Monday, June 21, 2010

Memorization Monday - Challenge - Endure Hardness

1 Peter 4:12, 13 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hymn of the Week -- Jehovah Reigns

Jehovah Reigns, Let Earth Be Glad

Jehovah reigns, let earth be glad,
And all the isles their joy make known;
With clouds and darkness He is clad,
On truth and justice rests His throne.

Consuming fire destroys His foes,
Around the world His lightnings blaze;
The trembling earth His presence knows,
The mountains melt before His gaze.

The heav’ns His righteousness proclaim,
Through earth His glory shines abroad;
From idol worship turn with shame
And bow before the living God.

Thy Church rejoices to behold
Thy judgments in the earth, O Lord;
Thy glory to the world unfold,
Supreme o’er all be Thou adored.

All ye that truly love the Lord,
Hate sin, for He is just and pure;
To saints His help He will accord
And keep them in His love secure.

For good men light and joy are sown
To bless them in the harvest time;
Ye saints, your joy in God make known
And ever praise His Name sublime.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What is the Gospel? -- Part 2

If the Bible is claiming to have the good news that we need for our salvation, what situation are we in that requires good news? Last time I mentioned that the core issue is sin, but not in the trivial sense that most people think. As I said last time, most people either dismiss the idea of sin altogether or trivialize it as though the sin “problem” is not that serious.

So with the underlying assumption that the Bible is true and actually explains God’s view of things, let’s see what it says.

In the very first book of the Bible, God explains how man was created. He gave him freedom and responsibility. As part of their responsibility, He gave them one commandment – not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As you know, Adam disobeyed that command and God pronounced a curse on Adam and Eve and their offspring. Death was introduced into what otherwise had been a living environment. The ground was cursed, animals were cursed and mankind was cursed. You can find this incident recorded in Genesis chapters 1-3. Paul writes in Romans 8:22 that all of creation is groaning under this curse.

Some of you are thinking, “Certainly he doesn’t believe that this story of Adam and Eve is true, does he?”

I think if we really want to understand the human condition, the condition of our environment, the condition of international relations and all of the other situations we face as individuals and as nations, we need to listen to God’s explanation. Yes, I believe that this story is true. It’s the only explanation that I can see that helps make any sense of what we see and feel and know.

We all know something is wrong. Even people who believe that humans are basically good realize that something is wrong. Our cities are in decay, family relationships are fracturing. People are addicted to many different habits that inflict physical and emotional pain on themselves and others. Governments are corrupt. Nature is violent and harmful in some of its outbursts. Only the Bible gives us a reasonable explanation as to why all of this is so.

So Adam’s disobedience resulted in God’s curse being on us. Here’s what Paul writes in Romans 1:18-22

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,”

There is ungodliness and unrighteousness about us. Ungodliness means we are not much like God in the way we think and behave. Unrighteousness means we don’t act and think in righteous, or right ways. Because of that, God’s wrath is on us. Why is He angry with us? These verses tell us that we as human beings have suppressed the truth. We have pushed it down so that it we don’t have to look at it. He has told us that God has revealed His nature to each of us but our response has been that we don’t glorify Him or give Him His due for who He is and we have not been thankful to Him for what He has provided to us His creatures. I think you know this is so. Just think about what people say after something good has happened to them. Often they will speak of luck and sometimes will express thankfulness, but rarely will some thank God for His provision for their need. I had a man tell me today that He was incredibly lucky He found a job. Why are we so reluctant to give credit to God? When the apostle Paul was telling the people of Athens about the true God he said, “He gives to all life, breath, and all things.”

We live in a culture that is so sensitive to diversity and tolerance that we have a hard time thinking in the categories that the Bible uses. These are not religious statements that Paul is making. These are truth claims. In other words Paul is saying that there is a God and He is the one who gave life to us. He is the one who gives us our breaths each and every day and He is the one who gives us everything else as well. Yet we are not thankful to Him. This is at the core of our sin and the reason for God’s anger against us.

