Tuesday, August 22, 2017

You (I) don't have to say everything

There's always controversy in the world. We live in a contentious world, led by a liar who is also a thief and a destroyer. Ergo...contention.

Contention is not restricted to the secular world. Watching the news has become a chore for those who still persist in viewing it is often seen as simply sandbox yelling and fisticuffs at a juvenile level. The news itself, when the 'journalists' get around to reporting it, is evil, heartbreaking, and soul denting.

Controversy also occurs in the Christian world. It has since the beginning, the very beginning. They killed Jesus, the only perfect, sinless, and loving human being ever to walk the earth. People who long for the early days of the first century church need to remember that false doctrines, false prophets, and false teachers crawled in like a tsunami of cockroaches and permeated the faith right away. The Apostles had to spend a lot of time stamping them out. It even affected Peter and Barnabas, who had to be corrected publicly by Paul. There were Nicolatians, the Judaizers, the Gnostics,  those who went the way of Balaam, individual false teachers going from town to town, the Pharisees, and many others who had to be opposed with a voice from the pastor or leader. Vigilance was necessary.

John Calvin said that a pastor must have two voices. One, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.


However, you notice that the Bible's writers did not spend a lot of time opining about the culture. They did not opine about every emperor transition, every tragedy, every riot or mob incident or organization or guild. There was one mention by Jesus of the Tower of Siloam incident which seemed to have happened "off stage" and was only spoken of as an object lesson for death.

Our hurry-up, social media, 24-hour news culture seems to demand from us an opinion on just about everything. These days, it demands that the opinion has to come with some form of outrage or offendedness.

I was a journalist for almost 8 years. I worked for weeklies, dailies, and contributed to a monthly. I was a news reporter so I had to be in tune with the culture and fresh news. I was an editor so I had to have an opinion about it, and write it in such a way so as to help people make sense in their daily lives of what they read. I won awards for news editorials. I was good at it and news opinion was a constant thread in my work no matter what other kind of journalism I was working at.

However all those habits and works were a detriment to me when it came time to be saved and begin a writing ministry. I had to go slower. I had to step out of the cycle. Most painfully, I had to learn that I didn't have to have an opinion.

People smarter than me have opinions on the culture, on today's news, on the secular and religious controversies. People who have more information have opinions. People with more talent have opinions. People who are men, the leaders and pastors have opinions.

I've mentioned that I really enjoy Samuel D. James' writing. He published an essay recently called The Bible is Not a Slideshow for Your Hot Take

Mr James wrote about the aftermath of the news that comedian Robin Williams had taken his own life. It's a good moment and a good impulse when the Chrisitan wants to capture the moment and impart some Christian worldview truths. "This is good, and normal," he wrote. However, too often we do not have all the information necessary to do so in a God-honoring way. As time went on, more information came out that added dimension and nuance to the Robin Williams tragedy. If the Christian who had written superficially in the immediate aftermath did so in a less than God-honoring way ("Click to like!") then it's a tragedy for us too.
What I am saying is that cheaply thought, cheaply written responses to these events by definition betray the Christian commitment to the centrality of truth.
Aaron Armstrong wrote a similar essay with an ever more pointed headline: No You Don't Have to Comment On Everything
I have opinions about politics, including American politics. I occasionally share those opinions. But usually, I prefer to keep my mouth shut. Why? It generally comes down to one thing. A proverb, in fact. “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions” (Proverbs 18:2, CSB).
When the James White-Brannon Howse issue came to the fore, I had an opinion. When it continued, I had an opinion. As it subsided, I had an opinion. I didn't share my opinion, except for one private query with my very short answer. Why? The men were handling it. Phil Johnson was on it. The men of GTY were on it. Others behind the scenes were on it. In the end Justin Peters and his church elders from Kootenai Church were on it. They knew more. They had a bigger platform. They were more humble. They had more spiritual insight. They possessed more experience.

I feel that the above mentioned controversy was a good test for me. It took a long time for me to subside the drive to be first, get a word in, have a published opinion. This was difficult for a hard-boiled journalist taught to be first, get a word in, have a published opinion. It's even harder when the Lord has given the spiritual gift of exhortation. I always want to speak, but I don't always have to speak. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

Sometimes I'll feel led to have a public opinion. That's OK. But not every time. Not all the time.

