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Archive for February, 2009

 

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)

Father, Your faithfulness is great – it reaches to the heavens and fills the universe. There’s no end to it. You’re consistent, reliable, constant, and steady. You always do what You say you’re going to do. Your faithfulness is infinite, eternal, and perfect. Your faithfulness really is great!

I, on the other hand, am not always faithful. I admit that I am not always consistent; not always reliable; not always constant; and not always steady. I don’t always keep my promises and do what I say I’m going to do. I don’t like to face that, but it’s absolutely true.

I’m grateful that, by Your grace, You sent Your Son Jesus Christ – the perfectly faithful One to live, die, and rise again in my place. He lived a life of perfect faithfulness – a life that You demand of me but I can’t give because of my sin. He died for all of my unfaithfulness in word, thought, deed, attitude, and motive. Through faith – a faith that You gave me – Jesus’ righteousness is given to me and my sin is credited to His account. Thank You for Your incredible grace!

I’m also thankful that Your Holy Spirit is at work in me to make me more and more faithful as time goes by.

Father, while my faithfulness isn’t great, Yours certainly is! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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How do you know if a book is worth the price you paid for it? Gladly, we don’t have a specific mathematical equation to solve the problem, but the question remains.

A book is worth the price if I get at least one good thought from it.

Dennis Prager (talk-show host and thinker extraordinaire) proposed this idea several weeks ago on his radio show, and it immediately resonated with me. He’s absolutely right!

Good thoughts and good thinking are valuable – they’re worth something. They’re also rare at times. Therefore, when we come across one, we should cherish it, which would include the cost of the book.

 If we discover one good thought that we can remember from a book (or a sermon or article for that matter), we’re fortunate. We’re even more fortunate if more than one is discovered.

A personal example is the book A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke. This little book (41 pages) was my first reading assignment in seminary. Thielicke wrote the book as an older professor to his younger students. Although the idea is never specifically mentioned by Thielicke, the book nearly shouted “Don’t let the sacred become routine” to me. Pastors and other “full-time Christian workers” know the danger of being around spiritual things on a constant basis – it can become common, mundane, and routine. Bible study, preaching, teaching, prayer, discipleship, spending time with others, service, ministry, partkaing of the Lord’s Supper, and a host of other activities can become routine, even though they’re never meant to be.

I must resist the temptation to allow the sacred to become routine. That’s the one good thought I got from that great little book. It was definitely worth the price! (By the way, I don’t even know how much I paid for it.)

Any thoughts on the subject?

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Psalm 11:3 says, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Many of us have been asking that question for some time. It seems that, as a follower of Jesus Christ in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the foundations of our society are in the process of being destroyed and dismantled. We then ask, like the psalmist, what can be done?

The answer is simple but not easy. What can the righteous (those who have been justified by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone) do? We can continue to attend church week after week (Heb. 10:24-25), where we hear the Word of God preached, sing God’s praises, pray together, give to God’s work, and partake of the Lord’s Supper. We can keep on preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone (Mark 16:15). We can continue to support and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ through accountable fellowship. We can keep on ministering to and serving those inside and outside of the church. In short, the righteous can continue the work of building the kingdom of God.

Keep doing what God has commanded us – that’s what the righteous can do when the foundations are destroyed.

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Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original (origin) of it.

Jonathan Edwards took the sin in his own life very seriously. He wanted to trace it as far back as possible in order to root it out. He knew that sin is to be mortified (or killed) rather than played with or coddled.

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Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). From this statement, and the passage that surrounds it, we’re taught that God will care for those who value His kingdom above even their material needs.

He tells us to “seek first” His kingdom – not our kingdom or any other kingdom – His and His alone. Pray and work for His rule and reign to be manifested and extended throughout the whole earth. May we look to the day when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).

Thy kingdom come!

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“Kingdomism”

 

If we don’t pray, we’re guilty of practical atheism.

If we worry about material possessions, we’re guilty of practical “Gentilism.” Jesus said, ” Therefore do not be anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat? ‘ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matt. 6:31-32).

If we are guilty of anything it should be practical “Kingdomism.” In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Don’t act like an atheist or a Gentile, seek Your King and His kingdom and trust Him to provide. He will because He’s a good, sovereign, powerful, and loving King.

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Here it is:

Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the fourth resolution.

His fourth resolution, briefly, states that he wants to everything for the glory of God.

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Fiery Trials

 

Last Sunday I preached a sermon on 1 Peter 4:12-19 called “Brace Yourselves” (taking a one-week break from the Gospel of Mark).

One of the main points was this: the quicker we realize that suffering and pain are part of the normal Christian life the better. God never promised that we would be immune to bad things simply because we are His children. Verse 12 makes that abundantly clear: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Once we understand that, we can move beyond the “Why me?” question to “What does God want me to learn and do now?” question.

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(I wrote this nearly six years ago, but it is still relevant.)

By electing V. Gene Robinson, and openly homosexual man, to the office of Bishop, the Episcopalian Church in the United States (ECUSA) has exposed the real issue in the matter – the matter of authority. Specifically, the authority of Scripture in the life of the church as well as in the life of the individual Christian.

God’s people in the Old Testament – Israel – and in the New Testament – the Christian church – have always believed, taught, and defended the idea that Scripture has the highest level of authority. In fact, the “formal cause” of the Protestant Reformation was the notion that the Bible was, and is, the final authority for faith and practice.

As far as the church is concerned, there are only four possible sources of authority from which to choose. The first is tradition – that is, the gathered wisdom, teachings, and practices that have been handed down by our forefathers in the faith. The second is reason – that is, the ability to think, understand, and draw conclusions. The third possible source of authority is subjective experience – that is, someone’s individual and personal thoughts, feelings, or activities. The fourth source is revelation – that is, that God has made Himself and His truth known to mankind through His Word, the Bible.

The Christian church, by and large, has held that it’s ultimate source of authority is revelation. God’s full and final revelation of His character, works, and will come in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It’s for this reason that Christians with a high view of Scripture refer to specific passages in the Bible that condemn homosexual behavior. It is a matter of faithfulness and submission to the Bible, which has the last and most important word on all subjects about which it speaks.

By contrast, those who favor homosexuality, or the election of an openly homosexual Bishop, have shown that their ultimate source of authority is something or someone other than God’s revealed Word – the Scriptures. It may be that they cannot make sense of, or understand, what the Bible says about the subject, or it may simply be that they disagree with it. Whatever the case, it’s obvious that they do not hold to the final authority of Scripture or submit themselves to it.

Those who support Robinson’s election have done us a favor by crystallizing the primary issue – the authority of Scripture (a question that needs to be answered in every generation). That’s the real issue.

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Here is the 22nd of 70 resolutions made by Jonathan Edwards:

Resolved, To endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in another world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigour, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

That’s a pretty strong resolution! Edwards wants to set his mind on heaven (“another world”) more than anything else. Edwards is attempting to obey Paul’s admonition in Colossians 3:1-2 — “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

May we do the same.

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