Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Collision of Wills

I am currently preaching through Jonah and what a delightful, powerful, and convicting book. Immediately in Jonah 1:2-3 we see a collision of wills between God and Jonah and we see this highlighted in the call of God to Jonah, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it." and Jonah's response...He rose up................to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. Jonah was not being reluctant, he was being rebellious. His disagreement with God (Jonah 4:1-2) turned into disobedience to God, and he fled just as far in the opposite direction of Nineveh as he knew to go.

Jonah's fleeing from God was his way of avoiding God because he did not want to do what God had called him to do. God's call to Jonah exposed an area of Jonah's life that needed to be brought into submission to the Lord. The limits of his obedience were exposed. This is an object lesson for us. Why?.....There are many times when we have a collision of wills with God, and every collision of our will and His will reveals the limits of our obedience. The limits of our obedience are always being exposed and tested, just like Jonah.

In times like these when our will has collided with God, and we are wrestling with God and ourselves, there are some things we need to remember:

1. That God's will is always perfect and pure....ours is neither.

2. When our will is not lined up with God's will, it will always be selfish and self-seeking.

3. The imagined cost of obedience is always overshadowed by the real cost of disobedience.

4. Disobedience is always more costly and the consequences are more severe.

5. While obedience may cause some distress, disobedience leads to disaster.

6. Your disobedience does not happen in a vacum, but will always affect those around you, those whom you are connected to.

7. When you are being disobedient don't be beguiled by the "providential" escape provided by the circumstances.

8. Most often the means of escape our circumstances seem to supply is actually the means of God's discipline, God's chastening.

9. When we are being disobedient our paradise becomes purgatory and our pleasure becomes pain.

10. It is always better to trust the Word of God rather than to trust your own heart.

Monday, November 10, 2008

God's View Towards Elections and Economics

Jeremiah 17:5-8
Thus says the Lord,
"Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
Isaiah 2:22
Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?
Daniel 2:20-21
Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings.
Daniel 4:32, 34-35
...the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind
and bestows it on whomever He wishes.
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But he does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, "What have You done?"
Psalm 103:19
The Lord has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.
Acts 17:24-26
The God who made the world and all things in it,
since He is Lord of heaven and earth,
does not dwell in temples made with hands;
nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything,
since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
and He made from on man every nation of mankind
to live on all the face of the earth,
having determined their appointed times
and the boundaries of their habitation.
Philippians 4:6-8
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, what is lovely,
whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence
and if anything worthy of praise,
dwell on these things.


There have been a plethora of postings and much has been said on the election and our current economic situation, all much better than I could say, but I think God's word is the last word and the best word for us who are called out by Him.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thought for the Day

Taken from Romans 8:29.

God has predetermined that we would be brought into conformity with the image of His Son. To this end He has chosen us out of the world. He has selected us, the few, out from among the many, so that His eternal purpose might be accomplished in us.

So, what does this mean for you?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Thought for the Day

The death of Christ in our stead is the basis of His intercession for us. He intercedes for us on the merits of His sinless life, His sacrificial and substitutionary death, and the propitiation provided by His blood.

Romans 8:34
Hebrews 2:17
Hebrews 7:25
Hebrews 9:11-12,26
I John 4:10

Monday, September 08, 2008

God has Spoken

Through the ages God has spoken,
Spoken to His called out ones,
Promises that can't be broken
Culminating in His Son.

Through the ages God foretold us,
Telling of His eternal plan,
Giving us a hope so joyous
That He would come to us as man.

God has spoken to His loved ones
Through His prophets, in His Son,
Calling us out of sin's deep darkness
To the Light, Maker of the sun.

God is calling to salvation
Every tongue and every nation.
Hear him now your heart don't harden.
Call out to Him, receive full pardon.

God is calling, stop and listen.
Heed His call, live in His freedom.
Listen now with hearts wide open.
Receive His Word and His salvation.

For the ages which can't be counted
God has spoken what is to come.
A new creation where all is holy
No place for sin for all is holy,
Created anew, free from corruption.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Unexpected Confirmation

In addition to pastoring a new church start up, I also teach a men's group on Monday evening. This group is made up of men from different churches. Last fall we had a man attend that we all know and who is now back on staff at a local church. This particular church is the "hot church" in Midland and really focuses on being new and not your grandmother's church. During the session that evening I made the comment that it was not the job of the church to make people feel good about themselves. Well, you could see this man stiffen up immediately, and he began to make some comments to counteract what I had said. As you might guess, he did not come back.

Personally, I don't believe that the church/pastor is supposed to make people feel better about themselves, I believe that it is the church's/pastor's job to speak the truth and have the people see the truth about themselves and about God.

