Arrows in the Hand of a Warrior

Today is a special day. Fifteen years ago today, God blessed my wife Angie and I with our second child and only son. I was twenty-four years stupid (praise God for His forgiveness and patience) and the blessing that I had received had not yet become a reality to me. I had no idea the joys of fatherhood, the challenges of fatherhood, or the sanctification that God works through fatherhood. The Psalmist knew this well when he wrote, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…” (Psalm 127:3-5).

The Joys of Fatherhood

It has been my joy to watch God grow our children into young adults who love & serve Him. There is no greater joy than to know that, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, God has saved our children and now they are “walking in truth, just as we were commanded by the Father” (2 John 4).

But their relationship with Christ is not the only joy; as a matter of fact, that may the greatest joy but there are almost innumerable others. For instance, the joy of their absolute, unconditional, overwhelming affection for their parents is, indeed, a heart-filler! I remember, so vividly, the smiles from ear-to-ear when I would return home from work, the wrestling on the living room floor with their disregard for their own safety as they would jump from anything, and any height, so long as they could land on daddy, and the cuddling as we read together, or watched movies together, and on, and on, and on. One of the greatest joys I’ve ever known is being daddy. Truly, “children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

The Challenges of Fatherhood

I don’t know that I’ve ever done anything or been given a title that has been as challenging as being a father. Chip Ingram said, “Your most exhilarating joys and agonizing sorrows will likely come from the same source…your children. As parents we understand that raising children is a high stakes adventure.” God has entrusted to parents the life and welfare of another human being and no one in your child’s life will have as great or lasting of an impact as you, even an eternal one. God is clear as to a parent’s task when he clearly expresses that what He wants from your union with your wife is “godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15). What a task! Who is capable of such a feat on their own?

The Psalmist likens our children to “arrows in a quiver.” Let’s explore that word picture. Arrows are crafted intentionally and precisely. Today’s arrows are crafted from carbon-fiber and weighed down to the grains-per-inch (that’s 1grain=1/7000 of one pound); that’s precision. But why; why are manufacturers so precise? Because those arrows are crafted with a purpose, to hit their mark every time they are released from the hand of the archer. Hasn’t God given us our children for the same purpose? Aren’t we, through the Word and by the Spirit, to intentionally and precisely mold and shape our children in preparation for their release?

In the not so recent past I was reminded by good friends of ours that we are raising our kids for Heaven, not Harvard. The world may claim that “success” is defined by what sports team, college, employment, or paycheck our children end up with but God is concerned with who their heart belongs to and that our children lay up treasure in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy (Mattew 6:19-20). Our objective as parents is to produce “godly offspring” and the mechanism by which we do that is clearly laid out for us in Deuteronomy 6:4-9; I encourage you to stop reading this blog and read God’s instructions for how to intentionally and precisely craft your arrows for release.

The Sanctification that Comes from Fatherhood

Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, said this concerning marriage but I believe it applies to parenting as well: “Any situation that calls me to confront my selfishness has enormous spiritual value…What marriage has done for me is hold up a mirror to my sin. It forces me to face myself honestly and consider my character flaws, selfishness, and anti-Christian attitudes, encouraging me to be sanctified and cleansed, and grow in godliness.” This is true for marriage and I believe it is true for parenting. Let me explain.

It’s not just your child’s unwavering faith that God uses to convict us of our own lack of faith (Matthew 18:3) but they are also the mirror reflecting to the world who you really are instead of who you want the world to believe you are (by “you” I mean “me”).  You see, children are little “mini-me’s.” Do you remember that mid-90’s comedy that had the “mini-me?” Mini-me dressed like his “father”, carried the same mannerisms, pursued the same goals, and basically mimicked his “father’s” every move. Our children are the same, really. I have seen my love for Christ come through in my children and for that I’m grateful but I’ve also see my sin manifest itself through them as well. God, in His grace, shows me who I am and how I sound and what I portray to the world when I see some of my “bad-habits” surface in my children. God uses my children to show me my sin, convict me of my guilt, and then leads me to confession and repentance both with Him and with them. God uses my “mini-me’s” to sanctify me so that I become more like His “Mini-me”, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:3). The Father makes me more like Christ through the blessing of being a father myself; what a privilege and blessing my children are!

Today, July 10th 2018, is not only my son’s birthday but it is also the day before he and I depart for Peru where we will, Lord willing, teach and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, together. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Luke 1:46-49). I am blessed and although my quiver may not be “full” my heart is! Today is a special day. Thank you Jesus!

Happy birthday, son. I love you more than you’ll ever know until the Lord makes you a daddy too!

Grace and Peace to You

As I recently began preaching Philemon, Paul’s words in verse 3 struck me with a great gospel blow! “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Certainly Philemon 3 is not the only verse in the Pauline epistles that contain a variation of that statement. Most all of the letters written by Paul open up with “grace and peace to you” in the greeting. Since this is a familiar greeting, one can easily over look the profound significance of what Paul is saying. Whether a person has been a believer for one year or for 25 years, the blessing of divine grace and peace should never get old to them. Far too often in my own life, I must confess that I can read a verse like Philemon 3 and move on to what I might think is more exciting, challenging, or profound. This truth is deep enough, profound enough, and exciting enough to meditate upon!

Later in this epistle, Paul asks Philemon to show grace to Onesimus; to forgive this runaway slave who stole from his master. Onesimus, by God’s providential hand, connects with Paul and is converted to the faith. Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter urging Philemon to receive Onesimus back as a brother in Christ. Paul reminds Philemon of the grace and peace that Philemon knows because of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is Paul stressing this? In the fast-paced life that most of us are engaged in, we must intentionally stop and consider what God has shown us in salvation. The thrice holy God shows us grace by forgiving our sins, making peace with sinful rebels (which is what we are), and all of this is due to the Son of God bearing the wrath of God on behalf of His people.

Ephesians 2:1-3 paints a bleak picture of our natural condition. Spiritually dead in our sins and trespasses, in bondage to the corrupt world system of evil run by Satan, walking spiritual zombies with a passion to only satisfy our wicked desires: this is the condition of all of humanity before God. Eph. 2:4 says “But God who is rich in mercy” and 2:8 says “By grace you have been saved”. This holy God shows grace and mercy to wretched sinners. This wonderful grace manifests itself at the cross. The only way in which any sinner knows forgiveness is by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. 2 Cor. 5:21 declares that the perfect One (Christ) became sin (took on His shoulders our sin curse, sin debt, and sin judgment) so that the sinner’s status changes from condemned to justified due to the righteousness of Christ. Do you see why Paul stresses on the grace that God shows to sinners? How can we say there is something more profound than that my sins have been forgiven, judged on Christ, and the perfect righteousness of Christ clothes me? Just as Philemon needed to remember to show grace to another due to the grace shown to him, we stand in need of such exhortations. How often are we tempted to not show grace to another because of the way we feel slighted or mistreated? Beloved, if you and I know grace from Almighty God, there is no room for us to ever withhold grace. If we confess the doctrines of grace expounded upon in documents such as the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faithand the Westminster Confession of Faith, then let us not be intellectual Calvinists but practical Calvinists as well.

