Thursday, 23 May 2013

Look daily into the Mirror of God's Word or you will miss what God wants you to see today!

How not to miss the visitation

Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.  Isaiah 1:3
Most of the sins we commit are not conscious.  It’s natural for us all to cruise along in a mental environment of easy-going benevolence, protected from self-awareness within walls of soft but impenetrable good intentions.
The Lord said, for example, “You are robbing me” (Malachi 3:9).  His people did not respond, “Busted!  We didn’t think you’d notice.”  They said, “How have we robbed you?”  They may have felt misjudged.  So God explained, and showed them a new path of realism and blessing.
Christ said, “You say, I am rich, . . . not realizing that you are wretched” (Revelation 3:17).  Then he counseled his people to do new business with him, “so that you may see” (Revelation 3:18).  Their loss would be painful — saying goodbye forever to the comforting illusion of their own okayness — but their gain would be the glory of his living presence (Revelation 3:20).
When Jesus wept over Jerusalem — he wept, he didn’t rage — he said, “Would that you had known on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42).  In rejecting their Messiah, the people weren’t deliberately pushing away the shalom of God.  They just had a full to-do list that day, suddenly Jesus was more a problem than a resource and — well, their incomprehension made a snap judgment, and their historic opportunity moved on.  The Lord himself said, “You did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:44).
To miss our own time of visitation, it is not necessary that we defy Christ.  Just not knowing, if we do not want to know, is enough.  We cannot repent of sins we cannot see, and we cannot see what we refuse to face.  But we can place ourselves deliberately out in the light of God’s Word, standing there without flinching, and ask the Lord to show us ourselves in our need, and show us himself in his all-sufficiency, and tell us what he wants us to do next.
In that place of honest self-reappraisal before the Savior of the world, he will certainly visit us, and wonderfully.
Ray Ortlund

Monday, 18 February 2013

Church should never be a clock!

Have you ever noticed how often Churches and Christians seem to be reactionary and not actionary? I have and I have been guilty of it myself. To trustingly, simply and consistently follow the clear teachings of Jesus seems to get lost to us so often. The pattern seems to be God works, folks respond, then we get our eyes off of Jesus and on to sustaining the success instead of simply trusting. Jared Wilson does a great job of describing the Prodigal Church syndrome and its well worth it for us all to look in the mirror of God's Word and ask some hard questions. Why do we do what we do, Why are we changing what we are changing and is the result Christians more in the image of God or more in the image of man?

Church should never be a clock! What I mean is, those old Grand-Father Clocks with the long pendulum that swings back and forth and back and forth...The Church, the Bride of Christ, is to be Steadfast, Immovable and Always abounding in the work of the Lord! We are to be joyfully faithful, happily dependent and cheerfully resilient. 

For my own part I hate and distrust reactions not only in religion but in everything. Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left.
– C.S. Lewis, “The World’s Last Night”
Once there was a church that loved God and loved people but had a difficult time showing it because the image they gave of God was rather one-dimensional and so then also was the way they attempted to love people. The church believed in a holy God, a just God, a vengeful God, and so they preached wrath very well, pushing the hearts of all who darkened the church doors with the imminent foreboding of their eternal damnation. They did their best to scare the hell out of people, and when that didn’t work, they cried and pleaded and begged. Wretchedly urgent, the church regularly reminded its people of the dire importance of obedience to God, of being holy as God is holy. And the church grew vividly aware year in and year out of the “thou shalt not”s of the Bible. And they came back for more. But fewer and fewer did. When some began to suspect this god was not quite love and that this god could never quite be pleased, they stopped trying. Some kept trying, fearful and diminished.
One day someone suggested the old way wasn’t working. People could not be won by a god who seemed angry all the time, and in fact it made no sense to expect people to have interest in a god who didn’t care about their happiness. The god of the old way seemed so preoccupied with holy things that he did not care much for people’s every day lives. Couldn’t we make the way of the church more practical, more appealing? The way we may see growth again, he reasoned, is to deconstruct the old way, remove the old barriers, and reassert that God is love. Where once the church emphasized God’s holiness, now they emphasized his love. Where once the church emphasized obedience, now they emphasized success. Where once the church emphasized sin, they now emphasized happiness. Where once the church focused on God’s demands, they now emphasized man’s specialness and abilities. If we help people tap into their inner potential, remind them of how wonderful they are, and how God loves them no matter what, people will be interested in church again. They changed the songs, the architecture, the style of dress. They took the crosses down. And lo and behold, people began to come again.
But as the years went by they noticed something. Little by little, they discovered that while some new people were discovering church for the first time, most who came were in recovery from the old way of doing church. And all together, they learned that many could not grow very deeply in their faith. They changed Sunday School to small groups, special music to video montages, began applying Bible verses to songs on the radio and movies at the theater. They deconstructed more things, made more things over. The church had — in their own estimation, cleverly — traded out the “don’t”s for “do”‘s, but even the regular dispensing of practical helps for victorious living wasn’t having the desired effect. People enjoyed the worship services now. But day to day they seemed no closer to God than in the old way of doing church. In fact, they seemed day to day lessinterested in God than before . . .
And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
– Mark 8:15