This morning I came across something that J.I. Packer wrote and it is good to see that someone as astute and respected as Jim Packer sees things the same way. He wrote....for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts, because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be "helpful" to man--to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction--and too little concerned to glorify God. ...Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed. ...part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.

This was written in 1959. How prophetic for the American church today. If you have read Ian Murray's Evangelicalism Divided you can see how this played out in England in the middle of the 20th century and then jumped the pond to start the same cycle over here in the eighties. Where England is now spiritually is where the US will be shortly unless God intervenes. Will He? Let us be praying that He will.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Set Your Heart

"Set your heart on knowing God and He will reveal Himself through His word; set your heart on serving Him and you will not lack the opportunity to do so. But set your heart on nothing of spiritual consequence, and that is precisely what you will receive--nothing of spiritual consequence."

Sinclair Ferguson
"A Heart for God"
Page 125

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Prayer for Today

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. He sits upon His throne in the midst of His holiness. Everything He does, He does in righteousness. Holy and awesome is He. There is none like You, O Lord! Purify my lips this day. Cleanse my heart, renew a steadfast spirit within me, and cause me to walk in faithfulness and truth. Open my eyes, the eyes of my spirit, to behold You in the splendor of Your righteousness, the glory of Your holiness, and the power of Your majesty; and leave me not the same, but more faithful to You, more trusting in You, more desirous of You, and enlarge me spiritually. Go with me this day in Your holiness, truth, and power. Amen, O Lord, Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reflections and Thanksgiving

There is a term that has fallen into disuse among Christians over the last couple of generations and it is "Divine providence." Divine providence is the term that was used to describe the hand of God in the affairs of everday life and the hand of God in the course of one's life. It pulled all of the seemingly random events, the decisions, the people, and their effect upon us and put them under the aegis of God. I believe that the church in general has lost this sense of God using and supervising all of these to bring about His desired purpose in our lives. Listen to what some of the Scriptures have to say about His Divine providence:

Psalm 37:23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.
Proverbs 16:9 The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
Proverbs 20:24 Man's steps are ordained by the Lord, how then can man understand his way?
Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

We also see this played out in the lives of many people in the Bible. The most notable being Joseph, and listen to his response to his brothers years after they had sold him into slavery.
Genesis 50:21 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

This was on my mind all weekend as I was in Dallas/Plano at the end of last week and drove by the place where I lived for the four and a half years we were there. I have been by our old home several times in the years since we have been in Midland, but this time really caused me to reflect upon all the things that happened during that short four and a half years we were there.

I was a brand-new Christian when we moved there in August of 1980, and even though I was looking to pursue a career in the corporate end of the insurance business, I had a strong sense in my spirit that moving to Dallas/Plano was God's desire for me. And it was, as the move was about much more than just my career in the insurance business as the Lord used that time to ground me in my faith, to set the foundation of where I am now spiritually, to teach me about Himself, to teach me about myself, and to chart the course of my life spiritually, personally, and professionally. When we left Dallas at the end of 1984 I was a much different person than when I arrived, much more mature, much wiser, spiritually grounded, and with the realization that I had so much further to go. This was all due to the Divine providence of God in orchestrating all the events and people that were part of my time in Dallas, and in His providence He moved us to Midland where the work He began in Dallas continues on.

In reflecting on all of this I was very overwhelmed and had to stop and give thanks to God for His Divine oversight of my life. His goodness and mercy to me, and His watchcare over me ,were so poignant in my spirit as to leave me breathless. God let me see with spiritual eyes what He was doing in my life and I am humbled beyond my ability to express it.

May God grant you that you would see with spiritual eyes His marvelous Divine providence in the affairs of your life, and that you would see with eyes of eternity His care for you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Prayer for Today

Glory be to the Lord, praise His matchless name! Glory to God in the highest, His will be done and His name be known over all the earth. The Lord alone is good, and He is good even to unkind and ungrateful men. Who are we Lord that You are mindful of us, and what have we done that Your thoughts toward us would be as numerous as Your wonders?

We are the recipients of Your bountiful grace. Help us not to be smug or take Your grace for granted, but to come before You with a thankful heart, one that rejoices in the bounty of Your goodness. For it is You that has givn us the power to make wealth. It is You who gives us daily our bread. It is You in whom we live, and move, and have our existence. Help us this day to look past ourselves to be vessels of Your grace and goodness.

Amen

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Peace and Unity

As believers we are to "Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts," Colossians 3:15. So often we see this verse either ignored or misapplied, and it is because of a misunderstanding or a false assumption of what this peace is. So let's see if we can garner a better, a correct understanding of what the peace of Christ is and how it is manifested in our lives.

First off, this verse is in the middle of a section where Paul is talking about our common ground in Christ because He is all and is in all (3:11), and how this is manifested in our life in the church in how we treat and respond to one another in the body. So its primary application is for believers in the context of church life. So this peace of Christ is to rule, act as arbiter or umpire, in our dealings and interactions with other believers, especially those in our local body.

