Friday, December 28, 2007

Fiery Preaching

"Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." (Luke 3:7-8, NKJV)

John the Baptist did not pull any punches when he confronted his religious opponents. No doubt John would be branded as a “hell fire and brimstone” preacher if he were here today. Although his message was not politically correct, it was theologically correct. In addition, his apparent harshness is an action motivated by love.

These religious opponents of John had developed a system that claimed to be true, but was actually in error. John calls them a bunch of snakes. Not very seeker sensitive! These religious leaders felt that they were part of God’s kingdom because of their ethnic tie to Abraham. John explained that those who do not display true repentance and dependence of God demonstrate that they are not true sons of Abraham.

"just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham." (Galatians 3:6-7, NKJV)
It is not a loving thing to affirm error. Only those people who care about you will tell you that your breath stinks. It is not a loving thing to allow someone to continue down the path of falsehood because you do not want to hurt their feelings.

"let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:20, NKJV)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

This Day in History

1774 - English founder of Methodism, John Wesley wrote in a letter:
'God...frequently...makes young men and women wiser than the
aged, and gives to many, in a very short time, a closer and
deeper communion with himself than others attain in a long
course of years.'

" Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12, NKJV)

LABC Benevolence Fund

The Benevolence ministry helps those who are in need of basic, life-sustaining services such as food, water, utilities, clothing, medical care, and other basic needs. At LABC we have an in house fund to help with those that are directly associated with our church, and we also use our funds to support a number of other charitable ministries in the greater Chattanooga area that provide those types of services to the community at large.

As of December 2007 we are pleased to announce a new strategy for benevolence. In the past we have provided assistance from funds specified in our budget. One of the key elements in the new direction that we are taking includes funding our Benevolence fund with free-will offerings. In the month of December we will collect funds designated specifically for benevolence. Any otherwise unspecified Wednesday evening offering will go to the benevolence fund. In addition, those who wish to contribute may contribute in any other Sunday offering by designating the funds for benevolence. (Please make the indication on your offering envelope or on the memo portion of your check)

Those of you who wish to contribute to this fund by mail and still receive a tax credit for the 2007 year please have your envelope post marked by December 31st.

Below is a summary of the relevant points we discussed last Wednesday as deduced from 2 Corinthians chapter 9.

1. Benevolence was a part of the early church.

2 Corinthians 9:1 (NKJV) Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you;

2. Benevolence was administered through the church.

2 Corinthians 9:5 (NKJV) Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

3. Benevolence was collected as a gift and not an obligation.

2 Corinthians 9:5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

4. Benevolence seen in view of the law of sowing and reaping.

2 Corinthians 9:6 (NKJV) But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

5. Benevolence should be given cheerfully.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NKJV) So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

6. Benevolence is founded on God’s provision.

2 Corinthians 9:8-10 (NKJV) And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,

7. Benevolence glorifies God.

2 Corinthians 9:12-13 (NKJV) For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

This Day in History

1531 - German reformer Martin Luther declared: 'The inner man is a
saint; the outer man is a sinner. That is why we confess in
the Creed that the church is holy but pray for forgiveness of
sins in the Lord's Prayer.'

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

"“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”" (Luke 2:14, NKJV)

Today we commemorate the birth of Christ. In the midst of all our gift giving, feasting, fellowship, and goodwill with each other let us remember the source of all joy and happiness. May God bless you as you glorify Him this most holy and happy day. Have a Merry Christmas.

"and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross." (Colossians 1:20, NKJV)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sin Separates

Sin separates us from God

" Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:1-2, NKJV)

If you have ever felt that God is not listening to you or that He seems far off, it may be time to examine your heart. We know that God is near even when He seems so far away. If God seems distant it is most likely our own sinfulness that causes us to feel that way.
The solution may be to get out the Bible and preach to yourself!

"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God." (Psalm 43:5, NKJV)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

This Day in History

1804 - Anglican missionary to Persia Henry Martyn wrote in his journal:
'I look forward to a day of prayer; for my soul hath great
need of quickening and restoration, that it may act more in
the view of eternity.'

