Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Our Right to Vote, and Pray

It has been a while since I've done this, but I think its about time I throw my hat back in the blogging ring. Today is a very special day, it is election day. Many of you may think that this is the most important day in our nation's calendar, and I would agree. This is our chance as a people, as citizens to influence the future direction of our country. For many, this is a day of personal expression and excitement, while for others, like myself who is from a state that consistently disagrees with my personal politics, it is an exercise in frustration. But for the believer, this day should by the end of a long period of petitioning our God to do what is best for our nation.

I wonder how many of us have taken time to consider what God's desires might be for this country. How much time have we spent searching the scriptures to know the mind of the Lord in regards to our future. Scripture is full of passages that speak to God's involvement in the politics of a country. Here are just a few:

2 Chron 20:6 - ... "O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.

Psalms 22:28 - 28 "For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations."

Jer 27:5 - "It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. "

Prov 21:1 - "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. "

In light of these verses, we should be supremely confident that no matter the result of the election, God is still the one on the throne and His plans for our nation cannot be thwarted.

The other aspect to a believer's approach to this election should be one of continued prayer. You see, in the same way we show our involvement and influence in our government through voting, so we show that same interest and involvement in spiritual kingdom through prayer. How much time have we spent on our knees praying for the candidates, praying for God's will to be done, praying that our nation would repent and turn to the Lord. If we haven't spent time in prayer over this, that is just as bad as not exercising our right to vote. I confess, this is something I struggle with as well. My prayer life is often limited to my own day to day concerns with never a thought to the greater world outside my little area of ministry at FVBC.

I have been supremely convicted that there is a greater need for prayer than there is for voting. With prayer, we petition the ultimate King of kings. God has given us this great gift of communicating with Him and even being a part of God's actions as He uses our prayers to accomplish His will on earth. James 5:16 tells us to pray and that our prayer has greet effect. Pray should be a regular part of our day, but is it? Do we spend as much time on our knees as we do worrying about the outcome of an election? Where is our heart? Do we trust that God is in control and can and will do whatever He deems best for His people? If we don't, we should. Romans 8:28 is clear on that issue. Whatever occurs, it is the best and will be used to accomplish the best for God's people.

So exercise your greater right as a believer. Yes, by all means vote if you are able, but don't stop there. Continue in your petitioning our great God to continue to do His will in our land for the good of His people and for the ultimate glory of His Name.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anniversary Day

So, today is my fourth anniversary, and I wanted to reflect on what marriage has meant to me over the past few years. In Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes that marriage is more about our holiness than our happiness. I think that is a very interesting way of putting it. Although our marriage has been full of happy moments, I think the greatest benefit to me personally is how it has grown my character closer to that of Christ. Holiness is all about conforming to the image of Christ, forsaking the world, and setting yourself apart for God. No one exemplified this more than Jesus. As I've traveled down the road of marriage just a little I can see many instances in which I've had to resist my sinful temptation and do what God would want.

For example, I don't really enjoy washing the dishes. I know my wife shares my same distaste for this task, yet is still needs to be done. We don't have a dishwasher at the moment, so the duty has to fall to someone. I think not washing the dishes would certainly make my happier, but being selfless and putting my wife's happiness first helps me to be more holy, more Christlike. Now, I want to give credit to Moriah. She does the dishes a lot. This is mainly due to her need for the house to be in order and clean (which I really appreciate). But, when there is a chance for me to do them, I need to jump at that to show my love for my wife.

This is just a small thing, but one of many that grows my character. I am so thankful for all that Moriah does, from laundry every week, to cooking, to teaching our girls little things like their colors and how to love each other. I really struck it rich with her, although my theology tells me that God ordained that she would be my wife. Praise God for pairing her with me. I think I got the better end of that deal.

Although this is our fourth anniversary of marriage, we are approaching eight years of being together as a couple. That's almost a third of my life that I've been with this wonderful woman. I'm pumped for what God has in store for us over the next years and decades. I'm sure there will be plenty of happy times, but what I'm really excited about is how God will grow both of us into the image of His Son through our covenant of marriage.

I love you Moriah...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bible Q & A- Na Session 3

This message wasn't really a message. They had people come down to two mics and ask their questions about the Bible. Below is the list and some notes on the answers given. It was great to see the interest. There were at least 50 lined up to ask questions, and he only got to about 10 of them. He is a very smart guy and answered the questions like he had prepared answers ready to go. He speaks from a wealth of knowledge and I think you'll find the responses helpful.

Na Session 3- Al Mohler

"Q & A about the Bible"

What separates the Bible from other books?

