Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Preachers, Don't Go Vegan!

You’ve seen it haven’t you? It’s become one of my favorite commercials. Two antelopes standing in the dark night with night vision goggles. They easily see the Lion “Carl” approaching and let him know it. One says, “Come on, Carl, you’re better than this.” They mock him unmercifully. Then one delivers the line, “Have you ever thought of going vegan, Carl?”

There it is. When what you’re trying doesn’t work, Carl, go vegan. I fear too many pastors have taken the vegan route. They think that the old meat/solid food route won’t work anymore so they have taken the vegan route and removed the meat of God’s Word from their sermons. Their sermons become little more than sometimes skillful ramblings of the preachers personal opinions: what he thinks we ought to do; what he likes about Jesus; or even what parts of the Bible he likes the most.

Don’t do it, brothers! Don’t go vegan! Preach the meat of the Word of God. Study to show yourself approved. Rightly explain it. Give folks the true Word that will build them up in their faith.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Corporate Worship from Psalm 27:4

This morning Psalm 27:4 caught my attention, honestly, more from a questioning stance than a conclusion stance. There’s something here that is far greater than my comprehension. David’s desire is to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” What could he possibly mean by that? He was not a priest and was not allowed to go into the Tabernacle to “live.” So this “dwelling” must be figurative in a sense.

Let’s fast-forward to our New Testament context and apply it there. The “house of the Lord” or “his temple” today is the Church, the Body of Christ. Of course, we’re not talking of the physical building we often call a church, but the community of people who make up the Church. I think we can benefit from David’s desire by seeing it in a context of gathering for worship with the Church.

David’s desire is 3-fold: to be there; to “see” the Lord; and to “inquire” (seek) there. For you and me this is a strong encouragement toward a right view of worship. First, we ought to desire to worship with other believers. Sadly, this is not the case for many. Many see “going to church” as a grind, not a gift; as a duty, not a delight. Ask God to change your heart if this is true of you.

Second, too often we go to church to see or be seen by other humans. Granted, one of the key aspects of gathering as a church is fellowship with other believers, but that should not be our primary focus. Our primary focus should be worship, “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” Ask the Lord to give you the desire and ability to truly focus on Him when you gather with the Church.

Third, as Charles Spurgeon has said, it is not only lost people who ought to be “enquirers.” Saints should inquire also. The word is the same root as “seek.” We ought to come with an inquiring heart to learn from the Lord through the experience of worship, especially the preaching of the Word.

Gathered worship is designed by God for His people to be one of the greatest means of grace in their lives for the building up of the Body of Christ, individually and corporately. Like David we should "seek after" it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Caution to the Women of My Church

From time to time I become aware of books that are becoming very popular or about to be released that will likely become popular among women. Some of these books I readily and heartily recommend like anything by Nancy Leigh Demoss or Elizabeth Elliott, , and many others.

But at other times there are books that are potentially dangerous for the subtle and not so subtle undermining of biblical truth found in them. One such book is   A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master" (Thomas Nelson; October 30, 2012).

The best way to warn about this book is to let you read a review by Trillia Newbell: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-year-of-biblical-womanhood-a-review

Another book that I would caution about is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Again the best way to warn is to post a review by Tim Challies: http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/one-thousand-gifts

Finally, I heard not so long ago about a church women's book club reading 50 Shades of Gray together. To say that I was shocked is the understatement of the year. I first learned of this book (actually a series) when one of my daughters asked me if I had heard about it. Since I had not, I went online to find out. The first review I read was by a woman (not a Christian) who absolutely loved the book. From her positive review it became evident to me that the book is nothing less than pornography (in fact it's often advertised as "mommy porn"). How a church group could read this is simply beyond me.

Dear sisters, there are so many edifying and entertaining books out there that uphold God's Word. Please don't let yourself get sucked into those that aren't. 

And MEN, if you are reading, be godly husbands. Protect your wives by giving them godly counsel.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 4th "God-works"

July 4th fireworks in Beaumont, CA, are really something. We have a fantastic show for a small town; probably as good as any anywhere. Last night, having been told by the previous owners that the view was good from our backyard, we settled in for the spectacular. Little did we know....

As usual, the fireworks were amazing! But a few minutes into the show everything changed. First, we noticed a small sliver of light in the sky directly behind and above where the fireworks were bursting in the air. One thought it was a fire on the mountain. Another asked if there were a blimp or something hovering. But we watched intently and then we realized: a gorgeous full moon was rising from behind 11,000 foot Mt. San Jacinto, directly in line with the fireworks show.

