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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Albert Mohler Quote

“I fear that there are many evangelicals today who believe that God spoke but doubt whether He speaks.  They know and talk about the fact that God spoke in the Old Testament but think that now that He no longer does so and that they must therefore invent new ways to convince people to love Him.  But if you call yourself a preacher of God’s Word, and you think that all of God’s speaking was in the past, then resign.  I say that with deadly seriousness.  If you do not believe that God now speaks from His Word-the Bible-then what are you doing every Sunday morning?  If you are not confident that God speaks as you rightly read and explain the Word of God, then you should quit.


But if you do believe that- if you truly believe that God speaks through His Word- then why would you substitute anything else in the place of the expository preaching of the Bible?” – Albert Mohler, “He is Not Silent” pg. 57-58

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Birthday Reflection: A Year of Restoration and 5 Recognitions

God will destroy us for our good.

It may sound counter intuitive to us, but love is always willing to wound.  A year ago I was wounded.  I was drowning in a sea of despair and barely skimming the surface.  I was gasping for breath.  Sure, I put on the face.  I attended all the social events.  I would even stand and preach the Word of God.  I would do everything I would normally do- but I was not the same.

In the course of the month I had lost everything I held dear: dear friends, a growing ministry, a girl I thought I was spending the rest of my life with, my health was in a bad place.  I felt betrayed as all of them left.  To this day it doesn’t even seem real.  How does everything you love and pour two years of your life into just turn and walk away?  It began a year of spiral downward that echoed the words of David in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (13:1-2).  People of faith suffer real pain.  I asked the Lord every day for a year, “Why?”  I could hear nothing, whether due to my stupidity or His gracious silence.

In my pride I was pretended there was not a problem.  I viewed vulnerability as an enemy, forgetting that confession has always been the pathway to freedom (Psalm 32:5).  The victory I’d preached from the pulpit felt like a distant memory.  “Who am I fooling? Lord, I’m not cut out for this.  I’m throwing in the towel.”  I would try to form cohesive words in prayer as I sobbed.  I was asking for the Lord to not just take me out of ministry, but I often asked him to take me out of this life.

Look how David continues in Psalm 13,

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken
– Psalm 13:3-4

I need an answer, but little did I know He was not finished with me yet.

No matter how much I desired to let go of everything I knew, He was not letting go of me.  Jeremiah was put in stocks by the priests and he declared, “O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed.  I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me” (Jeremiah 20:7).  But, in the midst of it, Jeremiah would also declare, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot…Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers” (20:9, 13).

The good news has never been about how hard we hold onto God, but how hard God is holding onto us.  Jesus words in John 6 were warm sweet promises to me.  He had given me to the Father and I would not perish.  He has drawn me and He would raise me.  The will of the Father was that all who believed would be raised on the last day.  Jesus’ death absorbed all of God’s wrath toward me.  This suffering was not His wrath, it was for my good.  He was not inflicting me with Hell, but loving His child all the way Home.  We was keeping me, and sometimes keeping us involved taking things away.

Now, a year after my earth shattering heartbreak, I resonate with the words of Joel 2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”  He has down a miraculous work in showing me more about friendship in ministry, giving me a great set of accountability partners, brought me into a new ministry, and brought me together with a helper who is beyond what I deserve.  My health is even far better!

Friends, restoration does not always mean you will be brought back where you were.  God’s exile out is often an exodus into something new.  I would love to say the story went back into a happily ever after, but the story isn’t over yet.  Chapters end so others begin.  Our happily ever happy happens later, not in this life.  But, even as our story unfolds, a few things have be reaffirmed to me even in the face of heart-wrenching despair.