Paul speaks to the peace that Philemon knows along with grace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This peace is the peace that Philemon now enjoys with God. Romans 5:1-11 describes justification by faith alone in Christ alone producing peace with God. Jesus Christ died for enemies of God. Fallen sinners are at enmity with God. The unconverted hate God for His holiness and sovereignty, hate Christ since He perfectly kept the Law of God as the God-man being the standard of righteousness by which all are judged, and hate the Spirit for convicting the world of sin. Christ dies for the ungodly! Those who were standing under the wrath of God are completely transformed! Peace with God comes from God seeing not my sin and wretchedness but the righteousness of Christ. I have been radically changed going from a warring sinner in a futile, vain quest against the King to now being adopted by the King, clothed by the King, and seated at the table of the King! Grace to you and peace! What marvelous tidings of great joy these are! Is it any wonder Paul puts this in the greetings of his letters?

Finally, notice that Paul says this grace and peace come from both the Father and the Son. Paul declares the divine equality and unity within the Trinity. Our salvation is rooted in the covenant of redemption whereby the Father, Son, and Spirit in complete harmony accomplish the salvation of a people for the glory of God. If you are struggling in a dark night of the soul, brother or sister, remember that the Trinity showed you and continues to show you grace and peace. There is a covenant surety attached to your salvation that nothing of hell can null and void. If you are reading this and do not know this grace and peace, do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. You cannot earn or merit this grace and peace. It is wrought by the Spirit, accomplished by the Son, and given by the Father! Renounce yourself and rest in Christ who beckons to you to come and know Him!

Sing what we Mean, Mean what we sing? Redux

Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

There’s an old saying that goes ‘many people will lie in the first 30 minutes of Sunday morning worship more than they will all week.’ This has always been an interesting quote to me, especially when thinking about weekly congregational worship.

This week, in particular, at SonRise we are working through a series on Holiness and this weeks text lands on Amos 5. In this text we see God rebuking the people for their lofty songs that are not reflective of rightful hearts. The people have turned to evil wickedness and to open oppression of the poor and broken for their own profit. They are simply going through the motions of worshiping God, but have not been impacted by the reality of the God they worship. Their songs may speak words of High praise to God but their actions and hearts are not so inclined to believe the words they sing.

This discussion led my mind to go back to that old saying and wonder how much do we really believe the songs that we sing.

Do we ever think about it on Sunday mornings? While in that moment we may be caught up with an emotion or excitement, are we really engaging with the words that we are singing? Do they truly reflect our hearts intention, and our outward life?

I want this brief blog post to be an encouragement to all of us as we go into worship this weekend. I hope that we will be encouraged to think through the words that we are singing. I want us to really focus in on the depth of these truths and how they affect our souls. We truly must think of the songs we sing as an outpouring of our hearts towards God and an encouragement one another. I hope the words of Colossians 3:16 become a reality to us all. So specifically we will look at two types of songs that seem to be the most often sung but overlooked in their meanings.  These are songs of lament and songs of dedication. In one, we sing of our trust in God in the midst the pain and sorrow showing that he is our only hope through it all and in the other we sing of our dedication to God in all things, crying out for our lives to be a reflection of His love for us.

The Song of Lament

For many of us songs of lament probably aren’t all that common in our congregations, even though their meaning and use is probably one of the most real parts of the Christian life. The Psalms are filled with hearts broken and beaten by the world, but whose ultimate faith is in the Lord alone. In our congregations we may not sing them very often but when (not ‘if’) we do we should take a moment and reflect on what they mean. When we sing the words of Blessed be your name and echo the bridge “you give and take away, blessed be your name” do we truly think through what that song is saying? Do we really look at our situations and see all that we may have gained and all that we may have lost and truly be able to cry out “Blessed be your name?” When we are stuck in the wilderness of life do we truly cry out “Blessed be your name?” Songs of lament can be one the greatest salves to hurting heart. They give voice to the destitute, but as we struggle do we truly believe these words. Do we truly yearn for these words to reflect our hearts towards God?

So for those of us who are in pain may we sing these songs with a heart that reflects a trust in God. And to those of us who are not in the midst of trials and struggles, let us sing these songs with two things in mind:

First, the times we have been brought through the fire. When we sing these songs let us reflect on what God has done for us. Let us not sit by passively or sing absent-mindedly, but let us sing reflecting on how God has brought us through.

Second, let us remember our brothers and sister who are sitting around us in our service who are struggling. Let our singing be an encouragement to them of how God is worthy in the midst of our struggles, but also let these songs be a reminder that we all suffer and walk through the deserts.

Songs of Dedication

Songs that cry out for dedication and sing of our allegiance to God are some of the most often taken for granted songs in Christian worship. With one voice we can echo the words “Jesus I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow thee, destitute, despised forsaken, and thou from hence my all shalt be,” and yet it is not less than a day and back we are to the same pattern following our own desires and ambitions, with little or no thought for the will and direction of God. Another example from the same beautiful hymn “Go then earthly fame and treasure, come disaster scorn and pain, in thy service pain is pleasure, with thy favor loss is gain.” These simple lines echo the call of Christ to follow Him in the gospel, and connect us to the mission of His disciples for all generations; To give up everything of this world and be solely devoted to him. In these songs we declare with one voice yes and amen, we will follow Him without a second guess, yet again we quickly turn back.

Worship through song is formative in many ways, for worship gives voice to who we know we should be, and when we take it seriously we begin to think thoughtfully about whether or not we truly believe the words that we say. It is easy to nod our head at the words of the sermon, but it’s a whole other thing to put those words into action in our daily lives. However, in worship through song we sing those truths one to another and back to God. So the songs we sing on Sunday should never simply be another song in the list of songs that you’ve learned, that flow as easily from, our lips as the newest pop song.

The songs we sing should be an outflowing of the truth of God in Scripture and in our lives.

The songs we sing should build us up with joy for the greatness of who our God is. We should be able to sing in reflection for all that he has done. We should sing with joy to exclaim his greatness to our brothers and sisters. And we should sing the truth of Scripture to those who do not know that they may hear and believe the word of God presented through song.

May our worship through song never be a lie.

May we think deeply of the things of God and sing in response to the greatness of our God. May we not simply check out on a Sunday morning and go through the motions of singing words that we’ve heard time and time again. But may we engage our mind and our heart to understand what God is saying in his word and through the worship of his people.

So when we join with our brothers and sisters this Sunday and sing with one voice may we engage with the words that we’re singing. Let the words truly be a reflection of our hearts, let the words that we sing become formative for our lives as they reflect the truth of Scripture and the truth of our Savior.

