Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Hulk Smash

 "But now ye also put off all these; anger…."Colossians 3:8. I watched the Incredible Hulk television show starring Bill Bixby as David  Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk when I was little. Banner was a scientist, and in an experiment gone wrong, he was forever changed. Whenever he gets angry or in a dangerous situation, he becomes a giant, green-skinned monster with super strength that can't be controlled or reasoned with. The opening scene has the famous line, "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."  As a boy, I liked it when he got angry because I wanted to see the giant green monster smash stuff. Banner had to try and live a chill life because being an angry man was dangerous for everyone in society. He probably had to avoid paying attention to politics or expecting McDonald's to be able to provide him a milkshake. But sometimes (like every episode), he was in a situation where life was on the line, and his anger over injustice pushed him to save the day. 

God gave us the emotion of anger for a reason for it, and it's good if used rightly. Our problem with anger comes from our fallen nature. We get angry at the wrong things and then don't deal with anger in a godly way. God doesn't fly off the handle or become out of control in His holy wrath. But God is angry at sin and the wicked. In that sense, we should model our anger after God. The first thing we need to do is find out why we are angry. Sometimes, you just might feel mad for no particular reason. If you don't know why you are mad, you have no just reason for it and have to put that off. But, let's say you have a good cause. Think about why. You either have a good reason or a bad reason. If you are sinfully angry, you need to deal with your sin and heart. The fruit of the Spirit is not a chip on your shoulder. But, if you are angry and it's for a good reason, you also need to deal with that good use of the emotion. God gives us anger to motivate us to action, but it must be tempered by our reason and our conscience guided by Scripture. Even if you are just, you can't go "Hulk smash" on everything when you are mad. But, that emotion, tempered by meekness and guided by Scripture, motivates us to action, protect the weak and innocent, and bring justice to the guilty. If you get mad at someone over something they said, in our Facebook society, you can simply block them and delete them from your life. But you are not taking the high road. If your brother sins against you, anger should motivate you to go to him (Matthew 18:15) and deal with the sin rather than add more evil to the situation. 

 


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Good News for the Guilty


God tells us the truth about ourselves. Why would he do otherwise? There is no reason for God, who is truth and loves truth, to do anything else but tell us the truth about ourselves. The testimony of God is we are guilty of breaking His commands, and not just a little bit, but in total. Not just a few bad things here and there, but we are not what we ought to be, from the inside out. We don't love our neighbor as we ought. We don't love God with all our heart and strength. In truth, we don't love Him at all. That's God's testimony about us in the Bible. Horatius Boner wrote, "Conviction of sin is just the sinner seeing himself as he is, and as God has all along seen him."
 
What are we to do? You cannot come to God on the grounds of what he has already condemned. The Lord has judged us guilty, and our hearts set at enmity against us. We can't very well come to God and offer him our hearts. The only way we can come to God is by a way that He has accepted, the way God Himself has given. It's a way outside of ourselves. Our only hope is Christ. We cannot come to God to offer something to gain his forgiveness, nor can we come to God to do something to earn peace because we are sinners.

The Pharisees tried to clean up the outside of the cup, but that didn't do them any good because they were filthy on the inside. They tried every way possible to avoid touching, eating, tasting, to stay clean, but it wasn't that which went in that was the problem, but that which came out of the heart. If anyone could have come to God by their outward works and found peace with God through praying, fasting, working, zeal, and personal righteousness, it would have been Paul. No one had a pedigree like him. But he said all his righteousness was like dung (Philippians 3:8). His only hope was outside of himself because he was the problem. Jesus Christ came to save sinners. He came to clean them of their sins and also justify us. God imputed to us Christ's perfect righteousness. There is forgiveness of sins, and there is perfect righteousness and perfect obedience given to us by faith. Christ kept the law for us. Paul would happily give up his righteousness for what Christ had done for him.
 
You can't get yourself right to come to Christ. You can't pray yourself right to come to Christ. You can come as you are, or you can't come at all. Christ came to save sinners. Not decent people. Not people who try hard and are doing better. Christ came to save sinners. As the hymn says,  

"Come, ye weary, heavy laden, 
lost and ruined by the fall; 
if you tarry till you're better, 
you will never come at all."

Come to the Saviour and find peace with God. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Did Jesus Go To Hell?


The teaching that Jesus suffered in Hell is not in Scripture. This viewpoint assumes much where the Bible is silent and eventually leads to disastrous consequences if you carry it out to its natural conclusions. There are three reasons why Jesus did not suffer in Hell. The first, which is the most easily refuted, is that the Bible tells us where Jesus was during the crucifixion and after His death. The second reason why Jesus did not go to Hell is what the Scriptures reveal to us about the nature of Christ. Either Hell will need to be redefined from an actual place to a state of mind or being, or the nature of Christ must be redefined, or we must say that Christ left the cross during his bodily crucifixion. Lastly, the Scriptures tell us where the work of redemption took place, and that was on the cross.

First off, in this article, when referring to Hell, I'm speaking of the place of judgment, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the worm dies not; not the place of the dead or the grave as is sometimes translated in Scripture. I believe in a literal Hell, a real place where the souls of men who die without Christ go and suffer for their sins. The focus of this article is whether Jesus was sent to the fires and torments of Hell to pay for sins. It's clear from the text that Jesus was nailed to the cross (Matthew 27:29-35) and remained there (Mark 15:30) until He gave up the ghost (Luke 23:46) and at that point, He went to paradise (Luke 23:43). While on the cross, Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), speaking of the work of redemption, which eliminates the possibility that Acts 2:27 refers to the fires of Hell, but to the place of the dead, or the grave, or that or I Peter 3:19 refers to a suffering Jesus preaching in Hell fire. A cursory reading of the gospel accounts is enough to show that Jesus could not have suffered in Hell because He was on the cross when He suffered, then went to paradise. It would be a strange paradise indeed, if it was a place of suffering.

From the very beginning, people have been wrong about Jesus. In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?" The answer to that question is of eternal importance. There is no wiggle room here. There is no "difference of opinions" in response to that question. Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Upon this Person and this truth, the church was built. Jesus said this wasn't earthly wisdom but truth given by the Father.

But notice, from the start, men were confused about Jesus. They didn't know who He was. They had opinions and thoughts but did not know who Christ was. And deceivers have attacked the Lord's people on this point from the very beginning. One of the earliest heresies centered on the nature of Christ, deceiving by coming up with the wrong answer to the question, "whom say ye that I am?" Even while the Apostle John was still alive, a form of proto-Gnosticism began attacking the vital truth of the person and nature of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John said, 1 John 4:2-3 "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." People look at the news, see the conflict with Russia and Ukraine, and try to discern the times and seasons. They see the rumblings of Antichrist everywhere, and they are looking for it in globalism and mandates and lockdowns. But sadly, Christians miss the very place that John warns us the spirit of antichrist resides, in heresy, and the denial of Jesus Christ, the Son God.

The best way to protect ourselves from heresy is to be grounded in the truth (Ephesians 4:13-15). I want to lay a foundation for the theological truth concerning the person of Jesus Christ in this article. There is a lot here, and I don't intend to say everything about these subjects but I hope to whet your appetite to dig deeper. I also want to uphold that Old Landmark of the nature of Christ. Friends, you may hold to Baptism and church ordinances. Still, the first and original Landmark of the church was that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God," and if you don't have Christ, it doesn't matter what you think about Baptism, church organization, or wine in the Lord's supper; you can go to Hell full of church truth. JC Philpot said, "There are two things which every child of God has the greatest reason to dread; the one is evil, the other is error. Both are originally from Satan; both have a congenial home in the human mind; both are in their nature deadly and destructive; both have slain their thousands and tens of thousands; and under one or the other, or under both combined, all everlastingly perish but the redeemed family of God."

