The King!

June 26, 2009 at 8:47 am | Posted in Wisdom | Leave a comment

                I woke up to the news that Michael Jackson died last night.  He and I were the same age, so I grew up with him in some respects.  In my lifetime I remember my dog “King” dying; I remember the “King of Rock and Roll” dying, “The King of the Blues” died a few years ago; and now I see the “King of Pop” is dead.  Through it all the King of Kings lives on!

                Doubtless, there will be many accolades over the next few days about the greatness of this singer.  He has been around for a long time.  When we were kids, I saw a Jackson Brothers record that included their baby brother Michael.  He was a hit even then, and I was amazed that somebody my age could already be famous.  He recorded the biggest selling album of all time.  He has prospered through every type of electric music media, from vinyl to i-tunes.  (Since I wrote this just a few hours ago, I’ve already heard reference to the greatest entertainer ever.)  But I, for one, am not buying into his greatness, as abundantly talented as he may have been.  He was finite, just like the rest of us; he was a sinner, just like the rest of us – except that many of his sins were on display for the world.  Only one King is great!

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A God-first Mindset

June 24, 2009 at 9:27 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology, It's All About God | Leave a comment

          The other day I was pondering the destruction expressed by the trumpets of God’s wrath in Revelation 8.  When John saw the trumpets blown, a third of the earth was burned, along with a third of the trees and all of the grass; a third of the sea was destroyed with the creatures in it; a third of the water on earth became bitter and many died from drinking it; a third of the sun, moon and stars were darkened.  To people raised in an “earth-first” environmental mindset, this sounds wasteful.  But God created the universe, so it is his to do with as he pleases.  When it has served its purpose as is, God will destroy it for his greater glory.  This earth is not about environmentalism or humanism, as good as those causes might be; this earth, and the universe it is in, is all about the glory of God!  Rather than an “earth-first” mindset, we should instead have a “God-first” mindset.  The heavens declare the glory of God.

          On a related note, I see another place where the literal blow-by-blow interpretation of Revelation advocated by Dispensationalists contradicts itself.  In the first trumpet, all of the grass on earth is burned up; but in the fifth trumpet, the locusts were told not to harm the grass of the earth!  Again, we should read Revelation as “repetitions on a theme” and not as a blow-by-blow account of the end times.  For more of my thoughts on this matter, check out the other entries under the eschatology catagory.

Our Great God and Savior

June 18, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Posted in English Bible Translations, False teaching, Theology | Leave a comment

                Who’s the savior in Titus?  The OT prophet proclaims “I, even I, am the LORD (Yahweh), and apart from me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:11)  When Paul wrote this letter to Titus, he would have had an understanding that there was no savior other than Yahweh God.  Yet once in each chapter he applies the title to God and to Jesus.  Note the introduction of the book:  God “brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.”  And just one line later, “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” (1:3-4)  Then in the second chapter, slaves should be subject to their masters, so that “in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”  And just a few sentences later, “we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2:10-13)  And finally in the third chapter, Paul puts in this marvelous statement about grace:  “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (3:4-6)

                Could there be a stronger statement of the deity of Jesus?  God is our savior; Jesus is our savior; and each said three times.  In fact, Jesus is our great God and savior!  Paul wasn’t confused; he knew exactly what he was saying, and only the Trinity doctrine explains it without contradiction.  By the way, with this line of reasoning, one can prove the deity of Jesus even in the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – a bible translation (not a Bible!) which goes to great length to remove any reference to Jesus’ diety.  Though they change the wording of “our great God and savior,” the argument still holds.  This is such a compelling statement of deity that even that translation couldn’t get it out!

Three Views of God’s Will — revisited

June 16, 2009 at 9:27 am | Posted in Marriage, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Wisdom | 1 Comment

My wife and I help with our daughter’s swim team the first few weeks of each summer, so we’ve been in the water with the kids every day; that has shortened my available time considerably.  As a result, blogging has been slow.  However, I’ve had plenty of thoughts to write about, so hopefully I will get caught up on those over the next few weeks.  I want to start with an e-mail I received concerning the previous post called “Three Views of God’s Will.”  Here is a part of the e-mail:  “I found this blog interesting.  However, I kept thinking, or wishing you had continued using the same example through out the three beliefs of God’s will, i.e. the wrong marriage partner or perhaps the wrong profession.”

