Monday, November 14, 2011

Our Reaction to the Penn State Story - Some Thoughts

Today I want to share some of my thoughts related to the Penn State situation, especially what the virtually universal outrage and condemnation tells us about ourselves. Before I begin, let me say that nothing I say here should be construed to mean that molesting and abusing children is ok. Such behavior is a heinous crime against another human being and a sin against a righteous and holy God. Anyone found guilty of such behavior should rightfully be punished to the full extent that the law allows.

It's interesting to me that the actions alleged to have been committed by Mr. Sandusky have been universally condemned. My question is, "Why?". What does this tell us about ourselves as human beings? We live in an age when almost anything is accepted and tolerated. But why is this action condemned so thoroughly and completely? Is it because of the laws of our country? What if there were no laws against molesting children, would it still be wrong and would the outrage still be there? Would it still be evil? I think most people would say these actions would still be evil even if the law allowed them.

Is this the kind of behavior that is wrong in all time periods or is it just wrong at the time we live? Was it wrong when the Romans practiced this kind of behavior 2000 years ago? Or was it ok then because it was acceptable in their society?

Is this kind of behavior wrong in America but acceptable for other cultures in other places in the world? If the culture of some other country accepts this kind of activity as routine, is it ok with us? Is it still wrong and worthy of our condemnation? I think most of us would say it is still wrong.

If these actions are wrong and we all recognize it, is it because there is a "list" either written within our nature or "out there" somewhere that contains this as well as other activities that are always wrong? How do we find out what else is on that list? By consensus? By majority opinion? I don't think that would be true because most of us would say that abuse of children is wrong no matter how many people or what other cultures may contradict our verdict. So then, how do we know?

I maintain that the only rational basis for being able to say that such behavior is morally wrong in all cultures and at all times is if there is a God or moral authority outside of ourselves who has established the "rights" and "wrongs" of living. I know that even most atheists would condemn child molestation, but I don't understand a rational reason for saying such behavior is wrong if there is no reason for our existence other than the result of random processes over millions of years. Maybe it's in our DNA that molesting children doesn't advance the human race evolutionally. However, I think most of us believe that it is more than just the chemical composition of our DNA that makes us think this behavior is wrong. Most of us think this behavior is absolutely wrong in some moral sense.

I believe that the God who created us in His image has laid down principles and rules of conduct which, if followed, produce the kind of individual and societal life that we all can enjoy and in which all members of society can thrive. I believe that the God who laid down those principles has communicated them to us in two ways. First, he has embedded them generally in our nature. Romans 1:19 and following in the Bible says, "For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made."

The second way God has communicated His principles to us is through His Word, the Bible. I know that seems like an old fashioned and narrow point of view, but that is the claim the Bible makes. For example, God has said, "You shall not steal." I think most of us would agree that if everyone followed that principle, the world would be a better place. God has said, "You shall not lie." If you knew that everything everyone said was the absolute truth and could be trusted, wouldn't that make our lives and relationships better? This same God, all throughout the Bible tells us to love and respect others. He tells us not to treat anyone cruelly, especially the weak and defenseless. He tells us to treat others the way we would want to be treated ourselves. The crimes we're discussing are crimes, not because they are preferences of our, but because they violate the very nature and character of God and the image of God that was created in us. All kinds of things can ultimately be excused at some other place and time or under other circumstances if they are not grounded in the character and revelation of God. If there is no God, there is no ultimate lawgiver and judge and we are free to do whatever our culture allows.

There is another thing each one of us needs to think through very carefully. If crimes such as the abuse of children are wrong ultimately because they violate the unchangeable laws of God, given to us out of love for us for our well-being, what about all of the other things that God has also included in that list? Everyone is condemning these crimes, but what about all of the other things that God condemns? Do we have the same outrage about those? Do we know what they are? Do we care? For some examples of other things that are on God's list see Exodus 20:1-17 and Romans 1:28-32 in the Bible. If you don't have a Bible, just Google those references.

Memorization Monday - Expected Fruit - Joy

2 Corinthians 6:10 "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything." (ESV)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Excerpt from "Our Lord Prays for His Own"

In this excerpt the author is discussing John 17:20 where Jesus prays, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word."

[Notice] the Object on whom they were to believe. "I pray for them . . .which shall believe on me"; He does not say, which shall believe in God, but "on me"; He does not say, which believe the Word of God, but "on me";
He does not say, who believe in their salvation, but "on me."

Here we learn the faith that justifies is faith in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Who is there, except a few professed infidels, who do not tell you they believe in God? -- who, tin this country, but a few professed infidels, do not say they believe in the Word of God? We may quite satisfy ourselves that we believe in God, and in the Word of God; and in our own ultimate salvation; and yet we may not be included in our Lord's prayer, because He does not say, "I pray for them which shall believe" -- in God or in the Word of God, or in their own salvation, but --"on me."

Not that to believe in God, or in the Word of God, and in the fact of our own salvation, is not our privilege and duty. Oh, no! But when we believe in Him, we believe in God in a different sense; we believe in the Word of God as a different thing, and for a different object. We believe in God as loving us when we were sinners, and giving His Son to die; we believe in the Word of God as the truth revealing this fact; we believe in our salvation as the end of our faith; but we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour who took our place, died in our stead, was wounded for our transgressions, whose blood cleanseth from all sin, and who, in resurrection glory, now stands before the throne as our Representative, Himself the object of alljustifying faith. Alas! how may talk of believing in God, and in His Word, who have never believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and have never taken refuge in Him for their salvation.

From Our Lord Prays for His Own, by Marcus Rainsford, Moody Press, 1950, Pages 364-365

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Hymn of the Week - For All the Saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Biblical Manhood - Part 5 - Vocation

As we continue to consider God’s Pattern for Christian Manhood I would like to think through the idea of vocation as a calling rather than merely a job. As we do that it is important to remember that work was given before the fall. In other words, it did not come as a result of sin, even though it may feel that way sometimes. God has always intended that we should have something profitable to do. Genesis 2:5 and 2:15 speak of tilling, tending and keeping before sin entered the world. After the fall, work as toil and sweat would be the norm as we labor to get enough to eat and support ourselves. Also after the fall, things began to decay and wear out. The new car would eventually be on a junk heap. Our new Iphone will eventually be tossed way as hopelessly outdated. The fence in our yard will rust. All of this means there would be continued work to restore, maintain and rebuild.

God is opposed to laziness and sloth. I was interested to see that Psalm 104:23 speaks of man going out to his work for the day when the sun comes up and returning home when the sun is going down. Where were the unions then? And then in Exodus 20:9 God tells the people that they were to do all their work and labor in six days and rest on the seventh. It is a blessing of grace that God commands that we set aside one day a week for rest and worship. But from His point of view He’s thinking that we will be working and laboring the other six. Obviously we have created many tools to make our work easier, but even so, I think most of us will admit that work tends to be a chore, rather than a delight.

Consider these passages from Proverbs

10:4 He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

12:24 The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.

18:9 He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer

20:4 The lazy man will not plow because of winter; He will beg during harvest and have nothing.

26:16 The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.

It seems obvious to me that God is telling us that work is a good thing and we should be engaged in it regularly and faithfully. In addition, we should see our work as for God. In addressing slaves in Ephesians 6:6, Paul writes, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.” If this was said to slaves, how much more should we as free workers work as pleasing the Lord.

