No Mistaken Identity

September 10, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, It's All About God, Security and Assurance | Leave a comment

We just finished a sermons series called “No Mistaken Identity.”  Each week we took a biblical word that describes who we are, if we trust in Jesus Christ.  We defined those words and studied them in the Bible.  Then each week we read a “major truth” defining who we are.   What follows is all the major truths we read with the passage we studied that day.  I hope this summary is a good reminder for you.

Justification:  By his grace, God has declared me not guilty.  My righteousness is not based on what I do but on what God has done.  Romans 3:21-26

Forgiveness:  By his grace, all my sins against God have been cancelled and will not be held against me.  Colossians 2:13-14

Redemption:  By his grace, I was delivered from the slavery of sin and am free to serve and worship God.  Colossians 1:13-14

Regeneration:  By God’s grace, I am a new creation who has been born again. Titus 3:3-7

Reconciliation:  By his grace, I have an intimate relationship with God and can introduce others to Him.  2 Corinthians 5:17-21

You can listen to the messages here.

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The Plain Language of Scripture

March 21, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, It's All About God, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance, Theology | Leave a comment

I have been preaching through the spiritual blessings we have in Jesus, as they are spelled out in Ephesians 1:3-14.  Throughout the series I have encouraged the congregation to accept the plain words of the Bible even when they are hard to understand or hard to accept.  Because the first two of these blessings are so hard for some to accept, I took time to go through the Bible and show how these two blessings are not stand-alone scriptures but are spelled out clearly in other places.  I wanted to get those notes written out here as well, for future reference.

The first of the six spiritual blessings we have in Jesus is that God chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him.  The second is that we were predestined to adoption as his children.  The language is very clear, and no other translation of the words is really possible.

Below are some other passages of scripture that also teach this doctrine.  I know this is lengthy, but its very length is what adds so much support to the case.  Let the plain truth of God’s Word speak.

Genesis 25:23.  Jacob was chosen over his brother even before they were born.  See also Romans 9:13 quoting Malachi 1:2-3.

Genesis 45:5, 7, 8.  God not only ordains the steps of nations, but also of individuals.  Joseph could say (three times) that God sent him to Egypt.

Jeremiah 1:4-5.  Jeremiah was chosen to be a prophet even before he was born.  Thus the Old Testament shows a pattern of God choosing people before they choose him.

John 6:37, 44.  Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” and “All that the Father gives me will come to me.”

John 17:2. On a related note, Jesus said in his priestly prayer, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”  Coming to Jesus is something we cannot do apart from a work of God in our lives to draw us to him.

John 15:16. Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you . . .”

Acts 9:4, 15.  Paul was God’s chosen instrument long before he accepted the Gospel.  In fact he was hell-bent on destroying the followers of Jesus, yet Jesus said, “He is a chosen instrument of mine.”  So Ananias could say to him, “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth.”  (Acts 22:14)  And that’s why Paul could say God had set him apart before he was born (Galatians 1:15-16)

Acts 2:39. Peter’s Pentecost message ended with these words “The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord God calls to himself.”  Not the other way around, “everyone who calls on the Lord God,” as I so often read it in my earlier years.

Acts 13:48.  After Paul’s first recorded sermon, Luke tells us that “all who were appointed to eternal life believed.”  Again it’s not the other way around — it’s not “all who believed were appointed to eternal life.”

Acts 16:14.  The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to accept the words of Paul.  And so she became the first known convert of the Western Hemisphere.  It took a work of God before she responded

Acts 18:10.  Before they were converts, Jesus spoke of the people in Corinth,  “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’”

2 Thessalonians 2:13.  “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”  God chose you to be saved — pretty clear.  NOTE 1 This is not deliverance from the antichrist, as someone tried to tell me, because he clearly spells out what he means by salvation; it’s sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  Not one word study I checked (five of them) or commentary (seven of those) listed that idea as even a possibility for this passage.  It clearly means spiritual salvation.  NOTE 2 The ESV says “God chose you as the firstfuits,” but it also could be translated “God chose you from the beginning,” (see NIV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, HCSV) which makes the point even more clearly.

