Psalm 87:7

There is a verse that I’ve come across in different contexts three times in the last couple weeks. One of those verses I know I’ve seen and read before but it never stood out, and now that It has stood out, I see it!

The verse is Psalm 87:7, particularly the phrase from it, “all my springs are in thee.”

What a neat little phrase. The word “spring” is referring to a fountain, a source not to the season.

All our resources are in God. There is no source of life anywhere else. He has indeed given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. He is the only One who can abundantly supply what it is we need.

All our springs are in Him. I like that. I will leave you on that happy note until tomorrow when I unveil my plan for the month of February. Tingle with anticipation.

Why We Quote Christian Authors

One of the problems of being in established Christianity, where everything that can possibly be said has already been said, is that you can talk a good game while at the same time having no idea what you’re talking about.

I get cornered by a particular individual in my life who likes to dump Christian clichés on me, “But God has a plan.” “There but for the grace of God go I.” “Can’t wait until heaven.” And various other statements said to ensure that their life is A-OK with Jesus.

One of the more troubling aspects of this person is that for quite some time their life has been markedly, obviously messed up. But they throw in the clichés and it sounds so simple, so nice, so Christian.

I say with A. W. Tozer, “Now I do not want to reflect on the sincerity of any Christian soul, but this stock testimony is too neat to be real. It is obviously what the speaker thinks should be true rather than what he has proved to be true by the test of experience.”

Most Christian cliché is evidence that the individual has no idea what he or she is talking about. Instead of actually learning, growing, struggling, seeking and asking, it’s easier to borrow what someone else said.

I say with Oswald Chambers, “If you cannot express yourself on any subject, struggle until you can. If you do not, someone will be the poorer all the days of his life. Struggle to re-express some truth of God to yourself, and God will use that expression to someone else. Go through the winepress of God where the grapes are crushed. You must struggle to get expression experimentally, then there will come a time when that expression will become the very wine of strengthening to someone else; but if you say lazily – “I am not going to struggle to express this thing for myself, I will borrow what I say,” the expression will not only be of no use to you, but of no use to anyone.”

There. I have now quoted two other guys to make a point about using other’s words in place of your own experiential knowledge. I do this because Oswald Chambers also said:

“The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.”

So, which is it for you? Do you quote others words because you have no idea what you’re talking about, or because those authors express more clearly what you know? Make sure there’s no confusion!

Romans 8, The Holy Spirit and Sin

Many try to prove they have “the Spirit” by outward manifestations of spiritual gifts (usually only the exciting ones, not ones like mercy), or the fact that they hear God directing them to good parking spots, or brag about supposed evidence of a spiritual fruit (“Like, totally, when my fingernail got cut off, I was like, soooo patient, it was totally the Spirit.”).

It is my contention that the main way the Spirit manifests Himself in a believer is by producing a spiritual life, which begins by making war with sin.

Sin is bad. Sin is natural. Sin cannot be overcome by the flesh. We have no strength within ourselves to defeat sin, which is why we need the Spirit. Once we have the Spirit, if we actually obey Him, and not quench or resist Him, we can overcome sin.

In fact, if a person is not overcoming sin, the case can be made they do not have the Spirit and are thus not saved.

Undoubtedly a guy gets in trouble for such words in our day of sinful abandon and gracious license, but it’s what Paul said.

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

“Live” is referring to salvation, in my mind, based on the fact that Christ will “quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” “Quicken” means to make alive.

The Spirit brings life (Romans 8:11). We have no obligation to live to the flesh because it hasn’t done anything for us (Romans 8:12). Fleshly living is evidence of still being in the flesh; living in the Spirit is evidence of spiritual life (Romans 8:13). Those who are led by the Spirit are God’s children (Romans 8:14).

Sticking together Paul’s point we see that the presence of the Spirit changes a person fundamentally. A person who has been changed by the Spirit, who mortifies sin by the Spirit, is the true child of God.

Having a spooky dream about dead people, or going to heaven, or healing your knee, or getting tingling sensations during praise choruses with minor chords, is not biblical evidence for the Spirit’s presence.

The reality of eternal life is that we are truly dead and then born again! It’s a new life! The Gospel is the power of God. Once we get over our fixation with ourselves and truly trust Jesus Christ to raise us up, things happen! Join in!

The Holy Spirit and Sin

Lots of people think they have the Holy Spirit. Their proof for this is that they experience healing, hear a voice from God, get inner directions to a shortcut to Wal-Mart and other such things.

All of these may indeed be a sign of something, but they are not necessarily a sign you have the Holy Spirit.

One of the first ways to know the Holy Spirit is at work in you is that sin really bugs you. When Jesus said He would send another Comforter who would “reprove the world of sin,” I’d begin with your proof of having the Spirit right there.

