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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Learning to be Content

Learning to be content by Martyn Lloyd-Jones*

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

"Paul had come to learn this great truth by working out a great argument. Let me give you some of the steps of the argument which you can work out for yourself. I think that the apostle's logic was something like this. He said to himself:

1. Conditions are always changing, therefore I must obviously not be dependent upon conditions.

2. What matters supremely and vitally is my soul and my relationship to God--that is the first thing.

3. God is concerned about me as my Father, and nothing happens to me apart from God. Even the very hairs of my head are all numbered. I must never forget that.

4. God's will and God's ways are a great mystery, but I know that whatever He wills or permits is of necessity for my good.

5. Every situation in life is the unfolding of some manifestation of God's love and goodness. Therefore my business is to look for this peculiar manifestation of God's goodness and kindness and to be prepared for surprises and blessings because 'His ways are not my ways, neither His thoughts my thoughts'. What, for example, is the great lesson that Paul learned in the matter of the thorn in the flesh? It is that: 'When I am weak then am I strong'. Paul was taught through physical weakness this manifestation of God's grace.

6. I must regard circumstances and conditions, not in and of themselves therefore, but as a part of God's dealings with me in the work of perfecting my soul and bringing me to final perfection.

7. Whatever my conditions may be at this present moment, they are only temporary, they are only passing, and they can never rob me of the joy and the glory that ultimateloy await me with Christ.

*From the chapter, "Learning to be Content" from the book Spiritual Depression - Its Causes and Cure by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Monday, April 25, 2011

Memorization Monday - Resources - Grace

2 Corinthians 12:9
And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hymn of the Week -- Low in the Grave He Lay

  1. Low in the grave He lay,
    Jesus my Savior,
    Waiting the coming day,
    Jesus my Lord!
    • Refrain:
      Up from the grave He arose,
      With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
      He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
      And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
      He arose! He arose!
      Hallelujah! Christ arose!
  2. Vainly they watch His bed,
    Jesus my Savior;
    Vainly they seal the dead,
    Jesus my Lord!
  3. Death cannot keep its Prey,
    Jesus my Savior;
    He tore the bars away,
    Jesus my Lord!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

True? or False? or Who Cares?

I saw a bumper sticker last week that said, “The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.” Is this true? How could we know? Does someone really believe this? It is certainly a profession of some sort. I wonder if the people who own the car are committed to this statement in their everyday life.

Every day of our lives we make statements about things we believe are true. In some cases it doesn’t matter if there is truth behind our beliefs or not. In other situations it’s crucial to know the truth that underlies our beliefs. If I’m going to have brain surgery to remove a tumor, my life depends on whether those who are going to operate know that there is a tumor there and know how to get to it and remove it safely. I certainly don’t want them to operate on me if they just profess that they know how to do it without actually knowing how. Similarly if someone is going to rewire my home, I want them to know how electricity works and the facts that govern the proper wiring of a home.

In virtually every area of normal life we know that there are some truths which can be known and taught. Then when these truths are believed and acted upon, workers and organizations can be committed to the policies and procedures that are based on this knowledge and they can then profess that they can accomplish certain things.

Everything seems to change when it comes to religion and religious profession.

I recently listened to an interview of Dallas Willard by Ken Meyers.* Dr. Willard is a professor of philosophy at University of Southern California. In the interview, Dr. Willard compared “profession”, “commitment”, “faith”, and “knowledge”. What interested me is that he spoke of religion often emphasizing profession and commitment without the foundation of faith based on knowledge. This might all seem too philosophical but I think there are some important things for us non-philosophers to think about here. As I have already indicated, for most normal every day situations there are truths that can be known and then believed and acted upon.

In our day truth and knowing are under attack. For some, the whole concept that there is a religious truth is absurd. For others, the problem is more the question of how one can know what is true. For these people, it’s not the existence of truth that is the problem, but that it seems impossible to them that we can know what the truth is. Both of these situations generate a level of skepticism that makes it almost impossible to have a normal conversation about religion and religious truth.