-When we say that the Bible is inspired, we aren't paying it a compliment by saying it is so good that it qualifies as holy text. It is inspired for many other reasons

How did we get our 66 books and why were some ommitted?

-Apocryphal writings- the early church considered them important spiritual books, but never on the same level as the cannon (Maccabees, etc.)

-Pseudo-pigraphal- not actually true writings (gospel of Mary not actually written by Mary)

-Gnostic groups- a few who believed they had the key to scriptures that wrote books they believed were true, but weren't scripture

Apostalicity- had to be linked to an Apostle

Catholicity- all churches recognize that these are the correct books

-By the 2nd century, the church had already settled on the 66 books we have now, and they believed it was complete, nothing needing to be added and nothing needed to be taken away

What about passages that are in some Bible's and not others (end of Mark 16:9-20 , etc.)?

-There a significant textual questions about those texts, although he believes they should still be in the scriptures

-The original manuscripts are gone so we don't know exactly what they should look like

What parts of the law are applicable today? Why some things and not others?

- the law shows us our need for Christ and it teaches us how to live

-Different kinds of law

-Moral law (repeated in the NT and inhanced- murder to anger, adultery to lust)

-Ceremonial law (what happens in worship- sacrifices, festivals, holiness code) which is done away with completely in the NT because it is fulfilled in Christ

-We need to discuss homosexuality one of many sexual sins that all of us can fall in left to ourselves

Is the Bible inerrant, infallible, consequentially inerrant, etc.?

-Infallible- it will never fail... this is true, but not a complete statement

-Inerrant- no errors

-If we say that the inconsequential parts may have errors, then what do we say is inconsequential? Every part of scripture is essential. Either it is without error or it is. There is no in between.


-Takes into account that worldview establishes the way we construct reality

-some truth applies where other truths don't, that there are different people groups with different stories that historicize their background

-this produces the wrong type of humility by saying that no one can really know truth.. truth is only meaningful to the individual

-it states that the reader is the authority, not the writer

-postmodernism denies that there is a great universal truth that we can know and are held accountable to and that there is a metanarrative that ties everything together

What about the Doctrines of Grace and people who don't believe in them?

-people want to have some part in salvation

-semi-palagian: our environment makes us sinful and we only need a certain amount of grace to boost us across the finish line

-it is hard to show people grace when we are strangling them with the doctrines of grace

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Authority of Scripture- Na Session 2

Mark Dever- The Authority of Scripture

I found this message particularly encouraging in regards to bolstering my faith in the authenticity of the Bible I read today. To understand the depths God has taken to ensure the security of His Word is just astonishing. I hope you will be as encouraged as I was by this message and that it will instill a new confidence in the authority of scripture in your mind.

Just like last time, here are my notes. I apologize for the fragmented nature of them, but it is better than nothing. Enjoy...

New Attitude- Session 2

Mark Dever

"The Authority of Scripture"

-this rising generation struggles with replacing the things of God with the passing things of this world

-The question before us today is

What do we believe and how will we answer questions about belief?

How can we have confidence in the authority of scripture?


-F.F. Bruce- The NT Documents: Are they reliable?

-J.I. Packer- Fundamentalism and the Word of God

-John Wynam- Christ and the Bible

I. The Reliability of the Bible (Apologetic Question)

-focus on the gospels- if we agree that the gospels are historically accurate, then we can move from that to understanding the reliability of the rest of the bible.

A. Is the Bible reliable in reference to all the translations (ESV, NKJV, NASB, etc.)

-all the translations don't negate that the Bible is translatable

-they all say the same thing at the root and basic point

B. Is this really what was written down all those years ago?

-Yes, there are texts old enough to prove that they are still accurate

-The NT is only 50 years removed from the original manuscripts

-The Bible is unprecedented in terms of ancient documents that we still have (22,000 ancient manuscripts)

C. Was what was written down by the original authors accurate and not just propaganda?

-things passed down orally from memory can be and usually are accurate for ancient cultures

-We need to ask why we doubt the reliability and then address those individual issue

-The Bible is historically accurate and is backed up by archeology. The authors take great care to be historically accurate (Luke 1:1-4)

-1 Cor. 7:10 - I, not the Lord, means Paul is adding to what Christ(Lord) said.

-There are a lot of details in the NT that wouldn't be smart in starting a new religion, but are recorded anyway because that is what happened.

-The gospels show the flaws of their own authors

D. Is it true?

-That is the real question to spend our time on, as well as the implications of what it means if it is true.

