Friday, January 13, 2012

Grace Grace God's Glorious Grace

2 Peter 3:18...but grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.

Ah the beauty and the sweetness of God's grace. How rich, how sweet, how glorious. Little time is needed when reflecting upon ones own condition to realize how undeserving we are of His glorious grace. We often fall in danger of making far to little of how great God's grace truly is.

It is my experience when I examine myself of how guilty I am of making far to little of God's amazing grace. As one who has the undeserved privilege of weekly making known the riches of God's grace to his beloved church it becomes painful to realize how oft I have made so little of the greatness of His grace. It finally dawned upon me that to make little of God's grace is in actuality to make little of Jesus Christ. To make much of Jesus Christ is to make much of His grace.

This took me back to Richard Baxter's book "The Reformed Pastor" in which Baxter writing to pastors. I believe he hit the nail on the head when he wrote ..."Content not yourselves with being in the state of grace, but be also careful that your graces are kept in vigorous and lively exercise"...

This quote from Richard Baxter hit home with me when I turned my thoughts towards the verse mentioned in 2 Peter 3:18. My eyes were opened to the realization that grace that is not "vigorously and lively exercised", is grace not grown at all. If we desire to make much of the grace of God, it must be exercised. Grace exercised is to make much of grace. Grace exercised opens the door to grace increased. As we grow in our understanding of grace and the Lord Jesus Christ we must come to the place where we see that grace of God - from God, was not extended to us merely to be enjoyed as unmerited favour, but also as the power of God towards us and through us that we might exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in all His fullness. Let us therefore in the words of Richard Baxter; ..."be also careful that your graces are kept in vigorous and lively exercise"...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christians Are Seekers Of Righteousness

Isaiah 51:1...Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness;
You who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn.
And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.

Although this verse was written to Israel who time and time again find themselves being rebuked by the Lord as they sin against Him, there is a most incredible truth that we as Christians should see. 

There seems to be in our day a strange phenomenon within the Christianity and yet it is nothing new as we see that it existed in the very days of the apostles. This phenomenon that I speak of is the use of the term "Real Christian". What an interesting phrase. The fact is either you are a Christian or you are not.  

This term forever casts the Christian in a negative light and causes one to question whether the person next to them in church is a "real Christian". It compels us into a constant wondering and evaluation of all those around if they are "real Christians". With this constant ongoing battle within one's own mind in regards to others genuineness, it can cause a person to become quite cynical at times if we are not careful.

O but the Word of God leaves us these beautiful truths if we will only see them. We have this comfort from the Word of God, To seek the Lord is to seek righteousness. One cannot seek after God apart from seeking righteousness. And greater yet those that are His, bought by the precious blood of the lamb not only continue to seek after righteousness, but walk in righteousness. One is not proved to be a Christian because he calls himself one, but it is his righteous walk before God and man and when alone in the confines of quiet place that gives evidence that He is a real Christian. Let it be known, that a Christian will demonstrate acts of righteousness for he is a slave to it. Let us put aside all self - justifications of unrighteousness and let our actions speak the truth of who's children we are.

(This is a post that I had posted previously on my other blog which sadly was hacked and I no longer have access to. I have made some slight changes within it. I will be re-posting the remainder of my posts from my previous blog on this site.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Should Your Pastor Be Doing?

2 Timothy 2:15...Study to show thyself approved unto God. A workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 

I have come to learn in ministry that there are many strains of thought as to what a pastor ought to be doing. The society of churches have a thought as to what a pastor ought to be busy doing, individual congregations have thoughts on what a pastor ought to be doing, church boards have their thoughts on the matter, the pastor has his own thoughts and then there is what God says he ought to be doing. These thoughts can differ from group to group but there is one thing that I think every group agrees upon. That as a man of God He ought to study and know the counsels of God that he might lead those in his charge in such a way that God would be glorified in them. A dear brother, friend and fellow pastor whom many know from  Proclamation Social Gospel and Gospel Fellowship Chapel gave me this past weekend what I believe to be one of the best explanations of the primary work of any one bearing the calling of a pastor. I would like to share it with you in it's entirety as he gave it to me. 

This is a plan suggested by an anonymous parishioner and cited in Rediscovering Expository Preaching ( John MacArthur and the Master's Seminary Faculty, 1992, Word Publishing, pp. 348-349).

Fling him into his office. Tear the "Office" sign from the door, and nail on the sign, "Study." Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flock of lives of a superficial flock and a holy God.

Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who know about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all night through. And let him come out only when  he's bruised and beaten into being a blessing.

Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley.

Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him change his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets.

Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God.

Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Launch  at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day, "Sir, we would see Jesus."

When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day's superficial problems, and manage the community's  weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can. 

Command him not to come back until he's read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up and say, "Thus saith the Lord."

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he's back against the wall of the Word. 

And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left - God's word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he's burnt out with the flaming Word, when he's consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he's privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why Has God Not Destroyed America?

