Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…

Behind the Scenes

Pat Jones is a great friend and a dear brother in Christ. I had run across Pat a few times over the years in Charlotte, but our first real conversation was dinner with the wives in May 2009. Before we went to dinner that night Nancy warned me to stay calm. However during the dinner that night Pat asked me about my passion in ministry. It was at that point I felt free to unleash and by the grace of God, I did. Over the last year Pat and I have had many good and intense phone calls about God’s word and ministry.

A couple of months ago I got fired up about something going on in the church nationwide. I follow lots of different pastors, teachers and theologians to see what they are teaching and I try to keep up with current Christian topics. Apparently one of my emails prompted a call from Pat to which he left a voice mail. When I heard the voice mail it was classic Pat. Therefore I asked him if I could share publicly and he consented. So here is a short voice mail that gives you a behind the scenes look as Pat and I wrestle through “Learning and Living the God-centered Life.”

Simply click on this LINK.

What is Christless Christianity?

First of all this is the title of a fairly new book by Dr. Michael Horton. But if you were to summarize it might be said this is a religion that focuses more on “what would Jesus do” than “what has Jesus done.” People in both conservative and liberal churches are basically being given something to do instead of something to believe. As one prominent pastor said the first Reformation was all about getting the creeds right and now we need to get the deeds right. Horton stresses and he backs this up with the stats, that we are the center of our universe, God exists to make us happy, and the Bible has good guidelines in order to enable us to have our best live now. It is not that American Christianity is heretical although we must stay alert to those signs. But rather we are distracted with all kinds of programs, events and strategies that are taking us away from a Christ-centered gospel.

Here is a brief video clip on the dangers today of a Christless Christianity. Click on this LINK.

The "dangerous" prosperity gospel

We started over a year ago in our class on the basic doctrines of the Bible. And one thing that has been consistent over this past year is an understanding of the gospel.

We even had “The Gospel” as the theme of our first retreat back in May 2009. There seems to be two distinct extremes when it comes to the gospel today in America. The one extreme you will hear most about on this video clip is that God wants to make everyone rich and successful. But the other extreme never mentions pain, suffering, tribulation, take up your cross daily, wrath of God, the blood of Christ, sin, judgment and condemnation.

Our goal it seems is to have a comfortable God and a comfortable gospel that will allow us to be healthy, wealthy and wise. For this reason I have decided to include this video by Dr. John Piper on the the dangers of the prosperity gospel. If you have fallen into this trap or know someone that has please send them to our site.

Put on your seat belts and watch this video. Just click on this LINK. (may take a minute or so to load)

A discussion regarding Job

Our reading this week is Job 11-12 but I want to discuss something in Job 1 and 2. A couple of weeks ago I made a statement during the introduction, that one of the goals of Biblical preaching and teaching is when the calamity and adversity hits, that you are the type of person who does not blame God but instead blesses God. And then I used as an example Job, and what he said at the end of Chapter 1 after losing all his wealth and children. Job said “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Once I taught on the sovereignty of God in suffering using Job Chapter 1 and I was approached by a young man at the end of the class. He said to me “did I hear you right?” It seems he was a bit irritated and defensive in his verbal tone and body language. So I backed up and said “tell me what you are referring to specifically.”
He then said “I heard you say that the LORD takes away and that is not right.” Then he went on to explain that in the story of Job it was not the LORD who took anything away but it was Satan. As he kept talking it was apparent his theology was that the LORD can only give and Satan is the only one who can take away.
It was at this point that I asked if we could read the text together when he gave me a look and said “I know what the text says” in a rather irritated way. So I just picked up my Bible turned to Job 1:21 and read the exact wording that came from the writer of Job which says “...The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Then I turned to the young man and said “this is what the Bible says.” The conversation got a bit more intense as he said “if you read the whole story, you would know that Satan is the one who did this to Job.” I then asked “do you think that God is sovereign over Satan?” In other words yes I would agree that Satan was a secondary agent in the adversity with Job, but it could not have occurred outside the sovereign will of God Himself.

In the story of Job, and we really aren’t sure who wrote the book of Job, but the writer must have known this would be an argument. He must have known that as we read chapters 1 and 2 that someone would say if Job had known what was going on up in heaven he would have blamed Satan and not God. But pay careful attention to the text and read carefully what is written in Job 1:22 “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” It was not wrong or sinful for Job to contribute the loss of wealth and children to the LORD. As a matter of fact you see almost the same scene play itself out in Chapter 2 when finally now Job has lost his health. His wife comes and says “curse God and die.” And the response of Job is as follows “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity.”

Again Job looks to the primary cause and the writer of Job again lets us know “Job did not sin with his lips.”(Job 2:10)

Being in community

When we have community activities I am going to put under the “Living” section of our website. As time allows check out the pictures from our Fall Picnic. Just to whet your appetite, we have two of the participants in the horse shoe championships of Charlotte, NC.

Denny “the dangerous” Crowder and Bruce “the leaner” Blackmon

Reading through the book of Judges

This week we started into the book of Judges. After the book of Joshua in which we saw great victory, we now enter the time of the judges in which we will see great defeat.
If you were to summarize the book of Judges from a big picture perspective, how would you describe it? Well at least one way would be as follows:

The people of God fall into sin
- God disciplines them with foreign nations who come in and oppress them
- The people of God cry out in repentance
- God raises up a deliverer for His people
- Peace once again is restored into the land

What should the book of Judges teach us about mankind?
What should the book of Judges teach us about God?

