Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An excellent quote from Don Carson:

“There is nothing that our generation needs more than to hear the Word of God - and this at a time of biblical illiteracy rising at an astonishing rate. Moreover, it needs to hear Christian leaders personally submitting to Scripture, personally reading and teaching Scripture - not in veiled ways that merely assume some sort of heritage of Christian teaching while actually focusing on just about anything else, but in ways that are reverent, exemplary, comprehensive, insistent, persistent. Nothing else, nothing at all, is more urgent.”
I do believe that we all need wisdom. Moreover, I believe that we need a daily reminder as to where we find this wisdom because in our world, as godless as it may be, we need to remember that wisdom is not found in culture or in this world system, but found in the fear of God.

Listen to how Job puts it in this inclusio (sandwichlike structure):

Job 28:12 "But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?

And then he spends fifteen verses showing where wisdom is not found. He concludes by saying:

Job 28:28 "And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.'"

How important it is for us to remember this essential question: Where can real wisdom be found? Job answers that by saying that wisdom is not found in man (v.13); in nature (v.14); in wealth (v.15-19), but only with God (vv.20-27).

I was considering the magnitude of this verse when I read it this morning. What would I do if God were to approach me right now and ask me this question that Job poses:

Job 31:14 What then could I do when God arises? And when He calls me to account, what will I answer Him?

Would you say that you have been pursuing the true wisdom of God as found in the fear of God revealed in the Word of God? Or are you living life seeking your own wisdom living life day to day in and through your own human (finite!!) wisdom?

It is my prayer today that we receive afresh the reminder that true wisdom is found in the fear of God. Fearing God is understanding who God is and who we - as sinful creatures - are (or who we are not!). Let us spend time with God in the treasury of wisdom and knowledge given to us in the pages of Scripture. This is to be our source of wisdom. This is to be our source of meditation. This is to be our preoccupation. Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I read in Jay Adams' work, Critical Stages of Biblical Counseling, and he gave four very insightful helps in ministering the Word of God to people effectively. I'd like to post it here for your perusal.

1) Carefully select the Word

How often this is neglected when we minister and counsel people. Oftentimes, we have the same few verses that we go to for many situations. Let us never forget that Scripture is sufficient for "all of life and godliness" (2 Pet 1:3-4). Furthermore, this may result from a lack of knowledge of the Word of God on our part. May it be that we as preachers and biblical counselors would delve deep and headlong into the marvelous riches of God's holy and sufficient Word - so that we truly may be competent to counsel.

2) Accurately Interpret the Word

Oh how this is lacking today. We need men in the pulpits to preach and teach God's truth from God's Word in a way that is clear and accurately interpreted implementing the historical-grammatical hermeneutical skills. We need to make plain and clear what God says to our people. This must not only be done from the pulpit but also in the counseling room. We must interpret God's Word accurately as we reveal God's truth to people.
3) Rigorously Apply the Word

Again, how sad it is that this application is so often neglected from bible study. Both from the pulpit and in the counseling room must we as teachers rigorously apply God's Word to people's lives. That means, plain and simple, that we not only tell them what it says but we tell them how it applies to their lives. We must not forget this important and most crucial step in our counseling. Even from the pulpits, let us never finish preaching without giving our hearers clear commands and exhortations to change from God's Word. Scripture is to conform us to Christlikeness (Eph 5:1; Phil 1:27).

4) Effectively Implement the Word

This takes step three, application, one step further. This not only tells them the "what to's" of the passage, but here the teachers tells the people the "how to implement this" into their day to day lives. We must show our hearers how to apply the truths to their lives and how to change and how to trust and depent on the Holy Spirit for divine power and enablement in fulfilling this absolutely crucial step in applying the Word of God. It does no good to consciously know that I must love my wife without changing. This step takes the concept of knowing that I must love my wife to practical ways in which I can actually fulfill this in day to day life.

May we be those who are faithful in ministering God's Word to people -- not only from the pulpit, but also in the counseling room and, yea verily, in our daily lives.
Yesterday I was driving to class and I heard on the radio that 1.2 million women in America get an abortion. As I was driving, I thought about this and realized that 1.2 million just seems like a large, but distant figure. So I pulled out my cell phone and divided 1.2 million by 365 and I was staggered by the outcome. I realized that in America alone there are 3,288 babies that are aborted each day. This was shocking to me and very disturbing. I wrote the number on my hand so that I would see it throughout the day and remember this sobering reality.