Honestly, it's one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. God's giant, blazing yellow ball dwarfed the fireworks. We simply watched in speechless (almost) awe. How true the Scripture is:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
(Psalm 8:3 ESV)

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalm 19:1 ESV)

It was as if God Himself peeked over the mountain and said: "Let Me really show you something!"  You go, God! Glory!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Boggled Mind

Lie Back and Look Up Okay, are you ready to have your mind shaken? If not, you'd better shove this aside until you can handle it. It's too stretching to pass over with a yawn. The general thought struck me when I was deep in the Redwoods some time ago. I laid back and looked up. I mean really up. It was one of those clear summer nights when you could see forever. So starry it was scary. The vastness of the heavens eloquently told the glory of God. The expanse silently declared the work of His hands. No words would adequately frame the awesomeness of that moment. I remembered a statement one of my mentors used to say: "Wonder is involuntary praise." That night it happened to me. I loved it! What struck me deepest as I curled up in my sleeping bag was this: Everything I have seen belongs to this one galaxy. There are hundreds more beyond our own. Maybe thousands. some much larger than ours. Astronomers are now convinced there are twenty galaxies within two and a half million light years; there may be a billion galaxies within photographic range of the 200-inch Mount Palomar Telescope. Let's limit our thinking , for a moment, just to this one solar system, a tiny fraction of the universe above us. Because it is impossible to grasp the astounding distance about us, we need analogies, simple comparisons, to assist us. Hold on as we take a quick trip to the regions beyond. If it were possible to travel the speed of light (186,000 miles per second)) you could arrive at the moon in one and a third seconds. But continuing that same speed, do you know how long it would take you to reach the closest star? Four years. Incredible thought! If you've ever visited New York City's Hayden Planetarium, you've seen that miniature replica of our solar system showing the speeds and sizes of our planets. What is interesting is that the three outer planets are not included. There wasn't room for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Uranus would be in the planetarium's outer corridor, Neptune would be around Eighth Avenue. And Pluto? Another three long avenues away-Fifth Avenue. By the way, no stars are included, for obvious reasons. Can you imagine (on the same scale) where the nearest star would be located? Cleveland, Ohio. Vast! And that's just our own local galaxy, remember. A scientist once suggested another interesting analogy. To grasp the scene, imagine a perfectly smooth glass pavement on which the finest speck can be seen. Then shrink our sun from 865,000 miles in diameter to only two feet.and place the ball on the pavement to represent the sun. Step off 82 spaces (about 2 feet per pace), and to represent proportionately the first planet, Mercury, put down a tiny mustard seed. Take 60 steps more, and for Venus put an ordinary BB. Mark 78 more steps. put down a green pea representing earth. Step off 108 paces from there and for Mars put down a pinhead. Sprinkle around some fine dust for the asteroids, then take 788 steps more. For Jupiter, place an orange on the glass at that spot. After 934 more steps, put down a golf ball for Saturn. Now, it gets really involved. Mark 2,086 steps more, and for Uranus a marble. Another 2,333 steps from there you arrive at Neptune. Let a cherry represent Neptune. This will take two and a half miles, and we haven't even discussed Pluto! If we swing completely around, we have a smooth glass surface five miles in diameter, yet just a tiny fraction of the heavens-excluding Pluto. On this surface, five miles across, we have only a seed, BB, pea, pinhead, some dust, an orange, golf ball, a marble and a cherry. Guess how far we'd have to go on the same scale before we could put down another 2 foot ball to represent the nearest star? Come on, guess. Seven hundred paces? Two thousand steps more? Four thousand four hundred feet? No, you're way off. Wed have to go 6,720 miles before we could arrive at that star. Miles, not feet. And that's just the first star among millions. In one galaxy among perhaps thousands, maybe billions. And all of it in perpetual motion, perfectly synchronized, the most accurate timepiece known to man. Phenomenal isn't the word for it. No God? All by chance? You are kidding, right? Listen carefully to the truth: "For the truth about God is known to them (men who don't acknowledge God's truth) instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse." (Romans 1:19-20 TLB). The boggled mind leads to a bended knee.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Helpful Prayer

What kind of seed are you planting?

