Archive for September, 2010

In 1 Corinthians 1:22-23, Paul said that “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”

D.A. Carson makes some excellent points about the phrase “Jews demand signs.” After making the point that Jesus performed a number of miracles during His earthly ministry, Carson rightly asserts that He also condemned the desire for them.

But one might well ask why Jesus should object. After all, he performed many miracles. Why should he object when someone asked him for one? Did not such requests simply give him an opportunity to display yet one more powerful work?

These questions miss the point. There is a kind of longing for a display of Jesus’ power that is entirely godly, submissive, perhaps even desperate. There is another kind that puts the person making the request in the driver’s seat. Some want to see Jesus perform a sign so that they can evaluate him, assess his claims, test his credentials. At one level, of course, he accommodates himself to our unbelief by performing miracles that ought to limit faith (John 10:38). But at another level, he cannot possibly reduce himself to a powerful genie who performs spectacular tricks on demand. As long as people are assessing him, they are in a superior position, the position of judge. As long as they are checking out his credentials, they are forgetting that God is the one who will weigh them. As long as they are demanding signs, Jesus, if he constantly acquiesces, is nothing more than a clever performer.

Thus the demand for signs becomes the prototype of every condition human beings raise as a barrier to being open to God. I will devote myself to this God if he heals my child. I will follow Jesus if I can maintain my independence. I will happily become a Christian if God proves himself to me. I will turn from my sin and read the Bible if my marriage gets sorted out to my satisfaction. I will acknowledge Jesus as Lord if he performs the kind of miracle, on demand, that removes all doubt. In every case, I am assessing him; he is not assessing me. I am not coming to him on his terms; rather, I am stipulating terms that he must accept if he wants the privilege of my company. “Jews demand miraculous signs.” (The Cross and Christian Ministry, pp. 20-21. Emphasis of the word “if” is the author’s, not mine.)

Father, may we long for your power, but never demand it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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These lines, written by Matt Redmond, are excellent. Please read them. They’re fantastic as well as encouraging.

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Sermon in a Sentence

My sermon today was on James 3:13-18. Here it is in one sentence: Worldly wisdom is characterized by pride and leads to disorder, while godly wisdom is characterized by humility and leads to peace.

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Sermon in a Sentence

I preached on James 3:1-12 this morning. Here is my sermon in the space of one sentence: The tongue (a reference to our words and speech) is dangerous, powerful, inconsistent, and uncontrollable except by God.

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Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Josh. 21:43-45)

God kept all of His promises to His people Israel. He gave them everything He said He would. The promises didn’t come to pass because of Israel’s strength or faithfulness, but because of God’s. The Lord fulfilled the promises He had made based on His faithfulness. God always does what He says He will do – the promises Joshua refers to are evidence of it.

Not only did God keep His promises to Israel in the Old Testament, He’s faithful to keep them today to His people, the church. Every promise that God has made He will make good on – He’ll fulfill. We can count on it because of who He is.

That should encourage us as we believe in the Lord and seek to follow Him while simultaneously battle our three enemies – the world, the flesh, and the devil. Be encouraged – God keeps His promises!

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Bethany Storro is a 28-year old woman from Vancouver, Washington, who was the victim of a horrific attack while going to get coffee at Starbucks. A woman threw a cup of acid into her face.

She describes it like this to The Columbian,

It was the most painful thing. My heart stopped. I almost passed out. It made holes in my shirt. Imagine that on your skin. I could hear sizzling.

It’s hard – incredibly hard – for me to imagine what she experienced and what went through her mind in the midst of an attack that “came out of nowhere.”

But listen to what else she said and the attitude behind it.

I’m just trying to stay positive.

It’s not about looks. I can’t let what happened to me ruin my life.

I’m generally a happy person – everyone’s just been so nice to me.

The article, written by Bob Albrecht, also said,

A Christian, Storro returned throughout the half-hour (bloggers note: Storro and her parents had a thirty minute press conference at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital on September 3rd) to her profound belief that God is watching over her.

She points to the sunglasses – credited with saving her eyesight – that she bought 20 minutes before the incident as a sign of divine presence.

“For some reason, I had this feeling I needed to buy sunglasses,” Storro said. “That’s Jesus, for sure.”

We can’t control what happens to us. We can control how we react to it – what our attitude we’ll be. Bethany Storro exemplifies a thankful, positive, and happy attitude. She could be bitter, unhappy, resentful, and angry, but she’s not.

What’s stronger than acid? Bethany’s attitude and reaction.

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Labor Day always gives us an opportunity to pay more careful attention to the meaning of work and the doctrine of vocation, which is undergoing and renewal and revival of sorts these days. Gene Edward Veith wrote this insightful and informative article for WORLD magazine. Read and enjoy!

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Sermon in a Sentence

I preached from James 2:20-26 this morning. Here’s the sermon in a sentence: Living faith vindicates, or proves, itself through action which is useful to God and man.

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Things don’t always work out the way you want them to. “Man proposes but God disposes,” is a good phrase to remember.

The book of Proverbs gives us God’s wisdom on the subject (and part of the overarching Christian/Biblical worldview):

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer is from the LORD. (Prov. 16:1)

The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Prov. 16:9)

The lot is cast into the lap, but every decision is from the LORD. (Prov. 16:33)

I can plan and expect and assume, but God in His sovereignty and providence rules and reigns. Sometimes He overrules, but when He does it’s always for my good and His glory. Praise be to God!

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