First, let's consider the Trinity. Our God is the One true and living God in three Persons. There are two different terms in discussing the Trinity, the ontological Trinity and the economical Trinity. Ontology is the study of being, so when we speak of the Ontological Trinity, we consider what the Bible says about the being of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit without considering creation and redemption. The Economical Trinity speaks about what the Bible says about the Trinity revealed in creation, redemption, and human history.

God doesn't change, and there is only one being of God in three persons, but for our finite minds to understand what the Bible has revealed, theologians have given us categories to help define what we are speaking about. So when we think of the economic Trinity, we distinguish among the Godhead in their roles in creation and redemption. The Father chose a people unto salvation, in Christ, and then sent his Son into the world for our redemption. The Son accomplishes our redemption on the cross, and the Spirit applies that redemption to us. One God, in three persons, distinguished by what they do in particular for us in the covenant of redemption.

The ontological Trinity is when we think about the nature of and being of God. So what the Son did for us doesn't make Him the Son. The Son isn't the Son because He came to the Earth, but the Son came to Earth because He was the Son (Romans 1:3-4). That's why the need for those two categories of thought. Also, know that God does not exist in different modes at different times, nor is God divided into thirds. Each person of the Trinity is true God. Jesus and the Father are one. We don't use terms of quantity when discussing the Trinity (fully or 100%), but we use terms of quality (True God). Since the Son is truly God, He is equal to the Father in power, glory, being. He is from everlasting to everlasting. One in being, but distinguished in persons, from all eternity. The Father always was, the Son always was, the Spirit always was, and each person always will be. To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father, and to look upon Jesus is to see the express image of the Father (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:3; II Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). The Father is truly God. The Son is Truly God. The Spirit is Truly God.

Let's now consider the begotten Son (John 3:16). John 1:1 tells us Word was with God and the Word was God. Christ did not become the Son of God when He was born of a virgin (remember, He was always the Son ontologically), but the Son was "made flesh" and dwelt among us in the economy of redemption. Jesus is the Son of God. Not in terms of a title, not an official sense, but truly the Begotten One. When Jesus said He was the Son of God, the Jews knew He was talking about His being and being one with the Father because they charged Him with blasphemy (Matt. 26:63; John 5:18; 10:36). How is Jesus the Only Begotten? Not because He came into existence in eternity past. I have heard people say that Jesus was born twice, but that's not true. Nor is it true that Jesus became the Son when He was born in Bethlehem. Jesus is the begotten One, the Son by eternal generation. Jesus never came into being. There was never a time when the Son did not exist. The eternal generation of the Son was not a choice by the Father to bring the Son into being, but a necessary act of the Father. Louis Berkoff wrote, "This does not mean, however, that it is an act that was completed in the far distant past, but rather that it is a timeless act, the act of an eternal present, an act always continuing and yet ever completed. Its eternity follows not only from the eternity of God, but also from the divine immutability and from the true deity of the Son. In addition to this, it can be inferred from all those passages of Scripture which teach either the pre-existence of the Son or His equality with the Father, Mic. 5:2; John 1:14, 18; 3:16; 5:17, 18, 30, 36; Acts 13:33; John 17:5; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:3."

Eternal generation means that the Father, from all eternity, communicates the One essence of the being of God to the Son. Now, that's hard to understand because we are finite beings. But it's evident in Scripture and something you believe and receive by faith. Don't try to think up examples or illustrations about the Trinity. Just receive the truth from Scripture and be satisfied with what the Lord has revealed about Himself. John Gill warns us, "Without his eternal generation no proof can be made of his being a distinct divine Person in the Godhead." John Owen rightly said, "Whoever denies Christ the Son, as the Son, that is, the eternal Son of God, he loses the Father also, and the true God; he hath not God. For that God which is not the Father, and which ever was, and was not the Father, is not the true God." Jesus, the Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, entered into His own creation.

This leads us to our next stop, the hypostatic union, which refers to the truth that Jesus is both true man and God in one person. Hypostasis is Greek for subsistence (translated person in Hebrews 1:3) so that union refers to the fact that in the incarnation, the Son added to His divinity, humanity, and Jesus has both a human and divine nature. Two errors to avoid, that Christ had only one nature, or to separate the natures to the point that Christ was essentially two separate persons (Nestorianism).

Christ is truly God and truly man without confusion, meaning Jesus didn't become a third thing by mixing divinity and humanity. The human nature did not become divine, nor did the divine nature become human. It's not that there are two persons, a divine person, and a human, nor a human body and a divine mind and no human soul. But in the one person, there are two natures, at once true man and true God. "Before Abraham was, I am." This same person who spoke to the Jews, spoke to Abraham, so this proves another nature in the same person. Great is the mystery of godliness! This union is without change, meaning the Word was still the Word and didn't become something other than the Word. Nor does it mean that Jesus was half God and half man. This union was without separation. Christ Jesus was one as God and man. He did not lay down His divinity in His humanity. Jesus didn't do away with His divinity or leave it behind, but it was the assumption of human nature "into the personal subsistence with the Son of God," where two natures were in the one person of the Son. In Jesus, there was the union of the two natures in the same person. It is an everlasting union, as Christ now sits bodily at the right hand of the Father, evermore the Godman. He veiled His attributes, but never could He abandon them or leave them behind. R. Scott Clark said, "The incarnation is a great mystery, of course, but we can say what we should say and we should always say that Christ is one person, not a composition, in whom two, distinct natures are indivisibly, inseparably united and that the incarnation is for our salvation and for the glory of God."

Why did all this happen? Jesus, the Eternal Son, the Word made flesh came into this world to fulfill the eternal covenant of redemption where in eternity, He voluntarily willed to come and redeem the elect of God given to Him by the Father, accomplishing the work of redemption on our behalf. The only possible way was through the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). But not the blood of bulls and goats. It was necessary that Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, came in the flesh and that He suffer and die for sins (Hebrews 2:17). It "behooved Him," or it was His necessary duty and responsibility as the second person of the Trinity, in the economy of redemption to die for sinners. God's Holy wisdom required the broken law be paid for by the same nature that sinned against Him, and so our Redeemer had to be a man.

Where did this redemption take place? It took place on the cross, where Jesus paid the sin debt. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). It was on the cross where the wrath of God was satisfied (Isaiah 53:10) when His soul was made an offering for sin. The suffering of Christ was far greater than the physical death that He suffered as He bore our sins. Doubtless, Christ suffered beyond imagination, for Christ drank the cup the Father gave Him. The agony of Christ suffered as the perfect man suffering for sinners is beyond my comprehension. Christ suffered the equivalent to the wrath the elect deserved, not exact in every form and fashion. It was a hellish suffering, though not Hell itself. Due to the infinite merit of Christ and the infinite worth of the Son of God, He could satisfy divine justice as a substitutionary atonement in His vicarious death (Isaiah 53:5). But it was at Calvary, not in Hell, that Jesus suffered. It was the blood of Jesus Christ that was sufficient to pay the price of our propitiation (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1-2). In terms of redemption, the purchase of His people, the Bible points to the physical death and shedding of blood and price (Hebrews 9; Colossians 1:14; Romans 3:24-25; Revelation 5:9; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Christ is the propitiation for our sins by the blood (Romans 3:25). The blood cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7).