It IS more relaxing to not feel like I have to publicly weigh in or have a public position on every single controversy in the world. Sometimes in my news days I felt like a minnow in a washing machine. I don't want to feel that way as a Christian. I want to exude a steadiness, a patience, a reserve, a solidity.

I'll let my favorite pastor and one of Christendom's most respected living teachers have the last word. Whether you feel led most times or only sometimes to state your position on social media or other forms of wide communication...






Monday, August 21, 2017

Who else longed to look into the Gospel besides angels?

We're familiar with the part of the verse that tells us that angels long to look into these things. The full context of that verse is pasted below, it's from 1 Peter.

Apostle Peter, formerly Simon, formerly a fisherman, is nearing the end of his life. It's about the early 60s and Peter had been a leader of the church. The elect to whom Peter addressed his letter were beginning to suffer persecution, and his letter, which was to be circulated, was aimed at encouraging them. Peter strongly urges them to link doctrine and practice, a point he makes in chapter 1:12, 15, and he begins in the first chapter with elevating the glory of the Gospel. Here is where we remember that the Gospel is so great, so mysterious, that angels long to look into it.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
(1 Peter 1:10-12).

In reading the passage I realized that not only angels longed to look into the mystery of the Gospel, its wonder, atonement, wrath, crucified and sinless God-Man. The Prophets also wanted to know about it. They, who had the Spirit in them, inquired of the LORD as to the aspects of this religion they were required to speak. Here is the wonderful Barnes with his Notes:
Of which salvation - Of the certainty that this system of religion, securing the salvation of the soul, would be revealed. The object of this reference to the prophets seems to be to lead them to value the religion which they professed more highly, and to encourage them to bear their trials with patience. They were in a condition, in many respects, far superior to that of the prophets. They had the full light of the gospel. The prophets saw it only at a distance and but dimly, and were obliged to search anxiously that they might understand the nature of that system of which they were appointed to furnish the comparatively obscure prophetic intimations.

They were writing to us and for us. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, Peter wrote. Us. The elect saints in the church age would be the recipients of the further information than myriads of angels- who live with God- . and prophets - who personally spoke with God - longed to look.

Next time someone says they "want a fresh experience" or desire the Spirit to fall down and manifest some kind of event, or that they wish to hear Jesus personally calling, or that they feel stale and covet a miracle, please remind them of this glorious truth. We already have the benefit of the most glorious experience of all, the understanding of the plan of God with regard to His Son. The angels and the Prophets wanted to know about Him, who He would be, what would be his life and doctrine and character, and what would be the nature of the work which He would perform on behalf of the people. They didn't know. They wished to know. They asked to know. They did not know. We do.

As Barnes says of verse 12,

By them that have preached the gospel unto you - The apostles, who have made known unto you, in their true sense, the things which the prophets predicted, the import of which they themselves were so desirous of understanding.

knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)
Have a blessed day, pondering these truths into which angels and Prophets inquired and longed to look.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Of Jesus' love: My Value's Fixed

Keith Getty's song "My Worth Is Not In What I Own" is a lovely song. As Mr Getty describes the song at The Gospel Coalition, it
is a song that speaks to the subject of worth by reminding us that true significance is found in our identity in Christ. Kristyn and I recently wrote it with our good friend, Graham Kendrick, in an attempt to reclaim two glorious truths. The first is that we, as men and women created in the image and likeness of the Creator, are created with intrinsic worth.

But there's another truth we want to convey: given our pervasive rebellion—what R. C. Sproul calls "cosmic treason"—against the king, we are all unworthy of the value with which he crowns us. Yet God sent his Son so our worth might be found in something far grander than ourselves. In Christ, no longer do we look to our own accomplishments and achievements to find significance. We look instead to his perfect work on our behalf, and there our souls find the true sense of identity we so crave. The chorus of our song draws from the rich imagery of 1 Peter, which depicts Jesus as an inheritance and treasure far greater than anything this world has to offer.
Getty goes on to describe some of the many themes within the song, but notes that the original thought was the phrase "my worth is not in what I own."