2 Timothy 1:9-10.  God “has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”

Revelation 13:8, 17:8.  Who will worship the Beast?  “All who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”  “And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.”  Those who might point out that the Greek of these passages says “from” and not “before” should note that the verbs are perfect tense.  In other words, it doesn’t mean “names that were written since the beginning until now,” but “names that already stood written at the beginning.”  That’s why some translations not incorrectly use “before;” it clarifies the meaning in English.

Revelation 17:14.  I taught this to my New Testament students as the theme verse of Revelation.  “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings — and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

The language of these passages should cause us to worship in awe a God of such incredible grace.  We deserve nothing, but God has chosen us of his grace.

God’s Perspective

December 12, 2018 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When I read some of my scholarly commentaries for sermon preparation, I expect to learn lots of background information and word study knowledge, but sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, when in the midst of that, I also find some profound devotional thoughts.  Here are two from a commentary on Isaiah by Dr. John Oswalt, who, at the time of this writing, was Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

It is not always easy to gain the divine perspective.  Yet, unless we seek it, we are always in danger of paying too much attention to the passing and paying too little attention to the significant.  Furthermore, apart from a diligent search for God’s perspective in every circumstance, we conclude too easily that God is concerned only about spiritual affairs and not about practical matters, a fallacy which leads to the loss of God in all affairs. (NICOT The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39, p. 196)

Once abandon a heartfelt conviction that God does truly care for us and is intimately involved with us, once abandon his perspective for our own, then suddenly decisions which are utterly foolish from his perspective become intelligent and wise. (p. 203)

May God grant us to seek and find the divine perspective in all things.

The Seer Series — Not Christian Fiction

September 25, 2018 at 8:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I have been debating whether or not to say something about these books.  In fact the third volume of the trilogy is overdue at the library while I ponder.  I like reporting on positive books, those that I enjoyed reading.  I tend to skip writing about books whose report from me would be this negative, but these books need a warning.

I discovered that Ted Dekker’s daughter, Rachelle, was writing a series of novels, and that the first one came highly recommended, then I learned that first volume also won a Christy Award.  So I had to read this series called the Seer Trilogy: The Choosing, The Calling, The Returning.

As expected the first book was a really good story, but, by the third novel, I was anxious to get through them as the story seemed to drag on and on.

However, the real problem with the series is not that the story drags, but that the stories are presented as Christian inspirational fiction, but they are more New Age or ancient Gnostic heresy than orthodox.  Salvation is presented in these sci-fi or fantasy novels as knowing who we are.

As Christians it is important that we know who we are in Christ.  We are the righteousness of God; we are forgiven, justified, redeemed, reconciled, regenerated and adopted into God’s family, all because of Jesus.  But apart from Jesus, we are nothing.  These novels present a false gospel that teaches everyone has the light within and just needs to know it.

For example, in the third novel, one character says, “We are here because we are called, as all people are, to discover the truth that lives within us, to acknowledge the heritage we possess, to lay claim to the identity that was given to us.”  (p. 13 emphasis mine)

Then the Messiah figure of the books says this about one of the main evil characters, “He already has the light inside him.  He will see it.  They will all see it.  That is the journey.  Remembering that you belong to the light is all there is.” (p. 345 emphasis mine)

I kept waiting for Aaron, this Messiah figure of Ms Dekker’s, to present Jesus, but that never happened.  As the book went on his teaching sounded more and more like New Age or Gnostic heresy.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know these books are fiction.  I love and read a lot of Christian fiction.  I am not opposed to fictitious worlds having different saviors as long as they illustrate the Gospel of Jesus.  I love Narnia (and Middle Earth too).  But Narnia, as an example, differs from this trilogy in two strikingly different ways.  First, the older books show the Gospel.  Aslan comes to a people who need him to be their Savior.  They can’t save themselves simply by knowing who they are.  This series does not show that Gospel in any way.  Second, the Narnia books are placed in another world, a world where Jesus has not come.  However, Dekker’s trilogy is placed in this world a few centuries into the future.  This world where Jesus has come and where trust in him is the only salvation.  Being saved by a knowledge of who we are apart from him, as though the light were in all of us, denies that Gospel.