As a Christian, I was intrigued by Dr. Willard’s idea that often within Christianity we have begun to focus on profession or commitment without these being based on knowledge of the truth. In earlier times, churches grounded their members in what was at least purported to be the truth. They taught these truths to their constituents so that they had a knowledge of them and then could believe them, develop commitments to them and finally profess them.

These days, in many religious congregations, the idea that there is truth that can be known and believed has almost disappeared. When we simply have as our goal commitment and profession without the foundation of knowledge of truth, those commitments and professions will not last long. In addition, without the belief that there is such a thing as truth or that truth can be known, it’s impossible to subject one’s own belief or the beliefs of others to any sort of scrutiny or discussion. Personal growth and communication with others is stifled. As a result, the idea of sharing the gospel with others in order to bring them to faith in Christ becomes more and more seems more and more antiquated because we’re trying to say we believe in something that is true. Many people don’t have any idea what that means.

Let’s go back to the narrative I presented at the beginning. Is it true that “the earth does not belong to us but rather we belong to the earth?” I might propose a bumper sticker that says, “The earth is the Lord’s.” Is one bumper sticker true and the other one false or are they both false? Maybe they are both true. Could they be? Does it matter? Maybe they’re just words. If there is no truth or truth cannot be discovered then we can say whatever we want and all statements are equally valid … or invalid.

However, if truth exists and it can be known, then what we say does matter. We can have discussions or even arguments about what is true and what is false. We can make decisions as to what beliefs to abandon and what beliefs to adopt based on their truth or falsity. When leaders try to lead us in a given direction, we have the foundation we need to discern truth from error.

We are going to discuss this further in upcoming posts, but let me encourage you to apply the same principles in religious discussion as you do in the rest of life. There is truth. You may not know it all but it’s there. Some religious statements are true. Some are false. You need to find out which are which because your future well-being depends on knowing the truth. When you know the truth, then you can believe it, commit yourself to it and profess it. But don't try professing things you don't know are true.

* The interview was part of Volume 100 of an audio journal series published by Mars Hill Audio. (

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lloyd-Jones on Vain Regrets

Have you as a Christian wished you had done more with your life? Does it sometimes discourage you to think of the time you have wasted? Do you even get depressed at times wishing you had been more faithful to God? I’ve recently been reading a book by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones called Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Cure. In Chapter 6 entitled “Vain Regrets” Lloyd-Jones deals with this rather common problem.

His first point is based on common sense. He points out that Christians have more than common sense to deal with life issues, but they still should have common sense. He says, “The past cannot be recalled and you can do nothing about it. You can sit down and be miserable and you can go round and round in circles of regret for the rest of your life, but it will make no difference to what you have done.” “We must never for a second worry about anything that cannot be affected or changed by us. It is a waste of energy. If you can do nothing about a situation stop thinking about it; never again look back at it, never think of it.” He goes on to remind us that spending time dwelling on the past uses up precious time in the present which we might later also regret. It’s a never ending cycle unless we stop doing it.

Obviously, besides common sense, we have Scripture to guide us. Lloyd-Jones points us to the Apostle Paul who said, “Last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the Apostles, that I am not fit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God” 1 Corinthians 15:8-10 It is possible that Paul thought back with regret for not having been in the faith sooner and for having persecuted the Christians. Besides that, he was the last of anyone to have seen Jesus Christ.

Lloyd-Jones writes, “He did not spend the rest of his life sitting in a corner and saying, ‘I am the last to come in. Why did I do that? How could I have rejected Him?’ What struck him was the amazing grace that brought him in at all. And so he entered into the new life with tremendous zeal, and though ‘last of all’ yet, in a sense, he became the first.”

“ ‘I am what I am’ whatever the past may have been. It is what I am that matters. What am I? I am forgiven, I am reconciled to God by the Blood of His Son upon the Cross. I am a child of God, I am adopted into God’s family, and I am an heir with Christ.”

Then Lloyd-Jones takes us to Matthew 20 and the parable of the vineyard workers. In that parable, those who worked only the last hour of the day got the same pay as those who had worked from the morning. “Those men were the last to enter the vineyard, it was the eleventh hour, but they were in. That was thing that counted. They had been taken hold of, they had been employed, they had been brought in. It is the being in that matters, not when you come in, or how you come in.”

