Saturday, January 14, 2017

Live to Serve Christ

[Christ], being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil 2:6-8)
[...] in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil 1:20b-21)
The true radical message of Christianity is unwelcome, even in some sections of our Christian circles. What we say we believe is disconnected from how we live, and this has effects in our society. Christ should not be an important part of our lives, He should be our life. Paul was obsessed with Jesus Christ. The world today is growing up with the worst perversions and don't even know what morals are anymore. Our lives as Christians need to be on display.
To live was to serve Christ
To die was to see Christ

Friday, December 23, 2016

Why Men Hate Going to Church

Absolutely fascinating look at the feminization of Christianity that has seeped into our churches over the years. I certainly don't condone taking calculated steps in order to attract men to church artificially, but I think it's extremely valuable to be aware that some of what goes on in our churches is overly feminine due to cultural influences, and to take steps to correct that. It's also a great reminder that we need not be ashamed of the God's masculine traits, and that we need to guide the men in our churches toward expressing their God-given masculinity in appropriate ways. (Taking risks for the gospel, protecting women, etc.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Purpose and Meaning of Life: A Test From God

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord's throne is in heaven;
His eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face. (Psa 11:4-7)

It seems to me that for mankind as a whole, history has been comprised of a series of tests, orchestrated by God to show us how bad sin really is, and how loving, patient, merciful, and gracious God is:

  1. Adam and Eve were created sinless, placed in the perfect environment, and enjoyed perfect fellowship with God. There was just one tree in all the world that they could not partake of in order to test the genuineness of their love for God, as manifest by their obedience to his command. (Gen 1-2) We are not told how long the state of this first test continued, but it seems to have been only a short time later that man fell.
  2. When mankind sinned, we not only committed an act of treason against the holy King of the universe, but we were also violating the very reason God created us. Either of these facts would make the immediate forfeiture of our lives justified – however, God in his patience, love and mercy did not wipe us out instantly. Instead, He introduced disease, suffering, and a slow motion death and decay process into the world – a living parable of the awfulness of sin. The second test was whether man would repent and surrender when faced with the 24-hour-a-day visual effects of the horrors of sin, and the knowledge of his eventual demise.
  3. Romans 5:14 says “death reigned from Adam to Moses”, but about 2,400 years after the world was created God gave us His law, which lays out in precise detail exactly what it means to live righteously. No longer could man live in a daydream of self-made standards and comparisons. The third test was whether we would give up our rebellion and repent when the light of God's law shone into our hearts to reveal the depths of the inner blackness. Yet in response, mankind coveted what was forbidden, (Rom 7:7-10) and treated the ceremonies which were designed to affect our hearts as mere mindless routines which would guarantee us God's favor. (Isa 66:3-4)
  4. In the fullness of time, Christ came to His chosen people with an offer to forgive their sins, set up his earthly kingdom, and rule over them in righteousness. He called the Jewish people to “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”. But Christ was unattractive, poor, born to unknown parents (under questionable circumstances), uneducated, was not a member of the religious elite, and preached peace and the suffering of wrongs. Here then was God's fourth test: would man repent and surrender his rebellion if salvation was offered free of charge, even if the offer was completely devoid of earthly appeal in order to test the purity of our motives? No, the Lord Jesus Christ was a stumbling block and a rock of offense. We would not have this man rule over us.
  5. Now the stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner upon which Christ builds his church. In this age of grace, God freely offers the gift of salvation to both Jew and Gentle. The risen Christ was personally seen by hundreds of witnesses, and throughout the ages men have shared testimonies of Jesus' saving power in their lives. The fifth test is whether we will repent and surrender after Christ's claims to be God have been abundantly proved by His resurrection and the miraculous transformations of those around us.
  6. Soon, the church shall be raptured from the earth, and then the seven year tribulation will begin. During that time, the earth will become more and more like hell, with darkness, pain, a scorching heat, and a longing for the release of death which will flee from them. The sixth test will consist of God showing the world the end result of its rebellion and asking “are you sure this is what you want?” Once again, those who repent will be saved.
  7. Christ then establishes his earthly kingdom and reigns with His martyrs over the unregenerate nations for 1,000 years. During this time He will rule perfectly, but strictly “with a rod of iron”. The seventh test is whether people will repent and turn to God after being given a taste of the New Earth and “the kindness and severity of God”.
For us as individuals, there is, perhaps, an interesting parallel between our personal journeys and the stages of history we've already discussed. We are all born in a fallen state and soon become aware that there's a God through the witness of nature, which portrays to us His invisible attributes, external power, and Godhead clearly so that we are without excuse according to Rom 1:20 - but we also see death all around us and know that this will be our end as well. To some people, God gives the privilege of learning about His righteous Law, the good news of the gospel, and the realities of both Heaven and Hell. The test for each of us, as always, is whether we will repent of our personal rebellion and turn to God for salvation from our sins, or whether we will not glorify Him as God, nor be thankful, but become futile in our thoughts, and let our foolish hearts be darkened. (Rom 1:21)

