Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Here I come Mumbai

This is the last post I will make before I leave for a mission trip to India.  I would appreciate any prayers that might be lifted for the people of Mumbai and for the small team going from our church.

We plan to do some prayer walking in the slums as well as to preach the gospel at services in the slum churches in the evenings.  We plan to a day of training and encouraging local pastors and church leaders. Good Lord willing, we will also have the opportunity to visit a boys home, future Bible school,  and some of the aids and prostitution ministries.

May the Lord be greatly glorified!

-posts should resume middle of October, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Not Just Passing By

When Moses wanted to see the Lord he placed him in the cleft of the rock and hid him there with his hand as he passed by.  Exo 33:22  and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.

Similarly, after Elijah fled he did not experience God in the strong wind or earthquake or fire, but in the low whisper. 1Ki 19:11-13  And he said, "Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  (12)  And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.  (13)  And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

God was revealing Himself when he passed by.  His glory was on display.  At times he refused to pass by in judgement of his disobedient people.  Amo 7:8  And the LORD said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said, "Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them;

I heard a sermon on the radio this morning that made this application when it is said of Jesus Mar 6:48-50  And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,  (49)  but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out,  (50)  for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."

May the Lord pass by you as you make headway in the storm of this day.  May you be blessed to see Him in his glory.  2Co 4:6  For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Trusting God, Not Making Excuses for Him

It is always difficult to counsel with someone who is struggling with grief.  They have experienced deep pain and loss and it is still so raw that the tenderness of the moment makes communication limited.  I have found that often times people struggling with grief either blame God or they make excuses for God.

The person who blames God may be someone who does not know God and may not even believe in Him.  Yes, I have actually heard it said, "I don't believe God exists and I hate Him for killing my grandmother."  Sometimes the God blamer is someone who claims to walk with God but at the end of the day, this loss reveals they have been seeking after God to see what good they can get from him.  If we do not understand that everything exists for God and His glory; if we instead make ourselves and our desires paramount; we will never make any sense of the suffering in our lives.

Then there are Christians who genuinely love the Lord and want to honor Him.  They may struggle to understand why this has all happened and they begin to make excuses for God.  They say things like "God is mad at me," or "God didn't do this, He gives us free will."  They may question His love and goodness or his power to stop the tragedy from happening.

In "Trusting God" Jerry Bridges nails it.  He reminds us that we will find no comfort in an unloving, powerless, distant God.  I encourage the grief stricken to avoid the question "Why" and ask "Who."  Who is God.  He is loving and wants what is best for us.  He is wise and knows what is best for us.  He is powerful and nothing can keep Him from bringing what his love and wisdom have determined are good for us.  This truth has been an anchor for me in the storms of life.

I have to acknowledge though that it must be in place before the tragedy usually, if any help is to be gained from thinking this way.  It is like trying to nail down a piece of plywood over the windows in the middle of a hurricane.  It must be in place before the wind picks up, because this doctrine will be unmanageable in the midst of the storm.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm a Believ-ah!

In Christian circles we often think in terms of believers and unbelievers.  Believers are those people who believe in Jesus, not just that he exists, but that he is the one to uphold us and carry us through.  Unbelievers then, are the ones who have rejected the message of salvation through Jesus.  I was challenged recently (as I continue to work my way slowly through Tim Chesters' "You Can Change") to consider that all sin is a matter of unbelief.  The sin I still struggle with,  after believing in Jesus, is still an expression of unbelief.

I may cry out in bitterness during hardship in my life, because I am listening to the lie that "God is not there or he doesn't love me."  I may be tempted to look at pornography or seek the affections of another woman, if I believe the lie "the forbidden woman will be good and sweet and better." My lack of trust in God will lead to all kinds of lying, cheating, stealing, covetousness, on and on it goes.

Satan always tries to question the truthfulness of God.  As Jesus was baptized he heard the words from the Father "This is my son in whom I am well pleased."  He walked from that place into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days.  Then Satan came to him and begins his assault.  Satan's first attack as he came upon hungry tired Jesus is "Can you really believe God?"  He said "If you are the son of God..."  The last thing Jesus heard before the temptation was God speaking from heaven "you are my son."  Now Satan was challenging it.  That is not only the case with Jesus temptation, but with every temptation.  Can you believe God?

I want to strive to be a believing believer.  I believe in Jesus in such a way as to rely upon him for salvation.  I keep believing him day after day.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Waiting to Breathe

I was recently describing the feeling of being hit real hard in the stomach so that the air flees from your lungs and you think you may never breathe again.  You know the feeling you experienced when your brother came off the back of the couch like it was the top rope of the ring you saw watching wrestling on TV.  Mathew 5:20 hits me that way.

Mat 5:17-20  "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  (18)  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  (19)  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  (20)  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Those had to be some alarming words for those who first heard Jesus speak them.  If there was anyone you would go to for an example of righteousness it was the scribes and Pharisees.  What do you mean Jesus, that my righteousness must exceed that of the most righteous people I know?  They fast twice a week, they have huge chunks of Scripture memorized and they give lectures on the meaning of the texts. Surely these guys righteousness has made it.

