The Value System of God’s Kingdom

March 29, 2011 at 9:15 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Wisdom | 1 Comment

The values of God’s kingdom are so different than ours, often they are totally opposite.  Here are a number of statements from the stories Jesus tells in Luke 14, 15, 16 that indicate the difference in these value systems.  Notice how these counter what we constantly hear in the media and advertisements of our day.

When you are invited to a banquet go and sit in the lowest place, for “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (14:11)  “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” (14:13 and 21)  You are to invite them because they cannot repay you, but “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (14:14)  “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (14:33)  “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (15:7)  “You cannot serve God and money.” (16:13)  “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (16:14)

Jesus teaches that, as subjects of God’s kingdom, our value system must align with God’s rather than the worlds.  In this way we can lay up eternal treasures.  One of the stories he tells in these chapters brings out this point in a surprising way.  The dishonest steward in Luke 16 is pointed to as someone to emulate, not because he embezzled from his employer, but because he acted in a way that invested in the future.  So we must act in ways that invest in eternity.  The conclusion of the story is “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal dwellings.” (16:9)

Here is a great prayer from David reminding us to pursue eternal values:  “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!  Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.  Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!  Surely a man goes about as a shadow!  Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!  And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:4-7)

Let Me Never Be Put to Shame

March 18, 2011 at 8:41 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God | Leave a comment

Last Sunday, I spoke on detours in life.  On Tuesday I started this journal entry.  My life since has been a long series of detours!  Funny how that happens.  Anyway here is what I prayed and began to write four days ago.

Psalm 31 is a great prayer for a man in full-time ministry.  In my lifetime, I have seen far too many pastors fall into various kinds of sin that have put shame on their families, their ministries, their churches, themselves, and especially on the Lord.  I don’t want to be one of those casualties, but I’m sure they didn’t want that either.  Some years ago I read an article that referenced interviews with various ministers who had fallen, and what struck me is how, for every one of them, the process started with a neglect of the personal relationship with God.  They quit having devotions; or devotions became just a routine.

Here’s a prayer from David that all those in full-time ministry should echo:  “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!  Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!  For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me.” (vv 1-3)  Read through the rest of the Psalm and notice how often it talks about taking refuge in God or trusting in God.  These are active words that indicate a relationship is being pursued.  Continue to pursue your relationship with God; never let ministry activities get in the way, for all true ministry comes only from the overflow of that relationship.

Those who know my repeated mantra, “It’s all about God,” will notice that God leads us for his name’s sake.  That too should be included in the prayers of those in ministry, for it is too easy to chase our own agenda and glory.

“Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love.  O LORD, let me not be put to shame for I call upon you.” (v16f)

Saved to the Uttermost

March 10, 2011 at 9:36 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Security and Assurance | Leave a comment

We can add to the previous post the amazing promises of God that follow in the next few chapters.  These words about Jesus’ accomplishments are our anchor in God:

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him.  …  He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  …  He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.  …  Christ entered heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  …  He appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  …  Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.  …  By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Those in Christ are saved to the uttermost; they already have eternal redemption; their sin has been put away; they have been perfected.  Amen!

Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost;
Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power, making him God’s dear child,
Purchasing peace and heaven, for all eternity;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Secured within the Veil

March 8, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Security and Assurance | 1 Comment

I’ve done a good job showing off my ignorance of maritime matters in recent days.  On Sunday I misstated how soundings were done to measure the depths of the sea.  Something true I’ve never learned and something false I’ve assumed for years came together to make a false statement in my message.  Fortunately, it was a trivia matter from the passage, and had nothing to do with the meaning and application.  Then on Monday, my small group was talking about anchors in the Bible, and I misstated that an anchor doesn’t necessarily land on the bottom to hold a ship.  Later I realized that was a silly thing to say.  It was in my mind because of the passage I’d just read in Acts 27, “fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear (footnote: sea anchor), and thus they were driven along.”  Anchors don’t always touch bottom, but can be used to slow a ship’s progress in an undesirable direction; however that certainly wouldn’t hold a ship in place.  To hold the ship, an anchor would have to be secured to something solid – something with more strength than the waves and wind trying to move the ship.

