Thursday, June 26, 2014

Confessing Our Sins




http://www.desiringgod.org//blog/posts/confessing-our-sins-together

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Evidence for the Eternal?

"I don't think God lets anyone peek around the curtain of eternity if they are not going to stay." - Tim Keller

Bottom line...start and end with the inspired Word of God.

From Hank Hanegraaff...



Popular interest in near-death experiences (NDEs) is at a fever pitch. From Raymond Moody's Life after Life to Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven, to Mary Neal's To Heaven and Back, to Todd Burpo's Heaven Is for Real—and, of course, now the movie—NDEs have titillated the masses for the better part of a generation. New revelations ranging from the physical characteristics of the devil (three heads, earless, a nasty nose, and moldy teeth) and demons (green, long fingernails, hair made of fire), to descriptions of God the Father (blue eyes, yellow hair, and huge wings), God the Son (sea green-bluish eyes and a rainbow-colored horse), and God the Holy Spirit (bluish but hard to see), are captivating the minds of millions of evangelicals. The problem is there are significant liabilities associated with NDEs.


First, we should note that the substance of an NDE is inevitably informed by the worldview of the celestial traveler. And that is precisely the problem. The objective reference point of sacred Scripture has been supplanted by the subjective experiences of those who have allegedly had a foretaste of heaven. Thus, while Scripture knows nothing of human preexistence, Betty Eadie—in concert with her Mormon presuppositions—alleges that while being embraced by the light, she recognized the very Jesus that she had previously encountered in her preexistence. In like fashion, Raymond Moody and Eben Alexander—in accord with their presuppositions—view life after life as devoid of the judgment of an altogether holy God. As such, what I said in yesterday's Daily e-Truth bears repeating: the subjective recollections of near-death experiencers are wildly divergent and mutually contradictory; and thus, logically, they can all be wrong, but they cannot all be right.


What we have in Heaven Is for Real is something not even the biblical writers had the temerity to do. Among the biblical writers who "spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21), not one dared say that like his Lord he spoke authoritatively about heaven from firsthand knowledge. Think about the apostle Paul. In the Bible we are told that he was "caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell" (2 Corinthians 12:4). Unlike Colton Burpo, Paul was not permitted to speak about his "surpassingly great revelations" (v. 7). Nor did any one of the biblical writers dare prophesy the century of Christ's return—one of Colton's revelations was that his father Todd would be alive to fight in the battle of Armageddon.





https://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/how-real-is-the-book-heaven-is

http://blogs.lcms.org/2014/review-heaven-is-for-real

http://www.challies.com/articles/what-the-bible-says-about-the-heaven-books




Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Week 2014

“Only through weakness and suffering could sin be atoned - it was the only way to end evil without ending us.” - Tim Keller

"Loving like Jesus loved means one thing - sacrifice."

"Our sins have to be Christ's sins or we shall perish forever." ~ Martin Luther

“If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen—nothing else matters.” — Jaroslav Pelikan

"Through Christ, death has lost her sting. Christ is the Death of death." ~Martin Luther

"How can we remember his death w/o sorrowing over the sin which made that death necessary?" - C.H. Spurgeon

"'Why do bad things happen to good people?' That only happened once and He volunteered." - Sproul, JR.

"The issue on which everything stands is not whether or not you like Christianity, but whether or not He rose from the dead." - Tim Keller









http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-problem-of-palm-sunday

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/04/17/maundy-thursday-4/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/04/17/when-jesus-said-farewell/

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-greatest-prayer-in-the-world-maundy-thursday

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/04/18/how-can-this-be-a-good-friday-meditation/

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/it-is-finished-good-friday

http://www.rzim.org/blog/new-testament-studies/loves-unveiling-day-12-loves-extremity/

http://glennpackiam.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/04/n-t-wright-on-the-atonement.html

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2013/03/22/did-jesus-really-have-to-rise-again/

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2014/04/20/sent-one-sends/

https://www.unlockingthebible.org/meaning-significance-resurrection-jesus-christ/

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/have-you-found-what-you-re-looking-for-easter-sunday

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2014/04/19/holy-week-day-8-sunday/

http://www.rzim.org/blog/worship-and-spirituality/ravis-easter-meditation/

http://www.rzim.org/blog/new-testament-studies/four-gardens/

http://patriotpost.us/pages/309

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas

 "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will be with child ..." (Luke 1:30)

 

No matter how troubled Mary was, her heart had been cultivated by faith, and she responded to the news with composure, dignity, and faith. She did not scream or fall on her face. She simply asked the angel a question: “How will this be … since I am a virgin?” (v. 34).

