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Singing Praise in Severe Pain

January 8, 2018

“But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”
– Psalm 13:5-6

Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi for healing a demon possessed girl. The Philippian jail was nothing like modern jails. It was more dungeon than jail. Their stone-walled cell was dark and damp. They were locked in the most secure, and most foul, cell, farthest from light and fresh air. Their feet were placed in stocks to secure them from escape. They had no mobility and little ability even to shift their position and ease their discomfort.

Before being thrown in jail Paul and Silas had been beaten with thin rods. They were aching from many lashes and in need of medical attention. They had every right to be miserable. Yet, in the middle of the night Paul and Silas decided to have a worship service. They prayed together and then began to sing praises to God. Why would they do that? The reason for their praise is found, in part, in the Psalms of lament and praise. In times of deep sorrow David sang praises unto the Lord. He could rejoice in times of trouble because David knew the blessings of God and the character of God.

In times of sorrow remember what God has already done. His greatest work for you was done in redemption. The Christian can go to God in prayer because he is the child of God. The great work that opened the door of prayer gives great rejoicing in heart broken prayers. God has given His Holy Spirit who resides within every believer. This same Spirit intercedes for us with great concern and sympathy. When we pray the Spirit of God prays with us. God has promised all things, even terminal illness and sudden tragedy, will work for the good of them that love Him. God is actively at work during the darkest times of life. God has promised sufficient strength and grace to enable the believer to endure the trial for His glory. God has promised the worst trials are working a greater, eternal work in the child of God. Sorrow gives way to rejoicing because God has worked and God is still working.

Many Psalms of David move from lament to priase, from sorrow to rejoicing. David could rejoice in God despite intense pain because he knew God. David trusted the mercy of God. He knew the faithfulness of God. David knew the compassion of God to deliver His people. David was confident God would deliver because he knew how God had delivered. The history of Israel shows the deliverance of God. David’s own history shows the deliverance of God.

The Christian today has even more evidence of the deliverance of God. The long Biblical history shows God’s repeated compassion upon His children. Church history tells of God’s unfailing kindness to His people. The knowledge of God’s past working gives confidence in present troubles because it looks with great joy to future deliverance.


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Why is the doctrine of the Trinity so important?

January 4, 2018

The doctrine of the Trinity is the teaching that “God is one God in three persons.” The Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Spirit or the Father, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Each person of the Trinity fully possesses all the attributes of God; God is not three Gods nor is He divided into thirds. God is a single God comprised of three persons. This is a difficult idea to understand, but it is what the Bible teaches.

The doctrine of the Trinity is so complex it is easy to see how doctrinal errors would arise. One common error is the heresy of modalism. This error teaches that God is one God who manifests Himself in three different ways. The Father, the Son and the Spirit are each expressions of the one God, but they are not three distinct persons. God is never simultaneously the Father, Son and Spirit. He manifests each personality at different times in His dealings with men.

The church long ago decreed modalism to be a heresy. Promoters of this doctrine in the third and fourth century were excommunicated from the church. The early church fathers believed the doctrine of the Trinity matters. Orthodox churches throughout history believed the doctrine of the Trinity is essential. Today few doctrinal conservatives consider the Trinity to be a non-essential doctrine. All of church history affirms that modalism is a serious heresy.

Why is this doctrine so important? The Trinity is not a doctrine that has to be confessed to be saved, nor are all denials of the Trinity acts of apostasy. Why does it matter if God is One God in Three Persons or One God in Three Manifestations? Modalists do not deny that Jesus is God. They do not deny that Jesus died on the cross for sin. Why is correct doctrine about the Trinity so important?

The doctrine of the Trinity matters because the clarity and authority of the Word of God matters. The Biblical teaching about God can be summarized in several brief statements. God is one God. The singular God is plural. The Father is God. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God. All three members of the Trinity interact with one another as distinct and separate individuals. These truths are not inferences drawn from other truths, nor are they deductions from other theological tenets. Each of these truths is clearly presented in the Bible.

The doctrine of the Trinity developed from the plain truths about God is difficult to comprehend, but a denial of one of these clear statements disregards the clarity of the Bible. To deny the teaching of the Bible, to reject clear, though complex, teaching, is to elevate the reason of the individual over the authority of the Bible. No reader of the Bible has the right to reject a Biblical truth because he cannot understand it or because he finds it logically difficult. If a doctrine is clearly taught, it must be believed, even if it cannot be fully understood. To do anything else places the reason of the reader over the revelation of God.

The doctrine of the Trinity matters because the nature of God matters. Trinity defines the essence and character of God. A God who is not Triune is a very different God from One who is. Denying the Trinity has a profound impact on the Christian’s understanding of the nature and work of each person of the Trinity. For example, an early adherent to modalism believed that God in the flesh is called the Son and God apart from the flesh is called the Father. Was the man Jesus also God the Son existing simultaneously and distinctly from the Father or was He a temporary human expression of a manifestation of God?

