Thursday, January 31

Parenting and the Super Bowl

Seeing how this blog has made a recent detour into the sporting world I thought THIS POST at the new Shepherds Press Blog might be of interest, especially to those of you who are parents. Here is an excerpt to whet your appetite.

The message of Proverbs 4:23 is an ominous, as well as a gracious, warning.

Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

There is urgency in these words of Solomon. Above all else carries an ominous tone. The Holy Spirit is saying, “Pay attention!” The warning is also gracious. You are being told what is really important. Parents, you must faithfully and frequently give this warning to your children.

The reason for warnings is that dangers often come when they are least expected. This weekend’s Super Bowl is no exception.

For now think about how you can employ the warning of Proverbs 4:23 to help you shepherd your family this weekend.

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Guest Blogger: Will Hatfield Ordination Prep, Part 5

Here's Will on the Doctrine of Salvation.

Should make for some interesting discussion on a Calvinist's blog (take special note of Will's timing of regeneration)!

Have at it, everyone!
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The Process of Deliverance

Just as God the Father is in charge of everything for our good and the Son accomplishes everything to freely deliver us, so the Holy Spirit works with the other persons of the Trinity to apply this deliverance to us and let us share with Him in God’s work (2 Cor. 13:14). So far we’ve seen that God is the most wonderful being in the universe and that an exaltation of God is the most loving command he can give us. In the process of deliverance we will see that our dependence on and praise of God’s grace is the best way to exalt and love God. What a marvelous God we serve.

The Person and Deity of the Holy Spirit

There has been some question historically of the personality of the Holy Spirit. This has been primarily due to the fact that in Greek pneuma is neuter. However, in the Gospel of John the author uses the neuter pneuma for the name of the Spirit but uses masculine pronouns in reference to the Spirit (John 15:26; 16:13; 16:14). This purposeful change in grammar emphasizes the personality of the Holy Spirit.

If the Holy Spirit is a person, He should have designated to him the characteristics of personality. He should have intellect, emotions, and will. The Bible attributes these to Him (I Cor. 2:10-12; Rom. 15:30; Eph. 4:30; Acts 13:2,4). He has intellect in that He searches all things. He has emotions in that He can be grieved. He can be lied to (Acts 5:3,4). He has a will in that He distributes gifts to believers as He wills (I Cor. 12:11). In Matthew 28 the Holy Spirit is equated with the Father and the Son. This points to the Holy Spirit being a person just as the Son and Father are. Also, as a replacement for Christ– as another Comforter– Christ would not send a force, for a force could not replace the personal help Christ gave.

As a person, the Holy Spirit is also God. This can be seen from many instances in the Bible. He is called God (Acts 5:4). He possesses the attributes of God. He is eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient (Heb. 9:14; Ps. 139:7-10; Luke 1:35; I Cor. 2:10,11). He does divine works: creation (Ps. 104:30), regeneration (Titus 3:5), and resurrection. He is equated with the Father and the Son (Matt. 28:20). What is amazing is that the Holy Spirit as God seeks to glorify the Son for His gifts of grace (John 16:12-15).

The Process of Deliverance

From eternity past God in His mercy chose to deliver man from sin for His glory through His Son. At the same time people are dead to God and cannot respond without God’s working in their lives (Rom. 3:10). The Bible teaches God chose those whom He would save (John 16:37; 17:2). Election seems to be God's looking with favor upon some and electing them to salvation based on his infinite wisdom and purpose for the praise of His glory (Eph 1:4,11). God calls everyone to believe (Matt. 22:14), but the Holy Spirit works within the elect to effectively bring them to belief in the truth (John 16:8-11; Rom 8:30) and eventually to completeness alongside Jesus Christ (Col. 3:4).

What is the truth of salvation?

God, as Judge of the Universe, needed to sentence man to death because his sin made man guilty before God. Justification is where God, because of the blood of Jesus Christ, declares the believing sinner righteous. There are two aspects to this: 1) the forgiveness and removal of all sins being placed on Christ (Rom. 4:6-7; 2 Cor. 5:21) and 2) the gift of Christ’s righteousness upon the believing person (Rom. 4:3-5). The death of Christ is the ground for justification (Rom. 5:9). The means of justification is faith (Rom. 5:1). Justification is what allows the reconciliation between God and man to be possible. It allows God to uphold His integrity and still enter into fellowship with sinners. Before reconciliation, God was hostile because of man’s sin (Is. 59:1-2; Col. 1:21, 22), and man was rebellious toward God because man was a sinner. Through Christ the enmity and wrath of God was removed (Rom. 5:10). God removed the barrier of sin, producing peace and thus enabling man to be saved.

As a result of justification and reconciliation, believers have eternal life. Eternal life can be defined as knowing God (John 17:3) in an experiential and relational way. The most marvelous gift Jesus could give is essentially knowledge of His Father and all that this brings.

What must I do to be saved?

Conversion is the point in time when a person accepts Christ as His Savior. It looks at man’s side of the salvation experience. We must understand, however, that anything we experience is ultimately something God is doing in our lives. Our turning to God is a result of the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. There are two elements to the conversion experience: repentance and faith. These elements are united in that you cannot truly have one without the other. Some want to add baptism to the elements of conversion. This is taken from a misunderstanding of Acts 2:38. The story of the Gentiles in Acts 10, however, shows that the Holy Spirit, regeneration, and therefore, salvation, come upon a person without the physical act of baptism (Acts 10:44ff).

Repentance

Repentance is a change of mind about something or someone. It involves the total being, including mind, will and emotions. Christ, Peter, and Paul preached repentance (Matt. 4:17; Luke 13:3-5; Acts 2:38; 20:21; 26:20). Repentance is not a satisfaction rendered to God, but a condition of the heart necessary before we can believe unto salvation. Repentance understands that I have not loved God as I ought and produces a sorrowful heart. God is the One who ultimately grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:25).

Faith

Faith is the second essential element of salvation. It is the way of salvation throughout all ages. Men are saved by faith (Acts 16:31; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9). Faith is declared to be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). Faith turns to God and accepts His promise of Christ's gift of salvation. It believes that what cannot be seen (salvation) is real and will produce real results. It includes an understanding of the historical facts of Scripture, the redemption in Christ, the conditions to salvation, an awakening of the soul to its need, and the appropriation of the truths of God's Word about salvation personally. Faith involves a joyful response to the truth of the Gospel (Acts 2:41). Faith appropriates Christ as a personal Savior in a trusting act of the will (Rom.10:9).

What does God do in me?

Regeneration is the creation of a new, holy nature in man. He has a new heart (Rom. 5:5), a new mind (1 Cor.2:16), and a new will (Rom. 6:13). A believer now has a new nature which, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can do things pleasing to God. John 3:3ff. describes this as a second birth. The Holy Spirit accomplishes this creation (Tit. 3:5). This is according to the will of God (John 1:13) and is not accomplished through human effort. After comparing John 1:12 and 13, it seems that regeneration happens at the moment of conversion, though it is not necessarily an experiential event. It also brings with it the promise of the destruction of old nature when we see God (Col. 3:2-4). Regeneration allows us to overcome temptation, love God and others, enjoy the privileges of a child of God, and be a fellow-heir with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17).

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The baptism of the Holy Spirit introduces the new believer into a new community–the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13)–as well as a new relationship– being unified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). The result of this is having the Holy Spirit indwelling one forever as well as having brothers and sisters with whom to glorify God.

Can I lose my salvation?