Most or all of us in this room have asked Christ to be our savior. The question for each of us is “What is the purpose and meaning of my life? How does God want me to live, now that I'm saved”?

The first part of the answer to that question is that we are to “deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him”. (Matt 16:24) As saved saints, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit but also still have our fleshly desires. Each day we must ask: “will I live according to my own self-centered desires and thus act like one who is still in rebellion against God – or will I die to myself, take up my cross, and follow Christ wherever he leads and thus act like one of His loyal subjects?” Jesus said that when we obey Him, we show him that we truly love Him. Anyone can speak words and make promises, but we are to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:11-12), discipline our bodies, bringing them under subjection so that we will not be disqualified from the race. (1 Cor 9:24-27) We must “endure hardship”, and “not entangle ourselves with the affairs of this life, that we may please Him who enlisted us soldiers.” (2 Tim 2:3-4)

Now, that's fairly well discussed in our Christian circles. What's less talked about is that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb 11:6) Taken out of context it may be tempting to think that that verse speaks about the faith we needed to have to ask God for salvation – but that's not what's spoken of in Hebrews chapter 11. Instead, the entire chapter is full of amazing acts of faith of God's saints: Abel offering his sacrifice. Noah building the ark. Abraham leaving family behind and later being willing to put his son on the altar. Moses' parents hiding him from Pharaoh. Moses forsaking Egypt. The list goes on.

Those are Old Testament examples, but think of the demands Jesus made of his disciples:
  • Unlike the heathen that do not know God, we are to “take no thought” of where we will get our food and clothing from, but instead we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” trusting that these earthly things will be given to us.
    (Matt 6:24-34)
  • We are to love even our enemies who hate us, curse us, and spitefully use us.
    (Luke 6:27-31)
  • We are supposed to “hate” our mothers, fathers, wives, children, and relatives for his sake - fighting against our natural desire to put our families first in order to put the Lord first instead. (Luke 14:26)
  • Having faith as a grain of mustard seed which can cast out demons and move mountains. (Matt 17:20)

God does not just want us to say that we “had faith” years ago that He would save us from our sins. He desires that we walk in faith today, trusting Him for what is beyond our strength or understanding. When we do so He is pleased to answer in mighty ways, that we may rejoice, and that His name might be glorified upon the earth. We are called to live radical lives for Him, which is exceedingly difficult, but He will reward our obedience in Heaven.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards was a great early American preacher, whose famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was used by God to start a revival in this country. Over the course of several years he penned 70 resolutions by which he sought to live his life. I found a number of these highly beneficial to read through, especially in our day of lackadaisical Christianity.

