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Archive for December, 2012

I read an excellent article in World magazine, written by Rebecca Gault, about a woman named Rachel Norris. After she was converted to faith in Jesus Christ, she became a potter. Working with clay has taught her a number of spiritual lessons. Gault writes:

Norris’ parents retired from the mission field after 32 years and returned to the family homestead in Bryan, Texas. Her mother, overwhelmed from years of battling depression, suffered a nervous breakdown. At the same time, Norris accepted a job near Bryan that ended abruptly. Divorced and unemployed, she moved into her parents’ home. There she began to explore the prophets’ word pictures of God as the Potter and His people as the clay. She reflected on her own life: How God formed her as clay, and how it was His prerogative to smash and reform her, creating a useful vessel.

At her wheel, she formed a pitcher, smashed it and re-wedged the lump. She centered the new lump on the potter’s wheel and formed a new vessel, observing that centering the clay is as much about knowing when to apply pressure as it is knowing when to release. Even lumps go to church, thought Norris. After drying came the fire. This changed the clay’s character. The fire made it strong and fit for use. As creator-potter, Norris monitored her creation’s time in the flame closely, careful not to remove the red, glowing vessel to soon. She chose this clay to become an ornamental fruit bowl and dug her design tools into its flesh. God chose her to display the fruits of the Spirit as a potter.

Today, Norris is remarried with two children and owns Joy Pottery, where she creates functional and decorative clay products. She travels with her wheel, giving personal testimony of brokenness and redemption. “Don’t rest in a place of potential and comfort,” she tells her audiences. The broken pieces off her back porch are memorials of God’s grace. (December 15th, 2012 edition of World, pp. 61-62).

Read Jeremiah 18 and Romans 9 to know more, or remind yourself, about the Potter and His wheel.

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A Key to Gratitude

Gratitude is the foundation of goodness, and could be the most important virtue. A key to being grateful is recognizing “it could be worse.”

It started with the “Check Engine” light that suddenly came on in our car. We knew we had to get it checked out – and soon. The light may have come on because there was something seriously wrong or something relatively minor. We weren’t sure. The next morning, we took the car in for a diagnosis. We expected the worst and hoped for the best. The culprit, which caused no small amount of anxiety, was  a loose gas cap.

We were, and are, extremely grateful because we know it could have been much worse than a gas cap that wasn’t as tight as it should have been. With very few exceptions, our circumstances could always be worse. A car accident is a bad thing, but a passenger being injured or killed is worse. Having a disease is not good, but chronic pain is worse. Having bad eyesight is bad, but not having sight at all is worse.

Knowing “it could be worse” strengthens our sense and experience of gratitude and thankfulness. If we think we have it as bad as it can possibly be, gratitude is out of the question.

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I had the privilege of preaching a pre-Christmas sermon this morning called “Jesus Christ is King.” Here is a summary in one sentence: Jesus Christ is the King who was promised, the King who arrived, and the King we didn’t expect – believe, celebrate, worship and obey Him!

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worldlinessI’ve done a lot of thinking about the subject of worldliness – a love for this present world and an imitation of its way of thinking, acting, and speaking – because of preaching consecutively through the book of Genesis, especially chapter 19 as it relates to Lot’s wife.  She turned around, in defiance of God, and looked longingly back at Sodom and her life there, and was became a pillar of salt. The root cause of her “saltiness” was a heart filled with worldliness, not sodium.

Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World is a book that deals with the subject from several different angles, and does a good job of it. C.J. Mahaney edited the book and wrote the first chapter – a definition and description of worldliness. The five chapters that follow deal with different areas of life where worldliness can, and often does, impinge. “God, My Heart, and Media” was written by Craig Cabaniss. Bob Kauflin treats the subject of music. “Stuff,” or material things and possessions, are discussed by Dave Harvey. Mahaney writes a chapter on clothes. Jeff Purswell gives some excellent and practical thoughts on properly loving the world. Two appendices are included that venture into the minefield of modesty (“Modesty Heart Check” and “Considering Modesty on Your Wedding Day”).

There isn’t much written about the subject of worldliness (I could be wrong about that), so this book is a welcome addition. We need to think biblically and Christianly about how we relate to the world, how we think, how we act, and the fact that we’re not to be like the world even though we live in it. Read it! You’ll be glad you did.