Jesus did not go to Hell, or literally burn in the fire. During the three hours of darkness, Jesus was on the cross, not in Hell. Jesus was alive, not dead. Remember, the hypostatic union, the Lord was not the Logos, in the shell of a body, but He was true man and to say the living body and rational soul of Jesus could be conscience on the cross in body, while also literally in Hell denies the humanity of Christ and makes Christ something other than true man. Or, to say that Jesus paid the penalty on the cross, then also went to Hell after to pay for sins is unbiblical. Jesus said He thirsted, He told John to care for His mother, He told the thief that he would be in paradise with Him. All on the cross, where Jesus, in the flesh, with His true, rational soul, spoke, and thought and felt, and prayed. The only way Jesus could be in Hell while his body was on the cross was if Jesus were two different persons, which he most certainly is not. The penalty for our sins was paid in the death of Christ and the shedding of His blood. The wrath of God's justice fell upon Christ on the cross because He became sin for me, and in my place, bore my sins and paid the debt owed to justice. He became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13), and God made Him to be sin for us "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him "(2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Sin was imputed to Him, rather than Jesus became a sinner. Rather than me paying for my sins in Hell, Jesus paid for my sins on the cross. When Jesus said it was finished, it was over. He was still on the cross, and He never left. He had been there the whole time. When Jesus died, He went to paradise (Luke 23:43). He died once for all for sin, not twice. Jesus died physically and rose from the dead physically. That is the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We were reconciled in the "body of His flesh" (Colossians 1:21-22), the body and the blood (Luke 22:19–20), As preachers, let's be careful with our words (James 3:1). As Baptists, let's uphold the first and most significant Landmark of them all, the doctrine of Christ.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Christless Christianity


 

I saw a video of an alleged pastor preaching a sermon on the resurrection of Christ. Well, sort of. He didn't preach, but he wrote a play. And it wasn't really about Jesus and His death and resurrection. It was about The Avengers, the Marvel comic book characters, and the superheroes portrayed the people from the gospel accounts. It was a retelling of the gospel as if it happened in comic books. I won't give any more detail of the blasphemy, but take my word for it. It was worse.

 

A few days later, I listened to a religiously conservative pastor preach a sermon, and the message had just as much Christ in the message as the comic book play. Seriously. He preached from the Bible and had many Scriptures, but the sermon had no Jesus. There was law from beginning to end but no grace. Do this and don't do that, but no Jesus. With no Jesus, there is no hope, just condemnation.


Paul preached against sin and preached commands. There are many commands in Paul's epistles for Christians, but not without Christ. Paul names Christ, Jesus, or Lord over 50 times in the book of Philippians alone, one of the favorite books for assurances robbers (Phil 2:12). In the first chapter (Philippians 1:12-21), Paul thought about his situation. He wasn't thrown in jail for preaching politics but for preaching Christ. And he was ok with that. Not that he wanted to be imprisoned, but that his suffering furthered the gospel. While Paul was in bonds, other people stepped up and preached Christ. Some preachers hated Paul and preached Jesus to spite Paul. Some faithful brethren preached Jesus out of good will, and Paul's bonds encouraged them to press on. Despite their motives, Paul rejoiced because Christ was preached. Not a retelling of Christ, but the true Christ in a true gospel. Paul knew Christ was with him.

 

Paul said, "…that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Paul wasn't ashamed of being locked in the hoosegow because he preached Christ. He wasn't ashamed of being attacked for his message because He preached Christ. The pastor who preached Ironman should be ashamed. He should go be an insurance salesman rather than a preacher if that's what he's going to preach. But is it any better to preach in the traditional style without Jesus Christ? Other than stomping on people's toes with behavior modification, what's the point? The law must be preached, but it must be preached lawfully. 


The two men and their churches couldn't be more different. Their sermons, in some ways, are almost opposites. But strangely, they were similar in that there was hardly any Christ in either. There are topics the Bible addresses that we need to address. Let's make sure we address them as Christians. Jesus said the Old Testament testified of Him, so let's make sure as Christians we don't Jesus out of the Bible when we preach. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Building Together

  

Several years ago, I had just moved across the country and was in between jobs. A builder hired me for a project he needed help with and wanted to utilize a particular skill set that I had. I was strong enough to lift heavy tools and pack stuff back and forth from the truck and tall enough to reach them up to the builders on the roof. At this job, they were replacing the roof on a man's house and today was the day to get the trusses on the house, and there wasn't enough of the regular crew to get those big heavy things up on the roof by themselves, so this was my moment. 

We had been on the site for a couple of hours. Men walking up on the roof, saws cutting, hammers nailing, and all that goes along with building, and suddenly, a man walks out on the porch with a cup of coffee. It was shocking because I assumed the house was empty since half the house didn't have a roof. He stood on the porch, sipped his coffee, looked about with a nod of approval, and went back inside. He was paying for a job and was checking up on it.

I'm afraid some think this is the church membership model. Come to church, watch the pastor do his thing, nod the head approvingly, shake the head disapprovingly, and return home. The church isn't merely a performance of the preacher and singers but the gathering of the saints to build one another up in love (Ephesians 4:7-13 ). Romans 12:6-8 tells us that the church members have different gifts according to our grace. Gifts of teaching, giving, exhortation, comfort, and mercy, to name a few. These gifts are for the local church.

There are all sorts of reasons you should go to church. The Lord Jesus is there. The Word of the Lord is preached. Jesus said you ought to. It's good for you, but a church member also needs to be there for everyone else. The idea of a "spiritual person" who isn't serving Jesus in His church is a foreign concept to Scripture. God's people need one another. Sometimes we need our burdens carried. Other times, we need to carry someone's burden. When life is hard, God's people need the fellowship and encouragement to keep looking to Christ. Something supernatural occurs when the church gathers together and worships the Lord through the preached Word. When the Lord's people gather on the Lord's day, together in the Lord's church, to hear the Lord's man expound and proclaim the Lord's Word, the Lord blesses His people.

 Carrying tools and lifting things didn't win me an award. But it was important enough for the builder to hire me for the job. That made my part a necessary and needful role in the overall building up of this house. Don't minimize the gift God gave you, nor underestimate its importance in the house of God. It's the Lord's church, and He'll build it up. I'm just thankful and happy to be a part of it, anyway I can.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

What's the Difference?

John tells us in the 13th chapter of his gospel that Jesus, 'having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." This is a preface for the second half of John's gospel. The first 12 chapters cover three years of Jesus's ministry, and the last nine chapters cover about a week. From this point until the arrest, Jesus is instructing and comforting his people. The first verse is an essential introduction to understanding what Christ Jesus says to his own. He loved His people and loved them to the end. He illustrates that love when he washes the disciples' feet. As the Godman loved His own in the world, He calls His disciples to love one another. But then, in John 13:16-20, Jesus tells the 12 that one of them is an imposter, a betrayer. One of them will "lift up the heel" against Him. We know it's Judas, but the disciples had no clue. Jesus dismisses Judas from the table and tells Him to go and do what he had committed to do. Judas leaves.

Jesus then said now was the time God would be glorified because Jesus is about to lay down His life as a substitute for the sins of His people, taking their place at Calvary's cross, the just for the unjust. He gives the 11 remaining disciples a new commandment, to love one another. Jesus, who will be leaving soon, who loved His own, tells His own to love each other. Not tracking with the Lord's message, Peter asks Jesus why he can't follow Him and presses the matter to the point Peter claimed he would die for Jesus. The Lord said not only will Peter not die for Jesus, but he'll also deny him three times.
 
