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Archive for February, 2013

The book of Revelation is called “the revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1), but it’s more than “the revelation which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place” (1:1). It’s a revelation from Jesus and a revelation of Jesus. Revelation unveils history as well as the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s amazing what Jesus reveals about Himself in the first chapter of Revelation alone:

  • He is the faithful witness (1:5, alluding to Ps. 89:37 and Isa. 55:4)
  • He is the firstborn from the dead (1:5, alluding to Ps. 89:27)
  • He is the ruler of the kings of the world (1:5, alluding to Ps. 89:27)
  • He is the one who loves us (1:5)
  • He is the one who has freed us from our sins by His blood (1:5)
  • He has made us a kingdom (1:6)
  • He has made us priests to His God and Father (1:6)
  • He is the recipient of glory and dominion forever (1:6)
  • He is coming with the clouds (1:7, quoting Dan. 7:13)
  • Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him (1:7, quoting Zech. 12:10)
  • He is the Alpha and the Omega (1:8, quoting Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 44:6)
  • He is the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (1:8)
  • He is one like the Son of Man (1:13, alluding to Dan. 7:13; 10:16)
  • He is clothed with a long robe, with a golden sash around his waist (1:13)
  • His hair was “white, like white wool, like snow (1:14, quoting Dan. 7:9)
  • His eyes like a flame of fire (1:14, quoting Dan. 10:6)
  • His feet were like burnished bronze (1:15, quoting Ezek. 1:7 and Dan. 10:6)
  • His voice like the voice of many waters (1:15, quoting Ezek. 43:2)
  • He holds seven stars in his right hand (1:16)
  • A sharp, two-edged sword comes from His mouth (1:16, quoting Isa. 49:2)
  • His face is like the sun shining at full strength (1:16, alluding to Judg. 5:31)
  • He is the First and the Last (1:17)
  • He is the Living One (1:18)
  • He died and is alive evermore (1:18)
  • He has the keys of Death and Hades (1:18)

What a Saviour!

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching the third sermon in a three-part series on church discipline. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: May God give us the love, courage, and wisdom to practice biblical church discipline  for His glory and our good.

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I’ve been preaching for the past two Sundays on the subject of church discipline, and I have at least one more sermon to preach. It’s a huge subject that has been shrouded by misunderstanding in the minds of not a few Christians. The theme of these three sermons has been that a healthy church understands and practices biblical church discipline. I haven’t studied a subject in this much depth since seminary (and, interestingly, I didn’t study it in this much depth even in seminary). Here are some of the resources – other than the Word of God itself – that have been helpful to me. They are in no specific order, but I owe a debt of gratitude to each of them.

  •  The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur
  • Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
  • Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman
  • A Guide to Church Discipline by J. Carl Laney
  • The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander
  • The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
  • The Handbook of Church Discipline by Jay Adams
  • Biblical Church Discipline by Daniel Wray
  • Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church by Donald Whitney

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Children are like arrows

We sigh over high-income moms who don’t know up from down, but Christian parents can be just as anxious, goal-oriented, and self-centered. We know how our kids should turn out, and it looks a lot like us. Preferably without all the painful life lessons we had to learn. We’re determined to avoid the mistakes our parents made, but nothing can shield our kids from the mistakes we make. Or the mistakes they’ll make out of their own deceitful hearts. Raising godly children is not just “parenting” with the adjective Christian in front of it. For all the how-to strategies, helpful books,  and wise gurus (and thank God for them), two stubborn nouns remain: the parent and the child, both sinners in need of grace.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD…like arrows in the hand of a warrior,” according to Psalm 127. Why arrows? The warrior shapes, sharpens, and  fletches them, but their purpose  is to leave the bow and spring another generation into the future. We do our best to aim, but we aim into unknown territory: the surroundings we cannot predict, the culture we cannot influence, the individual who is most emphatically not us. And not about us, but, like everything else, all about the glory of God. (Janie B. Cheaney, WORLD Magazine, January 26, 2013, p. 18)

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For about the fortieth time (I’m not trying to exaggerate), we received a telemarketing call proclaiming that this was our “final notice” to take advantage of their services. We didn’t call them and have never used them for any “services” at all, but they keep calling. It’s become somewhat of a running joke in our household.

Two things may be going on with this company: either they have a very different definition of “final” or they have no concept of faithfulness. I think it’s the latter – they don’t understand what it means to be faithful.

