XIII. THE LORD OUR GOD
December 28, 2008
XIII. THE LORD OUR GOD
December 23, 2008
December 20, 2008
XI. DO SOMETHING FOR GOD
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December 13, 2008
Brothers and Sisters,
Do you? Why would I ask such a question? There are so many influences that impact our daily habits. We can't and won't explore all of them in this small space, but there is one that we can touch on today.
For the last five years there has been an explosion of blogs on the net. While most are personal in nature and intended for family and friends, their use continues to evolve. Blogs are not simply about the summer trip to the Spam Museum anymore. Blogging is increasingly used as a publishing means for social and religious commentary, shared in relatively brief snippets. Twenty years ago, there was no means for 'everyman' to publish their thoughts to a worldwide audience. Not so now. Blogs give a platform to every opinion and viewpoint under the sun.
Certainly this mish-mash of hoi polloi writing has its low points, inane ramblings, and downright nastiness. If you watch where you step and exercise a little discrimination in your reading, you can find hundreds of helpful weblogs. But you already know this. In fact, I'm willing to bet you watch numerous blogs which you find interesting, informative, or challenging.
What does this have to do with reading your Bible? Well... do you? You know... actually read your Bible anymore? Or have Christian blogs taken the place of regular Bible reading in your everyday life?
Oh, I know. It's not like you deliberately set out to abandon daily, regular, habitual feeding on God's Word. And after all, you're spending that time reading Christian blogs that talk about, explore, and apply the Bible; right? I'm sure it was never your intent to let your Bible gather dust. There is so much good information, teaching, instruction, and reflection out there. It's all so interesting. But at what cost, dear friends? Are we using wisdom when we pour our lives into endless reading of commentary on the Bible instead of reading the Bible itself and learning directly from the Master?
"Do you still read your Bible?"
Are you convicted by the question? If you are, here are a few suggestions that might help.
- We must realize that, while God does call pastors, teachers, and theologians to serve the church, there is no command that we must read everything that every good and godly writer has to say. In fact, it is impossible to do so.
- We must realize that blog posts take inordinantly more time to read than we account for. This is akin to the old timewarp phrase resulting in multiple hours spent at your computer, "I just need to check my email." Yeah, right. Like we just need to throw away a year of our life.
- We must realize that the internet and blogs are a relatively recent development and we are not conscious of the invasive and dominating impact they are having on our lives. There has not yet been a broad and intentional development of good and right use of them in everyday life. There are indications that more people are starting to acknowledge these personal challenges raised by the new media.
- Pare down your blog 'watch list' to a handful. Stop trying to be omniscient or Solomon in the breadth of your knowledge. You can't be, and you're not.
- Finally, put down the mouse and go read your Bible today.
December 9, 2008
December 8, 2008
by Diane Sherrill
I'll never forget
you came into my life
three weeks early
your bright eyes
looking into mine
The love I felt
it took me
nothing has ever compared
Such a good baby
pokes and tests
at six weeks
your eyes shown bright
as you squeezed
as if to say
"I trust you mom,
I love you"
Alone and struggling
just you and me
my one and only
I kept going
You needed me
I needed you more
potty training was a struggle
then one day
"I big girl now"
and it was done
The years go by
I made choices
that weren't the best
I pray that
I thought it was right
at the time
Some people say
I spoil you
I love you
A man came into
he took you in
called you his own
was only pain
Through the years
you have been
tried my patience
and believed in me
like no other
laughter and tears
I don't know
what the years
for our family
I do know
you will always be
my one and only
I believe in you
you have a big heart
a delicate soul
a treasure of kindness
an innocence that I hope
never goes away
a way of looking at the world
I pray never changes
I wish you
I love you
December 3, 2008
November 28, 2008
I shudder to even ask. I fear the closest many church goers will come this Sunday to a word about the cross will be a crossword puzzle in the Sunday paper. No mention of the cross in the speech given from the stage. Not a whiff of the stink raised in God's nostrils from our sin. No groping to describe the total darkness sin has left us in. No recognition of the havoc wreaked on every level of creation by sin. No biblical scalpel wielded by the pastor to remove the malignant, terminal tumor of sin entwined in our hearts and minds. And certainly no mention of the bloody and shameful death of the Messiah on the cruel cross at the hands of hate-filled sinners.
