Monday, January 19, 2015

Did Job struggle? Can he teach me anything?

"Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.' (Job 1:20-22)

Who has not read this passage for the first time and thought, "Wow, Job is indeed a righteous man, I could never be like that..." or read it during a trial of some sort and thought "Wow, now there's an exception, there's an extraordinary man.....I just can't seem to get to that place Job was at...".
On the one hand we might be tempted to believe that Job was a different 'sort' of man, that he was unique and if that's the case then what's recorded concerning him has no application for us, God forbid we think that. On the other hand we might be tempted to assume that Job didn't have to wrestle against the flesh when he worshiped and praised the Lord.
Even in the short introduction of Job we see that Job was a man who feared God, a man who had a habit of turning to God, a man who was concerned even about inward sins, a man who resisted evil, thus Job was a man who's mind was renewed by truths concerning God.
A righteous man is not a perfect man, but a man who makes a habit of turning to God, a man who repents quickly and often. Job was such a man, a man like other men who had to resist temptation, who had to cast down thoughts, who had to cling to promises, and who had to IN ALL things come before the throne of God seeking grace in his time of need!
It would be no stretch or assault upon the passage to assume even in chapter 1, that Job was TEMPTED to think and believe LIES which he never uttered. 
Perhaps the thought that God was not good crossed his mind, the thought that God was not in control, the thought that God did not care, and perhaps that God was unjust in all of this. Can you not relate to such temptations? You might not only be able to relate to the temptations, but you can easily recall the death birthed from yielding to those temptations, the sorrow upon sorrow, the hopelessness, the fears, the doubts, the suffocating anxiety, the endless complaints, the bitter envy and anger that flows from yielding to the flesh at such times.
Furthermore it needs to be pointed out that Job's SORROW was not considered sin or lack of righteousness, THAT my friends is normal and good. Can you then, see his statement, his confession in the midst of these sufferings as a rebuke to those lying temptations, as a thrust of the Sword of Truth defending the unchanging character of God Almighty?! 
“Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Hence the NECESSITY of hiding the WORD of God in our hearts, that we may cling to WHO He is, that we may fight the lies of our mind with the truth revealed by God, that we may command our emotions to bow before the Word of our Lord!
The Lord our God is not only in control, but He is GOOD and working all things for the GOOD of His people, He is just and ultimately never gives His people what they deserve but has purchased grace for us through the death of His Son (which just happens to be how God 'demonstrated His love for us'), and that He cares! Can we not see this being proclaimed throughout scripture? We see God comforting His people over and over again by reminding them that He is WITH them and that He is working towards an end, namely our joyous eternity WITH Him. We see God encouraging/instructing/commanding us to seek Him in our 'time of trouble', to ask as a child to a father, to make 'our requests known', to 'cast our cares upon' Him ('because HE CARES for us'). Yes EVEN when it's a result of discipline for sin, we see a pattern of God using such to the same end; DRAWING us closer to Him, for our good and certainly for HIS GLORY!
Yield not to those lies that demand to be heard, rather make a habit of meditating upon the words of the Lord, especially upon His immutable attributes, and make a habit of crying out to Him for increased faith and strength especially in our times of trials BEFORE we let our thoughts and emotions have their way within us, then by God's grace we too might exclaim in worship WHO our God is, just like Job!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Be encouraged, you are not needed!

Dear brethren, look at these two verses,

Psalm 50:12 
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

1 Corinthians 3:6,7
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."

These scriptures declare that our God is the source of all things, He is the one in control, He is the supplier of all things, we are the needy ones! God is self-sufficient and God is the author of life (physical and ETERNAL). We may labor, we may strain, we may do this and do that, but it is God alone who causes fruit to be born and to grow. This reality takes a necessary burden off of our shoulders, for it removes from us the anxiety of attempting to produce something, to create something which we are unable to do. In fact this is a humbling reality, for we'd like to be able to do something great, something by which we could at least take partial credit, of course we'd never come out and bluntly say we want to steal glory from God, but in our flesh that is exactly what we want.
The pressure is everywhere, for us to do something 'great', to accomplish 'great things'...'for the Lord' of course, oh yes, of course, (hmm) for the "the Lord'. So why is there so much bragging going on? Why such an emphasis on how big my ministry is, how many books you sold, how many followers he has, how many classes they lead, how much they volunteer, how much she can multi-task and so on, eh?
Pride, pride, pride, will lead us to selfish ambition, to seek the praise of men and it will indeed rob God of His glory and it will rob us of our joy as we seek to find pleasure (be content) in fulfilling some 'purpose' that is noticeable to others, that pleasure, that peace, that contentment which ONLY comes from Him who gives it, not from some thing we do. This sort of competitive living among God's people, will lead to the 'body' trying to be parts (of the body) which God never called them to be, namely the NOTICEABLE parts, and then those who are not noticed are not only overwhelmed but envious, bitter, and wallowing in self-pity. 
Only when we realize who God is, who is running His church, who is the HEAD of the body, then and then only can we begin to be at peace with His wise, good, just, and gracious gifts, callings, and positions. 
Can this not explain the lack of praying in churches today? That we don't really believe that such things are in the hands of the Lord, that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, yes even us 'SOVEREIGNTY' people? Wouldn't a fuller understanding of His sovereignty in all things, His workings in and among men, lead us to call upon Him all the more, to plead with Him for help, for power, for grace in all our endeavors? As opposed to just doing more, busy, busy, busy, just adding and adding more programs, more activities, more responsibilities, and consequently a whole lot less time doing those necessary and unnoticed things. 
In such a culture, it should not come as a surprise that there exists a great number of people doing 'small' things that will feel (trained to feel, by implication) quite insignificant and useless. For instance, the young mother who serves a handful of little ones and her husband in such a culture will either learn to find contentment and joy in doing all those things as unto the Lord, OR she will have to 'accept' her meaningless role until she can tell others of how bright or gifted her little ones compared to others OR she will overwhelm herself taking on additional duties (noticeable duties) that will indeed produce those temporal flesh-pleasing praises while she pulls from the most important duties spelled out to her by her Lord and Master in the scriptures, which in the LONG run will lead to much regret.
Now look at this familiar passage,