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Leaning more on Christ in 2013 than on myself!

Well, 2013 is now a reality, the next 365 days lay before me only as God allows it. Yet, I find myself strangely driven to seek Him more this year, to be more consistent in my walk with God, to be more faithful to my wife, my children, my friends and the church I have the huge joy to pastor. I want to be a better pastor this year, to be a better example, to preach better, to study more deeply, to respond quicker to emails and phone calls, to learn more of technology and how to apply it to my everyday life. I really want to disciple others better, to be more accessible to my family and others, to count others more significant than myself. I want to confess my sin more, be more open and honest with others and more accepting of criticism and suggestions. I want to give more, serve more and pray more. I deeply desire to care more about others, to listen more and talk less, to be more creative and a better steward of God's creation and my talents. I just want to be better this year!

All of the above is good, even noble, but fatally flawed, if for one second I think I can accomplish these things on my own, or if I am driven to accomplish them as a means to garner more favour with God...but ultimately these ideals are flawed because they totally lack the presence of Christ or rest on Him.

My prayer, my need for 2013 is to lean more on Christ! To look to Him, think on Him, study Him, praise Him, remember Him and run to Him! Paul told the Philippians, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Phil. 2:12-13

Oh, I need to strive to be holy, to, "work out my own salvation with fear and trembling" but I do so with the confidence and dependence that is it God... "who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." How, or why? Because of Jesus Christ...which is what Philippians 1:6 and chapter 2:9-11 is all is why Paul will say in chapter 4, "I can do all things through CHRIST who strengthens me." But in the context we need to realize, I need to realize this is a promise surrounded by trials, set-backs, failures, temptations, adversity and anything else negative we want to also covers, successes, callings, great feats of strength and creativity, victories over sin and Satan, or anything positive I can imagine.

Leaning on Christ, thinking about what Christ has done for me and to me, realizing, trusting and acting upon the truths that I am forgiven, restored and declared righteous before God is amazingly freeing...guilt, shame, and captivity are gone in Christ. The hymn writer is correct... "My Sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my Sin, not in part but the whole. Is NAILED to the cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Oh my soul!"

Paul challenges the Romans to be holy and transformed, to sacrifice their lives and their minds, not based on DUTY but on the, "mercies of God!" Romans 12:1-2...So this year my desire is to lean on the finished work of Christ think, read, pray and spend time with Jesus to be amazed by the power of the gospel in my life! To know, that because of Christ's perfection I can overcome sin, I can be more like Christ this year than last...but I can attempts will be meet with failure at times, and in this I can hope and run to the One who has already lived perfectly for me...I will also know the joy of victory over sin, temptation and certain these times I can rejoice that it was the perfection of Christ that makes it possible and I know more joy is there for me to experience yet.

So, please pray for me and I will in the strength of God alone because of Jesus through the Holy Spirit pray for you, that we will lean on the ever-lasting arms of Jesus! That we will work hard at leaning, that we will strive to trust in Christ more and not ourselves and that in that work we will see that our, "labour is NOT in vain in the Lord." May 2013 as God provides it to us be the year we lean more on Christ and work really hard at doing it!

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Its time to ask some tough questions!

How well are we known in our communities?