1) Jesus is Lord.  He is Lord of salvation.  He is the Lord of life.  He promises that from beginning to end all His intentions will work toward His purpose.  He is gracious and is going to conform me into His image.  This is going to involve suffering.  God is passionately dedicated to blessing his people, but God blesses the bankrupt in spirit, but the banker (Matthew 5:3).  But in the gospel, suffering is a servant, not a serpent (Romans 8:28-39).  This truth has become even more precious to me.  John Piper says this, 

Outside of this promise of all-encompassing future grace there are straw houses of drugs and alcohol and numbing TV and dozens of futile diversions.  There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans.  There are cardboard fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and antiballistic missiles.  Outside are a thousand substitutes for Romans 8:28….The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life.”  - John Piper, Future Grace 122-123

      2) The doctrines of grace remain the only bed rock for deep suffering.  To know that my salvation is rooted in the sovereign election of God, the effectual calling of the Spirit, and the particular death of the Son is a firm foundation when you feel as if you don’t control anything.  Because, in honesty- we don’t.    The scandalous grace of God is the only answer for scandalous heartbreak.  Sure, our actions have consequences, but God is control of everything that occurs.  My salvation is never grounded in how I’m feeling from day to day, but in the work of the Triune God- and Him alone.  To the praise of His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14)

            3) Suffering is good for the stubborn.  The Lord has given me a much more vulnerable and pastoral heart through this suffering (something my stubbornness caused me to lack).  People hurt.  Life is far more complicated than I originally lived like it was.  God comforts us, so that we might comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4).  This means that God will wound us, but never without a purpose.

         4) The church will let you down, but don’t give up on her.  Jesus didn’t.  In fact, nothing that Christians have ever done to me has ever been as bad as what Christians did to Him.  Jesus pursued a wandering bride.  He endured her spitting in His face, pushing Him away, but He still pursued her- even to death.  Most grooms wed their brides with a ring on their finger, but Jesus pursued His bride with two nails in His hands.  Don’t give up on the church, Jesus has not and will not.

      5) The mission of God is not about me.  His mission will be complete whether I am face down in the dirt, or whether I am out on the front lines.  God doesn’t need me.  He could raise us rocks to replace me (Matthew 3:9).  But, God has graciously invited us in and sent us out.  Why not give everything for the sake of the gospel?  It will involve this kind of heart-wrenching, soul-emptying, life-altering suffering I have described, but in the end those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).  We will see His face (Revelation 21) and His mission will be accomplished.


In the end, God destroys us for our good.  He builds us up, or moves us away, or leaves us to taste mud with the pigs- all with the goal of building us up and bringing us back (Luke 15:11-32).  Life hurts.  God is good.  The gospel is true.  His mission is urgent.  He may take what is most precious to us to show us that He should be more precious than all of it.  Why should we delight in the gifts when the Giver is so much more satisfying?  In the end, God never answered David’s question.  God’s response in our suffering is not an explanation, but revelation.  God is giving us more of Himself.  In our midst of our questions, answers will not satisfy us, He will.  Even in the midst of devastation, may we find joy in Him more and more each day.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.
– Psalm 13:5-6

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

“We look to the professor leader with his big library and quick answers, and we think he’s the definition of biblical conviction.  In reality, he’s a distortion.  Our Christian solutionism is dangerous, because, like the Silicon Valley version, it’s permeated with misplaced eschatological hope.  The buzz about the latest conference, book, and blog is that they’ll help us “reach up to the heavens.”  But that’s not the message of the Bible.  It’s the message of Babel (cf. Gen. 11:4-7).  We somehow believe that having the right information will bring salvation.  But, while solutionism may work in principle, it fails in practice.  Ministry doesn’t function as simply as we hoped, so we just get angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed.  Like the Pharisees, we think that life is about mastering the Bible.  Convictional leaders haven’t master the Bible.  The Bible has mastered them.” – Daniel Montgomery.  “Leadership Mosaic” pg. 47-48 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Does God Still Reveal Himself Through the Avenue of Dreams and Visions?