Luke 10:38-42
"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Is this passage teaching us that doing work is 'unnecessary'? Uh, duh, of course not! That should be obvious, it's obvious that there are many things that must be done, things which we all must do, work is a GOOD thing! Yes it is good to be 'spent' for the Lord, to serve Him with all our heart, to serve the Lord with all our...'strength'. However the problem for us isn't missing the point about doing those things which are necessary, the problem is that we lack a fuller and biblical understanding of 'necessary'. In this passage we see Jesus rebuke Martha for her anxiety and frustration in her service (anxious while serving, hmm, sound familiar, much?) and commends Mary for sitting at His feet and listening to Him. Wait, Jesus says that was 'NECESSARY'? "But Mary, there are things to do, Mary there are needs to be fulfilled, Mary you're not accomplishing anything, Mary, everyone else is working." 
The point is that Jesus WAS working, that Mary was receiving the blessings which produce fruit, she herself NEEDED to spend time with Christ, she NEEDED to hear from Him, we all do! Our time with the Lord is vital, it is important work, it is necessary! Furthermore, it'll be alright if you stop and rest, it'll be ok if you have to turn down some 'opportunities', it'll be just fine if you can't do, lead or be know why right? Because YOU ARE NOT NEEDED, God is, you're not, be encouraged, He can handle it quite perfectly without you. 
Lastly let's look at this next passage,

Colossians 3:17-24
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

You see it right? Do you see how this passage is sandwiched? 'Do everything in the name of the Lord' for the are serving the Lord Christ." For Him, do it for Him, serve Him! Now consider the ordinary nature of these things, the unspectacular appearance of these things, they are certainly unglamorous, often unappreciated, acts of labor that we would consider anything but 'service' to the Lord. O yes we make mention of these verses and we talk about 'doing it for the glory of God' but do you get it, do you get how God is showing forth His divine sovereignty by placing us in such situations, in such roles, that others may despise, that the world may sneer at, but which God is ACTUALLY pleased by? If then we find ourselves in a limited capacity, or in a season of life where the 'need' is in the places where none see, then so be it, let our resolve be to do it for the one who 'sees in secret' and refuse to please that glory-seeking flesh with the appearance of 'being a servant'. Friend, you must then ask yourself, have you been neglecting the most necessary things in order to find fulfillment in something public? Of course it's always easier to maintain (for a while) the appearance of fruit in public, than it is to be fruitful in private. May none of us respond like Peter to our Lord, when Christ asked 'Do you love me' and proceeded to foretell how Peter would die and Peter responds  “Lord, what about this man?” then Christ tells him "...what is that to you? You follow me!”  Yes, that's it, He's the head of the church, He's gifted the church as He pleases, He plans our lives, He calls us to assume certain roles, He is in control and we the sheep need only to follow Him....not in some roles, not in the 'big' things, not in competition with our brethren, but day by day seeking to be faithful to Him according to His instructions!
Be free from burdens you were never meant to carry, be free from trying to keep up with everyone else, be free from competing, yes be free from worrying about everyone else, be free from trying to perform for the love which God freely offered and demonstrated in the giving of Jesus Christ, do this by repenting and setting your eyes once again on the prize, JESUS CHRIST. Be encouraged, He reigns supreme, the Lord gives, the Lord takes away, He does whatsoever He pleases, besides YOU ARE NOT NEEDED.......but you/we/I need HIM!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Jesus Christ the Humble King

In the letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul exhorts the church to be humble as Christ was humble in His coming as the God-man. Jesus Christ born of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit was fully God and fully man, the difficulty lies not in proving that the scriptures reveal this, rather the difficulty lies in our ability to grasp a glorious miracle in which we have nothing to compare it to.
With that said let us look at the passage and a few considerations of Christ's humility,

Philippians 2:5-11
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Instead of 'grasping' the divinity which was fully His, Jesus emptied Himself, took the form of a bond-servant, and was made in the likeness of men. His humility was seen in His obedience and ESPECIALLY His obedience unto death! WIthout detracting in any way shape or form from His glorious and primary submission to God the Father in His perfect obedience and joyful acceptance of His will, I want to give some attention to some other aspects. 
Consider with me just a few contexts displaying how magnificent His humility truly was:
*Humble in His taking on flesh: Jesus in His humanity actually had NEEDS (FYI, God doesn't have needs), Jesus not only needed rest, food, water as a man but Jesus as a child even needed to be carried, to be fed, to be changed, to be bathed etc.

*Humble in His submission to authority: Jesus not only submitted to Mary and Joseph, He even submitted to a foreign oppressive (raised up by the hand of God) ruler as He pays taxes!
*Humble in His patience with His disciples: Bearing with their weaknesses, questions and even employing them in tasks which He could do faster and better!
*Humble in His trial and abuse from men: as He took blows which He could have stopped, enduring the whips from puny men whom He had created, refusing to respond in vengeance towards His mockers! 
*Humble in His treatment of His betrayer:

  •   It's mind-blowing to think of how Jesus treated the man He KNEW was His betrayer, so gracious was His treatment of Judas that none of the disciples ever had even a hint of suspicion concerning this man that they traveled and lived with for years! Think of the many times Jesus feeds even Judas, how He sends out even Judas, how He shares precious truths even with Judas! Call to mind the objections Judas made concerning the ointment poured upon Jesus' head and what mighty power of restraint it took to hear his greed-dripping lies (while everyone else gets the impression Judas is such a compassionate person) and not blow up! If that was not astounding enough, call to mind how humble the act was when Jesus our Lord even washed the feet of Judas, right before his final act of betrayal! Then of all signals, Judas points out Christ with an intimate expression of love (a kiss), and for Christ to not cause the very ground to swallow Judas up at that very moment is quite amazing!
This is our Savior, this is our Lord who so humbled Himself, who wonderfully and willfully submitted to such treatment. The Lord who was determined to save men, not because they deserved such, not because they earned such, nor because of what they could then offer Him, but because of His great love, His DECISION to love us in spite of us, fueled by His desire to magnify the grace of God and display His glory! The Lord Jesus came determined to save sinners, wicked hell-deserving law breakers, although they gave Him, in fact WE gave Him every reason to NOT save us!
Oh but let none of us for a moment forget a terrifying reality, and that the Lamb who came not to condemn but to save, will return as the Lion who will exact vengeance on the adversaries of the Lord! He will return in power, not to take blows but to give them! Jesus Christ, not only warned of judgment, but we are told, contrary to popular opinion, that the guilt is now INCREASED because of His glory and grace being revealed through Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 10:29-31
29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Whether men choose to do so, through faith and repentance towards God, or whether they are slammed down, all, yes ALL will inevitably recognize and CONFESS that Jesus is Lord! May it not be on the way to eternal damnation, may you not reject the majesty of the King who became a child! Humble yourself before God almighty, give up your excuses, turn away from trusting in your own goodness/merit, and utterly reject the lie of your heart that perhaps God will prove to have been only bluffing and that the life, death and resurrection of Christ meant so little that He'll just welcome you no matter what! Seek Him NOW, while you may, while you are reading these words and sensing the truth of these matters, don't harden your heart with excuses so you can continue in your sinful ways, turn to God, He'll cleanse you from your sins, He'll transform your life by dwelling in you, and He'll ensure you dwell with Him in eternity! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Explaining to our children preferences, convictions and distinctions among brethren WITH GRACE

     Let's face it, Christians differ on a number of matters, and that often or perhaps i should say sometimes for good reason! It is customary to call such differences 'secondary issues' (interpretation differences like paedo baptism vs credo baptism, differences in liberties like teetotalism vs moderationist as concerns drinking alcohol etc) , so as to make the point clear that there are bonafide God-obeying, Christ-exalting believers who differ on subjects which don't negate their standing as believers, despite the reality that some of these issues are still very important! 

The sticky part is how to explain such differences to our children, how to gracefully disagree with others while maintaining the unity of the brethren, being free of slander and not leaving the impression upon our children that our convictions on the matter reveal our superiority over those lukewarm if that, church-goers.
Seek wisdom in this, seek to be careful and clear in this and learn from leaders who model such unity while maintaining their stands, lest we raise mean-spirited, arrogant and elitist Pharisees!
With that said I will offer some EXAMPLES of what NOT to do (they are of course comical exaggerations and straw-men  so please don't get offended, lol),

Halloween participating child, 
"Mommy why don't those kids dress up?"
"Well, sweety long time ago in Salem there were these witch hunters and....."

Halloween abstaining child,
"Mommy why do those kids dress up?"
"Well, sweety I guess they like worshiping the Devil..."

"Dad why do they send their kids to public school?"
"Hmm, apparently they love the world and want the world to raise their children.."

"Dad why do they homeschool their kids?"
"Hmm, apparently they think monks and nuns are a good thing...."

Child of a moderate participant in alcohol, 
"Mom, why can't they have a small glass of wine with their dinner?"
"Baby, they follow the laws of men instead of God...."

Child of a total abstainer from alcohol
"Mom, why do they drink beer and wine?"
"Baby, they must not care about what the bible says about drunkards....."

Child of a credo-baptist,
"Dad, why do they pour water on babies?"
"O, they like the Pope, think the water magically washes sin away..."

Child of a paedo-baptist,
"Dad, why don't they baptize their babies?"
"O, they like the abortionists, don't want their babies saved..."

Child of a Israel supporting dispensationalist,
"Mom, why don't they support and work for Israel?"
"Hun, WWII might be over, but I guess Nazis are still around..."

Child of a Israel neutral convenantalist, 
"Mom, why do they focus so much on the land and people of Israel?"
"Hun, they think people are are saved by blood not faith....."

Hehe....brethren, laying aside the extreme cases, let us be wise in explaining to our children differences among the true body of Christ!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Don't WASTE your homeschooling!

It goes something like this, 'Are you a homeschooler?' "Wow, me too!' and there you have it, two peas in a pod right? Not exactly, such an association might only describe where two parents don't send their children and that might be the only thing those two parents have in common. The point, is that the differences abound not only in structures and curriculums but also in worldviews, and so I hope to sound somewhat of a clarion call to fellow homeschoolers in order that their opportunity might not be 'wasted', the opportunity of having more time, more control over what specifically influences their children!
Here then is a choppy list of some things we must not neglect,

Don't waste the ample time you have been afforded by neglecting to teach and to share the gospel with your children frequently, for they desperately need to hear it until they come to faith, and they desperately need to hear it frequently after they come to faith. A great many pitfalls will be avoided and a great many extremes nullified if by consistent exposure to the gospel, your children are convinced that they are great undeserving sinners in need of God's grace, and that if in anything they stand apart from others around them, it is due only to the grace of God within them!

Don't waste the ample time you have been afforded by neglecting to pray daily with your children, to teach them to turn to and to depend on God, to teach them that their teachers (parents) desperately depend on the help of God. Prayers of thanks will teach them that all blessings truly flow from God, prayers of intercession will teach them to compassionately desire God's grace to be given to other people, and prayers of repentance will teach them to humble themselves before God and strive towards holiness!

Don't waste the ample time you have been afforded by neglecting to teach your children sound doctrine. A biblical worldview demands first a familiarity with the scriptures, and a reasonable ability to interpret scripture (hermeneutics). What a shame if they master fields in academics and yet are ignorant of the attributes of God, of the doctrines concerning salvation, of the doctrines concerning the church etc!

Don't waste the ample time you have been afforded by neglecting to teach them the importance of the local church. It is good and well that children learn to submit to their parents and especially their fathers, but if that is where it ends then that is not biblical. This is why a healthy church is so important, because they need to be in a place where they see the whole family involved and submitted, as God has designed, to a local church led by men approved by God according to the scriptures. Parents must humble themselves in this matter, showing by example what it looks like to honor the elders of the church, and what it means to love the body which Christ died for!