Maybe that would have helped to explain things.  So here’s a shot at it using the marriage theme:

Those who believe exclusively in the “Narrow Bridge” view must believe that there is one person, and only one person, for them to marry, and if they marry the wrong one, they will be out of God’s will, as long as they are married to that person.  Of course, to any who take the scriptures seriously, divorce is not in God’s will either, so they are stuck with two options, both of which show the absurdity of this view.  Either both spouses are outside of God’s will for years – until they are parted by death.  Or they can get back into God’s will by divorcing and marrying the right person.  Although I’ve heard that latter option as an excuse to divorce and remarry, a moment’s reflection reveals it is believing that two wrongs make a right. Both of these choices deny the sovereign grace of God, by which he is able to make any marriage beautiful, even if it began in sin.  Besides that, Satan can use this thought to keep many people from serving God, making them believe they’ve already missed His will so they need not bother with serving him any longer.  I’ve heard that excuse too many times also!

Those who take the “Wisdom within Boundaries” view have to believe the only wrong marriage is one with an unbeliever.  God frees you to marry anyone who is a follower of Jesus.  If you have married an unbeliever, the boundaries set by God’s word would require you to stay in that marriage and pursue godly wisdom, character and relationship within it.  However, if the unbelieving partner were to leave the marriage, that gives the believing partner grounds for divorce (1 Cor 7:12-16).  In other words, one can admit that he has wandered out side God’s boundaries, but determine to stay within them from this day forward.  In the case of marriage to an unbeliever, I find this view much closer to the truth.

Those who believe the “In Step” view, might believe that God has a specific partner for them, but were they to misstep and marry someone else, the relationship with God would not be hurt, and God would still graciously lead that marriage to where he wants it to be.  He has a marvelous way of creating beauty where sin exists!  We can walk with that confidence, even after we do wrong.

I had a friend whose wife left him for another man with whom she was having an affair.  All three claimed to be believers, as did the second man’s wife who was also left alone.  Both cheating partners used the excuse that they’d married the wrong person.  I wonder how long it took them to realize the second partner was the wrong person also!  Anyway, my friend had five children at the time and told them, “What Mom did was wrong, and I’ve been wrong in this matter as well, but that doesn’t mean life for us will be bad.  Life may be more difficult, but with God’s grace, it can be even better.”  She took the wrong view of God’s will and used it as an excuse to seek her own pleasure.  He took the right view of God’s will, recognizing his sovereign grace in our lives, determining to walk with him in spite of circumstances.

There is an interesting storyline in Acts, where Paul was “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem (20:22).  However, many who knew him repeatedly told him “through the Spirit” not to go there (21:4, 11-12).  When Paul could not be persuaded to stay away from Jerusalem those trying to persuade him gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done!”  I have always struggled to understand how to interpret this.  It seems there was no clear leading in this matter, so Paul was free to do as he determined.  However, everyone believed that God’s ultimate will would be done either way.  It becomes clear as the story progresses that God’s specific will was for Paul to stand before the authorities in Rome (See 23:21, 25:12, 26:32).  God used this side trip to Jerusalem to bring that about.  This story indicates that both the “Narrow Bridge” and the “Wisdom within Boundaries” views are not complete.

Three Views of God’s Will

June 11, 2009 at 10:45 am | Posted in Theology, Wisdom | 1 Comment

         There are three different ways that Christians view God’s will for their lives.  I’m not writing here about God’s decretive will – those things God has decreed will happen.  We have no control or say about those matters; they will happen because God has said they will.  Nor am I talking about God’s general will – those things God desires for everyone.  This is just another name for the principles of God’s word.  I’m talking about those things God desires for me, such as job, vocation, dating marriage, etc.  I call this God’s specific will.