Why do we need good news? Because the wrath of God is on us. See John 3:36.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What is the Gospel? -- Part 1

As I mentioned last time, good news is only perceived as good news when it comes in answer to a situation that is discouraging or desperate. If we don’t recognize a problem or difficult situation, then good news is hard to accept or even pay attention to. It may still be good news, but it will pretty much be ignored.

God says that our main problem is sin. Right away some of you are turned off by that for one of two reasons. One response is something like, “It is so outmoded or archaic to even talk about sin. Nobody thinks about sin anymore except fundamentalist Christians.” A second response that often surfaces is this: “Yea, I know we sin. I mean, like, nobody’s perfect. But it’s not a big deal since my sins aren’t all that many or serious. I’m certainly not a murder or anything.”

Here’s where the ride starts getting a little rough. What I’m going to do now is to give us God’s assessment of our sin problem. Even that kind of statement is going to be problematic for some of you. How could we know what God’s assessment is and which God am I talking about?

The Bible presents us with the God that it claims is the true and living God. He is the only God there is and it is He that made everything for His own pleasure and glory. According to the Bible, there are not multiple Gods. Granted there are many ideas and religions each pushing their ideas about God, but the Bible asserts that there is one God and He, and He alone is the only one we are accountable to.

I’m going on the assumption that the Bible is telling us the truth and that its explanation of our situation and the remedy are the reality that we face. What I hope to present here is what the Bible teaches. Each one of us can choose to believe it or not. But the Bible has been accepted by millions of people as the word of God and I think everyone ought to at least listen to its arguments if for no other reason than to be knowledgeable about it. That way, if you are going to disagree or propose a contrary point of view, you at least have its claims accurately in mind. The best way to follow this discussion is to get out a Bible and look up the references for your self. That way you will be able to see whether or not the Bible says what I’m claiming it says.

So stay with me and we’ll work through this over the next several days and weeks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Memorization Monday - Challenge - Endure Suffering

Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hymn of the Week - Great God of Wonders

Great God of Wonders by Samuel Davies

Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Are matchless, Godlike and divine;
But the fair glories of Thy grace
More Godlike and unrivaled shine,
More Godlike and unrivaled shine.

Crimes of such horror to forgive,
Such guilty, daring worms to spare;
This is Thy grand prerogative,
And none shall in the honor share,
And none shall in the honor share

Angels and men, resign your claim
To pity, mercy, love and grace:
These glories crown Jehovah’s Name
With an incomparable glaze
With an incomparable glaze.

In wonder lost, with trembling joy,
We take the pardon of our God:
Pardon for crimes of deepest dye,
A pardon bought with Jesus’ blood,
A pardon bought with Jesus’ blood.

O may this strange, this matchless grace,
This Godlike miracle of love,
Fill the whole earth with grateful praise,
And all th’angelic choirs above,
And all th’angelic choirs above.

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
Or who has grace so rich and free?

Friday, June 11, 2010

What is the Gospel? -- Intro

All through the New Testament there is reference to the Gospel. The core meaning of the word is “good news”. But it seems to me that in our day, what is proclaimed as the Gospel doesn’t seem to be particularly good news, even to Christians. And the problem is not the Gospel! Most people who claim one version of the Christian faith or another don’t seem to be particularly excited about what is billed in the Bible as good news. Most non-Christians don’t seem to think there is any problem that the good news would solve.

Good news is only received as good news when there is actual remedy for a real problem or struggle, and then only when a person realizes that there is a problem. If you go to the doctor for an annual checkup and, after checking you over thoroughly, he says that you are in good physical shape, you may be happy about that, but it probably is not a life-changing event. On the other hand, suppose you had some pretty severe headaches and a friend of yours said that his brother had the same type of headache and died six months later of a brain tumor. This scenario would probably set you on a course to find out what’s going on. If the doctor tells you that your headaches are from too much caffeine and if you stop drinking so much coffee, you’ll be fine. Your relief and joy in this situation will be much greater because your problem had a solution.