Don't waste the ample time you have been afforded by neglecting to shape and refine the very character of your children. Just finishing the work and making 'the grade' is not enough, for you their parent must notice and deal with their attitudes as well. Confronting and disciplining sinful attitudes as well as training them towards good attitudes is something you have been uniquely called to do by God, from humility, to diligence, to truthfulness, to compassion, to sincerity, to gentleness, to self-control etc are such that by God's grace you can instill in your children!

Don't waste the ample time you have been afforded by neglecting to challenge your children towards excellence. Exhort and help them to hone their natural gifts and to grow in the areas they are weak. Don't allow them to simply cop out and give up, but call them to strive (within reason) towards excellence. For instance, after they take a test, review with them the wrong answers and seek to help them think through what and why and how they got it wrong (not to alter the test, but to challenge their thinking).

Don't waste the ample time you have been afforded by neglecting to instill in your children the necessity of discernment. I suppose this comes naturally when it comes to a subject like evolution vs creation, but think of the blessing of applying such a discerning eye towards all subjects. They need to be trained and shown by example, to discern everything, all claims of truth, all forms of media etc by the word of God, to read everything, asking first, 'What saith the Lord?'!

Don't waste the ample time you have been afforded by neglecting to show them that all matters of life and learning are matters of worship. If one subject is most mockingly brought up as being incapable of holding anything other than a neutral place concerning God it is math, but strange as it may sound math is but one more reason to worship the Lord! For the very order, the consistency, and absolute nature of math is but one testimony to the order, consistency and absolute nature of God, His ways and His truth. Every history, every biography, teaches us something about worship, either the worship of the world or the worship of God and the consequences and the blessings of such.

9. JOY
Don't waste the ample time you have been afforded by neglecting to love on them, pour affection on them, and show that you enjoy them for the sake of their joy. They must be convinced that all their striving, that all their work, that all their obedience is not a means to receive your love, but something they do because they know they are loved. Spend 'off' time with them, talk to them, have 'heart to hearts', have special days with just them, play with them etc. Children are indeed a blessing from the Lord and He calls us to raise them which includes showing affection towards them, let us then be resolved to see them in such a  counter-cultural way by God's grace!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A multitude of mercies

This is a sermon I preached 2 wks ago to God's people..........a quite unconventional survey sermon (for me) which I hope at the least would whet the spiritual appetite of God's people to further their understanding of the freeing and moving love and grace of God found in Jesus Christ!!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Keeping children in the service, why and how

A brief case for and help towards, keeping children in the church service...

I write this post not to formulate a new law in which to bind men, but I do write fully convinced that it is wise, good, and fruitful to forgo separating children, youth and adults by having separate 'church' services. However I'm not writing to present a case for a family-integrated model, for I'm not suggesting there should never be times where say in classroom settings (Sunday school) that children or youth are specifically targeted, but I do believe such should certainly not take place during the Lord's day service. I'm also not saying that if a church does this then they are unhealthy or apostate and should be abandoned (don't bother responding if you take it that way, for or against). With that said there are some who do what i think is quite unique, for some encourage the parents to engage the children on what they have learnt or 'picked up' from the sermon, while some churches like Paul Washer's church in Virginia, actually address the children with a separate short message and then preach to the whole congregation (with children present). I'm not so much addressing the 'nursery' either, though I still think it's unnecessary, although a 'crying room' lol (where one can briefly if able, can calm or change or feed their baby etc), might be helpful.

Here then is some food for thought (It would be nice to convince some, but more importantly, maybe more realistically, lol, I wish to support those who have decided likewise)

Preaching should be central on the Lord's Day, for God has given such 'gifts' (Pastors etc, Eph 4) to equip the saints, yes the 'preaching' of the gospel must be heard and is indeed a means of grace which the Holy Spirit uses to move men to trust, cherish and obey Christ.

*since preaching is so vital, necessary and powerful, we should not limit it's reach nor help in assisting others to miss out on it (which happens not only for the children, but for all the 'helpers', all the 'teachers' and even IF there's somewhat of a rotation there's always a few volunteers who rarely, if ever, get to sit under the preached word and receive this vital grace {and that quite contradicts what most believe about preaching}), unfortunately it's the most vital parts of worship (typically preaching and the ordinances) that are missed (or interrupted) because of the unnecessary extras we add to the Lord's day

*i contend that having children present would be in keeping with the scriptures (since children would have been present during the service) and with a grand majority of church history....and one would be hard-pressed to argue a case from scriptures that such should be done

*children hear more and understand more then we believe, and ESPECIALLY more then most presently believe (of course we can always do things to help them learn to listen better)

*parents are called to teach our children in the 'fear and admonition of the Lord', and it certainly makes sense to teach them (even IF they don't 'get much out of it') that there is something unique, something distinctly separate (holy) about the Lord's service, about the sacraments, preaching, and prayer etc, and that unfortunately has been lost for far too many in our day (as opposed to church simply being a fun, interesting, playtime)

*children love to imitate, and if they are challenged (i know it's considered 'old-fashioned') to grow in maturity, to be trained towards adulthood (another lost goal of our day) it would do them good

*it seems quite hypocritical to expect children to sit and listen to a teacher in say school (if u do that) but not to teach them to sit and listen to the word preached. Perhaps some would object saying 'But that's geared towards them, they can understand it', well then what if they can't understand? are they allowed to walk out? Better yet if an adult family member begins to talk to them (and u know some that don't do the gaga language, but speak a little 'over the head' of the child) would you be fine if you child walks away, since they don't 'get it'? I hope you would consider that rude, well then should not the Lord receive much more attention?