"What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?"
Everyone recognizes they aren't happy, so we tell them that God will make them happy. Everyone recognizes there are tragedies in the world, so we tell them God never wanted the tragedies to happen. Everyone recognizes life isn't fair, so we tell them God will bring blessings into their lives. Everyone worries, so we tell them that God is on their side.
Where is the cross? It's not on display in many churches. It's not mentioned in the "sermon" (which is actually more of an inspirational talk in many cases). But it's exactly what Paul preached.
"What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?" Does the sin-bearing life and death of Christ deserve any reflection? Does the one answer to sin's slaughter of mankind merit any consideration? Does the pinnacle of God's message to man ascend before our notice?
A reality check for modern man.
November 27, 2008
Christians believe, on biblical grounds, that there is one God. This belief is nicknamed 'monotheism'. God is the unique being over all. In essence, God is the creator of everything and everyone else. He alone is uncreated. He alone is God. Anyone else who claims godhood is a mere pretender to the throne. Throughout the history of both old and new testaments, people have been constantly pursuing gods other than God. God has condemned this pursuit repeatedly.
- "You shall have no other gods before Me." - Exodus 20:3, NAU
- "To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him." - Deuteronomy 4:35, NAU
- "I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me;" - Isaiah 45:5, NAU
- "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." - I Timothy 1:17, NAU
Jehovah's Witness beliefs differ from historic Christianity in several areas. One critical difference lies in their presentation of Jesus as 'a god' instead of God the Son. They believe that Jehovah is Almighty God and Jesus is a created being who fills the role of Mighty God. In defense of this, they feel compelled to justify the existence of 'a god' apart from Jehovah but there is an inescapable irony to their defense of this dual-god doctrine.
In their pamphlet on the Trinity, they make the following claim:
"Thousands of times throughout the Bible, God is spoken of as one person. When he speaks, it is as one undivided individual. The Bible could not be any clearer in this. ... I am Yahweh your God . . . You shall have no gods except me." —Exodus 20:2,3, JB. (http://www.watchtower.org/e/ti/article_05.htm)
"You shall have no gods except me." Now wait a minute. What did God say? Read it again. "... no gods". But doesn't the Watchtower teach Jehovah's Witnesses that there is both God and a god ruling the universe? How does that make sense in light of God's prohibition against having any god other than him? Jehovah's Witnesses want to have God and a god. God denies that this is possible.
The Watchtower did get something right. "The Bible could not be any clearer on this." It's ironic that Jehovah's Witnesses believe something that is opposite from what the Bible teaches so clearly.
To be continued...
That the miracle was performed on the Sabbath stamped Jesus as an evildoer in the eyes of Pharisaic officialdom. The sign is Jesus' assertion that he could do on the Sabbath things that the Pharisees could not do. His relationship to God differs from theirs. Apart from God Jesus is helpless (vv. 19, 30), so that the healing of the man must not be seen as simple a magnificent human achievement. As John relatesit, it is a deed in which God set his seal on the work of his Son. ......
We are told of four Rabbis challenged to explain why God commands Israel to abstain from work on the Sabbath while he himself does not do so. They asked, "Is not a man permitted to carry on the Sabbath in his own courtyard?" and pointed out that both "the higher and lower regions are the courtyard of God", so that in his own way God is keeping the Sabbath. Only it is not the way earthlings keep it. Jesus is saying that he observes the Sabbath in the same way the Father does. The Jews recognized that his claim meant that he was asserting that God was his own Father, his Father in a special sense, for he was "making himself equal to God" (5:18). But Jesus did not mean this in the sense that he was a second god, a being quite separate from the Father. He says that he is quite unable to do anything from himself, and that what the Father does the Son does (5:19). He does not say that he does similar things, but that he does the same things. (Morris, Jesus Is The Christ, pp. 28-29)
Again, Jesus does not say that he does similar things. He does
the same things! Glory to our Lord and Savior.