I listened to a sermon recently, and the preacher told his congregation that there were likely Judas' in the church. Not only God-haters, but hypocrites, who come to church and read their Bibles but don't really love Jesus. He held a standard of righteousness that people would have to meet, or otherwise, they are probably not even saved. He pointed people to follow godly examples of people who wouldn't betray the Lord. Don't be a Judas, be a Joseph. My question is, what's the difference between Judas and Peter? But is that the point? All the man said about Judas was equally valid of Peter. Peter listened to preaching, was always around Jesus, and confessed Him as Christ, but denied the Lord. Peter didn't live up to the standard the man set up to test if one was the real deal.

The only difference between Judas and Peter was the love of Jesus. Jesus loved Peter freely, completely, unconditionally, not because Peter was good, but because He chose to love him and loved him unto the end. The point is the marvelous grace found in the perfect Saviour. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

 
 
 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Inside-out, Upside-down



Inside-Out

A couple of weeks ago, around 11 AM, I looked down and noticed my sweater looked strange. I went to the restroom and saw the tag in the mirror. My shirt was on inside-out, and it had been that way for almost five hours. My jacket covered it most of the morning, and I don't think anyone had noticed, but no one said anything to me if they did.

I would have been embarrassed if someone had pointed it out. But imagine if I continued to wear it inside-out the rest of the day. Imagine someone talking to me, seeing my shirt, and ignoring it. Maybe they didn't want to hurt my feelings, or worse, perhaps they wanted to see how long it would take me to notice and laugh behind my back. 

Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." It's not a pleasant task confronting people and telling them they are wrong, but the Bible says a friend will do the hard work of warning someone they care about.

It's not your enemy that points out your fault, but it's your friend. Does truth matter? Then we should be thankful when we get put back on the path no matter the messenger. It's a false friend and a deceiver who only pats us on the back and smiles with us, knowing we are doing wrong. For the sake of argument, let's say that I had an archnemesis in the area. I stop at Go-Mart, and as I'm pumping gas, he pulls in beside me, notices my shirt inside-out, laughs at me, and asks if I got dressed in the dark. He belly-laughed at me and then got in his truck and rolled away. Sure, that would have been embarrassing and aggravating, but at least he told me. I would rather my enemy help me by correcting a flaw than my friend letting me live in denial and walk the road to ruin.

Let's imagine another scenario. A preacher is heading down the wrong path and starts associating with some men preaching a false gospel. Imagine if another preacher saw what he was doing and just called him out, by name, in public? Is that being unchristian? Is that mean-spirited? That's what Paul did in Antioch when he called out Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). Peter could have huffed and puffed and got angry and then attacked. Peter could have looked for faults in Paul's life. Peter could have ignored him because he didn't take him out for a cup of coffee and had a heart to heart, wrongly applying Jesus' words in Matthew 18. But Peter listened. The disaster was averted. The gospel was defended.

Paul was a true friend to Peter and the other people standing around watching. Many people saw Peter distance himself from the Gentiles, which gave credence to the false gospel. The only loving choice was to stand up and say something.

Upside-Down

But I thought pastors were supposed to be gentle? That's true. It's also true that all Christians are to be gentle. But to whom, and in what way? Is turning over tables in the Temple gentle? Is calling false teaches vipers, hypocrites, and sons of the Devil gentle? 

A Christian ought not to be gentle to someone harming others. To stand by and watch someone get hurt is the opposite of a meek spirit. That's the spirit of fear. The only love being shown in that insistence is self-love. It's selfish and self-centered to watch someone being harmed and stand around and do nothing because you want to show love and compassion. Who are you showing compassion on? Yourself. You are sparing yourself any conflict, pain, and possible retribution.

Let's imagine we are on a bus, and a criminal walks up to a 12-year-old girl, smacks her across the face, and take her phone. He proceeds to knock her to the ground and stomp her head. Now, let's say you are a man who sees the whole thing go down. You, quietly bow your head and pray. You don’t want to get involved and make the situation worse. How can you be a good Christian and get in the flesh and get into a fight? After all, a pastor is not supposed to be a brawler. You might go to jail and ruin your testimony. Worse, he might kill you in the process and then kill the girl. No, the loving thing would be just to ignore it, pray, and then get on Facebook later and lament about society. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. That is cowardice and self-preserving fear. There is nothing loving in that position. By choosing not to confront the guilty, you have punished the innocent. By not wanting to get involved, you have allowed this criminal, not only to harm this girl, rob her, and likely ruin her life, but you allow him to go on to the next person and do it again. 

Spiritually, there are people who preach false doctrine that harm the flock and it is the pastor's (a pastor is a shepherd) job to protect the congregation from their harm. It's not loving to let a person harm other people or ignore false doctrine in the name of grace and kindness. The loving thing is to do your best to put an end to it, protect your people. What kind of shepherd lets wolves or wolfish doctrine enter the sheepfold and then avoids the conflict out of a spirit of kindness? One that doesn't care about the sheep (John 10:12-14). You don't have to be a jerk, but it's wrong not to say anything. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Which Came First?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In second grade, my teacher presented this problem to the class. I thought about it for days, trying to work out the logic. Chickens come from eggs, but eggs come from chickens. My mind was blown, but it's not an enigma. It's a foolish question with a clear answer. The chicken came first because God created them (Genesis 1:21). My problem wasn't a lack of logic but a wrong worldview. I thought about the question from what I could see, not from what I could know through Scripture. Thankfully, God has revealed to us things about the world, about ourselves, and about Him that we could not have otherwise known (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).

Some Christians take that "chicken or the egg" mentality to work out how the Lord saved them rather than what the Bible says about it. Let's imagine a college classroom. A guest speaker comes and preaches the gospel, and of the 100 students in the class, two were saved. Ninety-eight of the others didn't pay attention, but two were truly saved.

 The first student, a music major, thought about life through art and experience. The second student is a history major. The first student knows he needs to get to church and starts looking for one and finds one with an orchestra and an extensive music program. He goes to that church. He hears a sermon where salvation is preached in a way that seems similar to the way he experienced it. The preacher tells the sinners in the crowd to choose Jesus and do right and do good for God's approval. That's what he did in the class. He chose Jesus and all the others didn't. He says the egg came first, and says his decision saved him.

 The history major happens upon a church that is studying Romans. As the preacher expounds on God's work in redemption, justification by faith, grace, election, total depravity, the man realizes that though he repented and trusted in Christ, the Bible talks about what God did for him in salvation considers his salvation experience through Scripture. He understood, from the Bible, he had not come to Christ before because he was not born again, and when he did believe, it was because of God's grace. The music major started with the appropriation of redemption and explained salvation, starting with his experience. The history major begins with the application of redemption or how God saved his soul and applied the work of Christ by the Spirit. But both can't be right.

 Salvation is not subjective based on the believer's individual experience. God, in His Word, has explained how we are saved, why we are saved, and by whom we are saved. We are effectually called by God's grace, given life, faith, and repentance. We are justified by God, adopted into His family, progressively sanctified and preserved until our time of glorification. The Bible will tell you what came first, faith or regeneration.  