If Jesus is the manifestation of God and not the eternal God the Son, then everything is changed about how Christians understand God. John 1 and Colossians 1 claim that Jesus is the eternal Creator God. According to classic Trinitarianism, Jesus was always God the Son. As God the Son He created all things. According to modalism, the expression of the Son succeeded the expression of the Father. Did God create as the Father? As the Son? As the Spirit? The Bible declares all three to be active in creation. How is this to be understood if God is not Triune? The modalist God is very different from the Trinitarian God.

The doctrine of the Trinity matters because salvation matters. The Bible presents salvation as the accomplishment of the Triune God. The Son suffered on the cross, and in doing so propitiated the wrath of the Father. The Father sends the Spirit to regenerate. If God is not Triune, whose justice was satisfied at the cross? To whom was payment made? How was Jesus’ forsaken on the cross? How can the transaction between Father and Son that took place at the cross be understood if the Father and the Son are just different manifestations of the One God? Noetus, an early proponent of modalism, taught, “Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself suffered and died.” Clearly this matters!

A correct understanding of the Trinity is essential to a proper understanding of the Bible and of God. A right understanding of the Trinity is essential for a coherent view of the gospel. A right understanding of the Trinity is essential for a proper understanding of the remarkable work of the God for salvation. A right understanding of the Trinity is essential to a proper understanding of God. The doctrine of the Trinity matters.

Sterling Purity

January 1, 2018

The purity of God’s Word is foundational. Our Sunday School classes right now are following the ABC curriculum from Answers in Genesis. That program spends the first seven weeks discussing the Word of God. In discipleship and basic Bible studies one of the foundational lessons is about the nature of the Bible. The conflicts between conservative and liberal theologies have long been about the nature of the Bible. The doctrine of Scripture is a major battleground and a monumental truth. Why does this doctrine matter so much?

The Word of God is pure- perfectly pure without a single error or flaw- or it is not the Word of God. There is no middle ground. There is not Bible that is mostly right, or right only about religious matters. The Bible does not allow for the possibility of a mostly correct Word of God. The Bible claims to be pure, “true and righteous altogether.” Either the Bible is completely reliable in all it teaches or it is not reliable at all.

The Psalmist likens the purity of the Word of God to the purest silver. The process of purifying precious metal is relatively straightforward. Metal is heated until it becomes a liquid. As the heavier metal liquifies the impurities float to the top. This dross can then be scooped off and the metal allowed to cool. Repeating the process brings more impurities to the surface allowing the metal to be made more and more pure. The Word of God is like silver that has been purified seven times. The Word of God is sterling in its purity. The Bible is purest.

The Word of God is permanent. What God says stands fast, but men speak empty words. Human speech is filled with things that don’t matter, things that don’t last and things that mean nothing. God’s Word does not. God always means what He says. What God decrees, happens. What God promises, occurs. What God says, remains.

God’s Word remains because He upholds it. The Bible in the hands of Christians today is the Word of God. What good is it if God gave His inspired Word to men like Isaiah and Peter but then the Word disappeared from the earth? God’s Word remains. God’s Word is preserved for His people from generation to generation. Most importantly, God’s Word never fails. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” His Words are not just so much hot air. His Word is sure.


New Book about the New Testament

December 28, 2017

Last fall I led the church through a study of the New Testament. This survey gave a brief overview of the historical context and major themes of each book of the New Testament. At the conclusion of the study I compiled my notes into a study guide for the church. That book is now available on Amazon.

I had every intention of making the book available for free, but the capitalistic conspiracy at Amazon does not allow such goings on. However, if you have a little bit of technological savvy you can download this copy for free and sideload it into Kindle on your device. I won’t tell Amazon if you won’t.

 

 

Glory to the Newborn King!

December 25, 2017

The New Testament opens with, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The gospel of Matthew shows that Jesus is the promised Messiah sent by God for the salvation of sin and the redemption of Israel. A crucial component of Matthew is Jesus’ relationship to David. The family tree of Jesus proves the important fact of His familial connection to King David. If Jesus was not the descendant of David, then He could not be the Messiah.

God promised to David and the Jews that the Messiah would establish an eternal kingdom and an everlasting Davidic dynasty. Jesus is the promised King. The angel told Mary. “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:31-33)

In the gospel of Luke the Bible makes a point of declaring that Jesus “was of the house and lineage of David.” The Isaiah prophecies of the Prince of Peace. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” In the words of Psalm 89, “His throne (will be) as the days of heaven” (v. 29) “His throne . . . shall be established forever.” (v. 36-37)

Joy to the World is the song of the triumphal king coming to rule the world. The angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.” The wise men went to Jerusalem looking for the king of Israel. They brought with them a gift of gold to honor the infant king. The last verse of Silent Night calls upon men to sing “Alleluia to our King.” In The First Noel men sing of the Christmas day when, “born is the King of Israel.” The royalty of Jesus is essential to Christmas.