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.
  1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
  2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.
  3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
  4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.
  5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
  6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
  7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
  8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30.
  9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
  10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
  11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.
  12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
  13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
  14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.
  15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.
  16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
  17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
  18. Resolved, to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.
  19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
  20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance, in eating and drinking.
  21. Resolved, never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

    (Resolutions 1 through 21 written in one setting in New Haven in 1722)
  22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
  23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God's glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.
  24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
  25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
  26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.
  27. Resolved, never willfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.
  28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
  29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.
  30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
  31. Resolved, never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.
  32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Prov. 20:6, "A faithful man who can find?" may not be partly fulfilled in me.
  33. Resolved, to do always, what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.
  34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.
  35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.
  36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.
  37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.
  38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord's day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.
  39. Resolved, never to do any thing of which I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.
  40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.
  41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.
  42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.
  43. Resolved, never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God's; agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12. Jan.12, 1723.
  44. Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan.12, 1723.
  45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.
  46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye: and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.
  47. Resolved, to endeavor, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving and sincere temper; and to do at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5,1723.
  48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.
  49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.
  50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.
  51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.
  52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
  53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.
  54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.
  55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.
  56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
  57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it, and let the event be just as providence orders it. I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty, and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.
  58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.
  59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.
  60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.
  61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.
  62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty, and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, to do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man: "knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord." June 25 and July 13, 1723.
  63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14 and July 13, 1723.
  64. Resolved, when I find those "groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those "breakings of soul for the longing it hath," of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
  65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness, of which I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton's 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.
  66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.
  67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them.
  68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
  69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.
  70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak. Aug. 17, 1723.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Big Thunder Gold Mine and Seeking After God

My family and I visited South Dakota this year on our family vacation, during which we stopped at the Big Thunder Gold Mine and were amazed to hear the history of that piece of property.  At a time when mining was extremely dangerous and the average miner would drop over dead after just a few years of work, two German immigrants bought the property and labored for decades cutting through solid rock by hand:
"Using hand equipment to drill holes in the solid rock, they then placed the powder in the drill holes to blast the rock loose. The miners used the drilling process called double jacking. One miner would hold the steel drilling bit, and the other would hit it with a sledge hammer."
Our guide told us that when visibility was poor, the miner holding the drill bit would place his thumb over the end of the bit so that his companion would have a target to aim at. He would then shout "MARK!" and move his thumb out of the way before his friend smashed it with a sledge hammer! Once the dynamite was inserted into the holes and lit, the miners would have to run out of the mine in order to escape the blast debris; a task which no doubt increased in difficulty as the miners became older and the mine became longer.

The miners earned almost nothing from their work in the mine, but I was struck at how they willingly spent decades of their lives engaged in the most grueling and life threatening work in the mere hope of riches.  I could not help but think of our Christian lives and wonder how much we are willing to go through for Christ who died for us, when we are assured of success and eternal reward.  May God help us to live for Him!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

David Did NOT Dance Naked Before the Lord!

In 2 Samuel chapter 6, David brings the ark of the covenant into the City of David, going before the ark with singing, music, and dancing.  His wife Michal does not join the procession, however, but aloofly watches from her window.  In 2 Samuel 6:20b, she condescendingly says "How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!"  This statement has been twisted by some to claim that David was dancing naked, but that position is simply untenable.  Back up just a few verses and read the description of when David was dancing:
2 Samuel 6:14-15 (NKJV) "Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet."

There's another mention of the event in 1st Chronicles, which clearly states that David wore not only a linen ephod (which was a priestly garment), but a robe underneath that as well:
1 Chronicles 15:27 (NKJV) "David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who bore the ark, the singers, and Chenaniah the music master with the singers. David also wore a linen ephod."

Clearly, David was "uncovered" in Michal's eyes because he had removed his kingly garments and replaced them with plain simple clothing - not because he was naked.

Friday, June 20, 2014

God's Resistance to Sin and Offer of Salvation

When God cursed the earth, He made it more difficult for man to fulfill His commands to " fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over ... every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28) God shortened the lives he had given to Adam and Eve, but did not snuff them out. God created thorns and made the ground more difficult for Adam to work, but it was not impossible for him to get his food. God gave Eve great pain in childbirth, but she could still have children.

He did all of this because His holiness demands that He not bless and assist man's wicked and sinful rebellion in any way - yet His grace and mercy plead for patience and second chances. He permits sin to exist on the Earth for a short season, not because he approves of sin but because the alternative would be to destroy the world.

Yet, "scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.' ... But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:3-4,8-9)

Repent therefore, and turn to the Lord that your sins may be blotted out and your name added to the Lamb's book of life. Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might be made righteous through Him. "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)