Secondly, what is this peace that Christ has, that is to be the umpire of our hearts, and how did we come to possess it? In John 14:27 Christ says, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you." So we see that it is Christ, Himself, that has given us His peace, and we have this peace because He has come and taken up residence in our heart; and we have become partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). The peace of Christ is the peace between Him and the Father. There was no enmity between the Father and the Son because Jesus always did the things that were pleasing to the Father (John 4:34, 5:30, 8:28-29, 8:42, 12:49, 14:10, 17:4, Matthew 3:17). Because of His perfect obedience to the Father there was unity and harmony between them with peace being the by-product of that unity and harmony. Christ had the same unity and harmony with the Father in His life here upon the earth that He had with the Father in eternity past. This is why Jesus could say, "I and the Father are One." (John 10:30, 17:11, 22-23). The body of Christ is to have and manifest the same unity and harmony within itself that exists between Christ and the Father (John 17:20-23).

Before salvation we were at enmity with God, we were His very enemies (Romans 5:10), but God reconciled us to Himself through His Son (Romans 5:10, II Corinthians 5:18-19). The Father and the Son were at perfect peace, so that, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:29). So when we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts it means that we are not to do anything that would disrupt our peace with our heavenly Father. Our peace with Him should guide our decision making and govern our responses. Within the context of this section of Colossians we see this worked out in our compassion, gentleness, kindness, humility, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love within the body of Christ. We have peace with God and one another as we practice these Christian graces mentioned here; and it should then be a part of our life so that, "As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18).

However, this peace, the peace of Christ, is not a peace at the expense of righteousness, or peace at the expense of the truth. It does not compromise righteousness or truth, but instead it is a peace at the expense of the self, at the expense of personal "rights", at the expense of personal desires, at the expense of personal comfort. It is a peace at the expense of personal ambitions, personal glory, at the expense of personal achievements, or personal recognition. It is peace because we have given up ourselves, and is part of taking up our cross daily and following after (living in like manner) Him, who gave up Himself.

So, first, be sure that you are at peace with God through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God for establishing peace with you, His enemy, and reconciling you to Himself through the blood of the cross. Now live a life of peace with God through how you live your life with others in the body, and in the world; but not at the expense of righteousness or the truth.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Few Quotes to Think About

I am reading through David Wells' latest book, The Courage to be Protestant. It is one of those books that is a must read for anyone who loves the church, and offers penetrating insight into our American culture and its affect upon evangelical church culture. I am going to quote several lines from this book that I think are worthy of giving some thought.

"By speaking about faith in terms that are familiar in our world of self-fulfillment, self-esteem, and the whole many-sided self movement, the gospel suddenly is on the cutting edge of where-we-are. By assuming access to God that is as swift and certain as the swipe of a credit card, a spiritual purchase without waiting, the gospel makes itself appealing to consumers. They are getting it when they want and how they want it. By speaking of the gospel in terms not of truth but of feelings, evangelicals of this stripe guarantee for them selves instant success. Feelings are easy to arouse while thought is hard and slow."

"The self-movement is all about feeling good about ourselves, not about being good. It is therapeutic, not moral."

"Evangelical faith, which has lamely followed along this cultural path, has lost its integrity in the world."

"The problem is that study after study over the last four decades has been unable to show any correlation between low self-esteem and all the social maladies that have supposedly followed it."

"The language of sin is not a part of the way people think of themselves."

"The majesty of God's forgiveness is lost entirely when we lose what has to be forgiven."

"When we miss the biblical teaching, we also miss the nature of God's grace in all its height and depth."

"The glory of Christian faith is the grace that has bridged the chasm sin has created, the heights and depths of God's saving love expressed in the person of Christ."

These are some good things to think about as we consider the state of the church in our land.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Milestone

We passed a milestone this last weekend. In the eternal scheme of things it probably wouldn't even be a blip on the radar, but it is a milestone for us none the less. This last Sunday we finished our first year as a church as we began Grace Covenant Church on the third Sunday of June 2007. There are many things that have gone through my mind over the last couple of days, but foremost would be the gratitude I have to the Lord for calling me and giving me the privilege of serving Him in this way. Along with the gratitude is also a sense of awe that people came, and are still coming, in spite of me also leading the singing for most of this last year. The Lord has brought some great people to be a part of this and I am blessed to be their pastor.

