Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hymn of the Week - Hark the Herald Angels Sing

1. Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King, 
 peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
 God and sinners reconciled!" 
 Joyful, all ye nations rise, 
 join the triumph of the skies; 
 with th' angelic host proclaim, 
 "Christ is born in Bethlehem!" 
 Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King!" 

2. Christ, by highest heaven adored; 
 Christ, the everlasting Lord; 
 late in time behold him come, 
 offspring of a virgin's womb. 
 Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; 
 hail th' incarnate Deity, 
 pleased with us in flesh to dwell, 
 Jesus, our Emmanuel. 
 Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King!" 

3. Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! 
 Hail the Sun of Righteousness! 
 Light and life to all he brings, 
 risen with healing in his wings. 
 Mild he lays his glory by, 
 born that we no more may die, 
 born to raise us from the earth, 
 born to give us second birth. 
 Hark! the herald angels sing, 
 "Glory to the new born King!" 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Memorization Monday - 1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

These verses come from the Fighter Verses website:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Summary of God's Curse or Blessing

To help you pull this together in your own mind, I'm including a list of truths that we have discovered in this study.

In the Old Testament, God gave statements of blessing and cursing. Those who keep all of the law are blessed. Those who fail in any of it are cursed.

There are two ways of living – under the law or by faith.

Those who are under the law are under that curse that God gave.

Abraham believed God and God blessed him and his seed.

The law that came later could not annul that promised blessing otherwise God is guilty of breaking his contract.

If we too believe God and accept His word of salvation through Christ, we are Abraham’s seed according to the promise and therefore recipients of the blessing that cannot be revoked.

Christ lived a perfect life and yet died on the cross and therefore was cursed because anyone hung on a tree is cursed. He bore the curse that was due to us.

The law cannot bring reform to our lives because with it comes the curse. It also stimulates sin and gives sin its power.

The law was in charge before the time of Christ, but now we are in an adult age when those who are Christ’s are adopted as adult sons into his family and are no longer under the guardianship of the law to keep us in line as though we were children.

God begs us not to look to the law as the answer to our sinful and fleshly ways. He reminds us that we, just like Isaac are children of promise and should live our lives in that light.

Friday, December 12, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing? - Part 9

In Galatians 4:21 Paul asks us to look at the picture provided by Abraham’s two sons. If you know your Bible you will recognize these references as to Ishmael and Isaac. One was of the freewoman (Isaac) and one was of the bondwoman (Ishmael). The one born to the bond woman was of the flesh. He came into existence because of the Abraham's scheming, not according to the working of God. Isaac, the child of the free woman, was a child of promise. He came into existence because of the promise of a miracle, which promise Abraham believed.
   Romans 4:19-22 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 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. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

 These are symbolic of two covenants (Galatians 4:24) – one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage and the other corresponds to Jerusalem. Sinai of course was the place where the law was given.
Paul concludes by saying this in verse 28, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise…. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
This is the warning and admonition with which we conclude this study. The seed of bondwoman, representing life under the law, and the seed of the free woman, representing the life of faith based on the indwelling Holy Spirit according to the promise of God, are mutually exclusive. The warning is not to be entangled again in the bondage that comes from trying to perform in order to reach an acceptable standard with God. So we are to live by faith, trusting God's promises and living accordingly. We are to accept the forgiveness freely given by God and not beat ourselves up for our lack of perfection. God is working on us and molding us more and more into the likeness of his Son. That's his promise. We need to accept that and trust him with the outcome.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing - Part 8

So the bottom line for the person who is in Christ is that the days of the guardianship of the law are over. It did it's job in the first part of human history but now in Christ it's responsibility has been completed.
Please don’t interpret any of this to say that we are free to live in any way we like. I’m talking about the role of the law and its place in our lives. The reason this is important is that many Christians put themselves under the law in order to try to please God in the sense of making Him happy with their level of obedience. What they don't realize is that perfection is the standard and we fall way short. Even though you may not lie, steal or cheat, do you really want God to condition his favor toward you based on whether you loved him with the entirety of your mind, heart, soul and strength over the last 24 hours? You didn't fall at all short of that standard?  Even though you didn't rob a bank, you perfectly loved your neighbor as yourself and didn't look with covetousness or envy at anything at all that another person has or does? You don't really want to be evaluated by the law, do you?
 Another motivation sometimes is to try to use the law to get our lives in order. If we struggle with certain temptations, we tend to go back under the law to solve that problem. The trouble is that the law brings a curse as we have seen. In fact in Romans 7:8 we learn that sin takes the opportunity in the law to produce all sorts of evil desire. Second Corinthians 15:56 tells us that the strength of sin is the law. Sin gains power when the law is in force. Life requires self-discipline, but putting oneself under the law doesn’t work and in fact God pleads with us not to do that.
 Returning now to Galatians 4:7 we find that if we are a son then we are an heir of God. Think about what that means! We are adult sons, not children. We are heirs of God with all the rights and privileges of being an adult son. Paul tells us in Romans 8:17, "“and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ."  We share in the inheritance that Jesus Christ receives. We are his siblings, so to speak.
Paul basically spends much of the rest of chapter 4 begging the people not to return to childhood. Notice his pleading in verse 9, “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”
In Colossians 2:8, Paul writes, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Then in verse 20 he says, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, (there’s that expression again) why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.” The interesting point here is that he finishes up this thought in verse 23 by saying, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” In other words, it doesn’t work to set up these rules for yourself to try to stifle the flesh. Returning to law-keeping seems like it has a wisdom to it, but it does not work! It just stimulates more sin.
So my question was, “does God beg us not to put ourselves under the law?” Look at verses 11-16 of Galatians 4 and see what you think. God is serious about this. He uses expressions like “I urge you…” and “I’m afraid for you….” The answer we need for trying to live a godly life is not more law. It is in our recognition and accepting by faith the fact that we are new creatures in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit within us and we need to yield to His leadership in our lives.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing? - Part 7