          The people of Israel had been enslaved to Egypt 400 years. The unbearable cruelty they suffered at the hand of Egypt and the continuing pressure to subdue the ever increasing Israelites under the mighty hand of Egypt was coming to a turning point as God was preparing a redeemer sent by God Himself. The question often is – why did God allow Israel to be enslaved to Egypt for 400 years? Much could be said about the finer details of this, but bear with me as I give the simplest answer that we find in the scriptures.

            As God was establishing His covenant with Abram, God prophesied to Abram in Genesis 15:13-14...then He said to Abram; know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years (14) and also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possession. (NKJV). This of course is the reference of Israels enslavement to the nation of Egypt. 

But why, would God permit Abrams descendants to be enslaved to Egypt for four hundred years before bringing them out with great possessions? The answer is given to us in Gen 15:16...but in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. The reason Israel would be enslaved to Egypt four hundred years was due to the fact that the sin of the Amorites was not yet complete. In other words, the Amorites (who lived in Canaan) were a wicked people living in a wicked nation, but their sin was not yet so great that God would pour out his wrath upon them to wipe them from the face of the earth.

So here now another question jumps to the forefront of our bad would things have to be before God would pour out his wrath upon a nation to wipe them off the face of the earth? For this let us look at some the instructions God set before Israel as commands that they were not to break which the inhabitants of the land of Canaan openly practiced.

Lev 18:20-25...thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbors wife. shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire of Molech
...nor shall you profane the name of your God shall not lie with a man as with a woman, it is an abomination
...nor shall you mate with any animal to defile yourself with it
...nor shall a woman stand before an animal to mate with it, it is perversion

as God gives the commands to Israel he gives to them a window through which can be seen the sins the Amorites of Canaan were committing. The result of these devastating sins is laid out for us in the next two verses

Leviticus not defile yourselves with any of these things for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you (25) for the land is defiled, therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.

This leads me to my next question, how does this differ from what we are seeing in North America today?

Adultery seems to almost be common place today regardless of religion or race. We may not offer our children to the God of Molech through fire, but we abort babies at an astounding rate, likely more then the Amorites ever did. The name of God is being blatantly profaned in our countries, homosexuality is embraced and endorsed even among many religious organizations. And we don't even want to imagine the degradation of the other sins mentioned.

If God destroyed the Amorites and all those who lived in Canaan for these sins, why hasn't God destroyed North America seeing that the sins of our countries mirror those or the Amorites?

Let me give a short 4 point answer to this question.

1 – Ultimately God can do as He chooses...
  • The reality is that because all have sinned and have gone their own way, God would by justified if he cast all of humanity under eternal damnation but we are told in Rom 9:15...for He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whomever I will have compassion.

2 – God is long-suffering...
  • there are those in this land who are not yet saved who will be saved and the Lord is long-suffering waiting to the elect to come to salvation. 2 Peter 3:9...the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that ll should come to repentance...

3 – We are living in a dispensation of grace...
  • Rom 11:25...for I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

4 – there are more than 5 righteous in the land...
  • when Abraham talked with the Lord about the utter destruction that was about to come upon Sodom and Gamorrah Abraham asked the Lord how many righteous he would have to find in order for him not to pour out the wrath of upon them Gen 18:32...then he said, Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more, suppose ten (righteous people) should be found there? And He said, I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Seeding Of Liberalism

1 Thessalonians 2:13...for this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe...

In my mind I can feel the excitement that Paul and his cohorts felt when the believers in Thessalonica gladly received (accepted as truth) the word of God that Paul, Timothy, and Silvanius brought to them on Paul's second missionary journey. I don't know if there is any greater excitement that can be experienced on earth than when someone hears the word of God and receives it as truth. The result is that you begin to see an immediate impact upon their lives as they are exposed to the truth of the word of God. To receive the word of God is to believe the word of God which ultimately manifests itself through a changed, and continuously changing life. Paul confirms this at the end of the verse when he says ...which effectively works in you who believe... That's what the word of God does to those who believe it - it works within them and it has an effect upon and within them. Heb 4:12...for the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart...

But Paul warned the Ephesians of a time that would come in which after he had departed from them that savage wolves would come in and not spare the flock. And how often it is that we are on the look out for those who blatantly deny hell or the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but Paul followed up that warning by saying in Acts 20:30...also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselvesSo then in order to to protect ourselves from that we try and look to see if there might be any perversions of the word of God within our midst. These things we must do, let's make that clear, but sometimes what happens is that we fail to recognize where some of these things have their beginnings.

I would inject at this point that quite often the culprit where the perverting of the faith happens is under a term we call "liberalism". Now depending on what angle you come from you might certainly have a better definition of what we mean when we speak of liberalism with regards to Christianity. 