However, another idea came to me that focuses on another part of the lyric. The value of the Gospel is inestimable. In 1 Peter, the passages from which Getty took the thoughts and doctrines for his song, angels and the Prophets longed to look into the glorious coming of the Savior. They were told they were serving not themselves but us. (1 Peter 1:12). They were extremely humbled and intrigued by the notion of the Savior and His coming in Gospel times.

In that sense, we who dwell in the Church Age, AKA the Age of Grace, AKA Gospel Times, have an inexpressible value, because we are saved by grace through faith in the Gospel. Since the Gospel is inestimably precious, we are inestimably precious. As the song says, "my value's fixed."

For those who struggle with low self-esteem, let this song and its lyrics and the verses behind it comfort you. Your value is fixed. Your identity is sure. After salvation, our value is linked to the Gospel which saved us by faith through the work of Jesus. Jesus cannot love us any less or any more than He does at this moment or since before the foundation of the world when He chose you. (Ephesians 1:4). His love for you is fixed and perfect.

If you struggle with a high self-esteem, then the same is true again. His cannot love you any less or any more than He does now. Your value is fixed. Nothing you say or do or work at or accomplish or are noted for will cause in Him an atom's worth of further love, deeper love, or less love than expressed through His lovely Gospel and His saving. His love for you is not based on your worth, but His worth.

Be comforted by this. Be released from worry that anything you might say or do will cause a decrease in His love for you. Be released from the notion that anything you say or do will help yourself to greater love by Him. Your value is fixed in the palm of the One who already loves perfectly and completely.

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every familyc in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-18).



My Worth Is Not In What I Own
Keith Getty

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

Refrain:
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

Refrain

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed - my ransom paid
At the cross

Refrain


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Think about what Paul said- "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you..."

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:3-5).

One of our pastors preached on Colossians last Sunday. He noted the above introduction in Paul's letter. Paul prayed to Jesus in thanks for the saints.

Our pastor said, 'What if we prayed like that? Instead of when we pray and getting straight to our petitions, or even instead of getting straight to thanking Jesus for what He's given ourselves or done for us, we thank Him for our brethren?'

When was the last time I prayed in thanks for the saints around me, the saints around the world, the saints that have come before on whose works I rely? Hmmm, it's been a while I think.

I am thankful for our elders. We have a Teaching Pastor, an Associate Pastor and two elders who lead us in preaching, confession time, prayers, and devotionals. They are Godly men, humble, and filled with a heart of love for Jesus and service to Him. I know I am blessed to be growing under such men, and I do thank Jesus for them. Therefore I say,

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

We have a cadre of elder folks who are seasoned, mature, kind, doctrinally solid, and constant in their attendance, devotions, and service. They aren't coasting, they take nothing for granted, and they are always willing to lead, teach, encourage, or just silently be present. Therefore I say,

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

Some of our folks on a retreat. http://nacathens.org/
In a most remarkable blessing, the largest demographic of members and attendees in our church are youngsters. These are youths aged from upper teens to mid twenties. The college crowd. Many are in undergraduate or graduate school in the area. Their eagerness and fervor is a boon to us elder folks. Their zeal to serve is refreshing. Most of all, they love Jesus and devour His word. Despite a heavy class load or demanding work schedule, they arise before dawn or stay well after dark to attend Bible groups. They faithfully attend church services. They drive 40 minutes and stay two hours just to seek advice from an older member. They happily jump in to serve by setting up or taking down, the drudge jobs. They love each other and they joyously submit to leadership. They are amazing. Therefore I say,

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

Next time, I won't lightly skim the intro to a letter, but as our elder preached, I'll stop and truly ponder what the writer is saying. Paul dwelled on praise to Jesus for the brethren, and I want to adopt that same mindset in prayer by thanking Jesus for them in my sphere and across the world.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Something positive, cute, and endearing

Today, a little something different. We're all used to the world's dark news. The negativity of the world and the evil that is all around us can be discouraging. Here's something I hope will lift your day and bring a smile to you.

From the internets:
The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him! (Proverbs 20:7).



From the BBC, their new kids' network CBeebies- this is 2 minutes-




Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. (Luke 18:17).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28).

Even though there is persecution, false teachers, racism, riots, and evil, there are still fathers who love their children, and there are children with a child-like perspective that someday we will all be blessed with. The faith of children, pure, unadorned, unadulterated, and loving. May I be like a child!