During this time of childhood, Paul describes it as a time of bondage under the elements of the world. What are those elements? This is not a trivial question just for theologians. It is a practical one for us because if we find out that we are still trapped under those elemental issues, then we are still responding like children. We are living like we are adults still under the sway and guardianship of our parents and that is not a good place to be.
Let's begin with a question Paul asks in Galatians 4:9: "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?"  Do you see what he is asking? There is something wrong with desiring to be in that kind of bondage to what he calls the weak and beggarly elements. What are these? In the very next verse he says, "you observe days, months, seasons and years." What does he mean by this?
            Let's look at a couple of other passages and then draw some conclusions.

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Colossians 2:20-22 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?

So we can see from these passages that the elementary principles of the world involve man-made religion, human rules and regulations, religious exercises that are not from God and similar things.
In addition, God has said that even his law was given to keep us under its guardianship until adulthood came. That adulthood came with the coming of Christ. When an person is a child, he needs to be told what to do about virtually everything. He doesn't have the maturity to know which vegetables he should eat and that he shouldn't play in the street. He doesn't know it's good to go to bed at a decent hour to get a good night's sleep. But when adulthood comes, he essentially has the maturity to make these kinds of decisions for himself.
In the religious realm, before the coming of Christ and the subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit, people needed to be told what to do and how to live. Humans innately develop religious rules and regulations to guide them and God gave his commandments to his people to serve that same function.
But after Christ and the Holy Spirit came, believers are recipients of the benefits of the New Covenant which promised a new heart, new motivations, and the presence of God's Spirit (Galatians 3:14; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Under these circumstances the guardianship of the law is not necessary. A Christian has within himself the resources to follow God and do the things that are pleasing to him. He is an "adult" in the sense that he has "grown up" spiritually. He has the internal resources he needs. He is treated by God as an adult son. There is obviously more growing to do just as in physical adulthood, there is a big difference between an adult 25 year old and an adult 60 year old in terms of wisdom and experience and so on.
So the bottom line for the person who is in Christ is that the days of the guardianship of the law are over. It did it's job in the first part of human history but now in Christ it's responsibility has been completed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing? - Part 6

Now let's go back to a question we left hanging earlier. The law is a guardian and a tutor until faith comes. When is that? What is the timeline? Once faith comes, the guardianship and tutor relationship ends. When is that? Does that mean when we trust Christ and are saved? Let’s continue reading.
In Galatians 4:1-3 we learn that the law is like the parent or guardian to an under-aged child. A child, Paul says, is not much different than a slave even though he is the heir of everything. Many children probably feel like that! He is under the rule of his parent until he comes of age. Even though he is an heir, he still has to go to bed when told, has to go with mom to the store, has to eat his vegetables and so on. In the same way, when we were children we were in bondage under the elements of the world. My question is still the same – when were we children and when did adulthood come?
Paul answers that question in Galatians 4:4. He says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
So there's the timing answer. God sent forth his son more than 2000 years ago when Christ came into the world. That's when childhood ended. That's when adulthood started. That's when the law's guardianship and tutelage ended. It doesn't have anything to do with our growth from childhood to adulthood or with our conversion to Christ.
During this time of childhood, Paul describes it as a time of bondage under the elements of the world. What are those elements? We'll look at that next time.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Memorization Monday - Hebrews 3:12-13

Hebrews 3:12–13 (NKJV)
12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Note that calls an unbelieving heart an evil heart. One of the solutions to the danger of slipping away into an attitude of unbelief is that we as Christians should be exhorting one another daily. Usually we only get to see each other once or twice a week and then it is usually very superficial. We need to be involved in one another's lives in such a way that we can stir one another up to love and good works. 

These verses are Fighter Verses provided through the following site:

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Hymn of the Week - The Solid Rock

The Solid Rock by Edward Mote
       *See my notes at the end
  1. My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
    But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
    • Refrain:
      On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
      All other ground is sinking sand,
      All other ground is sinking sand.
  2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
    I rest on His unchanging grace;
    In every high and stormy gale,
    My anchor holds within the veil.
  3. His oath, His covenant, His blood
    Support me in the whelming flood;
    When all around my soul gives way,
    He then is all my hope and stay.
  4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
    Oh, may I then in Him be found;
    Dressed in His righteousness alone,
    Faultless to stand before the throne.

Verse 2 "My anchor holds within the veil."   This comes from the book of Hebrews:
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,” (Hebrews 6:19, NKJV)

Jesus Christ has entered heaven as the first glorified man, the God-man. The earthly Jewish tabernacle had two sections. The one behind the veil was the holiest of all where no one could go but the high priest once a year. Jesus is our faithful high priest who is present behind the veil making intercession for us. The earthly veil was torn when Jesus died. The way is now open and he is already there waiting for all of those who trust and follow him as their savior and Lord.

Verse 3 We have a sure foundation when everything else fails. These are the oath of God with all of his promises toward his children, his covenant with them and the shed blood of Christ which paid the price for it all.