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Fifty-one years, J. B. Phillips gave a good example of worldly thinking – thinking that is based on a view of life that is devoid of God and His Word – using the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10.

Many people think:

Happy are the pushers: for they get on in the world.

Happy are the hard-boiled: for they never let life hurt them.

Happy are they who complain: for they get their own way in the end.

Happy are the blase: for they never worry over their sins.

Happy are the slave-drivers: for they get results.

Happy are the knowledgable men of the world: for they know their way around.

Happy are the trouble-makers: for people have to take notice of them.

(Your God Is Too Small, p. 92)

But listen to what Jesus said about godly thinking, or kingdom thinking:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Quite a difference, wouldn’t you say? May we be transformed by God as our minds are renewed in order that we may think His thoughts after Him!

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching a sermon I had not prepared. Saturday night, I decided to preach on the biblical view of the mass murders in Clackamas and Connecticut. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The only real answer to evil was born to us two thousand years ago in Bethlehem – a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

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charles_spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon was concerned about the state of the church in his day – 100 to 150 years ago. He was especially concerned about its worldliness.

I believe that one reason the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.

Put your finger on any prosperous page in the church’s history, and I will find a little marginal note reading thus: “In this age mean could readily see where the church began and where the world ended.” Never were there good times when the Church and the world joined in marriage with one another. The more the church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin.

Worldliness is growing over the church; she is mossed with it. (Each quote is from a separate sermon. Quoted in Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of A Fallen Worldp. 23)

What was true in Spurgeon’s day is even more true in ours.

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We know what Lot’s wife did – she looked back at the city of Sodom as she was being dragged out of it by an angel (Genesis 19:26). God was destroying the city, and three others, because of their wickedness, but she was so attached to the city that she had to look back.

But why did she do it? Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt because she loved this present world. In other words, she was worldly. The obvious next question, then, is what is worldliness? C.J. Mahaney, in a book he edited called Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, wrote:

Worldliness, then, is a love for this fallen world. It’s loving the values and pursuits of the world that stand opposed to God. More specifically, it is to gratify and exalt oneself to the exclusion of God. It rejects God’s rule and replaces it with our own (like creating our own Bibles). It exalts our opinions above God’s truth. It elevates our sinful desires for the things of this fallen world above God’s commands and promises.” (p. 27 – emphasis is the author’s, not mine)

That’s a good definition and description of the condition of the heart of Lot’s wife, a man named Demas in the New Testament (2 Timothy 4:10), and anyone else who has been seduced by this present world and it’s values. We don’t hear the words “worldly” or “worldliness” much anymore, but we should because God warns us about its danger repeatedly.

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Genesis 19:26 (Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom and became a pillar of salt). The following is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Lot’s wife looked back because she had a love for this present world, something  of which God’s people are continually warned in the Bible.

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By What Standard?

By a 6-5 vote, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has banned public nudity within city limits. I’m glad they did it, but I what was the reason?

Why shouldn’t people be able to be nude in public? If you don’t have a Judeo-Christian (or biblical) worldview, you have no argument against it. You may not like it, but we don’t legislate things based on what we like or don’t like (someone else may like something you don’t). It may be distracting, but so are a lot of other things. It’s true that a majority of society disapproves, but what if that changes? Questions of morality and ethics aren’t decided by majority vote.

In fact, if the biblical view of  life and the world is rejected, there should be no problem with public nudity. After all, aren’t human beings just animals who happen to wear clothes (which is what the secular view of life and the world believes – humans and animals are the same)? We don’t require animals to wear clothes, so why humans? Humans should wear clothes because there is a clear difference between humans and animals. Human beings, according to the Bible, are made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) – animals aren’t and no other part of God’s creation is, either. We, as humans, are like God and similar to Him in some respects, but animals are not.Clothing is necessary in order to curb and control our fallen, sinful natures among other things.

Without a biblical worldview, there is no good reason to oppose public nudity. With a biblical worldview, there are good reasons to oppose it. Societies and cultures fall apart when the foundation of God and His Word are removed.

(Note: Dennis Prager addresses this topic in his latest column which can be found at his website.)

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