I wrestled with the Lord for almost a year before I finally accepted the fact that He was calling me to become a pastor. What were my excuses? 1. My age, as I was 55 at that time. 2. I am divorced and remarried. 3. No seminary degree or training. 4. Me? Why would the Lord be calling me? 5. I did not trust myself and wanted assurance that this was truly from the Lord. 6. I have been on the ground floor of two other church plants and never desired to be the pastor, and in both instances I knew my place was to be a teacher. But I could not deny the burden in my spirit and the desire of my heart. In fact, it was the change in my heart from not wanting to ever be a pastor, because of all the stuff that goes along with it, to having it be such a fervent desire that has been one of the confirmations that this indeed is a calling from the Lord; but it was the encouragement and admonishment from my wife, Angie, that finally got me off of high center and stepping out in faith.

In the four months leading up to us starting the church Angie and I talked often about the things involved with starting a church, and one of my comments to her was that we would be surprised at who would come and who would not, and I was right. We talked specifically to about 30 couples about what we felt the Lord was leading us to do, what the philosphy of ministry would be, and what the mission and purpose of the church would be. Some of them told us they were interested, some were non-commital, some were not interested, but when the first Sunday came only two couples that we had specifically talked to came and one of them had their nose in the air and left as soon as they could. However, we had others come that we did not specifically talk to and they have continued to come. We had a family join in October and another join last month, and the one who joined last month was an answer to everyone's prayer as he can play the guitar and has volunteered to lead the singing. We now have 14 adults, two teenagers, and seven children. Angie is teaching the children in the front bedroom and we are holding the worship service in our living room.

Where is the Lord leading us? Honestly, I am not sure. We are meeting in our home, but I don't consider us a house church nor want to be one. We have just incorporated and I will be applying for our tax exempt status soon. We are considering the pros and cons of affiliation or remaining independent. I did not start this with a vision or a grand plan, but with the desire to be obedient to what I knew the Lord was calling me to do and the prayer to the Lord to keep me faithful to the task He has assigned me; and Angie as my helpmate has accepted my calling as her calling.

The Lord is having us take it a week at a time, so my answer to several who have asked me what my vision is for this church has been, "The service this coming Sunday." We are working our way through Colossians. We started in Colossians last June and I will be preaching on Colossians 3:16-17 this coming Sunday.

Along the way, and even this last week, the Lord has been gracious to give me confirmations that this is what He has called and is continuing to call me to do. Along with the change of heart that I mentioned earlier has been a firm conviction in my own spirit that I am right where He wants me to be, a conviction that has never left even through the few times of disappointment. All the ways He has given me confirmation have reminded me of the Lord dealing with Elijah in I Kings 19:11-13 So He said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" God is indeed faithful and we are looking forward to the weeks and months ahead as He guides us, not through spectacular events, but through the gentle breeze of His Spirit and the confirmation of His word.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

IRREVERENCE Part III

This irreverence in the American church is not just in the worship service, but pervades every area of Christian life. Recently my family and I were at Jason's Deli one evening when another family sat down next to us. One of the men was wearing a "religious" tee shirt, and thought, I'm quite sure, that he was providing a cool witness of his Christianity with its catchy wording, as if it is the catchy wording that provides the witness. I sat there with a mouth full of turkey croissant sandwich thinking, "This guy's not serious," and slowly shaking my head at the irreverence he was projecting, all the while he was probably thinking how cool his tee shirt is because of its hip phrasing that will witness to the unchurched, for why else would he wear it. The tee shirt said, "GETTING DOWN WITH THE MOST HIGH," and went on to quote Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shadow of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. And of course it had all the fancy graphics most of these tee shirts have. Can anyone seriously think for one minute that they or anyone one else can "get down" with God, the Most High? This tee shirt pictures God as some home boy you can hang out with, dance with, crack jokes and cruise the hood with. The irony of this is that because God is the Almighty, the One and only God, the Creator of Sustainer of all that exists, the One who holds our life breath and our ways in His hand, the One to whom the angels constantly cry, 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' He is not going to be getting down with us...at any time. This, to me was the same attitude that Nadab and Abihu had, and, as we have seen, God did not get down with them, but struck them down. Look at the reverence Jesus, His own Son and fully God as well, showed to Him during His life upon this earth. This tee shirt is indicative of the irreverent attitude towards God that if rife in the American church today. Where is the respect for God as God, and all that He is as God, in the church in our land today?

Another area in Christianity that smacks of irreverence is in the books and music. I am not going to get into all the issues with the music because that should be another post series, but just listen to the lyrics, compare them with the Scriptures, and see how much of what is passing off as worship and praise is veiled irreverence. The same can be said about books, and there are way too many to mention, but I will single out one because it is such a good example. It is John Eldredge's "Wild At Heart." It is one of the biggest pieces of heresy I have ever come across, and the heresy involves the very person of God and how He is presented in this book, and the presentation of God in this book is the height of irreverence as it portrays Him as just like sinful man.