Verse 4 We need a foreign righteousness. Our righteousness is not sufficient. We need to be dressed in the perfect righteousness of Christ. Only then can we stand faultless before the throne of God. 
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—” (Colossians 1:21–22, NKJV)

Saturday, December 06, 2014

God's Blessing or Curse? - Part 5

To get the context for this discussion you should probably go back and read the previous posts on this topic.
But why was the law given then? In other words, if the law does not apply to my situation, why give it?  He answers that question in verses 22-24 of Galatians 3. First he says that it confines all under sin. In other words, the law lays down the standard and no one lives up to it. Therefore all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Don't just skip over this. That is an interesting reason to give the law: "to confine all under sin." Paul writes essentially the same thing to the Romans in Romans 5:20, "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound."  Abound means to increase. The law was given to increase the sin.
Second, before faith came we were kept under guard by the law and kept for the faith that should be revealed later on (Galatians 3:23). Before faith came the law had a guardianship role to keep people under control. A question you should ask yourself is what is the timeline involved? In other words the law guarded before the faith came. When did the faith come? When did that guardianship end?
Third, the law was a tutor to bring us to Christ. Again he says that when faith came, the tutor relationship ended. When did that faith come? We’ll look at the timing of this more later. What I want us to see now is that the purpose of the law had nothing to do with giving salvation because it can’t do that. It doesn’t even have anything to do with spiritual growth. As you will recall, Paul asked that question in verse 3. His conclusion was that the law does not perfect or mature us. The law’s responsibility was to confine all under sin, make them guilty and to guard and serve as tutor until the time that faith comes.
In the Old Testament God said that those who keep the law will be blessed and those who don’t keep it in its entirety will be cursed. There are many Christians who are still trying to live under those terms, trying desperately to keep the law so that God’s blessing will be on their lives. They do this because they read this in Deuteronomy and Joshua. They believe this applies to them. But it does not! What we’ve learned in this study is that as Christians, we are children of Abraham and therefore recipients of the unconditional promise made to him and to his seed. Christ took God’s curse on himself so that the blessing of Abraham could be ours (Galatians 3:14). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
What I’m trying to encourage you with is to realize and believe that God will not add conditions to the blessing He is giving you through His promise to Abraham. The law that came 430 years after the promise cannot annul the promise. If you’re a Christian, the discussion of God’s curse does not apply to you. Christ became the curse so that you won’t be the recipient of it.

Friday, December 05, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing - Part 4

 Galatians 3:17 tells us that the law which came 430 years after the promise to Abraham cannot annul or cancel the promise which God had made to him and his seed. You see, the law that the Israelites were given that conditioned either blessing or curses was given long after God promised a blessing to Abraham. That law cannot add conditions to the promise God gave him. God won't hold Abraham and his seed accountable to the law in order to receive his blessing. That would be adding terms to a contract already ratified by himself.
The question arises though as to what this has to do with us. God had made these promises to Abraham and his seed, so where do we fit in and why should it matter?
To answer this I’d like to jump down to Galatians 3:26 and 29 and put them together. Basically God is saying that we are sons of God by faith in Christ. If we are Christ’s then we are heirs according to the promise. He had summarized this earlier in verse 14. “…that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The blessing of Abraham… That blessing is ours! That means when God made the promise to Abraham and his seed, the seed he is referring to is us-- those who have believed in Christ.
The Christian answer then is that God blessed Abraham and his seed unconditionally. The law that came later could not cancel that blessing otherwise God would have been a liar in making such promises to Abraham. If I’m a Christian, I am an heir of that blessing because I am part of Abraham’s seed. That means that the promise that I am a recipient of supersedes and precedes the giving of the law. There’s nothing in the keeping or the not-keeping of the law that can affect my status of blessing given by the promise of God. If I am required to keep the law in order to be blessed, he would be breaking his promise to Abraham. There is no curse hanging over the Christian. Let your mind and spirit think on this.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing? - Part 3

‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.’ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ” “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:” (Deuteronomy 27:26–28:2, NKJV)

That leaves us in a precarious situation, doesn’t it? Not fulfilling every command leaves us under a curse. The blessing is for those who "observe carefully all His commands." But carefully obeying every single command both in deed and attitude is not possible!