 

Seven Ways to Father Well

For the first couple years of being a dad my running mantra to other fathers was: “Here’s what I think…but then again I’ve been a father for about 5 minutes.” My advice, however solid, foolish, or naive, always came with it a disclaimer. I had forever chuckled at parental advice from those without children, and had therefore been reticent, before my own kiddos arrived, to hand out child-training tips. Even with the arrival of Spurgeon (my first born) I was reluctant to advise for a couple of years. However, having consumed a half-dozen books on the topic, perused countless blogs, seen the good and bad of fatherhood from friends and acquaintances, and recently enjoyed my fourth Father’s Day as a pop, I figured I would jot down lessons I am learning in my pursuit of being a strong, godly father. Most of these principles have substantial Biblical backing and in none of these principles have I achieved perfection. I am learning, struggling, and pressing through but I already see a ton of fruit in the lives of my kids through the faithful implementation of these principles.

1 :: Husband Faithfully 

The statistics are alarming. Many men who end up addicted to pornography and with a skewed sense of love are products of affection-less parents. Kids need to see their father spend time with, date, hug, affirm, and prize their mother. This is the best example for them of how men are to treat women, and women men. I will admit, I am far more cerebral than emotional so open affection and flowery romance does not come naturally for me – and I know it doesn’t for many men. But if we desire to father well it all begins with how we love our bride.

2 :: Work Diligently

Laziness seems to be an increasing epidemic in this generation. The pithy mottos of “everyone is a winner” and “you can have anything you want just ‘cause you want it” have come back to bite. Fathers should be teaching their sons – particularly through example – how to work hard. Diligence is almost always rewarded and our kids should see us, particularly at home, laboring feverishly to meet the needs of family and the demands of the home.

3 :: Laugh Frequently

Life is cumbersome with many deadlines, dilemmas, and disappointments. In spite of these things, God gives us ample opportunity to enjoy life and laugh often and we should – with our children – take full advantage. Don’t confuse why you work: work to live, not the other way around. Punch out after putting in a solid day of diligent labor. Come home to actually be with and enjoy your family. Put the phone away, the remote down, and relish the Divine gifts of laughter and amusement. For the past three years Dink and I have encountered heartache and loss, yet we are endeavoring to press through those trials and savor the fleeting moments with our kiddos.

4 :: Discipline Consistently

This is tough. Many parents either allow their kids to run roughshod with little correction (to the bewilderment of those in their church, school, or community) or incarcerate their children in a tiny prison of perfection and robotic behavior. Neither is healthy or right. Consistent discipline, not punishment, is what is best and what is Biblical. Punishment is paying back my kid for bad behavior; discipline is instructing my child toward right behavior. Whatever your form of discipline may be, I would strongly encourage you to be consistent, be calm (don’t get angry or hostile), be informative (let them know why they are being corrected), and be loving.

5 :: Hug Routinely

More than any other, this principle should go without saying, but in the hustle and bustle of life we often forget to actually exhibit the love that we have for our children. Kids need tangible expressions of affection. Hand-holding, hugging, cuddling, and kissing your kiddos is proven to increase their health (mentally and physically) and happiness.

6 :: Teach Regularly

The world around us will not cease in attempting to catechize our children. Allow this vicious instructor to stand at the head of the classroom and your children will learn idolatry, discontent, and disrespect. Instead, silence the voice of a godless culture, and rise up to regularly educate your kids. God has gifted us unending instructional opportunities and as fathers we should snatch up these opportunities. Through Scripture, literature, history, narrative, and experience, teach your children life skills, respectful behavior, sports, crafts, art, truth, and the list rolls onward. Disciple them to know, love, and serve God. Don’t allow a day to pass without some type or form of direction taking place. It’s what their little minds and souls need.

7 :: Live Authentically 

Hypocrisy has driven more children from their parents and the church than any other vice. To be clear, hypocrisy is not failing to live up to your established values, but rather is putting on a mask and projecting yourself as something that you are not. While fathers can fool the crowds, they cannot fool their kiddos. Children will see the mask for what it is and grow increasingly repulsed by it. Living authentically means that I am striving to live according to what I know and declare to be right, acknowledging and apologizing when I fail, and reminding myself and my kids of the enormity and undeservedness of God’s remarkable grace.

I truly hope to see men take seriously the gift that is fatherhood and strive forward to lead and love their children well.

Semper Reformanda

The Grand Symphony – The Doctrine of Christ

John 1:1-18 form what has come to be known as ‘The Prologue.’ Only John gives us an introduction like this. Matthew and Luke begin with birth narratives while Mark begins with Jesus’ baptism. John begins with an 18 verse introduction intended to answer basic questions about Jesus. Questions like: Who is He? Why did He come? Where is He from? As John answers these questions we cannot help but find ourselves simply astounded. Concerning this prologue the study notes in the Gospel Transformation study Bible say this, “The prologue of John’s gospel is like the opening movement of a grand symphony. It is meant to grab our attention and draw us into the story – the story of all stories.”[i]R.C. Sproul in his commentary on John likewise states, “No portion of the New Testament captured the imagination and the attention of the Christian intellectual community for the first three centuries more than this brief section.”[ii]

As it captured them, may God now capture us.

“In the beginning…” These first three words are words we should all be familiar with. John isn’t the only one to begin his writing with them, Moses begins Genesis with them as well. That John uses the same words here is intended to teach us that just as God did His work of creation then, God is now doing His work of new creation here. How does God intend to carry out His work of new creation? v1-3 continues, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” Think back to Genesis again. In Genesis we see God creating all things by speaking them into existence saying each time “Let there be…” and there was. Now in this work of new creation it’s clear that God’s bringing it about by something John calls “the Word.” This Word is not only present in beginning of all things, John says the Word is God and the Word is with God. When John says the Word is God shows that the Word is Deity. When John says the Word is with God he shows that the Word is distinct or distinguished from God. Both full-blown Deity and divine distinction are present in this ‘Word.’

To further add to this did you notice there’s an addition in v3 that’s not in v1-2? v3 refers to the Word as “Him.” This prohibits us from speaking of the Word as an impersonal force or some kind of vague power. That John refers to the Word as ‘Him’ means the Word is a Person, indeed one of the three Persons in the Trinity. To further add again, when taking into account the Greek translation of Word, which is ‘logos’, leads us to even more. The ‘logos’ was a Greek philosophical concept used to convey an abstract force that brought harmony, order, and reason into the universe. So in order for the Greeks to be wise or on the right path to wisdom they had to be in touch with the logos. Well John uses this loaded Greek term here in the beginning of his gospel to teach us the true meaning of ‘logos.’ It’s not an impersonal force that brings harmony, order, and reason into the universe, no, the ‘logos’ is none other than God’s divine self-expression. Hebrews 1:1-3 confirms this saying, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom He also created the world. He (the Son) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature…” This Word of John 1:1-3 is none other than the Word God spoke to create the world in Genesis 1. But it’s more than just language, the Word is God wrapped in skin, or to say it another way God’s very Son.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, that’s normal. John is a very simple writer, but the way he combines simplicity and profundity often leaves us wondering if we’ve understood all his intends us to. Try to think of it like this. If I want to know who a person is, I listen to what they say because a person’s words reveal what they are thinking. Well, do you want to know who God is? Do you want to know what God’s thoughts are? Praise the Lord God is and He is not silent! God has revealed Himself by speaking, and His Word to us is His very Son!