"Whatever explanation may be given of the terms employed in these and many similar passages, there can be no doubt that they are intended to convey the idea of endless and hopeless misery. Whence this misery shall arise, or wherein it shall consist are questions of minor importance. It is sufficient that the Scriptures teach that the sufferings here spoken of, are in degree inconceivably great and in duration endless. The most feaful exhibition given of the future state of the impenitent, is that which presents them as reprobates, as abandoned to the unrestrained dominion of evil. The repressing influence of conscience, of a probationary state, of a regard to character, of good example, and above all of the Holy Spirit, will be withdrawn, and unmingled malignity, impurity and violence constitute the character and condition of those who finally perish. The wicked are represented as constantly blaspheming God, while they gnaw their tongues with pain."What a fearsome state. What a deliverance our Savior has won for us!
Bridges writes of a duty in the Christian life that is rarely seen as a stewardship - the stewardship of pain.
“It often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him. The moral will of God given to us in the Bible is rational and reasonable. The circumstances in which we trust God often appear irrational and inexplicable.” —Jerry Bridges
Our typical reactions when encountering adversity:
- God didn’t have anything to do with this
- Get angry with God
- Bear it in our own strength
Another path—the stewardship of pain
- Trust Him in your pain
- Ask for His sustaining grace
- Testify to the sufficiency of His sustaining grace
- Ask God for opportunities of ministry that our pain may bring up
If there is something this old world never seems short of, it is pain. That the Lord would have a purpose for it is one of the great sources of strength and endurance for the pilgrim walking the rocky path. If you are not in the midst of trouble now, you will be. When it comes, how will you greet it? How will you endure its visit, whether protracted or extended?
I cannot do Bridges justice in this small space. I can only hand it to the next weary walker of this guilty sod.
Before you answer, I have an important announcement. I have decided to participate as a contestant in the 2012 London Olympics. I have selected the 10,000 meter long-distance race as the contest to enter. I have started resting up in preparation for the competition. According to the website for the olympics, I have around 1,400 days to rest up. That seems like an adequate time for an intense schedule of resting, laying around, napping, and otherwise saving my energy until the starter's pistol fires. I didn't feel that I had enough time to rest up for the Beijing games. I believe 1,400 days of rest will position me for a strong, gold-medal performance in London.
What? Why are you looking at me like that? You don't think 1,400 days of rest will bring me to London totally prepared for victory? I need to train and run marathons to prepare for the Olympics? Hmmm... let me think about that. In the mean time...
Back to the question about corporate worship at your church. Are you exercising your soul in private worship of God regularly throughout the week? The psalmist wrote, "I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth." Private worship will prime your heart for the corporate services of your church. To apply the olympic illustration above, you need to train your heart and mind throughout the week if you are to engage in whole-souled worship with God's assembled people. Busying yourself throughout the week with insta-urgent demands from sun up to sun down, never leaving time to cultivate your relationship with the Lord or worshipping will leave you feeling empty come Sunday morning. It's hardly reasonable to expect that you can turn on your heart affections for a few minutes on Sunday morning and feel that you've worshipped the Father in spirit and in truth.
I'm left wondering if the wonders of modern life are not robbing what little piety we evangelicals have left. At the very least, the younger strata of the evangelical culture is heavily impacted by the hyperdrive lifestyle. The middle-agers and seniors among us have an opportunity to model a devotional lifestyle before these dear young people.
I know there are many who visit here who do practice private worship throughout the week. The comments section is open. Please share your practice and ideas for pursuing the Lord in private worship throughout the week. This is a means to spur your brothers and sisters on to greater works of love in service to the Lord.
- The Holy Spirit's restraint
- The rule of government by law
- Societal influence
- Hope for future resolution
- The testimony of the church
- People who were good examples in your life
How many of these influences will remain in hell? None. Thoughts and urges towards evil will know no restraint. It is a fearful thing to consider the hopeless eternity facing millions of people apart from Christ. Oh, the hardening of rebellious hearts as the centuries roll through eternity. The fury and hatred of God that will grow in the hearts of the damned, unmitigated by any hope and untempered by time.
Flee to the Savior! Cling to the cross of Christ.
Concerning the resurrection, the Watchtower holds that there is no continuity of existence from one plane to the next. In other words, if a Jehovah's Witness (we'll call him Joe) dies today he completely and totally ceases to exist. Joe is no more. There is nothing left of Joe. There are only fond memories... or not-so-fond memories, depending on your relationship with Joe.