So, Paul teaches us in Galatians 3 that there are two ways to live life, and these ways are mutually exclusive. He explains this in verses 11 and 12. In verse 11 he tells us that one way is to live by faith, "The just shall live by faith." The other way, given in verse 12, is to live by the law. He says very clearly that the law is not of faith because those who do them shall live by them. The “them” I take to mean all of the commandments in the law. So you can live “by faith” or “by them, the commandments”. These are two mutually exclusive ways of living. Each one of us can live either by faith or by the law, but not both.
Paul now makes the statement that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of a law because Christ became cursed for us. Why? What is the purpose?  He goes on in verse 14, "that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Emphasis mine).  Jesus Christ fully kept the law in every way including all deeds and attitudes. And yet, he bore the judgment of the curse. This happened so that blessing could be given to us, the blessing given to Abraham that was given to him unconditionally. In other words there were no constraints of law-keeping on him. We receive the truth of this blessing by faith -- by believing what God has said concerning Christ's work on the cross for us. When we believe this we move from being under the law to living by faith -- a totally different approach to life.
In Galatians 3:15 we read that even men’s contracts are binding. We know that is true in our culture. When you sign a contract, it is a binding agreement. Therefore it is even more so if God makes the contract. God's contracts are binding. God is faithful and true and his contracts cannot be broken. God made a contract with Abraham and his seed, and he made it as a one-sided promise. Nothing can void the contract which God gave to Abraham and his seed.
This is where the real crux of the argument begins to come into play. This is such an important truth I hope that you will take the time to really think about what is happening here. Galatians 3:17 tells us that the law which came 430 years after the promise to Abraham cannot annul or cancel the promise which God had made to him and his seed. You see, the law that the Israelites were given that conditioned either blessing or curses was given long after God promised a blessing to Abraham. That law cannot add conditions to the promise God gave him. God won't hold Abraham and his seed accountable to the law in order to receive his blessing. That would be adding terms to a contract already ratified by himself.
If you know a little bit about Old Testament history, you know that Abraham lived before Moses. God's rescue of the Israelite people and the subsequent giving of the law came 430 years after Abraham's time. God had made a binding contract with Abraham and nothing that would happen later could annul that agreement. Why? Because God’s Word and promises are certain and binding. If man’s contracts cannot be abrogated, how much less can God’s? What Paul is saying is that if God were to give the blessing of the inheritance based on the law, then it wouldn’t be the result of a promise any more, but God gave it as a promise without any conditions.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

God's Curse or Blessing - Part 2

Galatians 3:10 reads: , “For as many as are of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’” Notice that it is necessary to continue in all things in order to avoid the curse. The problem is that many Christians are viewing life as a law-based scheme. They are attempting to please God, be acceptable to God and grow in their Christian life by keeping the law. This approach is doomed to failure as we shall see.
Paul begins his thought in Galatians 3:1.  The first thing we read is that Paul appears somewhat frustrated by the fact that the Galatian Christians have been turned away from the truth.  He appeals to the fact that the crucifixion of Christ had been clearly portrayed for them so that they would know what his death had accomplished. So he begins his detailed instruction with this question, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” The answer to the question should be obvious – by the hearing of faith. Salvation comes by faith alone. Trusting only in the promises God has made that those who receive and trust Christ will be eternally saved.
In verse 3 he asks another question. “Having begun in the Spirit are you now made perfect by the flesh?” The answer should obviously be “no”. So the teaching here is that we begin the Christian life by faith. It cannot be earned. It must simply be believed. Similarly, maturing in the faith is achieved the same way -- by faith. It is not accomplished by the keeping of rules. Growth in the Christian life and growing in Christ-likeness is accomplished by faith and not by submitting to the law.  In order to illustrate this point, Paul brings up Abraham in verse 6. He explains that Abraham believed God and it was counted as righteousness for him.  God had just showed up at Abraham's door one day and promised him some things and Abraham took God at his word. God counted this faith, this believing as righteousness for Abraham. These promises were made by God unconditionally. That means nothing was required of Abraham except to believe and receive those promises as a gracious gift from God.
In verse 7 he tells us then that those who are of faith (like Abraham was) are the sons of Abraham. God had promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him and verse 9 tells us the conclusion to this section: "Those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham." That means that if you have placed your faith in the promises of God given through his Son, Jesus Christ, you are one of those blessed along with Abraham. There you have one of the key words of this study: "blessed". You see, we began this study with the concept of the blessings and the curses of God. This then sets up the basis for the argument Paul is going to use in the rest of the chapter and it is an extremely crucial argument if you want to understand your relationship to the blessings and curses of God.
According to verse 10, what is the standard for avoiding the curse? If we're under the law, the standard given there is that we must continue in all of the things written in the book of the Law. We’re not allowed to deviate from it to either side. We must hit the nail on the head every time. This is exactly the point in Deuteronomy 26:
‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.’ “And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ” “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:” (Deuteronomy 27:26–28:2, NKJV)

That leaves us in a precarious situation, doesn’t it? Not fulfilling every command leaves us under a curse. The blessing is for those who "observe carefully all His commands." But carefully obeying every single command both in deed and attitude is not possible!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Are You Under God's Curse or Blessing? - Part 1

The Bible says we are cursed if we do not perfectly keep all of the Law's demands. How does this work and what hope is there for us to escape this curse? There is an important bit of teaching which Paul presents in Galatians 3 which is very important for Christians to understand. Often we just read these passages and don't really think through what God would have us to know and believe.
Let's begin though in Joshua 8:30. If you read this section you will see that Joshua split the people up and sent half to Mount Ebal and the other half to Mount Gerizim. I know that’s not the most interesting beginning and you may be tempted to tune me out, but please stay with me on this and follow the logic that God has laid out for us..
In Deuteronomy 27-28, Moses had commanded this event to take place when the people reached the Promised Land. The people on Mount Gerizim were to read the blessings that you will find in Chapter 28. The people on Mount Ebal were to read the curses. You’ll notice that God’s blessing included every facet of life:
Deuteronomy 28:3-6 “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out."

Similarly the curses were declared. There are curses to match each blessing:
“Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. “Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. “Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. “Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out  (Deut 28:16-19).

 Notice the summary curse in verse 27:26: “Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law by doing them.” So the point is that in order to be blessed, one must keep all of the commandments perfectly. If you look at Deut 28:47-48 you will see that not only the deeds must be done, but the attitude must be perfect:
“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you" (Emphasis mine).