Historically this prologue is significant. Throughout the history of the Church many have rejected these very things, taught other things, been tried by Church councils, and condemned as heretics for teaching false doctrine about Christ. Men such as Arius, Apollinarius, Eutychus, and Nestorius are some examples of men who denied the truths taught in John 1 and instead believed Jesus is something less. Arius, using his term homoiousios, denied the full deity of Christ and put forth the idea that Christ was the first or greatest ‘created’ being who was of a different nature than God. This was denied by the Council of Nicea (325 AD) but it was Athanasius who led the charge arguing for homoousios, namely, that Christ was of the exact same nature as the Father. These things made up the following Nicene Creed produced from this council.

Later, Apollinarius believed the divine logos took the place of a rational human soul in Christ and therefore made Christ not fully human. This was denied by the Council of Constantinople (381 AD) where a full deity and full humanity were both upheld. Later Nestorius taught that the two natures of Christ were so distinct from each other that Christ was a combination of two separate persons. Around the same time Eutychus taught that the two persons of Christ were so unified that almost all distinctions between them disappeared. Both of these were denied by the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) and the following Chalcedonian Creed produced from it. The creed makes an argument using the Greek word hypostasis (which is where the phrase ‘hypostatic union’ comes from) meaning that Christ’s divine and human natures are united in one being. Or to say it another way, Christ’s work as Savior involved both His natures and if He were without one of these natures, or if these natures were mixed or confused, there would be no salvation for us.

From all of these false teachers and false teaching the early Church came to embrace four specific things about Christ. First, Jesus Christ is fully divine. Second, Jesus Christ is fully human. Third, the divine and human natures of Christ are distinct. And fourth, the divine and human nature of Christ are united in one Person. Anything less than this is a departure from true Christology.

In more modern times the Jehovah’s Witnesses have altered the translation of John 1:1 because they reject Jesus’ deity. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, also altered the translation of John 1:1 for the same reason. Sincere as these people may be, to deny the truth of Jesus’ deity is to reject Christianity. Remember what I said earlier, as this small flathead was fundamental to my work in the shop, the truths taught in John 1 (and many other places) is fundamental to Christian belief. To move away from it will still leave you with many beliefs, but those beliefs will not be Christian to any degree.

When we move ahead to John 1:4-5 we see John bring up themes that are all found in abundance within Genesis: life, light, and darkness. Not surprisingly these are some of the major themes of John’s gospel. Specifically in v4-5 we see that while God spoke the world into being and shattered the dark void during creation, so too God sent His Word into the world and the Word’s life and light shatter the dark void of this sinful world during new creation. The Word of v1-3 in v4-5 is the source of life and this life is the source of all light in the world and in men. No wonder why John includes the time when Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). It is true, light and darkness are opposites. It’s also true that some speak of the Christian life as a battle between these opposites. Though this is true to a degree, do not believe the lie that they are opposites of equal power. The light of the Word, the light of Christ overcomes all darkness.

This is why John would later write this in 1 John 2:8, “…the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” So through the Word life and light come into the darkness, and even though some may mock at the song or phrase, when one comes to faith in Christ one truly has ‘seen the light.’

 

Citations:

[i]The Gospel Transformation Study Bible, notes on John 1:1-18, page 1407.

[ii]R.C. Sproul, John – Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentary , page 2.

Jesus’ Questions for an Anxious Heart

Anxiety is something many of us face on a regular basis. From the womb to the tomb, we encounter a multitude of events that can lead us to doubt God’s good plans for our lives. In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus questions our sinful tendency to worry. Jesus was a master of answering questions with deeper questions, thus causing us to consider life from an eternal perspective. In Matthew 6:31, Jesus portrays our anxiety as worrisome questioning and fretful concern which wonders, “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” Yet Jesus’ answer to these questions comes in the form of more questions. Aside from commanding us three times, “Do not be anxious,” Jesus leads us to consider the foolishness of our fearful anxiety.

Is not life more…? (v. 25)

The first question Jesus uses to counter our fretfulness zooms out to view the full scope of our lives in light of what is currently worrying us. Ironically, Jesus identifies the most extreme causes of worry, implying that all other less-important causes are covered as well. Our Western mindsets worry primarily about much less significant things like financial stability, social likeability, and that inner feeling of success in life. But life is more than food, clothes, friends, account numbers, titles, and degrees. So when we begin to worry about something, we must learn to ask ourselves, “Isn’t life more than [insert your worry here]?” The rhetorical yes answer will remind us to live not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Are you not of more value than they? (v. 26)

Jesus’ second question turns our attention to what theologians call the imago Dei. As humans, we have been created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27-28 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Jesus had just called the people to consider the birds flying about over their heads there near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This reminds me of when God, “took Job to the zoo” (Mahaney) in Job 38-41, but the focus is different. Here Jesus wants us to consider our heavenly Father’s care for His creation. If God cares for the little animals under Adam’s dominion, then most assuredly He cares for Adam’s race. This side of the cross, we know God’s special love for those made in His image has been proven. Romans 8:32 reminds us, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (v. 27)

Worry and fretfulness not only cannot add time to our earth clock, but has been proven to take away from it. Not only do we waste time when we stress and worry over things, but we put our health in danger. So the next time you find yourself doubting God’s faithfulness in your life circumstances, consider the time you are wasting.

Will God not much more clothe you? (vv. 28-30)

From worries over food to worries over clothing, Jesus encourages us to consider God’s loving concern for His people. Earlier Jesus said to look up at the birds for a reminder of God’s provision and now He calls us to look down at the grass for it. We serve a God who provides the richest of clothing for the most lowly of His creation, so we should take heart. God will give His children what they need to glorify Him.

The remedy: Trust your Father and Make Him Known (vv. 31-34)

Once we have questioned our anxieties through Jesus’ approach, we have no reason for them remaining. We’ve discovered that life is more than what bothers us, God has a special love for those in His image, life is too short to worry, and we will have all we need to serve Him. But now what do we do with our lives? Jesus says we should live by faith in God and live for the fame of God. Those who seek to know God and make Him known will have all they need to further know and make Him known. Instead of filling our lives with doubts and concerns, we must fill them with faith that is active in the world for the glory of God. Faith in God fuels living for God’s fame. Since our heavenly Father loves us enough to send His Son to Calvary’s cross in our stead, we can now spread His kingdom in this world. And the good news is, we don’t even have to worry about His kingdom spreading, for He promised to build His church.