II. The Authority of the Bible (Question to the Believer)

-Just because I don't know everything doesn't mean I don't know anything.

-We are made to know God... and the fact that we don't know everything doesn't imply that we can't know anything for certain. That is a lie from Satan implanted in the world

OT Verses Exodus 24:4 , Ezekiel 34, Deuteronomy 4:1-2 , Deuteronomy 17:18 , Psalm 19:7-10 , Psalm 119:11, 89, 105, 140,

NT Verses: Acts 1:16, 17:11, Romans 15:4, James 2:8, Acts 4:25, Galatians 3:8, 2 Tim. 3:16, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Peter 1:20-21, 3:15-16

Jesus' verses: Matt. 4:4, Luke 21:33, Mt. 19:5, John 5:46-47, 10:35,

Luke 24, Matt. 5:17-18

-If I am to be a disciple of Christ, I must see the scriptures as Jesus saw them.

-We should be regularly fed by faithful exposition of God's Word

Ephesians 5:10 - we are to find what is pleasing to God through scripture

-You cannot read too much in scripture. What you read you cannot read too carefully... -Luther quote

-We fall into the trap of thinking collecting the words and knowledge of Christ without putting them into practice

Matt. 7:24-27

-God's means of transforming us is by His Word (Romans 12:2)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ripping, Burning, and Eating- Na Session 1

In the opening message of the conference, Josh Harris spoke to us about three possible responses to God's Word.

1. Josiah (2 Kings 22)- "Ripping"
The Word of God had been lost for at least a generation from the people of God. They were worshipping idols, following their own selfish desires, and doing pretty much everything you'd expect from a people that didn't have scripture growing up. God in His grace moved Josiah to reopen the temple and directed men there to find God's word, preserved in a forgotten corner. When it was read before Josiah, he tore his robes for shame of how he and the people had gone against God. He literally wept in repentance.
How often do we respond this way? Do we weep after reading God's word and seeing how far short we've fallen or do we immediately point to others and rebuke them for their failings? Josh stated that true reformation comes from seeing God's Word and then changing our lives accordingly, as Josiah did with all of Israel. God's Word is powerful, and we must humble ourselves before it and be changed by it.

2. Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36)- "Burning"
This King was the grandson of Josiah and had a very different response to God's Word. When it was read before him, he tore it apart, a piece at a time, and burned it. He showed no fear of retribution; no fear of God. His heart was a cold piece of stone and his prideful heart though he was above such things as a Word from God.
We may read this passage and be shocked, but how often do we fall into the same trap. We burn God's Word in simple ways, like neglecting to read it, or making it a chore to be checked off our to-do list, or by reading it and ignoring the commands for life-change. We cannot blow off God's Word simply because we don't agree with it or it may be hard to obey. God's Word is God's Word, no matter where it comes from or how it feels confronting our hearts. Josh said that often how we listen is more about the man [preacher] than about the Word. We get excited for certain speakers, and tune out for others. This shows a lack of humility and trust that God can and will accomplish whatever He desires through His word, no matter what the vessel that carries it looks or sounds like.

3. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:16)- "Eating"
Jeremiah, in the midst of discouragement, takes up God's Word, eats it, and is delighted by it. Eating takes a great amount of trust in what you are eating. The food becomes a part of us and affects us. This was the reaction from Jeremiah, a reaction of delight and joy.
This delight isn't a reward for complaining to God about our problems. God offers hope to those who repent, not to whining babies that think they know better than God. The Word is what offers us hope in the midst of discouragement.

So, how do we react to God's Word? I hope that as you listen through these messages (linked above) God's Word will again become a delight to your heart and a satisfaction to your soul.

Random Quotes:
"An understanding of the gospel transforms our view of the Bible."
"The Bible isn't about all we need to do for God. It is about all that God has done for us through Christ."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Transforming Conversation

As I was challenged by God's Word tonight, I was struck with the seeming disparity between the language that goes into our minds and the language that comes out of our mouths. Whether you are at a great conference like T4G or New Attitude or attending your regular church each week, there is a diet coming your way of godly language. Romans 12:2 teaches us that these words of God are supposed to transform us as our minds are renewed through the scriptures. I have definitely partaken in a great diet of godly Biblical messages from the conference already, and I still have Piper to come my way tomorrow. But whatever we are hearing from these resources, there are times when it doesn't go beyond our minds. This plays out in several ways.