Paul picks up this theme in Galatians 3:10 where he writes, “For as many as are of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’” Notice that it is necessary to continue in all things in order to avoid the curse. The problem is that many Christians are viewing life as a law-based scheme. They are attempting to please God, be acceptable to God and grow in their Christian life by keeping the law. This approach is doomed to failure as we shall see.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Memorization Monday - Proverbs 16:32

   “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32, NKJV)

This is this week's Fighter Verse. See website at


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Let the Light Shine in the Darkness - Genesis 1:3-4

Genesis 1:3-4 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
So, the heavens and earth were created and the earth had no form and was void. And it was dark! The form of energy we call light did not exist. Then God said, "Let there be light." And what happened?  Light came into existence. Words are very important to God and they have power. In this case, as we looked at several articles ago, we discover in John 1 that this Word was none other than Jesus Christ. At that time he didn't have that name, but was what we call the Second Person of the Trinity. He was the Word of God and he was with God and he was God. All things were made by him. Every atom and molecule, every authority and power in heaven and on earth was created by him and for his use and pleasure. God's word is powerful.
This situation reminds me of another darkness that exists in the world. It is the darkness of our souls when we are born into this world. Because of Adam's rebellion, humanity lost its light, it's spiritual life. Speaking of Jesus, John says, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4).  "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life'" (John 8:12).
How is that darkness remedied? There is only way. It is the same method that was used in the original creation. Light can't generate itself. Paul writes, "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
God must say, "Let there be light" in any heart and soul if there is to be any hope of spiritual sight. This is what Jesus meant  when he told a Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, that in order to see the kingdom of God he needed to be born again. There is a natural human birth and there is a spiritual birth. Just as we cannot design and arrange for our natural birth, we cannot design and arrange for our spiritual birth. It is accomplished by the working of the Spirit of God according to his unique work in the hearts of men. Just as the Spirit of God was brooding over the dark waters of that primitive earth and brought light to the earth, the Spirit of God must bring light into the darkness that is the human condition by nature. This comes about through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul sums it up this way, "[God] who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:9,10). 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Bible Study - Genesis 1:2

Genesis 1:2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Here in the second verse of the Bible we read some interesting things. The first thing we notice is that the earth was without form and void and it was dark. Why is this the case? Is this just the first stage of creation or did something happen between verse 1 and 2? The truth is that we don't know the answer to those questions. We do know what we read in Isaiah 45:18. "For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: 'I am the Lord, and there is no other.'"

This passage tells us very clearly that God did not make create the earth in vain. He made it to be inhabited. As of verse 2 of Genesis, it is not inhabited and therefore there is work to be done. 

Some people quote Jeremiah 4:23 which says,  "I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; And the heavens, they had no light." Jeremiah goes on to describe the reason for giving this description of the earth. There has apparently been some form of judgment which has caused massive destruction.  

In my opinion there is no reason to attribute this description of events to the period between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. It could be, but I don't think there is any reason that it must be. Jeremiah's description in its entirety sounds like a future judgment on God's people Israel. He sees the destruction as so devastating that he uses the same description as the condition of the world was during its creation.

Most of the time when people attempt to explain Genesis 1:2 as a judgment, the reason is often in order to provide more time for fossils to form and other events that presumably have taken place over extremely long periods of time. The problem is that even if we were to grant the long ages needed for geologic and evolutionary events to take place, it is evident from the rest of the description of creation that the order of events does not remotely match the order posited by those who believe in evolution.

So let's just take this description for what it is, a statement of the condition of the earth right after God created it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bible Study - Genesis 1:3

When and how did God create the universe?  The Bible tells us that he created the heavens and the earth "in the beginning." We discussed that truth last time. But how did he create? Remember there was nothing to create with. There was no material in existence to make something out of. And "God said, 'Let there be light'" (Genesis 1:3). "Then God said, 'Let there be a firmament'" (Genesis 1:6). God's method of creation was to speak. Psalm 33:6 "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth."

God spoke and the universe and all it contained came into existence. He continued to speak and various parts were separated from other parts. For example water on  the earth was separated from water above the earth and an expanse was created between them. Light and darkness were separated from one another. Water was gathered together into one place to allow the dry land to appear. All of these things occurred because God spoke. God created through the spoken word.

When we look at John 1, we find that the Word was in the beginning with God and the Word was God. But the Word became flesh and lived among us. This Word is the second person of the trinity. He is the Word of God and he is God. And that Word took on a human body and his name is Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Messiah. All through the description of Jesus' ministry here on earth he says things like, "I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things" (John 8:28). And, "For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak" (John 12:49).

Jesus is God's Word to man and it is through him that all things were created.

 Hebrews 1:1,2 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

The answer then to how God created the universe is that God spoke the word and everything came into existence and that Word ultimately took on bodily form and came here to dwell with us - Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bible Study - Genesis 1:1

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The Bible begins with this amazing assertion. Whenever the beginning was, God was there. What was there moments before God created?  Of course, there weren't moments, because there was no such thing as time, but you know what I mean. Who or what was there? When God created, he created all matter, time and energy and all of the "natural" laws that govern all of these things. But before this, all there was was God -- the triune God.

The Bible teaches us that God exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each of these persons is fully God and has all of the characteristics that God has. So before anything was created, these three persons of the Godhead existed together and had existed together for all eternity. Since God is a personal being, he has the characteristics of personhood. He is able to communicate, love, rejoice and so forth. So for all of eternity past, the persons of the Godhead had fellowship and communication with one another.

