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Archive for September, 2014

This morning I had the privilege of preaching on John 1:14a (“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”). Here is a summary of my sermon in the space of one sentence: Jesus Christ – the eternal Creator God – took on humanity, becoming a man, and lived among us, for His glory and our good.

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prayer

Election season has begun in earnest. No special powers of discernment are required to come to that conclusion–the sheer multitude of TV and radio commercials make it clear. It’s a time of becoming familiar with candidates and issues, but it’s also a time of prayer.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, his young colleague in ministry, saying, “First of all, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

The command given is to pray for our leaders, whoever they may be. The question is why–why should we do that?

The first answer is also the most obvious. We’re to pray for our leaders because God commands us to do so. No reason is better or more binding–we do it for the simple reason that our Lord commands it. There are no loopholes to be found, no matter how hard we may look for one. The Bible nowhere says we should pray for only those leaders we like or agree with. On the contrary, we’re to pray for all of them. This is no option (if I feel like it, when I get around to it); it’s a command without an expiration date.

There is at least one other reason to be considered. We should pray for our leaders because God can, and does, change the heart of a leader. Cyrus is but one example of many: “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD from the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, the LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah'” (Ezra 1:1-2).

God “stirred up the spirit” of the king, so that he approved of and even funded the rebuilding of the Temple (the central place of worship in Israel). Whether or not Cyrus would have done this anyway, but simply needed a push in the right direction by God, or it wasn’t in his plans at all and God put it there, we’ll never know. We do know, though, that God changed his heart in such a way that he did what He wanted him to do.

Now, from Paul and Timothy and Cyrus and Ezra to you and me: We should pray for our leaders, not only because God commands it, but also because through it, God changes hearts. We must pray for our leaders, whether they’re elected or appointed, for the simple fact that our Lord may change their hearts in response to our humble, sincere requests, which will bring glory to God and make His kingdom visible.

P.S. Of late, I haven’t done very well at this. By God’s grace, I will, especially during election season.

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Words mean things. Therefore, we should them well and wisely. “Brokenness” is the word-du-jour in the church, it seems. But what does it mean? Should we think about what it means and implies before we use it? I think so.

So does Bob Kellemen in his article called “4 Reflections: Are We Using the Word ‘Brokenness’ Biblically?” You can read it here. He makes some very good points.

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Nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass otherwise than God has eternally purposed. Here is a foundation of faith. Here is a resting place for the intellect. Here is an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast. It is not blind fate, unbridled evil, man or Devil, but the Lord Almighty who is ruling the world, ruling it according to His own good pleasure and for His own eternal glory.

(A.W. Pink)

 

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching on John 1:6-13. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Jesus, the true Light, was announced by John the Baptist, rejected by the world and the Jews, but received by individual believers who have been regenerated by God in His grace.

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Politics and the Church: So, it turns out that “millennials” and others have not left the church because of right-wing politics. On a side note, isn’t it interesting that they never mention “millennials” or others leaving the church over left-wing politics-evidently that’s OK according to some. You can read it here.

Evangelicals and the Culture: Should the evangelical church abandon the public square? Should we retreat? Andrew Walker weighs in here.

Rotherham and Rape: You probably haven’t heard much about this, but it should cause you be angry, then drop to your knees in prayer. Read it from Ross Douthat here.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on John 1:1-5. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Jesus Christ is to be worshiped because He is eternal, distinct from the Father yet one with Him, God, Creator of all things, and the source of all spiritual life and light.

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Hearing the voice of God in the Word of God – the Bible – can become, if we’re not careful, like having a cuckoo clock, living in the flight path of an airport, or living next to train tracks.

Let me explain. The initial sounds of a cuckoo clock – the rhythmic tick-tocking and the regularly-scheduled “announcements” of the wooden bird – can run the gamet from quaint and interesting all the way to annoying and irritating. The constant scream of jets taking off or landing close to where you live can be either comforting or maddening. The constant rumble of trains, which can be heard with all of your windows closed and doors shut, is an interruption and at the same time soothing. What cannot be denied is that what we notice, and can’t help but noticing, at the start slowly becomes imperceptible. You never think that it will happen, but you find yourself sleeping through the night never once being awakened or even bothered by the sound of the cuckoo clock, plane, or train.