 

She asked with expectancy. “How will God do this, with me being a virgin and all?” It is not a question of doubt. It is a question rooted in faith. Mary immediately believed Gabriel. She did not laugh as Sarah did when she overheard the conversation between her husband and the Lord that she in her old age would bear a son. When confronted with the miraculous, Mary asked how will.

 

Unbeknownst to Mary, this same angel had visited her relative Zechariah and brought him astonishing, impossible news. When Gabriel told Zechariah that he and Elizabeth in their old age would have a son, an amazing son, Zechariah asked, “How can this be?” (v. 18, author’s paraphrase). Not how will. How can. The difference exposed his heart. He did not believe the angel, and it did not go well for him. Mary was blessed by the angel above all women. Zechariah was struck dumb. 

 

Mary asked, “How will?” She knew that if God says something—anything—we can believe him. God is true. He is trustworthy. Jesus is a man of his Word. (From "Becoming Myself" by John Eldredge)



"At Christmas God moved into very bad neighborhood and began rehabilitating it." - Tim Keller




http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/five-truths-about-the-incarnation

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/mary-s-model-for-mothers

www.bloggingtheologically.com/2013/12/21/living-in-her-old-testament-faith

http://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/2013/12/the-women-of-christmas-the-wondrous-gift-is-given/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/12/25/christmas-for-the-weary-and-heavy-laden/

http://kellerquotes.com/the-greatest-gift/

http://kellerquotes.com/the-message-of-christmas/

http://www.rzim.eu/a-christmas-message-from-john-lennox

http://www.rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/questioning-gabriel/

www.rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/the-santa-delusion

http://www.rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/which-virgin-birth/

http://pastormark.tv/2011/12/21/who-was-saint-nicholas

thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/11/28/immanuel-the-real-meaning-of-christmas

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nelson Mandela

Written by Ravi Zacharias...

I’m sitting at the airport in Bahrain, about to catch a flight to Jakarta. The television screens are full of coverage for a man of courage, conviction, and influence. Every now and then his picture with his winsome smile is shown with the words under it: Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013.

Looking at the dates, I thought first of my mother. She was born just two years before him but passed away nearly four decades before he did. Yes, she had a short life span. She did not make a world impact but it was because of her that I am a free man today. Her life and example were for me, life-defining. Nelson Mandela, by contrast, changed history for millions, if not for the world. A different role, a different call. So it is that each one of us has a part to play, whether of great influence or of small influence, but equally important.

Yet, as I look at his picture and consider his legacy, I mourn the loss of not just a person, but an example for all politicians. While his early years were more aggressive, his veteran years spoke of wisdom gained through steps and missteps. Where are the leaders like him today? Many of those who are eulogizing him have evidently not learned from him. For one, he bore no hatred towards his oppressors. Even his period of violence was short-lived and tempered. When he acquired freedom he did not ask the oppressed to “go and vote for revenge.” After his time in prison, he did not use the microphone to whip up hostility, division, and frenzy or go on diatribes blaming his predecessors for doing everything wrong. He did not use language that some in the media do, some verbiage that is too vulgar to even repeat. He wanted to correct society, not change, penalize, or pollute it. He won supporters to his side with grace and dignity, not by bullying.

On one occasion I nearly met the man. It was my loss when it didn’t come about. I was in Cape Town after having spoken to the framers of the Peace Accord in Johannesburg when I received a call from his office where his staff was trying its best to bring about a meeting between us. But a strong bout of pneumonia, which he had contracted in prison, hit him hard at that time and actually plagued him for the rest of his life. Not meeting him was a loss I felt. I would have loved to have asked him a few questions. One I would like to have asked is, “Deep inside, did you ever feel like giving up?” I suspect I know the answer, but just to be inspired, I would have liked to hear this one-time boxer turned freedom-fighter in his soft voice express his determination to never give up.
Nelson Mandela

The world has become a dangerous place. We need the Mandelas who know when to lead, how to treat their opponents, and when to step down. There is so much hatred in speeches today, such inflammatory rhetoric. There is such an unyielding quest and clinging to power that we shudder at the seduction so evident. What we win the masses with is what we win them to and we are subjecting a generation to ignoble speech and lacerating rhetoric: How will this win them to noble ends?