In John 1 we read: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." The passage goes on to tell us that everything was made through him. So who is/was this Word? Here is what we read in John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." From this we can figure out that the Bible is talking about Jesus Christ. So Jesus is God and was with God in the beginning and everything that exists was created through him.

Other passages confirm this picture. Here is what we read in Colossians 1:16
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

Here's another example: Hebrews 1:10 And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands."

We get a little snapshot of what was going on before the world was created from Jesus' prayer recorded in John 17. "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (Verse 5). And in verse 24, "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world."

As far as the Holy Spirit is concerned, we know that he is eternal (Heb 9:14) and that he was present "hovering over the face of the waters" at the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:2).

Let's summarize what we know about things prior to the beginning of creation. We know that God the Father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit were present in a loving, communicating relationship throughout eternity past. Nothing else was existent. There was no time, space or matter. God is totally self-sufficient and has no needs. There was no need for fellowship or companionship. There nothing lacking within the totally self-existing Godhead. And then God created!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Memorization Monday - Psalm 118:13-14

   “You pushed me violently, that I might fall, But the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” (Psalm 118:13–14, NKJV)

The Fighter Verse of the week. See their website and commentary here:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hymn of the Week - Thanks to God

1 Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a mem’ry,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

2 Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

3 Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Christianity and the Importance of Reading - Part 7

We have seen how reading is important in the Christian life. God used words to create. He gave us His written word for the purpose of instruction in how to live. He required it of the Old Testament people and the New Testament Christians also saw the importance of reading. God expects us to spend time meditating on His word and in order to do that we need to know how to read and how to focus long enough to think about what we’ve read.

God lifts up His Word above all other forms of communication. Peter, who was present at the transfiguration of Christ, describes this event in 2 Peter 1:19-21. Even though this was a grand event, he explains that there is a more sure word. More sure than an emotionally charged experience of the glory of God? And what is that more sure word? He goes on to tell us that it is Scripture. Scripture is a more sure word than any experience we may have whether it is a real physical experience as it was in Peter’s case or an emotional or spiritually charged vision of some sort. The Word is more sure than all of that and should be given the priority when we are trying to determine what God would have us know or do.

The Psalmist in Psalm 138:2 tells us that God has magnified His Word above His name. We know that the Name of God is great and sacred. We are not to take His name in vain and yet God Himself has elevated His Word above His name.

If these things are so, then we must be sure that we understand and practice the importance of reading ourselves, in our families and in our churches. Children must be taught the skill of reading and it must be actively encouraged. There must be undistracted time allocated for this practice. As parents we must set the example.

In the next few posts we will go over some of the challenges to the word and reading that we face in our modern world. We will also look at some steps we can take to mitigate those hindrances and challenges.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Christianity and the Importance of Reading - Part 6

Meditation is an essential aspect of the Christian life and is based on reading. Meditation is the chewing over of Scripture in our minds, focusing on it, thinking about what it means in context and to ourselves. It involves looking at it from multiple angles and reflecting on it repeatedly so that it’s truth can impact our souls.

Success and prosperity (in the spiritual sense) is promised for consistent meditation. See Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 as examples of this. In the Psalms passage the person who meditates on Scripture is described as a living, fruitful tree growing next to a stream of water, whereas the rest are described as dry chaff which the wind blows away.

The Psalmist tells us that meditation improves understanding. (Ps 49:3)

David meditated continually on the commands and statutes of God. (Psalm 119:15, 23, 27, 38, 78, 97, 99, 148)

Timothy was urged to meditate on certain truths and give himself completely to them. (I Timothy 4:15)

Paul told the Philippians to meditate on things that are true, lovely, noble, etc. in Philippians 4:8.

Finally, God is writing a book of remembrance of those who meditate on His Name. (Mal 3:16). That’s kind of amazing to think about the fact that God is actually creating a memory book filled with the names of people who meditate on Him. Wow!

Why is reading important? Because meditating is important and it is hard to conceive of meditating on the Word of God if we can’t read it. How are you doing in the area of biblical meditation?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christianity and the Importance of Reading - Part 5

The Bible teaches us that the word of God is spiritually discerned. I Corinthians 2:13-14 tell us that the natural man (that is the man who is not born again) does not receive the things of the Spirit. They are foolish to him because they are spiritually discerned. The Bible is one of those things that is spiritually discerned.

In 2 Corinthians 3:15 we are told that every time Moses was read to the people, they were not able to understand it because Satan had put a veil over their heart to keep them from understanding the truth. Only when a person comes to Christ is that veil taken away and the Word can be understood.

2 Corinthians 3:15 tells us that it take the illumination of God to bring understanding just as it took the word of God to create light in the first place.

So here is an interesting question. Can someone who cannot read and understand the natural meaning of the text of Scripture still have the illumination of the Spirit to understand the word. Let’s take an extreme. If you had a Bible in front of you in a language that you did not speak or read, would the Holy Spirit still open up the spiritual meaning to you as you sounded out the words? Let’s say I gave you a German Bible and you don’t understand German. As you pronounce the words to the best of your ability will the Holy Spirit give you the understanding you need?

I maintain that the answer to that question is “no”. It’s my opinion that it takes a natural understanding of the text first in order to be illuminated by the Spirit for the spiritual understanding to occur. This is why Christians over the years have worked very hard and spent millions of dollars to make the Scriptures available to people in their native languages.