            I serve on the Board of the local organization. I do so to be part of its efforts to serve the needy in our city, and for the sake of knowing people. Christ called me to know people where I live for the sake of the Gospel.
            This is one of the venues I am pursuing. There must be one or two or more of them for me to know people for the sake of the Gospel. It is easy to live in a shell.
I have found, over years, that Christians have a remarkable capacity to live insular lives (do does everyone, really). I have asked people in churches where I serve to name people outside of the church with whom they have had thoughtful conversations. I have asked them to list the people they know for the Gospel. I usually get a short or a very short list. So what? Why does it matter?
            We are called not to live insular lives. We are sent people, sent by Christ to the world. We are called to penetrate our communities with the message of Christ.
We are starting a new church soon. New churches are formed to penetrate new communities with the Gospel. They are not primarily formed to attract Christians, but to bring the Gospel to people outside of Christ.
            We are turning our current church toward the mission. We want to be engaged in the Lord’s work of advancing the Gospel.
           But starting a church is not penetrating the community by itself. New events is not penetrating the community. It takes intentional effort to know and be known, to build an awareness of our presence in the places where we have churches. If you build it, they will not come. There is more to it than that.
We are starting with asking God to work. He is first. But there will be specific steps for each to take into what God is doing.
           I recently sat in a meeting where we reviewed an analysis of how much people in our city knew about our organization. It is called market penetration. The idea fascinated me. We were concerned about it. We had a mission and that mission required market penetration. We strategized new ways to improve in this. It was so very interesting. There was such an urgency.
What about you? about us as a church?
         Do you strategize new ways to penetrate your community, not for the sake of a product, but for the sake of the Gospel?
          I am talking about simple steps, a path of many years. Do you have one?
          We will not be effective in turning to our communities with the Gospel unless each believer thinks our ways to penetrate the communities where we live.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Are Mormons Christians? by Justin Taylor

          Justin Taylor has written this excellent piece on whether or not Mormons are Christians. All too often we think we know, "stuff" about other denominations and what they believe, only to be hopelessly embarrassed by our lack of true understanding. As Christians we need to be both knowledgeable and discerning, Jesus said, "to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves". 

          We need to strive to expose falsehood, but in doing so we must also be gentle, respectful and kind. We do not show someone to be a non-Christian, so as to win an argument or be condescending, NO! We do this in compassionate urgency for the unsaved to know their true condition in order to see the saving power of Jesus Christ! So I would ask you to read this article to learn and be better equipped, not to win a fight of words but to win the fight for a man's soul. To point someone to Jesus, not to boast of your knowledge. Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost, which at one point was you and me. Jesus told His disciples... "As you have freely received no freely give" Lets' learn so as to be better witnesses, not better debaters. 

The New York Times published a curious opinion piece by a devout Mormon who insists that he is not a “Christian.”
I’m about as genuine a Mormon as you’ll find — a templegoer with a Utah pedigree and an administrative position in a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also emphatically not a Christian.
He equivocates on what he means by “Christian.” Sometimes he seems to refer to a set of historical and theological beliefs (he agrees with Richard Land that Mormonism is “a fourth Abrahamic religion, along with Judaism, Christianity and Islam”); other times to a culture of power and acceptance and behavior (“Being a Christian so often involves such boorish and meanspirited behavior that I marvel that any of my Mormon colleagues are so eager to join the fold”), and he also uses it in verbal form positively (“Mormons are certainly Christian enough to know how to spitefully abuse their power”).
One might think that a Mormon offering a strong defense of dissimilarity from historic Christianity would insist that theology matters. But that’s the opposite of this writer’s approach.
For the curious, the dispute can be reduced to Jesus. Mormons assert that because they believe Jesus is divine, they are Christians by default. Christians respond that because Mormons don’t believe — in accordance with the Nicene Creed promulgated in the fourth century — that Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Jesus that Mormons have in mind is someone else altogether. The Mormon reaction is incredulity. The Christian retort is exasperation. Rinse and repeat.
I am confident that I am not the only person — Mormon or Christian — who has had enough of the acrimonious niggling from both sides over the nature of the trinity, the authority of the creeds, the significance of grace and works, the union of Christ’s divinity and humanity, and the real color of God’s underwear.
Regarding the statement I’ve italicized: I understand that (1) this is an opinion piece, (2) that most Mormons don’t understand the Trinity, and (3) that many evangelicals—to use Robert Letham’s indictment—are “functional modalists”—but one would still think that the Paper of Record would flag a historical error this significant. The pro-Nicene theology emerging from the fourth century most certainly did not say that Jesus is the Father and the Spirit. That is a heretical belief.
For those who would be helped by a review of some of the key differences between Mormonism (or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and historic Christianity, I once constructed a Q&A format from the ESV Study Bible article on religious cults and sects (article available online to subscribers). It’s an attempt to be concise and accurate without being overly simplistic.