Two remarkable decisions among many show how Mandela bore no contempt for his adversaries. Journalists have pointed this out. You’d think they themselves would be instructed by it. When he received the Nobel Prize he chose to share it with his predecessor, President F.W. de Klerk. This was an incredible move, truly walking the second mile. He never wanted to play the hero. He knew the fight wasn’t about him. Also, at his inauguration he invited the white jail warden to be present as his personal guest. Mandela cautioned leaders that hatred beguiled the mind and was an emotion leaders could not afford without reaping the whirlwind. He would give no place to mockery that masqueraded as statesmanship.

Our own leaders today would do well to learn from Nelson Mandela rather than just giving grandiose speeches about him. What he began still has a long way to go. I am a Christian and I admire the courage and sacrifice of people such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Even if we are not all on the same page theologically, we are on the same page for the protection of people who are exploited or abused. It is a noble end. But the way our media and political leaders frame the problem actually digs a hole deeper than the one they are trying to fill. They poison the soul but expect healing. When language comes easily for those who have the microphone, it can become fatally fluent.

I spoke once at the Islamic University in Malaysia, one of the oldest such universities of the world. I was asked to present a defense of Christianity to a primarily Muslim audience. It was a nerve-wracking hour, with sophisticated scholars in the audience. I would not compromise my convictions. I needed to build a bridge without surrendering ground. “How does one handle this?” I thought. I did my best and the response was truly gratifying. Even the head of the Islamic Studies department, the professor who was my host, said some of the kindest words afterward in her office.

That evening I was taken out for dinner by a professor who specifically asked if we could have an hour. His name was Professor Living Lee, a geologist by specialty. He told me this story. Some years ago the late vitriolic Muslim apologist Ahmed Deedat was presenting a defense of Islam at the same university. Ironically, he was from South Africa too. He had a bent to abusive language and inflammatory speech, mocking opponents and inciting anger in his supporters towards those of a different view. He provoked all the baser emotions for a supposedly elevated cause. Deedat had delivered his talk at the university in his usual hate-filled style, mocking Christianity and calling it nonsensical and unlivable, among other charges. When Professor Lee, one of the few Christians in the audience, questioned his charge, Deedat called him to come to the front. Professor Lee walked forward. Deedat raised his hand and with a full swing slapped him with a stinging hit to the face. Professor Lee was nearly knocked to his feet. Deedat then barked, “Now turn the other cheek!” It was obvious what he was trying to do. Suddenly he paused and said, “We can do this quicker. Give me your shirt!” Professor Lee unbuttoned and took off his shirt. “According to Jesus, you should now offer your trousers, too, shouldn’t you?” Deedat said. Professor Lee turned to the audience, apologized to his students and faculty colleagues, took off his trousers, and quietly walked out of the room in his underwear. The audience was in a dazed, stunned silence. Outdone by a gentle but equally determined scholar, Deedat looked utterly juvenile and like a man who had just been hoisted on his own petard.

Dr. Lee went back to his office and put his face in his hands, his spirit swirling with indescribable emotions. He wept though he knew he had done the right thing in standing his ground. A few moments later there was a knock on the door, then another, and another, and another. When he opened the door, he saw students and colleagues lined up to apologize to him for the pain and foolishness just displayed.

Deedat was freewheeling in rhetoric but a slave to pride. Quite incredibly, he spent the last few years of his life smitten with a stroke, unable to speak. The only weapon he had was lost to him. But in reality, Deedat could never have attained greatness because he was already too great in his own eyes.

Mandela had a cause greater than himself and is so remembered. He spent the last few years of his life quite unwell. But his example continued to speak for the freedom of all mankind. His spirit fought for the dignity of man, and he never compromised the dignity of anyone in fighting for it.