In a later portion of the chapter he writes, “Go back again to the parable. He does not count service as other people do. He is interested in the heart. We are interested in time, we all clock in and count the time we have spent, the work we have done. Like the first men in the parable we claim to have done all, and boast of the time we have spent in the work. And if we are not among those who went in at the beginning we are concerned because we have not done this and that, and because we have missed all this time. Our Lord is not interested in our work in this way. It is the widow’s mite He is interested in. It is not the amount of money, it is the woman’s heart. And it is the same in that parable in the twentieth of Matthew. For the same reason He gave the people who had been in the vineyard for only one hour the same as He gave to those who had been in all day.”

Often when we focus on our discouragement for not having accomplished this or that, we are actually preoccupied with our self and what we have missed or what we could have contributed to the cause. “What are they doing? They are still judging themselves instead of leaving judgment to God. They lash themselves and scarify themselves metaphorically because they were so late and so long, and they go on condemning themselves. They appear to be very humble and full of contrition, but it is a mock modesty, it is a self-concern. Listen to Paul saying the self-same thing in the fourth chapter of first Corinthians. ‘Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or of man’s judgment; yea (and this is one of the greatest things Paul ever said), yea, I judge not mine own self; for I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified; but He that judgeth me is the Lord’. As Christians we must leave our judgment to Him. He is the Judge and you have no right to waste His time or your own time and energy in condemning yourself. Forget yourself, leave the judgment to Him; get on with the work.”

I hope that this short summary of chapter 6 of Lloyd-Jones’ book Spiritual Depression has been helpful. It has to me. This is a good book to own to strengthen your own Christian life and to help you be of help to others who may be discouraged in life.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Memorization Monday - Resources - Grace

2 Corinthians 9:8

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hymn of the Week -- Rejoice the Lord is King

Rejoice, the Lord is King! by Charles Wesley

Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore;
Mortals give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns, the God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains He took His seat above;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o'er earth and heaven,
The keys of death and hell are to our Jesus given;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He sits at God's right hand till all His foes submit,
And bow to His command, and fall beneath His feet:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope! Jesus the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up to their eternal home.
We soon shall hear th'archangel's voice;
The trump of God shall sound, rejoice!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Memorization Monday - Resources - Grace

1 Corinthians 1:4-5 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge.

....from Navigators Topical Memory Plan

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hymn of the Week - Complete in Thee

  • Complete in Thee by Aaron Robarts

  • Complete in Thee! no work of mine
    May take, dear Lord, the place of Thine;
    Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
    And I am now complete in Thee.
    • Yea, justified! O blessed thought!
      And sanctified! Salvation wrought!
      Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
      And glorified, I too, shall be!
  • Complete in Thee—no more shall sin,
    Thy grace hath conquered, reign within;
    Thy voice shall bid the tempter flee,
    And I shall stand complete in Thee.
  • Complete in Thee—each want supplied,
    And no good thing to me denied;
    Since Thou my portion, Lord, wilt be,
    I ask no more, complete in Thee.
  • Dear Savior! when before Thy bar
    All tribes and tongues assembled are,
    Among Thy chosen will I be,
    At Thy right hand—complete in Thee.

  • Source:

    Tuesday, April 05, 2011

    What is Faith?

    Our adult Sunday School class last Sunday was studying the topic of “Faith” from Hebrews 11. What is faith? Many times we hear someone on television after some crisis speaking about the fact that their faith helped them through the situation. But often we don’t hear about who or what the faith was in. Doesn’t faith require some object? Isn’t faith in God or what God says different from faith in faith?

    According to Hebrews 11:6, without faith it is impossible to please God. Why? Because it’s necessary to believe that God exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. There is an object to faith, namely God and his word.

    So how does the Bible define faith? In Hebrews 11:1 we learn that faith is the assurance or confidence of things hoped for and the proof or conviction of things not seen. Notice the focus on “not seen”. As Romans 8:24 says, “hope that is seen is not hope.” Similarly faith isn’t faith if the object or fulfillment of the promise is seen.