What do Mormons believe about apostasy and restoration?
Mormons claim that “total” apostasy overcame the church following apostolic times, and that the Mormon Church (founded in 1830) is the “restored church.”
What’s the problem with this understanding?
If the Mormon Church were truly a “restored church,” one would expect to find first-century historical evidence for Mormon doctrines like the plurality of gods and God the Father having once been a man. Such evidence is completely lacking. Besides, the Bible disallows a total apostasy of the church (e.g., Matt. 16:18; 28:20; Eph. 3:21; 4:11-16), warning instead of partial apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1).

What do Mormons believe about God?
Mormons claim that God the Father was once a man and that he then progressed to godhood (that is, he is a now-exalted, immortal man with a flesh-and-bone body).
What does the Bible teach about the nature of God?
Based on the Bible, God is not and has never been a man (Num. 23:19; Hos. 11:9). He is a spirit (John 4:24), and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Furthermore, God is eternal (Ps. 90:2; 102:27; Isa. 57:15; 1 Tim. 1:17) and immutable (or unchangeable in his being and perfections; see Ps. 102:25-27; Mal. 3:6). He did not “progress” toward godhood, but has always been God.

What do Mormons believe about the Trinity and polytheism?
Mormons believe that the Trinity consists not of three persons in one God but rather of three distinct gods. According to Mormonism, there are potentially many thousands of gods besides these.
What does the Bible teach about the Triune God?
Trusting in or worshiping more than one god is explicitly condemned throughout the Bible (e.g., Ex. 20:3). There is only one true God (Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:18; 46:9; 1 Cor. 8:4; James 2:19), who exists eternally in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).

What do Mormons believe about human exaltation?
Mormons believe that humans, like God the Father, can go through a process of exaltation to godhood.
What does the Bible teach about humanity?
The Bible teaches that the yearning to be godlike led to the fall of mankind (Gen. 3:4ff.). God does not look kindly on humans who pretend to attain to deity (Acts 12:21-23; contrast Acts 14:11-15). God desires humans to humbly recognize that they are his creatures (Gen. 2:7; 5:2; Ps. 95:6-7; 100:3). The state of the redeemed in eternity will be one of glorious immortality, but they will forever remain God’s creatures, adopted as his children (Rom. 8:14-30; 1 Cor. 15:42-57; Rev. 21:3-7). Believers will never become gods.

What do Mormons believe about Jesus?
Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was the firstborn spirit-child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother. Jesus then progressed to deity in the spirit world. He was later physically conceived in Mary’s womb, as the literal “only begotten” Son of God the Father in the flesh (though many present-day Mormons remain somewhat vague as to how this occurred).
What does the Bible teach about Jesus?
Biblically, the description of Jesus as the “only begotten” refers to his being the Father’s unique, one-of-a-kind Son for all eternity, with the same divine nature as the Father (see note on John 1:14; cf. John 1:18; 3:16, 18; see also John 5:18; 10:30). Moreover, he is eternal deity (John 1:1; 8:58) and is immutable (Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8), meaning he did not progress to deity but has always been God. And Mary’s conception of Jesus in his humanity was through a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20).

What do Mormons believe about our eternal destiny?
Mormons believe that most people will end up in one of three kingdoms of glory, depending on one’s level of faithfulness. Belief in Christ, or even in God, is not necessary to obtain immortality in one of these three kingdoms, and therefore only the most spiritually perverse will go to hell.
What does the Bible teach about our eternal destiny ?
The Bible teaches that people have just two possibilities for their eternal futures: the saved will enjoy eternal life with God in the new heavens and new earth (Phil. 3:20; Rev. 21:1-4; 22:1-5), while the unsaved will spend eternity in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 20:13-15).