So when we read 1918-2013 we would do well to remember that though the span of Mandela’s life is finished, the span of our human struggle is not closed. But if our leaders do not know how to use speech supported by character and instead use words only to provoke hostile instincts, we will kill others with hate and the bracket around dignity and freedom will be closed. Not everything that is fatal is immediate. We are near the edge of that precipice. We have a choice. We all have a platform.

I cannot end without mentioning one wound that Mandela probably wished he could have healed: the break-up of his family. The price for him was huge and the pain must have been deep. It was a price my mother would not pay: We five children would have been the cost. It is a sobering reminder for all of us. Our nation and our homes need healing. The national struggle and the heart of a child will shape the future. Politicians and parents play that role. No momentary gain had dare violate eternal truths.

I pray for our leaders. I pray for our families. May God guide and help us.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween

Halloween: Trick or Treat? from 10ofthose.com on Vimeo.


Vast armies undead do tread through the night and
In hordes march towards hapless victims to frighten.
They stumble in step with glass-eyes on the prizes;
Bunched hither, hunched over in monstrous disguises;
In sizes not lofty but numb’ring a throng;
To unleash on their prey the dreaded DING DONG.
Small faces with traces of mother’s eye-liner,
Peer up to the resident candy provider.

And there to intone ancient threats learnt verbatim;
They lisp “TRICK OR TREAT!” Tis their stark ultimatum.
Thus: region by region such legions take plunder.
Does this spector-full spectacle cause you to wonder?
Just how did our fair festive forebears conceive,
Of this primeval practice called All Hallows Eve?
The answer, if anyone cares to research,
Surprises, it rises from old mother church.

On the cusp of the customary All Saints Day
The Christ-i-an kinsfolk made mocking display.
These children of light both to tease and deride;
Don darkness, doll down as the sinister side.
In pre-post-er-ous pageants and dress diabolic,
They hand to the damned just one final frolick.
You see with the light of the dawn on the morrow,
The sunrise will swallow such darkness and sorrow.

The future is futile for forces of evil;
And so they did scorn them in times Medieval.
For this is the nature of shadow and gloom;
In the gleaming of glory there can be no room.
What force is resourced by the echoing black?
When the brightness ignites can the shadow push back?
These ‘powers’ of darkness, if such can be called,
Are banished by brilliance, by blazing enthralled.

So the bible begins with this fore-resolved fight;
For a moment the darkness…. then “Let there be Light!”
First grief in the gloom, then joy from the East.
First valley of shadow, then mountaintop feast.
First wait for Messiah, then long-promised Dawn.
First desolate Friday and then Easter Morn.
The armies of darkness when doing their worst,
Can never extinguish this Dazzling Sunburst.

So… ridicule rogues if you must play a role;
But beware getting lost in that bottomless hole.
The triumph is not with the forces of night.
It dawned with the One who said “I am the Light!”


http://sukofamily.org/?p=3237

http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=33326

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Legalism

“There is nothing in the law of God that will rob you of happiness; it only denies you that which would cost you sorrow." - Spurgeon

"The pursuit of a trivial life is not befitting for creatures made in the image of a weighty God full of glory." - Kevin DeYoung

"To be a disciple of Jesus is to fight sin with sober belief in God's warnings AND abounding delight in his promises."

https://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/what-is-legalism-episode-157

As Piper points out in the audio clip above, the word "legalism" is not in the Bible.  However, the Pharisees offer the prime example, as they made their law-keeping behavior the foundation of their right standing with God.  I think my definition would be similar to that..."the concept that our works rather than Jesus' imputed righteousness through the cross gains us approval in the eyes of God".

I went to high school with a couple friends like that.  On one hand they would talk about the Gospel but on the other they were constantly pointing out how wrong it was for other students to talk the way they did or to listen to the music they did.  Of course, they had a point.  Swearing and music that is marked by prideful rebellion are not glorifying to God nor edifying to man.  But they were only concerned about the behavior of these students.  The posture of their hearts or their relationship, or lack thereof, with God seemed to be of little concern.  Their desire to point out bad behavior revealed what an idol their own behavior had become in justifying themselves.  They hadn't been broken yet to understand how God's grace was the ONLY thing that could save them and so they extended little grace to others. (And by his grace, one of those friends, is now one of the most grace- and truth-filled women I know who has a deep love for others and a desire that they would come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.)