But for now allow me to ask this, how does liberalism find it's way into the church? It starts in a very small unnoticed way. It starts by rejecting what the Bible says in small ways and escalates from there. Liberalism at it's roots, rejects the word of God. But how does this happen? It happens when we take the word of God and instead of receiving it, we question it by subjecting it to our own faulty human philosophies developed through our sin tainted experiences, when we exalt our physical experiences over and above the spiritual reality the Bible proclaims. When what is proclaimed in scripture does not agree with my sin tainted experience, I reject it, no matter how small the matter might be or what the Bible might say about it. That is the root of liberalism. Much false teaching starts by rejecting even the small things the Bible says because I esteem my philosophies higher then God's truth. So we must start by keeping our eyes on ourselves and asking, what truth of scripture do I struggle to accept because it doesn't fit into my philosophy? 

Let us be on guard looking first at ourselves lest the word of God does not effectively work within us and we are left with a "form" of godliness yet denying it's power, and find within ourselves the seed liberalism. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sinners, Saints and The All Knowing God

Heb 4:13...And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Last night for me was another one of those sleepless nights. But I have come to learn one of the greatest comforts I have when things are pressing down upon my mind is to spend time in prayer and in the Word. These two are becoming to me my place of refuge. It is here where I find my comfort and my peace as though I were in the presence of the Lord, a safe haven if you will. Already earlier in the day I had a desire to delve into the book of Hebrews and so instantly I flipped to the beginning of this book and immersed myself into it. It was here as I came to the verse mentioned above that my mind began to drift away from the words on the page in front of me and my thoughts began to formulate.

This truth the writer of Hebrews was declaring of God was certainly not new. Psalm 139:2-4...You know my sitting down and my rising up, You understand my thought afar off (3) You comprehend my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways (4) for there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it all together...Eze 11:5...for I know the things that come into your mind, everyone of them...  

Yet even though this truth has been known from the beginning of time, it intrigues me still, that saint an sinner alike often live as though this has little bearing upon us in the way we live out our belief in God. Cain murdered his brother and thought he could play sly with God I my brothers keeperSarah laughed in unbelief when hearing that she should bear a child in her old age. Achan stole and hid gold after having been commanded by God to destroy it, and he too thought it could be hid even from the Almighty. King David went to great lengths to cover up his sin of adultery and murder only to have Nathan come and tell him...You are that man!

Not only does this intrigue me from saints and sinners of old, but what intrigues me yet more, is when I think of myself. Knowing this truth of God myself, knowing these historical accounts and seeing how God dealt with them, why is it then that I don't make more of my sins? No, I have not slain my brother, I have not laughed at God behind doors, stolen gold, nor have I committed adultery and murdered in the process, but my own sins beset me. 

If I know and understand as we are told in Num sure your sins will find you out... Why then, knowing God knows all things, am I not more grieved over the hidden sins of my heart which are born out of the same root as all those who actually committed the sins mentioned earlier in this post? Is it because there is an element of unbelief within me? Is it possible I do not possess the fear of the Lord as I should? Is it because I actually make less of the sacrifice made by the Lord Jesus Christ then what I might claim? Many questions, many thoughts, but of this I am sure; my spirit indeed is willing, but my flesh is weak, and o how I need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just some food for thought.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Exalting God

Nehemiah 9:5...Stand up and bless the Lord your God forever and ever! Blessed be Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.

       Recently as I was reading through the book of Nehemiah I came upon this verse which left a certain impression upon me. Israel has spent a quarter of the day in the Law of the Lord their God, and spent another quarter of the day confessing and worshiping the Lord their God. As i see it, as we begin this chapter we start out with a distant view of what's going on but each verse zooms in closer so that we can see with greater detail what was going on. But as I came to verse 5 it was as though my mind slammed the breaks and gave a real closeup of the last part of that verse ...Blessed be Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise!

This seemed to stun me for a while as I pondered this for the next several days. I thought about the way we bless the Lord our God in our modern day churches. Money spent in building massive organs, fine tuning guitars, rehearsing vocal harmonies - all in an effort to bless the Lord our God and to exalt his glorious name and to do it with excellence, to do it to do best of our abilities. Now please understand this is not a criticism of how we praise Him in our settings of worship, this is how it is done today, but the truth of the matter which is stated in this verse was what rocked me. His name is exalted above all blessing and praise. 

God deserves all our praise, all our honor, and all our adoration for He alone is worthy. Rev 4:11...You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power...Rev 5:12...Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing...Rev 5:13...Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb forever... There is no doubting that God deserves and is worthy of all of these including our worship. Yet, our purest form of worship, our purist form of blessing and exaltation is not sufficient nor does it rise to the standard of God's holiness. Even if all created things, past present and future, heaven and earth, physical beings or angelic beings, all that is beneath, in, on or above the earth with one mind in one accord all at the same time blessed and praised God as He is worthy of, all this simultaneous praise, honor and glory would not be sufficient to bless Him as He rightly deserves. Why? Because He is above all blessing and honor. Yet even though we cannot sufficiently bless Him, He non the less receives our efforts when done in purity of heart. Now that friends is something to think about.