Fast forward to Mathew 23.  Jesus pronounces a series of woes against the scribes and pharisees.  He shows how the supposed righteousness of these men is self exalting, hypocritical, naive, external only, and actually opposed to God.  We read this passage and we are tempted to say "Thank you Lord that I am not like that Pharisee."  ...just like the Pharisee said.  We are tempted to see the expectation of righteousness and say like the rich young ruler "all these things I have done from my youth."  The problem is, you have not.  

The Pharisees take us as far down the road of human righteousness as you can travel.  Standing at the end of that road we look off in the distance and see that we are still a long way off from the righteousness of God.  Let these words take the air out of your lungs for a minute.  Give up.  

Then breathe deeply of the gospel: Rom 4:5-8  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,  (6)  just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:  (7)  "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;  (8)  blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's on Netflix tonight?

So I was relaxing around 9:00 last night after a long day of work and ministry.  I had just passed off my two month old to his mother and was downing some great lasagna when I thought to check twitter and read these words from @nationsbeglad "Pause your Netflix and watch this! When an unreached people group hears the story line of the gospel for the first time."  Then there was a link to a video.  This Tweet got my attention since I was getting ready to fire up some Netflix.

So I took the counsel to watch the video instead of the planned entertainment.  What I found impacted me to the core.  It was a twenty five minute video that was old and outdated and powerful!  It told the story of missionaries taking the gospel to Papua New Guinea.

After the video, and after I dried my eyes and regained my manly composure I saw that there was a follow up video.  I watched it as well  and was again reduced and humbled.  Let me encourage you to take the time to watch this video and look past the "cheesy old movie" qualities.  May it light a fire in your heart.

here is the link:

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Temple Had No Chair.

I have been reading through Ezekiel and finished this morning.  As I was reading the dimensions of the temple being given I recalled the first plans for the temple and the tabernacle along with all the furnishings.   I went back and glanced over the furniture that was described the alter, table, lamp stand, wash basins, and as simple as it is, it occurred to me what was missing.  The temple had no chairs.

The book of Hebrews shows how Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of all the temple pointed to.  Jesus was at the same time the high priest who offers the sacrifice for sin and the offering itself.  His high priestly work was much different though than the priests who pointed to him.  Heb 10:11-12  And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  (12)  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

The priests could not sit down.  They stood day after day, sacrifice after sacrifice, offering animals that only looked forward to the one sacrifice that would conclusively deal with sin once and for all.  The picture of the heavenly reality had no chair, no rest, no finality.  Jesus introduced a new piece of holy furniture not included in the designs for the temple.  He sat down at the right hand of God. 

Sometimes I am tempted to fight remaining sin in my life with the endless repetition of the priests.  Join me in celebrating the finality of the gospel.  Let us depend on the cross as we put to death the sin that remains.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Theology Yuck?

I asked the wives in attendance at our Wed. night Bible study last night to consider a scenario.  I asked them to imagine going home to their husband and saying "My husband, there is something about me that I really want you to know.  It is close to the core of who I am.  In fact, you won't really 'get me' if you don't know this about me." I asked them to imagine their response when they hear their husband reply, "I don't need to know all that, I love you.  What I do know of you is great.  Isn't that enough?"  (this illustration is borrowed from Bruce Ware "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.")

Of course the ladies in the room would not at all be amused or flattered by such a response and were quick to express their displeasure.  Isn't that the way we respond to God though, if we shudder at the thought of studying theology.  To study and know God more is meant to lead us into a deeper and more intimate walk with Him.

Granted, there are things about God that bring us to the point of inability to understand.  We approach Him often times like the ant approaches our big toe.  That ant looks up at us and can't even see the extent of how far up we go.  He struggles in vain  to wrap his little ant mind around our physical dimensions.  Even if he could figure that out, the ant is completely unaware of things we know and do that he doesn't even know exists.  The ant has never considered music, math, art, science, and a variety of things you do every day and take for granted.  He doesn't even know what he doesn't know.  That ant comes a lot closer to understanding you though, than you come to quantifying God.

That is a good thing.  If God is perfectly understood by you then He is no bigger than you are.  Rejoice in theology, study God.  he has given His Bible that you might know more and more of Him and draw closer to Him through it.  When you come to things that are difficult to understand, stand in awe-instead of frustration.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Defensive Position of an Ostrich

I lived in the dormitory while attending Bible College.  The school would make extra rooms available to students from a local vocational college too.  This provided a great opportunity to share my faith with those who believed in a different way than I did.  Of course that was received in a variety of ways.

On one occasion the gentleman I was talking to became very angry with me, even hostile.  He didn't want to hear about a "judgemental" God who was going to hold all men accountable on the day of judgement.  He wanted to know why I was so persistent in "forcing my beliefs" on him.