Holiness Empowered Mission

In the recent weeks our church has begun a series, both in morning worship and in our weekly groups, talking about the reality of God’s holiness and our response to it. Each week building on the Idea that as we see God in his full splendor and majesty we being to see ourselves for who we truly are as sinners in need of a savior, while simultaneously seeing His majestic holiness as a gifted that transforms us as sinners into saints. God’s holiness is both extremely terrifying and yet extremely comforting.

This past week we kicked everything off by looking at the first half of Isaiah 6. Where Isaiah comes face to face with the living God and is overcome by his own sinfulness in the presences of God. Yet as the opening 7 verses concludes we see God sending forth an angel to heal and redeem Isaiah, cleansing his lips of all unrighteousness and atoning for him. This is an amazing picture of the work of God for Isaiah; one he did not deserve, but was freely given through the grace of God, and it is in light of this amazing encounter that the rest of the chapter concludes.

Isa. 6:8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

In the midst of being cleansed from his sins God calls out who will go to His people and declare His great name. Who will declare the great name of the Lord, and Isaiah is immediately overcome with a sense that it must be him. He is the one who will go because he has been cleansed of His iniquity; he has been freed by the holiness of God to be remade. This new and remade Isaiah has experienced something that he knows must be spoken about, it must be taken to the people that they too may know the great and glorious nature of God who saves.

When we look at verse 8 we hopefully should be able in that moment to see ourselves standing before God who saved us, standing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ who set us free from sin and death, not simply atoning for our sins with a coal but with his own shed blood. He paid the price for our sins and in doing so He not only revealed his holiness to us but bestowed it on us. We have experienced far more than even Isaiah, while he saw the holiness of God; we have been given that Holiness. It is why He can so confidently and boldly call us in the book of Matthew to go to the ends of the earth teaching and making disciples, because it is His power and authority that sustains us and goes before us.

Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves I want to highlight one other aspect of what God had called Isaiah to do. We love verse 8 for it is a call to missions and the call of God. Of course I’ll go, give me the chance I want to see soul’s transformed just like He has transformed mine. However, what we see in the commissioning of Isaiah is not one of joyous victory and big tent revivals where the masses will come to faith. He is not commissioned to be the light that brings forth a might movement of the spirit to save souls. Rather as the text concludes he is sent out to tell of the holiness and grandeur of God to deaf ears and blinded eyes, who rather than rejoicing in the gift of God will spurn it and reject Isaiah and God.

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;

keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

Make the heart of this people dull,

and their ears heavy,

and blind their eyes;

lest they see with their eyes,

and hear with their ears,

and understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

And he said:

“Until cities lie waste

without inhabitant,

and houses without people,

and the land is a desolate waste,

and the Lord removes people far away,

and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.

 And though a tenth remain in it,

it will be burned again,

like a terebinth or an oak,

whose stump remains

when it is felled.”

The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:9-13)

This is not the most enjoyable of calls. Did Isaiah know what he was getting into when God asked? Do you think Isaiah had a second thoughts after hearing the Word of God? Do you think Isaiah wished the message would be more hopeful and less wrathful?

I don’t

I think based on how the remainder of the book plays out Isaiah wouldn’t have changed a thing. He experienced the holiness and salvation of God. God whose majesty and glory overwhelmed him, who stripped him of his very being, and yet called him and saved him. He transformed him. Isaiah knew his life was not his own nor was his mission. It was not his job to change lives, for he could not even change his own. It was the work of God to bring sight out of blindness. It was the job of His servant who had been changed to do His will.

We again have experienced the reality of God’s grace and holiness, and the call and message remains the same. We don’t know the hearts of those we go to tell the good news, but we know the God we serve. We know that God’s word does not return void, and should we suffer for the message we preach we share in the suffering of the prophets and Christ himself. We preach an unashamed Gospel and should be sustained in doing so by the reality of God who has changes us and sent us out.

His Holiness Informs us, His Holiness Transforms us, for it is His Holiness that will sustain us. So let us Go!

The Magnificat

Mary’s song of praise is typically a passage read, studied, and preached during the Advent season. However, for those who are committed to expositional preaching the Magnificat is glorious trove to be mined in the course of preaching Luke, regardless of the time of year. In it we find invaluable nuggets of timeless Truth concerning the nature and character of God, the soul’s response when God’s glory is revealed, and even a panoramic presentation of historical redemption. Mary, I believe, deposits a model of praise for believers in all times as she identifies the Person of her praise and fills the air God-honoring exaltation.

The Person of Mary’s Praise

Mary’s heart erupts in elation toward the One in whom she trusts, namely, the Lord God her Savior. As a young Jewish girl, Mary clearly knew the Scriptures and recognized that she not only needed a Savior to redeem her but also that the only Deliverer who could ever accomplish such a task would be none other than Yahweh, Himself. God identifies Himself, in Isaiah 43, as Yahweh, the only God, Israel’s Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the Creator, their King, and the only Savior.

After having received the overwhelming news from God’s messenger, Gabriel, that she would be carrying the Messiah, the Redeemer, the One who “would save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), Mary’s heart burst with joy, adoration, and praise toward the One who was fulfilling what was promised to her people. Notice that the focal point of Mary’s praise was directed to where it belongs, upon God alone. In the ESV the phrase “he has” is either clearly stated or directly implied nine times in six verses. Mary sought no attention for herself, no honor for her role, nor did she see herself as anything other than a recipient of the grace of God as a vessel to accomplish His plan of salvation.

The Person of Mary’s praise was none other than the One, True, Living God, the Only God, the Savior of Mankind. The God of Heaven came to man, taking on flesh & infirmities; the Omnipotent Creator was a defenseless baby, in utero, dependent for sustenance upon this teenage girl who carried Him & praised Him for His coming salvation.

Believers today would find themselves in great company if our praise were to focus on God alone. But that is not always the case.

Too often, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is an add-on to our busy conversations that center around us, our feelings, and our responses to the Gospel. Clearly, everyone responds to the Gospel and I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water but wouldn’t our praise be more appropriate if there was less conversation about “me” and more conversation/praise directed toward Him?

Can you tell me about your conversion without telling me what you do now that you’ve been saved? Can you tell me about God, your Savior, without telling me about when you were baptized, how often you attend worship, or what your Bible reading and prayer life look like? Can you tell me of His glory in creating you? Tell me of His mercy when He didn’t destroy you in your sin? Tell me of His grace in sending His Son? Tell me of the preservation of His Word that you might know who Jesus is? Tell me of Christ’s perfection and beauty and splendor in obeying God’s Law? Tell me of His substitutionary atoning sacrifice? Tell me of His resurrection, His saving you, sanctifying you, and promise to complete this work?

In other words, is your testimony of God’s work in your life more about your work in your life or more like Mary’s hymn of praise for the One who sees His people’s need, does great things for them and to them and through them, and who humbles the proud but exalts the humble through His Arm, His Servant, His Offspring? Oh that Christ would be preeminent in our praise!

May we, as Mary was, be found with our lips full of His praise as we “Praise Him, praise Him, tell of His excellent greatness…” (Fanny Crosby).

