Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Primary Task of a Pastor

READ Isaiah 21-22

What caught my attention today is very personal and applicable for me, but also I think for all Christians in a way. Isaiah states again what is his first and foremost calling, to announce to the people what God has said to him: “… what I have heard from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I announce to you.” (21:10) That is a great reminder for us pastors/preachers. Our primary role is to share with the people what God has said to us — in his Word. That is our first duty. As Paul said to the young pastor, “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). We can never be reminded of that too much.

But it is also a Word for Christians as they pray for their pastor and as they come to the gatherings of the church. They should expect their pastor to feed them the Word of God and they should protect his time in preparing to do so. Nothing encourages a pastor more than standing before his congregation and sensing from them an expectant spirit of hearing from the Lord through him today. I am so blessed to have served in a place like that for over 31 years.

Prayer: Father, keep us all faithful to your Word. Help me and other pastors to faithfully proclaim what you have said. Help all of our flocks to hunger for this food. And, Lord, help us all to live it out in lives guided by your truth.

Monday, June 29, 2015

My Thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling on SSM

(with thanks to many others and their writings and comments)

1. Some Christians are claiming that this is a political issue. It is but it is so much more. This is a gospel issue. Marriage is not an institution that was created by man or by governments. It was instituted by God, ultimately, as a way to picture the loving relationship he has with the church. As the church, we must speak to this issue clearly in a biblical, gospel-centered way. While at the same time we must be very clear. Our ultimate goal is not in convincing people about the issue of same sex marriage. Our hope and prayer is to see them come to a knowledge of the Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I heard Rosaria Butterfield (a former radical feminist lesbian) say at our recent convention, “I couldn’t know who I was until I knew whose I was.”

2. We should not panic or get angry, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) Rather we should remember, as my friend Hershael York said on Friday, “The Holy Trinity did not call an emergency session and they will not be holding a press conference.” God is still sovereign and our hope and trust is in him.

3. Our nation has now, once again, officially placed itself on the opposite side of an issue from God. That is a dangerous place to be. So we should pray. Isaiah 16:7 says, “Therefore let Moab wail for Moab, let everyone wail.” It is time for Americans to wail for America. It is time for us individually and as a church to confess our sins and the sins of our nation and cry out to God for mercy. And we should continue to obey 1 Timothy 2 and pray for our government leaders.

4. What I haven’t heard anyone else say so far, but what I personally believe is that this action of the SCOTUS is one more giant step in the judgment of God being brought on our land. We are not in danger of the judgment of God, we are under the judgment of God. Where are the Christians who will cry out to him? Jonah pronounced judgment on Nineveh and the people repented. Oh, that it could happen here.

5. Some have said that Christians are counter-cultural or on the wrong side of history on this issue. In other breaking news, the Pope is a Catholic and Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Christianity has always been counter-cultural. We started in the Roman Empire in the nation of Israel on the wrong side of the political and the religious culture. Welcome to our world. Perhaps it’s time we stopped being so comfortable in our religion and learned what it’s like to stand for our faith. As another friend of mine said this weekend, we may very well get to witness the death of nominal Christianity among evangelicals in our lifetime.

6. We may well see the end of religious liberty in our nation. But be assured, the gospel does not depend on religious liberty. In fact, throughout history it has flourished most in places where there was no liberty. God’s light shines brightest in the deepest darkness. Whatever happens to religious liberty, our mission has not changed. We are called to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples of his.

7. It is time to be a church that makes the gospel look good. We will not do that if we abdicate the truth of God’s Word on the issue of marriage. Nor will we do that if we respond with anger and hatred to those who celebrate this ruling. Now is the time for what has been the motto around here for a long time: truth in love. We should be prepared in the years to come for a refugee crisis — refugees from the sexual revolution that promises what it can never deliver and destroys what it claims to build. We must seek to show the love of God in the gospel of God to a world that has always been most in need of this message.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Sins of a Nation

READ Isaiah 15-16

When reading the Scripture we want to be careful in our interpretation to say only what the Scripture says. For instance, we can’t read about God’s dealing with Israel in the OT and teach that this is how God deals with the USA or any other nation today. The OT passage is about his dealing with Israel only, unless some other biblical text suggests otherwise. So, reading of God’s prophecy against Moab in 15-16, we cannot teach that this applies to our nation today.

That’s important when it comes to teaching what the Bible says. However, when it comes to praying about things that we think about while reading Scripture, everything is fair game. How do we know this? Because God says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

What prompted this thinking today is 16:6-7a. “We have heard of the pride of Moab —
how proud he is! — of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence; in his idle boasting he is not right. Therefore let Moab wail for Moab, let everyone wail.” Though this cannot be strictly applied to our nation today, it certainly made me think of our nation. If there were ever a nation beset with pride, we are. If there were ever a nation that boasts of its greatness, we do. And from all appearances the Lord is allowing us to fall, which we so definitely deserve.