Worship is not limited to our gathering on Sunday, but is to be lived out every day as we see in Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living an holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. So we see that our lives, therefore our lifestyle, should be one of worship. How does God say that we should worship Him? Psalm 2:11 Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. So our lifestyle, yes, our very life, should be one of reverence, filled with rejoicing and trembling. To revere is to honor, to show respect, to pay homage all because it is what is due. This is the kind of life we are to live before Him, Coram Deo, before His face. Our lifestyle should not spit in His face, ridicule Him, or present Him as less than He is or other than He is. In Romans Paul tells us to give honor to whom honor is due. Well, who is due more honor than our heavenly Father, our Great Redeemer, and our Friend. Read John 17 and see the honor, the respect, the homage the Son pays to the Father. Should we not do the same in every area of our life?

Judgement begins with the household of God. Let us examine ourselves and our own households for attitudes or displays of irreverence towards our God. Let us look at our own lifestyle, thoughts and attitudes. Let us come before God with reverence and awe and let all that we do reflect the high regard and esteem we hold for our wonderful Savior and our God.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

IRREVERENCE Part II

You might be thinking to yourself, "Wait a minute, you are picking on the contemporary church crowd. What about the coat and tie traditional crowd?" Honestly, they can be just as guilty. Let's look at Isaiah 29:13 "Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote." Wearing your Sunday best, repeating the liturgy, praying out of a prayer book, and singing three hymns accompanied by an organ does not make you reverent. Much of the contemporary movement was a reaction to the lifeless, heartless, traditional service where the reverence was ritualized, not internalized. Reverence begins in the heart and its attitude towards God, and at the heart of true worship is reverence towards God. Part of why we are to gather together is to corporately revere God; and in that corporate reverence is a testimony to the greatness of this God who commands such honor and respect.

You may think that this was really an Old Testament issue, and the New Testament God of grace and love is not so harsh and demanding. Read I Corinthians 11:17-34 about the Corinthians attitude and handling of the Lord's supper. Check out verses 27-32, "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgement to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world." What was God's discipline upon members of this church (which so resembles the American church of today)? Many were weak, many were sick, and a number (obviously more than one) slept (were dead). Go read Acts five about God's dealings with Ananias and Sapphira. Would God do this today? Well, you might be familiar with the Waco pastor who, two years ago, was electrocuted in the baptistry in front of his congregation after leading them in a prayer saying, "Surprise me, Lord. "Let not many of you become teachers, for as such, you will incur a stricter judgement."

If you noticed in the section above where I quoted from I Corinthians, the Corinthians were so spiritually dull that Paul had to tell them that the reason some were sick, or weak, or dead was because of God's hand of discipline among them. They could not see it themselves. Take a step back and take a good look at your church. Could the same thing be happening there? Has it been happening and no one has been able to see it because of the spiritual shallowness of the congregation? Could this be going on in American churches and no one is noticing?

To be continued.




IRREVERENCE

We live in an irreverent society. In fact, it is in vogue to be irreverent, and in many cases the more irreverent, the better. What does it mean to be irreverent? Well, the dictionary defines the word irreverent as having or showing a lack of respect, and the thesaurus gives the word disrespectful as its synonym. We live in a time when it is hip, cool, and popular to be irreverent. However, if you examine irreverence closely, you will find at its heart is rebellion, and that is exactly what the heart of man is, rebellious. Unfortunately, like so many other things, this irreverence has made its way into the church bringing its rebellious heart along with it.

One of the culprits that has allowed this societal irreverence to make its way into the church has been the paradigm shift that has taken place over the last couple of decades in the place and purpose of the church. Where once the church was the place where believers gathered to corporately express their mutual praise, adoration, and thanksgiving, it has now become a place where unbelievers are enticed, entreated, and entertained. Where once the purpose of the church was to honor God, glorify God, and give witness to His majesty, its purpose now is to attract as many people as possible, by any means possible. Where once the focus was on God, His glory, and His holiness, the focus now is on the individual and his felt needs. In short, people no longer come to church for God, they come to church for themselves. The church has ceased to honor God and has chosen to honor man. It reminds me of Malachi 1:6 A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise my name."

Think about it, be honest, and ask yourself these questions. Why do I go to church? For whom am I going to church? What is my motivation for going to church? Do I get disappointed if I don't get anything out of the music or the sermon? Am I focused on blessing God, being a blessing to others, or getting a blessing for myself? Am I disappointed if the music is not how I like it? Do I only like and appreciate the sermons if they make me feel better about myself or cover an area of self-improvement? Am I here to extol God, if not, then why am I here.? The church has become like Romans 1:21 where they know God, but do not honor Him as God.