What do Mormons believe about sin and atonement?
Mormons believe that Adam’s transgression was a noble act that made it possible for humans to become mortal, a necessary step on the path to exaltation to godhood. They think that Christ’s atonement secures immortality for virtually all people, whether they repent and believe or not.
What does the Bible teach about sin and atonement?
Biblically, there was nothing noble about Adam’s sin, which was not a stepping-stone to godhood but rather brought nothing but sin, misery, and death to mankind (Gen. 3:16-19; Rom. 5:12-14). Jesus atoned for the sins of all who would trust him for salvation (Isa. 53:6; John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

What do Mormons believe about salvation?
Mormons believe that God gives to (virtually) everyone a general salvation to immortal life in one of the heavenly kingdoms, which is how they understand salvation by grace. Belief in Christ is necessary only to obtain passage to the highest, celestial kingdom—for which not only faith but participation in Mormon temple rituals and obedience to its “laws of the gospel” are also prerequisites.
What does the Bible teach about salvation?
Biblically, salvation by grace must be received through faith in Christ (John 3:15-16; 11:25; 12:46; Acts 16:31; Rom. 3:22-24; Eph. 2:8-9), and all true believers are promised eternal life in God’s presence (Matt. 5:3-8; John 14:1-3; Rev. 21:3-7).

Friday, 8 June 2012

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

          If you answer that question, does it mean that YOU should then be baptiszed? Well why not give this little post from Jared Wilson a read and find out. I find it amazing how many folks in church today are confusing both the Table of the Lord and Baptism. When we get saved, God does something to us! He changes us, transforms us and opens up for us a relationship with Him. That relationship involves not only love and joy but also a metamorphoses of the heart.
          We no longer want to be like we were but are passionately seeking to be like Christ, but WHY? Why would we want that? The answer is...if you have been brought to life, rescued from hell, bathed in love and mercy and grace, and your eyes have been opened to the wonders of Jesus, how could you NOT want to be like Jesus?!
          Jared Wilson goes on to say...
          Jesus had no sin to confess and repent, and yet he submitted to John’s “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). Why?
I think there are three general reasons:
          1. To signal the new covenant beginning. The kingdom of God was “at hand,” and just as Joshua led the people of God across the Jordan to the Promised Land, the true and better Joshua leads his people at the Jordan River in baptism, signaling the fulfillment of the Promised Land shadow.
          2. “To fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Jesus was baptized because he was obedient to God’s commands, including the prescribed rites for entrance into the priesthood (Leviticus 8:6; Exodus 29:4). To be our great high priest after the order of Melchizedek, he needed the ritual washing. If he hadn’t submitted to baptism he would have had a sin to repent of in baptism! Instead, Jesus is baptized as part of his total life of obedience to the Father’s will. We need a perfect righteousness to be saved, and Jesus gives us his, which includes his baptism:
          3. To be our substitute. When we are baptized we are making our profession of faith in Christ, making an appeal to God based on what baptism corresponds to (1 Peter 3:21). But we still come up out of the water as sinners. Our baptism is made perfect, however, because through faith, Christ’s baptism becomes our baptism (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27). It is part of his eternal obedience imputed to us.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

What do we say when the World starts getting it right but the Church doesn't?

Raquel Welch Says Pornography “Annihilates” Men

I think we’ve gotten to the point in our culture where we’re all sex addicts, literally. We have equated happiness in life with as many orgasms as you can possibly pack in, regardless of where it is that you deposit your love interest…
It’s just dehumanizing. And I have to honestly say, I think this era of porn is at least partially responsible for it. Where is the anticipation and the personalization? It’s all pre-fab now. You have these images coming at you unannounced and unsolicited. It just gets to be so plastic and phony to me. Maybe men respond to that. But is it really better than an experience with a real life girl that he cares about? It’s an exploitation of the poor male’s libidos. Poor babies, they can’t control themselves…
I just imagine them sitting in front of their computers, completely annihilated. They haven’t done anything, they don’t have a job, they barely have ambition anymore. And it makes for laziness and a not very good sex partner. Do they know how to negotiate something that isn’t pre-fab and injected directly into their brain?
Pornography hollows out the soul and leaves Gollum in the place of the man. But the “annihilation” that a man risks is worse than the one Welch refers to. Jesus said it this way:
Matthew 5:28-30 “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
For some practical advice on winning the battle against pornography, I recommend the following resources: