Monthly Archives: August 2013

In honor of Labor Day weekend

farmerThe Bible is very clear that God has, from the very beginning, designed us for work:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15).

It will be interesting to see one day what “work” is like in a world that is not touched by the effects of sin, but in the meantime we are left to suffer those consequences:

Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground (Gen 3:17-19).

Despite these hardships, we are still commanded to work. In both the Old and New Testaments the Bible clearly condemns those who are unwilling to work:

The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor (Proverbs 21:25).

If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:11)

So, if you happen to get an extra long weekend from your work this weekend, praise God! And, when you go back to work on Tuesday, praise God! I will do the best to take my own advice.

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The destruction of waterless clouds – Jude 1:12-13

I am again today thinking about lightning. We usually associate lightning with rain storms. However, the majority of the thunderstorms that have swept through our valley this summer have been devoid of rain. While the massive thunderclouds and lightning can certainly capture your attention, they do not bring any of the life-giving rain our drought stricken region could certainly use. Even worse, these waterless lightning storms have caused massive destruction by starting countless wildfires; some burn only a few acres but others burn millions of acres.

fireIn the book of Jude, false teachers are compared to many natural events including waterless clouds:

These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever (Jude 1:12-13).

Like these summer lightning storms, false teachers may make a lot of noise and get a lot of attention, but they only bring destruction. These false teachers may use the name of Christ to  fill stadiums or gather TV audiences, but they are waterless clouds sowing destruction in their path. While their judgment is assured, I hope that you have not been caught up in that path of destruction.

And, do not fooled. Even very small churches can be led astray be false teachers. Just as those lightning storms cause both small and large fires, so to do false teachers lead astray both small and large congregations.

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The heavens declare – Psalm 50:6

I love lightning. Driving in to work last week, I was treated to an awesome lightning display on the eastern horizon. The contrast of the soft, early morning light with the dark clouds and the lightning made for a spectacular view which reminded me, naturally, of Psalm 19:1:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19:1).

My little children currently do not share my love for lightning. Every thunder-clap brings them frantically scurrying inside in fear. The same lightning which makes me joyful causes them great fear.

The heavens above declare the glory of God. Amen! But, the Bible also tells us that the heavens should be a reminder to us that God is a righteous judge:

The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! (Psalm 50:6).

lightening2All of us will one day stand before that judge. Just as the same lightning causes two vastly different reactions between my children and me, there will be two reactions on the day of judgment. Those who are in Christ Jesus will rejoice in the great salvation provided by our glorious God. Those who are not will try to hide in fear and wish that the mountains could fall upon them and hide them from the face of God and his wrath (Revelation 6:16-17).

So, the next time you see lightning in the sky, I hope you think of the coming judgment of God. You do not know when or where it will strike in your life, but it is coming. Are you ready?

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Salvation in no one else – Acts 4:11-12

crossMost Christians are familiar with the passage in Acts 4:11-12 in which we are told that Jesus is the only way we can be saved:

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:11-12).

It is interesting that the Old Testament records a passage written about 700 years prior to Jesus in which we are taught that the LORD (literally Yahweh) is our only Savior:

You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior (Isaiah 43:10-11).

Sine we know that Jesus is also fully God, these passages are easy to harmonize. It is also a great reminder that God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people has never changed. The depth of the revelation culminated in the coming of Christ Jesus, but the plan was clear from the beginning.

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Jesus came to respond to the universal human need to…

DCF 1.0A couple of summers ago I did some research on a small-town, rural Idaho pastor for some friends. He turned out to be an absolute heretic. Last week, I made the mistake of listening to a new sermon by this pastor. Why? It must be similar to our seemingly natural response to look at a car crash. It did not take long for this pastor to remind me of why he is a heretic when he stated:

It is the singular most important issue that Jesus came to address…

OK. I will pause here and let you think about how you would finish his sentence. What was the most important issue Jesus came to address? Think…think…think…

Do you have an answer yet? Is that your final answer? OK, are you sure you want to see this pastor’s answer? Maybe you should look away? No? OK, here is his answer:

Jesus came to respond to the universal human need to know how to live well.

car_crash_2That was not a minor fender-bender, but an absolute, unmitigated disaster: “the universal human need to know how to live well.” Really? He spent a week of sermon prep and came up with that? God had told us how to live well about 1500 years before Jesus came. You may not have heard of these guidelines, but they were called the Ten Commandments. We could all live exceptionally well if we just followed that simple 10 step program. In fact, Jesus even confirmed those rules as words to live by.

There is only one teensy, weensy little problem. We cannot live by them. Not you. Not me. No my Roman Catholic friends, not Mary either. Only Jesus. That law is what convicts us, condemns us, and leads us to Christ Jesus that we may be saved by faith:

But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:22-24).

Unlike the law-based gospel preached by this heretic, Jesus came not to tell or show us how to live well, but to respond to the universal human need to have our sins forgiven. We do not need more rules or excellent moral examples. We cannot keep the rules God had given long before Jesus arrived. We need a Savior. Jesus was and is that Savior:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

If you church is teaching anything remotely like the message given by this pastor I listened to—RUN!

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Everything in subjection to him – Hebrews 2:7-8

Throne and footstoolOccasionally…OK…quite regularly, it is helpful to go back to Scripture and be reminded that God really is the sovereign king. That Jesus really is in control of every little bit of this broken, sinful, messed up world:

You made him [Jesus] for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet. Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him (Hebrews 2:7-8).

I sometimes, quite selfishly, desire that Jesus would come again immediately. Then, I think of so many friends and family that are not saved. Friends and family that, if Jesus came today, would only experience his eternal judgment and not his eternal grace and love. And, I can only be thankful that Jesus continues to be patient with them as he was patient with me.

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The War of Words – Ephesians 6:12

LudditesI saw an online article 12 Phrases Progressives Need To Ditch (And What We Can Say Instead). Go read the article only if you want to bemoan the coming fall of Western civilization (don’t say I did not warn you!). The article is a shining example of how the battle of ideas in the Western world is being fought at the level of the words and phrases. Even the idea that these people self-label as “progressive” is part of that battle. Because if you are not progressive, then you must be a Luddite who is against “progress.”  Now, I could break down the full article, but will instead select a few low-lights from these “progressives” who appear to be taking over our country.

Low-light #1 from the article:

(7). Homophobic: People who oppose equal rights for gays, lesbians, and gender atypical individuals are not “afraid,” as the “phobic” suffix implies. They are mean, bigoted [profanity]. Instead, try: Anti-Gay.

I am so glad that these “progressives” are not mean or bigoted themselves, but are rather quite tolerant of all ideas which may include personal religious expression. What an encouragement that is to me that they will support my right to free speech in  the future. <end sarcasm>. At least they got the first part right. The overwhelming majority of people who believe homosexuality is a sin or merely bad for a society are not afraid of homosexuals. Now, the whole idea of “gender atypical” is ridiculous. For thousands of years everyone has been able easily recognize that people are either boys or girls, but somehow now we are incapable of understanding simple concepts of biology. So much for us evolving into more intelligent life forms.

Low-light #2 from the article:

(9). Pro-Life: Ugh. They are NOT pro-life. Once a child takes its first breath, these supposed conservative “pro-lifers” couldn’t care less about the quality of life for the child or mother. Let’s call them by their true name for once. Instead, try: Anti-Choice. Because, that’s what they really are about. They don’t care about “life.” They only seek to deny choices to women. Not just the choice of whether or not to have a child, but whether a woman can — like a man — embrace her full sexuality without having to worry about pregnancy, and whether she can make related choices about her body, her career, and when to have children, as men always have.

1984Now, it easy to throw around accusations claiming that pro-life individuals “couldn’t care less about the quality of life for the child or mother,” but they have no data to support this. However, it is clear from this paragraph that they are really “pro-promiscuity.” One of the saddest parts of this commentary (other than the rejoicing in the killing of babies) is that it holds up promiscuity and the shirking of family duties among men as something to be desired also by women. Perhaps we should just call these people selfish.
From these examples we see that this is a battle of ideas through the intentional manipulation of words and phrases (as presciently described by George Orwell in 1984). And, this is a battle that is waged not only among men and women, but by “the cosmic powers over this present darkness and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

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Jesus is Lord and God – Jude 1:5

The little book of Jude packs quite a wallop into its 25 verses. While most of it is focused on calling out false teachers, there was one little word that really caught my eye when looking through it this week:

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe (ESV, Jude 1:5).

Can you guess which word it is? I know that every preschooler at church would guess the word because they shout it out as the answer to 90% of all questions – JESUS! Take a look at that verse above again. We usually do not think of Jesus being the one leading the people out of Egypt a few thousand years before his birth. But, Jesus himself affirmed his existence prior to that event:

Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)

ClockNow, depending upon your translation of the Bible, you may have either “Lord” or “God” in place of “Jesus” in Jude 1:5 as there are ancient textual variants on this verse. The modern translators have to decide which ancient version is most likely the original. But, ultimately it does not matter much since we Christians, like Thomas before us, proudly declare Jesus to be both our Lord and our God:

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

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Blinded by science

I receive a monthly magazine that covers advancements in the fields of electrical and computer engineering. Regularly there are articles which discuss how engineers are trying to design systems that mimic the amazing capabilities that are found in nature. Now, the irony is that the articles always describe humans designing these systems using their own intelligence to imitate things in nature that (according to them) were definitely not designed but came about by a completely non-intelligent evolutionary process. Hmmmm.

Internet router

This month’s article was about how engineers were trying to design a better Internet by copying the human autonomic nervous system that merely “controls breathing, digestion, blood circulation, body heat, the killing of pathogens, and many other bodily functions.” So the system that does all of those things came about without any design or intelligence, but our best minds are having a hard time copying the idea simply to move data around. Right.

This only reminds me of Romans 1:19:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

Now, I am not pointing fingers. I grew up immersed in the secular science world of our public school systems and supplemented it by rabidly reading Discover and National Geographic at home. The evidence that all of creation was designed by the superior intellect of God was plainly staring me in the face, but I did not believe. It is only because God chose in his time and for his purposes to regenerate me and remove the scales from my eyes that I can see these things now. Thanks be to God.

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Who are you fooling? – Luke 12:2

Last week I was out walking around my neighborhood with my little kids while they rode their bikes. At one clearing I could see to the next street where two police officers were walking a young man to their patrol car. The young man’s two arms were pulled awkwardly behind him with a shirt hanging between his two hands. Now, the shirt prevented me from seeing the handcuffs, but clearly he was being led away in handcuffs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow trying to cover up that fact you are being arrested by draping a shirt over your handcuffs would be as futile as trying to hide our sins from the Lord. Imagine that young man thinking, “Well, I am so glad the neighbors cannot see the handcuffs so they will not think I am being arrested. This t-shirt sure saved the day!  They probably will not even notice that these nice officers are stuffing  me into backseat of their patrol car with my hands behind my back.” Ridiculous, right.

Similarly, Jesus addressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in Luke 2 trying to hide their sins from God. These Pharisees tried to make everything look good on the outside, but were inwardly full of sin. But, Jesus could easily see past the outward covering and warned:

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:2-3).

Your secret sins and my secret sins may be hidden from the neighbors, but God sees them all. Even the ones that never escape our hearts and our minds.

Now, for those who are in Christ Jesus, that is actually good news. All of my sins are forgiven. None of them will be a surprise to God on the day of my judgment. All my sins were nailed to that cross and all my sins are forgiven:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).

So, the question is not whether or not God can see your sin. The question is, will you be judged on account of them? Or will you be forgiven despite them because you have repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness?

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