In the Christian world-view, work is a good thing. It is God-ordained for our good and his glory. It is to be looked at as meaningful as we have the opportunity to support our families and maintain a God-honoring testimony out in the world.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

What's Wrong?

Almost anyone who has any power of observation at all would have to admit that things in the world don't seem to be going the way we think they should. Whether it's a tsunami in Japan or drug wars in Mexico or people starving in Somalia, or arguments and fights within a family, events seem to fall far short of the ideal that we can imagine. Why do we imagine things such as peace, safety and love? Why does virtually everyone idolize the good, and yet there is so much evil? Sometimes when my wife and I are out for a walk on a beautiful day, we wonder why anyone in any of the homes around us would be fighting or arguing on such a beautiful day. Why can't we all just get along?

One answer is, “That's just the way it is. Get used to it.” I don't know about you, but that answer does not satisfy me. If all of this “bad” stuff is just imbedded in nature, why do we have the idea that there is a “better”?

I think the Bible has the best answer that I've seen anywhere. God says that he originally created the world in a state of goodness and harmony. Into that world came sin in the form of selfish rebellion against the creator. A man, made in the image of God, decided that he had found a better way to achieve happiness rather than the way God had given him. In doing so he brought God's curse on us as a race of people. What's more, he brought a curse upon the creation itself.

Someone may say, “You don't really believe that myth, do you?” I must admit that I do. No other explanation I have found explains why we have a sense of good and justice and order at the time that there is so much evil, injustice and chaos both within the human race and in nature.

The Bible says that man knows that there is a God. The fact that he is eternal in power and that he has all the characteristics of deity is known to all, but we suppress it. (Romans 1:18-20) We suppress it by not glorifying or giving the honor to God that he is due. In addition we are not thankful for what he has given us. Paul the Apostle told the Athenians that God give us life and breath and everything else we have. (Acts 17:25) Our basic error is to think that we can provide everything for ourselves. We don't need God. We can do things our way. That is the attitude that brought us the curse in the first place.

Having been created in the image of God, we have amazing capabilities. Look at all of the inventions we have come up with for making life better and our work easier. We have come to believe that we can solve every problem there is if we just trust in ourselves. That philosophy has been around for a long time. How are we doing so far? Have we solved the problem of war, famine, tsunamis, or the common cold?

God says that our core problem is rebellion against him. We do not want to give him glory. We do not want to worship him as God, we do not want to retain God in our knowledge. (Romans 1:20-32) This passage in Romans tells us that because of our defiance, God gives us up to do the things we want to do. He basically says, “Alright, then, do it your way and see what happens!” The results are disastrous.

The Bible tells us that God is in the process of changing people. Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to see the kingdom of God it was necessary to be born again. Jesus told him that everyone who believes in Jesus, that is those who trust him with their souls, will not perish but will have everlasting life. Those who do not believe are still under the judgment of God. (John 3) Eventually even the curse on creation will be removed. At that point, all wrongs will be righted and perfect justice will prevail.

This is not just a pie-in-the-sky hope. This is what God has promised. Some people suggest that such a hope in a future righting of wrongs keeps us from doing what we should be doing now. That may be the case for some people, but Jesus taught that we should put his principles into action in this world here and now. We should love our wife and family, rather than abuse them or forsake them. We should love our neighbor the same way we love ourselves rather than look for ways to cheat them or to allow them to suffer. He told us be content with what we have rather than being greedy to always have more, spending our life complaining about what we don't have that other people may have. He told us not to proudly flaunt our charity, giving or prayers. It sounds to me like if we would trust Jesus with our eternal destiny and put his teaching into practice in our daily lives, the world would be a better place now while we wait for the final reconciliation of all things.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Biblical Manhood - Part 4

Another important spiritual discipline is prayer. Men are not usually as consistent at this as women, and yet Paul told Timothy that he would have men (as distinct from women) pray. It’s a special challenge to us as men to be the leaders in prayer for our families and churches.

Some may ask why God wants us to pray when he seems to do what he wants anyway. I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know that God wants us to pray. He even asks us to come with confidence. Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then with confidence draw year to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The verse right before that tells us that in Jesus we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because in every respect he has been tempted as we are tempted, yet without sin. For this reason we would be fools not to go to him, one who understands us and sympathizes with us. He has walked in our shoes and understands what it is to live a human existence.

While I don’t understand all of the ins and outs of how prayer works and why God answers some the way we want and not others, there are several key passages of Scripture that give us a picture of what the conditions are for answered prayer.

Matthew 7:7 Pray persistently

Matthew 18:19 Pray in agreement with others

Matthew 21:22 Pray believing

John 15:7 Pray while abiding in Christ

John 16:24 Pray in Jesus’ Name

I John 5:14, 15 Pray in the will of God.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Biblical Manhood - Part 3

Besides laying aside things which hinder us as we talked about last time, God has given us several spiritual disciplines on which we should focus so that our lives grow and develop into greater Christ-likeness for His glory. Often in my life I have looked for the secret of victory or the three or four steps to greater spirituality. But it always comes down to the same things. There are no secrets here.

The first area of importance in the Christian life is the Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness. If Scripture is profitable for these things then obviously we should be spending time reading and studying it, unless of course we are not interested in being taught or corrected.

Along with the reading and study of Scripture is memorization and meditation. Joshua 1:8 tells us that with constant meditation on the Word of God comes success and prosperity. Now he is not talking about worldly success and financial prosperity. He is speaking of spiritual success and prosperity, the kind that are ultimately more rewarding and satisfying than anything the world can provide. Psalm 1 speaks of the same thing. The man who spends time meditating on Scripture is compared to a tree planted where there is plenty of water. His leaf won’t wither and whatever he does, prospers. This is compared to the ungodly man who is more like chaff that is dry and lifeless and blown away by the wind. Which kind of man do you want to be?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Memorization Monday - Expected Fruit - Joy

John 15:11 [Jesus said], "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Memorization Monday - Expected Fruit - Faith

Romans 4:20, 21 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Hymn of the Week - Come We That Love the Lord

Come We That Love the Lord by Isaac Watts

Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
Join in a song with sweet accord
And thus surround the throne,
And thus surround the throne.

Refrain

We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.

The sorrows of the mind
Be banished from the place;
Religion never was designed
Religion never was designed,
To make our pleasures less,
To make our pleasures less.

Refrain

Let those refuse to sing,
Who never knew our God;
But favorites of the heavenly King,
But favorites of the heavenly King
May speak their joys abroad,
May speak their joys abroad.

Refrain

The God that rules on high,
And thunders when He please,
Who rides upon the stormy sky,
Who rides upon the stormy sky,
And manages the seas,
And manages the seas.

Refrain

This awful God is ours,
Our Father and our Love;
He will send down his heav’nly powers,
He will send down his heav’nly powers,
To carry us above,
To carry us above.

Refrain

There we shall see His face,
And never, never sin!
There, from the rivers of His grace,
There, from the rivers of His grace,
Drink endless pleasures in,
Drink endless pleasures in.

Refrain

Yea, and before we rise,
To that immortal state,
The thoughts of such amazing bliss,
The thoughts of such amazing bliss,
Should constant joys create,
Should constant joys create.