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wives Submit to your Husbands?

" Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them." (Colossians 3:18-19, NKJV)

I was watching Hannity & Colmes the other day when Kirsten Powers guest hosted for Alan Colmes. Kirsten was discussing Mike Hucabee’s views and laughed out loud when she was asked what she thought about the idea of submitting to her husband.
Our culture is becoming increasingly politically correct which by the way is not necessarily Biblically correct. Our value system in this country was originally guided by the Christian principles. Today most of the secular society mocks the values taught in the Word of God. This is not a new trend. In the first century the apostle Paul noted that,

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one." (1 Corinthians 2:14-15, NKJV)

If you have any interest in getting some help in shaping a Biblical world view of manhood and womanhood I suggest that you consider The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. They have some excellent online books that will help guide your perspective on this increasingly misunderstood concept. Just click on the link above for the online books or browse yourself at

Thursday, December 20, 2007

God Does Not Think Like Us

"“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9, NKJV)
One of the hardest things in theology to grasp is understanding that God thinks differently than us. This is an important concept that will help us get a handle on some of the actions taken by God as recorded in the Bible.

From our vantage point everything revolves around us. For example, we still speak of the sun rising and setting although we know that it is really the earth that is revolving. The sun is at the center of our solar system not the earth. Likewise, our perspective of fairness and morality may be inconsistent with reality. We must renew our minds by aligning our thoughts with His thoughts.

" I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:1-2, NKJV)

Fortunately God has given a resource to have our thoughts aligned.

"Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth." (John 17:17, NKJV)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ?

" I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church," (Colossians 1:24, NKJV)

The above text is one that is among those that require a second glance. It may seem at first that the apostle Paul is saying that he is contributing to the work of Christ. Based on Paul’s clear statements of the gospel in Romans and more specifically his warnings to those who add to the gospel (Gal. 1:8-9), we know he does not mean to say that he is adding to the work of Christ.

In context, what Paul is stating is that he is being persecuted because people hate the gospel. The enemies of Christ continue to reject His message by attacking the messenger.
If you struggle with persecution for your faith, rest assured that the evil committed against you is really intended for Jesus. It is an honor to be counted worthy to receive the insults intended for Christ. This was the sentiment of the apostles and the early church.

"So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41, NKJV)

I wonder what God would do in our community if we adopted this same attitude?

This Day in History

December 19, 1965 - American missionary and apologist Francis Schaeffer wrote in a letter: 'God has given us rules not because He is arbitrary, but because the rules...are fixed in His own character... Thus, when we sin we break the law of the direction of destroying what we really are.'

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

Book Review of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Wayne Layton[i]

The topic of discernment is rarely dealt with in the current Christian climate. Judging from the shelves of most local bookstores the need for discernment is increasing while the ability to discern is diminishing. Even Christian bookstores are not immune to the propagation of error. Given what Paul told Timothy in the first century I suppose that this phenomenon should not come as a surprise.

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NKJV)

Tim Challies book on discernment is a reminder that the Christian has a duty to discern truth from error. Citing Romans 1:31 Tim reminds us that the undiscerning are included among those sinful people who practice evil. He rightfully concludes that the lack of discernment is at the very least evidence of spiritual immaturity and worse may be evidence of spiritual deadness. (Pages 26-30) On the positive side spiritual discernment is an indication of spiritual life, growth, and maturity. The charge from the writer of Hebrews is appropriately cited.

"But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:14, NKJV)

Tim defines discernment as “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.” (Page 61) Discernment rightly focuses on a practical application of truth. The goal of discernment is to make Biblically informed choices between truth and error. In order to achieve this goal one must have achieved some proficiency in the truth, as noted in Hebrews 5:14 above.

On page 93 Tim states that, “the practice of spiritual discernment is founded on a belief in the existence of both error and truth.” The culture in which we live is quick to find shades of gray, but according to the Scriptures those shades are only the faint uncertain shadows between the clear distinctive tones of black and white truth.