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Make it Plain


All things in Scripture are not equally plain. Some passages are difficult to understand. To paraphrase the confessions, doctrines necessary to know and believe for salvation are so clearly seen and taught that both learned and unlearned people can see and understand them in some place or another in the Bible. If one passage is unclear, there may be 100 more that will shed light on the tricky passage. But, some texts are difficult to interpret. Or as Alistair Begg said pithily, "The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things." In 2 Peter 3:15-18, Peter doesn't say to leave those difficult texts alone, but instead, you need to learn Biblical truth in all the Bible, the right way, to keep on guard against evil people who want to deceive you.

Hard verses are the favorite playthings of those who know the least while also being the foundation for the most unstable ones. Common sense would tell you that if you don't know very much about a subject, the best place to start would be the easy parts. I didn't teach my kids how to read from Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics books. They learned from Dr. Suess, not Dr. Owen. You teach beginners 2+2, not polynomials, rational exponents, and radicals. The unlearned and unstable like to go to the difficult passages because there is a place where a person can seem wise. So why do unlearned and unstable people gravitate toward difficult passages? In challenging texts, you'll find differences of opinions, debate, and argument, always asking questions, but never have any answers. It's the place where there is room for fanciful interpretation. False teachers like to take unfamiliar and twist them until they can convince people of their false teaching. Faithful pastors take unfamiliar texts and explain them. Good preachers try their best to make the Bible plain. 

Twisting Scripture or not knowing the Scripture is the highway to destruction. It's dangerous to be ignorant of the Bible. The Lord has given His people the means to learn about Him, learn about the Bible, and learn about Christian living. He established His church on the Earth, then equipped her with pastors and teachers to equip the children of God to grow in him. Churches with pastors who don't know very much about the Bible are in for a world of hurt. Christians who don't go to church and don't sit under doctrinal preaching are in a world of danger. (Eph 4:8-16). Be aware of how false teachers operate, lest you be led away with their error and fall from our steadfastness. Peter doesn't put a nice spin on false teachers but calls it the "error of the wicked."

Peter urges you to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. That means you need to learn more about Jesus. If you are a young Christian, learn more about Jesus. Study the gospel and redemption. If you are a seasoned Christian and add to that knowledge of the Lord Jesus and his work, His person, His promises, and his future program. You already know the gospel, but I can promise you that you don't know all there is to know about the gospel, redemption, how it was accomplished, why it was accomplished, and applied. And never stop. Always look and learn of Jesus.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

From a Broken Home

  

Not everyone has a great childhood. Some children grow up in terrible situations, and it's a wonder they made it out of childhood at all. Once, a young boy named Josiah had a lousy home life. His father, though wealthy, was an evil man. He was a practitioner of the dark arts, worshipping devil gods in perverse ways. He was only 16 years old when Josiah was born. Eight years later, villains murdered Josiah's dad in their own house. Losing a parent is hard at any age, but for a son to lose his dad at the age of eight, and to murderous hands, would be particularly hard on the young man. How is his life going to turn out? He might have followed in his father's footsteps and to honor him, become like him. Another course would be for Josiah to become bitter and hardhearted. The world was against him. Everything is always falling apart for him. Nothing ever goes his way.

Josiah was the eight-year-old king of Judah. Does that make a difference? He was actually in more danger of turning out just as rotten as his dad. It's not very often that celebrity children grow up well adjusted. Childhood actors and actresses rarely make it to adulthood without a mental and emotional collapse. They are taken advantage of, used, abused, stolen from, and by the time they reach adulthood, many are broken inside and out. King Josiah wasn't just a famous kid – he was the king. How much more would the flatterers and politicians try to get their hooks in him?

By God's grace, not only did Josiah turn out ok, but he was also second to none when it came to the kings of Judah,  "there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him," (2 Kings 23:25). There wasn't a more godly king who sat on the throne than Josiah. He began to seek the Lord at an early age. When Josiah turned, 16 he began a series of reforms that changed the face of the nation. Josiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and rather than following in his dad's footsteps, he followed in king David's. He wasn't bitter and hardhearted but had a tender heart and humbled himself before the Lord (2 Kings 22:19). Josiah's submission to the word of God, his tender heart to receive the truth, and his humble heart to confess his sin before God made him one of the great men of history.

God's grace took a boy from a home, grounded in wickedness, disordered in idolatry, and broken in a tragedy and saved him from the curse of a bad family life. God's grace is sufficient, powerful, and life-changing. Don't excuse your sins by your upbringing. There is grace, forgiveness, and a new life in Christ.

 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

We would see Zeppelin?


I saw a "worship service" clip where the band opened up with several of Led Zeppelin's greatest hits. They began with "Stairway to Heaven" because it said, Heaven? The setlist also included the bluesy "Black Dog," the perverse "Whole Lotta of Love," and "Ramble On" because nothing says Christianity like a song about rambling. This is one of the biggest religious assemblies in the country and the clip was well produced with professional lighting and camera work. I did notice some of the crowd just sitting there watching. What were they supposed to do? Dance? Headbang? Are mosh pits still a thing? I somehow doubt there were many elderly saints in attendance. Unless they had an early "traditional" service where they played "The Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "The Pennsylvania Polka."

Not only is the music not appropriate, but it also wasn't that great. It was offensive both to Christians and fans of Rock. They provided a mediocre concert and an atrocious religious service. Christ was not glorified, and the world wasn't satisfied. The leader (I'll not call him a pastor) of this clown show is so middle of the road, vanilla – he looks and speaks like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company trying to "get real" with the kids. So why were hundreds and hundreds of people there? Because that mega-church has cornered the market on a particular kind of person. People who want to be spiritual, desire religion, and are looking for someplace that can scratch that itch, without the responsibilities that come with authentic Christianity.

In John 12:20-21 some Grecian men came to worship at the Passover feast, went to Phillip and said, "Sir, we would see Jesus." These men wanted to speak with Jesus and learn of him, to be in his presence. They knew if they wanted to be near Christ, they could go to a disciple, and he would point them the way. A church service is designed for the worship of Christ, for members of Christ's body. But the doors are open because all are welcome and it should be the place where, if anyone wanted to hear about Jesus, they would see him there. When God's people gather, we echo the sentiments of the enquirers, and "we would see Jesus." We would hear of him, worship him, sing praises to him, and hear his Word. We would see Jesus in the hymns. We would see Jesus in the ordinances. Unto Christ be glory in the church.

A cover band playing 50-year-old rock and roll doesn't lift up Christ. It's bait and switch. Draw people in with one thing and then sell them on something else by offering aging rockers a free concert on Sunday morning and then hit them with a sales pitch on the way out the door. Churches ought not to copy the world and certainly don't copy other religious assemblies copying the world because they can draw a crowd. Show the people Jesus.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Bible in a Year?

Guess what? You don't have to read the Bible in a year. You know what else? People who tell you that you must read the whole Bible in a year are binding your conscience and adding to the law of God. Is it reasonable to read the Bible in a year? Absolutely. Can you do it? Indeed, and for many people, the only thing that keeps them from reading it in a year is determination and a plan. But God doesn't command you to follow someone else's reading schedule.

Reading plans are designed for man, not man for the reading plan. Not everyone is that great at reading. It's is a struggle for some people and it takes them a good long while to get through a short passage. So yes, you might be able to read 5 chapters in 15 minutes, but it would take three-quarters of an hour for some people to do the same, if not more. If you have a hard time reading you can find audio versions to listen to as you read along to help. Not all people are preachers or can be and not all people are gifted with the same reading skills and capacities as the men God gifts to read, study, teach, expound, preach God's Word. 