Another area of irreverence in the church can be seen in the casual attitude and dress. You get the sense that people are telling God that He should, He must, and He will accept them as they are. Is this how you feel in your heart of hearts, that God should accept you like you are, without any concern of whether you are acceptable to God, whether your attitude is acceptable to God, whether your dress is acceptable to God, or whether your lifestyle is acceptable to God? Would you wear what you wear to church to a state dinner with the President? If not, why not? Would you tell the President he must accept you just like you are? So you hold the President in greater esteem than you do the God who gave His Son to secure your eternal salvation? What does this say about your attitude towards God? Listen to the words of God in Leviticus 10:3 after He slew Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, for approaching Him in a disrespectful way, "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored." And what was Aaron's response to this as verse three ends? "And Aaron, therefore, kept silent."

When women wear tops to church that reveal their breasts or midriffs are they treating the Lord as holy? When they wear tops or pants that look like they are either sprayed on or shrink wrapped so that the whole contour of their front or backside is entirely visible leaving little to the imagination, are they doing so to honor the Lord, or to say, "Hey, look at me!" When husbands and fathers allow their wives and daughters to go to church dressed in such a manner are they honoring the Lord, or are they fearing their wives and daughters more than they fear the Lord? Isaiah 8:13 tells us, "It is the Lord of hosts whom you shall regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread." Men, what are you saying to the Lord when you come in to appear before Him dressed for the beach or the golf course? In the presence of the Lord is not a place to be "hot" or a place to chill out. By your demeanor, your attitude, or your dress are you regarding the Lord as holy? Are you showing Him the respect that is due Him, the Almighty God?

To be continued

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Prayer for May 12, 2008

Blessed be the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; and God the Father--the God Most High--as Your throne is standing in the heavens and the train of Your robe fills the temple. Majestic in holiness, there is none like You. You, who have declared the end from the beginning, who dwells in unapproachable light, who is unmovable and unchangeable, and who knows all the stars by name. Before You all the nations are nothing in Your sight and are less than meaningless; yet, You humble Yourself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth; and choose to dwell with the contrite and lowly of Spirit, and incline Your ear to the prayers of Your children. Hear us this day, O Lord, give heed to our supplications, grant our requests, and attend our prayers for we do not know how to pray as we should; but in our weakness strengthen us, in our blindness give us sight, in our ignorance give us knowledge, and in our sin forgive us and grant us repentance and restore to us the joy of our salvation. Blessed be the Lord, now and forever more. Amen

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Are You an Almost Christian

Bill Lawless has posted one of George Whitfields greatest sermons, "An Almost Christian" over at his blog, Reformed Lawless. You can link to it from here http://billsbible.blogspot.com

This is well worth reading.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Alone with God

Prayer is something in which we turn our backs upon everything else, excluding everything else, while, for the time being, we find ourselves face to face with God alone.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Alone with God and face to face with God. Maybe that is why we don't pray as often or as much as we should. Are you avoiding prayer because it is just you and God and it makes you uncomfortable or makes you feel vulnerable? Are you uncomfortable in the presence of God because you know you aren't walking in the light, as He Himself is in the light, and that the darkness of your sinful ways and thoughts will be exposed? Are you afraid of exposing the dark corners of your heart, or are you harboring a sin that you don't want to let go? Are you afraid of coming into the holiness of His presence and being confronted by His righteousness? Are you ashamed to come before Him because you know you should be spending time in prayer and you are not? Or is it a matter of rebellion because praying to God requires our acknowledgment of His superiority, our submission to His authority, and our subjection to His sovereignty? Is it that it is hard to justify taking time out of your busy schedule? Is it that you take your relationship with Him for granted until you need Him for something? Or, somehow, is it a little of all of the above.

Brethren, don't let your heart become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. The nearness of our God, your God and my God, is our good (Psalm 73:28). His promise is that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us, and that if we seek Him, He will let us find Him (James 4:8, Jeremiah 29:13); and His command is for us to seek His face (Amos 5:4, Psalm 27:8). Whatever you are holding on to that is hindering you from fully coming into His presence, let it go. Come as Jacob did, to wrestle with God until he received the blessing, and you will leave His presence changed and marked by God.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Delusion of Pleasing Self

In listening to all the cries that the church must be relevant, new, cutting edge, abreast of all things modern to reach the current age, I wonder if those making such claims have bothered to look at the heart of man to see if it has changed in lo these many ages since the fall. From all the cries to contextualize you would think that somehow the heart has morphed, or been subjected to some evolutionary influence so that we must approach it differently than ever before. No, the heart has always been the same, wicked and desperately sick. Its main goal has always been to please itself at the expense of all else.

I ran across a poem by Charles Wesley written in the early 1700's that reveals the timeless self-absorption of the heart with all its vices. This poem is based upon I Timothy 5:6 "But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead, even while she lives."