I am sorry that this series was published under the Tyndale name.  And I would hope the Christy Award committee is ashamed to have chosen a book whose ultimate end is anything but Christian.

P.S.  If you are interested in a sci-fi adventure series about this world in the future, where Christian truth is presented, check out the Chiveis Trilogy by Bryan Litfin.  I loved those books.

Liberating Ministry: A Book Review

August 30, 2018 at 8:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is success in ministry?  That is the question Kent and Barbara Hughes tried to answer when they were struggling in a ministry that didn’t appear successful in the world’s eyes.  Is success in ministry big numbers of people and dollars, big programs, or is it something else? Their answer to that question became an excellent book called Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.  Though they wrote this over thirty years ago, it seems it’s even more relevant today than it was then.

According to the authors the church has bought into an American prosperity model of success rather than the biblical model, and that has caused untold stress and trouble for people honestly trying to serve Christ.  The book begins with their story.

Barbara knew that when things were going well at church I was OK, but otherwise I was discouraged.  If church attendance was up, I was up; if it was down, so was I. And the numbers had been going down for a long time.  (p. 14)

Years earlier when I began the ministry my motivation was simply too serve Christ. . . .  All I wanted was the approval of God. But imperceptibly my high Christian idealism had shifted from serving to receiving, from giving to getting.  I realized that what I really wanted was a growing church and “success” more than the smile of God. (p. 30)

After what they called “a dark night of the soul” Kent and Barbara Hughes began to ask how success should be defined from a biblical perspective.  The second section of the book is their conclusions. Success, from a biblical point of view, is first faithfulness to what God calls one to do. I couldn’t agree more.  Success is also loving God above all else, a commitment to prayer and seeking God, holiness in one’s personal life, then serving and loving others with a positive attitude.  Amen.

This book is a must read for anyone in or going into ministry.  We must separate ourselves from the American model of success and follow the biblical model.  But it is also a good read for lay people in leadership positions.  The last chapter, “How the Congregation Can Help” is a great description of the stress today’s pastor is under and how you can help.  Hughes’ description (quoting a friend) of the struggle between the emotions and the will concerning the discipline of prayer on pages 78-80 is worth the cost of the book.

One last quote to close with:  The glorious gospel is committed to common, frail human beings — so that the immensity of the power may be seen as God’s and not man’s!  Clearly then, an awareness of one’s weakness, one’s ordinariness, can be an asset in the gospel ministry, for such an awareness may more easily depend upon the power of God.  Conversely, it can be a disadvantage to be extraordinarily gifted, because one can be tempted to rely upon natural gifts to achieve supernatural ends.

A great book.  Happy Reading!

When You Don’t Know What to Pray

July 25, 2018 at 9:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The most profound thought I’ve had from my own sermons of late came from preaching through Romans 8 last year.  A thought that has influenced and encouraged my thinking for over a year now.  After hearing a similar thought in Sunday School this week, and after reading Romans 8 in my devotions the past two days, I was reminded again of these things and wanted to write them down.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.   And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  (Romans 8:26-27  ESV)

First, let me briefly mention what this passage doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t say some people have a prayer language by which they can communicate with God called praying in tongues.  By definition, praying in tongues would be a “language,” but this says the Spirit prays without words.  Second, this doesn’t say we groan in such a “language,” but that the Holy Spirit does, and it never says or implies that he uses our voices.

However, what it does mean is amazing.  The text says the Spirit prays for us “when we do not know what to pray for as we ought.”  I always imagined this to mean those times when the pain is too great or the emotions are so overwhelming, we have no words.  And that certainly applies here.  In those times we are at a loss for words, we don’t know what to pray, but the Spirit intercedes for us, so that words, or lack of them, don’t matter.  The Spirit is before the Father saying, “They don’t have words, but this is what they really need from us, for this is your perfect will.”