An example of this I experienced this weekend was the conversation in our car after a great message from Mark Dever on the Authority of Scripture. You would think that after being challenged by God's Word, the conversation would be reflective of that. Imagine eating a wonderful shrimp scampi with garlic and butter and lemon. You enjoyed it and now the taste lingers with you even after the meal. When you talk to your friends, they smell it on your breath. What you have eaten lasts longer than just the meal. Listening to a message should affect us the same way. Others should be able to tell by our countenance, our spiritual aroma if you will, what we just listened to and it should rub off. If you listen to a great message, or even just an adequate message that accurately reflects God's Word, you should have a desire to speak about that to others. If you quickly are involved in conversation about your favorite episode of the Office, or the latest contestant booted from your reality show, after hearing from God's Word, there is something wrong with your spiritual digestive system.

Our old pastor, Bob Whitney, called this parking lot vomit. He said that many people hear God's Word, eat of it in the service, then, like a bolemic that wants to appear healthy but doesn't want the implications of eating to affect them, they vomit what they have heard in the parking lot before they get in their cars and are soon talking excitedly about the big game coming up or the lunch that is cooking. What is wrong with us, and I include myself in this, when we hear the Word of the living God and remain unchanged? That is how a non-believer is described in James 1:22-25. They hear the Word of God, but it changes nothing about how they live. Where is the delight and the joy it brought the Psalmist of Psalm 119?

We need to return to a love of God's Word, whatever the source. We need to enjoy receiving the Word from sermons, worship songs, books, and most essentially, the Bible itself. If God's Word isn't transforming our conversations, which are small things, how can we expect it to change our lives. Matthew 12:25 tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. If you were to record all of your conversation for just one day, would you be proud of the kind of heart that is reflected in that? I'm not sure I would. We must cry out to God that He restore a love for His Word and that it becomes a treasure again to our souls.

I am so thankful that God is reawakening a love for Him and His Word in my heart through this weekend. I pray that the effects will be long lasting. How wonderful would it be if we were known for having profitable, uplifting, encouraging, challenging, and Biblical conversations. The things of this world that we get so caught up in are passing away. We get so invested in T.V. shows about people we don't know and lifestyles we will never have that those people become our focus. We must shift that focus to the eternal. Speech that is truly edifying is speech that focuses on the everlasting. I pray that for myself as I endeavor to love God more.

Grace and Peace...

New Attitude, so far so AWESOME!!!

These past few days have been spectacular. I have been challenged greatly about my personal view of God's word and am already seeing fruit from these first few sessions. Here are a few highlights

Sessions: We've heard from Josh Harris, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler so far with C.J. Mahaney coming tonight. Josh's message was very challenging in terms of how we receive God's Word. He challenged us to listen, not to the man, but to the Word. It shouldn't matter how the message is being delivered. We should come into the time with a heart and mind focused to receive from God's word whatever He might have for us. I was challenged personally in that area as I was listening to Josh. I wasn't really engaged in his message until he talked about what I just mentioned. After that I took some great notes and really enjoyed what he had to say. Mark was also very encouraging. He spoke about the authority of God's word and spoke to both believers and non-believers, speaking about both the historical evidence for the authenticity of scripture as well as the evidence from the OT, NT, and Christ Himself. I could post all my notes, but I'll just encourage you to listen to the message when you have a chance. I'm sure they'll be available for free in a few days from the New Attitude website.

This morning most of us went down to the Ohio river and spent a good time in Psalm 119, both individually and corporately. Having a quality time in the Word has been something I've always wrestled with. This morning I had such a sweet time in the first three sections. I was really struck by the example of David from verse 20 where he says he is consumed by God's word and in verse 14 where God's words are more precious than riches. I am thankful that God is encouraging my heart to take rest in Him and not to delight in temporal things that are passing away.

The worship has been excellent, and I'm looking forward to bringing back a few new songs. Here are the new ones I've loved so far:
-O Happy Day! by Tim hughes
-Psalm 19 by Terry Butler
-All I Have is Christ by Jordan Kauflin

Well, time to head off for some C.J. Mahaney tonight. I'll post more before bed. Later all, and remember to continue tasting and cherishing God's Word....