What happened? We got used to hearing those sounds and began to tune them out. The little wooden bird is still chirping; the plane’s engines still roar; and the train still sounds it’s whistle and rumbles and rattles down the tracks; but we simply don’t hear it anymore.

The same thing can happen to us as we hear God speaking to us from His Word. We hear sermons, attend Bible studies, read and study the Scriptures on our own, listen to podcasts, take part in Sunday School classes, attend conferences, and have dozens of other “intake points” for God’s Word, but gradually and almost imperceptibly we simply don’t hear it anymore. The author of the book of Hebrews said, “Concerning him (Melchizedek) we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:11).

It may be that we’ve heard the Word of God preached and taught (or even read it) so many times that it goes in one ear and out the other, never managing to stick to the Velcro of our heart – our mind, affections, and will. It’s incumbent upon us to guard against this – the cuckoo clock syndrome – with everything we have. Pray that God would give you the wisdom to recognize it and the strength to avoid it as you live coram Deo (before His face).

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on John 20:30-31. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: John wrote his Gospel in order that we might believe in the real Jesus and have real life through Him.

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(This is the third of three posts on How To Read the Bible.)

In this short series, we’ve looked at how to read the Bible superficially and how to read it for familiarity, based loosely on Mortimer Adler’s book called How To Read A Book. There are different ways to read a book and there are different ways to read the Bible – the Book of books.

Reading the Bible for mastery is precisely what it sounds like – reading in order to master its contents. When we master a subject (whether it be Civil War history, another language, gardening, sports trivia, computer code, or Lithuanian literature), we know it. We know it well and we’re able to share that knowledge with others.

When we make it our aim to know the Bible, or at least one of the books of the Bible, like that, we’ve mastered it. We know it well and can share it with others. This is the most intense level of the three. Reading the Bible in order to master it is more difficult and time-consuming than reading it for superficiality or familiarity. Reading the Bible for mastery is reading with a laser beam, not with high-beams.

There are two keys to mastering the Bible – reading repetitively and reading carefully.

In order to master the Bible, we have to read it. Then read it again. And again. And again. Repeatedly read the Bible, in other words. One of the best ways to put this into practice is to read one book of the Bible over and over again. James Gray recommends reading a particular book of the Bible – in one sitting – until you’ve mastered it. John Mac Arthur has modified Gray’s method by saying that a book of the Bible should be read every day for thirty days. John Mitchell, founder of Multnomah University, recommended reading a book straight through fifty times in order to master it. If you have a case of “sticker shock,” it’s understandable, but the book of First Peter can be read through in no more than twenty minutes (it’s only five chapters long). Reading the same book over and over again gives you a familiarity, and ultimately mastery, that you won’t get if you read it in small sections or single verses at a time.

The first step to implementing this is to choose a book that lends itself to being read in a single sitting. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First John, Ruth, Jonah, First Thessalonians, or Galatians. Longer books can read in the same way, either in one sitting (the Gospel of John takes approximately 90 minutes to read), or broken up into smaller chunks (John 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-21 for example). The second step is simple – read it over and over again. Read it repeatedly.

In order to master the Bible, we have to read it carefully. When you read the Bible, pay careful attention to it. This might involve taking notes and writing out your reflections, thoughts, and questions. You might make an outline of the book you’re reading and studying. Look for the purpose of the book and then it’s structure. Find the flow of thought and logical argument of the book. Ask questions such as who wrote it, to whom was it written, and what were the circumstances of the writing? What does the book teach about God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, man, salvation, the church, or the end times. Make sure to  think about how you can apply what you’re studying, too.

If you read repetitively and carefully, you’ll master the contents of the Bible.

There are two things we need to remember: we can master the contents of the Bible, but the ultimate goal is for the Bible to master us; and the point isn’t to become a Bible trivia expert, but rather to know the true and the living God.

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