" This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (1 John 1:5-6, NKJV)

Most people will appreciate all of the anecdotes and illustrations included in this resource. One the helpful analogies used to help the reader understand the concept of discernment is that of determining counterfeit money. Apparently Tim did his homework on this one and his experience of learning how to distinguish counterfeit money from genuine money as taught to him by the Bank of Canada is helpful. He shares his lessons learned from the experience on page 142.

“First, it quickly became apparent that identifying counterfeit currency is not an exceptionally difficult task and certainly not one that only experts can master. Second, I learned that people who create counterfeit money typ­ically invest minimal effort in creating a reproduction of the genuine currency. Third, I learned the importance of identifying a number of characteristics of truth. These characteristics will be present when something is true and will be missing when something is false. And finally, I learned that in discerning what is true from what is false it is best to focus more attention on what is genuine than on what is counterfeit.”

Tim suggests on page 162 that, “Those who wish to be discerning…must commit to reading and studying the Bible, to participating in the local church, and to pursuing the character traits of a Christian.” This advice is consistent with the teaching of the apostles and the practice of the early church. Given the technology of our day it is easy to drift away into a virtual Christian world. I am an advocate for technology such as the internet to advance and supplement communication within the church, but nothing replaces our need for each other in our spiritual development.

"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25, NKJV)

This book is written on a popular level so you do not need to be an expert in theology to understand this concept of discernment. As Tim has demonstrated you also do not need to be an expert to discern good from evil. You just need to be grounded in the Truth.

"but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18, NKJV)

[i] I read a “pre-release” copy of this book so the page numbers may not be correct.

This Day in History

December 18th 1943 - German theologian and Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter from prison: 'The man who finds God in his earthly happiness...does not lack reminder that earthly things are transient...and...there will be times when he can say in all sincerity, "I wish I were home."'

Who has believed our report?

Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
I suppose Isaiah’s audience would have replied to this question much how we would respond today, with an emphatic yes. Who would doubt God?

Affirmation without action equals unbelief. The reason this question is asked in Isaiah’s day and restated in the Paul’s day (Romans 10:16) is because generally speaking we do not practice half of what we profess to believe. I think Jesus said it best as recorded in Luke 6:46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?

Believing God and demonstrating it by our actions is not just a decision to trust and obey by sheer will power, but rather it is reliance on God’s grace to grant us faith and faithfulness which results in obedience. For example, as the father of a disabled child cried out in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And in Luke 17:5 the Bible records that, “…the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.””
Do you want a faith that believes God and results in faithfulness? Call on Him to increase your faith in secret prayer and spend time with God and be nourished by His faith giving Word (John 17:17).

Monday, December 17, 2007

This Day in History

Rejoice in the Lord

" Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe." (Philippians 3:1, NKJV)

Even in a joyous time like the Christmas season there may be some circumstances that do not bring joy. When I was a child some good friends of mine lost their father due to a car accident on the day before Christmas. I could not imagine what it would be like to have the presents for dad still under the tree. I am sure that even to this day there is a degree of sadness that accompanies Christmas day for this family.

In our text Paul is not telling the church to put on a smiley face and pretend that evil circumstances or actions done by evil people do not hurt. Instead, Paul is calling reminding us to rejoice in the Lord. If our joy is contingent on our circumstances it will be short lived. If our joy is established in the hope we have in Christ it will transcend the biggest obstacles life throws our way.

This concept is not new, but it is something we need to be reminded of time and time again. The apostle Paul states, “for me to write the same things to you is not tedious.” As the gospel song says, “remind me dear Lord.”

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Righteous and Wicked Perish

" And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, preach against the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel; and say to the land of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I am against you, and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off both righteous and wicked from you. Because I will cut off both righteous and wicked from you, therefore My sword shall go out of its sheath against all flesh from south to north, that all flesh may know that I, the Lord, have drawn My sword out of its sheath; it shall not return anymore.” ’ Sigh therefore, son of man, with a breaking heart, and sigh with bitterness before their eyes. And it shall be when they say to you, ‘Why are you sighing?’ that you shall answer, ‘Because of the news; when it comes, every heart will melt, all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming and shall be brought to pass,’ says the Lord God.”" (Ezekiel 21:1-7, NKJV)

This passage of Scripture gives us a glimpse of God’s character that seems out of character. We expect God to spare the righteous and judge the wicked. This text is a prophecy of the impending judgment coming against Jerusalem by Babylon. This passage of Scripture is another example of the Providence of God.