The baby in the manger is the long awaited King of the Jews. The infant king was the invasion force of the eternal kingdom who established a beachhead in this world and began the formation of a fifth column of citizens of the eternal kingdom. One day He is returning to establish the promised kingdom. The baby in the manger will come to earth again, not as a lowly infant but as the conquering King. He will overthrow the wicked, punish evil and create the first- and only- worldwide empire. As Daniel 7 says, to Him will be given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”


The Crux of Christmas

December 18, 2017

Anglican pastor Christopher Wordsworth said Psalm 89 “is a Christmas carol.” The Psalm is a cry for God to remember His promises to David. It tells the glory of the Son of David who is the Almighty God and the Eternal King.

Jesus is the Son of David. Jesus is God incarnate. Incarnation is defined as deity taking on the human form. The idea of incarnation was known before the birth Jesus. Greek myths tell of the gods appearing as humans. Yet the incarnation that is celebrated at Christmas is something different. The incarnation is God becoming man. It is the wonderful truth that God the Son took on Himself humanity. Jesus is God who became fully human while remaining fully God.

To understand the depths to which Jesus humbled Himself when He became man, remember who Jesus is. Psalm 89:6 asks, “Who in heaven can be compared unto the Lord?” What mighty hero of history can be compared to God? What Hercules, Samson or Superman can be compared to God? At best the superhuman greatness of fictional characters stir a longing for the One Mighty Hero who brings true salvation. “Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord.” He is greater than the mightiest of earth and yet He humbled Himself to become a despised, rejected man.

Christmas is a reminder of the amazing truth that God the Creator became human, that the eternal God was born of a woman, that the all powerful God was a helpless baby, that the ruler of all spent his first night in a feed trough, that the maker of heaven and earth spent the final years of his life with no where to call home and that He who is the everlasting object of angelic praise was scorned by men.

What is even more amazing is that God the Creator died. He redeemed men by His death. His death is why we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a time to remember that God became flesh and dwelt among us and a time to remember that that the little baby in a manger was there to hang on a cross. Jesus was born to die.

It is fitting to celebrate His birth by considering His death. It is fitting to remember that the little baby Jesus would be beaten, torn and tortured on the cross. It is fitting to remember that the little baby Jesus was the lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. It is fitting to remember that the little baby Jesus would one day shed His blood for the sin of men. It is fitting to celebrate Christmas with an eye to the crucifixion. The cross cannot be relegated to one Friday in March. The cross is the crux of all salvation and the cause of real Christmas celebration.


Faith or Flight?

December 11, 2017

“In the Lord I put my trust.”

Those are easy words to say, but not so easy to live. It is easy to say “I trust the Lord” while sitting on a grassy hillside watching the sheep. They are easy words to say when a comfortable bed waits in a warm home. They are easy words to say while ruling over a peaceful land. They are easy words to say when things are going well and life is comfortable.

But what about when life is difficult? What about when the lion attacks the flock? What about when the giant challenges the people of God? What about when the king starts throwing spears with murderous intent? What about when a traitor usurps the throne? What about when disease hits? What about when a job is lost or health crumbles? What about when friends and family oppose righteousness? Trust in God is proven when life is difficult and living for Him is costly.

How can the Christian trust God? Confidence in God comes from personal knowledge of the character of God. He who knows his God will not run from the threats of the wicked. He who knows the character of God will not hide from the prospect of trouble. “The righteous are bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1) Though some counseled him to flee, David stood firm in the face of wicked men. David’s answer to craven counsel is the character of His God.

God is the just judge. When the wicked pressed in upon him, David held to the truth that God is the righteous judge. He could face the attacks of wicked men because he knew God will execute righteous judgment. The prosperity and power of the wicked is very, very brief. God will judge the wicked. In Nahum 1:6 the question is asked, “Who can stand before His indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?” The wicked cannot stand against the wrath of God. Ask Sodom. Ask the Canaanites. Ask the Jews. When God pours out His wrath, none can stop it.

God loves the righteous. The righteous are comforted by the just judgment of God because of this, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” If God upholds, then who can overthrow? God looks on His children with great favor. He smiles upon them and blesses them with eternal good. They may suffer for a time, but their joy will be eternal.

God is King. No greater comfort is given in the Bible for the suffering Christian than the certainty that God is in charge. Everything that happens is under His control. Nothing is accidental or random. He reigns and will reign forever.

