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Monthly Archives: May 2020

The Eternal Light

So the news—at least some of it—seems a bit more upbeat in recent days.  Businesses are beginning to reopen, churches are beginning to reopen, public spaces seem to be reopening.  Glimmers of light after two months of economic darkness.  I know we each hope the economy comes roaring back, and I’m certainly praying for that outcome.  

Over the years my children have asked me more questions than I could ever recount, and I’ve always endeavored to give them honest and correct answers.  When they ask me about economics—especially the big picture of macroeconomics— I confess my lack of knowledge.  I do know that economies go through periods of prosperity and hardship.  I know about supply and demand.  After that, I’m basically done.  So while I’m with everyone in praying for the economy to blaze back instantaneously, I do know that eventually the business of business will take another temporary slump.  And that will be dark.  

In my last post I spoke about the current darkness that we’re experiencing.  In Sunday’s sermon I spoke about tough times and how to get through them.  Ultimately, this all means basking in the eternal light of God.  John chapter 1 is a very famous and important passage of scripture because it proves the eternal divinity of Jesus Christ.  In verses 6-9 we read about John the Baptist—who was Jesus’ cousin.  

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Jesus is that light.  And the way out of any dark time, be it economic or emotional or spiritual, is to run to Jesus for comfort and protection.  In John 8:12b Jesus tells us—

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

A Christian is a follower of Jesus.  Where He goes, we go.  And here Jesus is promising that we will not walk in darkness if we are His.  In God there is no darkness because He is light (1 John 1:5).  We have light within us and around us at all times.

Have you ever been in a power outage where you could see other houses that weren’t too far away from your dwelling, and the lights were on while your house was bathed in darkness?  No matter how dark that particular grid might be, those particular houses possessed light on the inside.  

The beauty of this is that if we are Christians, no matter how dark it is outside, we have light within us.  In fact, let me end by giving you some explosive news about yourself.  First, remember that Jesus says He is the light of the world (John 8).  Now, in Matthew 5:14-16 utters these astonishing words— 

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Let the truth of these words fill your veins and bones with power and life.  Think about the weight of what Jesus has said about us.  By the way, the term You is plural.  Dust off that King James Bible!  Those old fashioned, Shakespearean pronouns make it all clear for us.  We are an unstoppable force of light, of goodness, of holiness.  So let us join together and bring the message of light to a world that is hurting, a world that is blinded by spiritual darkness.  Only Christians have the answer—the answer is Christ.  

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

This Current Darkness

When you think about the current world situation, whether you think in terms of the political, or religious, or educational, or economic realms, how do you describe our world?  As a pastor I talk to a lot of people in various ways, and the basic themes I hear can be summarized in words such as these: crazy, restrictive, chaotic, insane, unfair.  Everyone has a particular perspective on these events, and not a single one of us has a claim to be the sole owner of absolute truth.  Those terms I listed get at certain aspects of the spirit of our times, and therefore, they are truthful.  But they are limited; they all fail to get to the heart of the matter.  From a spiritual viewpoint there is only one word that accurately describes our present state of affairs— Dark.  And, yes I capitalized it on purpose.  Not many Christians are thinking in terms of the blatant spiritual darkness we’re enduring.  It’s as black as ink.  

Please understand that you and I are living in momentous times.  I know more than one person who is in their 90s.  They have memories of the Great Depression, World War II and other horrifying events.  And they all acknowledge they’ve not seen anything like this.  God has laid His heavy hand on the earth.  This is the first time since The Flood that He’s done that.  And I’m concerned that a majority of Christians are not viewing this through a biblical or theological lens.  If they were then I’d hear about darkness a good deal more.

I’m an old school pastor and I base my ministry on two basic purposes.  The first is to make certain that I make the gospel of salvation as clear as possible to as many people as I possibly can.  The second is to make certain that I educate Christians in the proper worldview.  The first duty is decidedly more easy than the second.  And this crisis has heightened my concern that more of us aren’t viewing history through a spiritual window, and that means we’re tied to this earth.  Imagine if we had no cell phones, no internet, and no televisions.  How do you think we’d be handling all of this?  I’m not certain we’d be doing very well.

I encourage you to think hard on these matters.  Yes, I’m very thankful that the economy will hopefully begin making a comeback, and I grieve for those who are suffering financially.  And I’m optimistic that we’ll soon be able to gather together for Sunday worship.  But I pray we learn the spiritual lessons God has for us.  If we do not, I fear for what other means He will employ to get His people to repent.  Let us each look deeply into our hearts, and make the needed corrections.  

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The National Day of Prayer

Today was the National Day of Prayer.  I hope you prayed for our country, and the world, and the church.  Prayer is a way that we can access the grace that God has lavished upon his people.  Of course, this grace is only granted to us because of the righteousness of Jesus.  Jesus earned that righteousness by obeying God’s law for every moment of His life.  The Holy Spirit applies the benefits that we receive from Christ.  