How hapless is th'applauded virgin's lot,
Her God forgetting, by her God forgot!
Stranger to truth, unknowing to obey,
In error nurs'd and disciplin'd to stray;
Swoln with self-will, and principled with pride,
Sense all her good, and passion all her guide:
Pleasure its tide, and flatt'ry lends it breath,
And smoothly waft her to eternal death!
A goddess here she sees her vot'ries meet,
Crowd to her shrine, and tremble at her feet;
She hears their vows, believes their life and death
Hangs on the wrath and mercy of her breath;
Supreme in fancied state she reigns her hour,
And glories in her plenitude of power.
Herself the only object worth her care,
Since all the kneeling world was made for her.
For her creation all its stores displays;
The silkworm's labour, and the diamond's blaze;
Air, earth, and sea conspire to tempt her taste,
And ransack'd Nature furnishes the feast.
Life's gaudiest pride attracts her willing eyes,
And balls, and theatres, and courts arise:
Italian songsters pant her ear to please,
Bid the first cries of infant reason cease,
Save her from thought, and lull her soul to peace.
Deep sunk the imprison'd soul remains,
Nor knows its fall from God, nor feels its chains;
Unconscious still, sleeps on in error's night,
Nor strives to rise, nor struggles into light:
Heaven-born in vain, degen'rate cleaves to earth,
(No pangs experienc'd of the second birth)
She only fallen, yet unwaken'd found,
While all th'enthrall'd creation groans around!
Father, deliver us from ourselves!

A Prayer for Today

Dearest Redeemer, make me humble, prepare me for Thy future mercies; and whenever Thou see me in danger of being exalted above measure, graciously send me a thorn in the flesh, so that Thy blessings may not prove my ruin.

It takes a humble person to pray a prayer like this, one who knows his own heart, his own sin, and his own proclivity to pride. No wonder God used him to fan the Great Awakening in America and England.

George Whitefield
From his journal, Thursday, November 29, 1739, at age 24.
Wilmington, Pa

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Thought for Today

"To live without a sense of God's particular Providence, is in effect, to live without God in the world."

George Whitefield
Monday, November 5, 1739
Philadelphia, Pa

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Devotional Reading

My favorite form of devotional reading is just studying and meditating on a passage of Scripture. Many people enjoy and benefit from reading and meditating on the Psalms. However, there are times when it is good to have some variety in your devotionals and there are many books that would serve that purpose. Let me recommend a few in no particular order.

1. Tabletalk magazine. It is a monthly devotional magazine published by Ligonier Ministries. It gives an expositional treatise on a certain topic or section of Scripture. It also has articles that deal with the topic of the month. The articles are excellent and educational, and cover a good breadth of topics.

2. Awake my Heart. Written by J. Sidlow Baxter. It was originally published in 1960 and was republished in 1994. It is devotional readings for a year, and really it is more like a years worth of mini-sermons as it is expositional in nature. It offers wisdom, insight, and application.

3. George Whitefield's Journals. Published by Banner of Truth. This may seem like a strange book for devotional reading, but it is very personal, and reveals Whitefield's heart for Christ and his allegiance to the Word of God. It also reveals the working of God during the time of the Great awakening in England and America. It also is an inspiring example of faithfulness and trust; and most modern preachers should read it and be ashamed at how little we preach and at the shallowness of our knowledge of the Scriptures.

4. Gems from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Written by Tony Sargent. It is a collection of quotations from the sermons of one of the great biblical minds and preachers of the twentieth century. It is arranged topically and covers a plethora of topics. It is robust, full of wisdom, and prompts you to think.

5. Pulpit Magazine. This is the online magazine of John MacArthur's ministry. It has daily articles, which are usually excerpts from John's sermons, but occasionally they have guest authors contribute articles. Of course, since these are excerpts from John's sermons they are expositional, but they are arranged around different topics. The comments are usually interesting and it is a way you can interact with the article.

The key thing about devotional time is that you need to take the time to think about and pray about what you are reading. Don't approach it as something to be done or as a task to be accomplished, but consider how what you are reading applies to your life and take it to heart.

An additional thought...three of the above books were written by English "chaps". There are two countries that I have had a particular burden for, and that is England and the former Soviet bloc. I have been blessed to preach and teach twelve times in the Ukraine, and once in Siberia. I have asked the Lord to let me do the same in England. Who knows how He will answer that prayer.