From Passover to Lord’s Supper

The word sacrament comes from the Latin word ‘sacramentum’ meaning a solemn or sacred oath. Roman Catholics believe there to be seven sacraments, most Protestants only believe there to be two of them; baptism, given to us in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), and the Lord’ Supper, given to us in Jesus’ teaching in the upper room (Matthew 26:26-29). In addition to the word sacrament is the word ordinance, which simply means a statute or command Jesus ordained for the Church. The difference between these two words comes down to what we believe is happening while engaging in these activities. To prefer the title ordinance over the title sacrament generally means one believes there is no grace communicated from God to those participating in the activities themselves. To prefer the title sacrament over the title ordinance generally means one believes there is grace communicated from God to those participating in the activities themselves. I prefer to call baptism and the Lord’s Supper sacraments because I believe God strengthens us in His grace through them, but I also do not mind the term ordinance either because these two practices truly have been ordained by God for the Church.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 92 asks, “What is a Sacrament? A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.” Did you notice that both the word sacrament and ordinance are present in this definition? Though we find people rejecting one title in preference of the other, it’s good to use both in defining what they are.

We can also state generally that both sacraments function as signs and seals. Signs, in that what the preaching of the gospel is to our ears, the sacraments are to our eyes.This means they visibly signify or show the invisible truth of God to us. In a very real sense the sacraments are a dramatized display of the gospel. But they are also seals. Just as a ruler in ancient times would seal a document with his royal seal to communicate that the message was from him and carried his authority, so too, the sacraments are visible seals from God promising that all who receive them truly participate in the grace given through them. Paul makes this point well in Romans 4:11-12 saying, “Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”

As with all sound doctrine we must look into the whole of Scripture to find the whole overview of any particular doctrine. And this is especially true when we come to the Lord’s Supper, because its roots take us all the way back to the Exodus. Recall that during and after God redeemed Israel out of slavery in Egypt He instituted the Passover. As the final plague was drawing near God warned His people (in Exodus 12) to prepare for this moment by putting the blood of an unblemished lamb on each doorpost of their homes. The people were then to eat the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs in haste with their belts on and sandals on their feet. As God passed through to strike down the first born of the land of Egypt He saw the blood and passed over all the homes who have done this. This hasty meal was to be a memorial day feast celebrating the beginning of Israel’s new year from this day forward and it was these things that each prophet of God called the people of God back to throughout the Old Covenant. Then there’s a change.

As Jesus’ hour was drawing near He gathered together with His disciples to celebrate this Passover one last time in Luke 22. At this meal in the Upper Room Jesus did something new. Rather than repeating what the Israelites had done for ages and ages, He changed things. Here is how Luke recounts the moment. “And when the hour came, He reclined at table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:14-21).

As God instituted the Passover long ago for the remembrance of what He did to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt and from the death of the first born, so too here Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper for the remembrance of what He was about to do to redeem God’s people from a greater slavery, sin, and a greater Pharaoh, Satan. And just as the Passover was to be a repeated event for Israel each year as they did life together in the land God brought them to, so too the Lord’s Supper is to be a repeated event for the Church as we do life together where God has placed us.

As often as the Church does this, her members see Christ’s death showed forth and are, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism question 96 says, “…not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of His body and blood, with all His benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.”

From Death to Life: How Salvation Works

Allen S. Nelson IV recently wrote and published “From Death to Life: How Salvation Works” through Free Grace Press. This book is written by a Baptist pastor form Arkansas as a primer to guide a reader into understanding biblically how salvation actually works. Nelson does not seek to present a technical soteriological work for the academic scholar. “From Death to Life” is written with the average church-goer or resident of the Bible Belt. As a Baptist pastor in Mississippi, I found myself either highlighting or nodding in agreement as I read each page.

I strongly endorse and recommend this book for several reasons:

Written from a Shepherds’ Heart

As you read this book, the shepherd’s heart within Allen comes across page after page. The Bible Belt contains many people who say they are saved, believe the gospel, yet they do not really have a biblical understanding of the gospel and salvation. This has been transferred into how the gospel is presented in many churches in the South. Allen rightly hits on the theme of how a misguided view of the gospel causes pastors, ministers, churches, and individuals to believe they must either water down the gospel or make the gospel more attractive. In one of the best statements in the book, Nelson writes: “The beautiful diamond of the gospel has been wrapped in toilet paper in the ridiculous attempt to make it more enticing” (10). As you read this book, it reads like a doctrinal exposition as Nelson moves from why we need to be saved, why we cannot save ourselves, why God must be the one who saves, what I must to do (repent and believe) to be saved, and how I live now that I am saved. Nelson writes in a way you can feel the emotion that would come forth from the preacher addressing the congregation.

Word-Centered in Content

This book contains in the body or the footnotes many Scripture references. Allen Nelson focuses in on the texts with precision explaining them in context. He does not isolate one verse out of context but rather makes the case with many passages to explain the great doctrines of the faith that are a part of the gospel message. The Bible is not a prop but provides the framework and substance for Allen’s arguments.

Demolishing Sacred Cows

As a pastor in the Deep South, I am all too familiar with the rotten fruit that comes forth from the altar call/sinner’s prayer methods of evangelism and conversion. Both at the beginning where Nelson presents a hypothetical man in the church (which is a real person in many places including my own extended family) to an appendix at the end, Nelson tackles forcefully, charitably, and admirably the sacred cows of the altar call and sinner’s prayer found in so many churches in the South. I urge anyone reading to consider the arguments presented by Nelson of how antithetical to the sovereign grace and sufficiency of the gospel these recent devices are. While Nelson deals with these issues straight-forward, he does so lovingly and with a heart for true conversions to take place.

Doctrinal Truth for the Layman

Nelson deals with systematic theology, historic theology, the doctrines of grace, and even some covenant theology all the while breaking it down for laymen and laywomen as well as the unconverted in a digestible fashion. This book does a fantastic job of presenting theology without using objectionable “buzzwords” that the reader can immediately dismiss. Nelson unpacks the rich truths concerning regeneration, effectual grace, and sovereign choice with references to the Scriptures and historic Baptist confessions of faith. This book is a must for pastors to use in teaching the people Soteriology 101 in a manner in which they will be able to comprehend systematic theology when it comes to how a dead sinner is made into a living saint.

There were only two negatives to me with this publication. First, there is no Scripture index in the back. Allen provides many Scripture references in the footnotes of each chapter. However, I think it would have been helpful to have a full index in the back. Second, along with the Scripture index, a resource page of books Allen would recommend in regards to different subjects like conversion, regeneration, church membership, etc. would be beneficial. Allen did recommend some resources within the book like Greg Gilbert’s “What is the Gospel?” but a resource page in the index could help both a pastor and layman.

Bottom line: you need to buy this book for yourself, church family, discipleship training, small group, and unconverted friends and family. I cannot strongly endorse this book enough especially if you are living and laboring in the context of cultural Christianity.

