Monthly Archives: July 2013

I wish my brain would just ignore my heart

What I believe with my mind and with my heart often seem to be two different things. I know from Scripture that God can save absolutely anyone he chooses to save. No one’s sin is so great that they cannot be forgiven through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah wrote:

Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save (Isaiah 59:1).

Yet, my heart often tries to convince me that the sinful world I live in cannot experience revival. That God cannot reach this nation. That this God-hating, sin worshiping, immoral world is beyond the reach of the Gospel. That there is no hope of revival in America any longer.

But these thoughts of mine are sinful. Wickedly sinful! It is a reminder that my “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). That I could doubt, even for second, the ability of God to move in the hearts of people and save them is wickedly sinful…and arrogant.

Yes, this nation is truly full of God-hating, sin worshiping, immoral people—like I once was. And if God can save me, then he can save them too.

This past weekend at church, we had an uplifting report given by missionaries who serve primarily Iranian refugees living in Turkey. The missionaries reported on the miraculous work the Holy Spirit is doing among the Muslim world in bringing people to saving faith in Christ Jesus through the preaching of the Gospel. This report was both encouraging and convicting. Encouraging to see what great things God continues to do in this world. Convicting because I regularly doubt his ability to do so.

Forgive me Lord God for thinking that your arm is too short to save. Thank you Lord God for continuing to work despite my unbelief. “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

Comments Off on I wish my brain would just ignore my heart

Filed under Salvation

All the saints greet you – 2 Corinthians 13:13

This past Sunday, my dear friend, Paul, and his beautiful family were visiting our church (and which used to be their church before he headed off to seminary). Paul read Scripture during our service and opened by bringing greetings from the congregation he now serves in Wisconsin to our congregation in Idaho. A decade ago I probably would have thought, “That’s nice,” and promptly forgot about it.

But as the world around me continues to become more hostile to the Christian faith and the proclamation of its life-giving truths, I become more and more comforted by hearing greetings from these other saints. Even these saints I have never met and likely will only meet in the presence of our Lord.

Similar greetings were recorded in the New Testament:

All the saints greet you (2 Corinthians 13:13).

Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you.
All the saints greet you (Philippians 4:21-22).

Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings (Hebrews 13:24).

In the early Christian church, the persecution was real and far worse than what I see around me today. So, I would imagine that these simple greetings were of great comfort and encouragement to them.

As we see apostasy and heresy abound, it is easy to lament that, like Elijah, we fell isolated and alone :

For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away (1 Kings 19:14).

These greetings from the saints are little reminders that God is preserving his remnant and we are most certainly not alone.

Comments Off on All the saints greet you – 2 Corinthians 13:13

Filed under Christian Life

Dental floss for the brain

I think strange things at strange times. Take last night as an example. While flossing my teeth I was reminded how much stuff remains hidden between my teeth even after brushing. (Disgusting, I know. Sorry). Now, if I never flossed I could be blissfully ignorant of these hidden, and rather disgusting, dangers lurking inside.

This made me think of the many Christians whose lack of interest in studying Scripture in-depth is akin to not wanting to floss. A quick, surface level understanding of the faith based upon a 20 minute sermon every other week seems more than fine to them. Maybe read a bit of the four Gospels every once in a while, but examining the rest of the Bible is not important. This immaturity in the faith can presents dangers when trials and tribulations occur. Their blissful ignorance of the faith, of the real Jesus, and of the blessed promises we have in Scripture led them susceptible to all types of spiritual disease. The apostle Paul addressed a similar problem:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).

These Christians at the church in Corinth had a childish faith; which is vastly different from a child-like faith. They had never progressed beyond a simple understanding, and it was now leading to problems.

So, spend some time today flossing your teeth. And spend some time today studying God’s Word to insure you do not have some false doctrines festering in the recesses of your mind.

 

Comments Off on Dental floss for the brain

Filed under Christian Life

A billboard in Boise – Luke 2:8-11

While driving home from work Monday on Interstate 84 in Boise, I noticed the billboard proclaiming “It’s a boy!” Someone had decided that it was worth announcing in Boise, Idaho that a baby boy had been born roughly 4850 miles (7800 km) away. Potentially, this unnamed baby boy will one day be the king of England which really has zero impact on us here in Idaho. Yet, it was deemed worthy of a billboard yesterday and received coverage on every major website, radio and TV station as well.

This got me thinking about the birth of another baby king that occurred about 6900 miles (11100 km) away from Boise. No billboards, no TV reporters, no Internet news coverage. A few lucky shepherds got to experience the most awesome baby announcement ever, but otherwise the rest of the world was clueless.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  (Luke 2:8-11).