“Reprove” means to “convict, refute, confute a) generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted b) by conviction to bring to the light, to expose,” according to Thayer’s Lexicon.

In other words, the Spirit makes you feel bad about your sin, exposes it for what it is and it is ugly.

Healing a knee problem or hearing an inner voice giving you the “OK” to quit your job is more exciting than feeling bad about sin, which is why we go with the first group of proofs.

But true spiritual living sees that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, so shape up. What fellowship has light with darkness, righteousness with unrighteousness? None at all.

The presence of the Spirit in your life will always result in you having a huge problem with your own sin to the extent that not doing sin becomes way more enjoyable and comfortable than the fleshly pleasure of doing sin.

A sign the Spirit has not moved in is when other people’s sins bother you more than your own. When your sin doesn’t even phase you. When you live with a total lack of remorse over your behavior that fails to meet God’s standards.

I know, I know, it’s more fun to speak in tongues, but hey, that’s what the Book says.

Church History, Gnosticism and Calvinism

I know I irritate Calvinists on here from time to time. I do this for two reasons:

1) Calvinism is wrong
2) It’s my blog

I honestly think Calvinism is bad stuff and a view of church history shows I’m not the only one who thinks so. I’d encourage you to watch the following video. If you disagree, that’s fine, but it demonstrates one main reason why I don’t buy into Calvinism.

Feast of St. Paul’s Conversion

I am not from a mainline denomination nor a liturgical church background. Therefore, I have no idea what’s going on in that Church Calendar thing. But I saw today that it is the Feast of St. Paul’s Conversion.

This feast marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Seriously.

I find this ironical! If there is one guy in Scripture who has caused the most Christian Disunity, it is St. Paul.

I have a feeling that if Paul preached in our churches today, a vast majority of professed Christians would not like him. I know this for two main reasons:

1) People in Paul’s day didn’t like him. Every time he turned around some mob of people was trying to kill him.

2) I’ve read his writings and know for a fact that they are vastly in opposition to what most people believe and think he said.

My conclusion on Paul is: if you haven’t actually read many times what he actually said, it’s easier to be a fan of his.

Much of what Paul said that doesn’t sit well with people is dismissed in some way. We take the annoying submissive-women bits and dismiss them as cultural backwardness. We take his stance against sin and pretend the grace bits are really more what he meant. His warnings about Gentiles blowing it are ignored while we debate election. His explanation of justification by faith is either ignored and replaced with legalism or so over-hyped sin is no longer bad. Head coverings? Are you serious?

Yup, Paul is a tough guy. He’s a fascinating character but not easily swallowed. His writings contain things hard to be understood and people have been wrestling them to their own destruction for about 2,000 years now.

Remember brother Paul today. Thank God for his faithfulness and ministry. Then get busy conforming your life to what he taught.

Fruit of Wrong Priorities Part 2

This is a necessary follow-up to my earlier post. In that post I said that Christ values one soul over all the world and yet we value people more who save a few acres of rain forest or who give homes to homeless people. This skewed prioritization leads to dismissing God and ends in sin.

Now, at this time it is important to understand that being of physical good is important. Jesus, before He died, had compassion on those physically suffering. James tells us if we pray for people and don’t lift a finger to help them physically we are bad, bad people. We are to give what we have to the poor, and this is easier for us because we don’t need much anyway since we are living as heaven’s citizens.

The problem comes when we get our priorities mixed. The point of helping people physically is so we might lead them to consider the state of their soul.

Physically helping people may do good for a set amount of time. Physically helping people with the intent of showing Christ’s love so that souls might be saved can have eternal value.

We use the world and its stuff to direct people heavenward. When we stop with helping physically we miss the whole point.

Love is the center of it all, and ultimately, the Love of Christ, the Gospel, is the center of what we do. Physical help done with the right spiritual priority can translate physical things into eternal value. This is cool.

Changing temporal stuff into eternal value is another aspect of heavenly economics that is mind blowing.

Christ is the priority. We give up all for Him. As we give up all, someone will benefit, and hopefully the benefit will be eternal value by willingly giving up the world and its stuff that one soul might be saved.

The Fruit of Wrong Priorities

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Much has been said about these words of Jesus. They fit in a larger context about self-denial as a requirement of a true disciple. Most of what has been said about this phrase has to do with guilting people about how much stuff they have.

I am certainly not opposed to such applications, but I want to think about the phrase a little bit more on a different angle.

Jesus is telling us how valuable a soul is in His estimation. According to Christ’s economy, a soul, one soul, is worth more than the entire creation.

This simple lesson in heavenly economics demonstrates just how far off we are in our thinking from God’s wisdom. It goes a long way in showing just why all that man esteems, God despises.

We celebrate people because they gave their life to cure cancer, to die for their country, to give your life to feeding the poor, sacrificing to save rain forests, etc.