The grace of salvation is permanent because of the work done in man’s life and nature at the time of salvation. This focuses on what God does in man rather than on what man could possibly do in the future. First, all of man’s sins are forgiven: past, present, and future (Col. 2:13-14). A believer becomes part of God’s family (John 1:12) and receives the seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). God is the One who planned this from eternity (Eph. 1:4) and all whom He calls, He glorifies (Rom. 8:28-30). Christ’s righteousness is now imputed to the believer’s account (Rom. 5:1). If that could fail, then believers could lose their salvation. The Holy Spirit has regenerated the believer into eternal life (Tit. 3:5; John 10:28). He indwells the believer forever (John 14:17). If eternal life is eternal life, how could one lose it? All of these things would have to be undone for believers to lose their salvation. The issue is who does the saving. If man is responsible for securing his salvation, then he could be lost, but God was the One who secured each man’s salvation. Therefore, man is forever secure.

However, people can claim to be a child of God without actually being one. The Bible gives various challenges to those who claim belief in Christ in order for them personally to be assured of God’s grace in their lives and for the church to be assured of their salvation. These include joyfully persevering in the face of trials (James 1), loving others (1 John 2), speaking out for Christ’s deity and humanity (1 John 3 & Hebrews), enduring persecution, walking in the Spirit (Rom. 8), and participating in the church community (Heb. 10:25). All of these are based on the understanding that faith without works is dead (James 2) not that the works themselves provide deliverance. All the evidences of salvation are merely evidences of God’s grace at work in our lives not our own goodness.

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Poignant Clarity on Humility - David Wells

I've enjoyed one of the many critiques on postmodern culture in and outside the Church that David Wells has done in his book "Losing Our Virtue - Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision". Among many things, Wells drives home the point that the consumer driven (or seeker mentality) within the Church Growth Movement has done much to corrupt the Church doctrinally. But what struck me most in this incredibly important work was the explanation that Wells gave regarding humility....something that I know I need more of yet do not do enough about. Take a look:

"Humility has nothing to do with depreciating ourselves and our gifts in ways we know to be untrue (cf. Col. 2:18, 23). Even "humble" attitudes can be masks of pride. The English, it has been said, take pride in not praising themselves! Rather, humility is that freedom from our self which enables us to be in positions in which we have neither recognition nor importance, neither power nor visibility, and even experience deprivation, and yet have joy and delight. That is the pattern of humility modeled in the incarnation (Phil. 2:5-11). It is the freedom of knowing that we are not in the center of the universe, not even in the center of our own private universe."
--David Wells, Losing Our Virtue (Eerdmans Publishing Co.) 1998, 205

If the Church is to regain its footing of "relevance" there must be a return to the humility of "service" and not having to be noticed for what we do and when we do it. True humility is not sugar coating the Gospel and avoiding the matter of sin in the name of not "being judgmental". True humility is understanding that the Gospel has been entrusted to us and that relevancy always starts and ends with the biblical message of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:8-9). I pray this morning that God finds us faithful in all humility to the message that He has entrusted us with. Whether that makes us popular or unpopular.

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Wednesday, January 30

Do You Remember? - Reflections on God's Special Dealings in Our Lives

It is good for us to look back from time to time and reflect on God's mercy and grace at work in our lives. It should go without saying that most who read this blog would consider themselves busy and stretched for time. Most would admit today that the years of their lives go much too quickly and that they have no idea where all of the time went.

So with that being said, I want to challenge all of us this morning to think back on some special moments that God worked in a very special and miraculous way in our lives and give Him all of the glory alone for His goodness toward us. Here are some things that immediately come to my mind:

My Conversion - as a 17 year old confused young boy who had never been to church, never heard the gospel, arrogant, self-centered, prideful, humanistic and agnostic, and with no direction God through the preaching of the gospel irresistibly drew me to His Son and opened my eyes to the fact that Jesus Christ was my only hope of ever being made right with the true and living God. My blinded eyes were opened to an incredibly exciting, rewarding and many times tumultuous life that has many ups and downs physically and earthly speaking but has nothing but pleasure in Christ eternally. I pray that the story of my conversion never grows dusty, dry or stale.

My Call to the Ministry - Someday, when the busyness of life subsides for a while and I have the cohesiveness of mind to recollect all that I need to I will give the biographical sketch of my call to the ministry and God's grace that sustained me through some times in my life when I never thought that I would be preaching the Word in a full-time capacity. To make an incredibly long story short, I felt the call to ministry about two weeks after my conversion! I wanted nothing more than to preach the riches in Christ. The problem with that in my early Christian days was the fact that I wanted to do it my way and I wanted the results to be my own results. Which, incidentally, is a struggle that I and many other preachers have to this day.

Meeting Christina - Where would my ministry be today without her? She is a special jewel and treasure that God has blessed me with in my life and a woman that I simply do not deserve. The simple fact of the matter is that the more you get to know me the more you appreciate and admire Christina! When I think back to being introduced to her in the hallway of our college, our first date, the notes we would leave for each other outside of our dormitories, our absolutely perfect wedding day, and God's sustaining grace in our eleven and a half years of marriage I am absolutely astounded at the goodness of God!

What do you remember about specific events of God's goodness and grace being at work in your life? What about your call to the ministry? Your conversion?

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Tuesday, January 29

Tom Brady Proclaims that He is a "One Woman Man"

The star quarterback of the cheating and illegitimate New England Patriots claims that he meets the pastoral qualification of being a "one woman man" (I Timothy 3:2). Of course, this is all in jest and we are just attempting to add a little levity to your evening. Hope it works!

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Why Everyone Wants to Live in Southern Illinois

Because at 1:45 PM this afternoon, it was 70 degrees.

At 3:10 PM this afternoon, it was snowing ... and beginning to stick.

As is often said around here: if you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes!

Just another phenomena that offers evidence of a Sovereign and Omnipotent God.

You all can proceed with your day now!

Addendum: the photo is not of Southern Illinois!

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Piper on the Often-Misunderstood Beatitude: Meekness

Too often we mistake meekness for weakness.

Nothing could be further from biblical truth. In fact, as John Piper shows, meekness is not weak when it comes to opinion and truth; meekness is passionate and even radically truth-centered.

Here is Piper:

Does not this Scripture [James 1:19-21] teach us that there is a correlation between meekness and reasonableness? And is not reasonableness basically the willingness to listen to another person's reasons for his opinion and the willingness to give reasons for yours? If I put forward my opinion without giving any reasons for it except that it is my opinion—I would not be acting in meekness, no matter how soft-spoken I might be. On the contrary, I would be acting in an authoritarian way, because I would be appealing to nothing outside myself.

There is, I think, a good deal of confusion at this point about the meaning of meekness. And this is very important for the way we do our business together here at Bethlehem as well as elsewhere. We must be ware of confusing certain temperaments with meekness or with the absence of meekness. A conversation between two people may become passionate and heated and still be marked by meekness, if both of these people are speaking reasonably, that is, if they are defending their opinions by appealing not to themselves but to a standard of truth that is over them and of which they are humble servants.

But on the other hand there could be a very soft-spoken, laid-back conversation between two people in which they express their different opinions, but instead of arguing for them with reasons, and submitting themselves together to a higher standard of truth, they give the impression of being very self-effacing by saying that they just want to give their opinion and not argue about it. No one has to accept my opinion and I don't have to accept anyone else's. Live and let live.

Too often we think this is the spirit of meekness. Two people making no claim on the other person's opinion, refusing to submit their own opinion to an independent standard of truth, unwilling to make themselves vulnerable to the claims of truth and the possible need to admit error—that is not the spirit of meekness, no matter how soft-spoken or self-effacing it looks on the outside. It is not self-effacing. It is self-protecting and truth effacing. What could be more serviceable to the spirit of pride than the view that neither you nor I have to give an account of our opinions before any standard but our own private selves?
Continue reading Piper on meekness HERE.