Refrain

The men of grace have found,
Glory begun below.
Celestial fruits on earthly ground
Celestial fruits on earthly ground
From faith and hope may grow,
From faith and hope may grow.

Refrain

The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
Or walk the golden streets,
Or walk the golden streets.

Refrain

Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground,
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground,
To fairer worlds on high,
To fairer worlds on high.

Refrain

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Biblical Manhood - Part 2

As we think about God’s Pattern for Christian Manhood we are thinking through how we can reflect the glory of God. We were made in His image and likeness and are to make Him look good. As Christian men we need to think seriously about this. Paul said that when he became a man he put away childish things (I Corinthians 13:11). We men tend to hang on to our childish ways. I’m sure most of us have seen the bumper sticker that says the only difference between the man and his boys is the price of the toys.

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Seminary, has compiled a list of 13 marks that distinguish a boy from a man. I would strongly encourage you to read over that list and evaluate your progress by some of the markers he includes there. http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/04/21/from-boy-to-man-the-marks-of-manhood-part-one/

Another thing the Bible tells us to do is to lay aside every weight and sin that hinders us in our race (Hebrews 12:1) The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:4 that a good soldier does not entangle himself with the affairs of everyday life so that he may please him who has called him to be a soldier. The point is that we as Christian men need to avoid those things which entangle us and hinder us from being everything God would have us be for His glory. As you look at your life, try to think through what those things are that might be a hindrance. Once you have identified them, take steps to reduce and eliminate them from your life so that you can run the race God has laid out for you.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Biblical Manhood - Part 1

We were created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). We were made out of mere dirt in a form that would reflect God’s likeness. Think about that! That is why He made us – to show forth His glory. The fall, of course, messed up that likeness. God’s image is still there but there are many blotches on the image and it’s our responsibility to pursue Godliness so that the world will see what He is like.

God also wanted a relationship with us. There had been a loving relationship among the members of the trinity in eternity past and that relationship and fellowship was intended to extend to mankind. After the fall, when God came to walk and talk with Adam as He normally did, Adam hid himself. Sin had put a separation between God and man. (Isaiah 59:2)

Our challenge as men is that in the middle of a world marred by sin and with personalities wounded by sin, we are still to reflect God’s glory and have a relationship with God and with other human beings.

What then does God want from me? In Deuteronomy 6:5 God says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus added “and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39. He goes on in Deuteronomy to say that these words are to be in our heart.

Loving God is a command. That means it’s not just an emotional warm feeling. It is something we are to do. It requires action. Loving God involves our whole being. If we are to love God with our heart, that implies the emotional side of our being. Loving with our soul implies the psychological side. Loving God with our strength means there is energy and power behind it. And if we are to love God with our mind, that means our focus and whole rational being is involved. The Scripture adds to the intensity of the command by using the word “all”. We are to love with all of our soul, all of our mind, all of our strength and all of our heart. That’s a tall order and one that should bring with it a great deal of humility as we realize how totally impossible it is to do this perfectly.

When we think about the chief ways to love God, we need to consider these passages: Deuteronomy 5:10; John 14:15; John 14:21 and Luke 6:46. I think if you read these verses carefully you will discover that loving God is closely associated with obedience. We can’t really say we love God and then refuse to do what He asks. So if we are to pursue loving God with our whole being, we are going to have to pursue obedience with our whole being as well.

Jesus said that the second commandment is to love our neighbor as our self. That too is a difficult assignment. Just think about the many ways we show love for ourselves. We make sure we are well fed and generally cared for. We make sure we have enough sleep and enough leisure. Jesus said that we are to look after our neighbor in the same way. Immediately when we hear that we begin to make excuses as to why He can’t really mean that since we do have to take care of our own job and our own home and that leaves very little time to focus on those same areas in the life of our neighbor. As I think about myself, I’m amazed that I have so little concern for those around me. It’s pretty convicting to think about.

If you're looking for some good passages to help you sort through what other basics God requires of you, look at Micah 6:8 and Hebrews 12:1-14. Make a list of the challenges that God gives to us men to help us live lives that are faithful to Him.

Here are some questions you could ask yourself to check on your progress in these important areas:

What steps can I take to increase my love for God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?

How can I follow the challenge of Deuteronomy 6:8, 9 to keep God’s commandments a focus in my life and home?

How well do I respond to the discipline God brings into my life?

How can I be more obedient in loving others the same way I love myself?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Biblical Manhood - Intro continued

I got to thinking about the fact that God tells us that we were created in His image and likeness. I remembered that Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 11:7. He is talking about head coverings which I don’t want to get into right now, but he says, “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since (and here is the part I want to focus on) he is the image and glory of God.” Here God is saying that man is the image and glory of God. The word behind image is “icon” and the word behind glory is “doxa”. Most of us know what an icon is. It is a picture or representation of something. We are that image of God. We are the picture and representation of God in the world! We get the word doxology from doxa. A doxology is a word of praise. We are the glory or praise of God!

Most of us don’t feel like we do a very good job of representing God as His image and glory, but the Bible says that that is what we are. How can we improve; make the image clearer? In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul writes that we, “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 by the Spirit of the Lord.”

In that verse you see the same two words – image and glory. The key to showing that image and glory more clearly is to gaze on the glory of the Lord Jesus in His Word and as we do that more and more the Spirit of the Lord transforms us (the word is metamorphosis) into His image from one stage of glory to another. There are not a lot of secret steps here. It's a matter of spending time reading, thinking about and reflecting on scripture, the Word of God. It's a pretty simple concept really.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Biblical Manhood - Introduction

As a Christian, I look to the Bible to explain to me my purpose in life as a human being, but also to teach me what it means to be a man, a male human being. I believe that there is a God and that he is the only one that has the ability to explain to me why he made me and how he plans that I should honor him the most as a man. So the purpose of these few articles on Biblical Manhood is to explore some of the basics of God's design.

When we read the first few chapters of the book of Genesis we discover something right away. That is that God created us for a purpose and yet Adam’s sin brought a curse upon us that changed everything.

First we learn in Genesis 1:26 that God created us in His image and in 2:7 we learn that we are made of the dust of the ground. First of all that is difficult to comprehend. How can God take the dust of the earth and create something that is in His image and likeness? Being in the image of God implies responsibility and requires obedience in order to display that likeness. After the fall, this became much more difficult and requires more diligence and discipline relying on the Spirit of God within us to provide what is needed to accomplish this.

Second we learn in Genesis 1:26-28 that we have been given dominion and are to subdue the earth. This means we are to have leadership and are accountable to manage what God has given us. The fall of course made this much more difficult since the creation resists our management of it. This shows up in the fact that weeds grow much more easily than the vegetables we’re trying to grow in our garden. It also shows up in the fact that things wear out, break down and in other ways cause us frustration and toil.

Finally, God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth. Everything God had made He said was good except He said that it is not good that man should be alone. So we learn that marriage and family are part of God’s plan. In this area also the fall has taken its toll. It’s not easy to maintain the kind of marriage relationships and family relationships required to carry out God’s plan.

So, with these three areas we have the outline of where we are headed with the God’s Pattern for Christian Manhood study. We are going to look at what we must do to glorify God has we show forth His character and likeness. We are going to look at our dominion and leadership in the world which includes our vocation, money management and time management. And finally we are going to look at the need for moral purity and maintaining healthy and godly relationships in marriage and family.