At a future time, Jehovah decides to 'resurrect' Joe. To do this, he creates a physical body, breathes life into it, and infuses it with all of the memories, likes, dislikes, mannerisms, and somesuch that Joe had when he was alive the first time around. This new creature is now considered to be Joe, although he is not directly connected to the first existence of Joe in any way. In other words, he is a really good copy of Joe. In today's technospeak, we could call him Joe v2.0. According to the Watchtower, Joe v2.0 is as Joe as he can be. He is exactly like the original Joe. This constitutes a 'resurrection' of Joe in the Watchtower vernacular.
Which leads me to the theoretical scenario. Let's say that sometime in the next 50 years, human cloning is achieved. Through a rigorous selection process, they select someone who has led an exemplary life concerning their physical body and habits. That someone could be named Sally. Sally is a Jehovah's Witness. What if... and this is a huge 'what if', Sally v2.0 has the same memories, mannerisms, habits, physical tics, etc as Sally?According to the Watchtower, has Sally been resurrected? What if Sally is still alive? If the definition the Watchtower articulates regularly concerning resurrection is the true biblical picture, then I believe we will have a real dilemma on our hands. Sally will be resurrected in Sally v2.0, whether or not Sally is dead and resurrection will have been accomplished by science apart from Jehovah's raising of Sally.
Theoretical? Undoubtedly. Confusing? Again, undoubtedly.
I am talking to a JW that tells me that Jesus and the angels (Lucifer) are all called "morning star[s]". Jesus is called the [Bright] morning star in Rev 22 and he is (I think) called "morning star" in Rev 2:28. I have looked on the web, but I can't find a good answer to give him that Jesus isn't an angel even though he is called a morning star too. Can you help me on this?To which I replied:
Dear Friend,Thank you for writing. I can offer some comments that might help you. However, I also must pause to reflect that there is rarely 'a good answer' to give to someone who is committed to a religion. Since Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses both hold to the Bible as their source for religious truth, there are precious few arguments you could present that the JW isn't already prepared for. Given that... onward and upwards.
The references in Rev 2 and 22 could be taken to be a reference to Christ. The JW will be quick to group all the angels in with this and try to draw a strong inference that this indicates Jesus is also an angel. It is common for sound Christian commentators to see a reference to Jesus and to angels in these and other verses. Take note that it does not say in these verses that 'Jesus is an angel' or that 'Jesus is one of many angels'. The JW tries to frame their argument to make it appear to be that clear and strong, but it isn't. This is figurative language so we need to be cautious about pressing figurative descriptions as if they were explicit declarations.Then how do you know that Jesus is not just another one of the angels?
- John 1:1 affirms that he is God, not merely an angel.
- John 1:3 affirms that Jesus made everything that has been created, again affirming that he is God and not a creature (angel or otherwise).
- Colossians 1:16 affirms that Christ created ALL things, visible and invisible, affirming that he is God and not a creature.
- Hebrews chapter 1 in it's entirety contrasts Christ with the angels profoundly, indicating that he is above them as God.
The strength of these clear and explicit affirmations concerning Jesus is more than enough to destroy all speculation founded upon interpretations of implicit verses that utilize figurative imagery.
I hope this helps answer your question. You can certainly
study up on these verses and prepare yourself to dialog with your Jehovah's Witness friend but do not be surprised if they are able to shrug off these clear statements as if they were less than worthy of consideration. After all, to do so would overturn their commitment to the JW religion. False religion ensnares people in complex ways. There can be components of pride (I know I'm right this time), fear (if I leave, I will lose my family/job/home/etc.), loyalty (they have helped me through so much) and many other factors. Pray for your friend. Only our Triune God can set them free from this blinding spiritual darkness.