What the Bible gives us is life-changing good news. Paul tells us that the Gospel is God’s power for salvation. And what we all know we really want and need is salvation. So my plan for this series is to explain what the Bible says our problem or need is. It is not a pretty picture. But I think we really know that. And then we’ll look at God’s solution, which is really, really good news.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Your Brain on Computers

For a long time I have been concerned about the effect of over stimulation from electronic devices. There seems to be an increase in distraction and there is even some evidence of reduced productivity due to changes in the brain. A book I have mentioned before is Distracted by Maggie Jackson. Here's the link to a recent article in New York Times documenting the same thing.

As Christian men who want to be faithful, we need to make sure that we and our families use technology wisely. It is imperative not to allow these tools to take over our lives so that we are distracted from the really important communication that needs to take place in our homes.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Memorization Monday - Challenge - Be Strong in Temptation

1 Peter 1:6, 7 (NKJV)
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Hymn of the Week -- Lord, with glowing heart

This hymn is by Francis Scott Key, the same person that wrote the National Anthem of the U.S.

The words are somewhat archaic for modern readers, but I strongly encourage the effort it takes to think through what this song is saying.

Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise Thee,
For the bliss Thy love bestows,
For the pardoning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows:
Help, O God, my weak endeavor;
This dull soul to rapture raise:
Thou must light the flame, or never
Can my love be warmed to praise.

Praise, my soul, the God that sought thee,
Wretched wanderer, far astray;
Found thee lost, and kindly brought thee
From the paths of death away;
Praise, with love’s devoutest feeling,
Him Who saw thy guilt-born fear,
And the light of hope revealing,
Bade the blood-stained cross appear.

Praise thy Savior God that drew thee
To that cross, new life to give,
Held a blood sealed pardon to thee,
Bade thee look to Him and live.
Praise the grace whose threats alarmed thee,
Roused thee from thy fatal ease;
Praise the grace whose promise warmed thee,
Praise the grace that whispered peace.

Lord, this bosom’s ardent feeling
Vainly would my lips express.
Low before Thy footstool kneeling,
Deign Thy suppliant’s prayer to bless:
Let Thy grace, my soul’s chief treasure,
Love’s pure flame within me raise;
And, since words can never measure,
Let my life show forth Thy praise.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

T4G-The Book's Back Cover

Those of us who had the privilege of attending this year’s Together For the Gospel conference in Louisville were given 20 books that we are encouraged to read over the coming months. I thought I would let you know the titles and authors of those books along with the quote from the back cover. These postings are in no particular order.

The Book: The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

"What Col and Tony have described here is exactly what I've been trying to do in my own life and in our congregation for years. According to this book, Christians are to be disciple-making disciples and pastors are to be trainers. Superb! This is the best book I've read on the nature of church ministry." ~ Mark Dever

"This book contains the kind of counter-intuitive ideas that, once encountered and embraced, make you wonder why you did not always think this way." ~ Phillip D. Jensen

"I have some new conversation partners as I ask myself, under the authority of God and Scripture, questions about the structure and ministry of my congregation: "Why are we doing what we are doing? Is the gospel central? Has 'administry' trumped ministry?" And more. As I ask these things, I am so deeply helped and heartened and humbled and corrected by the fidelity and wisdom of Colin Marshall and Tony Payne's profound little book that I can't but commend it to you." ~ Ligon Duncan

"Gospel ministry is about God's glory and God's people! This excellent book takes us right to the heart of authentic Christian ministry. Any church will benefit hugely from studying and acting on it." ~ William Taylor

"The Trellis and the Vine comes from a ministry so deeply committed to the recovery of biblical truth and the cause of the gospel. Its wisdom is invaluable. My advice: Keep a good stack on hand at all times, and put this book to good use." ~ R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What is the Gospel?

Recently I was able to take a couple of Sunday School hours to review The Gospel with my class. I think we as Christians need to do this frequently because we begin to trust in ourselves rather than in the God who saves us by His Grace. Off and on over the next couple of weeks I'm going to be summarizing the content of that material for my blog readers.

If you want a copy of the notes, you can find them here.

If you want to hear the audio for the two sessions, you will find them here for part one and here for part 2.