I now hear legalism being used in another way.  I recently taught through the book "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan.  It was very similar in it's message to David Platt's "Radical".  Both books centered on what it truly meant to be a Christian...and therein lies the rub.  On one hand, the Bible speaks quite clearly about the qualities of someone who is born again - they love God, they bear fruit, they have gifts of the Spirit, etc.  On the other hand, a Christian is not ultimately nor primarily defined by what he/she does but what God has done for them.  It is God who justifies and who grants the gift of faith.  Who we are is not what we do but what has been done for us.

But I don't think this needs to be an either/or argument.  We just need to get the order right.  God absolutely initiates His work through His Spirit into our hearts and lives.  It begins with God and it continues with God.  The cross justifies us in His sight.  It is not a jumping off point for our sanctification where we are handed the baton and God then says, "OK, the rest is up to you.  Because of Jesus you have my approval.  Now go do good so you can keep it."

I haven't read David's book but I can assure you that is not Francis' message.  We were created for relationship with God.  Do we not have a response to Him when He comes to us and initiates saving faith in our hearts?  Are we to just take that gift for granted and become indifferent toward His love for us?  Of course, not!  Yet we seem to so easily fall into the trap of believing that we have no part to play in this story.  We seem content to drift through life, creating what happiness we can on our own...all the while knowing that heaven awaits us like a well-funded retirement account so we can still rest well at night.

We have lost the concept of being a disciple.  We barely see Jesus as teacher let alone Lord.  We don't see the need to sit at His feet and make Him our primary treasure and example.  What we really want Him for is to be there when we run out of options and our illusion of control gets thwarted yet again.  In short, we still think our life is our own and we will do anything to hold on to that mirage.  The original sin remains firmly implanted in our hearts.  We want to be God.

So, when someone like Francis comes along and says, "Wake up, Christian!  Your life was meant to be poured out for God and for others," we immediately get defensive.  "Hey, that sounds awful legalistic Francis.  After all, the Gospel is about grace and not about my behavior.  My Christian life can't be defined by what I do.  All my sins and shortcomings have been forgiven so I don't need to try and be perfect or pursue holiness or live radically...whatever that means."

We have a real problem with the Law.  We either still use it when it suits us, i.e. I am really good at keeping "these" commands so I will use those to make me feel like I am being a good Christian....or I know I can't be perfect no matter how hard I try so why really try at all.  The Law still has an essential part to play in the life of the Christian.  Yes, it shows us our sin and it causes us to run back to the cross of Christ where forgiveness and grace flow like a never-ending stream of life.  But the Law still tells us how we are to live!  It still has a purpose.  It still instructs us on how God designed His creation.  The Law isn't meant to rob us of joy by thwarting our plans but it is meant to give us joy by aligning us with God's will so that we may enjoy blessings rather than the consequences that inevitably flow from our sin.

There are many commands that are good and right for us to pursue and follow.  Notice that I said commands...not suggestions.  This isn't God saying, "If you are really in the mood, give this a shot for me."  No!  Making disciples is not up for debate.  Obeying God is not for just when you are feeling spiritual.  Putting God first and putting yourself last isn't just for the really "holy" people.  These are things that are meant to be part of the Christian life.  Yes, we will do them imperfectly...we will stumble and fall...and we will repent knowing God will never leave us nor forsake us.  But we can't just phone in the part we are called to play.

It is not legalistic to point out the commands of God on how we are to live.  If we aren't following His Word, the issue is not with the Bible or the one who comes along and points out the disconnect.  The issue lies with us.  If we don't want to make disciples then we need to be seriously praying for the Spirit to ignite that desire and fervently searching for the obstacle preventing us from desiring to follow our Lord.  These are battles we must fight.  These are issues we must tackle.  We can't be passive.  God's ambassadors can't afford to coast along.  We need to wake up while there is still time.


For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. - Ephesians 5:8-17 (NIV)

Jesus. Renew the fight within us today. May we fight to rest. Fight to receive. Fight to be still and believe you love us. Fight to honor you.  Amen.