In the end, Jesus Himself thinks getting your soul saved is more important than anything else you can do to “save” this temporal world. And, by implication, living in such a way as to get other souls to consider their salvation is of utmost importance as well.

It’s, in fact, what Christ gave His life for. Christ did not die to reform government, save rain forests, cure cancer, provide homes for the homeless or anything else apart from getting souls saved.

This is heartless, cold and backwards in our world. This is why Christians are accused of being so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. This is why Believers are marginalized in our world for not caring. But there are no passages that tell us to cure cancer, save rain forests, provide homes for homeless people or any of the other pet projects flaunted to show “sincere love,” but there are many, many verses about the importance of salvation.

This is the priority of Christ. Our esteeming of creation over the desires of the Creator is one of the main problems Paul points out with us in Romans 1. The epitome of this prioritization, Paul says, is demonstrated by homosexuality.

I didn’t say it, Paul did. Our priorities are off and we’re reaping what our bad prioritization skills have sown. We can bemoan the world all we want; it’s the Church that has dropped the ball. Judgment begins with the house of God.

Want to help? Get your soul right with God, then get busy helping other souls do the same.

Church Marketing and Unconditional Love

“God has been unconditionally loving since about 1965.”

I heard this quote in an interview with a sociologist talking about American Evangelicals. I thought it was a fascinating, funny (funny as in it made me laugh when I heard it because rarely do you hear such things put in such ways), and absolutely true statement.

The context of the comment was talking about the changes in America in the ’60’s, where atheism became an acceptable “faith.” But I would also add it was a time when Eastern religions were creeping in and Islam began to make initial noises in our country with Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

The author being interviewed said that Christianity in America had to start competing and entered the marketplace of choice where faith had to be sold like a product. This being the case, Christians backed way off the harshness of judgment and began hyping love.

Christianity “became a buyer’s market. People chose if they were going to be Christian. They could decide which church they were going to join.”

In this competition for customers, many Christians chucked Gospel Truth and replaced it with an easy-believism, it’s all love and grace, sugary soup of muddled doctrine. It worked, so far as attendance figures go.

As attendance numbers went up, the mentions of hell, judgment, holiness, righteousness, obedience, submission and narrow gates went down.

So, here we are now, 50 years later, slogging through the bog of sinful people enjoying their high self-esteem because Jesus loves them just the way they are. God’s love is conditional and there is no consistent reading of Scripture that could possibly convince you otherwise. Psychology and marketing tell us it’s true, but not the Bible.

Gentiles, we have arrived at the precise point Israel arrived at many years ago when they said, “leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” As Paul said, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

Anyone concerned enough to do anything about it?

Our Relationship with God Differs from Relationships with other People

Human relationships are weird, this is primarily due to the fact that people are weird. In our mutual weirdness, we weirdly misunderstand one another. Since we can’t read each others thoughts, we assume things.

Being weird, our assumptions are often weird, causing everyone around us to be weird in our minds, which then leads to weirdness in every relationship. The only way we can interact with others is through our five senses. There is a limit to the closeness we can achieve with others because everything is external.

The distinction of the New Testament relationship with God is that it is so personal it is actually internal. The Believer’s relationship with God is a spiritual relationship, delving deeper than any human relationship could ever hope to.

This deeper relationship is the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Believer. We are in Christ and Christ is in us. Therefore, our relationship with God is not dependent upon external, five-senses limitations.

Before the New Testament indwelling of the Spirit in all believers, OT believers were more dependent upon the five senses to learn things about God, which is part of the reason they had external ordinances, types, shadows, judgments, etc.

Now that Believers have the Spirit indwelling them, however, we are a spiritual people with a spiritual relation with God. When many speak of the external, five-senses experiences with God, I think they are missing things, perhaps making things up, basing their relationship with God upon what they experience with other people not what the Bible says a believer now experiences with the Spirit of God in Him, being partakers of the divine nature.

Our relationship with God is distinct from any other relationship we have with other physical beings. If it is not so, then you need to know God through His Spirit.

“For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”

Forgiveness and God’s Love

There is a notion out there that God forgives me because He loves me. There is a sense in which this is true, but there’s also a sense in which this misleads. You’ll have to be patient with me on this one, because I think I have a point, I just might not be explaining it well!

When God forgives someone, He does not do this because He is love, because He has warm fuzzies about someone. In other words, love is not the reason God can forgive.

Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection is the reason God can forgive.

Now, Christ’s death and resurrection is God’s great demonstration of love, this is abundantly true, but God couldn’t forgive apart from the death and resurrection of Christ.

God hates all workers of iniquity. Hate is the opposite of love. Therefore, God cannot love what God hates. In order for a sinner to be loved by God, they must have their sin removed and their old, sinful self replaced with a righteous, spiritual self.

Faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, otherwise known as “The Gospel,” is the instrument by which a sinner is crucified, buried and raised with Christ. Due to our new place in Christ, we benefit from God’s love.

The cross is the center point of God’s forgiveness. To say that God forgives because God is love, makes the cross a minor point. It even seems to make sin a minor point. The shed blood of Christ is the demonstration not only of God’s love, but also of His hatred of sin.

A Surefire Way to Get Revival

Revival is a great thing, a great thing many desire to create for their own time. Revivals are tough to produce, though. It seems they either happen or they don’t. Can one go about creating one?

Some people think so, others think revivals are just weird, don’t worry about it.

The Bible refers to several revivals, particularly in the history of Israel and Judah. Based on who the king was, the people were brought  to or away from God. When they came back it was revival and cool.

2 Chronicles 15 mentions one revival where the people of Judah “had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the Lord gave them rest round about.”

What a great thing to have a nation seek after God with dedication and desire. How did Judah produce such things? Was it

*Good music?
*Stirring preaching?
*Interpretive dance?
*YouTube videos of cats?
*Prayer meetings?
*Bible reading?
*Tears, wailing and weeping over sin?
*Violent hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes?
*Erecting tents with sawdust covered floors?

No, it was none of these things. Two verses earlier we are told what the cause of their great revival was, it had to do with a vow they vowed, which said:

“That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.”

Yup, that’ll work. Hey, we’re having a revival over here and we just want everyone to know that if you don’t get revived with us, we’re going to kill you. Come on out at 7 tonight! Refreshments served afterwards!

Hey, it works every time it’s tried.

Worshipping God and Music

With the predominance of music in modern worship services, there has been a growing backlash against music in church. One of the destructive tendencies of people is to go to extremes.

When a guy finds out that people would rather sing or listen to music than hear God’s Word, the response is to cancel the talking bits and load up on singing. Guys who hate this go the other way and load up on preaching and conclude that singing is of the devil.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what people want.

What matters is what God says we should do. Unfortunately, there are no passages of Scripture that tell us what a New Testament church service should look like. Preaching, praying, singing and reading the Scriptures are all mentioned, but we’re not given time limits!

Music can be an edifying thing. Came across an interesting verse in 1 Chronicles talking about Jeduthun, “who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the Lord.”

The word “prophesied” means to speak or sing by inspiration. Now, if The Prayer of Jabez has taught us anything, it’s that obscure verses from Chronicles are the most important verses in all the Scriptures, therefore, all churches should retain harp players immediately.

Scripture contains music and music has always been associated with worship, whether on earth or heaven, or by humans or angels. There aint nothing wrong with it. In the end, it’s not the sum and substance of worship, the Word of God always takes precedent. Music is an accessory to use in worship of God.

It is, apparently, left up to us to determine what that looks like. Don’t make the minor the major either by making too much of music or putting up too much fuss about music that annoys you. Relax. Worship God.

At the same time, make sure the music on display actually conveys a consistent message with Scripture. Just because it’s music taking place in church doesn’t mean it’s worship. Music is another vehicle to proclaim the words and work of God. Use it accordingly (or even accordion-ly).

Why I Listen to Jesus and not Charlie Sheen

Each morning when I eat my breakfast, I sit in the living room where my wife has the news on. Since I always eat my cereal and apple at 8, I always see the same segment of the news, which isn’t really news, it’s just the newest display of the world’s stupid.

I get there to see the pop news segment and the what’s trending on the internet segment. Generally this is filled with the latest celebrity gossip and happenings.

Therefore, I know more about William and Kate and Charlie Sheen than I ever wanted to know. It is amazing to me how often these people are taken seriously and how much I am apparently supposed to care about their opinions.

Why do we hear more from the mouths of people who pretend to be others for a living than we do from sincere, actually wise, believers? I’m sure there are many reasons, but one of my favorite is from Ecclesiastes:

Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

Wisdom is great stuff, but if you’re poor, don’t expect anyone to think you are wise, and certainly don’t expect to be heard.

Our world values riches. We celebrate rich people for two reasons primarily:

1) Association with rich people might make others think we’re rich and thus we will be heard and
2) If we’re nice to rich people we might get some of their riches.

The Bible warns us over and over to avoid treating the rich better than the poor. If anything, the Bible tells us to treat the poor better. When Jesus came He preached to the poor and pretty much leveled the rich at every opportunity. I love that about Him. When He had opportunity to impress the rich, He went out of His way to make sure they would not be impressed.

Be wise, don’t concern yourself with money. Who cares if anyone is listening to you. Enjoy the wife of your youth, what your hands find to do, do it mightily, and enjoy your supper. That’s Solomon’s wisdom, which we know, of course, because he was filthy rich!

