Wednesday, December 23, 2009
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
There are many significant truths about God that were manifested at the birth of Christ and perhaps the most obvious fact is that God has the power to do the impossible. This truth should be something accepted at face value because it is inherent in the nature of God to do the supernatural. Yet from our perspective we have to be reminded of this fact.
In the case of Mary, God sent an angel to tell her that He would create life in her womb. God does not require the natural reproduction process of procreation to give life to a human being. Remember the first man was created from dust (Genesis 2:7) and the first woman was made from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:21). So it should not be much of a surprise that God would create life by supernatural means. In fact in our text the Angel points to Mary’s cousin who is with child beyond her natural childbearing age.
Christmas should remind us that nothing is impossible with God, including granting eternal life. (See Matthew 19:16-26)
Thursday, December 3, 2009
"The gospel is the heart of Christianity. But the good news is not that God wants to meet people's felt needs or help them develop a healthier self-image. We have sinfully rebelled against our Creator and Judge. Yet He has graciously sent His Son to die the death we deserved for our sin, and He has credited Christ's acquittal to those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus' death and resurrection. That is the good news. The gospel is clear from Scripture, but unfortunately it can be clouded by many false teachings."
The video below is an example of moralism.
Moralism is an external change of behavior or conformity to a prescribed standard regardless of the inward condition of the heart.
Jesus was not very politically correct when dealing with this type of hypocrisy.
Matthew 23:25–28 (NKJV) 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Your diet will not improve your righteous standing before God. Jesus said it is the matter of the heart not the stomach.
Mark 7:18–20 (NKJV) 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?”20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.
Through the course of history God has imposed various restrictions to man’s diet. Initially it was all vegetables, except for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. After the flood all living creatures were allowed. Under the Mosaic Covenant there were many restrictions given. Finally, under the new covenant all dietary restrictions were removed.
• Adam Diet Genesis 1:29 (NKJV) 29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.
• Noah Diet Genesis 9:3 (NKJV) 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
• Moses Diet Leviticus 11:46–47 (NKJV) 46 ‘This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, 47 to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.’ ”
• Jesus Diet 1 Timothy 4:4 (NKJV) 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;
Christians are not regulated by specific dietary restrictions, but rather they are governed by conscience and conviction to glorify God at every meal.
1 Corinthians 10:31 (NKJV) 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Daniel 1:8 (NKJV)
8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Daniel is the incident in which God miraculously delivered him from the lion’s den. That episode is recorded in Daniel 7. That is truly a great miracle. Daniel was a courageous prophet who trusted God even if it put him in personal jeopardy. This was not the first time Daniel risked it all. Daniel lived in a society that was generally hostile to God. He was challenged from the very beginning. The first chapter of Daniel sets the stage with his counter cultural approach.
When Judah fell to Babylon in 586 BC one of the strategies of their captors was to take young men from the conquered land, bring them to Babylon and brain wash them into their belief system. Once these young men were retrained they could then be used to oversee the newly conquered land. Daniel and some other young men were among the first to be inducted into the “Babylon Jr. Executive Program.”
Can you imagine what it would be like for a young like Daniel to leave the meager setting of his home in Israel and be exposed to the glories and wonders of a city like Babylon. You may remember that one of the seven ancient wonders of the world includes the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which dates to this period of time. As a part of the kings court Daniel would have had a bird’s eye view of the best that Babylon had to offer. Yet notice our text in verse eight Daniel instead chooses to exclude himself from the temptations set before him. It says that he would not defile himself with the king’s delicacies.
Under Jewish law Daniel would have been forbidden to eat certain types of food and also be forbidden to eat food that was not prepared properly or offered to pagan gods. The kings food, although the choice meat of that day would have been ceremonially unclean for Daniel (Lev. 1:1). This was an incredibly courageous act for this young man considering his circumstances.
1. This action may have appeared to be disrespectful to the king.
2. Refusing food could have seemed to be an ungrateful act to the servants who prepared the food.
3. Peer pressure from all the other captives would have been a difficult challenge.
4. Acting this way no doubt would put Daniel’s potential career advancement at jeopardy.
5. The food that was refused was the best available.
6. Daniel was 900 miles away from home and family, it would be easy to get away with misconduct.
7. Perhaps Daniel could have justified giving in to this defilement after all God had allowed the children of Israel to be captive.
But Daniel did not give into his circumstances because from the beginning he purposed in his heart not to defile himself. We know the rest of the story that follows and how God used him and providentially protected him. All of this began with a purpose not to defile himself.