Gal. 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
Gal. 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Recently, after hearing a reference to this verse, I was spurred to make this a constant prayer of my life: “Lord, help me not to sow to the flesh but to sow to the Spirit.”
Oh, so many applications came to mind. When I am faced with temptations like wandering eyes or a wandering mind, I pray for God’s help in sowing to the Spirit. Corruption is not to be desired. Corruption is what temptation hopes I won’t notice. But it is inevitable when one “sows to the flesh.”

And in a positive, proactive sense, I pray for God to help me continually to walk in the Spirit and live my life in a way that pleases Him, i.e., to sow to the Spirit. We are currently studying the book of Jude and learning about the instruction to “keep ourselves in the love of God.” Jude is clear, the way to do so is by “building yourselves up in your most holy faith, and praying in the Holy Spirit…[and] waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Those three responsibilities on my part are “sowing to the Spirit.”

I find that I’ve begun to pray this prayer on a very regular basis. And I believe God is answering and helping me to “sow to the Spirit.”

Monday, February 6, 2012

Do I Want Decisions When I Preach?

I never much liked the term decisions because it’s so semi-Pelagian. What’s that? Well, a semi-Pelagian is a half Pelagian. And I’m not trying to be cute. In simplest terms a Pelagian (named after Pelagius, 4th-5th century A.D.) thinks that man has 100% responsibility and ability to respond to God for salvation. A semi-Pelagian says no, first God must do His part, then man does his part and, finally, putting those two halves together brings the person to salvation...sort of a 50/50 proposition.

The problem is so many Christians are semi-Pelagians and they don’t even know it. In other words, they believe God has done all that He can do and now it’s all up to the lost sinner. He or she must decide whether to believe it or not and whether to do anything about it or not completely on his or her own.

Let’s be very clear. Any response you or I make to God that is pleasing to Him is solely because He in His marvelous amazing grace has enabled us to do so. Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

But back to decisions. Can I live with that term? Well, if by that you mean that while the Word is being preached God the Holy Spirit brings deep conviction upon the heart and mind of an unbeliever, prompting them to despair of any hope for their salvation apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ, granting them the gift of repentance and faith so that they abandon their sin and surrender to Jesus as their Lord and Savior, then certainly I am hoping and praying for decisions.

But for Christians my real hope and prayer is that you have made a relentless prior decision. My prayer is that before coming to the preaching of the Word you have deeply committed yourself to the idea that you will eagerly listen to the Word of God and you will devote all your being to obeying, by His enabling power, what God reveals to you through His Word…a relentless prior decision. Think of it as a blank contract to which you have already signed your name and are simply waiting for God to fill in the terms of the contract. Let your decision be, in the words of Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Consecrate Yourselves

Recently, I heard a powerful sermon on Joshua 3:5 by Dave Butts.: “Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’” In this message Dave gave issued a call to Christians to consecrate themselves before the Lord.

In trying to anticipate possible objections to this concept from some quarters I realized that some of my brothers might suggest that this is Old Testament not New Testament and not a concept that corresponds with grace. Put simply, they might say this is something God does not us in his infinite grace for us.

On the contrary, what could be more NT than the idea of God’s people consecrating themselves? For what does it mean to consecrate one’s self? A quick click of the mouse in Microsoft Word shows these synonyms for consecrate: sanctify, bless, hallow, dedicate, devote, set apart, make holy. All are good and acceptable terms to display the meaning of consecrate in a biblical sense.

But the accusation that this is not NT comes from a limited understanding of grace. As I said argument might be stated thusly: that God is the One who consecrates not us. Of course, this is true in a first cause sense. But what could be more NT than:
• working out what God has worked in (Philippians 2:12-13)
• setting apart what God has set apart (2 Timothy 2:21)
• putting on the new man because God has made us into new creations (Colossians 3:10)
• acting like what we are rather than what we were (Romans 6)
• being holy because God is holy and has made us holy (1 Peter 1:15-16; Hebrews 12:14)
• presenting ourselves as living sacrifices because He by his mercies has made us his own (Romans 12:1-2)

So much of the teaching of the NT on how we are to live is representative of this parallel track. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We forgive because He forgave us (Colossians 3:13; Matthew 18:21-35).

So I agree with Dave. We should consecrate ourselves in the hope that God will do marvelous things in and through us. Christians, like Joshua and the Israelites, written for our instruction as an example to us, let us consecrate ourselves as we ask God to use us for His glory.