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Friday, January 25

Good News for Happiness Pursuers ... Part 2

We know you've been waiting with baited breath ... so here it is: the conclusion of last Sunday's Sermon, "Good News for Happiness Pursuers" from Matthew 5:1-12.
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WHAT JESUS IS SAYING ABOUT HAPPINESS

Now that we understand a bit of the context in which Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount, let’s take a brief look at what Jesus says about happiness.

1) First, Jesus defines happiness in terms of the INTERNAL rather than the EXTERNAL. Christ is after men’s hearts. The Beatitudes, as the first 12 verses of Matthew 5 are called, each deal with happiness in relation to the spiritual part of man. And so, Jesus is saying that physical things—cars, jobs, houses, boats, money—physical things cannot touch the soul of man. Physical things cannot satisfy the soul. It’s impossible to fill a spiritual need with a physical substance. Luke 12:15 says, “A man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.”

Let me illustrate this principle: If your marriage is on the rocks—buying a new car isn’t going to fix it. And the opposite is also true: if you are starving for physical food, a great sermon on God’s amazing grace won’t fill your physical belly!

And so, what Jesus is doing is turning everything the world says about happiness and turning it on its head. Happiness, contrary to what the world says, has nothing to do with the physical and everything to do with the spiritual. You can be poor … and be happy. You can have lost a loved one … and be happy. You can be enduring great persecution for your faith … and be happy. You can lose your job … and be happy. You can sorrow over a wayward child … and be happy. Why? Because true happiness is not an external issue … it’s an internal issue. And Christ says that the mourners will be comforted … and those that hunger for righteousness will be satisfied. And while comfort and satisfaction are realities that money cannot buy, they are present realities for the child of God … realities that result in unshakeable and lifelong happiness.

The life and death of Reformer John Hus proclaims to all pursuers of happiness that Christ provides His own with an internal happiness that even death itself cannot shake. Hus was sentenced to die on July 6, 1415, in Husinec, Bohemia. At the place of execution he knelt down, spread out his hands, and prayed aloud. Some of the people asked that a confessor should be given him, but one priest exclaimed that a heretic should neither be heard nor given a confessor. The executioners undressed Hus and tied his hands behind his back with ropes, and his neck with a chain to a stake around which wood and straw had been piled up so that it covered him to the neck.

At the last moment, the imperial marshal, Von Pappenheim, in the presence of the Count Palatine, asked him to recant and thus save his life, but Hus declined with the words "God is my witness that I have never taught that of which I have by false witnesses been accused. In the truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, I will die today with gladness." He was then burnt to death. They had taken his life, but they could not take his happiness … because they could not touch his heart—a heart that had been transformed by the grace and power of Christ!

2) Second, Jesus describes happiness as a PRESENT POSSESSION, not just a LIFELONG PURSUIT. It’s no coincidence that Verses 3-11 each begin with the same two words, “Blessed are …”

I ask you to stop and think about those two words for a moment. And to do so, we must return to grammar class. The word “are” is the present tense of the plural form of the word “be.” Therefore, Jesus is not saying, “Happy WERE the peacemakers.” He is not teaching that happiness is a past possession for peacemakers. He is saying that true happiness is a lifelong and eternal possession for those who are peacemakers. And that says something to us who are older, doesn’t it? It says that the Joy of the Lord ought not to be a past thing for us. The Joy of the Lord is not intended to be lost. It should never be referred to as something we formerly had. For the believer in Jesus, happiness is to be just as significant a reality in our waning years as it was in our youthful years. It’s not a possession we’ve lost … for the believer it’s a constant companion through both the mountains and the valleys … and it will be our companion through eternity, for Jesus will say to all who believe, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.” Happiness is our eternal companion—for the child of God, there is no power strong enough to destroy it! It’s not HAPPY WERE you … but HAPPY ARE you!

Likewise, Jesus is teaching that true happiness is not some elusive pursuit promised but never fulfilled … until a later date! He is not saying, “Happy will be the merciful … or happy the mourners will be.” The promise of happiness for the believer is a present reality. Yes, there is a future hope for the believer, but Jesus is stating that true and lasting happiness is not something relegated to our heavenly home … it’s something the believer possess now … it’s a present reality.

Still there’s more to consider here. You have likely noticed that the word “are” is italicized in our English translations. And you are aware that italicized words are words added by the translators to help give sense to the text. Understanding this gives even more force to what Jesus is saying. Christ himself is speaking of something that is already true, the poor in spirit—HAPPY; those that mourn … and the meek … and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness—HAPPY! And the happiness that Jesus Christ provides is not just a lifelong pursuit; it’s the present possession of all who belong to Him!

Some would look at Matthew 5:1-12 and think that as Christians, we find happiness in living lives devoid of pleasure. Nothing could be further from the truth! I want to be happy…I want to be joyful…I want to be satisfied! And to all who want true and lasting happiness, Christ’s message is that those who die to self find pleasures evermore … pleasures deeper, more satisfying, more lasting, and more glorious than all the pleasures of this world! And so, the Christian says to the pleasure seeker, “Your problem is not that you want too much; it’s that you’re satisfied with too little.”

So, where do we find that pleasure… we find it the same place as did a Samaritan women coming to a well to fetch water…in John 4… a woman who, like Solomon, had looked for love and pleasure in all the wrong places … and finally she finds it in Jesus as he says to her:

John 4:13-14 (ESV), “Jesus said, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

So, this morning, I invite each of you believers and unbelievers…come to the well, and be eternally satisfied. For the Living Water in that everlasting well of joy and satisfaction is Jesus Himself! Unbeliever, come to the well, and by faith trust in Jesus for eternal salvation from your sin, and you will never be thirsty again! Believer, come again to the well, and drink long of the Living Water…because we live in a barren, weary land…let us come often to this well…and BE ETERNALLY HAPPY AND SATISFIED IN JESUS CHRIST ALONE! AMEN!

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Thursday, January 24

Do Christians and Muslims Have the Same God?

Here is John Piper's answer.



HERE is some more information on this topic.

[HT: Challies.com]

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Tuesday, January 22

46,000,000 and Counting - Since 1973

On the anniversary of the tragic Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized infanticide I pray that we as redeemed children of God never lose the value of life that is created in the image of God.

This graphic is telling to say the least.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

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Appreciation Does NOT Equal Allegiance

There is much confusion today over the subject of separation. Blogs have posted dozens of posts on the subject, conferences have keynote speakers address the topic and some denominations and or associations are going through a whirlwind of debate and turmoil over the issue. Much of the criticism today that is directed towards young fundamentalists deals with our stand (or lack thereof) regarding separation - both primary and secondary. In the past two years I would have to say that most of the personal emails that I have gotten from others out in the blogosphere have been about the disillusioned state that many have when they are caught up in a movement that is quick to point out the discrepancies and shortcomings of those outside of their walls while blatantly ignoring the frailties of their own movement.

This brings me to the point that I am trying to make today. Most who are uncomfortable with where the young fundamentalist movement is headed are usually quick to point to the fact that we admire, read, listen to, go and hear preach, attend the conferences of, ask the advice of, and emulate many who our fundamental forefathers would be uncomfortable with. I'll provide an example here:

Mark Driscoll - While I would be the first to say publicly that Driscoll's open use of profanity is deplorable to say the least I would also openly say that his public admittance of this being wrong and sinful and humbly asking for forgiveness is commendable (most have NEVER heard their pastor ask for forgiveness for anything). We should also note that Driscoll is a friend to those of us who love the doctrines of grace and strong expository preaching. While we do not blanketly endorse him and most of us would feel uncomfortable going to his church we do not shun to appreciate how God has used him despite his own falleness (kinda like you and me right?).