Some of the facts we can deduce from this passage that are taught consistently in Scripture are as follows:

1. All men are worthy of judgment (Rom 3:23)
2. All men should know that God judges sin (Heb 9:27)
3. All men are delivered from judgment is due to God’s grace (Eph 2:8-9)
4. All men should fear God (Prov 1:7)
5. All men should know that the LORD is God (Psa 100:3)
6. All men should know that God is always in control (Isa 43:13)
7. All men should know that God uses evil for good (Gen 50:20)

We must not make God in our image but see Him for who He really is as revealed in His Word.

This Day in History

December 15, 1739

English revivalist George Whitefield wrote in a letter:

'My brother, entreat the Lord that I may grow in grace, and pick up the fragments of my time, that not a moment of it may be lost.'

Winning At Any Cost

I understand why these athletes want to cheat the system. There is an incredible amount of money that someone could earn if they were able to perform at a superior level. Evidently some athletes are willing to sacrifice their future well being for the immediate benefits of drug use today.

Cheating is not worth the cost of your reputation and your health. The Bible states that, "… if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." (2 Timothy 2:5, NKJV).
Perhaps one of the reasons that cheating is so prevalent is the fact that some cheating is acceptable in sports. For example, if a baseball player traps a ball off of the turf in the outfield he may pretend that he really caught the ball. Sometimes he may not really know if he really caught it, but most of the time he does. The baseball player is not penalized for pretending to make the play. Cheating is common in sports like baseball.

The only professional sport that I know of where cheaters are severely dealt with is golf. In golf the players call rule infraction penalties on themselves even if no one else notices. For example, Jeff Sluman once disqualified himself from a tournament because he believed that he may have violated a rule the previous day by making an improper drop.

Could you imagine baseball under those conditions? The umpire calls the runner out at first and then the first basemen confesses that his foot really was not on the bag. Well, that scenario will probably never happen in our lifetime, but I wonder if baseball did play with that level of integrity if there would not also be a rise in the level of sportsmanship and honesty. Perhaps we would not have to strip our athletic heroes of their awards, titles, and accomplishments.

" A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold." (Proverbs 22:1, NKJV)

Friday, December 14, 2007

You think you have problems!

Apparently this motorist somehow ran off the edge of a high rise parking garage in Atlanta. The man driving the car was trapped inside as his car was teetering seven floors above the ground. Fortunately the driver was rescued by some incredibly skilled and brave rescue workers. Can you imagine the sense of relief this man felt and how thankful he was when he saw help outside his car window?

One of the problems we face in sharing the gospel with people today is getting them to recognize their predicament. Most people think that they are just fine when in reality they are like the motorist who was in imminent peril. At any moment each of us could face eternity. Are you ready? It is by God’s grace and His grace alone that we are at this moment given another breath of life (Acts 17:28)

Unfortunately, mankind in general has no awareness of their actual perilous predicament (2 Cor. 4:4). So the mission of those who have seen the light of God’s glory is to respond as emergency personnel and rescue the perishing. "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:20, NKJV)

The saving message we share is the message of the Gospel. "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:5-6, NKJV)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Huckabee resonds to the evolution question

The Cost of Discipleship

"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:25-26, NKJV)

Last night we concluded our study of discipleship in our series on Growing in Grace. This series is a practical Bible study focusing on many of the fundamental truths basic to Christianity. In our conclusion to this topic we focused on the fact that the Bible teaches that being a being a disciple of Jesus is what we are called to do as Christians. The call of discipleship is a call of deep commitment, in fact the Bible indicates that the call to discipleship is a call to sacrifice all things and pursue Christ as our chief end.