This does appear, after all, to be one of the least tolerated "sins" of christianity among unbelieving Americans.  "It is fine for you to believe what you believe," we are told, "but keep it to yourself.  Don't try to jam religion down my throat."

Eze 33:1-9  The word of the LORD came to me:  (2)  "Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman,  (3)  and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people,  (4)  then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.  (5)  He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life.  (6)  But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.  (7)  "So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.  (8)  If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.  (9)  But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

As you can see, the LORD has made the christian responsible for his fellow man.  He has ruled out a life of finding salvation for ones self and living comfortably and uncaring as God's judgement approaches. It is because the christian cares about another that he shares his faith.  How hateful would it be to believe what I believe about eternity and not tell you about it; not try earnestly to convince you of its truth.  It is not hate for the sinner that compels the christian.  It is love.

I do not hate homosexuals, I want them to be saved from the wrath of God.  I do not hate athiests, I want them to be saved.  I do not hate the muslim, budhist, mormon... I want them to be saved from the coming wrath of God.

I shared this reasoning with the vocational student in my college days.  I warned him that God's judgement was coming upon us like an army invading a sleeping city.  I was saddened by his response.  He took the defensive posture of an ostrich and said "Well, I am in a different city."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Deadly Music of the Sirens

Gal 3:2-3  Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?  (3)  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

It is easy to be bewitched by a religion of works.  Even when one acknowledges that he is unable to approach God on the basis of his own righteousness, responds by faith to Jesus, and enters into a right relationship with the Lord works tries to reemerge.  Works says, yes you began by faith, but you can't approach God with sin in your life.  So, the battle ensues to stop sinning that we might approach God.  Our relationship is once again, in our minds, about our obedience, not about Jesus.

In Galatians this tendency is forthrightly denounced.  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  Obviously not.  Don't be enslaved once again to the law, but walk in the Spirit.  In his book "You Can Change" Tim Chester uses a great literary example to illustrate the difference between trying to continue by works...or by gospel.

"In Greek mythology, the Sirens would sing enchanting songs, drawing sailors irresistibly toward the rocks of certain shipwreck.  Odysseus filled his crew's ears with wax and had them tie him to the mast.  The is like the approach of legalism.  We bind ourselves up with laws and disciplines in a vain attempt to resist temptation.  Orpheus, on the other hand, played such beautiful music on his harp that his sailors ignored the seduction of the Sirens' song.  This is the way of faith.  The grace of the gospel sings a far more glorious song than the enticements of sin, if only we have the faith to hear its music."

Tim further compares the two approaches to personal holiness in our lives with a poem often attributed to John Bunyan:

"Run, John, and work, the law commands,
Yet finds me neither feet nor hands;
But sweeter news the gospel brings,
It bids me fly and lends me wings."

I recommend the book to anyone seriously seeking to make the difficult changes and break the persistent addictions in their life.  I recommend the gospel that this little book points us toward.  I recommend the God of that gospel.  In Tim Chester's own words; "People aren't changed by therapy or analysis-not even Biblical analysis.  They are changed by God."

Thursday, September 1, 2011


To some, Jesus said some offensive things.  Take for example:

(Mat 23:27)  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.

(Mat 23:15)  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

(Mat 15:7-12)  You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:  (8)  "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;  (9)  in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"  (10)  And he called the people to him and said to them, "Hear and understand:  (11)  it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person."  (12)  Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?"

Of course these statements don't seem so offensive to us because there is not much our culture likes less than a religious hypocrite.  We are likely to applaud Jesus for sticking one on the nose of these puffed up, arrogant, religious buffoons. But there are words that fall from Jesus lips which strike a huge chord of offense to many of us in our cultural context today.  Perhaps the most offensive thing to modern man (more accurately post-modern man) is the statement (John 14:6)  Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Do you hear the exclusivity in that claim? This is viewed by our culture as the highest arrogance.  Jesus claim is that He alone is it.  He does not claim to be one way of many.  He does not validate other religions and beliefs even as he puts forth His own.  He says "I am the way."  There is only one.  "I am the truth." If you reject the Jesus of the Bible you have jettisoned truth and hold to some variation of lie.  If you teach it to others you are not only deceived by the lie but become yourself a liar.  "I am the life."  Apart from Jesus, only death awaits.  No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.  Only Jesus, God the Son,  takes you to God the Father.  This means it is a lie to claim that Christians and Muslims and Jews all worship the same God in different ways. (John 5:23)  "...Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him." If you approach your god apart from Jesus Christ, you are not approaching the one true God.  Any of the worlds other religions or atheism lead only to death.

I realize I may offend people in my presentation of Jesus' truth.  I do not wish to be offensive.  At the same time I do not wish to be unoffensive either.  Jesus made this claim, and others, which can be offensive claims.  Hear him though, and believe him.  Instead of offense, take note of his claim.  Jesus also said (Mat 11:6)  "And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."  Don't miss the blessing of Jesus by offense.