Driscoll among others provide some examples of an appreciation not equaling an allegiance. A fellow pastor over the weekend told me that because Wayne Grudem takes a different position to sign-gifts (Grudem is a continuationist) and eschatology (post-trib/pre-mil) that he now compromises the rest of biblical doctrine (SIGH!!!). That is exactly the kind of irrational line of thinking that has caused many a young fundamentalist to actually look into matters for themselves and to avoid the Lewis Sperry Chafer kool-aid. Not that Chafer was bad...he contributed a lot of good things to Christendom, but I would take Grudem's Systematic Theology over his any day of the week!

So, while we will openly appreciate and learn from those who have some non-essential differences from us...please do not mistake that as an "unholy" allegiance. We're simply not going to limit ourselves to segments and groups. Yet, at the same time, we are not going to open ourselves to those who are weak on the gospel and progressive sanctification - examples being the likes of Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyers (again, to name a few).

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Monday, January 21

Good News for Happiness Pursuers ...

Perhaps you've noticed.

Perhaps you haven't.

Things have fallen off a bit here at The World From Our Window. If you are wondering why postings have been sparse and (apart from Will Hatfield's ordination preparation) theologically anemic (see Mike Hess's infatuation with the Packers), it's because I'm involved in a hectic trilogy. The current chapter in this trilogy of my life would best be entitled "The Whirlwind." God spoke to Job out of a whirlwind--and while I'm not into the current charismatic charismania, this whirlwind has forced me to seek and listen to God like few other times in my life. And the good news is that He still speaks in life's whirlwinds!

God blessed our family with a beautiful baby girl back in November, and after seven years of being toddler-free, Mary Grace has brought with her a few life (and sleep) adjustments for her parents!

On January 1, I began my tenure as Senior Pastor of our church in southern Illinois. Because we are currently without an Associate Pastor, I find myself attempting, by the grace of God, to fill both roles as effectively as possible. God has surrounded me with good and godly men as deacons (hmm ... they are really elders passing as deacons!) and trustees to aid and encourage me in the work. I thank God daily for each of these men.

This past Saturday, we moved into a new home. We've spent the past three weeks packing ... packing ... and packing some more. Finally, we are in our new home. God has blessed us with a loving and helpful church family, and many of our men helped pack our stuff (way too much stuff ... a sinful amount of stuff) and move it three miles down the road in rural Jersey County, Illinois.

So there you have it: a new baby ... a new ministry position ... and a new home. I know my whirlwind cannot compare to Job's, but life's-a-changin', and I'm just trying to hang on for dear life!

Enough of the silly, overused clichés, and on to some eternally significant stuff. Yesterday, I began a series of messages on The Sermon on the Mount. Here is the first installment of that sermon. May God use it to encourage all happiness pursuers to run to Christ for eternal joy and satisfaction. As John Piper rightly says: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him!"

Here is part one of yesterday's sermon, "Good News for Happiness Pursuers."
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“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is one of, if not the, most beloved and famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. Crafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration describes “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as three inalienable rights, bestowed upon mankind by their Creator.

In fact, in our world “the pursuit of happiness” has become such a prevalent pursuit that our nation’s legislature and court system has sacrificed life and liberty on the altar of pursuing happiness. And while that says something about the decadence of our culture, it also says something about the supreme desire of mankind. Mankind is searching for happiness. It is his lifelong quest. And that’s nothing new—the pursuit of happiness is a great description of Solomon’s dark and philosophical autobiography we call the book of Ecclesiastes.

And if you remember, Solomon pursues happiness with a relentless and unquenchable passion. As King, he has the resources to do so. The financial means are his—he can spend whatever is necessary to find happiness. He also possesses supreme power—he’s the king. Therefore, no one would dare stand in his way of pursuing happiness. And so he hits the bottle—but when it’s empty, so is he. He loses himself in his work—but at the end of the day, he’s still lost. He tried women, lots of women--wives and concubines. He gathered a harem of beautiful women. And yet each morning he awoke—He still felt alone. He hit the books and increased in knowledge and understanding—but there was one answer that continued to elude him: Is there anything that will satisfy the longings of my soul?

And today, we gather to hear Jesus answer Solomon’s questions with a resounding YES! Jesus Christ is in the business of providing people with true and eternal happiness! From Solomon to Thomas Jefferson to your friends and neighbors … there is only one Person who can and will bring ultimate happiness and satisfaction. He’s the only Hope for mankind, He is Jesus Christ. And today, just as He did some 2,000 years ago on a mountainside outside Jerusalem, He speaks … and instructs us on what true and lasting happiness is … and where we can find it. Here are His words—the words of our Savior and King, Jesus Christ.

Because words lose meaning and significance when we rip them from their context, I want to spend a few minutes this morning dealing with the background and context in which Jesus is speaking:

THE CONTEXT IN WHICH JESUS PREACHES ABOUT HAPPINESS

The date was June 12, 1987. The place was the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Germany. It was here President Ronald Reagan uttered what would become some of the most famous words of his presidency—words that were not only intended for those on the West side of Berlin’s Wall, but words that were intended for and audible to those on the communist Eastern side of that wall.


Locked in a Cold War with Russia, President Reagan issued what would become a rallying cry for freedom for years to come. In the middle of his speech, the President issued a challenge to then General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev with these words: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Now, if you are under 30 years of age, those words mean little to you. The 1980 US Hockey team’s defeat of the Russians in Lake Placid means little to you. The term “Cold War” means little to you. Why? Because you have no point of reference … you don’t understand the context of Reagan’s words to Mikhail Gorbachev, or the thrill of defeating the Russians on the ice, or that the “cold war” had nothing to do with the temperature or a thermostat.

And that’s why it’s so important to look at Scripture in relation to its context. Without knowing the context, the words lose their meaning and importance. And inevitably, the words on the pages in front of us will be just that—words that don’t fit together with the rest of Scripture. But, let us remember that as Hebrews 4:12 says, God’s Words are living … they are powerful … they are sharper than any two-edged sword … and they are intended to change the way we think … and to change the things we desire and delight in … and to change the way we live. Therefore, let’s address the context in which Jesus is addressing the pursuers of happiness about the subject of happiness.

First, politically speaking, the Jews expected the Messiah to come in power and glory. They expected a King to come and to deliver them from Roman rule and institute a prosperous Jewish kingdom that would be the envy of the world.

But Jesus—the Promised One—the Messiah—did not come to overthrow kings and kingdoms; He came to overthrow men’s hearts. And that’s what Jesus is going to teach in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. He’s going to address the internal rather than the external. He’s going to deal with matters of the heart because it’s the heart that matters. And so, while they expected a political and social revolutionary, Jesus came as a Lamb—to spill His blood as a covering and payment for sinners. He came to offer true freedom—spiritual, eternal freedom from sin and it’s damning consequences. And that offer still stands … regardless of political party affiliation … regardless of social or economic status … regardless of family history or background … regardless of the severity of past sins; to all who will forsake their sin and come to Christ in faith, He promises true freedom and eternal joy. So I plead with you to repent of your sins and to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. As Acts 3:19 says, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

Second, religiously speaking, Christ is instituting a dramatic change. Consider the last verse of the Old Testament, God’s final words to man for 400 years prior to Christ’s birth. Here’s what God says in Malachi 4:6, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” For the Jews, the time is dark … God hasn’t spoken for 400 years … but it’s in the darkness that the light shines brightest. The Light has come … and being that light, Christ brings true and lasting joy to all who believe!

The Old Testament ends with a curse—but Christ begins his public ministry with a blessing.


That’s a dramatic change. In the Old Testament, the Jews constantly turned their backs on God and pursued the false gods of surrounding nations. But that was under the Old Covenant … Jesus came to institute a New Covenant—which he sealed with his own blood on the cross. And this new covenant is one of blessing—promised to all who acknowledge their sin, turn from it, and follow Jesus Christ. That, my friends, is good news … and understanding the context helps us to understand how good that news really is!