Here is a copy of my paper I wrote for my Systematic 1 class at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the question of, "Does God still reveal Himself through the avenue of dreams and visions?"  Hope it edifies the saints and exalts our Savior!  (In case you are curious, I got a 97! :D)


Issue


This paper will discuss the question, “Does God still reveal Himself through the avenues of dreams and visions?”  Definitions are key to this discussion.  Merriam-Webster defines dreams as, “a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind…”[1]  While Webster speaks of “dreams” as being experienced in sleep, in the Bible dreams and visions can happen while a person is fully awake.[2]  Dreams and visions are synonymous in that they are both audiovisual apparitions.[3]  Both dreams and visions are an experience or state in which thoughts, images, and sensations occupy someone’s experience.  In this paper we will not be debating whether God used dreams in the visions to reveal Himself in the past; we will be considering the role of dreams and visions for the believer today.  We will conclude that God may use dreams and visions as a form of general revelation, but since the canon of Scripture is closed, dreams and visions are not to be considered authoritative as special revelation.  I will argue this thesis by examining alternative views, presenting my view, and answering potential objections.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Facinating Quote from James White

Though it may seem surprising to some, in many aspects the Christian scholar of today is “closer” to the original writings of the apostles than people who lived as little as two centuries later. Why? For one thing, we not only have ready access to the entire Bible but also many of the secular writings of the day that give us important historical, cultural, and/ or linguistic information. We have the Bible available to us in the original tongues as well as in many excellent translations. We also have access to a vast amount of writing from generations between then and now; we can read the works of men like Spurgeon, Warfield, Hodge, and Machen, and can glean insights unavailable to many over the centuries. While a person living in the sixth century might have been chronologically nearer to the time of Paul, he would not have had nearly as much opportunity to study the Pauline writings as we have today. We can include in our studies the historical backgrounds of the cities to which Paul was writing; we can read his letters in their original language. These days we can sit at a computer and ask it to provide us with all the aorist passive participles in his letter to the Romans. These considerations allow us to be far more biblical in our teaching and doctrine than the person who had to live his life in hiding due to persecution, resulting in limited access to the Scriptures and also to those able to teach him.

 – James White, Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible's Accuracy, Authority and Authenticity Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What an encouragement to pick up our Bibles!

Reflection on Marriage

God created marriage with the purpose of displaying His glory and His gospel.  God is displayed as a single-minded pursuer, a single-minded covenant maker, and a single-minded vow keeper.  Even from the beginning, God has always been the pursuer.  Adam in the garden, Noah and his family before the flood and afterward in a drunken stupor, Abraham in his sojourning, the people of God in the desert.  In fact, of the people of God, God speaks through Amos that He “knew” them more than all the nations of the earth.  Even in the New Testament we see the Father lovingly pursuing a particular people for His glory.  Even before creation, Ephesians 1 tells us, God has had His eye on His bride.

Even when Jesus comes on the scene, we see God as a single-minded covenant maker.  Jesus himself spoke of the “ones the Father gave Him” saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  The Father had given Jesus a particular job- redeem the Bride.  He did not waver from this mission, in John 17 we see Jesus praying, on the night before His death “not for the world, but for those given to Him out of the world.”  He said that He had sanctified Himself for that particular people, and His mission would be accomplished. At the last supper He said His blood would make a covenant with His disciples.  As Landon’s wedding ring will adorn the finger of Megan- and Megan alone- so Christ, the wedding ring of redemption, has been placed on the finger of God’s People.  For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.  He paid the debt due sinners, he rose again, all to win His bride to Himself.

God’s pursuit and His promise will not be in vein.  Just as Landon will stand up and seal his vows to Megan, so the Holy Spirit comes and does that in the life of believers, through the vows of His promises.  The Spirit seeks, the Spirit seals, the Spirit secures.  God keeps His vow to His particular people.  He woos and wins His Bride gladly to Himself.  We love because God first loved us.
Now, there are 5 possible applications I feel need to be emphasized from this. 

First, just as God loves His Bride and does not wavor or look to any other, so a man must do in marriage.  “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church…” we are told.  Just as God has seen all that we are, and all that we will be, but has sought us, bought us, and secured us in His unwavering love.  God’s eyes do not wander, so we must be reminded as ours are tempted to.  God humbled Himself to win His woman, may Landon (and all of us men) follow suit.
Second, God pursued imperfect people, with the purpose of perfecting them.  Ephesians 5 tells us that the purpose of marriage is sanctification.  You are a sinner marrying another sinner- just as your perfection is a process- show grace toward one another.