We may not fully understand the concept, either. Faithfulness, according to the Scriptures, means “to be constant, steady, and consistent.” If nothing else, the company that keeps calling us is “faithful” in doing it. But there is more to the definition – to be faithful also means “to do what you promise” and “to always keep your word.” Judged by that standard, the continually calling company falls far short. Their statement – certainly a form of a promise – is that the call is their final (meaning last) one. Yet they keep calling and repeating the same promise. They’re not keeping their word. Even if we gave serious thought to using the service they provide, we wouldn’t do it with them because we can’t trust their word.

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re to be faithful because God is faithful (“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” – Lamentations 3:22-23). His faithfulness is imitated and made visible to the world when we are constant, steady, and consistent in doing whatever He has called us, and when we do what we promise and always keep our word.

Coram Deo – before the face of God – may our “final notice” be final.

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I enjoy listening to talk radio, including sports talk. In fact, one of the podcasts I subscribe to is a talk show. I have to be careful with them, though. I like to read newspapers and visit websites that feature a lot of news content. I do that because it’s important to be informed and aware of what’s going on in the world. But, like the talk shows – political or sports – I have to be careful with them.

Being careful with these streams of information and discussion is necessary for me because as I read and listen, my response is not always what I want it to be. Sometimes I laugh, but sometimes I get angry. At times I’m enlightened, educated, or challenged, but at other times discouraged or depressed.

My point in all of this is whether I’m thinking like a Christian in my response or not. If I’m confronted with an idea I think is wrong (or in some cases, just plain stupid), am I agitated because my political team (Republican of the conservative variety) or my sports team (the Trail Blazers, for example) are taking a hit or because God and Hs kingdom are taking a hit? When the subject of gun control and Second Amendment rights is broached, am I thinking about it through the lens of a biblical worldview or one that is close to it but not quite the same? In other words, am I thinking and responding like a Christian or a conservative white male who lives in the United States?

Asking and reflecting on these questions makes consuming my chosen media harder, but it’s a worthwhile discipline. I need to check my heart and make sure that I’m being faithful to my ultimate calling as a Christian – “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Before the face of God, I can do no less.

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I had the privilege of preaching this morning on the subject of church discipline (the second in what I hope to be a three-part series). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Corrective church discipline has the purpose of correcting sin in the life of a church member, strengthening the church as a whole, and bringing glory to God.

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According to Scripture, God deliberately designed the gospel in such a way so as to strip me of pride and leave me without any grounds for boasting in myself whatsoever. This is actually a wonderful mercy from God, for pride is at the root of all my sin. Pride produced the first sin in the Garden, and pride always precedes every sinful stumbling in my life. Therefore, if I am to experience deliverance from sin, I must be delivered from the pride that produces it. Thankfully, the gospel is engineered to accomplish this deliverance.

Preaching the gospel to myself each day mounts a powerful assault against my pride and serves to establish humility in its place. Nothing suffocates my pride more than daily reminders regarding the glory of my God, the gravity of my sins, and the crucifixion of God’s own Son in my place. Also, the gracious love of God, lavished on me because of Christ’s death, is always humbling to remember, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the Hell I deserve.

Pride wilts in the atmosphere of the gospel; and the more pride is mortified within me, the less frequent are my moments of sinful contention with God and with others. Consequently, humility grows lushly in the atmosphere of the gospel, and the more humility flourishes within me, the more I experience God’s grace along with the strengthening His grace provides. Additionally, such humility intensifies my passion for God and causes my heart increasingly to thrill whenever He is praised.

(A Gospel Primer for Christians, by Milton Vincent, pp. 27-28)

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This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on the subject of church discipline (my theme – a healthy church understands and practices biblical church discipline). Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: God is the ultimate example of church discipline because He disciplines those whom He loves.

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“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

God’s Word is full of precious promises for His children, and this is one of them. In Psalm 34, David praises God for His protection and care of those who trust Him. Verse 16 proclaims that God is present in a special way with those whose heart is broken, and the He delivers and heals them. We could say that God, in His nearness, helps and heals those who are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.

We know what it means to have a broken heart. We know what it means to have our spirit crushed. Very little explanation of the terms in necessary. It may come in the form of a broken relationship, a prodigal child, the loss of a job we loved, the death of someone we loved, a serious illness or disease, chronic pain, a dream that died, or a myriad of other things, but we know it – we’ve lived it – and we know it hurts.

It’s at that moment that we ‘re tempted by the Evil One to think that God has left us, that He doesn’t care, or that He’s gone away on holiday to the Bahamas – but He hasn’t! David’s words – inspired by the Holy Spirit – are clear: God is near to us (He’s never left us) and He will help and heal. It may be immediate or take a bit of time, but He will help and heal – we can count on it!

Is your heart broken? Has your spirit been crushed? Go to God and claim this precious promise for His glory and your good.

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