WHAT JESUS IS SAYING ABOUT HAPPINESS

Now that we understand a bit of the context in which Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount, let’s take a brief look at what Jesus says about happiness.

[To be continued ....]

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Thursday, January 17

Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packer Humor

NOTE: Just a reminder to all of my friends who happen to be Packer fans - Da Bears absolutely owned you this year and you benefited from a Bears team that was absolutely decimated with injuries. Besides, it has been a while since you could gloat about the fact that your team was in the playoffs and ours wasn't. So enjoy it while it lasts. Also, I will publicly go on record right now and say that if the Super Bowl comes down to a match-up of the Packers against the Patriots I will commit myself to being a die hard Packers fan for a period of about 4 hours in order to reestablish the integrity of the NFL by beating the Patriots who have become the scar and embarrassment of legitimate NFL football.

As a Bears fan....this NFL postseason has not been fun. We might as well have some fun with this while we can at our own expense. So here you go with the story that a friend sent to me this morning:

A man goes to the Chicago Bear ticket office and inquires about purchasing play-off
tickets. The ticket teller replies that there weren't any tickets for sale because the
Bears did not make it to the play-offs.

The following day the same man goes to the Chicago Bear ticket office and inquires about
purchasing Bear play-off tickets. The ticket teller politely replies that there weren't
any tickets for sale because the Bears did not make it to the play-offs.

This goes on for an entire week. The man goes to the Bear ticket office inquiring about
play-off tickets and the teller says none are for sale because the Bears did not make it
to the play-offs.

Another week of this goes by and the man still is asking the ticket teller about Bear
play-off tickets. Finally the ticket teller in a loud voice says, "I'VE TOLD YOU FOR
THE LAST 2 WEEKS THERE WERE NOT ANY TICKETS AVAILABLE BECAUSE THE BEARS DID NOT MAKE THE
PLAY-OFFS."

The man replied, "I know. I drive all the way from Green Bay every day just to hear
you say that!"

Can anyone say - I'm looking forward to baseball season?

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Wednesday, January 16

A Critique: Next Level Church and "Give Us a Shot"

Thanks goes to one of our most faithful contributors, Greg Long, for finding the YouTube video that pointed me to the Next Level Church blog. After watching the video and reading the short blog post I thought I would take some time to offer a critique of their philosophy. Before I do so let me make a few qualifiers.

1. In this critique I seek to be critical in an honest and loving manner. I rarely critique other ministries or pastors by name as it can become personal. This is a critique of a philosophy and its outcomes as seen in one church, but can be found in numerous churches around the world.

2. I believe the Next Level Church leadership to be pure in their motives and sincere in their desire to help people.

3. I really struggle with personal evangelism and greatly appreciate Next Level Church's concern for reaching out to people.

Please watch the video before reading the critique.



Let me say that this is a great advertisement idea. The slogan is catchy and they have tied it to a great give away piece. They know who their "target" is and they know where to find them. Unfortunately the "target audience" philosophy is unbiblical. We are to proclaim the gospel to "everyone", not just one demographic.

Their desire to not try and impress the churched is commendable, unfortunately their desire to impress the unchurched is not commendable.

The pragmatic "dancing zebras" concept is frightening. How far do you go? More on this later.

This is an excerpt from the blog post answering the question as to why they did this. [I will intersperse my critique in brackets.]

Why?

Three reasons:

1. It is time for the church to stop expecting people to come to us and time for us to go to them...to where they live, work, socialize, and play. Coffee shops, bars, clubs...wherever they are.
[I completely agree that evangelism is not about getting people to come to our church by inviting them to church (though that might be an outcome of evangelism), but about taking the gospel to lost people. We should go to them, but go to them with what? "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16) We go to them to proclaim the gospel. We do not go to them to proclaim our church.

They are asking people to give "us", Next Level Church, a shot. So what are they hoping to accomplish? People coming to their church! The very thing they said they were against. It seems they would be better served to have this slogan on their glasses: "Give Jesus a shot." Leave the name of the church off of it and just give them a "shot" of Jesus. That would live up to their philosophy, but would defeat the purpose of advertisement. Although they are going into places where the lost people are, they are not giving the gospel, but a church invitation, and in doing so they have violated their own principle.]
2. Jesus identified himself with drinkers and partiers - not sharing in their excesses, but living life with them. That's what we want, because that's what he did.
[To say Jesus "identified with drinkers and partiers" is taking the biblical account too far. From the American Heritage Dictionary, identify:
  1. To consider as identical or united; equate.
  2. To associate or affiliate (oneself) closely with a person or group.
Jesus did not consider Himself "identical" or "united" with sinners. Nor did He associate "closely" with sinners (other than His disciples). He also didn't "live" with them. He spent time with sinners, but He also spent time with the religious establishment (also sinners), the hypocritical elite, but He didn't live or identify with them either.

It appears that this is the philosophy that I must become identical or united with a group of people before I can proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. I need to relate in a very real real and practical way with someone's particular sin habits (without going to excess). I must become like them to witness to them. Did Jesus become like the prostitute, the adulterer, the drunkard, the hypocrite, or the murderer to "connect" with them? Or did He already relate to them as a human and use that connection to proclaim the Kingdom of God?

I find it interesting that we will pick up on one thing that Jesus did and use it to build a whole philosophy of ministry. And also notice the limited "target" of this philosophy--the "drinkers and partiers." If we did that with everything Jesus did...whips, name-calling, rebuking our parents, etc...And how far do you take this "identifying?" How do you identify with the prostitute, the homosexual, the drug addict, the secular humanist, the proud, self-reliant, self-sufficient religious person?]
3. We will do anything, anything, anything that does not violate God's word to help disconnected people get connected to God.
[This is the normative principle on steroids and HGH. Do they really mean anything as long as God's Word doesn't specifically say, "NO"? It would seem so by their use of repetition. Unfortunately gimmicks, give-aways, mood and atmosphere will only keep a lost person's attention so long. And there is no way you can match what the world has to offer in this realm. You are fighting a losing battle and capitulating to worldly philosophy by doing so. You strip the gospel of Jesus Christ of its power and act as if God can't save people without your great ideas.

I would also point out that they have missed the biggest point of all--the Great Commission. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20) Our primary objective is not to "connect" people to God (however you would define it), but to make disciples of Jesus Christ. And as soon as you start by asking what the "target audience wants" and then giving that to them you have sabotaged disciple-making before you have even begun. If you won't take my word for it, just take a moment to listen to Bill Hybels talk about "the biggest wake up call of [his] adult life." [Read HERE and watch HERE] Willow Creek has failed to make disciples using this very same "target audience, seeker-driven" approach.]

Anything I missed? Feel free to elaborate.

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Sunday, January 13

Ecclesiastical Knuckleheads in the News: Church Advertises With Shot Glasses

From FoxNews.com:

To get people to attend his new church campus, Robbie McLaughlin is sending his message out to where the people are.

Next Friday, staffers from Next Level Church of Matthews will go to bars in the Ballantyne area of Charlotte to hand out shot glasses which ask patrons to "give us a shot" and bear the slogan, "Real church for real people."

The idea is to draw people to the Ballantyne campus, which opens next month.

McLaughlin is the pastor, and said he is confident that it will be controversial, but he said the goal is not necessarily to impress people who already go to church. He said it's to impress people who don't.

Next Level is a nontraditional church that encourages members to dress casually and snack on coffee and doughnuts during services.

McLaughlin said the idea has caught on, and in two years, the church has grown from a handful of members to more than 700.

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Saturday, January 12

Saturday Sermon Prep - The Love of God

Greetings from a delinquent blogger! No excuses other than to say that I have been rather swamped over the past month or so with being a husband, father and pastor. Those things tend to take up some time every now and then.