My point in bringing this up is that we need to do all we can for ourselves and our children to make sure that we learn to read to the best of our ability. There are many practical ways in which reading is being diminished in our video culture and we must make sure that our children and our families are able to read well so that they can understand what God is saying through His Word.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christianity and the Importance of Reading - Part 4

The passages I have alluded to in the last couple of posts come from the Old Testament. What about the New Testament?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says at least 6 times, “Have you not read…” He expects that his listeners would have read the Bible and know what it said. How else would they know what God was saying to them?

In the early church, Phillip went out to the desert and came upon an Ethiopian who was reading the Old Testament. Phillip’s first words to him were, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30) If you go back and look kat the situation in Nehemiah 8 you will find that there is great emphasis on the fact that people were to gain an understanding of what was being read. There is no point in reading if one does not understand the meaning of the text. This point seems obvious, but is up for debate these days among the post-modernists. More on that in a future post.

In Ephesians 3:4 Paul tells the church that when they read, they will understand the mystery of what God was doing through the Gospel. When Paul sent letters to Colossae and Thessalonica he asked that those letters be read in all the churches. (Colossians 4:17; I Thess 5:27)

When Paul wrote to Timothy he admonished him to give attention to reading. (I Timothy 4:13)

In Revelation 1:3 John says that there is a blessing on those who read that book.

Finally, Paul, when writing to Timothy asks him to bring his scrolls and parchments. (@ Timothy 4:13)

As we can see from these New Testament passages, reading played a central role in the understanding of the early Christians. God had given His word and great was the company of those that published it.

How are you doing on your reading of Scripture? Is it a consistent practice in your life? How about in your church? Is the Scripture read in the hearing of the people so that they will know what God has said?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Christianity and the Importance of Reading - Part 3

Last time we looked at the expectation that the Israelites would gather together for the reading of the law in their hearing. Today we look at an example of that recorded in Nehemiah 8.

It would probably be best if you read the narrative yourself, but here are the highlights.

The people gathered together in the open square and Ezra the priest brought the Law to be read to them. The assembly consisted of men, women and all who could hear with understanding. The people stood for this reading. We are told that all of the people were attentive to the Book of the Law as it was read to them.

Ezra stood on a platform along with several of the leaders of Israel. The book was read distinctly and the sense of it was explained to the people in order to help them understand the reading. This reading took place from morning until midday. We don’t know what time that would be in our terms, but I would think at least 9 until noon. Perhaps 8 until 2 or something like that.

On another day a similar session was held which lasted for one fourth of the day. On another fourth of the day they confessed and worshiped the Lord.

We can see from these examples that reading was extremely important in the life of the Old Testament Jewish people. God expected that His Word would be read and since they did not all have a copy of their own, it was read publicly to them and they were expected to stand and listen to it.

My first thought is, “How did they have the attention span to do this?” Most of us here in our culture would have a difficult time listening for that length of time with no musical or video going on in the background. Later on in this series I’m going to discuss the issue of attention and the distractions that prevent us from attending to anything for a length of time

It might be a worthwhile exercise for us as men who desire to be faithful to God to think through how attentive we are to God’s Word and what kind of place it has in our lives and minds. Are we losing the ability to read and concentrate on the Word for any appreciable length of time?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Memorization Monday - John 15:7

John 15:7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

The Fighter Verse of the week. See their website and commentary here: 

Memorization Monday - Scripture Memory Resources

Scripture memorization is an important key to maturing in the faith. It is also an essential ingredient for meditation on the Scriptures since it allows us to have God's Word readily available in our minds for mulling over while we are driving or doing other things where we can't have an open Bible in front of us.

One of the best resources for Scripture memorization in this technological age is the Fighter Verses Program developed in conjunction with Desiring God Ministries. They provide apps for both iPhone and Android platforms.

There is a basic 5 year program with one verse a week for five years. Each week, you are notified through your app that a new verse is ready for the coming week. Here is their description of this program:

The Fighter Verses focus on 1) the character and worth of our great God, 2) battling against our fleshly desires, and 3) the hope of the Gospel. This five-year memory program is a revision of the original program (now called the Legacy Set), and includes many verses from the original set as well as many new verses.

Their extended program features longer passages still in a 5 year format. Here is their description:

The Extended Memory Set is designed for those who wish to memorize longer passages of Scripture. Still structured as a five-year program, this set will walk you through memorizing Philippians, James, Romans 5-8, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and one year of larger passages from various books of the Bible that are considered key to the life of faith.

If you would like to get started in this program, here is the link:

Here is a link to my website where I provide some other memory programs that are available.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hymn of the Week - Spirit of God, Descend Upon my Heart

Spirit of God, Descend Upon my Heart by George Croly 
1. Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
 wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
 stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
 and make me love thee as I ought to love.

2. I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
 no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
 no angel visitant, no opening skies;
 but take the dimness of my soul away.

3. Has thou not bid me love thee, God and King?
 All, all thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
 I see thy cross; there teach my heart to cling.
 O let me seek thee, and O let me find.

4. Teach me to feel that thou art always nigh;
 teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
 To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
 teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

5. Teach me to love thee as thine angels love,
 one holy passion filling all my frame;
 the kindling of the heaven-descended Dove,
 my heart an altar, and thy love the flame.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Christianity and the Importance of Reading - Part 2

In both the Old and New Testaments reading is commanded, encouraged and expected. In Deuteronomy 17 we find that the king of Israel is to write for himself a copy of the Word of God and then read it every day. The goal here is quite interesting. Verses 19 and following tell us that the purpose is so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of the law and the statutes. The purpose furthermore is so “that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left.”