Your Sin Messes With Other People

Josiah was a pretty good king of Judah, as far as the kings of the time went, near the end of its existence. One of the things he did was tear down the altars to false gods previous kings had erected.

One of the biggest causes of idolatry was King Manasseh who came a couple of kings before him. Manasseh had grand ideas of how worship should go in Judah and made changes to the temple, disobeying many commands of God while doing so.

Even though Josiah did well and Judah had a bit of a revival under him, “Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.”

Regardless of how well Josiah did, Manasseh’s rebellion so irritated God there was no making up for it. The Old Testament carries such warnings, that judgment on people’s sins will fall out to the third and fourth generation.

We probably like to think the character of God has changed since such things were said and done, but just taking a wild guess, I bet it hasn’t.

At the same time the Bible says consequences of sins will pass down through generations, it also says the children will not be punished for the sins of their father–the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Taking both these things into account, what are we left with? We are left with the frequent biblical position of being stuck between two options. Everything has a season. Sometimes one is true, sometimes the other is true.

One of the scarier aspects of sin beyond what it does to you and how it offends God, is what it will result in for those who come after you. This is not limited to your family either, the case at hand is a nation.

What is the result of your sin for your family, church, business, city, or any other group you are involved in? I think sometimes, in our obsession with our feelings of forgiveness from God for ourselves, we do not consider enough the consequences of our actions on others. Sin is a painful, destructive thing and be sure your sin will find you out.

There But For The Grace of God go I Or Maybe Not

“Grace” means favor. Favor generally conveys something positive, like a blessing. Therefore, the conclusion is reached that you know you have God’s grace when everything is going well for you.

“There but for the grace of God go I,” is said by many who observe something tragic happening to someone else and then ever so humbly conclude that God’s grace has made me avoid a similar fate (This phrase is not from the Bible, by the way).

(Which reminds me of a funny story. My dad and I were eating in a restaurant in downtown Chicago and they locked the door to their bathroom requiring you to get a key. It took people forever to figure out you needed a key and many just stood outside the locked door thinking someone was in there. My dad and I ate there several days in a row and observed the same stupidity occurring with this bathroom as eventually there would be a line of people waiting outside a bathroom with no one in it. As my dad pointed out the line forming yet again, said, “I sure hope if I had to go bad I didn’t come here to use the bathroom” To which I said, “Ah yes, there but for the grace of God go I.” My dad about fell out of his chair laughing. It was great. But I digress.)

One of the problems with the idea that grace always means something good is happening, is that the Bible doesn’t always convey this idea! Observe the following from Philippians:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake”

Paul uses the Greek word charizomai, which the KJV puts as “given.” This word has the Greek word charis as its root, which is the word commonly translated “grace.”

In other words, Christ has given, or graced, or favored, them with something. What is the something they have been favored with? Believing and suffering!

Suffering can be a gracious, favorable thing given to us! Now, this doesn’t fit in well with our modern hedonistic Gospel where everything is roses and sunshine with Jesus, but it does fit in well with Scripture.

“There but for the grace of God go I” may in fact be the exact opposite of what’s going on! Perhaps the one suffering is the one who has God’s grace. If Job’s friends knew that, they would have saved themselves quite a bit of trouble.

Imagine how much trouble we could save ourselves if we began seeing things the way God sees them?

Why Obey God?

Why do you want to obey God?

That’s an interesting question. The question makes the assumption that you actually do want to obey God! I suppose this should not be assumed. There are those who don’t know God who obviously then don’t want to obey Him. Unfortunately, there are false doctrines encouraging people that obedience is unnecessary and might even be wrong.

But, for true believers the assumption is pretty safe that you want to, so the question again is: why?

Solomon gives a speech at the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8, it’s a cool passage. Near the end he tells Israel to obey God and asks God to bless Israel for their obedience. The reason why Solomon wants Israel to obey and God to bless is so

“That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else.”

He then follows this verse with:

“Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.”

Solomon didn’t want blessing so he could roll around in super-abundant hedonistic narcissism. He wanted blessing so that people would know that God was God.

I’ve heard many reasons given as to why God should be obeyed:

avoiding punishment
getting stuff
receive health and wealth
get prayers answered
eliminate guilt
so you can be happy in Jesusbecause you’re better than that
because He’s God

Some of those aren’t horrible reasons, some are flat-out blasphemous, I’ll let you decide which are which!

But obeying God that others may know Him, as Jesus said we should do your good works before men  so they may “see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” is one that’s often avoided. Perhaps it sounds arrogant.

With today’s aversion to good works, we like to think we’re “doing it for God” and if anyone sees them then it’s merely self-righteousness. But the Apostle Paul actually says the good works we do are done to be helpful for other people.

Our obedience to God is done for God, this is true, but they also benefit other people, and can ultimately bring others to a knowledge of God. Let us not fear doing good, especially if our motivation is to bring others to know Him.