With some state meetings that I had this week with the association of churches that I belong to I am being forced to spend much of the day today going over my messages for tomorrow. I'll be preaching from John 3:11-21 tomorrow morning and going over what is the most famous verse from the New Testament - John 3:16. I'm looking forward to covering doctrinal topics such as Common Grace and God's specific and special love that He has for His own elect that he does NOT have for the unregenerate.

While I do believe that we can tell a lost person that God loves them (though pay close attention the semantical definitions when saying that) I cannot honestly say that He loves them like He does His own elect. Nevertheless, it would be unwise (pastorally speaking) to say such things from the pulpit like "God doesn't love everyone". Not only can statements like that be counterproductive but they can also get some people to tune out whatever you have to say from there on out.

As someone who adheres to a Reformed soteriology I would obviously refer to the "world" of John 3:16 as referred to and defined by the Apostle John himself in Revelation 5:9. We tend to forget from time to time that there is the "perishing" aspect of this verse.

I'm curious and want to engage our readers once again - when referring to the love of God do we put a distinction between the love of Common Grace (Matt. 10:45) and the love of God's own elect? Does God love those whom He "never knew" and will never know the same that He loves those whom He secured redemption for on the Cross?

Just looking for some Saturday afternoon discussion!

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Emergent Heresy In Their Own Words

Check out THIS POST from PyroManiacs. The video you can watch there is shocking, even for those familiar with the teaching of the far left (or not so far left) of the emergent movement.

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Friday, January 11

Corporate Worship: A Celebration of God's Active Presence

Yesterday, I wrote about the fundamental understanding of corporate worship – recognition of God’s active presence. Today, I want to move from the necessary understanding of corporate worship to a more practical treatment of what happens in corporate worship. The nuts of bolts of what Christians do when the Church of Jesus Christ gathers to worship the living God.

THE ELEMENTS OF CORPORATE WORSHIP (1 Chronicles 16:1-7)

[These are the elements in this worship service, but this list does not include all of the elements found in all worship services. Nor do all of these elements need to be included in every corporate worship service.]

Offerings (1-2)

This is not to equate financial offerings to the offering of animals. But it is to point out that worship includes sacrifice. Financial giving is one form of sacrifice, but the ultimate sacrifice is found in Romans 12 – the sacrifice of our bodies.

Food (3)

The inclusion of food in worship is used in our celebration of our Lord’s death at Communion.

Leaders (4-5)

Corporate worship is to be done “decently and in order” and for that to happen we need to have specific people in the place of leadership. The Church needs to be led in worship. And those who are appointed to lead in worship have a tremendous responsibility and will be held accountable for their leadership. The Church must chose all of its leaders very carefully.

Music (5-6)

Some of those chosen to lead were instrumentalists. They were to help lead through the playing of instruments. Notice the unique blend of instruments (stringed instruments, harp, cymbals and trumpets). This is the first time these instruments had been used in corporate worship (1 Chronicles 13:8; 15:16). Which brings me to one of the age old questions in the “worship wars”: is adding new instrumentation to worship biblical?

Down through the centuries disagreements have been raised over every instrument that has been used in worship from the organ to the drum. The organ was argued about in different churches and denominations for almost 1800 years, and would still be unusable in churches that hold to accapella worship only. Yet it would find universal acceptance in churches that use instrumentation. I’m not sure it will take 1800 years but I believe the same will be said one day about the drum. This passage gives credence not only to the use of instrumentation in worship, but also to the addition of new instrumentation in worship as it becomes available.

But there are many who would say that going to this passage or any passage for support on current worship elements is begging the question. Are the corporate worship services found in Scripture descriptive or prescriptive? Is it legitimate to go to a biblical narrative and draw any specific conclusions for what we are to do in worship? Because if biblical narratives are prescriptive than we must do all we can to emulate exactly what they were doing. And if that is the case than we would be able to make a very strong case for the use of the dance in worship (1 Chronicles 15:29; 2 Samuel 6:14). In fact viewing this narrative as prescriptive would bring us to the position that to not dance would be sin. To not play these specific instruments would be sin. Therefore, I believe that biblical narratives are only descriptive of what those people did. We can still learn from them, but to go to them for a one-to-one correlation will tie us up in all kinds of knots.

The problem with going to biblical narratives for prescription or even helpful description is that no one knows what the musical or dance style was like in Old Testament corporate worship. There is no written music to study. We do not have the notes, rhythms, time signatures, keys, etc. I believe that if God wanted to give us a prescriptive style of music to use that He would have made specific prescriptive statements in the only inspired revelation that we have. He would have placed in the Bible not only the words of the psalms, but the music that we were to play along with the words. [I do believe God gave us specific commands concerning the elements of worship, just not the style. But that is a whole other discussion concerning the regulative and normative principles.]

Song (7-36)

This song is a compilation (medley) of parts of Psalms 105, 96, and 106. And if you study these psalms you will realize that the parts that weren’t incorporated in this celebration were left out because they didn’t fit the theme. It is appropriate to have specific themes for specific occasions. You don’t have to incorporate every element of worship in every corporate service. This is a joyful occasion, a time of celebration. Therefore it doesn’t include confession, lament, or silence. There are times for those services as well and we don’t need to praise and thank God in every service. Yet, our weekly gathering on Sunday is an explicit indication of our celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. Therefore, it would seem fitting that the predominant theme should be praise and thanksgiving.

THE ACTIVITY OF CORPORATE WORSHIP (1 Chronicles 16:7-36)

God is the focus of worship.

We thank the Lord (7). We don’t gather to thank each other. The Israelites didn’t gather to thank David.

We sing to the Lord (9, 23), not just about the Lord. They were singing for an audience of one. Don’t worry what other people think about you, your voice, your actions, etc. Don’t focus on other people and what they are or aren’t doing. Our entire focus is to be on God.

We seek the Lord (11). What do you come to corporate worship for? A boost? An emotional rush? Or do you come for the Lord? Do you desire to meet with God?

We remember His works (12). We sing about His miracles (12, 24), His judgments (12, 14), covenant (15-19), His protection (20-22).

We proclaim His character. He is great and He is worthy (25). He is the majestic Creator (26-17). He is the King (31) and the Judge (33). He is good (34), merciful (34), and eternal (36).

Our worship should be full of remembering God’s works and proclaiming God’s character. (This should also be an emphasis in our time of worship in prayer.) Why are we to do this? Does God need reminding? Has He forgotten? It is for our poor memories that this is to be done. If we aren’t reminded frequently, than we easily forget.

Giving is the action of worship.

It is not about receiving. You don’t come to a worship service to receive. Any receiving that occurs is only a byproduct of the appropriate act of giving. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We give thanks (8, 34), glory (28-29), offerings (29), and reverence (25, 30) to God. We also give testimony to one another (8,9) and witness to the world (23-24).

This one concept alone should strike a death blow to all man-centered worship and also end the vast majority of the debates over musical style and preference. When worship is seen as a self-less act of giving to God and not a selfish act of having personal needs met, most of our disagreements will end.

Is God the focus of your worship? Do you come to give or receive? Or have you become sidetracked by selfishness or personal stylistic concerns?

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Thursday, January 10

Corporate Worship: A Recognition of God's Active Presence

What is worship?

“Worship is honor and adoration directed to God.” John MacArthur

“Worship is the believers’ response of all that they are—mind, emotions, will, and body—to what God is and says and does.” Warren Wiersbe

What is corporate worship?

Is there any difference between worshiping God alone, at any time and any place, and worshiping God together with the Church? Is the difference just in the place and the amount of people? Is the difference only in the elements of group worship—singing, preaching, etc.?

If there is no difference than why do I attend? Why should I attend? I could just stay home and worship as I do every other day. Should I just come out of habit, duty, or just out of obedience? And if it is commanded by God is it just an arbitrary command or is there more? Is there something significant and vital in corporate worship?

