the books of the Holy Scriptures. The main stream church has taken truths from scripture and stripped them from their context. The worship service has no context, it is an end in itself, to please the seeker - to make us feel good and relieve stress that can be so damaging to our Sunday afternoon golf game.

Society has no context. Music has no context. What one FEELS to be true is true. Sin has no consequences because sin exists in a vacuum or has been defined out of existence.

So the answer is not to try to save TV by protesting, the answer is to go into all the world preaching and baptizing, preaching the Truth and establishing the lost context to a disjointed world. We live in the information age where information abounds and is accessible like no time in history, but all of this information is without context. The world is playing a hellish and hell bent game of Trivial Pursuit. {Rant Off}

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The DaVinci Code and other attacks

The DaVinci Code is making daily headlines. It's certainly been a boon for the church and christian booksellers as it has created an industry of rebuttal. Madonna is blaspheming again in her new concert tour by singing from a mirrored cross wearing a designer crown of thorns. A while ago the fight was all about where we can and cannot post the Ten Commandments. Can't say Christmas, can't say Happy Easter. Many christians are always shocked when God haters, (of which we all once were) act like they hate God. So I want to just give my one time response for these types of headline grabbing controversies.

Nothing excites me more than hearing these God haters attack Christ. I love the smug criticisms and cynicisms aimed at the gospels. Why?


They can't leave Christ alone, they can't ignore His Kingdom, His Church, His Sovereign rule. Two thousand years and he is still a stumbling block, he still moves the passions of his creatures. If He should tarry another 1000 years the scoffers will still be pre-occupied with the force of the gospel and will attack with the desperate thrashings of a chicken in it's death throes. We watch in awe as the Father lifts his enemies into his lap of mercy where they slap at his face like spoiled children. One way or another they will all bow down and confess his Lordship. God will be glorified, Amen.

Furthermore, after 2000 years God won't leave us alone either. The miracle that I see over and over is that Christ can take the same tongue that wags and curses him and transform it into an instrument of praise. He did it to my poisoned tongue, my heart of stone, my sin-drenched nature and I will forever sing of his grace and mercy and the goodnews that Jesus Saves Sinners.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Comfort In Strength

On the backside of the courthouse in Claremont, NH there is a public toilet. You know it's a public toilet because of the big words above the doors that say "Public Comfort". Below those words, from left to right are the words, "Women" and "Men". We kids used to get a kick out of reading from top to bottom, "Public Women Comfort Men". That joke never got old.

You look up comfort in the dictionary and you will find that it can indeed mean a 'toilet'. A comforter can be a heavy blanket and comfort is what we experience when we slumber in our recliner with a heavy blanket on a cold day.

"Comfort", regardless of the passiveness suggeted by these items and activities however is a rich and powerful word in it's latin roots. A 'fort' is a stronghold where we take refuge. A piano 'forte' is a musical piece played loudly with strength. 'Fortitude' is courage and patient endurance. These words all share the latin root 'fortis', strength.

Did you know this? I knew the latin yet I never took the word comfort apart. 'To comfort' means to 'come with strength'. We may think of comfort as a hug or a gentle word and that is true, but if these actions aren't back up with a solidness, with strength then they lose their affectiveness.

If we desire to comfort a spouse, a child, a friend, a flock then we had better come beside them with strength. Sometimes we are tired and weak. Sometimes we have lost our endurence. Therefore, it is of the ultimate importance that we daily go to our Father in heaven in prayer, in listening and in Bible reading. Be strong in the Lord. Start here:

Psalm 46
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

2 Corinthians
1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

S.M. Lockridge on Creation

Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge was the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego CA from 1953 - 1993. He entered heaven in 2000. He had the most wonderful cadence and expression to his preaching. This is how he described the creation of the universe as only Dr. Lockridge could do.

“The reason God came from nowhere, was there was nowhere for Him to come from. And coming from nowhere, He stood on nothing for there was nowhere for Him to stand. And standing on nothing, He reached out where there was nowhere to reach and caught something where there was nothing to catch, and hung something on nothing, and told it to stay there.”

Monday, March 27, 2006

Is God In Control?

A short time ago, I was reading my bible and in the book of Galatians 4:4 I read,
In the fullness, of time God sent His son into the world, born of a woman....

Now how did a piece of the Christmas story get up and crawl over to the book of Galatians. Everyone knows that the Christmas story is in the beginning of Luke and Matthew; so how did this ‘born of a woman’ get so far away. I was going to get my scissors and paste and return it when something else caught my imagination.

God sent His son “in the fullness of time”. That thought would bog me down for weeks. I could not get my mind around that idea. You see, “in the fullness of time” means “when the timing was perfect”, or “when everything was just right”. I don’t get it. I don’t get it!

The world of 4 BC lacked the modern conveniences we take for granted. They travelled by donkey. A woman, nine months pregnant, travelling on a donkey. The culture stoned women to death who got pregnant outside of marriage. There was a census going on and there was no room at the inn. The timing required that God incarnate be born in a feed box. God went from the throne of heaven to a stinking manger.

I’ve heard of some of the details of the contracts between entertainers and promoters. The rock group Van Halen always had to have M & M’s in there dressing room but with the brown ones picked out. Michael Bouton’s contract prohibits onions in the room because they smell bad. These people have front people who go ahead of them and arrange theses very important details.