DL Moody–He’s Why You Sing so Much in Church

I am reading a biography of Oswald Chambers. His dad was a pastor who was forced to resign from his church after DL Moody brought his revival to town.

Now, most revivalists in Church History have critics, people who must poke holes in their success. Some of this is sour grapes and some of it just has to do with human nature. Criticism is easy. Also, with every ministry, pretty bad people can claim to be part of it. In other words, I doubt any ministry has all good fruit. Jesus had Judas remember.

This is an important factor to keep in mind as we view ministries. If you’re looking for the idiot in the haystack, you can find them, but to use the idiot in the haystack as normative is when criticisms get carried away.

A couple of years ago I came across another criticism of Moody’s revivals and this Chamber’s biography includes another.

Apparently, after Moody brought his revival to town, many pastors lost their jobs. The reason was because Moody was exciting and had music. His services lasted one hour with only a 20-minute sermon, the rest was Mr. Sanky singing and leading singing.

When Moody and his excitement left town, everyone wanted Moody-like services. pastors who couldn’t pull it off got canned. The biography quotes the Aberdeen Journal of June 24, 1874 as saying:

“Laying aside the spiritual and moral aspects of the movement, we should say that the chief object which may be served by Messrs. Moody and Sanky’s visit maybe to import more life into our religious services; to elevate to a more sanctified place in the services of the sanctuary the divine gift of song; and to shorten the oratorical part of the service. The meetings of our American friends have been well attended by ministers of various denominations, and it will be for them to take the lead in instituting such reforms as will lead to a deeper personal interest on the part of the church members.”

In other words, Moody is right, all other ways are wrong, so change immediately. Life and music are not wrong things to have associated with church services. What is bothersome is the bandwagon hopping. If one guy gets success, whether DL Moody or Rick Warren, everyone feels they need to start doing church like the successful guys.

This is not a good thing. I have always been in favor of different churches and different ways of doing things. Variety is good and I don’t think choice is bad. Certain temperaments will gravitate to some churches over others. This is not bad, I believe this is the out working of the Spirit as He moves through the many members of the One Body.

As Paul says in Corinthians, if the eye wants to quit being an eye so he can be an ear, where will the seeing be? Let Moody have his success, but don’t change into Moody, as this is following a man, not the Spirit.

If you follow the Spirit and you end up looking like Moody, so be it (Replace “Moody” with any other celebrity preacher of any time to make the same point).

Outward success is no indicator of spiritual success. Stick with the Spirit and you’ll be fine, even if you don’t achieve world-wide popularity like some others have. Popularity is neither here nor there. Serving Christ is all.

What Was the Apostle Paul Preaching?

Paul has always been a controversial figure. During his ministry, both Jews and Gentiles wanted to kill him. Jews didn’t think he made enough of Moses’ Law; Gentiles thought he made too much out of making money and idolatry.

Over the years, Paul has been a fine catalyst for division in the Church. Some think Paul is the only one who had a clue; others think we’d be better off without Paul and all his anti-woman, anti-fun doctrinal yacking.

In order to prove our pet doctrines with Paul, many have tried to pigeonhole him, divide, dissect and distort to their own destruction. Paul tells us what the content of his preaching was in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. He gives us several phrases that sum up the content of what he taught. In 12 verses he describes the content of his preaching in the following ways:

*repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ
*the gospel of the grace of God
*preaching the kingdom of God
*all the counsel of God
*the word of his grace

Many, in an effort to make a point, conveniently remove some of these aspects of his ministry, or at least over-emphasize an aspect. But it’s important to see that the Gospel of His Grace and the preaching of the kingdom are the same thing, and these are the same thing as preaching repentance and faith, which is then the same thing along with warning and the word of his grace.

Rather than build up walls that separate, see the unity and the connection. Sure, at times certain aspects are stressed, but in the end these are all the same thing. Is your Gospel including repentance, faith, grace, the kingdom, warnings, the whole counsel of God and the word of God’s grace? Paul’s did.

Faithful followers of Paul follow Paul as he followed Christ. This is a real good idea.

Oswald Chambers on Faith

“Faith by its very nature must be tried, and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be cleared in our own minds. Faith in its actual working out has to go through spells of unsyllabled isolation.

“Never confound the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, much that we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive.

“Faith in the Bible is faith in God against everything that contradicts Him – I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” – this is the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole of the Bible.”

Obeying God is Heaven

Everyone wants to go to heaven. This makes me wonder what people think is going to be going on in heaven?

As far as I understand it, heaven is heaven because it’s everything doing exactly what God desires it to do. The time on earth where everything was doing what God desired was the Garden of Eden, and it was perfection.

That being the case, what gives most people who want to go to heaven the idea they’ll enjoy it when they get there?