I believe the Bible clearly teaches that corporate worship is a unique and special recognition of God’s active presence among His people. This is both an Old Testament and New Testament teaching.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 1 Corinthians 6:19

The teaching that God dwells in His people should not be a new concept to us. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. I am His dwelling. You are His temple.

But the teaching that God dwells in His church corporately is not as emphasized or well known. In our desire to help individual Christians battle sin we have over-emphasized the teaching that God is in all of us individually to the detriment of the teaching that God dwells in us corporately.

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (The “you” is plural.)

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. Ephesians 2:19-21

This language of us being a temple is a continuation of the Old Testament teaching of God’s active presence being found in the Jewish temple. And before the temple there was the tabernacle – a place for the active presence of God to be found. The tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant that resided within the Holy of Holies symbolized the active presence and power of God among His people.

God’s Active Presence Is Essential to Worship. (1 Chronicles 13:1-4)

David had just been crowned King over all of Israel (1 Chronicles 12:38). David’s first concern is to restore God to His rightful, central place in the Nation of Israel. He seeks to do this by bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem – a central location, the seat of government. He understands the importance of keeping God central to His people and for the last forty years the Ark hadn’t been a part of worship. The people had been continuing many of the commanded forms of worship without the primary symbol of God’s presence. They were going through the motions of worship without God’s active presence. What is tabernacle worship without the symbol of God’s presence? The symbols, sacrifices and offerings, lose all meaning without the reality of God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.

Do we recognize that we gather in the presence of Almighty God? Do we yearn for His active presence among us? Do we consider the magnitude of what we do every Sunday when we gather corporately?

What is the worth of a worship service if God doesn’t show up? Is God’s active presence known among us and if it was what would be the evidence?

We Are To Worship God, Not Symbols or Forms. (1 Samuel 4:2-11)

The Israelites were losing to the Philistines in battle and the leaders actually understood that it was God that had defeated them, but they couldn’t determine why. They concluded that it was because they didn’t have the Ark of the Covenant with them. They believed that the Ark would save them because they confused the symbol of His presence with His actual presence. They didn’t cry out to God for help, instead they brought the symbol of His presence into the camp as a good luck charm. They trusted in the ark, the physical symbol, for salvation. “They said, ‘God has come into the camp!’” But God hadn’t come into the camp. The Ark was not a good luck charm to be brought out in a pinch. And it is evident that they didn’t trust God but the Ark, because they were defeated and the Ark was taken by the Philistines.

When you attend a corporate worship service do you worship God or do you “honor and adore” the forms of worship? Do you worship God or the experience of a worship service? Do you worship God or the worship music? Singing alone is not worship. Music alone is not worship. In fact, you can and should worship without music and singing. These are elements, forms, of worship, but they are not worship in and of themselves.

Can you worship without music or singing? Can you worship without your favorite music or song? Many Christians have replaced God as the object of their adoration with their favorite styles and songs. We judge the power of a worship service by the power, beauty, or professionalism of the music. We judge the worth of the service by our experience. We oftentimes equate great music with great worship.

Worship Must Be Determined By God’s Word. (1 Chronicles 13)

Mistake #1: David doesn’t consult God or His Word. (1-4)

He asks the leaders what he should do. He seeks human wisdom and does what seems right to him. He follows tradition. The ark had been transported on a cart before, why not now?

There is nothing inherently wrong with tradition. In fact, tradition can be a good and helpful thing, unless it violates Scripture or unless it is held up as equal to or above Scripture. We must make sure our traditions conform to Scripture and are not held in the same regard as Scripture. At the same time we must seek to understand our traditions and the reason for them, and not just throw them out because they are not found explicitly in Scripture.

Mistake #2: David and Uzzah disobey God and His Word. (9-14)

David violates God’s commands in transporting the Ark on a cart, instead of being carried by the Levites (Numbers 3:30-31; 4:1-49). Uzzah violates God’s command and touches the Ark (Numbers 4:15). God’s anger is aroused and God strikes Uzzah dead. Why? Wasn’t Uzzah doing a good thing? Would it have been better if the Ark was dropped? What is God seeking to teach us?

Lesson #1: Good intentions aren’t enough.

David desired to have God in the central place of importance again. Uzzah desired to keep the Ark for hitting the ground. Both good and important things, yet it didn’t keep them from God’s wrath. We might have good intentions in our ways of worship, but we must realize that good intentions alone are not enough. Have we tested our forms of worship by God’s Word?

Lesson #2: God requires obedience.

Does David know how the Ark was to be moved? He seems ignorant of God’s requirements for the Ark, but ignorance of God’s commands is no excuse. Later, (1 Chronicles 15:2, 13, 15) it is very apparent that he now understands the reason for God’s wrath and he is aware of God’s requirements and is willing to follow them exactly. He had learned God’s lesson.

Uzzah, being a Levite, should have known of the prohibition for anyone other than a priest to touch the Ark. But even if he touched it out of ignorance he wasn’t exempt from God’s law. How can we obey God in worship if we don’t know what His Word says?

Lesson #3: God demands respect.

Familiarity can breed contempt. Uzzah had spent his entire life around the Ark and it might be that although he knew God’s command, he didn’t think twice about touching it. It appears that Uzzah had lost his fear of God. But God’s judgment had its desired effect on David (12). Although he didn’t start with a fear of the Lord, David, driven by respect, takes three months to determine how God would have Him move the Ark.

A healthy fear of God will drive us to God’s Word to determine what God says about worship and not rely on our own opinions, preferences and traditions – whatever those might be. God takes our worship of Him very seriously. Not just any “form” will do.

We should also have an attitude of respect when we gather for worship. It is not something we should go about haphazardly or flippantly. God is our focus when we gather. If we take Him seriously we will participate with all of our “heart, soul, mind and strength.” We will worship God everything we have.

Some of us have grown up in church worship services and corporate worship has lost all significance and importance. It is what we do, or at least where we go on Sunday. We are just going through the motions.

David had it right. Worship is impossible without God’s active presence. God needed to be returned to heart of the Jewish nation. The symbol of His presence needed to be returned to the Tabernacle. The Ark needed to be central to the worship of the nation of Israel. Without God’s active presence the forms had lost all significance. Corporate worship had deteriorated into all form and no substance. Can the same be said about us?

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Wednesday, January 9

You Tube Tuesday: Very Interesting Music Video

Someday I hope to get back to posting something of significance, but until then I hope something unique and interesting will help fill the gap.

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Tuesday, January 8

Guest Blogger: Will Hatfield Ordination Prep, Part 4

Once again our theologically astute friend, Will Hatfield, presents us with a treat in preparation for his upcoming ordination. This round is Christology.

I encourage all our readers to give Will some feedback. He is a good man with a great mind. So ... don't pull any punches. The ordination council (comprised of GARBC Iowa pastors and Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary professors) won't!

Here's Will:
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The Son’s Deliverance

Story. Human beings sinned and were in need of deliverance. God revealed His love for us by moving in history, revealing Himself and His Word, in order that His kingdom rule might be established and that we might be delivered from sin and death. God did not reveal His plan all at once, but through a series of covenants He progressively made known His plan to His people through Abraham, Moses, and David. The culmination of His plan is found in His Son who will establish God’s rule over the nations (Ps. 2), over sin and death (Ps. 16) and bring life and joy back to God’s world. We know who His Son is because of the covenants made with Israel in the Old Testament. Jesus, God’s Son, was of the royal line of David and he fulfilled God’s standard of righteousness revealed in the Law of Israel. Jesus as God and man is the mediator between man and God so that God’s just wrath on sin can be appeased and man can be delivered from death. Jesus accomplished our deliverance by coming to earth, living a perfect life, dying on a cross, and rising from the dead. He redeemed or bought us out of sin in order that we could return to being God’s children, having new hearts in order to love and obey God.

