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Archive for June, 2012

I had the honor and privilege of preaching on Numbers 13 and 14 this morning – the account of the men sent in to spy out the promised land (Canaan), ten of whom persuade the rest of the Israelites that they shouldn’t go in to conquer it, while two of them (Joshua and Caleb) urge them not to rebel against God and to obey His command. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Believing in God and believing God and two entirely different things.

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Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was about to be involved in a war. The Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites were gathered together and ready to attack Judah. When he became aware of the situation, he didn’t panic – he prayed. Like the man of God he was, he sought the Lord. He ended his cry to the Lord by saying, “O our God, will you not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You” (2 Chronicles 20:12, emphasis added).

“Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You” was the appropriate thing for the king to pray that day. Humanly speaking, they were outnumbered by their enemies and defeat seemed like a certainty. They didn’t know which way to turn or what to do, but they knew the true and living God who had made a covenant with them. They were also convinced that the Lord God was bigger and stronger than any foreign army or coalition of armies.

This is a prayer and an attitude we should imitate. When we “get to the end of our rope,” and we don’t know what to do, we can keep our eyes on God. When a problem seems insurmountable, we can keep our eyes on God even if we don’t know what to do. When we need wisdom and guidance, we can pray, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You.”

The prayer of Jehoshaphat may not be as well-known as another prayer of an Old Testament man whose name begins with “J,” but it’s just as important, if not more.

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Joshua Harris makes a great point about Scripture in his book Dug Down Deep: 

The doctrine of Scripture teaches us about the authority of God’s Word. Scripture must be the final rule of faith and practice in our lives. Not our feelings or emotions. Not signs or prophetic words or hunches.

What more can God give us than what he’s given in Scripture? The question is, will we listen? Will we obey when we don’t like what the Bible has to say?

This is a moment when our belief about Scripture meets reality.  What we say we believe makes very little difference until we act on our belief. I suppose most Christians would say that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. But until this authority actually changes how we live – how we think and act – talk of the authority of Scripture is nothing but a bunch of religious lingo. We’re treating the God-breathed Word of God like a lot of hot air. (pp. 65-66, emphasis is the author’s)

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As I was listening to a podcast of the Dennis Prager radio show – which I think is fantastic – I heard a caller say something tremendous, and I wanted to pass it along to you. This is a paraphrase of what he said, not an exact quote.

When my wife was pregnant with our son, I had a specific image of my son. He’d be a star athlete who made the honor roll, too. When we found out he had Down Syndrome, I was devastated. I was angry with God and I asked Him, “I don’t deserve this!” Twenty-one years later, I say the same thing to God – “I don’t deserve this!” It would take me hours to tell you about the positive differences he’s made in our lives.

“I don’t deserve this!” can mean two completely different things. The turn of a phrase.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Exodus 17:8-16. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: God is preparing us for something of His choosing by giving us responsibilities, teaching us to depend upon Him alone, and making provision for us to remember Him and His actions.

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Duane Litfin, President Emeritus of Wheaton College, examines a statement supposedly made by St. Francis of Assisi, and finds it wanting. Here is some of what he says,

How often do we hear these days, with passion and approval, the famous dictum attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary”? In this saying, the word-versus-deed question rears its head, stressing in this instance how important it is for Christians to “preach the gospel” with their actions. Let the gospel be seen rather than spoken, it’s implied. Words may serve a useful backup role, but our actions must take center stage if we are to make a difference in the world.

At first blush, this sounds right. Except that it isn’t.

According to those who know the relevant history well – the Franciscans – Francis never uttered these words. But more important, on its face this dictum represents a significant error. It’s simply impossible to preach the gospel without words. The gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the gospel is inherently verbal.

I urge you to read the entire article – “Works and Words: Why You Can’t Preach the Gospel with Deeds and Why It’s Important to Say So.”

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