Monday, October 03, 2011

Memorization Monday - Expected Fruit - Faith

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Hymn of the Week - All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name! by Edward Perronet

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let highborn seraphs tune the lyre, and as they tune it, fall
Before His face Who tunes their choir, and crown Him Lord of all.
Before His face Who tunes their choir, and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye morning stars of light, who fixed this floating ball;
Now hail the strength of Israel’s might, and crown Him Lord of all.
Now hail the strength of Israel’s might, and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye martyrs of your God, who from His altar call;
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod, and crown Him Lord of all.
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod, and crown Him Lord of all.

Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race, ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.

Hail Him, ye heirs of David’s line, whom David Lord did call,
The God incarnate, Man divine, and crown Him Lord of all,
The God incarnate, Man divine, and crown Him Lord of all.

Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget the wormwood and the gall,
Go spread your trophies at His feet, and crown Him Lord of all.
Go spread your trophies at His feet, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let every tribe and every tongue before Him prostrate fall
And shout in universal song the crownèd Lord of all.
And shout in universal song the crownèd Lord of all.

[John Rippon add­ed this verse in 1787]

O that, with yonder sacred throng, we at His feet may fall,
Join in the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all,
Join in the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Excerpt from "Our Lord Prays for His Own"

Now, as our Lord Jesus Christ's motive in the sanctification of Himself was in order that believers might be sanctified, His [purpose] must be accomplished and attained; and therefore, as believers in Him, our sin is entirely put away as if it had never existed-- "Removed as far as the east is from the west" from us (Ps 103:12)in every sense of the word from us; for either our sin was laid upon the Lord Jesus Christ, or it was not. Which is true?
Either the Lord Jesus Christ made His soul an offering for our sin, that He might make an end of sin, or He did not. Which is true?
Either the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead--God, in this way, publicly acknowledging that His offering was accepted, that justice was satisfied, the sin atoned for, and blotted out in the precious blood of Christ--or it was not so. Which is true? And if the sin was laid on Jesus, it cannot be laid on the believer, who is identified with Him in God's sight; if justice was satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ, justice will never demand the sacrifice of the sinner; if Jesus was raised from the dead because of our justification, who is to condemn us?

Marcus Rainsford "Our Lord Prays for His Own" Page 340

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another Excerpt from "Our Lord Prays for His Own"

In this excerpt, the author is dealing with the topic of sanctification. Sanctification is God's action of setting us apart as holy and dedicated to his special use.

Rainsford writes:
It follows therefore that, according to the purpose and will of Him with whom we have to do, the "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty," we, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, cannot be more sanctified than we are.
Oh! that we might drink into this great fact. The reason is a very simple one, it is because the ground of our sanctification is not anything that we are, anything we have attained unto, or can possibly attain unto even by faith; the entire ground of our sanctification in the sight of God consists in what the Lord Jesus Christ is, and what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us.
Neither can we be more dearly loved; not even in glory shall we be more dear to our heavenly Father than we are now here below, tempest-tossed as we are, and tried and troubled with "fightings without, and fears within."
Neither can we be more "perfect" or "accepted" even in glory; for it is written, "Ye are complete in him which is the head of all principalities and power."
Neither can we be made more [fit] for glory than His grace has already made us; the moment we came as poor sinners to the Lord Jesus Christ and received Him, He "was made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," in the fullest and in the divinest sense thereof, and in the fullest and divinest measure thereof.

"Our Lord Prays for His Own" by Marcus Rainsford, pp 339-340

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hymn of the Week - Blessed Redeemer

  1. Up Calv’ry’s mountain, one dreadful morn,
    Walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn;
    Facing for sinners death on the cross,
    That He might save them from endless loss.
    • Refrain:
      Blessed Redeemer! Precious Redeemer!
      Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree;
      Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading,
      Blind and unheeding—dying for me!
  2. “Father forgive them!” thus did He pray,
    E’en while His lifeblood flowed fast away;
    Praying for sinners while in such woe—
    No one but Jesus ever loved so.
  3. Oh, how I love Him, Savior and Friend,
    How can my praises ever find end!
    Through years unnumbered on heaven’s shore,
    My tongue shall praise Him forevermore.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why you should be concerned about moralistic therapeutic deism?

What is moralistic therapeutic deism?
Moralistic therapeutic deism is a term coined by Christian Smith in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Smith followed up with another book called Souls in Transition, in which he went back and interviewed the same people during their early twenties. I'll provide some links with more details below, but I would like to take a small amount of your time to summarize what I have learned from what Smith and others discovered.
Moralistic therapeutic deism has become the predominate religion among teens and twenty-somethings. By extension we can presume it is the message they are getting from their parents and churches. Let's take each of the three words separately to get a handle on what this means.
Moralistic--We need to learn to be good, nice and polite and not hurt others.
Therapeutic--God wants us to feel good about ourselves and our circumstances. He wants us happy.
Deism--There is a God out there. He doesn't have much to do with me as long as I'm nice and doing good. He pretty much is not involved in day-to-day events in my life or in the world. I don't bother him and he doesn't bother me.

The point I want to make in this short article is to say that the findings are that this belief system is by far the most predominant in our society. There is very little understanding of the Gospel, sin and salvation. Hopefully this can change if those of us who claim to be Faithful Christian Men teach the truth faithfully to our families and in our churches. We need to talk often with our children to see what message they are picking up from us. We might mean well, but they might be hearing something totally different from what we are trying to say by our words and examples.

Here are some resources for understanding this phenomenon better:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our Lord Sanctified Himself for Us

In John 17 Jesus said that He sanctified Himself for our sakes.
Rainsford in "Our Lord Prays for His Own" puts it this way:
"So here our Lord saith, 'for their sakes,' to supply all their need out of My own fullness, to make My strength perfect in their weakness, to be the fountain-head of their life, to be their light, and their joy, to be 'Made unto them wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption' (1 Cor 1:30)
"To be a wall of fire round about them, so that no evil may befall them,
to be the glory in the midst of them, so that every blessing may be with them,
that they may be kept from falling, and presented faultless before the presence of My glory with exceeding joy,
that they may lack nothing that is good for time or for eternity, the life or in death,
That they may evermore be filled with all the fullness of God, and kept for Me and the Father forever, 'I sanctify Myself.'"
"For their sakes," and for their sins: we read in Galatians 1:4, He "gave himself for our sins," that we might be forgiven' and not only forgiven, but that we might be "justified from all things"; and not only justified, but that we might be adopted, made sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty; and not only adopted but "sanctified"; not only delivered from destruction, but exalted to holiness; not only saved from hell, but brought to heaven; that His glory might not only be "seen on us," but that it might be "revealed in us."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Excerpt from "Our Lord Prays for His Own"

In John 17:19 Jesus prayed, "I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified."

Rainsford goes on to point out that:

In all of God's dealings with His people, God generally begins with the Lord Jesus and do unto Him, and with Him, what in His purpose in grace and love He intends to do with us.

