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Archive for July, 2018

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“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13)

We are drowning in false teaching and false doctrine. It’s hard to get away from, both inside and outside of the church. You could call it a spreading cancer and that might be too kind. False doctrine deceives and distracts people, and it can send them to Hell.

There is a way to combat it, however. God has not left us as orphans, but has given us His Word – the Bible – as a bulwark and defense against false teaching and false teachers of every kind. There’s an interesting episode in Acts 17 that illustrates it: “The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these (the Bereans) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures to see whether these things were so” (vv. 10-11).

The Bereans listened to what Paul and Silas taught, and received it, but then went to God’s Word to check it out – to see if it was true or not. Think about it: they tested the apostle Paul against the Scriptures! This is how to combat false doctrine. We examine, or diligently search, the Scriptures to see whether or not the things we’re reading or hearing are consistent with it. If they are, we keep it. If they aren’t, we get rid of it.

The encouragement, therefore, is to know the Bible well enough to be able to detect counterfeits. We don’t have to be taken in by false teachings or false teachers. Be a Berean!

Here’s something you can do: When you read a book that has Bible references in it (whether they’re written out or simply cited), look them up. Read the verse, for sure, but also read the context that surrounds the verse. Ask yourself if the verse, as well as the context, supports what the author is saying. Yes, it will take you longer to read the book, but you’ll be doing the work of a Berean and guarding yourself against false doctrine.

We’re drowning in false teaching, but we don’t have to be counted among those who drown.

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Well-Driven Nails

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“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11).

If you wrote a letter, or longer email, to someone who has recently repented of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, what would you tell them? Allen Nelson IV has written such a letter called “A Letter to a New Believer.” It’s a very interesting read that emphasizes the importance of the church.

Christians are discriminated against when it comes to adoption and foster parenting. My wife and I have first-hand experience with it. People are pushing back, however (thankfully). Jamie Dean of WORLD reports on a few of these efforts.

“There is a flow to history and culture,” said Francis Schaeffer in 1976. According to Albert Mohler (in 2018 no less), we in the church need to know which way the flow is going. He goes into more depth in a Tabletalk article.

“The Rise of Woker-Than-Thou Evangelicalism” is the title of a blog post at Pyromaniacs by Phil Johnson. A lot of evangelicals are jumping on the bandwagon of some bad ideologies – ones that are popular on Leftist university campuses (kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it?). Johnson explains what’s happening and gives a reason or two why it’s happening.

We all want to pray more effectively. H.B. Charles gives “5 Marks of Effective Prayer” based on Mark 1:40. Very helpful.

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This morning I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 34. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A God-centered life is one of praising and fearing the God who delivers His people.

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The fear of God, or fearing God, has always been a subject of great interest to me. Toby Sumpter, a pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, sheds more light on the subject. It’s worth considering.

What does it mean to fear the Lord? It means to be afraid of God. It means to tremble at the thought of God. Christians are often quick to explain this away. It means respect or reverence, we might say. But that really is not sufficient. The fear of the Lord really is a holy dread, a holy trembling. There is a sinful, fleshly fear that is unholy and ungodly, and perfect love casts out that kind of fear. But if you read your Bible and you want to know the God of the Bible, you must come to embrace the fact that there is a knowledge of God’s holiness and glory and justice and power that makes you feel like you’re standing on the very edge of a cliff looking down into thin air.

God is not a cosmic teddy bear. He is fierce and terrible. When people come into His presence they fall down, they tremble. It’s the fear of knowing His complete perfection and holiness and knowing we are not. He is a hurricane of glory, the sun of righteousness, the lion of the tribe of Judah, thunder and lightning goes out from His throne, and He sees all things, knows all things, and He will judge the world in absolute justice.

Do you fear the Lord?

This godly, holy fear is necessary for a godly and holy life. God spoke to the people of Israel and gave them His covenant so that they would learn to fear Him all the days of their life and teach their children to do the same. The fear of the Lord teaches men wisdom; it teaches us to obey God’s commands. The fear of the Lord hates all evil. The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. The fear of the Lord is better than great treasure. Hebrews says that in the New Covenant, we have come to Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and God speaks to us directly from heaven, and therefore we must serve God with reverence and godly fear, because our God is a consuming fire.

Our God is not at all safe, but He is good.

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John Calvin wrote,

If, in fact, God has gifted us with something that is good in itself, we immediately make it the basis for praising ourselves to such a degree that we not only swell up but almost burst with pride.