           

 

Dead Come Alive

I did this a few months back and wish to do so again as an encouragement on this Thursday afternoon.

Below is an inspiring visual and auditory reminder of the greatness of our God in Christ. I hope it is a blessing and an encouragement to each of us.

 

More information and videos can be found at Fullofeyes.com

“Dead Come Alive”

I felt alone in the world on my own then You came to me
Hope flowing through my veins
I was lost in the black so far gone
Then You drank my shame letting sin flow through Your veins

Lord You are good oh God You’re so good
Lord You are good oh God You’re so good

You were there from the start before it all
Still You left Your throne love lowered down in the flesh
Born to serve born to heal and to lay your life
You’re the final offering cause up from the grave You rose

Oh the miracle You’re the miracle
That makes the dead come alive

Let me take a little second to tell you as we see a prophecy that came true
You see we need to believe that he literally bled through
the clothes on his back his sweat the day was just like crimson rain
crimson stains tide bounty and the devil can’t wash these stains away

Who’s he you ask he’s a friend of me
cause my inability he was sent from me
I hear birds and trees there all telling me
it’s a good thing he won Gethsemane
cause this enemy is to much for me
and this flesh and world is triple teaming me
it seems to be the very end I scream please oh please pass this cup from me!

The thing is it did pass
and it passes every day
he took my cup from me and gracefully he drank the grave
and I don’t mean to speak blasphemy when I say
but I am speaking of the day when my God passed away, Okay?

no wait wait wait no that’s not it no that’s not all
I don’t wanna leave you hanging
this stories banging
against my throat and against these walls
It cant be contained no it wont stay in here it will thrive
cause stories just don’t die when the dead come alive

Oh the miracle You’re the miracle
That makes the dead come alive
Written by Travis Whittaker & Tyler Joseph
Mixed at Earthwork Recording Studio. Mastered by Leon Zervos at 301Studios

Renewal of the Mind

“…to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:23-24

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

I’ve always been taught that the battlefield is in the mind. When it comes to the spiritual realm especially. This statement has proven itself to be true in my life. The question is how much control do we have of our minds, that we can be victorious as we fight the good fight of faith.

Piece by Piece

The move of action for a believer is surrender. Surrender in the sense that we relinquish control of our circumstances to the Lord, who alone is in the position to be sovereign over them in the first place. This surrender sometimes happens little by little. We give our entire lives to Christ as his followers, but there are desires, memories, and habits that we like to hold onto.

It’s important to realize how much your thought life influences you. Your thoughts create your mood. Being able to surrender our thought life to Christ so that our mind can be renewed is so vital for a believer.

God has given us the ability to have control over what we choose to accept into our mind and whether we let ourselves get to a place where we are being very reactive to what is happening to us. This requires self-control. Honing in on the ability to be very mindful and observant of the filter that you have ready to discern what is allowed in and out.

Obviously, the best way to develop a sound and solid filter is to spend time in the Word. It is living and active, and one of the many benefits to allowing your heart and mind to be saturated by it is that it shapes and molds you into the person who is able to discern what is good and right and pleasing to the Lord.

Strongholds

Strongholds are seen in Scripture as either being a place of refuge when our stronghold is God or something very destructive that can only be brought down by divine power. (2 Corinthians 10:4)

The definition of a stronghold is a place that has been fortified. In our minds, this is a thought pattern that has taken a place of power in how we think. You can relate a stronghold to a person that starts smoking. At first, the cigarette has no power. It’s just a pastime, but as it is given precedence in one’s life, it gains power over the person.

Strongholds are one of the most challenging things to overcome in our thought life for several reasons. One reason is that oftentimes, we don’t even realize that they are there. It takes prayer and serious introspection to even become aware of their existence let alone identify exactly what the stronghold is. Also, strongholds are not easily defeated. As was mentioned earlier, they can only be taken down by divine power. All too often, when we realize that something has a hold on us, we try to manage it ourselves. Get it right before we have the courage to come to God with it. But we need to see that only by his power are we able to conquer these strongholds in our minds.

Remember…We walk by faith and not by sight. And our battle is not against flesh and blood.

Faith and Trust

Two HUGE weapons that we have in our minds are faith and trust. Both having to do with our relationship and dependence on God in all circumstances.

In Screwtape Letters, one of my favorite chapters that C.S. Lewis wrote is on the concept of being in the present. In order to live by faith, it has to be an acceptance and trust of who God is and what he is doing in the present. Lewis describes how the present time is the only moment when eternity touches down. Living in the past might be kind of rooted in reality, since those things actually happened, but it isn’t where God is working now. And even worse is letting your mind wander and spend all of its time in the future, where there is no way for us to grasp reality. Only the Lord holds the future in his hands, but he doesn’t operate in a way that lets us see into or be a part of living in that future. Only in the present moment are we given a chance to partake in his work.

All that being said. Let’s desire a mindfulness that identifies when we start going down a dangerous path. Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5) Engage in this battle over your mind. Let it be renewed by Christ. Let it be surrendered to the washing of the Word. Commit not only your life but also your thought life to Jesus. Let him reign in your heart and mind. And be fully present in the moment because this is when God is choosing to invite you into the story of eternity.

Originally published @http://www.grace-nation.com/2018/05/08/renewal-of-the-mind-britney-ohara/

Job’s Rare Pearls – Scene 2

Two weeks ago we looked at the first scene showing us Job’s rare pearls (1:6-12). Today let’s look to scene 2.

Scene 2: Earth (1:13-22)

Here we move from heaven to earth, from the first specific day in v6 to a new specific day in v13. This day begins like any other day but ends up being a day he’ll never forget. Four messengers each with their own message come to him, they end up being, to him, more like the four horsemen of the apocalypse.[6]

v13-19 tells us the horrific details, “Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

v13 sets the stage and we see that all his children were together in the oldest brothers home having one of their festivities. v14-15 is the first intrusion where we see a messenger come with news that all of Job’s oxen and donkey’s have been taken and the servants caring for them have been killed. Before we can catch our breath another messenger comes in v16 with the second intrusion saying all of Job’s sheep were destroyed by fire from heaven (lighting) and the servants caring for them have been killed. Again, before we can catch our breath from these first two messages, in v17 we see another messenger come saying all of Job’s camels have been stolen and the servants caring for them have been killed. First was the oxen and donkeys with some servants, then the sheep with some servants, then the camels with the rest of the servants. As these three messages hit Job wave after wave he stands in a stunned silence, probably unable to believe he has been bankrupted and stripped of most of his wealth in one afternoon. He’s gone from riches to rags.

But poor Job[7]doesn’t have time to process these losses when the fourth and final messenger comes. And we as the reader dread what’s coming next. We’ve felt wave upon wave with Job, and as this fourth wave approaches we think back to v13 wondering why we were told that all his kids were together. Then the worst news comes, a great wind has blown down the house with all the children in it, and they are dead. If we dwell on these four waves long enough it is not hard to weep with Job. Two terrorist attacks and two natural disasters leave Job basically all alone.