Third, God’s bride is called to submit to her Bridegroom.  We do this happily for such a bridegroom as ours!  The point of John 2, the Wedding at Cana, is not to tell us that Jesus liked to party (though He did), but to show that He supplies what the other bridegroom failed to.  Megan, Landon is an imperfect bridegroom, but hallelujah our eternal bridegroom is not!

Fourth, recognized the assurance of being both fully known and yet fully loved.  Tim Keller wonderfully said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”  Find comfort in the single-mindedness is our pursuer, covenant maker, and vow keeper.


Fifth, let this ignite us each to mission, both in our marriages and our singleness.  May our passion be single-minded, just as God’s!  May we recognize that our mission is won, our hope is secure, may we rise up on mission and proclaim the gospel of grace to our families, neighbors, classmates, and to the nations.  God has won a Bride for Himself out of all the nations- may we go with confidence knowing He has promised for us to be means of accomplishing this mission.  Paul knew this assurance.  In Acts 18 as He was discouraged from preaching to the Corinthians, we read, “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”  May give ourselves to this single-minded cause: for the glory of our God.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Truth in Love: A Study of 2 John (Part 4)

We must love in truth because deception abounds.  This is the message John was wanting to deposit to this local church, and one which through the ages remains essential to the people of God.  This balance is something that evangelicalism struggles to strike.  Some value truth, but do so with cold hearts (think of the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2).  Others love, with a loosey-goosey grip on the central truths of the gospel.  Once one is lost, so is the other.

John had just finished warning the church to watch out for false teaching, and continues in this vain. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  Obviously new teachings had entered into these churches.  Christianity has never been about adapting to the new or to fads.  He calls them back to Christ's teaching.  Teaching that has authority.  To reject these teachings was to reject God himself.

These teaches may have started out as orthodox, but one of things we see in the ministry of the apostles, if we look, is that many of their best and brightest wandered. Demas left Paul, in love with the world (2 Timothy 4:10).  These men left John for a fad- and by doing so had forsaken Christ himself.  So many in our culture have chosen popularity over the gospel- may we not do the same. John is clear with this heavy warning.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

To our 21st century eyes, this makes us sit up straight in our seat.  "Wait, we're not supposed to welcome them in?"  A few things need to be said in way of background.  First, the church or churches John is writing to most likely met in houses.  So, to welcome someone into your house was not saying not to have them over for dinner, but to welcome to them into the body as a brother.  IT assumed them to be a true Christian. Second, the first century gathering was not a place to reach unbelievers but a place to equip believers.  In the first century, death would await the Christians who gathered, so these Christian worship gatherings were not a place to invite their Pagans neighbors who would have had them arrested and/or killed.

So, to invite someone into your house was to welcome them fully as a trusted member of the body.  But, those who do not abide the teaching of Christ should not be given that welcome.  They are not brothers, they are enemies of the teaching of Christ, and could possibly sell these First Century Christians into the hands of the Romans.  Also, to fully embrace them as a brother or sister would mean to fully embrace their false teachings about Jesus which is dangerous for them, but false teaching is also to the congregation.  As Paul writes, sound doctrine saves both the believer and their hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).  It was for the sake of love and the sake of the truth that they did not welcome false teachers into the body.

John loved these people, as is clear as he closes his letter to them.  He has so much he would like to say, but he can't.  His joy would not be complete until they see each other face to face.  As the last two verses read,
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister greet you.

Love and truth bind us together and create joy-filled community.  Of all John could have said in his epistle, their are certain things he just desired to say to their face!  Nothing can replace the local church in John's heart.  Even if he could have live-streamed the gathering, it would not be a proper replacement for being bodily present in the gathering!  His love for the truth was a desire for their joy.  Deception abounds which seeks to kill our joy, but the local church exists that we our hearts may be on fire with love for God, and our minds might be captivated with the wonderful truth of Himself.  The local church is not an option for the Christian, it was not seen as an option for John, but it existed that we may love and treasure God more- for our joy and His glory.