In the key text above Matthew indicates that any other pursuit is really an unprofitable endeavor. Our lives today are filled with so many obligations and responsibilities that it is easy to lose focus of what is essentially important, namely Christ. In addition, few of us are motivated to make the sacrifices that are consistent with genuine Christianity.

I have always been inspired by the young Jim Elliot who gave up the comforts of America and a future in business to tell the Auca Indians of Ecuador about the gospel of Jesus Christ. This endeavor cost him his life. Jim understood the risks and was willing to pay the cost of discipleship. In his own hand he said, “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” God used his sacrifice and the men who traveled with him to eventually bring many of that tribe to the saving knowledge of Christ. God also continues to use Jim’s life as role model for us all of what genuine Christianity looks like.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pray Always

"pray without ceasing,"
(1 Thessalonians 5:17, NKJV)

The admonition to pray is actually a command to pray all the time. This text does not mean that we should do nothing but pray rather that prayer should be such an integral part of our life that we find ourselves praying all the time.

It is a good thing to pray at specific times and in an intentional way. Jesus provided us an example of getting alone with God in secret prayer, "… as He was alone praying…" (Luke 9:18). The church is also called to come together in formal prayer with each other. For example Luke records for us in Acts 12:5 that, "Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church." The charge to pray always implies that a Christian will also pray spontaneously and so often that our life can be characterized by constant prayer.

The key to constant prayer is constant communion with God. People naturally communicate with each other when they spend time with each other. For example, in your work environment conversation inevitably picks up the longer you are around someone. You may not even really like your coworker but you talk to them because you spend time with them.
Prayer is talking with God. We are given the privilege to talk with Him 24/7. Perhaps what hinders the frequency of our prayer is just the lack of recognizing His presence.

"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139:7-10, NKJV)

For further reading consider Spurgeon’s sermon on “Pray Without Ceasing” delivered on the Lord’s Day, March 10th, 1872 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Special Announcement

Lyndon Avenue Baptist welcomes Tim Challies Sunday evening December 30th at 6:00 p.m.

Among other things Tim will be sharing with us insights from God’s Word as presented in his new book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment published by Crossway Books. This book has been endorsed by nationally known Christian leaders such as Albert Mohler, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Don Whitney. John MacArthur has written the forward to the book. Release date from the publisher is January 1; however we hope to have a few pre-release copies available at our meeting.

Tim will also share with us some insights concerning his work in the blogosphere. In addition to his other responsibilities as a web designer, Tim functions in the new media as an internet editorialist. He provides daily comments, insights, and book reviews from a theologically conservative and reformed perspective.

You may find out more about Tim and his work on his web site Tim also manages Discerning which primarily focuses on book reviews with the intent to provide a resource for the discerning reader to find good books worthy of consideration.

I am looking forward to seeing you on Sunday evening December 30th at 6:00 p.m.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Some churches have a tradition of lighting Advent candles. Like a lot of traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation the ritual has lost most of its meaning. Most use this as a time to countdown to Christmas.

There are four Sundays in December prior to Christmas so usually four candles are used. A fifth candle is used sometime to designate either Christmas or Christmas Eve. Some people use blue candles. Most use purple candles to show the worth and value of Jesus since from ancient days purple was a color that signified worth. Many will notice that the third candle in sequence is usually a pink colored candle. The tradition of the pink candle is even more difficult to pin down.

Some think it was developed because a priest in the Roman church offered a rose on the third Sunday. Most now consider it as the candle of joy because of the anticipation of the advent is over the halfway point.

I debated whether to use Advent Candles at LABC. Can there be any meaningful value in this ritual? A pastor that uses an Advent Wreath offered me the following advice.