In today’s cultural and political climate you do not hear too much about the rich Christian traditions of the United States.  We live in a politically correct, pluralistic society, and many aspects of our national life are utterly anti-Christian.  Take two extreme examples:  abortion and same-sex marriage are incompatible with a Christian worldview.  Our idolization of entertainment personalities and sports figures is abhorrent, especially today when so many of them are blatantly hateful of the church of Christ.  

Are you aware that it is a law that the President make a proclamation of the day every year? 

The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals. 

(36 U.S.C. § 119)

It’s not a suggestion; it’s a law.  It is a generic call for peoples of all religions to pray.  But you’ll never hear from the mainstream media that many of our Founding Fathers advocated for such public demonstrations of faith.  And in the context of the founding of the Republic, Christianity was basically the only religion around.  Yes, there were a few Jewish synagogues around, but when the Fathers spoke about God or religion or providence, it was in the context of a Christian worldview.  

I’m not asserting that all of the Founders were Christians.  Indeed, many were not.  But even Thomas Jefferson, who was not a professing Christian by any reasonable standard, and who was considered a “free-thinker” in his day (not a compliment back then), called for a day of thanksgiving and prayer when he was governor of Virginia.  The Second Continental Congress established days of prayer and fasting!  I underlined the word “fasting” because it highlights another aspect of religious life.  Fasting is often found in the context of mourning, lamentation, and repentance.  So the members of the Second Continental Congress were not looking for a limpid ceremony.  They wanted the people—including themselves— to dig deep.

I wonder what the Founding Fathers would think about the current religious culture of this great land of ours.  

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

All The Bible Is For You

One of the most tragic methods of biblical interpretation that has arisen in church history is a school of thought called Dispensationalism which arose in the 19th Century in the British Isles and the United States.  Even if you’ve never heard the word before, I guarantee you’ve heard some of its teachings.  I do not wish to delineate the many flaws of the system.  But I will highlight its fundamental error.  This disorganized and unorthodox methodology places a monstrous wall between Ancient Israel and the Church.  This means that God has two people–ethnic Israel and the Church, and therefore has a separate plan for each group.

The Bible knows nothing of this dysfunctional system.  God has one people–His People.  Taken to its logical conclusion Dispensationalism could teach that a Christian can learn nothing of abiding doctrinal value from the Old Testament.  This is not only folly, but it borders on interpretive madness, and forces readers to initially decide if a text has relevance to them as a Christian.  Hopefully you recall from my post on April 16, A Text Can Never Mean What It Never Meant (and my teachings over the years) that asking the question “What does this text mean to me?” is a disastrous misstep.  Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16 that All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.  Every passage in the Bible is profitable for a Christian to study.  We derive profit from Genesis to Revelation.  Of course, some passages are more important and other passages are more practical that others.

If you read a passage of scripture that is rife with complicated issues, and unfamiliar technical language–so much so that you simply cannot make heads or tails of it–is it possible for you to derive any benefit from it?  Hearken back to 2 Timothy 3:16.  If the verse is true–and it is–then the answer is an unqualified “yes”.

But what benefit is there in studying a passage without understanding it?  For starters such a situation reminds us of our limitations, and the reality that we do not know everything, and this should cause humility in our minds, and praise in our hearts to God who, indeed, knows everything.

This is another reason why the Wisdom Literature is so valuable to a Christian.  Remember that the category of Wisdom literature includes Psalms. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, and Job.  The Wisdom Literature is fairly easy to understand.  In the original Hebrew language, these writings contain copious amounts of poetry that sometimes isn’t discernible in English.  Take Psalm 119, for example.

Psalm 119 is magnificent.  It is an acrostic poem–a poem where each section begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet and proceeds in order.  The psalm’s basic theme is the glory of God’s Word & Law.  Here’s a golden nugget from it.

119.9 How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.

We need to realize that this was written roughly 3000 years ago, so it is naturally written from a male point of view.  But both genders have similar problems, so if a young man can learn great things from this verse, then so can a young women!  Furthermore, those of us who are no longer young can still learn the same lesson from the verse.

The verse is in question and answer form, and the question involves cleansing one’s way.  Paraphrasing is a legitimate way to unpack a verse, if it aids our understanding.  What the question is asking, in contemporary language, is “How can a person repent and live a righteous life?”  The answer demands no paraphrase.  The term heed in this context entails at least two concepts.  Firstly, we must understand a law in order to obey it.  Secondly, once we grasp it, then we must obey that law.  Actually, all of us are accountable to God in obeying His law whether we know of a law or not.  Ignorance is no excuse in human court, and it holds no water in God’s.  By trusting Christ for salvation, we trust that his perfect obedience, and the merit He gained by the obedience, is granted to us.

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm.  Read it slowly and ponder it.  Here’s three pointers:

  1. These terms– law, statutes, commandments, precepts–refer to the the same idea, God’s written law.
  2. Notice the excitement and exuberance of the writer.  He revels in God’s words and he loves God’s love.
  3. Pray that God would give you, and those around you the identical attitude.

Happy reading, and may God bless your studies.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2020 in Uncategorized