We, again, remember: the glory of God is more important than our comfort. We know it’s true, and Job does too, but Job didn’t get our privilege of seeing behind the curtain into the details of God’s providential governance of all things. What will he do? Will he curse God and reveal that he only loved God for God’s gifts? Or will he reveal that He loves God still, for God alone, despite what has occurred? v20-21 show us, “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

After all that has taken place what does he do? He acknowledges that one day he will die and leave it all behind, and he worships God confessing that God is God and that dark as his road may now be whatever God ordains for him is right. Job words have stood the test of time. Speaking of them Charles Spurgeon said, “Some of the rarest pearls have been found in the deepest waters, and some of the choicest utterances of believers have come when God’s waves and billows have been made to roll over them.”[8]

In v22 we see a wonderful conclusion to a truly horrible story, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

By remaining godly Job gives us a breathtaking preview of Jesus Christ who remained faithful while walking a harder road for us.

 

 

Citations:

[6] Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 48.

[7] Ash, page 48.

[8] Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Study Bible, page 642.

How’s Your Diet?

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,  for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature.” (Hebrews 5:11-14a)

Stacey Irvine ate almost nothing but chicken nuggets for 15 years. She never tasted fruits or vegetables. She occasionally supplemented her diet with French fries. One day her tongue started to swell and she couldn’t catch her breath. She was rushed to the hospital, her airway was forced open, and they stuck an IV in her arm to start pumping in the nutrients she needed. After saving her life, the medical staff sent her home, but not before they warned her that she needed to change her diet or prepare herself for an early death (Story by Kenneth Berding).

Here is a woman who had plenty of opportunity to eat the way she needed to be healthy and strong, but she opted to eat primarily chicken nuggets neglecting the very nutrients she so desperately required. When we read this story we may think to ourselves, “How foolish can someone be? Why wouldn’t she simply mix in some fruits and veggies for a well-rounded diet? Why would she neglect her health in that way?”  But before we criticize her let’s take a look at our own lives. We may not be guilty of neglecting the physical nutrients we need, but are we guilty of neglecting ourselves of the spiritual nutrients we need?

In the above verses the author of Hebrews is scolding his readers for their spiritual diet. He is telling them that, “though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” His readers ought to be growing in their knowledge of God and in their spiritual maturity. But rather they have neglected the Word of God, becoming spiritually unhealthy.

And if we are not careful, the same could happen to us. We have plenty of opportunity to read God’s Word, go to Bible studies, and to hear sermon’s preached, but so often we neglect these things, becoming spiritually weak. And when we do this we hurt ourselves. We need the nourishment found in God’s Word to grow and thrive in the Christian life.

Paul in Colossians 3 tells the Colossian Christians that they are to “let the word of Christ dwell” in them “richly” and the Psalmist, in Psalm 119, declares that he has “stored up God’s Word in his heart.” And we too, need to be a people who regularly soak up the Word of God. It should be on our minds and in our hearts with regularity. God uses His Word to show us Himself and He uses His Word to transform our hearts and minds. Without it we will not grow, but rather we will be weak and immature in the faith.

Let’s not neglect that which is good for us, but rather let us regularly consume God’s Word for greater enjoyment of Him and greater growth in our Christian walk.

The Need for Community

As our world becomes more and more knitted together there seems to be a growing disconnection from within. Every passing day we talk about the new inter-connectivity and growing world wide community, while in actuality the world seems to be growing further and further apart. Depression and suicide rates continue to grow, the counseling industry is on the rise, there is a need for community and yet the need seems to be harder and harder to fulfill as we become more and more isolated in our new found “connectivity.” This has become true even when we think about the Christian church, the place that was founded on the unification of believers from multiple languages and people through the power of the Holy Spirit producing faith in the hope of Jesus Christ on Pentecost. In 2018, Christians have begun to adopted the very practices that have isolated the world, when turn to YouTube for our Sunday morning worship, we listen to twitter for interacting on important theological issues, we use Instagram to feel connected to others,  when in reality we need to cling to the very real and messy community of saints and the hard but joyful experience of life together.

So, Let me begin by saying that we know that there is no perfect community of saints, not since the upper room of Pentecost have we seen a gathering of believers wholly committed to one another and to the faith, we see throughout the book of Acts an ongoing discussion of how we live life together through the direction of the Holy Spirit. They had to face hardships from within and from without, but as we see them labor for the truth of the Gospel we see the Holy Spirit leading the work, lives being transformed and the church growing. I believe this is because they church had a love for God that lead them to love each other, through all the ups and downs of life.

When we are first introduced to the church in Acts 2:41-47 following the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the salvation of 3000 in a single day, we see the growth not of individuals but of a community. In this we see a few characteristics that make the Church as a community of saints essential to the Christian life and to our commitment to Christ.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 2:41-47

A prominent theme the book of Acts draws on when speaking about the church was their devotion. Upon repenting and believing in the work of Christ for salvation the people then turned towards one another in love and devotion. As one they dedicated themselves to learning the truth of scripture from the Apostles, they dedicated themselves to a life of fellowship (which is far more than a meal), worship, and to prayer. The life of the church is not a one day event it is and always was a life style. It was an everyday occurrence of learning more about Christ, eating meals together, sharing in one another’s personal struggles and ultimately pouring out our hearts as one before God, who sustains us and grows us.

As modern day believers do we share this same devotion, do we seek to be there for one another in their struggles? Do we seek to study the Word of God together? Do we seek to pray together for the burdens of each other and for the will of God to be done in us and through us? Do we long for a community of faith that reflects this, and if we do are we only yearning or are we acting on that desire.

The church is made up of broken sinners who have been redeemed through the blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and yet who still struggle in life and sanctification.  As a church our endeavor should be for the body of Christ, which is often the very thing this world will try to pull us away from. It is in the body of Christ that we find help in the midst of sin, in the midst of anxiety, in the midst of hardship, in the midst of pain, for it is within the body of Christ that we are encouraged to hold fast the faith.

 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

-Hebrews 10:23-25

In a world where the reality that I can find any spiritual answer in a split second or even hear the perfect sermon for my issues with the click of a mouse, we have lost the reality that it is the bride of Christ assembled, every day in every home that weeps with us in the storm, that prays with us through our brokenness, that listen to our hurts and points us back to God, that we need. We need the community of Faith more than we realize, and it’s because of this need we fear it. Hebrews warned of the very real heart of forsaking the gathering, of running from those who care most about you, of seeking to do it on your own. Christ died for His church that they may be one, that we may seek him and through him one another.

If you are struggling with sin, go to Christ and the His Bride

If you are struggling with doubt, go to Christ and the His Bride

If you are struggling with sadness, go to Christ and the His Bride

If you are struggling with life, go to Christ and the His Bride

If all seems free from struggle, go to Christ and the His Bride