So here we see the intended power of the Word in the life of the king if he would read it every day of his life. How much more so for us as Christians to be faithful readers of the Word of God.

In Deuteronomy 31:11ff we find that all Israel is to come to appear before the Lord. At that meeting the leaders “shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land.”

In the next part of this series we’ll look at a particular instance of this happening and we’ll focus on what took place and then think about whether people of our culture would be comfortable in that setting for that length of time.

What I find intriguing in the passages we looked at today is that the Scripture has a profound effect on people as they read it or hear it read. It tends to keep us faithful to the Lord, fearing Him and learning to observe all of the things He commands of us His children.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Christianity and the Importance of Reading - Introduction

There are three things that I would like to accomplish in this series of articles. 1) Show from Scripture the importance of the word and reading, 2) Explain a couple of ways reading is being eroded in our culture and the danger that this poses to people’s souls, and 3) Give some suggestions as to how you can wield your influence on others to stem the tide of this erosion in your families and churches.

God has chosen to act through words. For example, God used words to create. He said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Jesus calmed the sea with the words, “Peace, Be still” (Mark 4:39).

It’s interesting that in Revelation 19:15 the conquering Christ is pictured as a having a sword in his mouth rather than in His hand as one might have predicted. I take this to mean that Christ will conquer with the word of His mouth rather than the might of his arm.

God uses His word to call things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). He did this when he called creation into existence and when he brings the light of salvation into the dead soul.

Finally, God the son is called the Word in John 1:1. He is God’s ultimate communication to us. In fact, the writer of the Hebrews in chapter 1 tells us that God has spoken in times past in various ways through the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us in Son. His Son is the language God used to bring His saving message to the world.

So clearly, God has chosen to use words to act in this world. Next time we’ll examine the concept of the written word.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Memorization Monday - Colossians 1:19-20

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:19–20, NKJV) 

Jesus Christ is the fullness of God. It pleased the Father that all fullness should abide in him. And then there is the need for reconciliation. One of Jesus Christ's missions is to reconcile all things to God. This includes both the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven. And he accomplished this reconciliation through the blood that he shed on the cross. Why is there need for reconciliation? Because when sin entered the universe and ultimately the world and mankind, a great chasm was opened that separated us from God. Jesus Christ bridges that chasm and reconciles all things to God. God takes back from Satan that which he had stolen from God in the first place. And now there is peace through the blood of his cross.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Hymn of the Week - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity
In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand

Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory
See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold

Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes
What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes
– Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, Matt Papa 2013

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hymn of the Week - O For a Thousand Tongues

O For a Thousand Tongues - by Charles Wesley 
1. O for a thousand tongues to sing
 my great Redeemer's praise,
 the glories of my God and King,
 the triumphs of his grace!

2. My gracious Master and my God,
 assist me to proclaim,
 to spread through all the earth abroad
 the honors of thy name.

3. Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
 that bids our sorrows cease;
 'tis music in the sinner's ears,
 'tis life, and health, and peace.

4. He breaks the power of canceled sin,
 he sets the prisoner free;
 his blood can make the foulest clean;
 his blood availed for me.

5. He speaks, and listening to his voice,
 new life the dead receive;
 the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
 the humble poor believe.

6. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
 your loosened tongues employ;
 ye blind, behold your savior come,
 and leap, ye lame, for joy.

7. In Christ, your head, you then shall know,
 shall feel your sins forgiven;
 anticipate your heaven below,
 and own that love is heaven.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is it Egotistical of God to Pursue His Own Glory?

We've been discussing God's reason for creating the universe. He did it for his own pleasure and glory. We have also looked at the fact that glory means the density or weight of all of the attributes of God. His character overflows and expands. This resulted in his desire to create everything. As his glory flows out in a multitude of ways, it is received by conscious beings such as angels and people and reflected in all directions thus increasing his glory.

God's desire that he be glorified among all nations is behind all that he does. For example when he announced judgment, the Bible explains his reasoning:

Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.” ’” (Ezekiel 38:23, NKJV)

He forgives sin for the same reason:
I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me. Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it.’” (Jeremiah 33:8–9, NKJV)

“For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, And for My praise I will restrain it from you, So that I do not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11, NKJV)

Now the question often arises as to whether this makes God an egotistical tyrant, a megalomaniac, and/or a self-absorbed narcissist. When human beings constantly desire to be praised and admired, they are doing so at the expense of others who are their equals. When we brag about what we have accomplished, we are trying to lift ourselves up higher than our fellow human beings. God's Word forbids such attitudes. So why does God do it?

We learn from Scripture that God is complete and perfect in all his characteristics. He has no lack of love or beauty or goodness. He is perfect in righteousness and holiness. He is completely without sin of any kind. There is no other being in the universe equal with God. Certainly it makes sense for us as human beings to pursue those things which are good and honorable and just and to avoid those things which are sinful and harmful. If we're to look for what is perfect, we are looking for God. Nothing else is perfect. If God were to be deferring in his relationship with us and point us in a direction other than himself in order to be "more humble", he would actually be denying who he is and would be pointing us in the direction of some thing or some one that is not the best. Do we really want to be guided by someone who points us to that which really won't satisfy our deepest needs? What kind of being would it be that knows where all good and beauty and justice dwells, but steers us toward something lesser? Such a being would not be the God of the Bible.

The End For Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards which is given in its entirety in God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper
When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper
Why God Created the World: A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation by Ben Stevens