    It’s interesting to note the continuing nature of “not seeing.” Verse 13 (and also verse 39) tell us that the individuals who are being highlighted in this passage died in faith, “not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar.” In other words faith accomplishes many things, but does not necessarily bring the fulfillment of the promise the faith was based on.

    What it does bring however is what is mentioned in verse 2. Those who lived and died in faith received a good testimony. That means they received the commendation for their faithful lives. We can see this in 4 for example where Abel is praised for his faith through which he “was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.” In the next verse Enoch was commended as having pleased God

    Would you like to be commended by God for your faith? In order to please God in this way you must be a person who believes God and believes he rewards those who diligently seek him. A person of faith is a person who knows and believes the promises of God and lives accordingly even when he can’t see the reality of it all with his eyes. This is what the people listed in Hebrews 11 had accomplished and their testimony should encourage us to follow their example.

    Monday, April 04, 2011

    Memorization Monday - Resources - God's Presence

    John 16:13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

    Sunday, April 03, 2011

    Hymn of the Week -- Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder

    Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder by John Newton

    (Jars of Clay has a new more modern setting for this hymn that is very good.)

    1. Let us love and sing and wonder
    Let us praise the Savior’s name
    He has hushed the law’s loud thunder
    He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame
    He has washed us with His blood
    He has washed us with His blood
    He has washed us with His blood
    He has brought us nigh to God

    2. Let us love the Lord Who bought us
    Pitied us when enemies
    Called us by His grace and taught us
    Gave us ears and gave us eyes
    He has washed us with His blood
    He has washed us with His blood
    He has washed us with His blood
    He presents our souls to God

    3. Let us sing though fierce temptation
    Threatens hard to bear us down
    For the Lord, our strong salvation,
    Holds in view the conqu’ror’s crown
    He, Who washed us with His blood,
    He, Who washed us with His blood,
    He, Who washed us with His blood,
    Soon will bring us home to God

    4. Let us wonder grace and justice
    Join and point to mercy’s store
    When through grace in Christ our trust is
    Justice smiles and asks no more
    He Who washed us with His blood
    He Who washed us with His blood
    He Who washed us with His blood
    Has secured our way to God

    5. Let us praise and join the chorus
    Of the saints enthroned on high
    Here they trusted Him before us
    Now their praises fill the sky
    Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
    Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
    Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
    Thou art worthy Lamb of God

    Saturday, April 02, 2011

    The Joy of Christ

    In John 17, Jesus prayed, "that my joy might be fulfilled in themselves." Marcus Rainsford in his book, "Our Lord Prays for His Own", discusses this phrase:

    "My joy" as being His own joy. When He speaks of the peace He bestows upon His people, it is "my peace I give unto you"; when He speaks of the rest into which He introduces them, it is "my rest"; when He speaks of the strength He imparts to them, it is "my strength"; when He speaks of the life He bestows upon them, it is His own, "I am...the Life"; when He speaks of the way opened out for them, "I am the way"; when He speaks of the fullness He supplies to them, it is "His fullness'; and of the grace which supplies it, it is "my grace." So here when He speaks of the joy He would have His people possessed of, it is "my joy." What was His joy? God Himself was His joy. If David could say in Psalm 43, "I will God, my exceeding joy," how much more the Lord Jesus Christ! His God was His joy; God, as His own God, was His joy. He only knew Him fully that He might rejoice in Him. The only begotten Son, which was in the bosom of the Father, alone knew the Father, so as fully to apprehend how much ground of joy was in Him.

    The doing of that Father's will was His joy; the fulfilling of all that Father's pleasure for the salvation of His people was His joy; the being in Himself all in all -- the Mediator between God and man--was his joy. The fullness and freeness of His salvation--the fact that all power in heaven and earth was committed to him for men was His joy! the constancy and complacency of His Father's love to Him, and to His people, which He knew so well and so deeply was His joy; the gift of His people to Him was His joy; their union to Himself for their full enjoyment of grace here, and their full possession of glory hereafter was His joy; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have "My joy fulfilled in themselves."

    Excerpt from "Our Lord Prays for His Own" by Marcus Rainsford. Moody Press, Chicago, 1950, pp 242-243