"Thus, God in the first instance unites Christ to Himself, and then in Christ unites Himself to His people."
"Christ is 'the first begotten among many brethren,' and then we are begotten in Him;
Christ is the 'most blessed for evermore,' and we 'blessed in Him with all spiritual blessings.'
First, the Father gave to Christ ' to have life in Himself,' and then He gave us life in Him;
Christ is first filled with 'all the fullness' of God, and then we out 'of his fullness have received, and grace for grace';
Christ was first manifested and declared to be the Son of the Father, then we in Him;
Christ crucified for sin, and we 'crucified with Him';
Christ risen, we 'raised up together with him';
Christ more than conqueror, we 'more than conquerors through him';
Christ set down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, we 'sitting at God's right hand in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus';
the Holy Spirit descending without measure upon Him, so we might, through the anointing of our High Priest, enjoy His power and share His blessing."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Here's What I Think

Would God allow a repentant mass murderer into heaven and send millions of good moral people to hell? This is the kind of question that troubles many people when they consider Christianity. I certainly cannot solve all of the issues related to this in one short post, but let me explain how I understand the Bible and the God it presents to us.
First there is the question as to how we come to a conclusion of what is fair and just and what is not. Is this something that we as human beings come to individually or even collectively, or is it something outside of ourselves? If the question of fairness and justice is something we each come to individually, it is then true that all of us reach the same conclusions on every single issue that confronts us? I don't think so. So is justice a matter of collective agreement? We take a majority vote on whether it is just or fair to treat someone in a certain way? Was slavery right and just because at that time there was a consensus that it was right and good? Should we have left Hitler alone because he and a good number of other Germans thought Jews were inferior and should be exterminated? Are these things a matter of public opinion or do they transcend our human decision making process? I think you know the answer to that question.
If we have to look beyond ourselves to find out what is just and fair, where do we look? Many people, including myself, have concluded that the God presented to us in the Bible is the one who determines how things are and what is just and fair and moral. Obviously not everyone agrees with that, but that is where I'm coming from.
If we accept the Bible as the definitive presentation of the God who is actually out there, we have to accept God as he is presented. If we don't like the God of the Bible, we'll need to look elsewhere. In other words, we can't call ourselves Christians and then at the same time reject the God that the Bible presents. If we do that, we are not truly Christians; we are something else.
Does the Bible teach that if a man like Hitler were to repent at the end of his life and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he would be forgiven and enter heaven? The answer is yes. How is that fair when millions of others who are morally upright may be sent to hell?
I think that the problem is that we don't understand God's assessment of all of us. This may not make more people like the God of the Bible, but the Bible teaches that all of us have sinned and have fallen short of God's standard. (Romans 3:23) It teaches that there is no one who is righteous and no one who truly seeks after the real God. (Romans 3:10-18) It teaches that committing one sin makes us guilty of breaking the whole law and subjects us to God's curse. (Galatians 3:10)
The problem in the scenario that we are discussing is that we are assuming that the great multitude of people are good, upstanding, moral individuals. The Bible does not describe us that way. It's interesting the way people tend to view Jesus. He is painted as a meek and mild person who wouldn't condemn or judge anyone but just be loving and kind. One day some people came to him and told him about some Jewish people who had been murdered by Pilate and had their blood mixed in with the blood of the sacrifices. Jesus' response to this was interesting. He said, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
He then went on to say this, "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 15-1-5)
The whole Bible and Jesus included presents the fact that all of us have committed crimes against the ruler of the universe and that all of us stand as condemned men and women before God. That includes me and it includes you and it included Hitler and it included Mother Teresa.
But, and it's a big "but", the good news is that Jesus, God in human form, came here and lived the perfect life we should have lived, and he died the death and separation from God that sin required. Jesus' claim is that if we would accept the free gift of God's forgiveness and accept Christ's life and death as applicable to us, God will look at Christ's life as being ours and will proclaim us righteous and forgiven. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." (John 14:6) According to the Bible and to Jesus, there are no actual alternative solutions to our dilemma.
The question is not why God would send innocent people to hell. The question is, "Why would God allow anyone at all into heaven?" He does so because he is merciful and gracious.
The God of the Bible is not the wrathful, vindictive, vacillating being that he is sometimes pictured to be. Neither is he the wishy-washy, weak being who overlooks wrongs right and left and lets injustices slide through unnoticed. He hates sin and injustice so much that he came and took the punishment for the world's injustices upon himself so that in love he could justly pardon anyone who humbly comes to him for forgiveness whether it be one of the most "morally upright" people in the world or one of the most despicable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What would you say?

How would you answer this scenario? Hitler repents of his sins and trusts Christ moments before he dies at the end of WWII. According to Christian teaching, God would save him and he would enter heaven a forgiven man. All of the while millions of people whose deaths he caused would be in hell because they had not trusted Christ. An atheist debating a Christian raised this point as the kind of problem many people have with the "Christian" God. How can God be any sort of God we would want to worship if he would send potentially millions of innocent people to hell and allow a brutal mass murderer into heaven?
I'll let you think about how you would respond to that situation and I'll share my thoughts on it tomorrow. The debate where this was raised came from a British website which features a weekly broadcast and podcast in which discussions and debate are featured. The website is http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable The debate was between atheist Paul Baird and Christian Sye Ten Bruggencate. Ten Bruggencate has an interesting website based on presuppositional apologetics called http://www.proofthatgodexists.org
Tomorrow I'll share what I think is the biblical answer in this situation. It might not make atheists any more inclined to believe in the God of the Bible, but I think it will at least help us understand more accurately what the Bible teaches.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Memorization Monday - Expected Fruit - Love

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

K.I.S.S.

K.I.S.S. -- Keep it Simple Stupid

I like it when complicated things are reduced to simple, easy-to-understand concepts. Sometimes the Christian life can seem complicated. But there are three or four passages in the Bible that come to mind that list sort of a summary of what God wants from us.

The first one is Acts 16:31. It tells us what we must do to be saved. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."

Micah 6:8 "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Solomon sums up the conclusion of everything, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

Finally from 1 Thessalonians 4:9 & 11 "Love one another ... and aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.

Simple to understand, isn't it? It's not always that easy to practice, but at least it's understandable. Now let's do it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jesus prayed - For their sake I sanctify myself

Today I'd like to share a little bit from the book "Our Lord Prays for His Own" by Marcus Rainsford. In this section which I am about to quote, the author is discussing Jesus' prayer for His own in John 17. The phrase under consideration is "I sanctify myself." Usually the idea of sanctification is that of "making holy." But Jesus was already holy. What did he mean by this phrase?
Here is what the author writes (I'm modernizing some phrases and picking and choosing from the text on pages 330 and 331):