What is not told but implied in this narrative is also interesting. We are not told why Daniel stood firm on his decision to trust and obey God even in dire circumstances. By implication we may conclude that he had a heart for God, and no doubt it was nurtured in his early childhood. Someone taught Daniel that the king’s meat would defile him. Someone taught Daniel that God was to be trusted, believed, and obeyed. It would not be a stretch to conclude that his parents and the community of God’s people in helped to foster this courage.
The key passage for the Old Testament believer was Deuteronomy 6:4.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
This verse speaks of the nature of God and our proper response which is total commitment. This personal commitment is followed by an overflow into the lives of their children. Notice verses 6-9.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
From early on children were formally catechized with the great doctrines of God. But this teaching was not confined to the classroom it permeated the fabric of daily life.
The courage of Daniels convictions were forged in the furnace of a faithful family and community of faith.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Thus it is the great God brings home his children. He calls them by name, by his word or providence; he speaks to them also by his spirit. Hereby they are enabled to open their hearts, and are made willing to receive the King of glory. For Zaccheus's sake, let us not entirely condemn people that come under the word, out of no better principle than curiosity. Who knows but God may call them? It is good to be where the Lord is passing by. May all who are now present out of this principle, hear the voice of the Son of God speaking to their souls, and so hear that they may live! Not that men ought therefore to take encouragement to come out of curiosity.
For perhaps a thousand more, at other times, came to see Christ out of curiosity, as well as Zaccheus, who were not effectually called by his grace. I only mention this for the encouragement of my own soul, and the consolation of God's children, who are too apt to be angry with those who do not attend on the word out of love to God: but let them alone. Brethren, pray for them. How do you know but Jesus Christ may speak to their hearts! A few words from Christ, applied by his spirit, will save their souls. "Zaccheus, says Christ, make haste and come down. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully."
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
This week life has been interrupted quite a bit by the rains that have fallen resulting in considerable flooding. The photo above was taken today on Brainerd road a few blocks down from my insurance office (for those of you who may not know, my vocation is a pastor and my occupation is an insurance agent). Fortunately, our insurance office is on a hill and though the flood waters will continue to rise until eight this evening it is not likely to reach us.
We have had plenty of flood related claims called into the office this week. Several cars were flooded and many more homes received some flood damage. We have been able to help those who purchased flood coverage. Those who had losses who did not purchase coverage wish they did. Hindsight is 20/20.
I often tell folks that “you have to buy insurance when you don’t need it, because when you need it you can’t buy it.” Or to put it another way, “no one will sell you a fire policy when your house is on fire” or “flood insurance when your basement is full of water.”
Many in Chattanooga learned a tough lesson this week on being prepared for natural disasters.
There is another cataclysmic event on the horizon for which everyone needs to be prepared. It will not be a local event it will be a global event. The consequences of this event are even more severe in that they are eternal and final.
What event? The return of Jesus Christ can happen at any moment. He will crush Satan and the forces of evil and usher in the eternal state. Those who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ will be admitted to His kingdom and those who are not will be banished in eternal judgment forever. Jesus illustrated this event in several parables. For example, the ten virgins in Matthew 25:
" “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." (Matthew 25:1-13, NKJV)
The point of this story is that only those who were prepared received blessings. In the mundane insurance world which occupies much of my time only the people who were properly insured received benefits. Those who were not prepared were denied benefits. Likewise there will be two groups of people at Christ’s return, those who are prepared and those who are not prepared. In which group do you belong?
If you have doubts you can read the good news of how to be prepared to meet the Lord by following this link. If you have no doubts about your preparation do you know of someone who may? I encourage you to encourage them.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
On Wednesday evenings here at LABC we are discussing what it means to be a Biblically healthy church. Next week we will finish reviewing why Expository Preaching is Biblically healthy and so necessary for the pulpits of our churches. One glaring example of unhealthy preaching is that of Brian Mclaren, one of the leaders of the emergent church. Brian is encouraging Christians to participate in the Muslim holy month of fasting known as Ramadan. His justification for his actions is a clear misunderstanding of the Bible. Maclaren writes,
“Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.”
I have a few questions for you to consider.
Can you see what is wrong with this line of thinking? [Try reading the texts that are cited.]
Can you provide some Biblical texts that may counter his premise? [Consider 2 Cor 6:14-15]
One of the problems with this line of thinking is that it begins with an idea or ideology and then attempts to find a text to support that concept. Expository preaching begins with the text to discover its meaning, explains the text, and allows the implications to be directly deduced from Scripture.