However, there was no doubt that this baby would grow up to one day rule on the throne forever, because it had been ordained by God:

And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:32-33).

And the name of this baby and his purpose in life had been decided even before his birth:

You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

In a few weeks, the buzz around this newest royal baby will die down. Sure, his pictures will appear sporadically in the tabloids. And, yes, perhaps someday he will sit on a throne. But, then he too will perish.

All the while Jesus will continue to rule from his throne. Jesus will continue to save people from their sins. That is the good news that should get daily coverage on billboards in Boise, Idaho.

Comments Off on A billboard in Boise – Luke 2:8-11

Filed under Jesus

You are not Elijah (and neither am I) – 1 Kings 19:11-13

As Christians, we should always desire to use the same measures when examining teachings from inside our own denominations as we do from others outside. Today, I want to review part of a recent article from a magazine published by the denomination of which I am a member. The article, unfortunately, promoted extra-Biblical revelation and undermined the sufficiency of Scripture.

The beginning of the article was encouraging to me when it stated “God has always wanted us to know him. He reveals himself through his Word.” If the article had stopped there, everything would have been fine. Unfortunately, that same article later undermined the sufficiency of God’s Holy Word by claiming that God speaks new revelation to us outside of his Word through “a still small voice.” Here is an excerpt from the article in which we see the non-Biblical teaching:

God has also changed how I understand prayer, teaching me that I need to be a better listener. He tells us to pray, for everything, and to not be anxious, and like any father, he loves when we run to him for help. Sometimes I empty my heart and mind of my concerns, but then I run off before he can speak. I am learning to intentionally listen, for there are times his Spirit answers in a still small voice. There are times when he prompts me to act, or to speak, or to be silent, in order to see his answer. I just have to stop and pay attention. (Time Together, Faith & Fellowship, July 2013).

The idea of God speaking to us through “a still small voice” has become a common misconception in recent years and is contrary to the teachings of Scripture. The false teaching of the “still small voice” comes to us from a misapplication of a passage from 1 Kings 19:11-13:

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:11-13, King James Version).

This passage is a description of the life of the prophet Elijah. It is not prescriptive of how God will talk with us today. A couple of verses prior to this, an angel brought food to Elijah that sustained him for a 40-day journey. Yet, no one claims this passage about angels bring us super-food is prescriptive for how God will work in our lives today. Likewise, we cannot use this passage of the still small voice as a prescription for how God will work today. Furthermore, the voice Elijah heard was quiet, but it was still audible. It was not a voice that Elijah was hearing inside himself.

So, the idea that God will speak to us through a still small voice is not Biblical and has not been a part of Christian beliefs through the centuries. Only in very recent times has this idea crept into our churches. It has, unfortunately, become all too common and popular recently as evidenced by best-selling heretical books like “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. We cannot trust our feelings, our inner voices, or our heart because:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9).

We must always remember that God continues to speak to us through his Word and only through his Word. It is by study of his Word that we know God and know how we are protected from our own sinful thoughts and the feelings of our hearts:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The Bible does not teach us that God will speak to us through our prayers if we “intentionally listen.” The Bible does not teach that I need to “empty my heart and mind of my concerns” to hear God speak. Rather, the Bible teaches us that Scripture is sufficient to prepare us for every good work and therefore we do not need any additional revelation from God:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We Christians need to be vigilant in defending both the authority and the sufficiency of Scripture within this fallen world. We cannot be promoting the false doctrine of extra-Biblical revelation. And, we must judge the error within our own walls with the same measures we use to judge errors on the outside.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Prophecy

Whatever God does endures forever – Ecclesiastes 3:14

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

I first began writing posts regularly on Facebook nearly 2 years ago. Then earlier this year I started writing on this blog 4-5 times per week as it provides a better forum for longer posts.  The act of regular writing gives a weird sense of the days rushing at you and then passing on by. Each post is fleeting; perhaps read by a handful of people and then forgotten. Sure, it can be conjured up again by the magic of a search engine, but why bother? These words have some sense of permanence, but they are basically vapor. I could go back and re-read old posts and probably find typos and better ways to word things, but again, why bother?

On the other hand, the works of God are not only permanent, they are also perfect. There is no reason for God to go back and make changes to his creative works. It is a reminder of the vast chasm that separates us creatures from our Creator. It is a reminder that God should be feared because he is awesome even beyond our wildest imaginations. He is the holy, infinite, perfect, transcendent God. I am none of those things and neither are you. Our works will not endure. Our works could be added to and taken from and most often be vastly improved. We are not God and for that I am thankful. Only he is worthy of our praise and our worship.