What does He mean? He was "The Holy One of God...Holiness unto the Lord...the Most Holy"; it is utterly inconceivable that He could become more holy or more sanctified than He was, yet He says, "I sanctify myself."
The meaning here evidently is, I dedicate, I consecrate, I set apart My whole self, --My Person, Godhead and Manhood, Soul and Body. I consecrate all my offices--if I be a Priest, if I be a Prophet, if I be a King-- I set them apart, I wholly dedicate and consecrate all My fullness of grace and glory, all My righteousness, all My interest, My very existence, I sanctify for the purpose and object for which I plead.
I lay down all upon the altar of divine and unchangeable love that I may be all, do all, suffer all, merit all My people need, and, that I may pay all My people owe."
Oh! what did He hold back? Nothing! His was a complete surrender; it was an absolute devoting of Himself, all that He was as Son of God, all that He was as Son of Man, all that He was as Mediator, all His fullness, and all His service, His time, His care, His thought, His very life itself He consecrated and set apart, that He might be the sanctification of His people.
The blood of Christ has a double efficacy: it is the atonement for sin, and it is the sanctification of the sinner on whose heart it is sprinkled. "We are justified by his blood (Romans 5:9) and we are sanctified by the blood (Hebrews 13:12). This one offering of Himself includes sin-offering, burnt-offering, meat-offering, peace-offering, all in one. His blood cleanses "from all sin," both from the guilt of sin, and from the filth of sin, from every kind and degree of sin, and everything contained in sin, its pollution, its demerit, and its consequences; where the blood of the Lamb is applied by faith the Holy Spirit descends and dwells there forever.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Fear of the Lord - Part 3

In this last part of our series on the “fear of God”, I want to look at some of the promises and admonitions that the Bible puts forward related to the “fear of the Lord”. It is interesting to note that God's promise of protection to those that fear him is counter-intuitive. God is the one who hates evil and has set himself against those who do evil and yet his promise is this to those who fear him: “Run to me and be safe.” We fear God and we fear his wrath on sin, and yet if that fear drives us to him, he promises safety and forgiveness. Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.”

Here are some promises and other statements from the Bible related to the fear of God:

Luke 1:50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
Psalm 111:5 He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
Proverbs 10:27 The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.
Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.
Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Proverbs 22:4 The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.
Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
Psalm 34:7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Psalm 25:14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 103:17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
Psalm 34:9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
Psalm 103:11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
Psalm 33:18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
Psalm 130:4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.
Psalm 85:9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Psalm 103:13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
Psalm 145:19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
Psalm 147:11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Acts 10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.



Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Fear of God - Part 2

I'm continuing a discussion that started yesterday concerning what it means to “fear God”. I described it as respect, awe or profound reverence for God. But I explained that that has different meanings depending on what you know or believe about God. If you believe that God is basically nice and is going to stay out of your business and just sort of love you and pour blessings on you, then your respect or reverence for God will mean one thing. But if you really believe that God hates evil and is intent on judging those who persist in evil, then you will look at it differently.

Yesterday I described how the fear of God applies to those who have not trusted him and believed in his promise of forgiveness and salvation. To those in that camp, God's justice has threatened wrath.

But there is another group of people who have admitted their failure to live up to God's standards and have trusted in his promise to save them and grant them forgiveness. Who are these people? Are they like the teacher's pet? Didn't you hate it in school when there were people who seemed to be able to get away with anything because the teacher seemed to like them better? Is God that way? The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons. If that is so, why are some people let off the hook even though everyone obviously falls short of the perfect life that God requires?

Jesus Christ, God's son, a co-equal part of God, became a human being. He lived a perfect life and then even though he lived such a life, he died. Death and separation from God is the penalty for sin. But he had not sinned. The great news of the Christian faith is that God is willing to count Jesus' perfect fulfillment of the law as though it were your perfect obedience. And he is willing to count Jesus' death as the death and separation from God that you owe because of your sinfulness and disobedience. Anyone who believes that and accepts God's offer is forgiven of every sin he has ever done. He is declared righteous once and for all by God and God promises never to bring up the issue of sin in any future judgment. This offer is made freely to anyone who would like to receive it. There is no favoritism with God.

So, for those who have accepted this offer, what does the fear of God mean? First, I think there is fear, awe, reverence for God because of the wrath we know we deserve but have escaped. Psalm 130:4 “But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.” When we see that God's wrath was upon us, but in his mercy he has forgiven us, it produces a certain kind of fear as seen in this verse.

Secondly it produces the kind of fear that induces obedience. It's not a fear of judgment, but a fear and respect for the fact that God hates sin. In so doing, why would I, a person who had been under judgment but is now under forgiveness, why would I want to keep doing those things that the one who rescued me hates? Why would I scoff at the forgiveness he has given and practically spit in his face and dare him to do something to me?

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.

Deuteronomy 8:6 So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.

Finally I think it produces a kind of awe and respect that promotes true worship. God is the one who made me, who gave me breath. He provides the food, water, air, strength and all other things I need on a daily basis. He allows me, a criminal against his reign, to live and have freedom. This kind of being deserves every ounce of my worship and praise and adoration. Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! Revelation 19:5 “And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”

So, what does the “fear of God” mean to you?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Fear of God

What does the phrase, “Fear of God” mean? I'm preparing to teach on that subject in the next couple of weeks, and thought it might be an interesting topic for an article here on the Faithful Men Blog.

The “fear of God” is often described as an awe, respect or profound reverence for God. But how that description is understood depends on what you know about God. People have all kinds of ideas about what God is like, but it's important to know what God is like based on statements in his Word, the Bible.

There are basically two classifications of people: those who have believed on Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sins and have accepted his free gift of eternal life and there are those who have not. The implications of “the fear of God” depends on which of those two groups you are in.

God has a holy and righteous hatred of sin. Sins are those things that we do that don't meet God's standards of behavior and perfection in thought and deed. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is from the lips of the one everyone says is so meek and mild and loving. It is wise to fear someone who has the power to throw us into hell. Why would God do that? Because he hates sin and has determined to judge all of those who sin against his rule.

Read what the Bible says in Hebrews 10:26 – 31:

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Psalm 7:11 tells us “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”

You might be saying, “I thought God was a God of love.” He is, but he is angry with those who have not admitted their failure to meet God's standards and that they are in the need of God's grace. He would not be a just king and judge if he just let everyone do what they wanted without any punishment and justice.

So what does “fearing God” mean. To those who are outside of God's grace, it should mean a fear and dread that God means what he says. He will by no means clear the guilty (Numbers 14:18) and he will in fact cast the wicked into hell and all the nations that forget God (Psalms 9:17). I say “should mean” because most people don't seem the least bit concerned about any of this. Maybe it's because they don't believe this is true? Personally, I don't think it's a gamble worth risking.

Next time we'll look at what it means to fear God for those who have accepted God's offer of forgiveness. Do they still need to fear God?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Month Verse - Part 3

Continuing our thoughts on 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12.

In the second verse of this prayer, Paul lets us know the reason and purpose for praying like this. It is that the name of the Lord Jesus would be glorified in them and they in him, according to God's grace.

Now that's an amazing statement. The first part of it we might expect. It is our purpose as Christians to live life in such a way that the name of the Lord Jesus would be made to look great. That God would be honored and esteemed among those who know us because of our desire for goodness and our works of faith.

But the second part seems amazing to me. Not only is he praying that God would be glorified in his people, but that they would be glorified in them. Really? There is a sense in which being a Christian and living life for the glory of God also demonstrates what it is to be truly human. To be and act in a way that is consistent with the way God originally designed for us. And in so doing there is a sense in which we are glorified by being a part of this whole plan that God is working on. It's not a proud and self-centered glory, it is a glory that centers in all that God can do in a man when he is at work in him.

All of this is related to the grace of God at work. Grace is God's blessing and favor given to those who don't deserve it. So as God pours out this blessing in our lives, they demonstrate more and more the character of God and the character of mankind acting and responding the way God originally intended for human beings to act.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Month Verse - Part 2

I'm continuing to share some thoughts on 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12 which is our focus verse for this month.