We will discuss this and more next Wednesday.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
This Sunday we will be discussing the implications of Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This simple statement answers every worldview that is antithetical to Christianity. For example, this simple proclamation answers atheism’s claim that there is no God. There is a God and everyone knows that to be a fact. Those who deny the existence of God are suppressing this knowledge (Romans 1:18) because of their sinfulness which is described as foolishness in the Bible (Psalm 14:1 cf. Isaiah 32:6).
So if we believe that indeed there is a God should not we proclaim His existence to everyone even those who deny Him? Would not the most loving thing we could do is share Christ with those who deny Him rather than ignore them? Penn Jillette an avowed atheist and no friend to Christianity agrees!
Monday, July 20, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
For those of you interested in seeing scans of ancient New Testament manuscripts Daniel Wallace is in the process of uploading many to the internet for public viewing. Even if you do not have a proficiency in the original languages you can still appreciate that these ancient artifacts. Remember these documents were written by hand by our Christian brothers that have preceded us. God providentially used their work to preserve and transfer the Word of God to the next generations.
Today with the relative ease of printing and the availability of the digital media it is easy to take for granted that we easily can have in our possession something that would have been a priceless treasure just a few centuries ago. I pray that we would take opportunity of the advantages that we possess in this day to read, hear, and obey the Word of God.
"I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure." (Psalm 119:162, NKJV)
Visit www.csntm.org to begin your treasure hunt.
Monday, June 8, 2009
" And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." (Romans 13:11-14, NKJV)
The apostle Paul concludes his admonition to submit to governmental authorities and to treat your neighbors with love by giving both the motivation and the means to accomplish this task. Notice the motivation is that “salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” The salvation he is referring to is the final culmination of salvation which is living in the eternal state with God as a sinless glorified being. When fighting temptation, remember through Christ the battle is already won. Christ will return very soon and you will enjoy the fullness of salvation. Jesus said, "“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”" (Revelation 22:7, NKJV). Jesus is coming soon!
In Romans 13 Paul also gives the means to accomplish to accomplish this task. Notice two things in verse 14, 1) Put on Christ and 2) Make no provision for the flesh. To put on Christ is to practice a daily renewal of your mind. "…be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:23-24, NKJV). Making no provision for the flesh is to not allow sinful thoughts to linger in your mind. "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1:14-15, NKJV)
Lord by your grace may we truly live in expectancy of your return.
" He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20, NKJV)
Saturday, June 6, 2009
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear." (Psalm 66:18, NKJV)
Perhaps one of the reasons we do not see more answers to prayer is that prayers are often made without a consideration of our personal righteousness. For example, we may be praying for God to help us in a particular area and yet we still harbor bitterness towards someone that hurt us. At the conclusion to the model prayer Jesus said, "“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15, NKJV). Daily confession of sin (1 John 1:9) should be accompanied by unconditional forgiveness to those who have harmed us if we expect that sin to be forgiven by God.
Even personal conflicts that do not have a clear offending party need to be dealt with appropriately if we expect to be in communion with God. In His sermon on the mount Jesus admonished, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24, NKJV) If this principle was practiced on a regular basis we would either have empty churches or churches full of worshiping folks empty of hypocrisy.
Fortunately most people I know that are submissive to the Word of God and responsive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit are quick to forgive and fast to repair broken relationships. Yet there is still a third area in which we can be guilty of harboring iniquity. It is hard to see our own faults. Sometimes we are not consciously aware of our sinfulness. David prayed, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:12-14, NKJV)
Oh Lord search my heart today.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24, NKJV)
Thursday, June 4, 2009
"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17, NKJV)
I appreciate the fact that a number of television and radio commentators respect Christians who place their faith in Christ. Generally they acknowledge that someone has a right to their belief system and seldom will challenge any particular ideology. It is usually said that faith is a personal decision based on the life experiences of the individual. Scripture contradicts that notion.
True Faith is not derived from the mind of man, but is a supernatural revelation of God. Moving from unbelief to belief is not simply a matter of weighing the evidence or considering all the facts. The weight of the evidence is clearly on the side of Christianity (Heb. 11:1). People do not see the significance of Christ because they are spiritually blinded to the truth. Paul reminds us that"… the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." (2 Corinthians 4:4, NKJV)
So how do people go from unbelief to belief? Paul continues, "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)
God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to convict and convince people of the truth of the gospel and the reality of Christ (1 Cor. 1:21). So the challenge for those who believe the Gospel is to trust the power of the Gospel and to proclaim its truth with gentle dogmatism. Because "…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17, NKJV)
Oh, Lord grant us faith to believe in the life changing power of your truth.