No matter what the Supreme Court does, Congress does, the President does, no matter what agenda wins the day, or what the nations of the world do, God still reigns. No matter what happens at home, in the family, at work or in your body, God is still in charge. This is great comfort! “For we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us.”

The Practical Atheist

December 4, 2017

Atheists come in several varieties. The average Joe atheist does not believe in God, but is a nice guy and is not on a rampage against the god he does not believe. The scholarly atheist is too educated to believe God is real. He may scoff at the idea of God if it comes up, but he generally considers it beneath him to think about deity. The class of atheist that gets the most press is the angry atheist. He knows God does not exists and is on a crusade to strike down any serious discussion of God. In the opinion of the angry atheist religious people are ignorant dupes or greedy charlatans who should be stopped. The most common form of atheist is the practical atheist. He does not deny the existence of God. He may even be a religious person who attends church on a regular basis. Yet, in his daily life he lives as if God does not exist. Though his mouth may confess the existence of God his life denies it. This the most common form of atheist.

The practical atheist is filled with pride which refuses to seek after God. Romans 3:11 says, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” The pride of the unsaved will not allow him to seek after God. But what about all the religious people in the world? Aren’t they seeking after God? They are seeking after a god of their own devising, not the God of the Bible. When the religious man learns of the God of the Bible his arrogance rejects God. How many millions of people give millions of dollars to churches to buy their salvation? How many millions of people deny themselves, fast, pray multiple times a day and attend a church or temple multiple times a week in an attempt to earn salvation? Yet how many of these same millions reject the promise of a salvation that is freely given to those who will receive it by faith? Can those who reject the salvation of God truly be called seekers after God? The pride filled heart of man refuses to seek after God.

The practical atheist does not see the work of God. The judgment of God is far above out of his sight. He will not see God’s hand. He does not consider it. Job 35 speaks of the oppression of the wicked that makes the multitudes cry out in sorrow. Wicked men wreak great havoc on people and nations. Billions in this world suffer because of the malice of evildoers. Millions of people suffer every year as a result of horrible natural disasters. Earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, droughts and floods decimate populations. The population of the world groans in sorrow! Yet, as Job 35:10 says, “None saith, where is God my maker.” In all the tragedies of the world, few look to God. The practical atheist looks at the world around and refuses to see God’s mighty hand at work.


Thank God He is Forever

November 27, 2017

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
– Percy Shelley

All the works of men will be destroyed. The greatest that has been accomplished on this earth will be wiped away. All that man values will be destroyed. Only the work of God is eternal. We give thanks because God is eternal. Psalm 9:7 says, “But the Lord will endure forever.” In the previous verse David described the destruction of the wicked. They may rage today and they may destroy others, but, like the fictional Ozymandias, their own destruction is coming. The wicked will come to an end. God will reign forever. Though the world is filled with troubles, though wicked men get worse and worse, they are temporary! Give thanks for the eternal God rules forever. His justice is eternal, His righteousness is unending and His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks. You are not god. He is, and He is glorious in His justice, His judgment and His eternality. By giving thanks men acknowledge God is God and we are but men. Do not men need to be reminded they are but men? Only a few in each generation really believe they are gods. The real problem is that men often forget they are but men. How often does a person remember he is a creature, dependent on others, dependent on forces far outside his control and dependent upon God. Thankfulness to God declares that what man has is given to him by One greater. Thankfulness to God acknowledges that man is not sufficient to supply his own needs. Thankfulness is a reminder that we are just humans.

Thankfulness acknowledges that God is the author of life. Thankfulness remembers that every thing necessary and every blessing unnecessary comes from God. Thankfulness confesses that, “every good gift and every perfect gift cometh from above” (James 1:17) but thankfulness confesses more than that. Thankfulness declares that “by Him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:17) Thankfulness remembers that it is in God, “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) In God’s hand, “is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:10) In giving thanks man remembers that God is God and we are not. Give thanks to God. Give thanks to God for who He is. Give thanks to God no matter what is happening in the world around us.


Thanksgiving Proclamation

November 22, 2017

In 1789 George Washigntion issued the first proclamation calling upon the entire United States of America to set aside a Thursday in November to give thanks to God for His many blessings. The website “Washington Papers” says, “On 25 September 1789, Elias Boudinot of Burlington, New Jersey, introduced in the United States House of Representatives a resolution ‘That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.'”

On October 3, 1789 George Washington circulated the following proclamation (bullets mine).

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks

  • for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation;
  • for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war;
  • for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;
  • for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness,
  • and particularly the national one now lately instituted’ for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed,
  • and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;
  • and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him
to pardon our national and other transgressions;

  • to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually;
  • to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed;
  • to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord;
  • to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us;
  • and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

Let us in like manner pray and give thanks.