When Ephesians says wives should fear, reverence and obey their husbands women freak out. “This is male chauvinism! Do you have any idea what a moron my husband is I aint submitting to that.” Is this helping your marriage or hurting it? Is it bringing you closer to heavenly reality or further away?

When Ephesians tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave His life for it, men say, “What? I make the money, I shouldn’t have to do anything else for her. I’m not getting off the couch to do dishes.” Is this helping your marriage?

When Ephesians tells us to submit to one another most say “No way. I’m here for my rights. Don’t get in my way. I’m looking out for me.” Is this bringing heavenly reality to your life?

In our dismissal of what God says, we move ourselves further from heaven, further from perfection. God’s commands are not grievous, they are commands that result in righteousness, which brings peace.

Yet we fight. We say that as long as I believe in Jesus I can do whatever I want. That listening to God is optional. That the Bible has cultural stuff in it we can change to our whims so we can do whatever it is we feel like.

This is not helping. We would all be better off if we lived in submission to our Savior who loves us and gave Himself for us. If He did not spare His own Son, how freely will He give us everything else?

But we don’t trust. We don’t obey and our lives reflect that we are earthly and not born from above. God’s Word was not given to us to ruin our lives, but to bring is to perfection, which is joy and peace. God said it, believe it and do it even if you don’t like it. God knows more than you do.

The Bible Isn’t All Stories

One of the latest fads in pastoral preaching is the concept of Story. As far as I can figure, the point is that The Gospel is a story and we are characters. Show your people that they are involved in a larger story and it will captivate and attract them for more.

Jesus is example number one for this. Jesus told parables, therefore we should be one long story telling machine.

The fascinating thing to me is that Jesus Himself, at one point while not telling a story, says that He uses parables so people don’t get the point. Seriously, He did. Jesus spent a long time explaining His parables to His disciples who didn’t understand them. They had ears to hear and got them; most of His audience had no clue what He was talking about, and Jesus kept it that way because that’s what Isaiah prophesied about Israel.

I’m all for a good story. A good illustration can really knock home a sermon point. Certainly not against them, but I do see a danger in relying too heavily upon them.

Take the Bible, for instance. Every January well-meaning individuals attempt to read through the Bible. Genesis is pretty good because it’s story after story. Exodus starts with a bang but fizzles as God gets into very detailed explanations of laws, sacrifices and so forth.

Leviticus?! No story here. Just rule after rule about sacrifices and priests and boils and mildew. Numbers continues the same way, then throws in a few chapters of exciting stories back on the farm. Then Deuteronomy comes. If your Bible reading hasn’t derailed by now, Deuteronomy will do you in.

The Bible tells a story, a rather captivating one at that. But the story lags, kind of like Moby Dick, which is largely about whale anatomy. Seriously, it is, try reading the unabridged novel sometime. Yikes.

The New Testament, after the Gospels and Acts, has little story in it at all and mostly just explanations of doctrine. If you’re looking for story time, most of the Bible will let you down.

Don’t over-emphasize what God has not over-emphasized. Much of our preaching is to be teaching, not story telling. Story can help occasionally, but never to the detriment of the teaching.

The Good News About the Rapture

I’m one of those old-fashioned guys who thinks this age ends with a rapture of believers, followed by a seven-year tribulation (actually three and a half of relative peace followed by three and a half of judgment), leading to a 1,000-year Kingdom.

Many who believe in a rapture look forward to it with glee and this is understandable. The Rapture means we are not subject to the wrath to come.

Unfortunately, many who believe in a rapture and celebrate the coming of God’s Judgment will miss out. Only believers are taken in the rapture. And, if a guy were to study what the Bible means by a Believer, you’d see that not many will actually be raptured.

rapturePictures like this one give the idea that the world will fall apart when believers are removed. This is funny on many levels. Note that after the rapture there is three and a half years of peace! The world will be happy to be rid of the nine believers leaving and will carry on merrily.

Most think that the good news of the rapture is that “I get to escape judgment day.” This is true for some, but I believe it’s wishful thinking for most.

The good news about the rapture is that many half-hearted people who thought they were believers are going to get a second chance. Many will wake up and see what’s going on and finally believe for real.

The 1,000-year Kingdom is populated not just with Jews but with a multitude of people from the nations. Where do these people come from? They come from today’s half-filled pews.

Being here for God’s wrath is not a good time. Many will continue to blaspheme God and His Christ. But many will refuse to join with the Antichrist and will come to faith, endure the tribulation to the end, and enter the Kingdom.

Although this is backhanded good news, I have better news: you can decide to wake up right now and escape the whole thing!

God’s Word Is Like, Soooo Annoying

In a long line of examples I could use to prove that people would rather do their own thing to achieve their own will rather than obeying God to prove His will, here is a video made by a woman trying to convince the Catholic Church that ordaining women is a good thing.