But there are many other times this applies.  It applies when life is confusing, when God’s will is just not very clear.  If I approach prayer with a sincere heart of seeking God, then the Spirit stands before the throne of the Father and says, “Father, he is confused about your will, but we know your will, and this is what he needs, so grant him that request.”

This applies to those situations when young Christians or those new to certain church traditions don’t know the “right words,” or the “normal” way to pray in that tradition.  That can be uncomfortable, or even horribly embarrassing.  But if you brave praying in that situation and say the “wrong words,” the Sprit is before the throne saying, “Father, she may have said what sounds to them like the wrong words for the situation, but we know where her heart is, and we know what she really needs.  Grant her that request.”  On a side note, I find when people who don’t know the accepted tradition are willing to pray, it is refreshingly new and encouraging, because it isn’t canned or thoughtless words.  I have to believe that God finds it refreshing too.

Finally, this applies even when we pray for the wrong things!  Certainly that is a time “we don’t know what to pray for as we ought.”  If our heart is right, then we want God’s best and not what we think is best, so we may be asking for Plan A or Plan B, but the Spirit stands before the throne of the Father and says, “Father, he is asking for Plan A or B, but we know your will is Plan C, so answer and give him Plan C.”  In other words, if your desire is to seek God, you cannot pray the wrong things!  Like Jesus, however, our attitude must be “not my will but yours be done.”  Maybe you’ve had times when you asked God for one thing, but he gave you something different that ultimately proved to be much better.  We only pray the wrong things when we ask according to our own lustful passions. (See James 4:3)

I have often heard people pray, “Come, Holy Spirit,” but I believe that is a wrong kind of prayer.  The Spirit already is present with those who trust in Jesus, so he can’t come any more than he already has.  I understand that the heart of that prayer is often that we want to see the movement of God in our midst, but it is the wrong prayer.  (Even in that mistaken prayer, the Holy Spirit goes before the throne to ask the true will of God!)  Instead, we should be praying, “Go, Holy Spirit!  Go before the Father and present our requests according to his will.”

Fifteen Verses Every Christian Should Memorize

June 27, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pastor Glenn, I once saw a list of 10 verses everyone should memorize.  Can you tell me what you might include on such a list?

Dear ________,  Well here it is.  I couldn’t keep it to just 10 though.  I expanded it to 15!  They are listed by some basic categories of which Christians should have a good grasp.

About God

Genesis 1:1

Isaiah 40:28-31

Who Jesus is

John 1:1-4, 14

John 14:6

Human Sinfulness

Romans 3:10-11

The Gospel Message

John 3:16

Ephesians 2:8-9

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

The Bible

2 Peter 1:20-21

Isaiah 40:8

Psalm 119:105

Some Basic Assurances

1 John 5:11-13

1 Corinthians 10:13

Philippians 4:19

Proverbs 3:5-6

The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20

NOTES

There is some overlap in categories: Isaiah 40:31 is a great Basic Assurance verse, but it is based on who God is as stated in verses 28-30; In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says, “All authority has been given unto me,” a strong statement about who he is, but it is followed by the most memorable version of the Great Commission; 1 John 5:11-13 could just as well be listed as a Gospel Message verse, but because we are told we can know for certain, it fits better as a Basic Assurance.

Most people would list Romans 3:23 as a verse for Human Sinfulness, but it isn’t a complete sentence. Verses 10-11, quoting Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, is a complete sentence and a stronger message.  If you prefer memorizing 3:23 be sure to include v.24 as well.

Most people would probably use 2 Timothy 3:16-17 for a verse about the Bible being inspired. I’m OK with that too. I chose 2 Peter 1:20-21 because, Timothy only states that God’s word is inspired, but Peter, though he doesn’t use the word “inspiration,” tells us clearly what inspiration is and what it isn’t.

If you are at a stage where 15 verses seems overwhelming, start with a goal of memorizing one verse in each of the categories, the add the others later.

I’m open to whatever suggestions others may have to change or add to this list.

A Question About Calvinism

August 17, 2017 at 8:10 am | Posted in It's All About God, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Theology | Leave a comment

I work with a college ministry called Campus Ventures, and occasionally get questions of a theological nature from the staff there.  I got a question yesterday, and the following text conversation ensued.   I wanted to keep the wording, and thought it would be appropriate to post here.