We carefully conceal our abundant vices from others – and we pretend they’re small and insignificant. In fact, we so delude ourselves that we sometimes embrace our vices as virtues. When others possess gifts that we would admire in ourselves – or even better gifts – we spitefully and degrade their gifts, refusing to rightly acknowledge them as gifts. Similarly, when others possess vices, we’re not merely content to point them out and harshly and sternly reproach them, but we wickedly exaggerate them. Thus our arrogance grows as we seek to exalt ourselves above others, as if we were different from them. Truly, there’s no one who does not flippantly and boldly disregard and despise others as inferiors. Yes, the poor outwardly defer to the rich, common people to nobles, servants to masters, the unlearned to the educated. But there’s not one who does not nourish a high opinion of himself within.

Everyone flatters himself and carries, as it were, a kingdom in his breast. Consider arrogant men who, in order to gratify themselves, criticize the character and morals of others. As when contention arises, their venom erupts. As long as everything is going smoothly and pleasantly, they present themselves with a kind of gentleness. But in reality, how few there are who can maintain such a superficial appearance of modesty when they are jabbed and aggravated. The only remedy for this is to uproot these toxic diseases – love of strife and love of self – that are implanted deeply within us. Scripture does this uprooting with its teaching. For it teaches us that those things that God has given us are not in any way goods originating for ourselves. Instead, they are free gifts from God.

(A Little Book on the Christian Life, by John Calvin. Translated by Aaron Denlinger and Burk Parsons. 2017. Reformation Trust.)

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Every Friday, I post what I call a “Friday Fun Fact” on my Facebook page. In my Bible classes, I give out ten or eleven “Friday Fun Facts” every week. I classify them as interesting trivia and something to have fun with. Most of the time, I present them without much comment, either in class or online.

But I got thinking about last week’s fun fact – It takes a normal oak tree fifty years to produce its first acorn. There’s a lot to be learned from this little factoid.

If we think about our walk with God, the point is clear: Fruitfulness, although expected, may take time. I’m convinced that those whom God has justified will be sanctified. In other words, those who have been given spiritual life by God through faith in Christ will inevitably grow in holiness and godliness. However, growth and sanctification don’t happen in a uniform fashion. We don’t all grow at the same rate and there are undeniable ups and downs in the process.

I’m sure people have looked at oak trees and thought something was wrong – “Where are the acorns? Nothing’s happening!” Some may even think the tree needs to be cut down. We might even look at other Christians, or ourselves, and think the same kinds of things –  “Where’s the fruit? What’s wrong? It doesn’t look like anything’s happening?”

Yes, spiritual growth follows spiritual birth, but the oak-to-acorn truth is a good reminder. It may take some Christians a long time to bear any fruit at all. We shouldn’t want to drop them because the fruit they’re bearing (or not bearing yet) doesn’t look like we think it should. Some are fruitful almost immediately, but others aren’t – they will be, but it will take some time. Sometimes an “acorn” in someone’s else’s life might not be discernible to us.

All of this to say that we need to be patient, kind, and encouraging with each other. We need to encourage each other to press on to maturity with the full realization that it’s a process, not a one-time event. We need to remember that there is coming a day when that oak tree will producing acorns for the glory of God!

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recycle

Here in the Pacific Northwest, recycling is a big deal. A really big deal. Sometimes, I’ll tell people from outside the region that we take recycling so seriously that we’ll be arrested if we don’t do it properly (that may happen someday, I know).

In our neighborhood, the garbage is picked up every Monday morning, while the recycling and yard waste alternate weeks. Last night – Sunday – I went through the weekly ritual of rolling the bins out to the street. I was at the curb when I noticed something unusual: there weren’t any garbage or recycling bins at the curb in our cul-de-sac. Not one.

So, rather than just leaving them and going back into the house, I began to have some doubts. “It is Sunday, right?” Yes, I know it was Sunday. We began our day at church and spent most of the rest of the day with a group of friends from church. “Is tomorrow a holiday?” No, it wasn’t. If it would have been, nothing would have been picked up. “Do we still have garbage and recycling pickup?” Yes, we do. I knew the answers to all of those questions, but because I didn’t see the other bins, I began to wonder.

This relatively small and ordinary experience illustrates something true for all of us. If we believe something, such as the fact that Jesus is the only way to heaven, but nobody in our office or our school or our family believes it, we begin to wonder if maybe they’re right and we’re wrong. (Let me say, it’s entirely possible that someone could be wrong if no one else holds their view, but it’s also possible that everyone else could be wrong.)

There are things of which we can be absolutely certain because God has revealed them to us. These things are true whether or not anyone believes them, or whether or not we believe them for that matter. In Romans 3:1-4a, Paul writes, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” We should not doubt, disbelieve, or question what God has revealed to us, even if no one, or very few, believe it.

Postscript: About an hour after I rolled out the bins, I heard the familiar sound of other bins being rolled to their respective curbs. Sure enough, both the garbage and recycling bin were empty this morning.

 

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