VIII. PUT AWAY BOASTFULNESS AND LOVE OF PRAISE
Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ. This is the first time I've read a Pauline theology. I've hesitated to tackle works like these. I have been reluctant because I thought that an academic book like this could be quite dry. To my relief, I have found it to be an engaging work that is very hard to put down. Schreiner is a good writer. He hasn't kiln-dried Paul and made him dry as dust. No, Schreiner uses a broad Biblical brush and vivid life-tones to paint a very human picture of Paul. Paul's life is a source of both courage and encouragement. A book like this helps focus our attention on the different aspects of the Lord's ministry through Paul. Personally, I need help focusing. I'm thankful Schreiner put in the effort to write this book. I have several ideas to write about, as the seeds of Schreiner's work fall from the pages.
November 25, 2008
I am using the book as the framework for an adult Bible study in our church on Sunday mornings. Several people in the study have commented how it brings the biblical characters to life right before their very eyes. Unlike many of MacArthur's doctrinal works, this one is written in a warm, free-flowing style that is much more conversational and informal in tone. It is a pleasure to read. In fact, if you get as engrossed in it as I did, you'll finish it the same day you start reading it. It's that good.
I get the impression while reading it that the cup of MacArthur's pastoral compassion for everyday Christians was spilling over as he wrote. You can smell the sea of Galilee and hear the fishermen working as they mend their nets. Into this common scene walks the Lord of the universe in order to call them to follow him. They aren't desirable above their brothers. Far from it. They are as ordinary as can be. If it's possible to be extraordinarily ordinary, Jesus found disciples who were precisely that.
MacArthur brings out many facets of the character of these men, both before their conversion and as they walk with Jesus. While I can't guarantee you'll have great weather cooperating with your reading schedule, I highly recommend this book to disciples at all stages in their Christian life.
I know many of you teach Bible studies and are always on the lookout for good material. This one is a goodie. It is solidly Biblical, easily adaptable, faith-building and heart-warming. It will engage your fellow disciples as they see Jesus using people just like them to do great things for Him.
November 21, 2008
VII. TAKE HEED TO YOUR STEPS
That cherished sin, 'twill cost thee dear.
Remember, as a French writer remarks, that, sooner or later, 'every crown of flowers becomes a crown of thorns.'
November 19, 2008
Before I tell you why, let me rehearse for you a few reasons why I do not do this.
1. Fame - The JWs have been around a long time. In apologetics circles, it is certainly not one of the up-and-coming groups that has a lot of excitement surrounding it. They are 'old news' in the modern clamor of the 10-second sound-bite.
2. Money - This is not my job. It may be one of my passions, but I don't make a dime from it. I have a regular job, a family to care for, and a church to serve. Plenty on my plate before I ever get time to work on this.
3. Hatred - I don't hate the dear people I am trying to reach. They are deceived and are walking to their doom in denying Christ, just as I was before Jesus saved me.
4. Success - If defined in terms of converts, I am a miserable failure. JWs are not lining up on my doorstep ready to walk away from everything they know in order to embrace Christ.
So why do I do it? What has brought me through so many long years of labor?
1. Jesus - He calls me to the harvest field. No matter the size of the harvest, how can I refuse him? He has given me a desire to serve this way, given me a brain to use as he commands, and provided the resources that give me opportunity to pursue his purpose in this.
2. Truth - It must be spoken in the company of the lost. No matter the protestations made by the organization called The Watchtower that it alone possesses the truth - they have missed the true Jesus and he's exactly the one that Jehovah's Witnesses need to know.
3. An Evident Need - There are few Christians reaching out to Jehovah's Witnesses. The reasons for the lack are numerous. Evangelizing this group raises some very specific challenges which everyone is not well-equipped to handle. By God's mercy I have become equipped to meet these challenges.
4. Love - I find a fountain supplied by Christ in my life that spills over in concern and love for the dear people ensnared in the false religion of the Watchtower. I can't quite explain it... but it is there nonetheless. I believe this is also part of the Lord's equipping me for this work.
Those are some of the reasons why I labor as I do. Ultimately, I believe this is one very small part of God's grand design in working out his purposes among men and women, boys and girls. Don't get me wrong. It hasn't been easy. There have been plenty of times when I have wanted to walk away from this ministry but the Lord leads me back to it, heart and mind. It's not for everyone and I have tried to be careful in my teaching opportunities to make this clear to my students. Oh that I would be faithful in the harvest: plowing, sowing, and reaping as He enables me for the rest of my days.
November 16, 2008
VI. STUDY THE BIBLE