HELP!! Assistance in teaching children to sit quietly in church:
(this is NOT expert advice, but some things we have found to be helpful in teaching/training our 7 boys to sit quietly in church)

First things first, here then are some reasons why NOT to teach them to sit quietly in church:
*don't do it for self, to be seen or as a sign that you belong to an 'elite' class of super-parents
*don't do it because it shows your children are holy and others are not, for they are but restrained little heathens who desperately need the grace of Jesus Christ
*don't do it without a conviction concerning the importance of the Lord's Day, don't simply do it to make some statement

Now then, let me suggest a few things that should help:
*a good example: children NEED to see you yourself display a high regard for the uniqueness of the Lord's Day
*much prayer: plead with the Lord for help in doing this, and plead that the word might be effectual towards them
*train! Discipline disobedience, but first TRAIN them (at home) how to obey, regular family devotions where the children are required to sit and listen is of first importance, and perhaps additional times where say a parent sits the children down and are read a story (explain what's expected of them: paying attention, no side chat etc) and quickly and consistently discipline them when they disobey (a quick smack, a flick, etc)...yes children need free time and playtime but they should not be given the freedom to always chose when they decide to listen or show respect etc
*light discipline during service, (if needed..hahahaha), not saying if they fidget or something (age can come into an extent), but purposely being distracting, loud, rude etc (quick flicks are good), and maybe there's some times where u need to deal with them in a bathroom (BUT, if for some reason it seems quite unwise, lots of people,lack of opportunity etc......then assure them such WILL be dealt with at home or when you get in the car, but be sure to follow through so not to teach them that you are bluffing, one parent may be better at remembering then another...but don't let it go because a short time has passed) ...remember we are obeying the Lord in applying the rod, and we do so for the good of our children
*sometimes it might help to engage them during 'hey remember that story' 'did you hear that name' etc
*often it helps to remind them of the expectations BEFORE you get to church (knuckleheads need repetition)
*encourage and compliment good behavior, while being careful not to teach them that they have accomplished some 'good works' (giving children the gospel frequently will help fight that tendency) nor allowing them to compare themselves with other children ('well, son i don't know about them, but God has called YOU to obey ME and that's what we need to worry about .....thankfully I've not had to correct that kind of sinful question yet)
*a little ingenuity might help in calming and quieting babies and toddlers, trying to gauge feeding times better, trying to learn how to bounce them, and if all else fails 'o well' just carry them for a while or step out if they're acting possessed :)
*a LOT of patience and endurance as well, (hoping for the best, but expecting the worst), with some it might be quicker, and with others WHOA, it might take some months (but don't give up....cling to those convictions, keep the goal and proper motive before your eye....and by God's grace keep on keeping on)

Well that wasn't anything revolutionary, and certainly it wasn't exhaustive but I do hope it's helped someone out there........and i do hope nothing was misunderstood, grace and peace.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Propaganda, precious puritans...missed it by that much

Propaganda, a talented spoken word artist and Christian rapper in his latest album (which was free) released a song titled 'Precious Puritans', in it he points out some problematic points of history concerning Puritans and slavery!
However though there are some very valid POINTS being made, the first being that no men deserve pedestals, that we should not ignore flaws when we see them, that we should not whitewash history in order to protect truth etc, there is YET a spin, a direction that simply isn't going to help a lot of people. When it comes to racism and especially in AMERICA there's a WAY to point out the issues which only stirs up more controversy, which only unleashes deep rooted bitterness.
Take movies for example, Spike Lee was always good at that, he made valid points, presented some real gritty scenarios and yet for many of 'us' it left us angry, bitter, and feeling quite justified in our sinful responses and outlooks (which goes beyond 'telling it like it is' and rather finds racism EVERYWHERE and in EVERYONE which also breeds a stronger stance for separation while still complaining about such separation)...o yes I know about racism, I've felt it, i know what it's like to be in a school as the only minority, I also know well the anger, the rage that came with that from within, despite being 'only' half-black.....and for such reasons and more Christians especially should address and critique such issues in a way and in a spirit that is DRASTICALLY different from the way lost men do.

Before we dive further and before I lose you, let me first say this:
We should still read, enjoy and quote the Puritans NOT because they were the epitome of Christ followers (and issues revolving around slavery would not be the only flaws we could find among them), rather we as believers are called to judge TRUTH according to the word of God, and if TAUGHT truth lines up with scripture then we can profit from it, yes if truths on family, on preaching, on Christ, on the gospel, on holiness etc LINE UP with scripture then we have no need to dismiss them, for we understand that such TRUTH originates from God!
Since scripture is our guide, our standard, we can model what is good with discernment, now as concerns DOCTRINE and specifically FALSE DOCTRINE we find an altogether different response in scripture, we are to avoid such, to mark such, to defend against it, and as we look back in history we must be careful to differentiate between error and heresy, between bad teaching and false teaching, between apostasy and compromise.