Always remember, as long as there is Jesus, there is Hope!

Have a blessed day!


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Can we interpret the Bible by finding out what this verse means to me?

Have you ever gone to a Bible study and either they use a curriculum or the Bible itself, and the teacher reads a passage and then opens it up for comments by saying "What does this verse mean to you"? What is happening here is the teacher is confusing interpretation and application. There's a book called Multiply from Multiply Movement, which is David Platt and Francis Chan, written in 2012. Here is an excerpt from link to chapter 9 of their free book-
Know the Difference between Interpretation and Application 
Maybe the most common mistake made in Bible interpretation is when people focus too much on "what this verse means to me." It’s not uncommon for Bible study groups to go around the circle as each person shares an individualized interpretation. Often these interpretations are made with little study and are heavily influenced by opinion and desire. Many times, the various interpretations are incompatible with one another. In this type of setting, the focus is not on what God is saying through the Bible. Instead, each person is focused on what he or she thinks the verse means. Whether it’s clearly articulated or not, this approach reveals the assumption that the Bible has a personalized meaning for each Christian. It might mean one thing to me, but another thing to you.
I'll use an exaggerated example here, by saying, one man might respond by saying 'Yes, this passage says to me that I can sin with impunity." And the other man says, " What it means to me is that I have to follow the Law." Can it be both? No. As with any text, the author had one thing in mind when He wrote it. The fact that there are many different interpretations doesn't mean that we can sow our own agenda into the Bible, come out with different interpretations, and think that that's OK. It isn't.
Sometimes when we talk about "what this passage means to me," we are actually talking about application, rather than interpretation. With interpretation, we are asking what the passage is saying and what it means. With application, we are applying that meaning to our specific situation. Ultimately, each passage has one meaning, but it might have many different applications.
Application depends on our specific life situations, so we may all read the same passage and walk away with different applications. Interpretation, on the other hand, is all about discovering what God has actually said and what He intended to communicate. We should all read the same passage and walk away with the same meaning. Source: Multiply.
The Multiply book is free in pdf format and there are also 24 videos to match each week's lessons.

In the Ligonier online class Principles of Biblical Interpretation, lecturer RC Sproul always says that there is ONE intended meaning for each passage in the Bible. There might be many applications, but the Author intended one meaning. I can give an example of this. In the passages describing the rapture and in the larger context of God's plan for humankind in history, some interpret the rapture to occur before the Day of the LORD, or during the Day of the LORD, or after the Day of the LORD. Since it is one event and it happens only once, there can't be an interpretation of the rapture that includes 'what it means to me' with three different timings.' Only one of those timings is right and the other two are wrong.

John MacArthur at Grace Community Church preached against personal revelation and preached how to interpret the Word properly in this sermon from 2013.

And here is a general lecture on How To Study Your Bible: Interpretation from MacArthur.

Can we understand the one meaning the Author intended? With study, prayer, and the aid of the Holy Spirit, yes. Some passages are admittedly more difficult to understand. Also, we know we can't understand all of the Bible in the same way the LORD does. However let me end with this story I've told and re-told. It fascinates me. Shortly after the Soviet Union fell, John MacArthur was asked by some pastors in the split-off nation of Kazakhstan to come give them a crash course in theology on various topics. The Communist Soviet Union had banned Christianity and when it fell, the secret pastors, new pastors, and new believers needed to get a good foundation in the open. MacArthur came.

At the end of the week, they asked to be taught on eschatology. MacArthur spent 8 hours teaching them from the Bible about last things. At the end of the teaching, they said, "Good. This is what we believe." Having no access to commentaries, external sermons, or other teachings, and relying solely on the Bible, these pastors on one part of the world believed the same thing as another pastor in another part of the world, because they had interpreted rightly and understood the one intended meaning.

Won't it be wonderful when we're there and we all understand the same, and have a strong union in Christ with no error or sin? Meanwhile, in order to reduce the possibility of error, pray fervently and often, study diligently and well, and do not fall for the 'what this verse means to me" claptrap. Stay true to discovering the wonders of the single, intended meaning of the passage you are reading.
Onward and upward!


You (I) don't have to say everything

There's always controversy in the world. We live in a contentious world, led by a liar who is also a thief and a destroyer. Ergo...conte...