Comments Off on Whatever God does endures forever – Ecclesiastes 3:14

Filed under God

Masters of disguise – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

I know I should not be surprised when I see it happening over and over again. Scripture warns us that false teachers, false apostles, and Satan will disguise themselves:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Still, when false religions go to great lengths to appear Christian to the outside world and hide their objectionable doctrines, it still never fails to shock me. Apparently I am just slow to learn.

For example, the LDS (Mormon) Church goes to great pains these days to appear to be just another denomination of Christianity. They try to avoid talking in public about their clearly heretical teachings, but embrace them within their own walls. The missionaries that arrive at your door are not likely to proudly proclaim their belief that they can one day be gods. Yet, when their leaders speak and write to their members, they trumpet these teachings with great joy:

How fortunate you are to be aware of the Restoration of the gospel! You know there was a premortal existence in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. You were schooled and tested. You learned of the laws that would allow you to progress and advance. You followed those laws, and thus you were entitled to come to earth, placing you on a course leading to exaltation, dominion, and godhood (Keith Hilbig, Ensign Magazine, July 2013).

This is from the current edition of the magazine the LDS church uses to communicate with its members. The article is excerpted from a speech he gave to students at BYU-Idaho. In it, the LDS leader discusses how fortunate they are to know about several non-Christian teachings that are mislabeled as “gospel”:

  • The premortal existence of people as spirits before their birth
  • That following laws in this premortal existence are what allowed the spirits to get human bodies
  • That by continuing to follow laws, people can progress and advance to become gods themselves.

And all these non-Christian teachings come from only a single paragraph. But, they tend to downplay these more radical teachings as they masquerade as angels of light.

Therefore, we cannot be lazy as Christians. We must know our own faith well and ask lots of questions about the faiths of others. We must always remember that the false teachers, false apostles and even false christs will try to lead us astray by hiding behind a facade of Christianity. We must be disciples (students) of Jesus Christ and know our Bibles so we can recognize the lies when they come.

Also, we Christians must be careful not to do the same things. We should never preach a different message outside our church walls from the one we share inside the walls on a Sunday morning. We can never mislead people by trying to get them to try on a diluted version of the Christian faith in hopes they will attend our church. We want to bring them to saving faith in Jesus Christ, not make them members of our congregation.

Comments Off on Masters of disguise – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

Filed under False Religions

The fear of man – Proverbs 29:25

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe (Proverbs 29:25).

This is an easy verse to believe in our heads as we sit alone at a computer. It is a much harder verse to believe with our heart and soul when we find ourselves in the presence of others. Lord, help our unbelief!

Comments Off on The fear of man – Proverbs 29:25

Filed under Scripture

The ditch on the left and the right – Ephesians 2:8-10

As humans, we have a tendency to go to extremes in either one direction or the other. And, as I seem to recall reading in a quote from Jonathan Edwards, Satan likes to push us hard toward those extremes. Satan does not care which ditch we end up in, just that we end up in a ditch.

We can see this problem when looking at two sets of Scripture versus. In the first passage we have:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Awesome, excellent, reassuring words. The danger here is that we can fall on the side of cheap grace and think we can go on sinning so that God’s grace can abound. By no means! (Romans 6:1-2).

On the other side we have this passage:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We can focus on this verse and zero in on the good works we are doing and believe they are at least a part of the reason God loves us and saves us. Crash! Now we are in the opposite ditch and Satan can again rejoice.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit put these 2 passages right next to each other AND in the perfect order. As many of you likely noticed, these verses are taken from one continuous passage:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

What comes first? Saved by grace through faith. What does it deny? Being saved by your works. What comes last and after you are saved? The reminder that you were created to go do the good works God has prepared. Perfect balance and perfect order. If we can can keep the whole passage in focus, we can avoid those nasty ditches on both sides no matter which way Satan tries to push.

5 Comments

Filed under Christian Life, Salvation

Forever fixed in the heavens – Psalm 119:89-91

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants (Psalm 119:89-91).

What an amazing comfort it is to know that God’s word is firmly and forever fixed. It is so much more comforting to rest on the sure and unchanging promises of God than to look for new and changing words. The false prophets come and go. Their words are unclear, contradictory, shifting sand. But God’s word is unmoved because it is based upon his unchanging character.

It is by his word that I can trust that his faithfulness will endure forever. Because all things were created and are sustained by his word, I can know that he has ordained all things and that all things serve his sovereign purpose. God and his word are the bedrock of my faith and my protection from the evil of this world.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:2-3).

Comments Off on Forever fixed in the heavens – Psalm 119:89-91

Filed under God, Scripture