O how it must break our Father's heart to see so many women here in America get an abortion because they think that they can dictate when they want a baby. Abortion is none other than the slaughtering of life. Furthermore, it is killing unborn babies with a real heart, with real feet, with a real nose and with a real soul. How devastating this is. I believe that this will only escalate in coming months and years (unfortunately) and that we, as biblical counselors, must come to grips with how to biblically counsel these women who, after having an abortion, are conscience stricken and guilty for murdering a human life.

May we as evangelical Christians who care about human life, nay, who care about God's glory and God's image as seen and revealed in humans, take a stand for human life and be ready and able to:

1 Peter 3:15-16 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Monday, January 21, 2008

One of my favorite prayers of all time. It's a puritan's prayer:

Thou Incomprehensible but prayer-hearing God,
Known, but beyond knowledge,
revealed, but unrevealed,

My wants and welfare draw me to thee,
for thou hast never said," seek ye me in vain."

To thee I come in my difficulties, necessities, distresses;
possess me with thyself,
with a spirit of grace and supplication,
with a prayerful attitude of mind,
with access into warmth of fellowship,
so that in the ordinary concerns of life
my thoughts and desires may rise to thee,
and in habitual devotion I may find a resource that will
soothe my sorrows, sanctify my successes,
and qualify me in all ways for dealings with my fellow men.

I bless thee that thou hast made me capable
of knowing thee, the author of all being,
of resembling thee, the perfection of all excellency,
of enjoying thee, the source of all happiness.

O God, attend me in every part of my arduous and trying pilgrimage;
I need the same counsel, defence, comfort I found at my beginning.
Let my religion be more obvious to my conscience,
more perceptible to those around.

While Jesus is representing me in heaven, may I reflect him on earth,
While he pleads my cause, may I show forth his praise.

Continue the gentleness of thy goodness towards me,
And whether I wake or sleep, let thy presence go with me,
thy blessing attend me.

Thou hast led me on and I have found thy promises true,
I have been sorrowful, but thou hast been my help,
fearful, but thou hast delivered me,
despairing, but thou hast lifted me up.

Thy vows are ever upon me,
And I praise thee, O God.

Now go back and focus on the underlined phrases and consider making this prayer your own this morning.

Blessings to you.

Friday, January 18, 2008

One of my professors yesterday said this:

"Expository preaching requires commanding."
2 Timothy 4:2 2 preach the word

1 Timothy 4:13 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

One thing we must remember is that as preachers, our job is not to simply give people our thoughts. When we look into the Word of God we are confronted with this reality that the preacher is to command his people to change. Read a sermon by Whitefield, or by Edwards, or by Spurgeon, or by Calvin. These men commanded their hearers to change.

May we as preachers not say from the pulpit, "Well this might possibly be something that God, perhaps, may want you to apply to your life... I think this is what you should do." Rather, let us say, "Thus says the LORD from His authoritative Word..."

Preachers, preach with authority because you are preaching the Words of the one who is the absolute Potentate!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Did you know that this is a oft occuring word in the New Testament? Almost all English translations translate the Greek word for slave (doulos) as "servant," or "bondservant." But the real idea behind this word doulos is that of a slave in the Greco-Roman world.

Last night I heard a sermon from John 15:14-15: "You are My friends, if you do what I command you. 15 "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

Here Jesus says to his disciples that they are his friends. Yet, even though we have been freed from the Law, we are still slaves to righteousness (Rom 6:15-23). In the New Testament, "believers are slaves of Christ and, furthermore, intimate slaves of Christ, because we have been told the things from God the Father (John 15:15). To be a true friend of God is to submit and obey all that He commands. To be a slave means to own nothing and to depend completely on one's master (cf. Rom 1:1; Jude 1:1).

Here is the point from the text: Jesus says that you are His friends if you obey Him and do ALL that He says. That means that you, in essence, are his slave. You are subservient to Him. You are obligated to obey Him in everything.

You see, a servant works for someone, but a slave is owned by someone. Furthermore, Jesus does not give you an opportunity to fulfill your dreams. Rather, he gives you an opportunity to live out obediently His divine will. When we think of being friends with God, let us not entertain for a moment that this gives us license to live however we want. Rather, those that have been bought out of the slave market of sin are now in the new slave market of righteousness where Christ is the Sovereign Lord.