Besides, the Bible doesn't command you to read the Bible through in a year. But do you know what the Bible DOES tell you to do? It tells you to study it (2 Timothy 2:15). It tells you to meditate on it (Psalm 119:15), to take heed (Psalm 119:9), and understand (Psalm 119:27). But it does not command you that you have to read it in 365 days. 

Reading large chunks of the Bible in one setting is a different type of reading than digging in and reading slowly. Reading large portions will give you the information, the big picture, the general information, while slow, close reading will provide the opportunity for study, meditation, and understanding. Of course, all this depends on what part of the Bible you are reading. Reading chapter 9 of Proverbs a verse at a time would be too slow to get the point, but reading chapter 10 a verse at a time would be perfectly appropriate. But, by reading it quickly, you'll get a feel for what's there and learn that some actually exist and can circle back later. I Samuel tells a history, so you could read five chapters and meditate on the flow of the story. Reading the first two chapters of Ephesians is like drinking from a water hose, but reading the first two chapters of Galatians gives you an understanding of what was going on with the entrance of a false gospel in Galatia. 

You need to read the Bible, and you ought to desire to read and know every Word of God. But if you only read big chunks and never slow down and study, you'll believe every jot and title is inspired but not know what a tittle is or why that's important. If you are reading so fast that you cannot meditate on or comprehend what you've read, I question your aim. Yes, it's essential to read through the Bible and get the big picture. All God's Word is profitable. But reading much and reading fast, and never studying, praying over it, meditating, and discerning application is not the wise way to go.

I would rather you study one verse and understand it, meditate on it, and apply it than read 5 chapters in 15 minutes and not be sure what you read. Some read just to have read. Plenty of people read the Bible every year but don't understand it. Indeed, in most instances, you need to understand the context of the surrounding verses to get the meaning, but that's part of the study and meditation of one verse. I've taken one book or one small portion and read that every day for a month. Is that wrong, to forgo a  365 schedule, to read the book of James every day for a month, and if so, why and who says? I've read a chapter in Leviticus and got to the end and couldn't have told you one thing I read because I just glossed over it. Technically, I read every word and I can check it off the list, but what was the point? Is it better to read it again the next day and actually read it but throw the whole schedule off or just skip it and move on? 

 I'm not downplaying the good of continually reading through the Bible, front to back. I also am not discouraging you to read the Bible yearly, if you can. And I know not having a plan is planning to fail. I just want you to know that reading the Bible slowly is better than not reading it at all, or reading it so quickly, you might as well not even have read it. Don't beat yourself up if you can't keep up with Brother S. Gonzalez and read as speedily as he does. Don't allow his pace to discourage you from going at the pace you are able to go. That would be like deciding you won't take up jogging for your health because you can't keep pace with Olympic runners. If it takes you 5 years to do it, that's better than never doing it all or getting stuck in Leviticus in February and quitting every year for the rest of your life. If you tried and failed, just keep going and make it a two-year plan. 

It's not a contest or a race. I'm glad people encourage others to read the Bible. I hope that you do. I'm glad others show you how you can read the Bible in a year. But don't let their zeal for their program become a law to bind your conscience.  Do the best you can, for God's glory and by His grace, He'll bless your desire to know more about him.

 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Express Image of God

 Desiring a manifestation of God, long ago, mankind began to make images and craft their own representations of their idea of God. Like the Israelites, who would not wait for Moses to come down from meeting with God, they made their own representation of God to worship. The children of Isreal knew God existed, and they knew God delivered them from Egypt. But they wanted to be near God, to "see" a representation of him to worship some model to behold the glory of the infinite God, so they made an idol.

 Man would not look to the Almighty for self-revelation but took it upon himself to make a visible image of the invisible God. Mankind yearns to have a visual representation of God so they can look at it, be near it, think about it, and even have God present with them through the idol. But the end result is they dishonor God, making not only a poor representation but one that drives them further away from the true and living God.

 Anytime we conceive of God apart from His revelation, we make an idol. How can we know the infinite mind of God unless He reveals it? In the Old Testament, God gave His people ways to worship that taught them. A tabernacle of animals skins, a host of fallen men as priests, multitudes of washings and sacrifices, a table with bread on it, a big bowl for washing, or veils and lamps. All these are types, symbols were teaching tools God gave Israel to teach us about Him but did not draw the heart to worship the object, but the Lord God. Because those types only pictured one perfection of the Lord, not an image of Him in His fulness. So an idol is never enough because no graven image can fully represent the glory of God.

 Christ is the image of the invisible God, and He and the Father are one in nature and essence. Jesus isn't merely a representation of the nature of God because He is one with the Father and has the divine nature. The Son is one with the Father, but also WITH the Father. John 1:1-2, "In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." The Word was God, one in subsistence, but with God in distinct personhood. In this distinct personhood, the Word is the "image of the invisible God."

 Idols are not enough because they try to take the place of Jesus. Do you want God near? Look to Jesus. Do you want to have an express image of the invisible God? Look to Jesus (Hebrews 1:3). The Devil blinds mens' eyes to behold God's only actual express image and gives them idols of their own imaginations to worship. How do we see the glory of the invisible, infinite, glorious, eternal God? In the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).


Monday, January 3, 2022

This Will We Do


Did you make any New Year's Resolutions? Resolutions are a matter of temperance or discipline. It requires an honest assessment of where you are now and where you want to be. It is difficult to figure out how to achieve your goal but the most challenging part is putting it into action. You have to say no to things you might want now to have better things you want later. Often, it's just the practice of exercising discipline that makes the difference. Too many people, especially young men, are just floating through life with no plan or discipline.

Don't neglect your spiritual life when taking stock of where you are and where you want to be. The author of Hebrews wrote to believers who should have been farther along in their Christian walk (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). He had many hard truths to get into, but it was a mighty task for the preacher because of their spiritual dullness. The people not only should have known what he was explaining, but they should have been teaching it themselves. Spiritually, they were still sitting in the high chair eating baby food, which is fine if you are a baby, but not when you are a full-grown man. They were unskillful in the Word of God. They hadn't progressed in knowledge, wisdom, discernment, or understanding of God's truth because they hadn't dedicated themselves to study, nor had they meditated on God's truth and applied these truths to their life. If you are not constantly in the Word, you will not grow spiritually. He urged his readers to graduate from kindergarten and the ABCs of the faith and build upon that foundation. Then he says, "And this will we do if God permit."

That's an excellent resolution and the right way to go about it. The preacher laid the challenge for spiritual growth of these stunted believers. He's going to expound his theme, and if God permits, they will grow from the Word preached. It's a worthy goal for us all. Read, study, and meditate on the Scriptures. Exercise your powers of discernment by comparing what you see and hear to the Word of God. Don't go to the Scripture to justify what you want to do, but go to the Scripture to see what God has to say. Do you know the "principles of the doctrine of Christ" in Hebrews 6:1-2? Determine, not only know them but build upon them. The preacher said he would do it if God permitted. He thought about what was lacking, and he made a plan to correct course, determined to set things right and not be deterred, trusting in God and acknowledging if we do anything in this life, it's because of God's grace. Temperance is a fruit of the Spirit. In spiritual disciplines, you must rely on God's power to move forward. Do you want to grow Spiritually? The first thing to do is go to the Lord in prayer and make your desires known to Him.