Part of Paul's prayer for these people is that God would fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power. A person who has truly been redeemed and saved by God has a new nature that consists of new desires and motivations. Such people have the desire to do good and to accomplish good. They may not perfect at it, but they certainly have that desire. What Paul is praying for here is that God would honor that desire and fulfill every (notice the word every) desire for goodness that they might have.

He also included a prayer for the fulfillment of every work of faith in the person's life so that there would be power in those works of faith.

Now I'm thinking to myself how my prayers for people compare to this one. I am usually focused on a lot more physical and immediate needs, not so much the spiritual issues that God is really more concerned about. How about your prayers? Do we need to make some adjustments?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

New Month Verse

I've taken it kind of easy over the last couple of months with respect to writing and sharing my thoughts here on the Faithful Men Blog. I'm trying to get back into gear on this because it helps me focus and hopefully gives food for thought for the many men who are trying to live a faithful life before God.

Let me just share a couple of meditation thoughts related to these verses (2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2) which are really the content of a prayer. The Apostle Paul is sharing his concern for these people by letting them know the content of his prayers for them. I noticed first the word 'always'. This gives us an indication of how faithful Paul was in his prayers for these people. How honestly could we use the word 'always' in our description of our praying?

Next I see him asking that God would count them worthy of his calling in their lives. There is too much here to cover in a short article, but it makes me wonder how God could count them worthy. These were plain ordinary people. And yet God has called them into his family and service and in that awesome position, how could they be counted worthy of that honor? The answer here is just like it is in all aspects of the Christian life. God is able to declare us worthy even when we aren't because of the worthiness of Christ who came and lived the lives we should have lived and died to forgive us of our failures. All of that is counted as ours if we trust Christ personally.

Perhaps I'll have the opportunity to share some more thoughts on this passage tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How Much More Valuable is a Man than a Sheep?

This is a question Jesus asked after a confrontation with the religious leaders of his day. It seems he had entered the synagogue and there came into contact with a man having a withered hand. The Bible says that as Jesus came into contact with this man, the Pharisees were watching carefully to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath day. As he asked the man to step forward, he asked the crowd whether it was lawful to do good or evil, or to save a life or to kill on the Sabbath.

According to Mark 3:4,5 "They kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.'"

I'm interested in two descriptions of Jesus' reaction. First of all he looked at them with anger. He was God, come to dwell among us, and found that those who supposedly represented him in the religious world could not see the benefit of healing someone who was suffering no matter what day of the week it was. He had a righteous anger about that. We too should be angry when justice is not served and compassion is not demonstrated among us.

Secondly he was grieved. The word grieved means he felt sorry and deeply distressed over the lack of compassion he observed. These people were more interested in their positions and the precision of their legal interpretations than in the needs of this one particular man.

In Matthew's version of the incident, he says, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?" In other words they would have "violated" their sabbath rules to rescue a sheep in order, I think, not to suffer the personal loss of the sheep. At this point Jesus asks the question, "How much more valuable is a man than a sheep?"

Think about this question not only with reference to yourself, but to your fellow human beings. Elsewhere in the gospels (Matthew 6) Jesus says we (all of us) are more valuable than a sparrow and yet God watches over and takes care of the sparrow. Will he not watch over and take care of us? And shouldn't we have similar concern for those in need around us who also have been created in the image of God?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Memorization Monday - Expected Fruit: Love

1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. (ESV)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

True? False? or Who Cares? - Part 4

In the last article in this series we looked at the concept of “presuppositions”. Presuppositions are ideas we believe or accept without proof. Everyone has them. Even in mathematics we have things called postulates which are statements that are accepted as true without proof. I remember a math class I had once where we assumed that the number 1 existed. We also assumed that the next number in a counting series could be found by adding the number 1 to the previous number. Every other “truth” that we used in the course had to be proved from these two postulates or assumptions or presuppositions.

So what does this have to do with our discussion of truth and how we know it? Let’s take the Creation vs Evolution debate for example. I worked in the public schools for 42 years and have seen the nuances that this debate has taken. When everything is sorted out through the legal system it usually comes down to this: Creation is a religious, faith-based idea and therefore has no place within the science curriculum. Evolution however is a scientific truth and therefore can and should be taught within the science curriculum.

I realize that I am probably not going to change many minds in this short article, but this is how I see it in light of our discussion about truth and how we know it. Scientific knowledge and truth comes from proposing an hypothesis and then designing a controlled experiment to test that hypothesis to see if it is true. In the case of the origin of life, it seems obvious to me that there can be no experiment designed that will duplicate the conditions, time span and forces needed to create and evolve life by random processes. Every attempt so far has involved a high level of human thinking and planning involved to set up conditions favorable for the creation of life. The true condition of randomness and chance events were not duplicated. Even so, life has not been created by those experiments.

On the creation side, there is no one alive today who saw God create anything. All we have is ancient documents within various religious traditions describing how God did it.

My point is that those who claim evolution is true are actually proposing something just as faith-based as a creationist is.

But the evolutionist says, “No, that’s not true. You creationists are bringing God into the mix. We are providing a natural and scientific explanation of how life began and evolved.”

The problem here is with the assumptions or presuppositions that underlie what we believe. In order to fit the definition of science, God must be left out of the equation. That is an assumption. All of the study and investigation that takes place looks for explanations that leave God out. It is assumed that God either does not exist or does not play any role in any way in the natural world. But suppose God actually exists. If God actually exists, isn’t it madness to try to get at the explanation for why things are the way they are without including him in the mix?

“But”, they say, “we don’t know if God exists or not and therefore we choose to leave him out of our assumptions regarding science and simply look for the natural causes of things.”

OK. That’s fine. But don’t call your explanation of origins totally scientific because you are basing your “science” on the belief that certain things are true. There are a set of beliefs or assumptions upon which the entire system is built. That makes it a faith based philosophy.

A scientist who includes the belief in a god or supreme being in his foundational assumptions will also build a faith-based science. But he, when he looks at the order and apparent “design” in the universe will come to the conclusion that there is a designer behind it.

It’s interesting that in normal life we do this all the time. If you’re walking through the woods and you come upon a group of similar sized stones lying in the dirt forming the shape of a circle, you assume someone of intelligence placed them that way. You don’t assume that they just fell there randomly. And yet when some scientists look at the brain or the eye, they don’t see a designer at all but millions of years of random circumstances producing it. So we attribute a simple circle of stones to an intelligent designer, i.e. a human being, behind it, but something as complex as an eye evolved with no intelligent activity involved in it at all.

When trying to determine the truth, everyone begins their investigative reasoning with presuppositions or assumptions. Mathematicians do it and scientists do it. We all do it. We need to be careful that first of all we recognize that we are doing it. When you make statements of truth or believe what someone else says is true, look for the presuppositions that underlie those statements. Second, make sure that when you are discussing what you believe to be the truth, acknowledge your presuppositions. Don’t hide them. Finally make sure your presuppositions are logical and consistent. Only in so doing will you be able to get at the truth whether it is in the field of science, politics or religion.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

True? False? or Who Cares? - Part 3

In the first article in this series we talked about the fact that in normal daily life we come at truth in very informal ways and yet in ways that work at the practical level. When we build our homes, we conform them to certain truths about how the construction needs to take place so they are safe and function well. We learn these truths by applying what we receive on good authority. This approach seems to be thrown out the window when it comes to discerning, believing and proclaiming religious truth.