The most telling lines of the video are:

Woman priest is my call
Women preaching for all
Don’t listen to St. Paul
Cuz I can lead the way

The bottom line is that she thinks God called her, therefore, Scripture no longer matters. To hear a blatant statement to ignore St. Paul is fascinating if not terrifying.

But alas, this is the day we live in, much like the days of Israel when Israel thought listening to God was optional as well. Turned out well for them, eh? Captivity, destruction, rejection of Messiah. Ah yes, the end times will be like it was in the days of Noah.

So, say a prayer of thanks that God has given us a woman who knows more than He does.

Romans 9-11 and the Failure of the Church

It is my contention, based on much reading of Scripture, that The Church is going to fail. There will be individual success, people will be saved, but as a whole, The Church blows it.

The Church will (has) become proud. We don’t heed the warning of Paul directed at Gentiles that if God cut off the Natural branch Israel, beware lest He cut you off too.

We pretend this is too deep for us to understand. Romans 9-11 is often called a “parenthesis in Paul’s letter to the Romans.” Nope, it’s not. It’s pointing out how Israel is a giant illustration of how to fail to attain the righteousness of God.

The History of Israel was not written for Israel, the OT is not written for them, it’s written for us so we don’t fall in the same way, yet when was the last time you even read the Old Testament?

Israel thought they were in, they were good to go, we’re God’s chosen people, relax, He won’t judge us. The Church is there now. Grace has become the giant fallback, God won’t judge us, there’s grace.

Newsflash: there was grace with Israel, too!

Grace doesn’t mean God likes sin. We are chucking doctrinal integrity and faithfulness to Scripture so we can excuse our favorite sins, pretend it’s ok to do what we do. We are storing up wrath for the day of wrath.

“Be not highminded, but fear” is smack dab in the middle of Romans 11, the giant warning passage for Gentiles to beware lest God cut you off as He cut of Israel. Yet today all we talk about is reward, happy thoughts and how every day is a Friday with Jesus.

The reason Paul tells us Gentiles, The Church, to fear is because we stand by faith and faith means listening to God’s Word. Yet God’s Word is so marginal in The Church today, there is no possible way to make a case that the Church is currently standing by faith.

For years I was told, “If you preach the Word people will come.” T’ain’t true. No one has any time for God’s Word. People want to hear happy Jesus advice on how to achieve their ends, how to pull off their will, but few have any interest in learning how to achieve God’s ends for us and proving what His will is.

It’s sad. Human nature is diseased. Ever since Genesis and up to today and on into the future, humans will mess it up entirely. If we know that human nature is deprived, why do we not fear God more?

Why are we not living in total dependence on the Spirit and God’s Word? Why is everything else in the world more important than your spiritual health? How much more of your life has to fall apart before you give up and truly come to Christ and abide in His Word? How much of the world are you hoping is in heaven? How much are you willing to compromise to keep your pet sins? How many lies are you willing to believe so you can console yourself that your sin-filled relative is really in heaven? How much more deception do you need to keep from being convicted by the light of God’s Word? How much more busy-ness do you need to keep you distracted from eternal truth?

It is high time to awake out of slumber. Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth and this is a problem.

It’s The End of The Church As We Know it and I Feel Like This Was Prophesied

Yesterday’s post was a rambling about a not yet formed thought, just an observation I was contemplating. I put a comment in the post that revised my original post.

My new theory goes like this:

Genesis focuses on a couple families
Exodus-Malachi focuses on the nation of Israel
New Testament focuses on the Church

In each of these times, individuals are accountable for their salvation and actions. However, the group they are in can affect them. There were righteous Jews who suffered under Israel’s judgments and there were good family members, like Joseph, who suffered from being in a stupid family. Not all who are of Abraham are of Abraham.

The same is true in the NT. The Church has good people in it, but it’s also living in a time where the wheat grows with the weeds, and the two won’t be sorted until the end. The Church has false teachers and false brethren.

The True Church is known by its adherence to the will of the Father, there is a family likeness. The True Church takes precedence in our lives, to the extent it is more important than family bloodline or a nation.

Unfortunately, most people don’t see this. The Church is something that exists to care for my family and if they don’t care for them the way I want, I’ll leave the church–family is more important. The Church is a tool we use to reform our nation–the nation is more important.

Today it is hip and chic to bash church as an unnecessary, impossible ideal, but perhaps we can redeem it to reform some physical institution. I’ll just sit at home and listen to podcasts and be happy with my spiritual growth by myself.

The Church has lost its luster and, guess what? Just as family and the Nation of Israel deteriorated, so to will the Church. You are living in the downfall of The Church. Make sure to take lots of pictures while convincing yourself it’s everyone else who is causing the problem.

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

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