After all, we have the greatest example of one who considered Himself a slave:

Philippians 2:5-8 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (doulos), and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Unquestionably the supreme kingship of Yahweh (in which he displays his transcendent greatness and goodness) is the most basic metaphor and most pervasive theological concept in the Psalter—as in the OT generally. It provides the fundamental perspective in which people are to view themselves, the whole creation, events in “nature” and history, and the future. All creation is Yahweh’s one kingdom. To be a creature in the world is to be a part of his kingdom and under his rule. To be a human being in the world is to be dependent on and responsible to him. To proudly deny that fact is the root of all wickedness—the wickedness that now pervades the world."

Here is a great link to John Richard Sampey's article on Psalms in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia online. I recommend it for your read. It helps to understand authorship, the psalm titles, the historical background and the various genres found in the psalter.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tonight I did something that I have never done before while teaching. I did a "Jet Tour" through the book of James tonight at church and I began the study by reading the whole book. Reading it slowly and dramatically, it took me almost fifteen minutes exactly to read it in its entirety. I loved it! Here is why I chose to do this and here is why I believe it was beneficial:

First of all, the practicality of the length of James is much easier to read than, say, Romans or Matthew or Hebrews (though this could [and should!] be done also). So, to read all five chapters of James will take about 15 minutes.

Second, this is, I believe, how the letter of James was intended to be read. Of course we know there were no chapter divisions when James wrote it. I don't think that in the early church they said, let's open up to James chapter 1:2 and we're going to do an exposition on two verses (though I'm sure there were some studies of this nature). I think, for the most part, the letter of James (like those of Paul to churches and to individuals) were written with the intention of being read in one sitting in its entirety.

Third, it showed my hearers that the book of James is a unit. Not a bunch of randomly selected verses that were clumped together in this big (and hard to understand!) book that we call "Holy Bible." Rather, in reading the whole letter, it is clear that James has a theme that is interwoven through the letter. His wordplays, his word pictures, his proverbial sayings all are seen with greater understanding when observing the whole context contained in all five chapters.

Fourth, it tremendously increases conviction upon the hearers when they hear the whole book and all the practical commands and the reality of - if they are truly honest - their inability and inconsistency of keeping all the commands contained in the book.

So, with those brief four comments said, I found teaching the whole book of James tonight as very profitable and fun!

James 5:7-9 7 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Oh Father, let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision (Valley of Vision).

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The adversary has four objectives:
Distort or deny the truth of God’s Word
Discredit the Testimony of God’s people
Destroy the Believer’s Enthusiasm for God’s Work
Dilute the Effectiveness of God’s Church

1 Peter 5:8-9
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

Monday, January 7, 2008

James 1:17-18 17 Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

I think one of the pressing needs facing Christians today is the need for precision and clarity in the gospel presentation. People know about God. People know about Jesus. People know (vaguely) about heaven and hell. But do they really know what is involved or the ramifications thereof?

Flying from coast to coast last week put me next to an elderly couple from Atlanta. I was reminded again of the opaqueness of the gospel in people’s minds. People have this far-removed and distant connection with the truth revealed in God’s Word. But, sad to say, this is not enough to save a person’s soul. When I asked this couple for their testimonies, I received the simple, traditional answer along the lines of: “I went to a revival meeting when I was young and went forward and did business with God.” And that’s it. That was their testimony. Anything about God and His holiness or justice? No. Anything about man and his sinfulness, rebellion, transgressions or lawlessness? No. Anything about Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on our behalf on Calvary’s cross? No. Anything about faith in Christ and making Him Lord and King in all of life? No.

This reminded me of the need for precision in presenting the Gospel. People – even those who go to church regularly – know the gospel. But do they have the precise, clear and thorough understanding that is required in the various facets of the gospel? Now don’t hear me wrong. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be a biblical scholar in order to be saved. But what I am saying is that everyone who is genuinely saved will know the simple, yet precise, details of man’s sin, God’s holiness, Christ’s righteousness imputed to us through faith in Him and Lordship salvation. That’s it. That’s the gospel. That’s the truth that we find revealed in God’s Word. Yet that is also something that is lacking, for the most part, in evangelical pulpits around the world.

God is concerned with details. God is concerned with precision. He doesn’t leave us in the dark or in the grey with regards to biblical data. For example, in Genesis 49, when Jacob summoned his sons and blessed them, he was not vague, opaque and unclear. Rather, he was clear in his blessing upon each of his sons; especially the blessing of Judah:

Genesis 49:10 10 "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

This is a specific Messianic prophecy. Even from 1800 BC, God spoke through Jacob and prophesied that Shiloh (i.e. “The Messiah”) would come out of a specific tribe of Israel. It is my prayer that we as believers would be more precise in our gospel sharing so that we reveal “The whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) to people as we seek to be precise and thorough in our gospel presentations.
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