What qualifies Christ to redeem us?

God became a man through the incarnation of God’s Son at a particular point in history. The virgin birth was the means by which the incarnation took place. Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus’ conception and continued so up to the point of Christ’s birth (Matt. 1:18,23,25; Luke 1:34-35). Mary became pregnant through the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon her. The virgin birth guaranteed the sinlessness of the Son of God. The virgin birth is essential in that demonstrates to everyone that He is God.

Deity of Christ

The Bible teaches that Christ is God. He is called the Creator of this world. He claims that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). Some of His titles are The Word, Son of God, Son of Man, and Lord. The Bible claims that He created all things, sustains all things, receives worship, reveals the Father, forgives sins, gives life, and exercises judgment. All of these are activities of God. He is attributed all the characteristics of God. (John 17:5; John 5:21,26; Heb. 13:8; Col. 2:9). He is eternal (John 1:1). He is omnipresent (Matt. 28:20). He is omniscient (John 2:25). He is omnipotent (Matt 28:18). He is immutable (Heb. 13:8). Jesus Christ is God.

Humanity of Christ

Christ is fully human as well as being fully divine. Christ had to be a man if He was going to represent fallen humanity. If Jesus was not a real man, then the death on the cross was an illusion. The Scriptures, however, teach that Christ was truly a man, though without a sinful nature. First, He developed like normal human beings (Luke 2:52) in His mental, physical, spiritual, and social capacities. He also had a true body of flesh and blood. As such He experienced pain and suffering as well as normal physical desires such as hunger (John 19:1; John 4:6,7). He also experienced normal human emotions (John 11:34-35). As a human Jesus had a soul and spirit as well. He was troubled in His soul at the prospect of the cross (John 12:27). He ultimately gave up His spirit to God when He died (John 19:30).

So God became man. But what did this mean to God? Philippians 2 talks about the Christ becoming a man and making himself nothing. This does not mean that Christ checked his deity at the door when he became man. He did, however, add a human nature without an automatic recognition as God by people on earth. This is seen by understanding the context of Phil. 2:6-7. Phil 2:7 says, “taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” The emptying of Christ was taking on an additional nature, a human nature with its limitations, not the surrendering of his divine nature. Christ surrendered no attribute of deity, but He temporarily and voluntarily restricted the continuous use of His divine attributes in keeping with His purpose of living among men as a man. He lived His time on earth under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit as an example to us (Matthew 4). The two natures of Christ are inseparably united without mixture or loss of separate identity. He remains forever the God-man. Though He does have two natures, He is still one person.

What did Christ do to redeem us?

Christ’s earthly life was important for two reasons: to demonstrate His sinlessness as a perfect sacrifice and to authenticate His claim to be the Messiah, God’s Anointed One. By His life He revealed the Father so that we might know and love God more fully. His example shows that He was qualified to be our Savior, reveals the character of God the Father, and exposes and rebukes the wickedness we so often hide in the pride in our hearts.

Christ's mission on earth was to obey the Father by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He presented Himself to Israel as their Messiah and offered them the kingdom, but He was rejected. While on earth He performed many miracles and taught many people the truths of God's Word. According to God’s predetermined design and yet by their own decisions, the nation of Israel rejected the Messiah that had been sent to them.

Christ's death is extremely important for all of mankind. Because death is the requirement for sin, His death as our substitute was what we needed to be freed from the bondage of sin and to be brought back into fellowship with God. Christ’s death was the main purpose for the incarnation, yet it was the ultimate part of His humiliation. He was put to death on a Roman cross, after being beaten and mocked by both the Jews and the Roman soldiers. Pilate washed his hands of the mockery of a trial, though he was still responsible for it. Even on the cross, he was mocked and ridiculed. His office as king was mocked by the title they put above His head. His offices as prophet and priest were mocked by the Jews (Matt. 26:68; Luke 23:35). Yet through it all God’s prophecies were being fulfilled, and Christ finally cried, “It is finished.” The price had been paid for our salvation. After that, Christ said, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit,” and died. He who had committed no sin suffered the consequences of sin, death. In doing this, He atoned for our sin.

The Nature of His Death and the Atonement

There are a number of contributing elements which point to the significance and nature of Christ’s death. First, the nature of God is holy, therefore, he cannot look at sin. He is compelled to turn away from it. Christ suffered the loss of fellowship with His Father as He bore our sin on the cross. Second, the law as an expression of the nature and will of God sets up a standard for right and wrong and also teaches that there are necessary consequences to disobeying God’s law. Third, man, because he is totally depraved, is in no way able to extricate himself from his sinfulness and therefore his guilt before God. Fourth, Christ, because He took upon Himself fully a human nature, is able to redeem all of human nature. His death is applicable to human beings because He was human. Christ’s death has sufficient value to atone for the entire human race because He is infinite God, and therefore His death had infinite worth. His death was also sufficient because He was sinless and did not have to pay for His own sin. Fifth, the Old Testament sacrificial system points to death as an acceptable covering for sin. The sacrifice was a substitute for the sinner. It bore the sinner’s guilt. The sacrifice needed to be spotless, however, and the one bringing the sacrifice needed to acknowledge his guilt by laying his hand on the sacrifice, symbolizing a transfer of the guilt from the sinner to the victim.

These five things clarify the fact that Christ’s death was necessary to redeem mankind from sin and that only Christ could have done so. Christ’s death was atonement for God’s righteous judgment on men for their sin because He took our sin upon Himself. Jesus Himself supports this idea by saying He came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He also saw Himself as a substitute for us (John 15:13; 10:17-18). He is called the Lamb of God, a sacrifice for the entire world (John1:29). Paul in his epistles teaches this as well and includes God’s initiative in the matter (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 5:8). To Paul Christ was his sacrifice who died in his place (Eph. 5:2; 1 Cor. 5:7; Col. 1:20). Christ appeased God’s wrath by dying on the cross (Rom. 3:25-26).

Christ’s death provided atonement for all men (I John 2:2; Is.53:6; 2 Pet.2:1). It is effective only for those who believe (John 3:16; I Tim.4:10). The Bible teaches that atonement is available for anyone who wishes to trust in Christ (John 1:29; I Tim. 2:4,6).

The Resurrection

Its importance

Paul cried out, "If Christ be not risen, then our preaching is in vain." (1 Cor. 15:14) How true this is! Christ's resurrection provides the proof we need that God accepted Christ's work on the cross. It also provides the hope that we too will be resurrected one day. It shows that Christ has the power over death and Hades.

Its nature

Christ was actually dead when He was laid in the tomb. He had not swooned or fainted. Likewise, His body was not stolen (Matt. 28:11-15). Beyond any expectation of the disciples, Christ rose again. Jesus had a bodily resurrection. What the disciples saw was not a phantom or a ghost. He ate food with them and had the scars of His crucifixion on His body (John 20:19-20). He was flesh and blood though not like our bodies. He could go through walls and closed doors, and He could appear and disappear. Christ's resurrection was the first of its kind. Others had come back only to die again. Christ came back to live forever.

Its credibility

The resurrection of Christ was a miracle accomplished by all members of the Trinity (Acts 3:26; Rom. 1:4; John 2:19). That it actually happened can be argued two ways. The first way is by the argument of eyewitnesses. The apostles saw Him after He had returned. Others saw Him as well. Up to 500 at one time saw Him and heard Him speak. The second way is by argument from cause and effect. What other event could have so changed the lives of these poor fishermen from Galilee? What could have made them die for their beliefs? What could have caused the start of the church and its effects on the world since then? What caused the change in worship for these Jews to the first day of the week? Only one thing could have caused all of these things: the Resurrection.

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