“I have used an advent wreath for 25 years in the church I serve. It has been a positive way to remind people of the importance of Christ's first advent or coming. Each year the 5 candles can have different meanings but they allow the church as a whole to review some aspect of Christ in a traditional way. This year we are reviewing the lineage of Jesus. The first candle is Abraham, then Isaac, Jacob, Judah and then on Christmas Eve Jesus. An appropriate scripture explaining the person is given. This event allows different people to partake in worship and think all week about the theme they are to represent.” L. Miller

Based on the aforementioned pastor’s recommendation and from the research that I have done on this subject I think it would be meaningful to begin a tradition at LABC that includes the use of Advent Candles. This year our theme will be consistent with the series I am preaching on Sunday mornings, The Birth of the Sovereign Savior. Each candle will remind us of the central truth behind the Old Testament prophecy in Matthews narrative of the birth of Jesus.

1. Sinless Savior: The Incarnation
"“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”" (Matthew 1:23, NKJV)

2. Shepherd Savior: The Good Shepherd
"‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”" (Matthew 2:6, NKJV)

3. Sovereign Savior: The Providence of God
"and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”" (Matthew 2:15, NKJV)

4. Sorrowful Savior: The Consequence of Sin
"Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”" (Matthew 2:17-18, NKJV)

5. Submissive Savior: The Despised Messiah
"And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”" (Matthew 2:23, NKJV)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Worth Every Penny

MacArthur Study Bible ON SALE NOW!

Christmas is a great time of year. According to an article I read the other day:

"Christmas generates about $435 billion worth of economic activity each year in the United States alone. But how much does the average family spend on Christmas? 2005 statistics show that the average New Zealand family spends $900. In England 43% of parents spend between $189 and 378 per child and 24% between $378 and $945. In the United States the average American will spend about $750 dollars on gifts and accessories. So for a family with two adults that is a total of $1500."

Perhaps the worst thing about all of this is that most of the items are here today and gone tomorrow. I know we will be fortunate if our children’s toys make it intact to the New Year.
An enduring gift you could give yourself or others is the MacArthur Study Bible.

Below is the description from the publisher.

"The MacArthur Study Bible is not designed to fit lifestyles, but to transform lives. This landmark study Bible brings together over 35 years of Bible study from popular Bible teacher John MacArthur, and provides extensive study helps to aid readers in understanding and teaching Scripture. It includes 20,000 study notes, an extensive concordance and an index to key Bible doctrines, multiple time lines, numerous charts, over 50 Bible maps, an outline of Systematic Theology, and more."

Some of the reasons I like this Study Bible:

  1. NKJV is my primary Bible version. Most of my written work uses NKJV as the text.

  2. NKJV is a literal Bible version that is very readable.

  3. MacArthur Study Bible is the best study Bible. It is has extensive notes and it is written from a theological perspective that is consistent with reformed Baptists who distinguish between Israel and the church.

  4. The reading of the NKJV sounds familiar to the KJV and will be an easy transition for someone that grew up using the KJV.

  5. NKJV clarifies archaic words and phrases of the KJV and it minimizes the need for explanation of out of date words and phrases.

  6. My Hebrew professor, James Price was the NKJV OT editor. He is brilliant humble servant of God.

  7. The NKJV includes footnotes in its apparatus to reference variant readings that are included in most modern translations.

Brief history of the NKJV from Wikipedia:

"The NKJV translation project, which was conceived by Arthur Farstad, was inaugurated in 1975 with two meetings (Nashville and Chicago) of 68 interested persons, most of them prominent Baptists but also including some conservative Presbyterians. The men who were invited to these meetings prepared the guidelines for the NKJV. The New Testament was published in 1979, the Psalms in 1980, and the full NKJV Bible in 1982.

The aim of its translators was to update the vocabulary and grammar of the King James Version, while preserving the classic style and beauty of the 1611 version. Although it uses substantially the same Hebrew and Greek texts as the original KJV, it indicates where more commonly accepted manuscripts differ."