One major problem is that this song generalizes 'PURITANS' and this is extremely careless, for the Puritans (which would start with England, not America) are a wide bunch, a large group of believers varying on a grand number of things, not some league of men who teamed together under one statement of faith. Furthermore it is commonplace to find among 'puritan-era' books/sermons calls for examination even for those WITHIN the church AND ministry, so it is clear that some were simply not saved.
This would be why such lines like 'You know they were the chaplains on slaves ships, right' don't help bring any clarity or fruitful thinking, just a reaction, did they then not offer the gospel to such men? Also we should bear in mind that there are many times even now where 'chaplains' are serving in situations that they don't necessarily agree with. 
Second, is that when it comes to slavery, there are a myriad of factors to keep in mind (not blanket excuses, but things which help us understand) like,
1. Did all have knowledge of the evils and origins of the trade? (Knowledge is important, and Wilberforce understood that as he attempted to learn and teach others of the gory details of the slave do pro-lifers concerning abortions etc).
2. The scriptures are not void of references to slavery/servanthood and that's not to say that the scriptures condone the slave trade and the scriptures CERTAINLY don't condone the abuses, violence, and hatred of the slave trade, YET.....what we don't find is the example of the early church to correct all problems of the day by political action, the gospel is the heart of Christianity, with that said considering that they like all men were 'men of their time' (which NEVER excuses evil) but it does in the case of servants/slaves present a grand dilemma theologically, and to ignore it completely is quite careless.
Propaganda asserts:
"I should be content in this stage, right? Isn’t that Paul taught? According to your precious puritans."
Which depending on the context could be monstrously harsh (which appears to be the only option he cares to suggest)....OR as we have seen in the New Testament such language being spoken to slaves, spoken to the oppressed, spoken to the persecuted and yet in those cases such 'contentment' doesn't mean there isn't sin, that there isn't a problem, that there isn't suffering, so such a statement only brings forth an emotional knee jerk reaction w/out pause, for in such cases the call for contentment is not a surrender to the whims of men but to present sovereignty of God.
The attitude and spirit of the song implies perhaps unintentionally, the worst scenario possible: that such men not only worked from how things were, but were supporting it, helping it, being premeditated promoters of it, and that ALL without exception despised such people, demonized such people, abused such people, and for those reasons and more it's clear that such are absolutely LOST MEN. Now the end of the song supposedly clarifies that the point is that God uses 'crooked sticks' and that nobody is 'inerrant' but if that was the ultimate 'lesson' then why add so many lines about not quoting them at all, about how wrong it is to quote them, UNLESS you're saying quoting anybody would be forbidden. This is a confusing contradiction, for it gives the impression that those who quote Puritans (just about all leaders, past and present...Spurgeon loved them, certainly read more about them and from them then anyone, and while Spurgeon spoke clearly and loudly against such abuses as slavery, he wasn't wrong to quote and admire a number of them) are either ignorant white-man worshippers or mean-spirited racists at heart, and any such pictures EVEN CLOSE to that analysis would be detrimental to the body of Christ.
I'm not attempting to defend them, and I certainly would not defend the more obvious and clearly forbidden atrocities done or commended and where we find sin we should call it sin plain and simple, YET I find this song in particular to be found wanting, and for those who understand the balance and are quite healthy it will not do any damage, but for those not as strong, not as balanced, not to mention struggling to walk in grace, to submit to leadership, to learn good theology, this has the potential to drive them away from fruitfulness and to disregard truth from any man UNLESS that man 'is coming from where I'm coming from'. In other words this will only work against true unity within the reformed community OR it will be a whipping tool for especially young people to use against older reformed men and especially white men. Such critiques are often bully-like rants which push white people into a corner demanding they apologize for all the atrocities committed by humans with the same skin shade, and that my brethren is unchristian.  I agree with the assessment of one of my African brothers (yes actually FROM Africa) "One of the problems with the song is this: He is seemingly coming at the issue from a black (Christian) point of view. Instead of a Christian's point of view. As a result, I find the song to be black-man/culture-centered than God-centered"

  • Unfortunately I believe the song will be praised (as i have seen) by many who won't bother to think about some of the reactions and justifications that will follow, and as such are welcoming division in a body of believers that are already undergoing such onslaughts within the reformed community (for instance the compromising elephant room 2 nonsense of welcoming heretics and then disregarding biblical discernment by throwing the 'race card' in order to shut down  critics and rally support from bitter men).

  • For further reading, and included in the blog posts are the lyrics of the song (though I'm NOT saying the blog posts clear up these issues, i recommend them not as solutions, but as some good thoughts, questions, but still some unhelpful generalizations and missing clarifications.). (read pt 2 as well)

grace and peace

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Light yoke of Christ

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus Christ spoke these words while on this earth to men who were burdened by the yoke of many of the religious leaders of that day. The religious leaders put a strong yoke of legalistic, oppresive and condemning bondage upon the people of that day. They did this several different ways:
1. They elevated their additional laws over and against God's commands
Matthew 15:7-9 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
2. They had an external righteousness of restraint by which they held as weight over those who were 'sinners'
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 18:11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
3. They used the law to condemn men and leave them in their sin, they offered no hope.
John 9:34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Jesus Christ however offered true hope, He employed the law, the commands of God to show the character and holiness of God, He used them to expose the fact that men have broken the commands of God and cannot begin to keep the law. Jesus proved that the problem of sin is an internal problem which can't be dealt with by any human effort, and that all men are equally condemned and that those who believe they are justified are truly blind. Jesus used His righteousness not to oppress men, but as an acceptable offering to God, Jesus Christ became hope for sinners by paying (being punished) for their sins. Jesus Christ offers hope to guilty and incapable of good lost men by providing atonement for their sins and grace through the Holy Spirit's work to be free from the bondage/mastery of sin, so that they may indeed live for God!
His yoke is easy because it's fueled by His love and all the effort that is done by men is from the graceful ability which God supplies. His burden is light because He has carried it all, and the load which He places upon His people is not only for their good, but the strength they have to endure it is, once again, provided by Him. The freedom found in serving Christ, in laboring for the Lord is restful, for our hearts are then soothed with the knowledge that we have peace with God, that He is our Father and that He is in control, yes it is the rest of enjoying His goodness and grace even in the midst of trials because we are assured that such is temporary and that we shall one day dwell with Him for eternity!

NOTE: Lest we be swept away by flowery sermonettes on this passage, let us also recognize the FULL context (for it is quite common for preachers to leave out an explanation of the previous verses).
Pay especially close attention to the words i have underlined,
Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
So then what we have here is clearly an example of the Sovereignty of God in the salvation of men, for God retains the right to reveal truth, to give grace by revealing Himself. Men are guilty, they die and are condemned because they have sinned, not because they have rejected their 'second chance', and God according to His pleasure has mercy on whomever He 'wills' to have mercy on. So then the call to come in this context is to men who have had such revelation, who see their need, who have learned of the hope found in Christ, who desire to be freed from the bondage of sin, NOT a message to down and out oppressed people who are victims of the religious hypocrites.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Embracing the glory of MOTHERHOOD

In our culture, motherhood is looked on with much disdain, and for many it is seen more as a 'necessary evil', something that must be done, but which is ultimately by itself unfulfilling and purposeless. Hence the push for mothers to acquire 'honor', to acquire 'value', and to acquire 'purpose' through education, through income, or through any 'noticable' accomplishment especially that which soars over others.
In addition to the attacks from without, there are the attacks from within, not only believing those lies but creating your own. As you witness the monotony of the daily 'grind', as you hear the praises given to others for what they have 'accomplished', as you push yourself to deal with yet another crisis within an hour's time, as you wait day after day to see just a small amount of progress, and as you attempt to encourage yourself until that time comes where you receive encouragement from others (even those closest to you), in all of that and more, your strength is being withered and you simply want to 'throw in the towel', you're simply tired of fighting, tired of caring, and tired of being 'taken for granted'!