In the second article we expanded more on the methods we use to discern what truth is. Here again we discussed the fact that most of us haven’t come in contact with the truth first hand in most areas of knowledge. In other words we weren’t there when historical events took place and we aren’t privy to the information that forms the basis for political decisions. Most of us are not involved in the working out of mathematical equations or scientific principles. We learn these things and base our decisions on them based on good authority. But it’s interesting to recognize that different people accept different authorities. Why is this so? Why, when the President, any President, announces a decision, do some people assume it is a wise and truthful decision whereas others claim the decision is faulty and dishonest? Why do we gravitate to one news source over another or one religious leader over another? Most of these propensities to lean in one direction or another are not driven by facts that we know first hand.

There are usually unproved and sometimes improvable assumptions called presuppositions that move us in one direction or another when in the search for truth. The point I would like us to think very seriously about is that there is no guarantee that these presuppositions are directing us toward the truth. Our feelings tell us our sources are true and we believe they are, but there is no guarantee. I may listen to a particular news source because I feel that it is a truthful source of information. But what makes me think that? And just because I think that, does that make it true? I watch with fascination as CNN fans put down Fox News for presenting a slanted view of the facts. At the same time I hear Fox News followers cut down CNN for painting a false picture of causes and events. Since CNN and Fox present rather different perspectives on events, they can’t both be giving the true picture. One or the other or both are presenting shaded views of the truth. Our presuppositions drive us to listen to and believe one over the other.

The same thing occurs in religious discussion. Some people do not believe that the Bible can be historically accurate and truthful in the narratives about Jesus Christ because it describes events which people have never seen with their own eyes. These miracles are described as though they are facts, but some people dismiss them out of hand because of the presupposition that such things cannot and therefore did not take place. Think of the implications if the resurrection of Jesus actually did take place. In other words if we take it out of the realm of a religious teaching and put it into the same realm as the assassination of Julius Caesar or any other historical event, what would that mean? Think about it. If this man really died, his heart stopped beating and his brain stopped functioning, someone put him into a cold cave and then three days later he was alive again, wouldn’t such an event warrant a place in the history books? But somehow it has been relegated to a religious teaching and the thought of it actually having happened has pretty much disappeared. Has this happened because the history of it has been shown to be faulty or because of presuppositions coming into play?

Our presuppositions tend to move us toward some information sources and away from others. We believe some people who purport to be authorities and we reject others. In most cases we haven’t and usually can’t do the research required to independently verify these authorities. This situation shouldn’t drive us to the conclusion that the truth doesn’t exist or that it can’t be known. We don’t do that in normal daily life and we shouldn’t do it in philosophical, political or religious areas of life. However, we do need to recognize that our presuppositions may not be pointing us to the truth. If we really want to know what the truth is, we need to sometimes work against our natural presuppositions and give other sources a fair and reasoned hearing because it may be that the truth lies in that direction.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Memorization Monday - Expected Fruit: Love

John 13:34, 35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Hymn of the Week -- Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition, all I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition! God and Heaven are still mine own.

Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like them, untrue.
And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me, show Thy face and all is bright.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, scorn and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure; with Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee, “Abba, Father”; I have set my heart on Thee:
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather, all must work for good to me.

This week for the hymn of the week, I go to an old poem by Henry F. Lyte in 1824

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

Man may trouble and distress me, ’twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me; heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Take, my soul, thy full salvation; rise o’er sin, and fear, and care;
Joy to find in every station something still to do or bear:
Think what Spirit dwells within thee; what a Father’s smile is thine;
What a Savior died to win thee, child of heaven, shouldst thou repine?

Haste then on from grace to glory, armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

True? False? or Who Cares? - Part 2

How do we know what is true and what is false in everyday life? Isn’t it true that most of us don’t know things from first hand experience but rather we learn them through other people who tell us or teach us about truth? For example, where was Abraham Lincoln when he was shot? Or was he shot? Maybe he died of a heart attack. How do we know these things? We don’t know by having seen it with our own eyes. We don’t even know because we personally did hours upon hours of research to find out. Most of us know because someone, probably a teacher in school, and the textbooks we used told us what happened to Abraham Lincoln.

Most of us who use math at the every-day level don’t know the truths underlying the math, although we probably could. For example most people don’t know from personal investigation how fractions and common denominators work. But if we use them at all, we were taught how to work with fractions and we know that the methods work and that is good enough for us. But my point is that we didn’t learn it from personal investigation and discovery. We believe the principles because people we trusted and who we assumed were authorities taught us, and what they taught us works.

What is interesting to me is how and why we choose the people we decide to believe. In elementary school and probably through most of high school we believed what we were told by our parents and teachers. But as we grew older we began to distinguish one opinion from another and we began to argue and debate whether what we were being told was true or not. What is interesting to me is how we decide who to believe when we receive conflicting messages. Politics is a good case in point. Someone on TV says that the reason we are in the economic mess we are in is because we are spending billions on unnecessary wars. There are really two messages there: 1) the economic mess is caused by the wars and 2) the wars were unnecessary. The purpose of this article is not to delve into the politics, but to observe that people on each side of the argument will rant for hours on their point of view. How do they know the economic problems are caused by the war expenditures? How do the people on the other side know that it was not the wars that caused the economic problems? Have any of these people looked at the numbers, compared the graphs and analyzed all of the factors? No! We mostly listen to what people tell us. For some reason each one of us has a propensity to believe one explanation of events rather than another. In this particular example, some believe war caused the mess and some do not. These beliefs are based on who we have decided to listen to and who we believe.

Shouldn’t we be interested in truth? What is the truth? In many cases we could know if we took the time to do the research. Take historical events for example. I brought up Abraham Lincoln a moment ago. How does one know he was assassinated? I’m not a philosopher nor a historian so this is not a rigorous academic treatise, but it seems to me that to verify historic events which no one living now witnessed, we need to go back to original documents, news reports, photographs, etc. and put together the best scenario we can as to what actually happened. This takes a lot of time – more time than we have if we are trying to determine the truth about everything we hear. So we decide who we will believe and base our opinions on what they say.

These methods of determining truth pretty much work for day to day living. But the possibility exists that we have chosen to believe things which are not true simply because of who we listen to. We need to be open to the possibility that what we believe might be false. We need to be ready to discuss our ideas and to probe other people’s ideas and to give and receive facts and arguments in order to get at the truth. The problem is that today several things stand in the way of discussions of this sort. We’ll discuss these in more detail later, but basically discussions of truth end because 1) People don’t really care what the truth is – it doesn’t matter; 2) Truth is felt at the emotional level and so if it feels correct, it must be true no matter what the facts say; 3) Truth can’t be known so why bother talking about it; and 4) Truth doesn’t exist.

In future articles I want us to think about how we as Christians get at the truth of Christianity and why we believe it is true. I want us to think about the implications of saying that it is true. I also want us to see how the four hindrances to seeking truth even impact our understanding of the Bible and the differences of opinion among us.