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Expelled: A movie review

This past weekend, I had a chance to see the new movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" produced by and starring Ben Stein. This movie has received a lot of negative press, unlike its documentary brothers such as "An Inconvenient Truth". Why is this? One of the main reasons is that it gets to the heart of how we all got here and it challenges the science community's party line of Darwinian evolution. As I watched this film, many of the truths I have already learned from reading and study were echoed by Stein. Other parts gave me a fresh perspective on Darwinian Evolution's implications on our society. Here are a few things that stood out to me.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping: In our country for several decades now, there has been one side of an argument that has been purported as scientific fact, namely, Darwinian Evolution. This system attempts to answer the question, where did life come from? In Darwin's book, the Origin of Species, he writes that we all evolved from a common ancestor through natural selection, with the strong surviving and the week dying off. There is no intelligence involved in the process, just blind chance. Our education system has accepted this and taught this as if it were the only viable explanation. However, as was said by one of the leaders of the Intelligent Design community, there are two possible answers to the question of how we all got here. One is the blind chance of Darwinian evolution, the other is that some Intelligent Designer was involved in the process.

In our society, half of the argument is missing from the conversation. What Ben was getting at, more than almost anything else in the movie, was that we need to be open and honest about the question in this country and not suppress any idea. Richard Dawkins would have us believe that life began on earth by Aliens planting basic genetic material here, but he is completely closed minded to even the possibility of an Intelligent Designer. So, we are to believe in Aliens, but not in God? Is that the answer from the scientific community? It seems like they are willing to entertain any theory, as long as thoughts of an Intelligent Designer, a Creator, or God are left out of it.

Implications of Evolution: As a person who is ethnically Jewish, the images and the ideas that came from the Holocaust were especially impacting for me. The science of Hitler's day had also bought wholly into the idea of Darwinian Evolution and the idea that we are all here by chance. The holocaust came about as a natural progression of that idea. If you believe that the way to better humanity is to have strong humans and dispose of the week (natural selection), then you would have no problem with euthanasia for the sick, handicapped, or elderly who weren't considered strong. Darwin himself compared humans to animals when he spoke of the foolishness of breeding a dog that had a defect. To him, it was an obvious choice to let the weak die off to make way for the strong. The Nazis believed that the Jews, the elderly, the mentally and physically handicapped, and the deformed represented all that needed to be purged from humanity in order to make the whole species stronger. This led to the slaughter of millions in the name of bettering humanity. Now, I agree with those in the film, that not everyone who believes in evolution will become a Hitler. But, you can't have Hitler or Nazi Germany without the foundation of Darwinian Evolution.

This belief cheapens the human life. It reduces it to having no more value than a strain of bacteria or a household pest. Why would a sick human be any different from a sick horse? According to Darwin, there is no difference, and both should be taken care of in the same way. This has led to the justification of the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies in America. Millions are killed each year because people believe that they are just a mass of tissue that is unwanted. There is no belief in the sanctity of life anymore. Our own politicians have forgotten the words of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I strongly believe this as an American and as a member of the human race. It sickens me to think of all the bloodshed that has happened because we have lost sight of our Creator and what He intended for His creatures, whether they are black, white, Jew, Gentile, born, or unborn.

Final Thoughts: I would highly recommend this movie for everyone to see. It has been receiving scathing reviews from the media and the science community. It has them frightened that Ben might accomplish what he set out to do: create a forum for honest discussion about Darwinian Evolution and Intelligent Design. Use this film as a means to talk to your friends about the issues at stake. Read up on Intelligent Design so you know their actual arguments and not just what the evolutionists say about them. Together, we can topple this "Berlin Wall" of our time and open up the scientific community again to the idea of a Creator God.

Romans 1:18-20 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plan to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Enriching our Affections

I recently returned from the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, KY. It was quite an incredible couple of days. Of the many elements that I could write about, I'll focus on one near to my heart, and that is the worship time. Bob Kauflin did a superb job of choosing songs that had particularly good lyrics in relation to the sermon that had just been preached. I think in particular of singing with 5,500 other churchmen and women "And Can it Be". After hearing so many great truths about God breaking the chains of our slavery, it was great to reflect on that in our singing. The singing became more than a repetition of words we all knew; it became a joy-filled time of singing back the truths of scripture to God. That, I believe, is essential to having an effecting time of worship before God.

Too often we worship God with our affections and not with our minds. We sing songs with very repetitious lyrics that are about as deep as a kiddy-pool. Our affections are raised, but not based on anything substantial. On the other side, we can often get bogged down with lyrics and melodies that restrict our worship. Our minds become enriched, but the affection is lost as we try to process too much information. The ideal is to marry both of these in a balanced way. That is what I love about a lot of the old hymns and a lot of what Sovereign Grace puts out from their ministry. The songs take great truths from scripture, often quoting scripture, and join them with melodies that raise the affections in accordance with the truths being sung. As a worship leader myself, I really appreciate being led in a way where I think deeply about God and still worship him deeply in my spirit. I hope we all can regularly enjoy worship in that way.