Thursday, September 16, 2010

Worshiping in Grief

2 Samuel 12:20-23.

David has spent what seems to be an eternity praying to God for the life of his child. He fasted and prayed seeking God for the life of his sick child. But the day came when the child died. David's servants trembled in fear, because if David has shown such emotional trauma during the child's illness what will he do now that the child has died? But surprisingly when told of the child's death, David arises, washes himself, eats, and worships the Lord. When asked about this seemingly strange response to the child's death, David replies that he cannot now bring the child back, but David will one day go through death to be with the child.

It would appear that the Lord includes this story in the Bible to teach us concerning death and our response as God's children to the emotional trauma associated with death encounters. It appears that the following truths are being communicated through this story:

  1. We are permitted to beseech the Lord in prayer when scared and in a time of deep personal need. Never fail to take your burdens to the Lord when you are overwhelmed. There is freedom to pour out our hearts to the Lord in such moments of life.
  2. We are NOT permitted to question and blame the Lord when we are emotionally distraught. To do so is foolishness. We are not wise or good enough to question the God of heaven and earth. Emotional pain is not an excuse to do what is wrong.
  3. Emotional pain is not a reason to rebel against the Lord.
  4. When hurting we need to worship God. No matter what happens in life worship of the living and true God is the great healing agent.
  5. When grieving over death, do not refuse to live. Life is God's, and it is His gift to us. When life is hard, we must not refuse God's gift of life. Our lives are sacrifices unto God for His glory.
PERSONAL: I dread the day; that awful day looming before me. They say it will come; there is nothing more they can do. His life, which has seemed so insignificant and small to the world, is precious and a joy to me. When that day of his departure comes, I will no longer feel the gentle touch of his hand and uninhibited giggles and simple smile.

When he was born I wondered both at his handicap and how I would cope. The great question seemed to be - "What am I going to do with this little handicapped boy?" Now that the real risk is that he will not live with us many more years and every day brings the real possibility of his eminent departure, I now ask myself - "What will I do without him?"

And yet the mystery and majesty of life itself grips me with meaning and depth. God is the constant pillar upon Whom life is grounded and nourished. When the worst happens, the best remains. All is well!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eutychus and the Debilicrat

Eutychus, having grown up under Roman occupation, had two issues with modern day American politics. First, he was used to living under tyranny, so he knew quite a bit about it and seemed to have a "nose" for such things. Second, he had trouble understanding American politics and politicians. It seemed to him that American politicians campaigned one way, then they governed a different way when they got elected. Strange! Well, given the fact that it is harder to govern than to campaign, it seemed to Eutychus as he watched several election cycles that many times the politician acted differently when elected than when he was campaigning. It was as if the elected politician could say to the electorate, "You should have paid attention to what I am, not what I said during the campaign."

Well, one day, our 1st century hero transplanted to the modern time, met a Debilicrat, a long time member and faithful supporter of the Debilicratic Party, a political party of some note in the nation. Eutychus was glad to meet a Debilicrat, because he had some questions about how Debilicrats thought.

Eutychus: "Oh, hi, I'm Eutychus."

Debilicrat: "Hi, I'm Nostie Potossi."

Eutychus: "I understand you are a Debilicrat; is that true?"

Debilicrat: "Absolutely, one hundred percent; I am a Debilicrat through and through. I take my orders from the Debilicratic National Party. I change my views regularly to conform to what I am told by the Party."

Eutychus: "Wow, is that a lot?"

Debilicrat: "Every day, and sometimes several times a day. The wind changes a lot you know."

Eutychus: "I have a question: Doesn't a political party have values and truism that they embrace for political purposes? What are the values of the Debilicratic Party?"

Debilicrat: "It is simple - our beliefs are whatever gets us elected and keeps us in power."

Eutychus: "You mean you cannot state what you absolutely and unchangeably believe?"

Debilicrat: "Listen, it is a good gig. All you have do is tell the people you will give them paradise, and they will elect you. They never ask questions. For example, if we tell them we will give them money and jobs and houses and cars, they never ask, 'Who is going to pay for it?' It is amazing how gullible people are. If you tell them what they want to hear, they will vote you right in."

Eutychus: "But what if someone does ask the hard questions, like, 'Who will pay for all these amenities? How will the economic factors be affected? What about the value of hard work?"

Debilicrat: "You're Eutychus, the guy from the first century, right? You are new, so I will explain to you the infallible, never-failing, three-fold strategy of the Debilicratic Party. First, you tell the people the biggest goof-ball promise ever. Second, you use the media as outlets to distribute the promises (we have the media in our DNP pocket; they never criticize us or even ask hard questions. Ha! This is so easy!). And third, if someone asks, 'Who will pay for all these things?' you simply say 'The rich.' No one likes the 'rich', so it works every time. It is an infallible gig."

Eutychus: "But what do the rich think about it?"

Debilicrat: "Oh, we cut a deal with them behind closed doors. It's all done with 'smoke and mirrors'. And no one is the wiser."

Eutychus: "What if you spend more money as a government, than you have coming in? Then what?"

Debilicrat: "Just borrow, borrow, borrow, and let the generations to come pay for it. Ha! What a deal!"

Eutychus thought and thought. And he wondered how long this would last. Although he did not know much about politics and economics, he did use his brain (which is more than many do). And he didn't think this system would last long; perhaps soon the 21st century would go back to being like the 1st century.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eutychus Signs Up for Class

Today we find our friend, Eutychus, signing up for his college classes this semester. He has been assigned to a counselor whose job it is to help Eutychus get set for school.

Counselor: "I have very pleased to tell you, Eutychus, that every student here at PCU (Politically Correct University) is given a computer when they matriculate."

Eutychus: "A computer! Really!" (Eutychus had wanted a computer since he arrived in the 21st century)

Counselor: "Well, yes, it is a computer. But candidly, it isn't a very good computer, but before long the internet virus' will eat the hardrive, so who cares?" (The counselor said this with a laugh)

Counselor: "Now, it is important to remember, Eutychus, that what matters here at PCU is that you do all your work on the computer. In fact, we want you to live on the computer, spend as much time as you can on the computer. Get information on the computer, make friends through the computer, be entertained on the computer, why if we could figure it out we would feed you through the computer. And concerning class - we don't care if you go to class or not. The professors put their lectures on our new academic software 'BlueBoard.' You can read the professor's lectures, take the tests, email and dialogue with other students, and even post your class attendance, all on the computer."

Eutychus: "But why should a student go to class? Why do you have classrooms or a campus at all? Why not just make the university an online school?"

Counselor: "What! We are not 'one of those schools'. Besides, online school would get most of the college administration fired. We can't have that."

Eutychus: "But you don't encourage class attendance and personal contact?"

Counselor: "Well...I'm not suppose to say this, but we here at PCU are trying to impress the accreditation group. And of course, with the use of computers we can lower our cost, and that makes more money for the university. And that is what it is all about."

Eutychus: "What is it all about?"

Counselor: "Making money!"

Eutychus: "I thought education was the issue?"

Counselor (laughing very loudly): "I can see you have a lot to learn in the 21st century academic environment.

A Gentle, Loving, and Wise Guide

Psalm 48:14, "For such is God, our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death."

Life is such a maze! The twists, turns and complicated paths quickly confuse and overwhelm us. But there is One who stands with the Christian always - the Lord God Himself! The precious Lord walks with us in the trails of trials. But He does more than this - He guides us also. He guides us with great wisdom and power; He leads us with a tender concern born of His sovereign grace and mercy. He can never abandon us, for we are His own. His heart is touched with our griefs and our despair; He feels the pain of our struggle. Yea, it is even by His own hand that we are led to and brought through the valleys of our deepest troubles. But all is done with wisdom and love. God never acts arbitrarily; He always leads with purpose and glory in mind. If not in time, surely in eternity, the wisdom and goodness of God's leadership will be validated.

Today, no matter what we face or endure, let us as God's people trust fully and confidently in the knowledge that our Lord will be our God forever, and He will guide us until death.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Vessels of Mercy

Romans 9:23, "He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy...".

One can hardly give a greater and more elaborate expression of what a Christian is than the one used in this verse - "vessels of mercy." The previous verse in this chapter from Romans says that sinners are vessels of wrath dwelling under the the dark shadow of the wrath of God because of sin. Ephesians 2:3 says of unregenerate sinners that we were "by nature children of wrath." How sad, but how true!

And yet Romans 9:22 speaks of the mercy of God giving birth to patience with sinners that we might, by Christ's atonement and God's saving grace, become vessels of mercy. Ephesians 1:8 speaks of the grace of God being "lavished" upon unsaved sinners.

God could judge sinners, and one day God will judge sinners. God could have judged us a long time ago. But wrath is not part of God's essential being; it is His right response against sin and sinners because of the justice of God. And yet, God, the merciful and compassionate God, longed to pour out His grace on us for His own glory. And that is what He did! He planned to be merciful, and in the redemptive work of Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit to the soul of man, God achieved mercy. Mercy elected sinners, mercy sent Christ in human flesh, mercy paid for sin on the cross, mercy conquered death at Christ's empty tomb, and mercy is preparing a home for God's people in heaven.

When I go to church tomorrow, I will try to preach on Romans 9:22-23. I pray that God will lift my heart to the stratosphere of gratitude and joy; may divine mercy buoy my heart that the name of God may be exalted above all. Because now and forever I remain - - - a vessel of mercy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Eutychus and the Bored Church Member

Eutychus loved church! He loved the Lord's Day and worshiping with other brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the best parts of church was the time to hear God's Word preached. He loved to think about the reality of the true and living God, and he loved to hear the Bible faithfully and sincerely preached. Somehow that always comforted him no matter what he was going through in life.

One day the pastor preached a message on the joy of knowing eternal bliss through Christ. The pastor did a great job exegeting the biblical text, and it was obvious that the truth of the God's Word spoke to the pastor's own heart. Eutychus was excited!

On the way out of the worship center to the foyer he ran into a member of the church leaving worship, and the man was yawning. Eutychus thought the man must have had a late night Saturday night, but the man replied, "No, it is just these boring sermons we get from the pastor." "Boring!" Exclaimed Eutychus! "What could be boring about hearing the greatest and most glorious destiny ever?", Eutychus queried. The man said, "Are you kidding? All this talk about God and the Bible text and eternal bliss in heaven is not relevant to my life. What I need is something practical and applicable." "Like what?", asked Eutychus. The man stared disdainfully at Eutychus and retorted " to get rid of negative feelings about yourself when you sin. Or, how wonderful I am and how God doesn't want me to have a bad day. At the very least pastor could tell us a few good jokes to make us laugh, or give an inspirational speech about human accomplishments." Eutychus almost laughed, because he thought the man was joking. A quick glance at the man's face told him that this bored church member was deadly serious.

Eutychus didn't really know what to say, so he just stood there dumbfounded. Finally the man left trying to avoid shaking the preacher's hand as the bored church member slinked towards the front door of the church. Eutychus wondered, "How can the most glorious God, His most glorious Revelation, the Bible, and the greatest news one could hear ever be boring? Some people are really strange."

Eutychus thought about the bored church member all week. He thought of some things that he wanted to tell this man. Eutychus was looking forward to the next Sunday, and he was hoping to see the bored church member again. When Sunday came Eutychus entered the worship center quickly making a broad glance around the sanctuary hoping to see the bored church member. But the man was no where to be seen. After church Eutychus asked a friend about the bored church member with whom he had talked the previous Sunday. Eutychus' friend replied, "Haven't you heard?" "No, what", asked Eutychus. The friend paused and said, "He died this week." Eutychus was stunned! And all he could think about as he left church that day was, "What is relevant now?"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time in a land call "Freedola" there lived a people called "Freedolians." Freedolians came in all sizes, shapes, and colors. They walked and talked differently; they even had different customs. There was no one way a Freedolian looked, but they all shared the same vision and dream of freedom. They understood what freedom was, and they worked together in unity to build and maintain the great freedom of Freedola.

The Freedolians were a hard working, happy lot. They considered work a blessing, and to build dreams and a community of free and happy people consumed their time and energy. They built homes, schools, churches, and a host of healthy and positive institutions to maintain and propagate their way of life. They had a government that was Freedolian in nature. Their laws encouraged freedom and respect for all Freedolians.

But other people started to come into Freedola. The "WeAreTheOnlyOneianS" (WATOOS) came to live in Freedola along with the "GiveAllToMeianS" (GATMS). The WATOOS and the GATMS did not appreciate Freedola, nor did they desire to perpetuate the goodness and joy of Freedola. The WATOOS wanted to change Freedola into a land of coerced conformity, and GATMS did not care as long as they had their desires and demands met. The Freedolians wanted to trust all people; they wanted to let all enjoy their freedoms and their happy land. But they forgot that only those who understood and supported the freedom of Freedola could perpetuate the joys and delights of their happy way of life. Only Freedolians could nourish Freedola.

Slowly but assuredly the Freedolians were outnumbered by the WATOOS and the GATMS. The government was eventually changed from the idyllic Freedolian vision. Soon freedoms eroded and anti-happy laws were passed. The important beliefs and laws that caused Freedola to live were thrown away and forgotten, replaced by restrictive laws and customs. Slowly the Freedolian way of life was lost. The sun now never shines in the land of Freedolia, and the colors of the flowers seemed to fade into indiscriminate gray. The smiles of the people were changed to looks of suspicion and doubt. And one day, before anyone knew it, Freedolia was gone never to return again.

Wisdom and our Coming Destiny

Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom."

God's people walk a trail that is a trail of ever-growing wisdom. The longer we live the less our hearts imagine our soul treasure to be here on earth, and the more we are convinced that the fair and happy eternal land beyond the distant sunset is where our joy lies. Our eyes yearn to see, and our souls strain to know, the bliss and beauty of that land. Wisdom indeed!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Eutychus Goes to College

Today we find our beloved hero, Eutychus, enrolling in college. This is quite a new experience for our friend, Eutychus. Higher education is different today that the first century. Eutychus had some major surprises ahead.

Eutychus met with an enrollment counselor. This was supposed to get Eutychus all "fixed up and ready to go."

Counselor: "So, Son, are you ready for school to start?" Eutychus: "You bet, ready to go." Counselor: "Great, let's get started. First, let's get some classes arranged, then we will go over the rules of college life here at Politically Correct University, or PCU. You will, of course, take the required class on Tolerance; this is required for all students at PCU. We must be tolerant of all people and all beliefs."

Eutychus: "Sounds good. We should be tolerant of each other in love. By the way, is there a Christian Bible study on campus." Counselor (grimacing like he was gut-shot): "O no, we can't be tolerant of that; that is most intolerable!"

Eutychus (his forehead wrinkled with confusion): "I thought you said...never mind." Counselor: "Now, let's get on to one of your classes. We need to enroll you in the 'All cultures are good except Western culture' class." Eutychus: "But isn't that contradictory to say all cultures are good except...?" Counselor (with a smirk): "You are new here, and it is obvious you need to be educated, so I will let this pass. But, son, you need to understand that the obvious reason for the degeneracy of the entire world is based on the American Christian culture, probably a hold over from the Puritanical ramblings of early Christians. You will soon learn that the reason for all the world's problems is conservative Christian American middle class culture. The answer to every problem is liberal compassion, kindness, and understanding which needs to be tyrannically forced on all people, for their own good."

Eutychus was really confused now. He stammered, "But isn't your viewpoint just a biased and baseless way to manipulate others and force your worldview upon them? Isn't that intolerant?" The Counselor was a bit miffed, and said, "I can see you are going to need remedial training before we can enroll you into the 'Make Everyone Like Us' curriculum." Counselor: "Let's just start you with a simple class - Learning to be Tolerant of the Intolerably Tolerant and Learning to be Intolerant of the Intolerably Tolerably Intolerant." Eutychus let out a sigh; it was going to be a long semester.

The Great Unseen Reality

1 Samuel 23:14 "David stayed in the wilderness in the strongholds, and remained in the hill country in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand."

If we could interview David during the time when he had to flee from Saul's threat, we may not find a man full of faith and confidence. WE: "How are things going, David?" David: "OK, I guess." WE: "You don't sound very sure." David: "Well, to be honest, everything seems to be going to pot in my life. I have to run for my life every day, because Saul is determined to kill me. I can't let my guard down at all; every day I am on pins and needles watching carefully for an attack from Saul. I sometimes wonder if God is watching over me."

But Saul did not catch David, though he got a close a time or two (See 1 Samuel 23:26). Why? Why could Saul not catch David? The answer is found in our text: "God did not deliver him into his hands." God was orchestrating all the circumstances in David's life. God was protecting David. No matter how much appeared to be against David, God was planning David's life. There was so much unseen reality in support of David that David could not observe.

This is true in every Christian's life. This is the great iceberg of the Christian experience. Just like only a tip of the iceberg appears above water, and so much of the iceberg is below the water, so there is so much behind the scenes in a Christian's experience. God is watching over us, protecting us, strengthening and blessing us in ways we cannot fathom. God is achieving His plan and purpose through us. And so much of all this is beyond the scope of our vision.

This is where faith comes in. As God's children we must believe that God is working for us and on our behalf. We must believe that God is causing all things to work for our good and His glory. We must trust God when we cannot see His hand.

No matter what you face today, God is working for you. God is working to make His will happen, no matter what anyone else does or doesn't do. That is the Great Unseen Reality of God's will for your life.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Joy in the Lord

Habakkuk 3:18, "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation."

Oh, how I grieve to say that the so-called joy of my heart has often been in the trite trinkets of the world; trinkets that cannot give satisfaction to the soul, nor endure the waves of trials that surely will come through the journey in this vale of tears.

May my heart cry out with Habakkuk that I will rejoice in the Lord, and only in Him will my soul take pleasure. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. He is worthy of such passion, for He is the infinite of joy itself. The ever-joyful God can make the soul glad for all eternity. We find our sweetest pleasure in His blessed presence and gracious favor. It is in Him alone that we find the truest contentment and the most settled and secure serenity. One day in heaven, when sin, sorrow, and suffering are past, we shall enter into His glory and into His JOY. If there is permitted any tinge of regret, we will say in that hour, "Why did we rejoice in anything but the Lord on earth?"

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Church and Culture

I recently read an article by Ken Meyer in Touchstone magazine (March/April 2010, pages 10-11) entitled, "Contours of Culture." Meyer discusses the relationship of the church with culture, and he notes that there are some important changes in the development of culture in our day.

First, the rate of cultural change is rapidly increasing. And this is continuing with each succeeding and passing generation. I remember reading in the early 1970s a book by Toffler entitled, "Future Shock". In this book Toffler postulates that this kind of rapid change would occur. One of his theses was that change would ultimately occur so fast that people could not adjust, thus creating a social and cultural crisis. Meyer agrees. As a result of this rapid cultural change the church is losing its ability to assess culture; we simply have no time to analyze and evaluate it. Thus, the minister and the church loses its ability to be prophetic with the culture.

Second, the predominating cultural feature of modern culture is that culture is meaningless. According to modern thinking culture is meaningful only as we impose meaning upon it. This is a direct influence of Nihilism and Evolution upon cultural thinking. In the pre-modern era people generally began their meaningful contemplation of reality with the existence of God and the creation of material reality. This gave a foundation for meaningful pondering concerning life and all that exists. We have lost this in the post-modern culture. The sovereignty of the individual and meaningless meditation in cosmology leaves us barren and empty. If the universe is simply a bunch of meaningless stuff, and we ourselves are meaningless stuff going to a meaningless destiny, I mean, what's the point?

The church must rise in our day to proclaim the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of all of this type of thinking. Our thoughts are rooted in the time-tested wisdom of ancient biblical thinking and teaching. We seek to apply in a fresh and modern context the truth of eternal wisdom and knowledge. We assert that epistemologically we are created to "know" that which is "knowable" in the universe, and this knowingness is from God in His revelation. "Knowing" is not related to modern instruments of knowledge; accessing information is not the same as assessing information. May God help us to see the ancient, yea the eternal, for our present time.

God's Competitor

John 19:15, "We have no king but Caesar."

In the context of the passage Pilate is now trapped; in order to survive politically (and perhaps physically) he must condemn Jesus. The Jewish leaders have coerced the crowd in their devious complicity so that the cross is now just a matter of time. Pilate has no where to go intellectually except to condemn Jesus. How did this occur? The issue of ultimate authority has become the apex of discussion. The final discussion ended when the crowd said, "We have no king but Caesar." Pilate, who represents Caesar, then was required to capitulate.

It is interesting in the world of human affairs how often this very question becomes the primary center of debate. The question of ultimate authority is the ultimate question of all. Who is in charge, and is this power just and right? All through human history the story of this issue is prominently displayed, and the conflict between competing options is all the more obvious. Hitler, Stalin, and all other tyrants demanded capitulation from the dominant religion of their day. If the religious institution in question did not acquiesce, then it would be destroyed by the state. The state would not allow for another competing power.

It is the same today. The state, in the minds and logic of many people, is the lord and savior of the people. Notice how many times the state is presented as solving problems, correcting injustices, and granting favors. How can a state assume to do such audacious things? There is only one way to do all of this - BE IN CHARGE AS THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. All others must bow in obedience to the state. The state becomes enthroned as the merciful bestow er of gifts or the punishing avenger of all competitors. And the single solitary competitor of the state is religion.

The United States of American was born in a pristine vision in this regard. Our national documents seek to protect both the state from the tyranny of religion, and they seek to protect religion from the state. Can these two (state and religion) be held in constant and continuous tension? Can they seek to co-exist without one imposing on the other? The Founding Fathers of the USA thought so, and they sought to make it so.

Let us pray, as the state seems to grow in power and assertiveness, that our original American vision rises in the hearts and minds of the people to protect religious people from the restraints and the demands of Caesar. Let Christian people never join in the chorus, "We have no king but Caesar."

Jesus before a Truthless Culture

John 18:37-38, "Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?"

The text before us here is stunningly applicable to our own culture. Here we have the Lord Jesus standing before a governmental representative who rejects and questions Jesus' self assertions. Jesus admits that He is a king of another heavenly kingdom and that He has come to bear witness to the truth. Jesus then declares a very remarkable thing - everyone who is of the truth listens to Him. I can hear our culture howl with angry voices, "bigot!" How dare Jesus challenge our radical individualism and self-autonomy? "Does Jesus not know", squeals our truth less culture, "that we create our own reality, our own truth, by our powerful and all-important choices?"

And there stands Pilate, alone in his struggle and truth less foundation. Is his problem an epistemological one? Is he stating that he thinks there is truth but he doesn't know it (agnosticism)? Or, is he asserting that he does not believe in truth (atheism)? Or, is he simply expelling his own personal, bitter, and angry feelings of one who has lost all hope and meaning in life (nihilism)? Such is the sequential paradigmatic journey of culture. First, there is an uncertainty about truth, then there is a denial of truth, and finally all meaning in life is lost altogether. Such is the case in our day. The secular, pagan culture of American vacillates between "no truth" and "self-idolatry creating truth."

In this setting and challenge the church of Jesus Christ is planted. What is our task? What must we do? What does God call us to do? We have come to bear witness to the TRUTH, to Jesus Christ and God's revelatory truth about redemption in Christ. We do so using the only means God has given - the proclaiming of the Scriptures. "Lord God, please raise up a generation of proclaimers who stand tall and strong against the winds of an anti-Christian culture. May they speak with a clear, loving, yet firm voice informed by the truth and revealing a love for the truth. Amen."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Getting a True Picture of Treasure

Oh, Lord, help me to have a true picture of what truly counts in this world. So much seems so important, but in the end it all turns to dust and is no more. Lord, grant to me the wisdom and discernment to see eternity when temporality is swirling around me like a vortex. Lord, this is my prayer today.

How much did he leave?

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

"Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle." Proverbs 23:5

People are badly cheated in this world. They imagine that the things they can see are the real things--that the gold, lands, and stocks are the true treasures. So they toil for those things and gather them into their possession, piling up what they suppose to be wealth. Thus they live in pomp, with their fine houses, and all their brilliant show. But one day their supposed riches sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Or they may keep their wealth, perchance, and die at last in the midst of it, and have a great funeral; but they find that they cannot carry a penny of it with them. "How much did he leave?" was asked about a rich man who had died. "All of it!" was the answer.

If only people knew that there are things which will never fly away--they would no longer live for fleeting worldly wealth. They would pass by the glittering unrealities, to lay hold of the true riches. He who is rich toward God--is the truly wealthy man.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

He Has Done All Things Well

There is a statement made about Jesus in Mark 7, and this statement is astounding to me. This is one of those statements that encompasses a great deal; it is an extensive and comprehensive assessment. It can be applied to Jesus in any way possible, and one will see that is true in every respect. He has done all things well.”

The context of this statement is described both historically and humanly. The historical context is healing. Jesus had healed a deaf man who spoke with a great impediment. The text specifically references in Mark 7:37 the fact that Jesus healed the deaf and the mute. But the text also says that the obvious power and supernatural ability that was evidenced here in this healing caused the people to be “utterly astonished.” The people saw this unbelievable miracle, they were utterly astonished at what they saw, and they responded and said of Jesus, “He has done all things well.” But I would suggest that when all is said and done, when all has come to an end, everyone would testify that Jesus has done all things well.

1. This is the testimony of those who knew Jesus and observed His life.

2. This is the testimony of those who opposed Him.

3. This is the testimony of Pilate.

4. This is the testimony of the Heavenly Father.

5. This is the testimony of the sinner saved by grace.

6. This is the testimony of God’s pilgrims in eternal glory.

· “There were times when I sinned…”

· “There were times when I hated myself…”

· “There were times when I was confused…”

· “There were times when I was disappointed with life…”

· “There were times when I was burdened and overwhelmed…”

· “There were times when I was worried…”

· “There were times when I was sorrowful…”

· “There were times when I was sick…”

· “There was a time when I came to death…”

But no matter what happened, what I felt, and what was going on around me, in the end I have come to know that JESUS DID ALL THINGS WELL.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

God Speaking in Life's Whirlwinds

Job 38:1 NASB “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…”

Job 38:1 NCV “Then the Lord answered Job from the storm.”

Storms and the Scripture

Storms, like mountains, are copiously used in the Scriptures. Elijah experienced a storm before the Lord spoke to him in a still, small voice in the cave. Jesus calmed the storm, and thus, demonstrated who He was and the power with which He manifested His divine glory. In this case in the Book of Job, the Lord is speaking to Job out of a storm in order to address the questions and issues that have confronted Job in the storms of his life.

Life’s Troubles are Storms

Life’s troubles are like storms. They sometimes come upon us suddenly and unexpectedly. They sweep down upon us with terrible ferocity and great power. Life’s storms of trouble can sweep us away; they can take the very lifeblood of hope out of our hearts. They are both awesome and awful. God’s people are not immune from life’s problems and hardships. They are not exempt from life’s great tragedies. These storms, though not inherent within the material universe, which God created, are now normal and natural because of the sin-broken nature of the world in which we live.

Job’s Storms

Job had been living in a storm for a long time. Job’s life had been decimated by the tragic and painful events of his journey. He had, quite literally, lost everything except God. God in the days and weeks of pain’s shadow, Job could not see or find God. He would cry out, “Oh, that I might find Him.” Eventually Job’s perception of everything became warped: he had a warped perception of himself (thinking he was righteous), he had a warped perception of life (he thought life was not worth living), and most of all he had a warped perception of God (he thought God was angry with him, and thus God abandoned him). But Job was wrong on all accounts. When we are hurting we become horrible philosophers. In pain our spiritual vision is clouded, and our mind is dulled to the truth. In moments of hopelessness apparitions of horror will fill us with a terrible dread.

God Speaking from the Whirlwind

God begins speaking to Job in Job 38 and He speaks through chapter 41. What does God say? What does God not say? What is God doing for Job in this section? What does Job really need from God?

· God does not answer Job’s questions.

· God does, by asking His own questions to Job, re-orientate Job to life, reality, and God.

· By doing this, God awakens Job to a deeper understanding of God, life, and even Job’s experiences, and by doing this God gives Job the greatest gift ever – illumination to the truth with eternal application for living.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Comforted by God

Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

First, I want us to think about the true assertions made about life in these verses. These assertions deal with suffering and comfort in suffering:
  1. It is normal and even expected for Christians to suffer in this world of sin.
  2. God is the God of all comfort. All comfort comes from Him.
  3. God wants Christians to be comforted by Him.
  4. God also wants to pass comfort along to others through the ones whom He comforts, so that the comforted Christian becomes the conduit through whom divine comfort flows to others. However, this is processed and accomplished in such a way so that the hurting person receiving comfort from a comforted Christian turns to the Lord for more comfort. All true comfort comes from God Himself!
Second, I think it is vital that we understand that this passage is not teaching that we should turn to people for comfort when we hurt. This is the common mistake made by many people when they hurt. Many people unfortunately turn to other people when they turn. Why do we do this?
  • Because it is easy to do.
  • Because we falsely think that is where real comfort is found.
  • Because when we turn to people for comfort it is an attempt (perhaps inadvertent and unintentional) to pass off to others the responsibility that we bear for our own decisions and comfort. Turning to others takes the pressure off of us.
If we turn to people for comfort when we hurt rather than to the Lord, then we will never grow in our understanding of life's depths. The richness of spiritual truth that could have been learned in the vortex of suffering, will never be perceived if we turn to people instead of the Lord. If we turn to people for comfort instead of the Lord, we will never truly experience comfort, and we will never be able to comfort others with the comfort God gives to us.

Does God want to comfort His hurting people? Sure. Does God want comforted Christians to pass that comfort along to others who hurt? Again, absolutely right. But let's remember that if by sharing God's comfort we turn people to ourselves rather than to God, then we do them a disservice, and they will not have learned to be comforted by God.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some People Just Don't Get It

Sometimes I am amazed as I read God's Word, the Bible. Well, truthfully, I am always amazed when I read the Bible, but I have one particular type of passage in mind that really amazes me. The passages to which I make reference are those passages of Scripture that reveal the stubborn dullness of those who saw Jesus heal and heard Him teach, yet still did not get it.

Luke chapter 11 is one such passage. In Luke 11 delivers a demon-possessed man, but there were those who attributed Jesus' power to the devil (verses 14-15). There were still others who, after they witnessed Jesus deliver the demon-possessed man, asked Jesus for a sign (verse 16). I mean, give a break. Can you imagine what it was like when Jesus delivered this man from the powers of darkness, powers that held him in bondage. Then someone was watching all of this with their arms folded, yawning, and examining their finger nails. Everyone is rejoicing at this great miracle, and this hardhearted person nonchalantly walks over to Jesus and says, "Hey, Mr. Big Shot Rabbi, why don't you show us a real sign of Your divinity?" Huh?! That question doesn't even deserve an answer. Then a woman shouts out, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed (verse 27)." But Jesus (I wish I knew the tone of voice with which He spoke this next line) said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the Word of God, and observe it." Some people have a hard time understanding the real issue. Evidently the crowd clamored for a sign, because Jesus starts admonishing them for wanting a sign (verse 29), and He points them to only one sign - the sign of His resurrection (verse 29). And Jesus gets really exhortative when He says the Queen of Sheba acknowledged Solomon and the Ninevites acknowledged the preaching of Jonah, but Jesus is greater than both of them. But the people refused to acknowledge Him (verses 30-32). Jesus has lunch with a Pharisee, but the Pharisee is more concerned with pre-meal ceremony than what matters most (verses 37-41) (good grief!). The Pharisees made their religion a show instead of a matter of the heart (verses 42-44), and the lawyers were offended (Oh my goodness; today Jesus would have been sued! Verses 45-46). But Jesus warns them that they belong to the "Let's Kill the Prophets Club (verses 47-52)." And the chapter ends with the text referencing the hostility of the Pharisees and scribes resulting in a plan to kill Jesus. THEY MISSED THE WHOLE POINT!

The human heart is so hard, so sinful, so depraved that unless God opens the heart by grace, it will never understand the truth. The sinful eyes are so blind that unless God by grace causes the sinner to see, he will never discern truth.

This is why we pray for the lost. This is why we beseech God's mercy on sinners. Unless God illumines them, they will never see. Unless God softens their hearts, they will remain rebellious.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Obsessed with your Weakness?

Read Exodus 6

God begins the process that will deliver the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage in Exodus chapter 6. Twice in this chapter God tells Moses to essentially get on with it. God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh again and demand that he release the people of God. But Moses is not convinced. He does not believe this is going to work. And do you know why? He is obsessed with the fact that he has a speech impediment! Twice, when God says "go", Moses responds and says essentially, "Lord, I can't go and do what you ask. I am not skilled in speaking. Why the people of Israel don't listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me. I am not gifted and talented enough for this job (The Greever Free Paraphrase)." If you remember, when God called Moses on the mountain, Moses brought this same weakness up to God at that time. Moses is obsessed with his inability!

There is one critically important component to all of this that Moses has missed - God is not dependent upon Moses to get His will done! But Moses thinks God is limited to the abilities or inabilities of man. God is not linked to our strengths or weaknesses. He uses people for His glory, but He is not limited by the abilities and capacities of the people He uses. God will always do His will in His time in His way.

If we are to serve the Lord, we must remember the following:
  1. Serving God is more about God than us. God saves us, and God will use us. God will incorporate our loving and feeble service for Him in His achievements. But God is not dependent upon humanity in any sense in order to get His plan completed. It is always about Him, not us.
  2. God works in us, through us, around us, in spite of us, and beyond us. God is sovereignly working His plan and will through all sorts of people and circumstances. He is not limited to working simply through His people. Read the Bible (particularly the biblical narratives) and you will discover this. God uses sinners and saints, God uses pagans and Christians, God uses good things, and God uses bad things. In fact, the doctrine of Providence teaches us that all things are used by God to bring about good for His people and kingdom.
  3. God is particularly pleased to work through the weaknesses of His servants. The reason God did not take Moses' speech impediment away (We are not sure what kind of speech problem Moses had. He may have simply been a really bad speaker.) is that God wanted to use Moses the way he was. God made Moses, and Moses was created to do what God wanted him to do. God builds us in such a way that His glory will shine through us, even our weaknesses and frailties. Paul learned this in 2 Corinthians 12. He had a "thorn in the flesh", and three times he asked God to take the thorn away. God refused for two reasons: 1) It was not God's will to take the thorn away, because 2) God had plans to use Paul's thorn in order to demonstrate His glorious power in Paul's life.
  4. Recognized human difficulties and problems humbles man and gives God the glory. If we are to learn anything from the heart of God in the redemptive work He achieved throughout history culminating in the incarnation of Christ, it is this - people need to be reclaimed to the recognition of the greatness of God, and they must be brought back to the true worship of God. Sin has robbed man of his perception of who God is and the genuine worship of God. Jesus said in John 4 that God wants true worshipers. Everything God does in redemption in history humbles man and glorifies Himself. This is a truism that must be remembered. The central question in the Egyptian bondage of Israel and their deliverance is this - who has the power, Pharaoh or God? God took humble people and demonstrated His sovereign greatness over the greatest nation in the world at that time. It is always about God and His glory!
So, remember, Christian friend. You are made to serve the Lord, and you are constituted by God's power and will to serve Him the way He wants. Don't look at your weaknesses as barriers to God using you. Rather, look at your weaknesses as the means by which God will be glorified in your service.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Eutychus Discovers "Old Time Religion"

In his on-going quest to find a church home, Eutychus stopped in one bright, sunny Sunday morning at a church whose sign said, "Bubba Baptist Church - Where Old Time Religion is always Up-to-Date." This looked very promising to Eutychus because he was from the first century, and one could not get more "Old Time Religion" than that!

So, Eutychus approached the door where a nice gentleman handed him a bulletin and said, "Y'aint from around here, are ya?" Eutychus rather timidly admitted that he was indeed "not from around here", so the fellow looked him over thoroughly and said, "Well, ya might as well stay since yer here; it might do ya some good." Eutychus slid into a seat mid-way down the aisle hoping that no one would notice he was new. He was beginning to think he might have made a mistake in coming to church here, but he decided to stick it out. A little old lady came swooning up to Eutychus and said, "Young man, Do I know ya?" Eutychus dropped his head quietly murmuring , "I don't think so." She continued, "Ya look sorta like Mr. Bagwag's grandson who is in prison; yer not his brother, are ya?" "No", said Eutychus, somewhat embarrassingly. The song leader got up and said, "We're glad ya'll are here. I do surprisingly see a visitor. Well, that's good 'cuz the preacher has got him a sidewinder sermon today. Now, let's all sing our church song, 'Gimme that Ole Time Religion.' If you forgit the words, then I'll remind ya. Verse one is 'It was good for pa and ma', verse two is 'It was good for great uncle Roebedoe,' and the final verse is 'It was good for the ones who started this church in the early days of this county' - (that there is my favorite verse)." At this point Eutychus was wondering how old was "old?" It seemed to him that old surely meant before the founding of this county. The song leader never said a word about the early church fathers or the Apostle's Creed; now that would have been "old."

After the singing the preacher started to wail out his sermon, which was entitled, "Don't Ever Change Nothin, Cuz We Don't Want It Changed - Got That?" The preacher, filled with vigor and vim, regaled against modernism and what he called "new fangled thinkin." Why to hear him, you'd think the whole problem of the world was found in improvements. Coming to the climax of this stirring address, he made his final and clearest point - "We want to keep thangs as they is, just like they used to be in those great days of the early church" (Eutychus got excited, because he knew the early church well). The preached continued with passion, "And we all know when them days wuz - betwixt 1932-1957. Everything started to go to pot when old man Fedaro put in that there new restaurant in this here town. New folks started comin, and doggone it if thangs have been hankerin for destruction since."

Well, Eutychus was unsure what opening a restaurant had to do with the decline of the church and the community, but he felt he was probably not welcome here. He was hoping that the end of the service would come quickly. And it did, followed immediately by a sharp rap on Eutychus' shoulder. He turned around to find himself staring into the militant eyes of a older lady with a stern look on her face. Suddenly she said, "Young man, when yer comin in here again make sure that you don't sit in Mrs. Dootletootle's seat. She has been sittin in that seat for last forty years, and doggone it you haven't upset her somethin terrible." Feeling the scolding eyes of the congregation on him, Eutychus hustled out the front door, and as he did he read the message on the church sign, "Visitors Always Welcome."

When Things Seem to get Worse

Read Exodus chapter 5

In this passage of Scripture we have Moses going to Pharaoh to request that the people be allowed to go into the wilderness to worship the Lord. The Lord has sent Moses, but this results in making Pharaoh mad, and as such, he causes the labor of the Israelites to be more severe. Therefore, the first act in this drama of deliverance is that THINGS GET WORSE INSTEAD OF BETTER. Why did God cause His people to suffer more as a result of divine intervention in their affairs? Why did God allow Pharaoh to persecute them all the more? Why didn't God deliver the Israelites immediately? And, why did God record this in the Bible for us to read? I think there are several reasons:
  1. Life is not about instant solutions and immediate answers. This is very difficult for modern people to understand and accept. Our technology creates a false understanding of life. People who live in a context of immediate information, instant communication, and real-time involvement in current events, have a difficult time understanding real reality. In real reality one must wait, one must persevere, one must accept challenges and disappointments.
  2. This situation exposed sin for what it really is. The Egyptians kept getting worse and worse. They imposed more restrictions and caused greater difficulties for the Israelites. God was demonstrating to the Israelites the true nature of a pagan society and sinful action. Later, in the wilderness, some of the Israelites would clamor to go back to Egypt. This is remarkable in light of the great suffering they endured there.
  3. The circumstances allowed the people to see who God really is. I think one of the keys to the interpretation of this whole history of deliverance in Egypt is the question Pharaoh poses when Moses seeks for permission for the people to leave. Pharaoh asks, "Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?" This is the central crux of the matter - Who is the Lord? Pharaoh was under the delusion that he was in charge, that he had power. Pharaoh did not know that God was the One who is always in charge; He is the One who has all power. Both Egyptians and Israelites learned one great lesson in all of this - The Lord, He is God!
  4. God demonstrated His love for His people. The pain and suffering of the people of God is the context in which God is able to better show His love for them. Another way to think of this is - in suffering God's people are better able to understand and perceive the love of God for them. Trouble brings about situations whereby God's mercy and delivering power are brought more into focus.
  5. God foreshadowed the deliverance of sinners through salvation in Christ. It is thought by many Bible scholars that the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage is the central motif of salvation in the Bible. This foreshadows the salvation of sinners through Jesus Christ our Lord. I agree with this hermeneutical assessment. The reason this story is included in the Bible is to become a permanent and prominent expression of salvation, which will later be more fully demonstrated in Christ.
When things seem to get worse instead of better, it is good for us to step back and take a look at the big picture. God is always working, even when He doesn't seem to be working. God is always in charge, even when He doesn't seem to be in charge. God is performing His plan, even when everything looks chaotic and depressing. Be patient, wait on the Lord, and trust in Him.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eutychus goes Hip

In Eutychus' search for a church home, he has found some very interesting and unique churches. He is almost over culture shock moving from the 1st century to the 21st century, but culture shock is nothing compared to the "church shock." We must be patient with Eutychus; I mean he has to bear the awful burden of living in the first century with fresh and unadulterated Christianity. There have been 20 centuries since; 20 centuries for culture and history to plop their garbage onto Christianity, forming it to cultural sensibilities and preferences.

Well, on this one occasion Eutychus wandered into a modern, contemporary, real hip church. Eutychus supposed it was a church. There was a sign outside the building, but come to think of it, the word "church" was not on the sign. He went inside eager to meet brothers and sisters in Christ, to warmly greet them in the love of the Lord. But most were too involved sipping their lattes that they had just purchased at a booth in the corner. There was a coffee booth there; it was called "Starstrucks." Starstrucks coffee, he was told, was real cool, and everyone drank it if one wanted to be culturally engaged. I mean one could not simply witness to an unsaved person unless one was holding the familiar coffee cup from Starstrucks. In fact, there had been studies done indicating that more people accepted Christ when the person witnessing to them had been drinking Starstrucks coffee in a Starstrucks coffee cup. Eutychus said, "cool" (Hey, Eutychus is starting to speak hip.).

So, Eutychus tried to start a conversation with the people in the foyer, but he didn't get very far. He didn't know the television shows they watched, and they seemed to want to talk about the latest games they were enjoying on their computers. Eutychus supposed it was easier to talk about being open and accepting than to put it into practice.

Eutychus went into the sanctuary, no wait, he was told it was fellowship space (It used to be called sanctuary, but that was so 20th century, then it came to be known as worship center, but that seemed to make unsaved people feel uncomfortable. It was hoped that the term "fellowship space" was generic enough to make the hardest sinner feel comfortable. I mean, after all, we don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable in church, do we? Who knows, Hitler may have become Hitler because some hard-headed Christian traditionalist tried to preach repentance to him in church instead of making him feel comfortable. Eutychus even thought he saw a guy in the hip church raise his glass of beer and say "To spiritual comfort.")

Looking around, Eutychus saw nothing that made him think he was in church, and when the service started, the music leader said, "Hey folks, glad you are here. Isn't it a great day to rock daddy with God? Let's hear those pipes of yours as you raise your culturally sensitive songs. And hey, everyone, today we have a new software right here in church. Here is how it works - if any song offends you, please push the "I'm Offended" button on your electronically outfitted seat, and you know what? We can change the words to the song right before your eyes. Hey, we can even take votes on what text you like best. Because remember our motto here at "Hip Church" - it is all about you. God is all about you, church is all about you, you are all about you, and hey, let's throw that cross stuff out the window; the cross is so uncomfortable and demanding. This is a NEW DAY."

Well, Eutychus was getting the feeling that this church was not what he was looking for. He was getting real homesick for his brothers and sisters in the first century. He wished he could worship with them again. He actually missed the days when Christian discipleship was sub-cultural, when speaking of Christ was a heart-felt expression. Some day, he would try to go home. Eutychus was homesick.

Eutychus and the Television

Curious Eutychus has really been intrigued by the television. He first thought it was a box with a painting on the front - a painting that moved. But how could a painting move? High Definition technology is a bit ahead of Eutychus, but he is trying. And after all, life is much more than technology, right? Right? RIGHT?

After Eutychus mastered (well, mastering would be a bit of a stretch) the remote control he "surfed" (someone told him that is what he was doing, whatever surfing means) through 150 channels (whatever channels means). He learned about cooking omelets, watched "reality TV" (although Eutychus thought the persecutions under the Romans had a lot more to do with reality than swapping "mommies."). But there was a show he watched about a guy using a straw to suck "M-n-Ms" and carry them by means of suction with a straw depositing the M-n-Ms in another place. The longer Eutychus watched the TV, the more amazed he was that people would watch such a show. Could it be that the American culture was reduced to the absurdity of watching a man suck "M-n-Ms" with a straw.

For the first time, Eutychus started getting home sick. He thought of his brothers and sisters in Christ living in Jerusalem, an occupied city with Roman soldiers everywhere. He recalled the faces and the names of people who lived life everyday in the dusty, dirty streets of Jerusalem. He remembered the sermon Peter preached at Pentecost, and he thought of the hopes and dreams of Christians in the first century as they pondered taking the gospel to the world. Is it possible that 20 centuries later the wealthiest and most prominent culture and nation in the world is described by people watching a guy suck "M-n-Ms" on television. Eutychus pondered with amazement.

The Christian's Victory through Death

Today I want to talk to you about death, death for the Christian. I want us to think about death, not as a defeat or tragedy, but as victory and means by which the Christian goes into the glories of heaven. Let's look at John 14:1-6 and think about the Christian's victory through death.

1. Death cannot defeat the Christian because it did not defeat Christ.

Jesus is soon to face the cross in John 14, but there is no anxiety, no worry, no panic, and no fear. In fact, Jesus doesn’t even speak of the cross. Rather, He speaks of what He is going to do after the cross, after He dies. He is implying that death is not the end of Him, and He is implying that death will not defeat Him. He speaks of what He will do after He goes back to heaven, therefore He is affirming His resurrection and ascension – He is affirming His post-death victory and life.

2. The Christian possesses great joy as he contemplates death.

There is a sense in which the Christian feels the violent contradiction and violation of life in the essence and experience of death. Death is not part of God’s original plan for life. The Christian knows it and feels it. But at the same time, the believer knows, as he contemplates death, that death will not result in the cessation of existence, the termination of life, or the displacement of self. The Apostle Paul mocked death when he said, “Death, where is your victory; Death where is your sting? Hebrews 12 says that Jesus endured the cross despising the shame, because of the joy set before Him on the cross. The Christian’s joy in death is to know that death is God’s instrumental means by which the believer enters into the greatest joy, peace, love, comfort, and beauty. The believer in death goes home to God and God’s love and eternal provision for him in Christ.

3. The Christian experiences transcendent glory beyond death.

It is impossible for us to fully contemplate how wonderful heaven, and the Christian’s heavenly experience, is. John spoke of heaven and its beauties in the Book of Revelation. Stephen spoke of heaven opening, and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. Jesus was standing to receive him. Jesus here says, “I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Here is love to the maximum degree; here is our eternal, saving relationship with Christ fulfilled to the utmost. The Bride of Jesus, the church, will be in heaven without blemish, spot, or wrinkle.

Jesus said in John 17:24 in His prayer, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see my glory, which you have given Me…”

Paul referred to this in 2 Corinthians 3:18 when he wrote, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."

Finally, when John writes in the last chapter of Revelation (22:3-4) “There will not longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night…” The longing of Moses' heart, to see God's face and glory, is fulfilled in heaven. The great blessing of the Old Testament, "May His face shine upon you" will be fulfilled in the fullest extent in heaven. Hallelujah!

Application: John 14:1-6

· The eternal promise of the gospel fulfilled wonderfully and gloriously in heaven is absolutely and undeniably real.

o If it were not so…”

· The promise of heaven, along with attending glories and blessings, should be our daily consolation and comfort.

o “Do not let your heart be troubled…"

· The certainty of heaven, for the Christian, is part of our belief in God and Christ

o “…you believe in God, believe also in Me.”

· The way to heaven and all of its joys is through Jesus Christ.

1. Christ’s active righteousness is applied by imputation on the cross.

2. Forgiveness of sin through Christ’s sacrificial, substitutionary atoning death on the cross.

3. Eternal life through Christ’s resurrection demonstrating His victory over death and sin and affirming His authority, power, and life as the Lord of all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Hebrews 12:11 NASB, "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, AFTERWARDS, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

The last part of this verse in the Phillips translation reads, "Yet when it is all over we can see that it has quietly produced the fruit of real goodness in the characters of those who have accepted it."

1 Peter 5:10 NASB, "AFTER you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."

In the NASB translations of these two verses there are two words that stand out to me: "afterwards" and "after." The text is clearly indicating that sometimes the Christian's life is very hard to bear. This may either be the discipline of the Lord (normative or corrective discipline), or it may be as a result of the enemy's attack (see "suffering" because of Satan's attack, 1 Peter 5:9).

No matter what the Christian goes through in his journey, no matter what may be the experience in life's race, there is always an AFTERWARD for God's people. Suffering, heartache, sorrow, grief, and sadness are not the final words for Christians. We are a people who overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 8:37). Our God's grace is sufficient for the need of the hour (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Tears may flow down our cheeks like rivers of sadness, but there is a joy in the end for God's people. The Psalmist said, Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5) . For the believer in Jesus Christ the night of sorrow, of despair, and overwhelming pain, gives way to the morning of gladness, goodness, and glory. This is true because there is always an AFTERWARD for God's people. God will never leave us in the Slough of Despond. Jesus promised His disciples His own joy (John 15:11). Nothing and no one can keep Jesus from bringing His joy to the hearts of His people.

Christian friend, when joy seems like the rarest of jewels, when the night of despair seems to be interminable, let us do the following:
  • We must never judge our Lord's grace and love for us in the midst of great pain when our Lord's mercies seem rare and infrequent.
  • We must remember, especially when we hurt, that God is working a plan beyond the scope of our knowing. We must trust Him with all our hearts and minds.
  • We must learn to leave unanswered questions with our Lord and His sovereign wisdom.
  • We must remember when our strength runs out to rest fully on God's strength and grace; these will always bear us up in the waves of adversity.
  • Finally, we must force ourselves to believe, no matter how hard it may seem, that there will come a time when the present pain will end and the day will grow bright with joy. There will be an AFTERWARDS.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Curious Eutychus Attends a Global Warming Conference

As we pick up with our time-traveling hero, curious Eutychus, we discover that Eutychus has been invited by a consortium of environmental groups to attend a Global Warming Conference in Chicago. Eutychus is very curious about this because, other than being plopped down in St. Louis by some time warp, he has never been outside of Judea, and he isn't real sure what a "global" anything is. And he wasn't sure what a "warming" meant. He did remember the hot days he had spent in the summertime in the Judean wilderness. That was pretty warm. Once he tried to cross the Judean wilderness in the middle of July, a decision he soon learned to regret.

Eutychus was sitting in the St. Louis Lambert Airport waiting for something called a "flight" to take him to Chicago. A very serious looking gentleman sat beside him and began reviewing what looked like some very important notes. Curious Eutychus is...well...curious! So, he asks the man what he was doing. The scholarly looking gentleman turned his head toward Eutychus much like a turtle turning his head to survey a leaf of lettuce, and looking over his spectacles he said he was too busy to be disturbed by a commoner like Eutychus. Eutychus couldn't contain himself. He asked why the man was so busy. The man sighed loudly with what seemed to be exasperation and said, "I am Dr. Arrogantstein with the department of Socialististic Intervening Citizens Krafting Interpolate Deterministic Incremental Opportunities involving Total Subterfuge or SICK IDIOTS for short." He laid down his pen and papers as if to suggest that he would have to condescend to explain to this fruitcake about the obvious realities of the world. Dr. Arrogantsten explained, "I am part of a very elite group of world class scientists studying the undeniable and tragic effects of the extraordinary trend of global warming." Dr. Arrogantstein didactically said as if in a classroom, "You see, we have developed computer models that demonstrate beyond all logical doubt that the environment is being rapidly decimated by a right wing conspiracy to destroy all semblance of humanity and install a republican as King of the World." Eutychus got excited because he had just read a report in the newspaper about the very group in which Dr. Arrogantstein was a member. Eutychus, wanting to sound academic and well-read said, "Ah yes, I just read about your group in the paper. The report said that the data and the reports related to the computer models you have developed relating to global warming are fraudulent and lack the integrity of sound science. The report stated that your group had "stacked the deck" by manipulating the data to bring about the consequence you desire. Is that true?" "Well," replied Dr. Arrogantstein (looking like a boy who was just caught with his hand in the cookie jar), "I suppose we did stretch the research a bit, but it was all for a good cause. You can't just trust the average citizen to make the right decisions, you know. We have to "force", er...I mean "encourage" the population to make the right decision." "But," inquired Eutychus, "Aren't right scientific decisions and deductions made on the basis of solid science and proper interpretation of that science, and shouldn't the entire process be conducted with integrity without prejudice or bias?" Dr. Arrogantstein was a bit miffed with this obviously dense midwesterner who demonstrated a total lack of understanding of reality. He asked Eutychus quite abruptly, "Did you go to Harvard? Are you a card-carrying liberal? Have you ever been to Manhattan? Are you part of the elite who will overrule the common, hard-headed men or women?" Eutychus did not know what Dr. Arrogantstein meant, but he sensed he was supposed to say, "No." So, he did so. Dr. Arrogantstein smiled as if to placate an innocent ignoramus and said, "Son, you best leave the real issues to those of us who are smart enough to deal with them. Trust me, we are in a dangerous global warming trend that could change the entire meteorological climate overnight. I just hope we can make great paradigmatic changes before it is too late."

Eutychus looked up to the television screen to notice that their flight to take them to Chicago to the Global Warming Conference had just been cancelled for snow.

The Distortion of Wounded Feelings

Job 10:1-3, "I loathe my own life; I will give full vent to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul I will say to God, 'Do not condemn me; let me know why You contend with me. Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked?"

When we are hurting, grieving, sick, or distraught, then our emotions are a wreck. Damaged emotions are so effected by our pain that they are distorted greatly. This is indicated in Job's experience. He made the following miscalculations because of his pain:
  • He thought God was oppressing him.
  • He thought God was looking favorably on the evil plans of wicked people.
  • He thought God was condemning him.
  • He thought God was contending (opposing) him.
All of these false ideas seemed so real to Job because of his pain. His spiritual eyes were clouded by the mists of sharp pain and grief. He hurt so much that he said he loathed his life, and his soul was bitter.

Let's think about the following when our wounded feelings create an emotional distortion.
  1. God's love for His people is constant; it never fluctuates or diminishes. There is nothing a child of God can do to make God love him more or less. When we feel unloved by God, remember how much God loves you. Christian friend, God demonstrated His love for His covenant people by sending the blessed second Person of the Trinity in human flesh as a sacrifice for their sin.
  2. Our wounded feelings are inaccurate barometers of reality. What we feel is not necessarily what is true. We must learn to differentiate between what feels real and what is real. Reality is based on truth not feeling. We must learn God's holy Word (the Scriptures) in order to rightly understand reality when we are hurting. It is best to learn truth before you hurt, so that when pain comes you can reflect meaningfully and comfortingly on what you know to be true in the Scriptures.
  3. Never make big decisions in a time of great pain. A wounded person makes poor decisions. When we are hurting deeply, attempt to refrain from making big decisions. Let time pass, try to get your emotional balance, before making big decisions.
  4. Soak in the confidence of future glory. When a Christian is hurting, he is in the perfect position to reflect on the joy and majesty of future glory. Often present pain enables us to better anticipate the glory of eternity.
  5. Do your duty trusting fully in God. It is best to not try to conquer the world when hurting. It is best, when hurting, to focus on what lies at hand. "What is my duty?" "What is my responsibility?" The answers to these questions will guide us as to best spend our time. We must act, work, live, and serve during times of pain. Do not soak in self-pity or self-loathing. It is better to be busy doing what we ought to do. As we do this, trust fully in God for the future.
  6. Worship the Lord. There is nothing more calming, more correcting, more soothing, more inspiring in the Christian's life than true worship. In worship we see ourselves in the context of the greatness of God. In worship we see our sin in the ambiance of divine purity. In worship we see the light of the providence of God when we think nothing but darkness is all around. If you would be healed of heart, go worship.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Curious Eutychus meets a Feminist

Friend, I want to welcome you to a new series of contemplative ruminations of uncertain quality. Today begins the ADVENTURES OF CURIOUS EUTYCHUS! I take the name of this fictional character from the interesting young fellow who had the infamous experience of falling asleep during one of Paul's sermons in Acts 20 (not something one would like to have etched in one's legacy..."Oh, your the one who fell asleep during Paul's sermon; wink, wink!"). Well, Eutychus is now visiting us in the 21st century, and an interesting visit it is! He will meet some "peculiar blokes on this beach." Today, curious Eutychus meets a modern feminist.

Eutychus was reading in the newspaper about the recent Focus on the Family commercial that ran during the Super Bowl (Eutychus had to be really "brought up to speed" on what football was, but that is for another story) in which Tim Tebow (monstrously successful former football quarterback for the University of Florida Gators) and his mother express their pro-life story. The general sense of the story is that Mrs. Tebow (Tim's mom) was told when she was pregnant with Tim that she was in great risk during this pregnancy. The doctors in their "all knowing wisdom" (after all, anyone in a white medical smock knows what they are talking about, right? I think the medical smock is now the sign of authority similar to the clerical robe in the middle ages, but that is for another story as well) advised Mrs. Tebow to abort little unborn Tim. But Mrs. Tebow CHOSE to face the possible risks of the pregnancy and have little Tim, who turned out to be fine along with mother. This is where the feminists start to get angry, I mean, after all a woman who would CHOOSE to have her baby deserves to be criticized, right?!

Well, back to Eutychus...he was telling this story to an acquaintance of his at the local coffee shop called "The Double Dip Caffeine Trip All Hip Getting Ready for the Trip We Won't Let You Slip" coffee shop. As he told of the heroic CHOICE by Mrs. Tebow to continue the pregnancy and how everything turned out fine for both mom and her son, the young lady grew more and more agitated. As the story continued she began to glow red with anger and obvious indignation. Eutychus, not having been in the 21st century very long, was confused. When he inquired concerning her problem, she burst out, "Don't you understand you slime ball of male testosterone filled with overtly womanly hatred; you bigoted, arrogant, stupid, insensitive man full of all detestable manly irrational thought." Eutychus was stunned; he had not detected his own male stupidity by simply reading the wonderful story of the courageous story of a young mother CHOOSING life because of her love and belief. He replied, "I don't understand." She shouted with elitist fury, "Of course you don't understand. How could you understand the importance of a woman's CHOICE in a time of great struggle and fear. You pro-lifers are all the same; you haven't got the foggiest clue of what it means to be PRO-CHOICE!" Eutychus exclaimed, "But didn't Mrs. Tebow make her own CHOICE, and shouldn't we applaud her love and sacrifice for her child?" The feminist snootily retorted, "CHOICE! Having a baby is not a CHOICE. Don't you understand that you cannot be PRO-CHOICE unless you CHOOSE the CHOICE that pro-abortionists prefer!" Now Eutychus was really confused. He asked, "But isn't a CHOICE, a CHOICE, whatever the CHOICE is?" The feminist laughed with disdain and cried, "How stupid of you PRO-LIFERS! You don't even know CHOICE when you see one!"

Eutychus went on sipping his latte with a bit of skim milk and artificial sweetener, and wondered, "How is it that CHOICE is not CHOICE?" These are strange thinking people in the 21st century. He wondered if logic had made it to this point in history.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A True Example of Faith

If you are like me, I often feel that my faith needs a boost. I want to trust God, but sometimes it seems so hard to do. I think I am doing great until a test of my faith comes along, and suddenly I feel like I am in the kindergarten school of faith. One of the most encouraging passages on faith for me is the passage where Jesus said that faith need only be as large as a mustard seed, and that is enough. But even that size of faith is too large for me. I fall before the Lord and say with the man, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."

Paul used Abraham as the example of true faith in Romans 4. What does faith really look like? How does faith act in the face of obstacles that threaten to undo it? Look at Romans 4:16-21 (NASB):
"For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us hope against hope he believed...without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able to perform."

OK, here is the gig - Hebrews 11:6 says one cannot please God without faith. Faith is just that important. But faith is not only a subjective trust in something one wishes to be true. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. God speaks His Word (the Scriptures) to His sheep, and Jesus' sheep hear the voice of their beloved Shepherd in the words of the Scripture. And as a result, the sheep believe Jesus and His Word. The sheep have faith in what Jesus says in the Scripture.

Faith says several important things. (1) Faith says, "I want to get God's Word right; I want to rightly interpret the Word of God." (2) Faith says, "I will rest my convictions, my hopes, and my expectations on what God has said in His Word; He cannot fail in any promise He makes." (3) Faith says, "I will trust God to bridge the gap from the promise of the Word to my personal human experience; I will not put demands on God, but rather, I will trust God to be true to Himself in fulfilling His Word." (4) Faith says, "I will not quit believing God no matter what I see or don't see, what I feel or don't feel; sight and feelings do not verify God." (5) Faith says, "I will smile always knowing that God will certainly come through to do what is best, wisest, and good for me."

But there is one more thing; something bothers me about the reference to Abraham and faith in Romans 4. If one reads the story of Abraham and Sarah and the promise of God, one realizes that there is a disconnect here. Abraham and Sarah tried to work out God's promise with their own rationale and in their own strength. They tried to accomplish God's will by conniving and scheming and working their own plans. And it failed MISERABLY! But when I read Romans 4 about Abraham and his faith, I see absolutely no reference to Abraham's failure of faith. Rather, Abraham is presented as a model of faith. Did God forget the failure of Abraham? No, but God chose to overlook the failure of Abraham. The greatest of people are rotten failures in the eyes of God. This is a given; no question or debate. Someone has rightly said, "The best of men are men at best." But God's grace moves beyond the failures of His people, and God shows His glory in their successes, because those successes demonstrate God's grace in the lives of His people. God is not keeping a book of your mistakes in order to "pound" you one day with judgment. All of your sins and failures are nailed to Christ's cross, and the debt has been paid in full. Paul may have called himself the chief of sinners, but God never called Paul that. To God, Paul was one of His chosen ones whom He loved with all His heart.

So, Christian friend, trust God, lean on God, rest in His promise and faithfulness. Stop beating yourself up for your failures, and live by FAITH!