A couple of other things to consider as your read through Judges:
How many generations passed before the people started to exhibit this kind of behavior toward the LORD?
Look closely at Chapter 1:19-36, what consistent problem do we notice with the tribes of Israel?

Application time:
How would you teach this particular book to a class of 10 year olds?
How do you apply this in your daily walk with the Lord Jesus?


Understanding "how" to read the Bible

You have heard me say over the last year that all of us tend to read the Bible too fast. Yes, I am all about reading through the Bible each year and every year. But I also about stopping for devotion time to think deeply about what we read. Jesus says throughout the gospel accounts of His life “have you not read but then He goes on to say do you understand what you are reading. There are many passages that require other passages understood in context to reveal what the author intended when he wrote it. In terms of Bible hermeneutics we call this principle the unity of Scripture.

Recently I found a short article by Dr. John Piper on “how to” properly read God’s word. Hopefully this will sharpen you Bible reading and devotion skills as we continue in our Bible reading, study and devotions.

Sometimes readers of the Bible see the conditions that God lays down for his blessing and they conclude from these conditions that our action is first and decisive, then God responds to bless us.

That is not right.

There are indeed real conditions that God often commands. We must meet them for the promised blessing to come. But that does not mean that we are left to ourselves to meet the conditions or that our action is first and decisive.

Here is one example to show what I mean.

In Jeremiah 29:13 God says to the exiles in Babylon, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." So there is a condition: When you seek me with all your heart, then you will find me. So we must seek the Lord. That is the condition of finding him.


But does that mean that we are left to ourselves to seek the Lord? Does it mean that our action of seeking him is first and decisive? Does it mean that God only acts after our seeking?


Listen to what God says in Jeremiah 24:7 to those same exiles in Babylon: "I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart." Read More...

Quote for the day

Normally when I share a quote for the day it relates to an area of Bible study and prayer. Our class is about teaching essential doctrines of the Christian faith that are found in Scripture, and then living them out in such a way that Christ is demonstrated as great! I have lots of teaching projects and this fall some of you know that I am teaching Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Therefore lots of reading, preparation, prayer and power point. When my schedule is not as intense I am able to focus on other projects and those things frequently involve books I would like to read. In the first 5-7 years of full time ministry the only thing I read was the Bible. It was my dear friend and fellow pastor Jason McKnight that really introduced me to reading outside the Bible. At the retreat last May I introduced some basic reading materials that I found very helpful as it relates to the gospel. It seems that in the last 4 years the Lord has drawn me into a deeper understanding, appreciation and proclamation in the teaching of the gospel. The cross-centered life, or the gospel-centered life or the Christ-crucified life is where a lot of my study and reading has been focused in my discretionary time.
At the present time I am reading a book by Michael Horton called “The gospel driven life.” This is a follow us book to “Christless Christianity” the basic problem of what is happening today in the evangelical church.

So the quote for today comes from Horton’s book “The gospel driven life” and reads as follows:

“In the 1950’s, Yale’s H. Richard Niebuhr described the so-called “gospel” of Protestant liberalism poignantly:
“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” Each clause is telling. First, more like Mr. Rogers than the judge of all the earth, the sentimental deity of many Americans is incapable of wrath. Since He exists for us and our happiness this heavenly friend may be disappointed and sad when we hurt ourselves, but He never sees sin as an offense primarily against Himself and His perfect justice. Second, we may make mistakes-pretty bad ones, from time to time-but it would be wrong to call ourselves sinners, much less to imagine that we were captive to sin, helpless to do anything to will or work our way out of the mess. So, third, God brings us basically good people into a kingdom without judgment, since there is no law that could condemn and no gospel that could justify. And finally, for this sort of religious therapy you don’t need a vicarious, atoning sacrifice if you are basically a nice person; what you really need is a good example.”

Review for October 25 and preview for next week

The reason Jesus had the wisdom that He had, the reason Jesus had the knowledge that he had, the fear of the Lord and the compassion that He had was because He lived in the power of the Spirit. Jesus is God and in the first four centuries of our church history this was the primary question to be answered which was who is Jesus? When that problem was concluded I think there became a tendency to allow this part of the doctrine to collapse on top of the second truth which is Jesus is also full man.
And as man how does Jesus live out His 33 years on planet earth and the answer from Scripture is in the power of the Spirit. This is the same Jesus who says when He goes away He will send the Holy Spirit whose primary responsibility will be to glorify the Son.

As we have seen in the past two weeks when the Lord Jesus comes to announce His public ministry(Luke 4) He reads from Isaiah 61:1-2a. He is the Spirit anointed Messiah. In our Bible reading this past week we read in Matthew 11. Do you remember the problem that John the Baptist was having in jail? He send his disciples to Jesus with the following question "are you the Expected One or should we look for someone else?" Of all the answers Jesus could have given the disciples of John look at what He told them. If you look at the cross reference in Matthew 11:5 you will notice that it is Isaiah 61:1. Jesus is telling John the Baptist that yes I am the Spirit anointed Messiah. Well, how important is it for us to understand that Jesus lived His life in the power of the Spirit, check out the following verses. These are the notes that I am planning to use a the basis for next week's teaching on Jesus and His relationship with the Spirit. May I encourage you to combine these with what we have looked at so far as we come to a Biblical understanding of the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

GO TO Matthew 12:28
The context is that Jesus had just cast out a demon and the Pharisees can not deny the fact that a miracle has taken place.

The only thing the Pharisees could appeal to was another supernatural power other than God which was the devil. So their strategy was to pin on Jesus that His supernatural power was from the devil and not from God. But Jesus says to them...“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Notice that Jesus does not say that He casts them out by His own power, but rather this is the power of the Spirit working in and through Christ
The Pharisees should recognize that when the real Messiah came He would have the Spirit of God upon Him.


Quote for the day

Mark what I say. You may know a good deal about Christ, by a kind of head knowledge. You may know who He was, where He was born, and what He did. You may know His miracles, His sayings, His prophecies, and His ordinances. You may know how He lived, how He suffered, and how He died. But unless you know the power of Christ’s cross by experience–unless you know and feel within that the blood shed on that cross has washed away your own particular sins–unless you are willing to confess that your salvation depends entirely on the work Christ did on the cross–unless this be the case, Christ will profit you nothing. The mere knowing Christ’s name will never save you. You must know His cross and His blood…or you will die in your sins. Beware, I say again, of a religion without a cross. - J.C. Ryle (from his sermon entitled ‘The cross of Christ) 1816 – 1900

The Bible and the prophets

When we read through the Old Testament we encounter a number of prophets. As a matter of fact one of the primary genre's in the Bible is that of prophecy. And at the present we are reading through the book of Isaiah. For your additional study on the prophets as we read through the Bible this year I have included at this LINK. Please note that this is a pdf file which means that you can print out.

I am continuing to make the appeal for "Finally This Year!" On Wednesday night I did a quick review of the last 100 years in the church and our move from what was called modernity to today's culture which is called "post-modernity." Even though this term has been around for years it basically deals with a culture who has given up on the fact that there is absolute truth. The terms you will here today are relevance and tolerance especially when it comes to views on religion. Be aware as you read through the prophets at how often they spoke these words from God "I am the LORD your God." It seems that God was not willing to tolerate a worship of any other gods but Himself. However the disturbing new trend even in the church is to agree that there is more than one way to God. Here is the LINK to that particular article from the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Vance Havner a famous Southern Baptist preacher of his day once wrote an article called "America needs a prophet." The basic jest of the article had to do with the prophets in America are ask to sit down and shut up because they are seen as harsh. How do you suppose an Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea or Amos would be received today in the church especially behind the pulpit?

Lord willing, we someday will be on our last section of doctrinal study which is called soteriology or "the doctrine of salvation." In that section the main text to deal with comes from the book of Romans which is the main epistle we have dealing with salvation. You will notice in the first three chapters that Paul is delivering the bad news to all mankind. There is none one who is good, no one seeks for God there is no one that is righteous. It reminds me of the reading in the Old Testament from the prophets as they talk about sin, judgment and condemnation. But as you read there starts to be a wonderful discovery in this type of Biblical truth. One must come to embrace and understand the bad news in order that they can receive and live out the good news. So may I encourage you as your read through the prophets to allow the bad news, the sin, evil and wickedness of man to be seen, in order to point you to the one solution for this terminal problem and that is Christ Jesus Himself!

God is holy and righteous and our sin is evil, wicked and a horrible offense to God. There is no way that we could ever stand before the righteousness of God in our sinful condition. However once we fall on the mercy of the cross and cast ourselves onto Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior, sins are made white as snow and His garment of righteousness covers us from head to toe. And now only now can we be "declared righteous" in the public courtroom of God. So that on that day when we come face to face with Him we may enter into the joy of our master and eternal life with Him forever!


Basics for Bible Study

10 Questions to ask when studying the Bible

1. Who wrote/spoke the passage and to whom was it addressed?

2. What kind of genre is involved? (law, historical narrative, poetical, prophecy, epistle and etc.)

3. Are there any words or phrases in the passage that need to be examined?

4. What is the immediate context?

5. What is the broader context in the chapter and book?

6. What are the related verses to the passage’s subject and how do they affect the understanding of this passage?

7. What is the historical and cultural background?

8. What does the author mean by what he wrote?

9. Do my conclusions agree or disagree with related areas of Scripture and others who have studied the passage?

10. What implications does this have for my life?

Devotion in Genesis

This week our reading in Genesis covers chapters 16-19. What I am immediately drawn to notice is the plan devised by Sarai and Abram to help God out. Remember God had come to Abram in Genesis 12 with those 5 “I Will’s” recorded for us in Genesis 12:1-3. And in one of those the LORD said to Abram I will make you a great nation. In Genesis 13:16 the LORD says again to Abram “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” Keep in mind that Sarai is barren and they have no children. So God approaches Abram at age 75 with this news and by age 85 there are still no little ones on the scene. However instead of continuing to wait on the LORD, pray and trust in His promise, Abram and Sarai decide to go to work. So we see Sarai give Abram her handmaid Hagar and from that relationship a child is produced. However this child is not of the promise that God spoke of back in Genesis 12 or 13 but rather this is a child of the flesh or you could say of works. (Side note: Can you see the consequences of that disobedience that remains until this day in the middle east?)

Stop right here in Chapter 16 and just think about how this relates to our own Christian walk and even our church methodologies. Instead of us full depending, relying and trusting in God’s word we are determined to do something and make it happen in our flesh. And we move into a 21st Century American mindset that goes something like this: “if it’s to be then it’s up to me.” So instead of a church filled with people waiting and trusting the very word of God we train up Ishmael’s as we plan and accomplish from our human perspectives. Wasn’t that part of the point when Bill Hybels ,at Willow Creek, said in his statement about their methods for the last 30 years, “we made a mistake.” Whenever we devise our plans, and our strategies, and our methods instead of trusting the word of God the story can only have one ending which will be “we made a mistake.”

Do you remember the story of Nehemiah? He is told by Hannani who comes all the way to Susa from Judah to give Nehemiah the following news. The remnant who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire. And notice what Nehemiah DOES NOT do when he hears the news. He doesn’t call a committee together to brainstorm the issue, he doesn’t find the latest book on how to rebuild a wall that is destroyed, and he doesn’t even call a friend for advice. The first response for this man is to weep, mourn, fast and pray in order to call out to this great God! And even the first words of his prayer we read “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven.” When is the last time over some huge decision Read More...

Quote for the day

The Bible is not a collection of timeless principles offering a gentle thought for the day. It is not a resource for our self-improvement. Rather, it is a dramatic story that unfolds from promise to fulfillment, with Christ at the center. Its focus is God and his action. God is not a supporting actor in our drama; it is the other way around. God does not exist to make sure that we are happy and fulfilled. Rather, we exist to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. God is not a facilitator of our ‘life transformation’ projects. He is not a life coach. Rather, he is our Creator, Lawgiver, Judge, and Covenant Lord. - (Michael Horton, The Gospel Driven Life), p. 26

Food, Fun and Fellowship

On Saturday we met over at Betty Park/Shelter #2 for a fall picnic. It was a bit chilly but that did not deter the throwing of football, game of horseshoes and the proverbial strapping on of the food bag. In other words there was plenty to eat. As you heard on Sunday the new reigning horseshoe champions are Jim Duckworth and Bruce Blackmon. And just to set the records straight, I had to provide paper towels, because some of the guys at the horseshoe court got dirt under their finger nails.

Thanks much to Jennifer Krueger and those that helped with preparation and all the details. These are opportunities that we need to take advantage of as we build community in our class. It is wonderful to see one another on Sunday but the times when we are away from church are great to develop other friendships in the body of Christ.

Here is a short collection of photos and if others have some pictures from our Saturday picnic then just send them to me and I will post.

Just click on this LINK.

Review for October 18

Jesus Christ lived His life on planet earth in the power of the Spirit. And yesterday the focus was on the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As I opened one of my points was regarding the church and how in the first 4 centuries it sought to establish that Jesus was God. And I pointed to the fact that maybe in some degree that part of our doctrine has overshadowed our teaching on Jesus as man. Allow me to mention that we in the 21st Century Church are going to need to do a better job of holding Biblical truth in tension. For example as I alluded to yesterday, we have no problem in the church preaching and teaching that God loves us. But we are less likely to hear the same amount of preaching and teaching that God’s wrath is presently on those who aren’t in Christ, and that is a wrath that is being stored up and one day will be released in its full fury. We want a God that is very near to us but we don’t hear as much about the God was is far from us and that we also need to fear.

As we continue in our study of the “doctrine of God” I will first be presenting those attributes that deal with the transcendence of God. The term refers to far off or way above us in every respect. And then I will follow with the attributes of immanence, which will show God to be very near to us. My point is that we should not present just one Biblical truth about God that is so dominant that it overshadows or blots out other equally important truths about God. This means at times that we simply must hold Biblical truths in tension even though we don’t understand them in full. Maybe the best example I can give in this particular area is our recognition that God is sovereign and yet we at the same time have human responsibility. And though we may not understand how God can be sovereign over all things and at the same time never invade our human responsibility of choice, it nevertheless is still true. Most of us have heard of our lives I must understand it in order to believe it. However in the Christian life one must first believe and then understanding starts to come.

As I post the notes though they may be brief I am going to recommend that you study and digest on a week to week basis. In other words as we start to teach and discuss that Jesus lived His life in the power of the Spirit, being able to support that with the Bible. Each of the verses listed in the study notes are to support this point as it relates to the overall category which is Jesus and His relationship with the Holy Spirit. Then as you continue on in your Bible reading this year, highlight, underline and make notes in the margins when you see these truths in Scripture.

Study notes from yesterday’s class begins here:
First Theme - Jesus submitting to the Spirit, yielding to the Spirit, living His life in the power of the Spirit and Jesus following the leading of the Spirit

Keeping the main thing the main thing!

On Sunday our teaching will focus on how Jesus lived His life in the power of the Spirit. As you may remember from our history lesson on the Trinity, it took the church four centuries to finally come to the agreement that Jesus is God. This was an important victory for the church, and it may be that we have put so much emphasis on Jesus being God, that we have provided less teaching on the fact that Jesus was also man. Therefore this next section of teaching on Jesus and His relationship with the Holy Spirit is vital to our daily walk in Christ. The main point for the teaching on Sunday will be "Jesus lived His life in the power of the Spirit." It is from the teaching of Scripture that we see two main themes start to arise as it relates to Jesus and His relationship with the Spirit.
Theme #1 - Jesus submits to, yields to, and follows the lead of the Spirit during His years on planet earth.
Theme #2 - Jesus clearly teaches that when He leaves the Spirit will come in order to glorify the Son.

So the question comes up does Jesus submit to the Spirit or does the Spirit come to glorify the Son? And the correct answer is yes, it is both. Other questions that have come up over the years are what can the Spirit add to the deity of Christ? And since Jesus lived in a way that He was perfect and never committed any sin, how can that be held up as a model to us when He was God and we are not?

This is a category of Christian living that we need to study, understand and embrace. What is more practical than learning how to live out the Christian life in such a way that Christ is demonstrated as great. Of course the only way we can know these things is to go to the word of God. We will be looking at a number of Scriptures and I believe, by the grace of God, some hard ones that have been confusing to Christians over the years. Once we have our Bible doctrine in its proper place, then it is amazing how much clarity it provides for verses that once were difficult to understand. Read More...

"Houston, we have a problem"

Here is a blog post that I came across today. Do you see the incredible irony that is presented within our culture? Social networking is at an all time high and yet most people have lost a sense of intimacy and one on one friendships. We have become a society in which the virtual has replaced the personal. This articles comes from Ingrid Schlueter who writes on a Christian blog site.

“A few days ago, a Christian blog site featured an article by a theology professor who felt that Starbucks had the right model for church these days. He claimed that Starbucks is, in fact, the replacement for church in American society. Now comes a news story that reports on Facebook serving as an alternative location to churches, mosques, etc. Reportedly, young people who grieve and are needing support are ditching church and turning to Facebook instead. There are lessons for churches in this, supposedly. Just what those lessons are, I am not sure. Can you just join a Facebook group instead of an actual church in a building? Can they serve virtual communion as a Facebook application? Will the women of the churches now send out virtual meals instead of bringing casseroles to your door when you have a loss or an illness? What about Baptism?

The whole trend seems hollow and depressing. Real relationships are hard to establish these days, and when Christian young people find that Facebook is more of a support than their local churches, there is something seriously wrong—either with the churches or the young people.”

Video preview for Sunday

On Sunday we will continue in our teaching on Jesus and His relationship to the Holy Spirit. As we left on Sunday our main point was “Jesus lived His life on planet earth in the power of the Spirit.”

Here is a short video that will give a brief preview of what we will be covering on Sunday.

Just for your information we should finish our teaching on the Trinity this month. In November we will be looking at the Doctrine of God as it relates to the incommunicable attributes. These are the attributes of God that are privileged to God alone. We will be discussing attributes like self-sufficiency, immutability, eternality, omniscience to name a few of them.

SS Community I can’t stress enough the importance of us getting a solid Biblical view of God. One of my chief concerns is that we have collapsed the God who is near us and loves us on top of the God who is transcendent, far from us and needs to be feared. These attributes must be kept in tension and never one that collapses on the top of the other.

Hope to see you on Sunday in our continuing desire to learn and live the God-centered life.

In case you are interested...

From Wired Magazine:
We’re gluttons for infographics, and a team at Kansas State just served up a feast: maps of sin created by plotting per-captia stats on things like theft (envy) and STD’s (lust)

If you would like more information and stats just click on this LINK.

Quote for the day

"I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished...I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it." - George Mueller

Devotion in Psalm 9

After the reading this morning I went back and just prayed and thought about Psalm 9 verse 1 "I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. As you are reading through the Old Testament notice how many times God reminds the Israelites that He brought them out of Egypt. In some way, shape or form that expression is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament. So what is the purpose of reminding the people about this event? In order that the people will live before Him by giving thanks for who He is and what He has done! Why? Because God must be seen as Giver and the people must understand their role as receiver. They didn't deserve to be rescued, nor did they do anything that merited their rescue but God did it so that His name might be known as great.

What if one day I came over to your home and you had a 7 year old child that was playing outside. Unfortunately he wanders away from you and heads right into the street. I happen to notice and start into a full run then tackle your son away from a speeding car that would have hit and run over him. Do you suppose you might remember that event for some period of time and thank me? Read More...

You can't make this stuff up

Learning and Living the God-centered community I want to share with you some of the latest Christian research from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. If you think we have solid Biblical underpinnings in the American evangelical church then you might want to re-evaluate. Just read the first two paragraphs of a recent article.

A majority of all American Christians (52%) think that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Indeed, among Christians who believe many religions can lead to eternal life, 80% name at least one non-Christian faith that can do so. These are among the key findings of a national survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life from July 31-Aug. 10, 2008, among 2,905 adults.

The survey is designed as a follow-up to the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007, which reported that most Americans who claim a religious affiliation take a non-exclusivist view of salvation, with seven-in-ten saying that many religions can lead to eternal life while less than one-quarter say theirs is the one, true faith leading to eternal life. But what exactly do these respondents have in mind when they agree that “many religions can lead to eternal life?” Is this primarily an example of most Christians (who account for nearly 80% of the U.S. adult population) acknowledging that some Christian denominations and churches besides their own can lead to eternal life? Or are most people interpreting “many religions” more broadly, to include non-Christian faiths?

Let me go back to the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
2Tim. 4:4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

We have become pluralistic in our culture and it has invaded the evangelical church in a major way. Keep in mind the orthodox church believes what the Bible says about saving faith, in that Jesus declares in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man may come to the Father except through Me.” There is no way to God the Father except through Jesus Christ His Son. This means we are exclusive in this regard and therefore are not inclusive of other religions and other ways to get to God.

Should you want to see the entire article from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life then click on this LINK. But you may need a strap or reinforced rubber band to keep you jaw from hitting the floor when you read the results of these surveys.

Quote for the day

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.” - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, pp. 20-21:

How faith glorifies God

Over the last year we have been learning Bible doctrine. Doctrine simply means what the Bible has to say about a particular topic or subject. A few weeks ago in the men’s Bible study I discussed the theme of all the Scriptures which I believe to be “the glory of God.”
And Lord willing, in our last segment of teaching we are going to study the doctrine of salvation. Obviously that will bring us to one of the most important doctrines in the Bible which is known as justification. I have encouraged those in our community from day one to learn the definition as best you can and then see if you can explain it to a 10 year old. If you can’t explain it then it is because you probably don’t know it. Then I have found over the years it is helpful to be able to give an illustration of the doctrine. And finally you need to be able to support it with Scripture.

Last week in class I mentioned the five sola’s that came from the Reformation. Do you remember what they were?

  1. Faith alone
  2. Grace alone
  3. In Christ alone
  4. Scripture alone
  5. To the glory of God alone

We have touched a bit on faith alone as we discussed the doctrine of justification briefly during the past year. This came up as we were studying the Trinity in regard to salvation. This morning I happened upon an excellent illustration for you when it comes to “how faith glorifies God.” Remember that we are justified by faith alone and according to Luther the church either stands or falls upon this doctrine. Read More...

Review for October 11

We are launching into the last part of our discussion on the Trinity. In this teaching session we began to look at the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit. Yesterday I started us with “what you may have missed” from last week’s blog site. I find that this is good way to review the week’s activities. This led me into a discussion about the essentials and non-essentials within the evangelical orthodox church. We briefly looked at 7 non-essentials and then talked about why these doctrines have been so important to the church in our history. The main reason is because they are declared to be true by the very word of God. I took some time talk about these essentials because of a Saturday newspaper article written in the Charlotte Observer regarding John Spong. Spong is an opponent of these essential Christian doctrines. I am also wanting to point out that we as mainstream evangelical Christians are under fire from other evangelicals in regard to these essentials. It seems that now especially from the neo-orthodox or the post modern venues within church that it is quite popular to oppose these essentials. The teaching in this class is commited to protecting those in our community from the drinking in of incorrect or false doctrine. While at the same time ingesting and digesting healthy and sound Biblical doctrine.

After that I immediately took us back to our extended definition of the Trinity.
The Trinity - extended definition

The Christian faith affirms that there is one and only one true God eternally existing while fully and simultaneously expressed in three persons the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

Each member of the Godhead is equally God and each is eternally God and each is fully God, not three gods but three persons of the one God head.

Each person is equal in essence as each possesses fully the identically same and eternal divine nature yet each is also an eternal and distinct personal expression of that one undivided divine nature.

Because the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each possesses fully the identically same divine nature, therefore what distinguishes the Persons of the Godhead from each other is not and can not be the divine nature of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
This the one undivided and divine nature is possessed equally, eternally, simultaneously and fully by each of the three Persons of the Godhead.
Therefore what distinguishes each person of the Godhead from the other persons is His particular role, in relation to the other persons and the relationships that each has with each of the other persons.
In light of both the equality of essence and differentiation in role and responsibility it behooves us then to look carefully at each member of the Trinity in relation to the other and this effects the relationship of each member of the Trinity to us.

We then reviewed briefly the reason that the Trinity is essential for Christian salvation. I started with Jesus the God-man an argued that we must have One that comes to pay the penalty for our sins. He needs to be human, one of us that can be our substitute. But He also needs to be One that can have infinite value that will be able to satisfy God’s infinite price for offending His righteousness. In Jesus Christ who comes as One who is fully God and fully man that requirement is met in full.

Devotion time in Genesis 12

This morning our Bible reading was in Genesis 12-15. After reading I came back for a time of devotion and thought about Genesis 12:2 "...And I will bless you, And make your name great;..." Now look with me back at Genesis 11 and the account of the people at the Tower of Babel. We read the following in Genesis 11:4 "They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Doesn't this give us some great insight into the heart of man? He is constantly wanting to accomplish and achieve so that his name can be recognized as great. But now contrast Genesis 11:4 with Genesis 12:2 in which God says to Abram, "I will make your name great." God is saying the only One that is capable of making your name great is Me!!! And the very reason Abram's name will be great is because when they see Abram they will see the great God that he worships and serves.

How easy is it for us to want our names to be great? It can range from me at home when I clean out the dishwasher and expect Nancy to have a ticker tape parade. Well, not literally but you see my point. We can crave for it in our daily tasks as we look for recognition and honor that points directly to ourselves. However as Jesus said in John 15:5 "apart from Me you can do nothing." There is only one way for our name to be great and that is in all that we think, say and do it needs to reflect the very greatness of our God. For we are the ambassadors and representatives of the greatest name that anyone can ever know or call on and His name is Jesus!


So what are the essentials?

If you were to name the essential doctrines within the evangelical orthodox church, would these make the list?

1. The authority of the Bible from the standpoint that we believe it to be inspired, inerrant and infallible

2. The virgin birth of Jesus

3. The Substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross for our sins

4. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone by Christ's work alone.

5. Christ's Physical Return in Chronos Time to Judge the Living and the Dead

6. God's Eternal and Conscious Punishment of the Wicked (Hell)

7. The Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit)

Did you know that those that have postmodernism as they’re underlying theology question each of these doctrines? And this according to many of those who keep stats are the fastest growing segment of the evangelical church. Now here is my question “how did they get the label evangelical?”

Please don’t forget Paul’s admonition to young Timothy in 2Tim. 4:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 2Tim. 4:4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

In order to more familiarize yourself with a definition and the dangers of postmodernism within the evangelical church just click on this LINK.

God centered vs. man centered

While skimming through various blog and twitter sites this morning I came upon this new book “In the beginning God” by Marva J. Dawn. As with many books today you can preview the first chapter via a pdf file. So when I came to the first paragraph and read it, I said Amen and decided to bring it to our blog site.

The Bible is all about God That might seem an overly obvious point
with which to begin a book on character formation, but, if we consider
the matter seriously, we discover that we often read the Bible
imagining it is about ourselves

One way to ponder this is to contemplate the underlying question
we usually bring to the Bible Often we ask ourselves as we read,
“How does this apply to me?” or “How will I live out this text?” Less
nobly, we might be subconsciously asking, “How can this text make
me feel good?” or “How can I use this passage to support my own
ideas?” (since we sometimes read other books or journals that way)

Notice that the focus has shifted away from God to us
What would happen if instead we first asked such questions as
these: “What is God doing in this text?” or “What is God revealing
about one or all of the Triune Persons in this passage?” It might seem
like a small matter, but it is actually an enormous shift in perspective
It is the move from self-improvement to adoration.

Folks we need to pay attention to this kind of advice and wise counsel. Are we reading in order that we can improve our moral condition such as better husbands, dads and employees? Or are we reading from this perspective “I come to the Bible today heavenly Father humbly asking that you extend to me a measure of faith in order that I might see Christ as wonderfully glorious! If you say what is the difference it is between a man centered approach and a God-centered approach to your Bible reading.

Bible reading vs. Bible study

One of the goals in developing this website was to provide you with a variety of resources that can help in regard to your Bible reading, study and devotion. Over the years I have been asked what is the difference for example between Bible reading and Bible study. This morning I came across a very helpful article in this particular area. Also you get some very good information on how to dig more deeply and effectively as you come to the Bible. However this kind of article needs the proper time to digest. So grab your favorite beverage, put on those fuzzy bunny slippers, along with notebook and Bible. Simply click on this LINK.

Quote for the day

“I sometimes feel as if what we need most is a sense of proportion in our presentation of the truth; a new sense of where the center of gravity in the gospel lies; a return to the ideal of Paul who determined not to know anything among the Corinthians save Jesus Christ and him crucified. This does not mean that every sermon which we preach must necessarily be what is technically called an evangelistic sermon. There may be frequent occasions when to do that would be out of place and when a discourse on some ethical or apologetic or social topic is distinctly called for. But whatever topic you preach on and whatever text you choose, there ought not to be in your whole repertoire a single sermon in which from beginning to end you do not convey to your hearers the impression that what you want to impart to them, you do not think it possible to impart to them in any other way than as a correlate and consequence of the eternal salvation of their souls through the blood of Christ, because in your own conviction that alone is the remedy which you can honestly offer to a sinful world.” — Geerhardus Vos, “A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 5:7” (October 1, 1902; Princeton Theological Seminary).

Job and suffering

This morning I as read through Job 5 and 6 and an actual story came into my mind about sin and suffering. As you can see what starts to develop quickly in the dialogue between Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar and Job is that Job's suffering must be related to the sinfulness in his life. Even though in Job's argument back to his friends in these subsequent chapters has much that is wrong, Job understands at some level that this suffering is not because he has sinned. I have made mention of this story in the past, but years ago I ran into a group of people in the church not unlike Job's friends. They had come under the influence of a "false" teacher who had used "proof texting" in the Bible to show those under his influence, that all suffering and I mean all suffering is due to sin in the person's life. This particular group even unknown by a husband at the time, got into the hospital room of a dying woman and told her see needed to find the core sin or the root sin in her life in order for healing to occur. Another couple, the husband who I had the privilege of discipling for a period of time, lost a child due to a miscarriage. I found out later that this same group had approached them with this same kind of "you need to find the root sin" in your life. SS community, I reject that kind of teaching with ever fiber of my being! Why do I share this with you? Because this kind of "false" doctrine goes on in much larger measures than many of you may want to believe. And by that I mean within the walls of our evangelical what we would call orthodox churches.

When Jesus told Peter in John Chapter 21 three times "Feed My Sheep" it was given in the imperative mood from a nourishing and protecting of those within the fold of His church. Then we come to the apostle Paul in Acts 20:28-29 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Go back when you get time to check out the context of exactly who Paul is talking to, but notice where these false teachers will arise in verse 30 "from among your own selves." Folks I have personally seen what I would have called strong orthodox evangelicals make shipwreck of their faith as they moved into and under false teaching. And what is both sad and dangerous are the numbers of people that are in their sphere of influence.

Quote for the day

A theology which does not want to speak out of the mouth of the Lord and have as its direct aim eternal salvation has no place in the Christian Church and has forfeited its right to be heard. It is an exotic plant, not one which the heavenly Father has planted (Matt. 15:13). In the Church only God’s Word (λόγια θεοῦ) should be heard, and that for the purpose of saving men (John 20:31,1 Pet. 4:11; 1 Tim. 1:4; 6:3). - Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics Vol 1, page 104

Reflecting on Sunday's message

I was so encouraged by Dr. Poplin's message this past Sunday in regard to communion. If you missed the worship service may I recommend that you listen to the message online this week. He taught us about the taking of the Lord's supper from 1 Corinthians 11:27-29. When Dr. Poplin was through with the message it put me in the proper frame of heart and mind before I took communion. As I listened to Dr. Poplin's teaching there were two things that I became consciously aware of regarding our God, and that was a fear of Him and a reverence for Him! This is not a God who wants me to be casual or luke warm when I come to the Lord's table. Also this is not a God who wants me to be negligent or tolerant of the sin that is presently in my life. There was someone on our row weeping, and though I do not know why I sensed a time of deep confession in this person before the Lord.

As we continue in our study of the doctrine of God the two things that naturally flow from this are His transcendence and His immanence. But the order here is so important and these categories are essential when it come to learning and living the God-centered life. And yesterday, if you were in the worship service, both of these things were exhibited wonderfully in message and practice. We first got the picture of a God whose holiness and righteousness require that our attitudes and coming before Him be in a proper way. But then when that is communicated we recognize that God Himself lives within each of us who have received Him as Lord and Savior. The church must proclaim both because both are shown clearly to us and revealed for us in His word.

Oh by the way...for those in the Corinthian church who took the Lord's supper in a way that was inappropriate the apostle Paul wrote about those people in 1 Corinthians 11:30 "For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep." At the end of the sentence you could paraphrase by saying they died!
When I read these sections of Scripture it is as if I hear God shouting from the top of the mountain "Do I now have you full and undivided attention?"

Devotion time in Romans 5

In Romans 5:1 the apostle Paul writes, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Paul is getting ready to tell us about the benefit package that comes as a result of our justification. But that is not the point of this particular email. My hope and prayer is that when you come across a word like justification there will be three things that you think about from a practical
1. Do I have a Biblical understanding of this word?
2. Could I use an illustration in order to explain it to an 8 year old?
3. Am I able to support with Scripture?

First justification is an instantaneous act of God in which He thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ's righteousness as belonging to us. In doing so God declares us to be righteous in His sight.

Second, an illustration you could use might involve that of a basic ticket or a violation of the law in some way. I was on my boat in the Charleston Harbor one day when the DMV boat pulled up beside mine and made an inspection. The officer got my name and checked through his computer to find that I had a fishing license, but it wasn't in my wallet. Therefore he wrote me a ticket. At that point I was not right in the eyes of the law. The fine was $35 and I had no cash on me at the time. However my fishing buddy Mike pulled out his wallet and paid for my ticket on the spot. The officer at that point and time declared me innocent or right in the eyes of the law because the ticket was now paid in full. I went from guilty to innocent as soon as my debt was fulfilled. In the very same way my sin caused me to be guilty in the eyes of a holy and righteous God. The only way for me to be declared "NOT GUILTY" was the payment of my debt by someone else. In this case the only One who could make the payment for my sins and then credit me with His righteousness is Christ Himself.

Third, there are lots of good verses to support the doctrine of justification by faith. The very one we are looking at right now Romans 5:1 or how about Romans 1:17 which is the verse that God used in Martin Luther's life for his conversion.

And last, the word justified appears in the passive voice which means the subject of the sentence is the one who receives the action done. I have used this illustration a number of times, the boy hits the ball. In this case the subject "boy" is providing the action as he hits the ball. But in the next sentence "the ball hits the boy." In this case the subject "boy" is the one who receives the action by being hit.

In Romans 5:1 we have the verb being justified in the passive voice and then we see how that is accomplished "by faith." Upon further study we see that the very faith that I need in order to be declared right in God's sight is a gift. Therefore I in no way, shape or form can take any credit for my justification for this is all of God. The only thing I can do is bow before this sovereign God and offer my thanksgiving!


Review for October 4

We have made it through all 4 categories in the relationship between Jesus and God the Father. Since I included these notes in an earlier post I will simply LINK you to them for your review. Yes, these are doctrines but they are very practical for our day to day living. And also it causes one to stop and consider during devotion time these precious truths about our God.

For example this week I was reading Romans 5 and observed in verse 1 “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As I was reading I just stopped and asked a basic question; how am I able to have peace with God? And in this verse it says that is possible when I am justified by faith in Christ. In other words God’s peace come to me NOT apart from Christ but through Christ! Isn’t that exactly what we talked about yesterday in God the Father summing all things up in His Son? You will find these same kind of things happening all through the Scriptures as you read, devote and study.

If you would like to listen to audio from yesterday’s teaching just click on the October 4 date in the sidebar section of this blog.

NEXT WEEK; Jesus and His relationship with the Spirit

We now return to our regularly scheduled curriculum

Two weeks ago we officially launched into our 2009-2010 Bible Reading Plan. Then last week I read Romans 1-2 and made some brief comments along the way. My point last week was let’s lock arms and read through the Bible. It will be a challenge some days you will miss but don’t get discouraged, keep moving!
I was hoping to post this weeks notes before today, but more on that later. Anyway tomorrow we take a final look at the relationship between Jesus and God the Father. This is point #4; God the Father sums all things up in Jesus His Son. We should complete this final category and then we will start into the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Here are the notes for the first part of this teaching.

Jesus lived His life in the power of the Spirit

When we see the teaching in the Bible between Christ and the Spirit, we have two themes that do not come together easily and may on the surface even appear to conflict.

First Theme - Jesus submitting to the Spirit, yielding to the Spirit, living His life in the power of the Spirit and Jesus following the leading of the Spirit

Second Theme - Jesus clearly announces in the NT that it is the Spirit who will come to glorify Christ


The ministry of being...

Each Thursday for the next number of weeks our Bible reading plan has us in the book of Job. As I was entering into my reading this morning of Chapters 3 and 4 I reviewed the following verses from the end of Chapter 2.

Job 2:11 ¶ Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.
Job 2:12 When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.
Job 2:13 Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.

Years ago when I entered full time ministry Pastor Russ pulled me aside and gave me some wonderful Biblical counsel. I was dealing with a very difficult ministry situation in which one of the members of the church had a family member die suddenly. Russ said "Bert, now is the time for the ministry of being." It was the model of ministry from Job 2:13 in which you are simply with the person. At times there is nothing to say, but your presence in a time of great crisis can provide so much comfort and support. There is a time to teach doctrine and to have a solid foundation of Scripture. But at the time of tragedy hopefully the theology is grounded and the ministry becomes one of being with them.

In the book of Job for the chapters that follow the friends start to open their mouths and dispense with some really faulty theology. We know that to be the case because of what God says to them at the end of Job in Chapter 42. Here is for us, a good lesson in the book of Job when dealing with others in crisis, we need to learn the value in the ministry of being.