The TRUTH however is that your work, your position, your privilege, your purpose is GLORIOUS!! Mothers, don't you realize that you are a living testimony of ENDURANCE, that you have the unique ability to model 'do all things unto the Lord'. The fact that your duty, your labor is hidden from the eyes of man, brings flesh and blood to the text, '“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 6:1). Mothers, your example is a living sermon on how to live for the glory of God, how to live, LIFE unto the Lord in ALL THINGS, rather then your children chasing moment after moment, pleasure after pleasure, idol after idol, they are given the blessing of seeing the importance of each day, of honoring God in the little things. Mothers it is you which gives the best example of serving, of giving to those who can not give back, yes your glorious routine is a model of the life of Christ, in every bit of cooking, cleaning, wiping, clothing, washing, bathing, teaching, spanking, and nurturing, you give a picture of Christ to your children!

Even your FAILURES, your INADEQUACIES, and your STRUGGLES bring glory to God! For in true weakness, in true hopelessness you will turn to God, you will surrender to Him, you will beg Him for the strength to 'make it' through another day, and IN THAT you point your children to Christ, you point to the righteousness of Christ, you point to the patience, and goodness, and power, and wisdom, and grace of God, your God! It is that example, that pattern of turning to God that will engrave upon the hearts and minds of your children that all the honor, all the praise and all the glory belongs to the Lord. Romans 11:36 "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."
EMBRACE then dear mothers, the glory of motherhood, knowing that God is well pleased with your labors. Embrace the reality that you are storing up truths in the hearts of your children that take years to process, and often longer to see come to fruition. Mothers embrace the truth that your labor is not in vain, and that your labor unto the Lord is precious and purposeful! Mothers be assured that the Lord is swift to help you, to fill you, to use you if you will but cast those cares upon Him, if you will but look to Him for renewed strength, if you will but ask Him to refocus your eyes on Him!
Galatians 6:9 "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Don't embrace the lies of the culture, don't give up on the glorious role of motherhood, rather give up on self, give up on hope in the praises of men, give up on looking within for strength!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gospel a rescue, ransom, reconciliation, restoration

May it not be forgotten, that the gospel is a,

RESCUE: Christ delivers men from the just punishment of eternity in Hell, Jesus saves men from what they deserve, what they have earned, and furthermore Jesus has rescued those who didn't seek Him first

Romans 5:9 "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."
1 Thessalonians 5:9,10 "For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him."

RANSOM: Christ offered Himself as the only acceptable payment for sin, yes we can say "Jesus died for you'" and we can also say "Jesus died BECAUSE of you, for it was your sins that required an acceptable payment and Christ is the only worthy spotless lamb who can take away our sins

Ephesians 5:2b ".....just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Romans 3:23-26 "23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus"

RECONCILIATION: Christ eliminates the enmity between us and God, and by giving us His righteousness we then are made right w/God. Jesus makes His enemies, not only His friends but makes us the children of God.

Ephesians 2:12-16 "remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility."
Romans 5:10,11 "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

RESTORATION: Christ through His death and resurrection covenants with those who believe and enables them by the Holy Spirit to no longer live for themselves but to live for Christ who gave Himself for them. Jesus has set us free indeed, not free to live as we please like those who pervert the grace of God but freedom from slavery to sin, and freedom to walk in righteousness

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 "For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised."
Romans 8:9-17 "You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[f] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fruitful sermons series MUST LISTEN!!!!

Here brethren is a list of SERIES that u would do well to make time to listen to, some of these names are lesser known, but in no way less fruitful, in fact I would contend that these series would do your soul more good then double the amount from popular reformed preachers.

First let's begin with BRIAN BORGMAN

Here then is a phenomenal series on GODLY EMOTIONS (much needed in our day)
A 160 pt on SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY (take your pic of topics in this one...gems!!)

Next we have Dr. Curt Daniel, a brilliant and profound.....yet down to earth expositor of scripture (he is friends of notable preachers and has had many at his little church in Illinois from DA Carson, Phil Johnson, Sam Waldron, Joel Beeke to Paul Washer etc)

Attributes of God (so far 56)
Christianity vs Philosophy (15 Pt)
Biblical Typology (8 pt)
Five points of Calvinism
History and Theology of Calvinism (75 pts)

Next a friend and the pastor of my mother and sister, P. Matt Mager

this series on Psalm 51 is just wonderful!
This moving and praise-full sermon after the near death of his wife and baby girl, magnifies our sovereign God!!
Two part sermon on Marriage and Divorce etc, is meaty and needed in our day
These Biographies are among the best on the web

Lastly I can't leave without recommending the most underrated pastor/preacher of our day, Pastor Al Martin

This series on Psalm 1 is grrrreat!!
This series on Principles of Christian Living is one of the most balanced and needed series in our day

Saturday, June 30, 2012

preaching style??

Equipping the saints (Ephesians 4) and teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20) EXTENDS beyond the Sunday morning preaching style! We can only really and honestly defend topical vs 'verse by verse' preaching if we realize that the duty of the church can't be fulfilled in one hr during the week.

First, let's admit that it's quite possible and happens quite often that someone preaches through a given book and STILL avoids certain subjects (btw the Calvary Chapel grp which, like the SBC quite theologically diverse from church to church, well they all teach verse by verse, and yeah many still aren't teaching truth) yes some will take a large passage then pick which area they will emphasize and consequently leave out other things. Second, if a preacher takes a slower more careful approach, then exactly HOW LONG, how many yrs, how many decades before one congregation is given a solid and balanced theological diet?