 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Ezra: The Prequel

One of the most popular Bible reading schedules is the M'Cheyne Reading Plan, which takes you through the Bible in a year. It has four readings a day, two from each Testament. The Old Testament starts with the book of Ezra, which is not an easy place to start if you don't know the back story. Ezra begins at the end of the captivity of the Jews and the return of the remnant back to Jerusalem. Because of a host of sins, the Lord punished them with 70 years of servitude and captivity in Babylon starting with the sacking of Jerusalem. The Lord promised and it came to pass, as it always does (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:9-10).

The deportation of Israel happened over the course of several events before it was all said and done (2 Chronicles 36). After the great King Josiah died, his son was put on the throne, but he only lasted a few months. Pharaoh (to whom Judah was paying tribute after defeating Judah in Josiah’s last battle) put his older brother on the throne, Jehoiakim. But suddenly, Babylon overthrew Egypt as the world power and came to Jerusalem and took the best of the young men they had to offer. Daniel was part of this captivity. Wicked king Jehoiakim plotted against Nebuchadnezzar, but that plan backfired because Nebuchadnezzar comes conquerors him.

Jehoiachin was next in line (yes, lots of strange "J" names, but to be fair, he would probably think Bob was a strange name) and was just an 18 year old boy and reigned for just 3 months before Nebuchadnezzar took him captive and then put Zedekiah on the throne, while he plunders Jerusalem taking the treasures from the temple and the king’s house. He took all the princes and the mighty men, and the craftsmen and left the poor and the working man behind.

Jeremiah told Zedekiah to remain under Nebuchadnezzar’s power, because that was the only hope (Jeremiah 7), but he doesn’t listen, and tries to join with Egypt to defeat Babylon. Everyone knows better than the preacher! Nebuchadnezzar hears about it and he is not one to put up with rebellion. His army surrounds Jerusalem. Jeremiah pleads with Zedekiah to reconsider (Jeremiah 36-37), but right before the battle, Egypt comes up and gives Judah some hope, but to no avail (Jeremiah 37:5-10). Lamentations chapter 4 tells the story of the 18 month siege and the horrors of what happens to Jerusalem.

This time, Nebuchadnezzar finishes the job. He burns the city, tears down the buildings, the walls, and leaves it in ruins. All the men who told Zedekiah not to listen to Jeremiah were slain. Anything of any value was stolen and what wasn’t pilfered was destroyed.

Nebuchadnezzar was powerful, but he wasn’t God and isn't going to reign forever. Daniel had a vision in chapter 7, concerning the world powers. After Babylon, the Persians would rule. And they did. Ezra 1:1, "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia…"

So, if you are going to try the plan Saturday, this refresher might help. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Hate, From a Distance



I've spent my entire life not caring about what Bette Midler thought on any subject. But, in this age of instant information, the ramblings of an elderly New York woman, using the fool's microphone that is Twitter, caught my attention. The alleged entertainer fired up about Joe Manchin said, "What #JoeManchin, who represents a population smaller than Brooklyn, has done to the rest of America, who wants to move forward, not backward, like his state, is horrible. He sold us out. He wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate, and strung out." She apologized a few minutes later, and so, with the spirit of the grace of and kindness of our Lord, I'll forgive her insult. But it can be instructive to learn from other people's mistakes, so we avoid making them ourselves.

Don't let your mouth run ahead of your brain online. I'm sure Midler thought she was making a brilliant point but didn't realize her contempt for her fellow countrymen would be poorly received. "He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace," Proverbs 11:12. It's malicious to hate people you have never met based on stereotypes, but it's the work of a fool to let everyone know. Jesus said, "for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." Don't get caught up in the Two Minutes of Hate and let the media drive you to despise other human beings for their financial gain. Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Besides that, it was a poor tactic. Proverbs 18:19 says, "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle." The worst way to win someone to your way of thinking is by insulting him. Once you've left the arena of ideas and entered the playground of childish insults, you've ended any chance of convincing them of their error or winning them to your side. Are you in a heated discussion and trying to persuage someone you are right? You might be able to land a few zingers and win a battle, but they'll close up like a castle, and you've lost the war.

Midler doesn't want the country to be "backward." The Bill she wanted passed included expanding taxpayer-funded abortion. In her mind, progress includes ending the lives of inconvenient baby humans and making me pay for it. Is that moving forward? If so, no thanks. Backward is the right move if you are heading off a cliff. West Virginia has lots of problems, but Midler doesn't have the answers. If progress means treating people you disagree with politically with hatred, then I'm happy here in The Mountain State.
















Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Found and Lost

 

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei saw something curious through the telescope he made – four stars traveling around Jupiter. Stars in the sky are not novel, but stars traveling in the opposite direction as the others were intriguing. Galileo realized they were not stars but moons, and they rotated around Jupiter with such precise regularity, you could set your clock by them. Before cell phones worked their magic, you had to set your clock by some standard, something fixed. Imagine (or remember) a world where it took a lot of work to set your watch if you lost time. Jupiter's moons were that reliable, and the regularity of the moons was so precise you could calculate longitude by them. 

In the 1600s, there was no reliable way to find longitude. Latitude was no problem, but you need a standard to go by with longitude, something fixed (Longitude lines get smaller as you move toward the poles and are not the same distance apart as the parallel). If you are in the middle of the ocean, how are you going to be able to find your bearing? At the time, the only conceivable way to calculate longitude at sea was to know the exact time in a fixed location, compare it by the time on the ship, make some calculations of the time difference to find your bearing. But the problem was timepieces in the 1600s were large and couldn't keep time at sea because of temperature and atmospheric pressure changes. Besides, if a clock lost a few minutes every day, you'd be hundreds of miles off course by the time you crossed the ocean. And, there was no reliable way at the time to look through a telescope with the regularity needed to keep on track. Plus, sometimes it's cloudy. 

Galileo made a fantastic discovery. We learned about the universe, found moons we didn't know existed, and we saw the faithfulness of God in keeping in motion distant moons on uninhabited planets hidden far from the eyes of man 365 million miles away. Psalms 8:3-4, "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?" We have studied and learned much about the world we live in, yet so much is undiscovered and scarcely understood. It wasn't until the 1700s when John Harrison built a clock that could keep time at sea, that we could know where we were or how big our world was. With all of our technological advances, we can know our location in the world with GPS because we can shoot satellites into space. We can see off into the distant stars and keep time in perfect sync. We found something fixed in the wonders of God's creation through technological advances and forgotten the God who created all and holds all things in motion. We found our bearings of location and time but are lost without Christ. 



Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Grudging Grace

 

Theodore Beza (1519-1605) was a French Protestant theologian who succeeded John Calvin in Geneva. Before Theodore's conversion to Christ, he acted like one not converted to Christ. Imagine that, a sinner who acted like a sinner. He was a talented writer and published some popular poetry, which contained some salacious verse, and naturally, it was published and widely read. In the process of time, God graciously granted Beza the grace of repentance and faith, and when he received Christ as Saviour, he began living for and serving his Redeemer. But books do not feel remorse, and neither can they repent. So despite his change of heart, the books remained on the shelves of worldly-minded people. Demand was high for these poems, and there was a lot of money to be made in republishing. Now ashamed of the work, Beza refused to republish, despite the potential for making a ton of cash.

Beza had some enemies, including the Roman Catholic church, because of his doctrine, being a Reformer. Years after his conversion, someone drug up the amorous verse and charged him and the entire Reformation movement as worldly and wicked. I suppose any way to attack the doctrine of justification by faith and the gospel of grace. In response to his old sins and his past life used as an attack on him and his theology, he said, "These men grudge me the grace of God."