Glenn, what’s your take on the Five Solas of the Reformation?  We have a volunteer staff that is from a Reformed background wanting to do a Bible study on this.  Any chance this can twist off into Calvinism?  Doesn’t seem like it, but I wanted your thoughts about both questions.

The authority of the scriptures alone.  Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.  To me that’s just good solid Christian doctrine.  The real Gospel.  Yes there are some areas you can get off into Calvinism, especially grace and glory.  Personally, I have trouble with the Arminian doctrine actually expressing those five things in truth.  But that shows my own bias in the matter.

Thanks, Glenn.  I couldn’t see any problem with it either, but there has been such a problem of late with people here going off the deep end with Calvinism, I wanted to make sure before getting back to him.

The true heart of Calvinism is the glory of God in all things, unfortunately too many people who call themselves Calvinists emphasize things in such a way that they give the glory to themselves. They’re the ones who know it all.
They’re proud to be the elect, but that misunderstands the whole point!

Wow!  That is good stuff, Glenn.  Thanks for sharing that with me.

I would add here that Calvinism correctly understood should make us fully aware that we are very sinful people; that we are separated from God; that we can do nothing about our situation; that our salvation is completely the work of God; that even our good deeds after salvation are God working through us; that it is ultimately all about God.  That should promote humility.

Note how much of what I said in the last paragraph is expressed in this famous passage:  “By grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works that no one should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Forgive me, God, when I am proud of what I know or of what I think are my own accomplishments.

Great Preaching Has Little to do with the Size of Our Talent

July 5, 2017 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Here are some encouraging words I read today.  I must trust God and not self or gifts or talents.

The centerpiece of pastoring is typically identified with preaching.  It’s the church activity that garners the largest audience, evokes the highest praise, and fuels the hottest critiques.

Preaching God’s word has always been important to the Father — He called us to it, provided the material for it, empowers us in it, and holds us accountable with it.  Maybe that’s why the word preacher, and other forms of the word, appear 150 times in scripture.  That’s even more than church and hell combined.

To the average congregant, the standard yardstick for measuring good preaching is whether or not it comes with flair or charisma — can the preacher keep a crowd interested, or awake, or entertained?  Another benchmark is response — when fishing for men, can the preacher fill up the net?

But those can’t be true measurements of success  .  .  .  Great preaching, it would appear, has little to do with the size of our talent and everything to do with the size of our God.  Proclaiming His word is not a show and tell for a man or his gift.  True preaching is simply the spoken word opening the written word to proclaim the Incarnate Word.

— from Ron Walters, Senior Vice President Ministry Relations, Salem Media Group, July 2017 Pastor’s Letter.

The entire article can be found here

Slow Down and Enjoy Life!

June 14, 2017 at 9:46 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Prayer | 1 Comment

I’ve often said that as Americans we are way too busy.  It only seems to get worse as time goes on.  Each time saving device we add to our collection only serves to make us busier, as we try to accomplish more and more.  I read the following today, and thought it was worth the time to share.  It’s  from an interview with Jennie Allen, author of Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard

I think most of us are running on this treadmill that we don’t even realize is happening, we don’t even realize it’s turned on.

We’re just running every day.  I think we notice it most when we’re still, but the problem is even when we’re still, we have a phone pinging us or even just distracting us and causing us to check out rather than self-diagnose or self analyze what’s happening.

.  .  .  even when I was alone with God or just alone, I was performing and executing things that I needed to get done.  So because my job is largely talking about God and teaching and writing, whenever I was alone with God I was getting the next thing ready that I was going to deliver rather than actually just enjoying his presence.

So I think what’s happened is everything has become a performance or something to achieve rather than something to enjoy.  .  .  .  I feel like as Americans and as young people today that we’re all trying to prove ourselves and we’re exhausted and we’re actually not enjoying the best parts of life.

The entire article can be read here.

Slow down!  Take some time to enjoy God and family.  It’s healthy physically, mentally and spiritually!

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