A Prayer for the Day

O Lord, It is not just that apart from You I can do nothing, it is apart from You I have nothing, apart from You I have no life, apart from You I am dead. You are life-inYou is life-the life that is the light of all men. I am undone without You. It is You that is my Rock, my Shield, my Fortress, my Deliverer, my Strong Tower, my Stronghold, my Very Present Help, my Dread Champion, my Shepherd, my soul's Guardian, my Intecessor, my Advocate, my Savior, my Wisdom, my Sanctifier, my Redeemer, my Reconciler, my Propitator, my Hope, my Standard, my Goal, my High Priest, my Expiator, my Ruler, my King, my Lord, my Encourager, my Comforter, my Consoler, my Joy, my Security, my Sustainer, my Great Reward, my Life, my Song, my Peace, and my God. May Your name be exalted in me today. May Your name be exalted in Your church today. This day may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, starting with me. Come Lord Jesus and subdue Your enemies under Your feet, and rule and reign forever. AMEN

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Final Word to a Common Word

Bill Lawless from Impact Midland interviewed Brian Fairchild and me at the Shepherd's Conference last week. The interview was our response to A Common Word. You can listen at http://www.impactmidland.com/

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Preaching to the Mind

This is an excerpt from an email I recently sent a friend of mine.

.....The line in your email where you quoted Joyce Meyers grabbed my attention and I have thought about it quite a bit. What she said about not teaching or speaking to the mind, but to the heart is not Scriptural. It sure sounds good, but it does not hold to Scripture. Unfortunately, much of her teaching is designed to stir the emotion and play to the heart, but that is not what a teacher or preacher of the word is supposed to do. Yes, the heart is affected, and should be, but it is affected by what comes through the mind and what the mind dwells upon. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks within himself, so he is. In fact, it is what we allow our mind to dwell upon that affects how we feel. the The Scriptures speak to this quite abundantly and I want to share some examples.

Hosea 4:1-6 details the effect on Israel because there was no knowledge of God in the land, and we see how this culminates in verse six, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being my priest." Additionally, Isaiah 5:13 tells us that the nation of Israel went into exile because of their lack of knowledge of God. It is the lack of knowledge of God and the things of God that brought destruction upon His people. That destruction was a just consequence of them not knowing, therefore not following and abiding by, the will of God. Ephesians 5:17 tells us, "So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." We can not do that without knowledge, without speaking to the mind. This is the plight of the church in America today. Most churches have services designed to appeal to the emotions, to pull on the heartstrings, instead of engaging the mind.

Look at what we are told to concentrate on as believers. II Peter 1:2-3, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." So we see that grace and peace are not just given, but multiplied to the believer in the knowledge of God and Christ, and that everything we need for life (spiritual life) and godliness comes through the knowledge of Him. In 3:18 Peter goes on to finish this letter with the command to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. None of this can happen unless you speak to and teach to the mind; and where ever the mind goes the heart will follow.

We are not to be governed by our emotions, but by our mind, by what we know, especially what we know to be true. Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we may prove that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect. As the mind is engaged by the word of God the person is transformed into the image of Christ as he knows, understands, and conforms to the will of God.

Without knowledge there is no discernment as it is knowledge of the truth that brings discernment, and where is knowledge located, in the mind. Without knowledge and discernment the people can be led where ever the teacher or preacher desires, especially when they are taught to follow their emotions. Hebrews 5:11-6:3 tells us what happens when the people of God become dull of hearing, are not partaking of the solid food of the Word, and how it is that solid food and the practice of what they know that brings discernment. We do not hear with the heart, but with the mind; and the heart is reached, but it must go through the filter of the mind. This is why Paul gives us what to let our mind dwell on in Philippians 4:8, and in 4:6-9 he tells us that our heart and mind will be guarded in Christ by peace; and the heart is guarded by what the mind dwells upon, and the mind dwells upon that which it has been taught, that which it knows.

Finally, in Colossians 2:1-8 Paul talks about the heart and mind connection, and how the heart is encouraged by the full assurance of understanding that comes from the true knowledge of Christ Himself, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In this section he tells us not to be deceived by persuasive argument then goes on the tell us in verse eight not to let our mind be taken captive by the philosophy and empty deception of the traditions of men and the elementary principles of the world. This is what Joyce is doing....appealing to the flesh and emotions, by what sounds good and normal, but is based upon the elementary things of the world.

In Biblical times the heart was considered to be not the center of the emotions, but the seat of the will. The kidneys and viscera were considered the seat of the emotions. The heart and mind were considered as one which we saw in Proverbs 23:7, as a man thinks within himself, so he is. In essence what we are doing when we teach and preach is engaging the mind with the knowledge of the truth. This knowledge of the truth affects the will, the will directs the decisions, the decisions direct the behavior, which many times will be in direct opposition to how people feel at the time. We want people to do what they know to be right in spite of how they feel about the situation or the person. This can only happen by teaching to the mind, giving them the knowledge of the truth.


There is much teaching that sounds good and biblical, but when you dissect it, it does not hold up to the light of the truth. The road that this particular teaching would eventually take someone down is fraught with disaster, and would lead to a faith based on the fickleness and surges of emotion instead of the stability and assurance of faith based on the knowledge of the truth.