In 4 BC, where were God’s front personnel. I’ll tell you where, they were talking to shepherds instead of making reservations at the Ramada. I don’t get it.

If Jesus had been born today, we have sparkling clean birthing rooms and fetal monitors and car seats. We have 200 cable channels and the whole wide world is wired. The pop singer Madonna’s baby was christened on international television. Baby Jesus had to flee to Egypt while a power crazed King slaughtered every male baby and toddler in the land.

The timing, according to God’s word, was perfect.

Is God in control, or not?
As I considered the events of the Christmas story that didn’t make sense to me, I realized that in my own life there have been questions that have been left unanswered. There are so many things that don’t make sense and I know it’s not just me that thinks that way.

This year some of you may have lost a loved one - untimely.

Your teenage son or daughter changed and said things to you that you thought you would never hear.

You lost your job.

You got sick at the worst possible time.

Is God in control or are we the victims of chance?
Think of what I am about to show you as photographs of God. Everyone likes to look at photographs. These photographs are going to take some of you by surprise. Some of you will squirm a bit when you see them. It won’t be what you expected. Some of you may get angry and say “that is not the God I worship.” But my prayer is that most of you will find the comfort and assurance that you have searched for and hoped for. I am going to take you to several passages of scripture.

We find the first one in Psalm 50:21 - right in the middle of the verse -
“ thought I was altogether like you.”

That is going to be your greatest struggle. Keep reminding yourself that God is not like you. We have not created God in our image. He doesn’t think like we do.

Have you ever lost your temper? God never has!
Have you ever said something you didn’t mean? God never has!
Have you ever done something stupid and foolish? God never has!
Have you ever stumbled? Have you ever been ignorant? Have you ever been lost? Have you ever been frustrated?
God never has!

We are like God in that we are capable or reason and understanding but God is not like us!

When we form a plan and it doesn’t work what do we do?
We change the plan - as many times as we have to.
Do you think God is like that?

God’s plan and purpose has never once been subject to change because it never has been challenged or thwarted in any way.

Do you think that God is weak and struggles against Satan like we do? If you do, then you have been worshipping the wrong God!

1 Chron. 29:11,12.
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.”

Now that is a breathtaking image and there is one just like it in 2 Chron. 20:6 -
“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.”
Before God presidents, popes, emperors, kings are less than grasshoppers. He controls whether a chad is hanging, swinging, pregnant or dimpled.

He rules over all!

Job knew some things about unanswered questions. Near the end of the book of Job he speaks to God and says -
“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted... Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

All that God has planned, he performs.

Psalm 115:3 -
“Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him.”

That one short verse alone, tells us everthing we need to know about the events that shape and form our lives. It tells us the cause of all things - God, and the why of all things - God’s pleasure. Now that’s where some of us may begin to squirm.

I discover there that God is not planning the universe around me. He is not my personal genie in a bottle.

Isaiah saw this truth when God gave him a similar photograph in Isaiah 46:9,10 -
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”

God is in control and nothing happens that he hasn’t ordered. Now this is where some of you may be getting angry with me. Because things have happened to you that you are sure God never would plan.
Bad things, evil things. We will look at that problem in a moment but first, let me make it absolutlely clear from scripture that God is in control.

Here are the rest of my photographs -
Acts 17:28 -
“For in Him we live, and move and have our being.”

Dan. 4:34,35 - God caused a great king to go insane and then brought him back to his right ming and them made him speak this revelation of God.
“His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”

God even controls the weather. Psalm 147:15-18 tells us -
“He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes. He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast? He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes and the waters flow.”

Will our next president mess things up for the country? Prov. 21:1 tell us -
“The kings heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”

God has always been in control and always will be? That’s not my opinion, that’s the Word of the only authority worth recognizing.

But if God orders all things, than does he order evil.
James tells us that God is not tempted by evil nor does he tempt anyone. He is holy and God cannot author or create evil. Satan in his rebellion brought evil into existence and God didn’t stop it which is a difficult question to grapple with. Because of Adam’s fall, our representative, we are plenty sinful ourselves.

You will struggle with the idea that God controls events that seem evil and unfair. But you have probably already accepted his workings in the most evil event of all history and you didn’t even realize it.

“God sent his son into the world, born of a woman”

Jesus Christ lived a perfect life in total and absolute obedience to God’s law. He accomplished what no man or woman would ever be able to do. To satisfy the righteous requirements of the law.

Every man, woman and child deserves spiritual seperation from God because of their sinfulness. Only one never did anything to deserve spiritual separation from God.

We see the loss of 6 million jews in concentration camps. It was horrible and evil and unfair. So is a young child with leukemia or a car accident that takes the lives of innocent loved ones. But there was an evil and unfair event that dwarfs any we can imagine - when God set in order the events that would lead to His perfect Son being humiliated and crucified on a cross for something he never did.

The perfect One became sin and God ordained it. In God’s grace, we know and understand why he did that.

Acts 2:23 -
“This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

So you and I could be saved.

God is in control. Can you trust God who did not spare even his own perfect son for your sake?

Shakespere said that “All the world’s a stage and we are just players” but what’s the play about..

Eph 3:10 tells us -
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

God’s purpose from the beginning and before time existed is to display his infinite grace and infinite wisdom in the redemption of lost sinners.

There will always be questions, but God is in control.