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Archive for July, 2016

John-16-33

This morning I had the privilege of preaching on John 16:33. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Jesus can rightfully promise and provide His disciples with peace because He has earned it through His perfect obedience to His Father as our substitute.

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Most of the time, we want God to change our circumstances. “Lord,” we pray, “I don’t like this. It hurts. Would you please take it away.” This is a normal reaction because none of us like pain or suffering. But is it the right response?

Think of it this way: What if God said yes and changed your circumstances? On the surface, we would, of course, be ecstatic. The pain and suffering would be gone – a thing of the past. But what happens when the next storm, or dark providence, comes into your life? “Lord, take this away,” and the cycle repeats.

That cycle can be interrupted by realizing that the best thing that could happen is not God changing our circumstances, but rather God changing us. Here’s something we need to remember: God brings these circumstances – this pain, this suffering – to change us, to mature us, and to grow us up. James says, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).  Or consider Paul’s statement in Romans 8:28-29: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. 

It’s entirely possible for us to have our circumstances changed while we remain entirely unchanged. To paraphrase John Piper, “Don’t waste your pain.” God’s plan is to use our circumstances to make us more like Christ, and to achieve that end, our best response is to ask Him to change us for His glory and our good.

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Both Portland and Seattle lost icons in the last few days.

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Tom Peterson owned a furniture, appliance, audio and video store in Portland for decades. He was probably most known for his TV commercials (most of them played during late night hours and during Portland Wrestling, where I remember them). If you grew up watching him, you’ll never forget the phrase “Free is a very good price,” or remembering him banging on the camera and shouting, “Wake up! Wake up!” What I remember most about Tom was something I heard him say in an interview: because he owned a business, he said that he had an obligation to consider the well-being of his employees when he made decisions (they had bills to pay and families to feed, too), instead of simply making money. Tom, and his attitude will be missed.

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J.P. Patches (Chris Wedes) was the clown on a daily TV show that aired on KIRO-TV in Seattle for over thirty years. If we hadn’t lived in Longview, Washington for three years, we never would have discovered him (Longview received both Portland and Seattle television stations on cable). As the mayor of the city dump, he was fantastic. Characters like Esmerelda, the Second Meanest Man in the World, and the Ooga Shugga Singers, and the ICU2 TV set all made his show unforgettable. Mostly, I remember the silliness and fun with which he conducted himself and his show. He was funny but never mean or insulting (which we could learn a lot from). J.P. and his attitude will be missed, too.

 

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World chose The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo as one of it’s four top books in the category of accessible theology. Here’s a quote from the book’s author Jared Wilson:

Grace is what makes Christianity unique among all world religions and philosophies…None of us would have come up with the concept of divine unmerited favor. None of us would have invented the notion that we cannot be good enough or smart enough, that we could not somehow become gods ourselves.

Here are another few good quotes:

If the purpose of worship is to feel good, we stop worshipping God.

Preaching even a ‘positive’ practical message with no gospel-centrality amounts to preaching the law…Don’t treat the Bible as an instruction manual. Treat it as a life preserver.

What you win them with is what you win them to.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on John 16:25-33. Here is a summary of my sermon in the space of one sentence: The Lord Jesus Christ gives us everything we need be faithful to Him in a hostile world – the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, access to God in prayer, and assurance that the battle has already been won.

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on John 16:16-24. The following is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Confusion and grief will be turned into joy as we trust the Lord.

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Francis Schaeffer wrote all of these words in 1968, but they accurately explain our current cultural climate. You might even say they are prophetic.

The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth.

The tragedy of our situation today is that men and women are being fundamentally  affected by the new way of looking at truth and yet they have never even analyzed the drift which has taken place. Young people from Christian homes are brought up in the old framework of truth. Then they are subjected to the modern framework. In time they become confused because they do not understand the alternatives with which they are being presented. Confusion becomes bewilderment, and before long they are overwhelmed. This is unhappily true not only of young people, but of many pastors, Christian educators, evangelists, and missionaries as well.

He speaks of presuppositions that people who lived in Europe held before 1890 and that people from the Unites States held until about 1935.

Before these dates everyone would have been working on much the same presuppositions, which in practice seemed to accord with the Christian’s own presuppositions…

What were those presuppositions? The basic one was that there really are such things as absolutes. They accepted the possibility of an absolute in the area of Being (or knowledge), and in the area of morals. Therefore, because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though men might disagree as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason together on the classical basis of antithesis. So if anything was true, the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing was right, its opposite was wrong. This little formula, ‘If you have A, it is not non-A,’ is the first move in classical logic. If you understand the extent to which this no longer holds sway, you will understand our present situation.

The shift has been tremendous. Thirty or more years ago you could have said such things as ‘This is true’ or ‘This is right,’ and you would have been on everybody’s wavelength. People may or may not have thought out their beliefs consistently, but everyone would have been talking to each other as though the idea of antithesis was correct. Thus in evangelism, in spiritual matters and in Christian education, you could have begun with the certainty the your audience understood you.

 

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R.C. Sproul’s latest book written for children – The Knight’s Map – explains the importance of the Bible to Christians today. It’s not just a book of fables and contradictions as some claim; it’s God’s gift to us. The Bible gives us a map for life – what to believe and how to behave. It’s instructions can only be understood, though, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. The Knight’s Map will remind some readers of another allegory – Pilgrim’s Progress.

This may be the best of Sprout’s children’s books. It’s a good story without an abundance of moving parts which is well told. The study guide is excellent, as well. Tolle lege!

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On the recommendation of James White (of Alpha and Omega Ministries), I’m going to start re-reading the Francis Schaeffer trilogy. The God Who is There and Escape from Reason were published in 1968, while He Is There and He Is Not Silent came along four years later in 1972. Although Schaeffer wrote these books nearly fifty years ago, the ideas he presented help explain where we are today as a culture.

Our society is coming apart at the seams very quickly. The police-involved deaths, along with the assassination of five police officers (not to mention the reactions), brought it to our attention this last week. None of us could have imagined how much things have changed in the last ten years. Calls for unity (“Can’t we all just get along!”) have very little chance of being answered for one simple reason – we no longer share the same worldview. Almost all Americans, until now, have shared the Judeo-Christian worldview, even if they weren’t believers in Christ. That’s no longer true. Schaefer explains why in his trilogy.

I read these books in 1981 or 1982 when I was a very new Christian and found them fascinating. They should be nothing less this time around. White also suggested reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell to further understand the times we live in.

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A young boy went to the king and asked him why we have shadows and where they come from. This is the plot for the first children’s book R.C. Sproul wrote – The King Without A Shadow. The king doesn’t know the answer to the boy’s question and neither do his wise men or advisers. When the king visits a prophet, the answers are given. The king calls the boy and answers his questions.

What follows is an explanation of the holiness of God (the King without a shadow). It’s a good introduction to the subject, written in such a way to be understandable to children (maybe not the youngest children, though). The holiness of God is a massive subject which we can only understand partially in this life, but Sproul has given parents a good way to introduce the subject to their children.

This is the only children’s book written by Sproul that does not contain a study guide and questions (which is too bad). I hope a future edition will include it.

I recommend it. Tolle lege!

 

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