Human nature doesn't change. A young man wrote some foolish and sinful things in public in his youth, and later in his life, his enemies dug up dirt on him and tried to cancel him. Everyone has a past. Every Christian has sins we are ashamed of, and if you are a Christian, you have repented and renounced those sins. But the enemy grudges us the grace of God. Satan is our adversary and the accuser of the brethren. If he can, he won't give our hearts and minds a moment's peace in the mercy and pardon of God. He'll dredge up old sins and rub our noses in it.

It's not hypocrisy when Beza repented then spoke against the sins of his past –  it's the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. Jesus Christ bore the sins of his people in His own body on the tree and was the substitute for sinners. Rather than me paying for my sins, Jesus paid the debt I owed. I receive His righteousness by faith and stand before God justified, clean, and pardoned. I'm not a sinless man, but I have a sinless Saviour who gave me His righteousness. I have a sovereign Comforter who sanctifies me and leads me in the path of righteousness. Trying to cancel a person for the past they left behind is the Devil's work. It doesn't prove Christians are hypocrites, it proves that Jesus Christ saves sinners, even the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-16)  and tries to begrudge a man God's grace, that saved a wretch like me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Pray and Praise



When I first moved to North Carolina, a long-time resident told me, "If you don't like the weather here, just wait a few minutes, and it will change." I moved to Southeast Georgia about five years later, and a local there told me the same thing. When I moved to West Virginia, you guessed it, "…wait a few minutes, and it will change." Though the weather was different in each place, it's subject to change pretty quickly no matter where you are in the eastern US. It's not uncommon to drive to work in the sunshine and drive home in a torrential downpour.

Life is like that. It can change in an instant. We can wake up expecting a typical, ordinary day, and our world is turned upside down by lunch. The opposite is true as well. You may start the day depressed and downtrodden and on top of the world by supper time. The Bible doesn't promise a trouble-free life, but sometimes it is. Jesus didn't say for nothing, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." On the other hand, remember the second clause, "but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." At the beginning of the book of Job, he had a good life. At the end of the book, he had a good life too. It was different but, in many ways, better. But boy did Job have afflictions in between. Not just hard times but severe afflictions of the greatest sort. Any one of Job's trials would be enough to break some men, but Job had one tragedy after another, after another. Affliction is when you are affected by some lengthy trial or repeated troubler. Whether bodily sickness, grief, sorrow, disappointments, loss, or continued trouble (or when you have them all at once), James gives us instructions on living through affliction and happiness. James 5:13 says, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms." Go to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit and find help, comfort, and grace in a trial, and when you are merry, sing psalms. There is a lot of truth in the lyric, "I sing because I'm happy." James directs our happiness to the worship of the Almighty. God ordains our steps, and when those steps are on a smooth and easy path, the wind is at our back, and the sunshine feels good on our face, give thanks by singing praise to the Lord.

A few years ago, John Piper wrote an article before cancer surgery titled, "Don't Waste Your Cancer." His point was even during a great trial, there is an opportunity to worship, witness, and live closer to Christ in suffering. We miss the privilege to live well in abundance or plenty. When you pray in your affliction, it's an act of faith knowing the Father hears you, the Lord cares for you, and the throne of grace is open to you through Jesus Christ, and singing praises acknowledges God's blessings.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Name's not Welcome


 Proverbs 22:1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. It's preferable to have a good name than great riches, so I want a good reputation.  It's preferable to have a good name than great riches, so naturally, I want a good reputation. A good name is when people speak well of you, think well of you, and esteem you among men. In other words, a good name is to have a good reputation.

Jesus didn't have a good name with most people in Jerusalem. He was a troublemaker (John 10:19), a sinner (John 9:16), demon-possessed, crazy (John 10:20), and a Samaritan (John 8:48). Nor did he have a name of esteem because they wanted nothing more than to see Jesus dead (John 5:16; 15:20). "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you," John 15:18. We know eventually, Jesus was falsely accused, then condemned to die, then nailed to a cross. Jesus did not have a "good name" to the majority of the people who knew him.

 The proverb is true, and we need to apply it the right way. Otherwise, it would lead to your fall. A good name is a value judgment. When someone hears my name, they will judge by three factors:

  • What they have heard about me.
  • What they know about me.
  • What they designate as good.

I cannot control what people hear about me because the work of the slanderer and gossip are outside my jurisdiction. I do have some control over what people know about me. My actions and my words are under my power. However, I cannot control how people interpret my actions and words. William F. Buckley once said, "that if one man pushes an old lady into an oncoming bus and another man pushes an old lady out of the way of a bus, we should not denounce them both as men who push old ladies around." While I can control my actions and words, I cannot control how people view those or interpret them, especially when they lack context.

 The most important of the three factors is what those who judge my name deem good. God determines good and evil. A godless man has a different standard of good than God Himself. I want a good name with God. Meaning I do what God has told me to do, whether others like that or not. I want to control what I can control and make sure that I live in a way that represents my Lord and His truth. I should not court the favor of the wicked, and if I live for the Lord and his glory, I should not care what they think of me. Having a good name is not courting popularity. Some of the best names I know walked alone. If having a good name meant being liked by everyone, I'd need to change my name to Welcome because I'd be nothing more than a doormat. 

 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Public Gratitude


"Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name," Psalms 18:49. Before David became king, reigning King Saul tried multiple times to eliminate the competition. More than once, Saul had David trapped and there was no way out, but God delivered David every time. After one such occasion, David wrote Psalm 18 to praise the Lord for delivering him out of the hand of all his enemies. Later on in life, David pens a variation of this same Psalm after the Lord delivered Israel from a three-year famine, and he avenged the Gibeonites, and won another war against the Philistines (2 Samuel 22). David praised the Lord in thanksgiving his whole life.

 

Thanksgiving is expressing gratitude to one who has shown you kindness, and so it must have an object. To be thankful, you need to recognize kindness and the grace you received from somewhere. You can be thankful for the kindness of others, and you ought to express that to those people while you can. But are you thankful for the people in your life? To whom do you direct that gratitude? To be truly thankful, you have to give expression to the Lord because it's, "the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy." David was thankful for his mighty men, but he recognized the first cause and thanked God for his deliverance.

 

The dilemma of society is the difficult task of nursing an embittered grievance while expressing a spirit of gratitude. It’s impossible to be thankful for what you have, while resentful about what you don’t have. You cannot be thankful for the life God gave you while covetous of the things he didn’t give you. Even if God did provide you more of the things you want, you would not be grateful for them and start looking for more things not to be thankful for. Without gratitude to God, you can't enjoy the things you have now.

 

In the Old Testament, God chose Israel from among all the nations of the Earth to pour out his covenant mercy and grace. Therefore, every other nation was a heathen nation, founded on pagan principles and directed by their idolatrous worship. The Israelites were a people of privilege, blessed by God.  There were two types of people in the Old Testament, if you were not an Israelite, then you were a heathen. Paul quotes David in Romans 15:9. While preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, lost sinners will come to saving faith in Christ, and praise the Lord. These "heathen" people moved from being outside the camp to the inside and they were thankful to participate in the praise of the Lord God. David testified of God's mercy unto the lost and publically thanked God and Paul wanted to see the lost repent and join in the thanksgiving. Make your expression of gratitude to the Lord public and give God glory for the great things he has done.


Happy Thanksgiving!