Then what should we do. I would say we need to “wail for America, let everyone wail.” We need to cry out to God and confess our sins as a nation and individually. We need to plead with him for spiritual awakening to come. We need to pray, desperately pray.

Prayer: Father, I pray that you would give us a burden for the condition of our beloved nation. Just as you laid on the heart of Isaiah and just as Jeremiah wept over his nation, help us to bring this burden to you. Help us to cry out to you in our desperate condition. Convict us of our personal sin and of corporate sin. Oh, God forgive us, please.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Understanding a Woman...Help!!!

READ Ecclesiastes 7-8
June 10, 2015

The Preacher makes an amazing statement in 7:27-28: “Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things—which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found.” As the ESV Study Bible suggests, we will understand this verse better if we substitute the words “figured out” for “found.” So then it reads, “One man among a thousand I figured out, but a woman among all these I have not figured out.” Oh, hallelujah, amen, preach it brother!

The writer of Ecclesiastes joins the multitude of his brother males in not being able to figure out women. I don’t often quote Sigmund Freud (for obvious reasons) but I can relate to this statement by him: “After all my years of study, the one thing I have not been able to figure out is…what does a woman want?” He may have read Ecclesiastes but maybe not.

Now, guys, couple that with Peter’s admonishing to us: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way….” (1 Peter 3:7) How on earth can I understand my wife if the writer of Ecclesiastes couldn’t figure out his? Well, the answer is through the grace of God. As we seek to love our wives in all things and be willing to put them and their welfare above our own, God will give us insight into “what makes them tick and what gets them ticked” (Steve Canfield).

Remember, God’s commands are his enablements (Amy Carmichael). If God has told us to understand our wives he will give us the grace to do it as we commit ourselves to the task. We can do all things through the one who strengthens us…even figure out one woman.

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me the perfect mate for me. Thank you for her special standing in your eyes. Help me to put her first and love her as Christ loved the church. Help me to be willing to meet her needs in all of life so that our love and marriage can make your gospel look good.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Knowing the Future

READ Ecclesiastes 3-4

In 3:22 the Preacher surmises that a man should find joy in his own work since that is his portion, i.e., this is what he has opportunity to do to fulfill his God-given responsibility to work. Of course, we know from all of the Scripture that one is to do his work as unto the Lord and do it in the strength of the Lord. Only then will one find true joy in his own work.

Then, in the same verse, he asks, “Who can bring him to see what will be after him?” In one sense we know that no one can know the future. No one can tell us what the future holds in this life. That is why Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34) Since we can’t know the future, we should trust God’s provision (Matthew 6:25-33) while we do our “own work” for his glory and by his strength.

But in another sense we have a perfect answer for the question, “Who can bring him to see what will be after him?” Answer: God through his Word. In this sense the future we are speaking of comes after death. What will be after us when we die? God has told us what awaits us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. All we have to do is read it and believe it. Paul lets us know that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-10) We can know with certainty “what will be after [us]” in an eternal sense because the Lord has revealed it to us in his Word. Glory!

So, Preacher of Ecclesiastes, our eternal future is secure in Christ. Above all else, the one thing that is not “vanity” is knowing Christ and following him.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the certainty of eternity as revealed in your Word. Thank you for the gospel that fills our mind and filters our thoughts as we read the words of the Preacher of Ecclesiastes. Thank you for giving us work in which to find fulfillment as we look forward to the day when our work is done and we rest in you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Gospel Grace...Not Revenge

READ Proverbs 23-24
June 2, 2015

More than likely all of us are familiar with a portion of Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “ Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. (emphasis mine)” We know from this that we should not seek revenge on those who have wronged us but rather we should leave it to the Lord to deal with them.

In our Proverbs of the day there are two selections that underscore the truth of Paul’s admonition. The first is 24:17-18. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” Not only are we not to seek our own revenge, but neither are we to take pleasure when God brings his discipline upon the one we think has wronged us. God takes no pleasure in punishing and we should reflect the heart of God in forgiveness and love, even for our enemies.

Also, Proverbs 24:28-29 teach basically the same thing Paul said in Romans. “Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips. Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.” God is the one who repays discipline/punishment for evil, not us. We should have a loving concern for the eternal soul of the one who has wronged us. It’s difficult to share gospel grace with one to whom you are giving revenge.

We should practice love to all, even those who have unjustly dealt with us.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times I have taken pleasure in the bad times of those who have hurt me. Forgive me for not showing your heart of compassion and love, even to those who have rejected me. Father, we all have rejected you with our sin, yet you demonstrated your love for us at the cross. Give me your heart of grace and mercy toward all.