In light of those embarrassing misstatements, I read an interesting passage in my devotions this morning.  “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”  (Hebrews 6:19-20)  The promises of God are sure; the hope they give us is our anchor, and that anchor is lodged behind the veil in the inner sanctuary.  In other words our anchor is lodged in the very presence of God – in something with more strength than any problem or sin or temptation or devil can ever have.

The same passage declares that God’s promises are three-times certain.  They are sure because God’s purposes cannot change; because God confirmed them with an oath; and because God cannot lie. (Hebrews 6:17-18)  That is great security.  No matter what winds or waves may batter us, those who trust in Jesus are secured behind the veil.


False Teaching in the News

March 1, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Posted in False teaching | 2 Comments

In the past two days I have seen several examples of false teaching making the secular news.

The first incident is the story of John Dominic Crossan on CNN, cofounder of the Jesus Seminar, The Jesus Seminar is group of liberal scholars who tried to bring scholarly biblical debate to the forefront of popular thinking.  That in it self is not a bad goal, but the founders seemed to have an a priori mindset against the miraculous.  The seminar tried to find the historical Jesus, but began with an assumption that the miracles and resurrection didn’t happen.  Of course from a pure history perspective, the oldest manuscripts that witness to Jesus say that they did happen.

Of Crossan, the article says:  “His days as a priest would end, though, because of the same forces that shaped the rest of his career:  the clash between church dogma and scholarly truth.”  Do you see the subtle implication that church dogma can’t be true if scholarly opinion says it is not?  Such an implication is not only false, it ignores the many scholars who would disagree.  However, Crossan’s a priori assumptions against the supernatural, and apparently CNN’s also, discredit such scholars before the debate even begins.

To their credit, CNN does quote one evangelical scholar to the contrary:  “Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar who has written several books about the early Christian community, says Crossan’s work allows people to sidestep questions like:  Did he come to save the world?  Is he the son of God?  ‘It’s a user-friendly Jesus that doesn’t make demands on someone,’ he says.   Witherington says Crossan is trying to find a nonsupernatural way to explain Jesus and Scripture, and ‘the shoe doesn’t fit.’”

The second example of false teaching in the news is popular author and speaker Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan (not to be confused or associated with Mars Hill Church in Seattle whose pastor Mark Driscoll disagrees with Bell).  Bell is soon to release a book called  Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.  Though Bell has been mum about the real contents of the book, the questions he raises in his video indicate he believes in an unbiblical universalism.  Numerous popular pastors with more orthodox leanings have been very critical of the video in the past few days.  See for instance Justin Taylor’s article here. Taylor embeds the video in his article and links some other criticisms as well.  Thanks to Dr. Pegler for the heads up on this matter.

Finally the last one I saw today tells of the popular Glenn Beck meeting with Billy Graham. Beck, the article says, is “positioning himself as a new leader for Christian conservatives.”  CNN quotes Beck’s blog post from last Tuesday, “My message to you,” Beck continued, “is we must come together.  Evil has – the left has stood – is standing now with profound and clear evil and they’ve connected from evil all the way to the average Democrat and everything in between.”  The implication here is that political liberalism and liberals are the enemy, and Beck is on the good side.

However, Beck is a Mormon who doesn’t believe the Gospel of Jesus.  Though I may have vast political agreement with Beck, and though I may admire what he is doing on the political front, and though I may find liberalism distasteful and even evil in some expressions, liberalism is not the enemy.  To the extent that evangelicals believe that part of Beck’s dogma, they are following a false doctrine that can only lead away from the true Gospel.  Political conservatism, no matter how much we evangelicals agree with it, is not the Gospel of Jesus, and Glenn Beck, though he may be a worthy conservative political leader and deserve our following on that front, should not be allowed to position himself as a leader of Christians.

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