Below is the publisher’s brief statement on the NKJV:

"When considering the important factors in choosing a Bible translation — accuracy, beauty, and ease of understanding — the choice is clear. Only the New King James Version offers precision and clarity without sacrificing readability. For a Bible that is both beautifully worded and trustworthy, ideal for study, teaching, personal reading, and congregational use, the NKJV has been selected by more than 25 million customers since its release, and is the preferred translation of thousands of today's most prominent Christian leaders."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Worth A Look

The Institute for Creation Research is a web site that is worth looking at especially in these days when the scientific community increasingly attempts to exclude God from its conclusions. God is central to the universe and key to understanding its history. As the Psalmist said, "…The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork." (Psalm 19:1, NKJV)

In addition to finding interesting articles and facts to counter atheistic arguments, IRC also provides a brief daily devotional. The devotional can be sent automatically every day to your email. Like I said, it is worth a look.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Merry Christmas! Season’s Greetings! Or is it Happy Holidays now?

Every year it seems the "reason for the season" continues to fade a little more from our cultural awareness. One of the telling signs is that increasingly fewer Christmas cards actually have the word "Christmas" on them. Our society seems bent on removing any mention of Christ from the public arena, even during the Christmas season. Unfortunately most of us are too preoccupied with our hectic schedules and increased obligations at this time of year to give much notice.

If you get a chance to catch your breath this season, it may be rewarding to spend a few minutes considering the real "reason for the season." Perhaps the best summary as to why Jesus came to earth in the first place is recorded in Matthew 1:21 "…she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." The name Jesus means deliverer or savior. The reason Jesus came to earth was to "save His people from their sins."

Even in a beautiful season like Christmas we are never far from the consequences of sin. War, sickness, disease, fear, anxiety, divorce, and death are all the result of sin. Sin is that ugly, corrupting influence that disturbs every relationship whether it is the one with our fellow man or with God. As the apostle Paul stated in Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The ultimate consequence of sin is death. As Romans 6:23a states "for the wages of sin is death…"

Thomas Watson, the great Puritan writer who lived in the 17th century said, "Sin has turned beauty into deformity and the wicked takes more care to have his sin covered than cured." These words still ring true today. People naturally try to look away from the ugliness of sin, yet in this world its presence is impossible to avoid. What is needed is a cure for sin, not a temporary covering.

Christmas is a time that is associated with giving. We give gifts to each other as an expression of our love for one another. In John 3:16 the Bible states that "…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." The beauty of Christmas is that Jesus has come to provide the cure for sin. Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God "…made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

How will Jesus cure your sin? In Romans 10:9 the Bible gives the answer, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." This Christmas you can receive the greatest gift ever given, Jesus Christ. Call on Him now, confess your sin, and he will give you the gift of eternal life.

Do you hear the voice of God calling you? Jesus said in John 10:27-30 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one."

Jesus also said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32) If you would like to make public your profession of faith please give us a call, send an email or better still stop by next Sunday morning and share with us your joy in Christ.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Look and Live

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up," (John 3:14, NKJV)

On Sunday nights here at LABC we are going through the Gospel of John verse by verse. Last evening we discussed the passage found in the third chapter of John concerning the serpent in the wilderness. In the context of John’s gospel Jesus is trying to teach Nicodemus what the meaning of the new birth (3:5) by using three illustrations.

The first illustration He employs is a theological. In John 3:5-7 Jesus explains that the new birth is ultimately fulfilled in the New Covenant as proclaimed by Ezekiel (36:25-26). The second example is that of wind as Jesus explains its mysterious effects in John 3:8. The third analogy given in John 3:14-15 is that of the serpent in the wilderness.
In what ways did lifting up the brass serpent (see Numbers 21) in the wilderness illustrate salvation? Below are just a few for your consideration:

1. The cure was for those who were bitten—men must recognize their need for salvation (John 3:19)
2. The cure was received by looking—men must call on the Lord by faith not works (John 3:15)
3. There was only one cure—men must trust in Christ alone (John 14:6)
4. The cure was given by God—salvation is solely a work of God’s grace (John 1:13)
5. The cure always worked—salvation is not partial it is permanent (John 3:16)
6. The cure was individually administered—people do not get saved in groups (John 3:18)
7. The cure was proclaimed to others—those who are saved have an obligation to point others to Christ (John 3:14)

On October 19th, 1879 C. H. Spurgeon preached a sermon on this text in John. His message is still relevant today. You can read it by clicking on the following link.