        The first view I call the “Narrow Bridge.”  In this view God has a special place for me and I must find it.  All decisions in this view are based on God’s will for my life; and sin is stepping off that path.  The emphasis of the Narrow Bridge idea is strict obedience; we must obey.  On the positive side, this idea recognizes that each believer has a special place in God’s kingdom, and it has a great emphasis on personal obedience.  However, this Narrow Bridge idea has numerous problems.  The first is that it denies God’s grace.  It seems to say that stepping off my bridge can derail me from God’s will for life, especially in the area of major decisions like marriage and vocation.  What if I marry the wrong person?  Does that mean I am out of God’s will from then on?  Biblically, God is gracious and forgiving, and he has a marvelous way of creating beauty out of sin.  Second, this view misunderstands sin.  As I expressed in my article called The Depths of Depravity, there are different levels of sin in our lives; this narrow bridge idea makes the shallowest level of sin the most devastating, something that is not necessarily true.  Finally, and ultimately, this view denies the sovereignty of God.  It puts way too much emphasis on what we do, rather than on who God is; it’s all about us, but life is all about God.  He will conform his people in the image of his son, in spite of their sins (Romans 8:28-29).

        The second view I call “Wisdom within Boundaries.”  In this school of thought God is more interested in character and wisdom than in vocation or specific decisions.  Therefore decisions are based on wisdom and knowledge, which are derived from God’s word.  Sin, in this view, is going outside the boundaries of God’s general will.  Here the emphasis is on wisdom – discovering what direction God gives to all his people.  On the positive side, all our decisions should be based on wisdom.  I constantly emphasize to my congregation that God’s will never contradicts God’s word.  This idea also frees us in matters of indecisiveness; we are free to go either way, if both ways are within God’s general boundaries.  However, this school seems to give me no special place in God’s plan, something I deeply desire.  The Bible indicates that God does at times give very specific guidance in matters beyond his general will.  Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Peter and Paul are just a few examples.

        The third view, and the one I believe to be most biblical, I call “In Step with the Spirit.”  In this school, God leads every step I take, but he leads in various ways.  Decisions are based on a moment-by-moment sensitivity to God’s Spirit; comforted by the fact that no misstep will destroy my relationship with him, because it is based entirely on grace; reassured by the fact that God will sovereignly and graciously move me where I need to be; and motivated by the fact that I can participate in God’s great work of redemption.

        An illustration of this view would be a father taking a small child on a hike.  The father knows where the trail leads, even if the child doesn’t.  Dad will get the child to the destination, even if the child wanders off the path and is distracted by many other things.  In Dad’s mind, the most important thing is not the destination, it is the time together.  Some distractions found by the child can become opportunities to better the relationship, even though they slow down supposed “progress” toward the destination.

The Depths of Depravity

June 2, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Posted in God's Love, Security and Assurance, Theology | 2 Comments

        It seems to me that there are three levels of sinfulness we must deal with in our lives.  First there is the matter of not doing what God says (or not doing what we believe God is leading us to do, or doing what God says not to do).  This is the most obvious matter of sin, and we are all aware of it.  This is what most Christians think of when we talk about sin.  But sin goes much much deeper than that.  On a second level, there are those times when we don’t even want to do what we know is right.  “I didn’t obey God and I didn’t want to obey God.”  It’s not uncommon for Christians to recognize this level of sin in their lives, because every Christian has been there and done that.  At times we confess to God our sinful attitudes; so we admit that we did wrong because we wanted to do wrong.

        However, there is even a third level of sin where we don’t want to change the desire to do wrong.  “I sinned; I sinned because I wanted to sin; I don’t want to give up the desire to sin; and given the same circumstances I would sin again, even knowing what I know now!  The last two statements are examples of level three.  This level is ugly.  When we recognize it, we get a picture of the depths of our depravity that can utterly scare us.  At this level, we hold on to self tenaciously, even when we see how ugly we are, we hold on.  Trouble is that these depth levels can go on at infinitum: “I don’t even want to want to change!”  I’ve seen this level in my own life in the fact that I treasure my reputation more than God’s glory, so I hold on while saying “no” when God leads in a direction I don’t want to go and I will not go.

        The good news is that Jesus died for all my sin – that, in Christ, God has graciously forgiven all my sin.  It is easy for me to apply that truth to the first level of sin and often to the second.  But I really struggle to apply that truth to the third level, because at that level I know I deserve condemnation, and I’m willing to listen to the voices that condemn me.  But even the ugliest depths of my depravity are already forgiven in Christ!

        This is probably, in part, what Paul was getting at when he said, “I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man.”  (Romans 7:21 – 8:3)

        God change me at  the deepest level, so that I want to want to do what’s right.  Gently draw me to the place of willingness, even in the depths of my being.  Thank you that all of my sin is forgiven in Christ, even the ugly sins of the third and deeper levels.

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