Let's then look at two characters from church history that are often referenced to in regards to preaching, JOHN CALVIN the verse by verse expository prince and CHARLES SPURGEON the quintessential topical prince of preachers. Some will mock and point out the struggle of Spurgeon to come up with a text to preach.....hmm BEFORE you do that, how many Spurgeon sermons have you come across and thought, 'that was lame!' yeah didn't think so, and how many times did he preach, teach, write letters/articles etc during the week? And yet most complain of how difficult it is to prepare 2 sermons week (i'll take Spurgeons fruitful 'turmoil' anyday.....ah but when the word and the presence of God are a delight, it's hard to be unfruitful and unbalanced).

Some will point to Calvin as a good example of a verse by verse expositor who feed his people, yes I agree he is a good example, it is praiseworthy how timeless his teachings are and how diligent he preached through the word.....the question however is, do you really want to follow his example? How many times did he preach to his church verse by verse every week (10 times every 2 weeks + other things), now THAT will get your congregation familiar with the word of God!!

So what's the point? What am I advocating, which one do I choose? I don't honestly have a preference, for both COULD be good, both COULD be bad, and a mix COULD also be good or bad, that depends on the preacher......but MORE importantly it depends on how intentional the church is in stressing the need to study the word, equipping the saints with the tools to study the word, modeling a delight and need to study the word, yes even holding especially the men (husbands/fathers) accountable to teach their families the word of God! Extensive and Intensive bible study is crucial to the health of the church body, and yet too often, this is ignored while taking pride in a certain preaching style when the congregation is not grasping the truths given from the pulpit and though they commend what they heard, they fail to recognize a distortion of that truth when a false or erroneous teacher addresses the same subject. Yes the leadership of a church bears a major role in this duty, but each individual must also realize that they are not without blame, for they too must desire and seek the truth, diligently studying and applying the word of God in their lives!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

My sermons

New sermon on the SUPERNATURAL power of the gospel!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A strange favorite verse of multitudes

A strange verse of multitudes indeed is John 3:16, and why pre tell would I say that such a widespread love for this verse is 'strange'? Well my dear reader it has much to do with our times and perhaps the human heart in general, for man has and has always had a relativistic understanding. By relativism I mean what was said by Plato "The way things appear to me, in that way they exist for me; and the way things appears to you, in that way they exist for you" and such is a good summary of the wisdom of a fool! It is quite the norm to see someone throw out a quote from history and to derive whatever meaning they feel suits their our opinion despite the fact that the original author hadn't the slightest ounce of harmony with such a view.

To have one's words relatively interpreted may indeed be quite annoying, but O how dangerous and even sinful is it to do so with the words of GOD! This my dear reader brings us to our text and favorite memory verse: John 3:16
*For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life*
(yeah I brought out the KJV on this one)
In this beautiful scripture contains the great love by which God has provided eternal life for us. Unfortunately this scripture is rarely explained and even rarer is how often it's explained correctly.
Sure we could get into the exact meaning of 'world', but that isn't my purpose, although I do believe the strongest support is found in understanding the emphasis on the 'whosoever' in the overall book of John, for in this gospel (and even in this chapter '3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”) we find numerous examples of Sovereign election and the gift to believe given not by the "will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13).
And now back to our regularly scheduled program: It is quite normal to find John 3:16 used as a springboard to present God as a snugly teddy bear who wants to help you and make you feel better while at the same time giving you a free ticket to heaven! Yes even though this verse contains a reference to eternal damnation, few EVER see it as such and even fewer consider that they themselves are being confronted with a reality that they are indeed sinners who are headed towards damnation UNLESS they believe in God!
Yes it's quite remarkable how many times in this chapter Jesus mentions Hell directly or indirectly ("unless you be born again, you shall NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN"= You will go to Hell if God doesn't supernaturally transform you into a new creature!). See what i mean? that squeamishness people (perhaps you) experience when they hear such words and it's intended meaning?
One major rule of biblical interpretation is CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT, and RELATIVISM is lord of ripping words/phrases out of context, and the people of God MUST not allow themselves to fall prey to this! Biblical illiteracy is indeed at an all time low, and few EVER study the word of God let alone read it enough to become familiar with it, and when this happens people will either look for some pastor to take the role of an apostate POPE and blindly follow him as an infallible vicar of Christ OR they will revert to discovering truth by relying on their subjective understanding (typically mixed with some truths that they do understand) and such is extremely dangerous!
Yes John 3:16 is a strange passage for some many to love who are quite uncomfortable with the doctrine of Hell and of Justice, even a beloved verse of those who don't walk with God! It is this reason why we should not be satisfied with merely quoting this verse, nor hearing someones appreciation for it, rather we should always be wondering 'but WHAT do they THINK this means?'.
Furthermore in CONTEXT, we find Jesus going further to point out the condition of mankind although many stop short of reaching such an explanation. Some will go as far as reading verse 17 "
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
Can u hear it now? All the 'AMEN!!!'s and "PRAISE THE LORD"s, yes the 'that's right, Jesus didn't come to beat us down, and to make us feel horrible, He knows our heart, He came to spread LOVE (peace sign), He came to help, He came to save us from...whatever we want' Ugh! However this scripture is NOT saying "Jesus didn't expose sin" or 'Jesus didn't tell anyone directly that they were sinners and would go to Hell' because Jesus did exactly that and did it often! What this means is that Jesus didn't bring a final judgment upon each man while He was on this earth, for if He did no man would be alive now, in otherwords Jesus didn't come to give men what they presently deserved, for all would have been sent immediately to Hell! How do we know that this is a better understanding, a more precise interpretation? CONTEXT! CONTEXT! CONTEXT! John 3:18 (next verse)
"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
Consider then the charge against all men BEFORE they 'choose' which way they shall go, they are ALREADY condemned! The Lord isn't withholding His verdict, it's already been made and the scriptures are clear that the wrath of God abides (hangs over) everyone who doesn't believe! Furthermore we see in the next verse that the verdict upon each individual has to do specifically with their relation to God and His words, His laws: John 3:19
"And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil."
It all comes down to sin, it is the fact that we are sinners and we love our sin, this is what condemns all men, this is the unmistakable common bond of all mankind, we are rebels against God. God then in His justice, in His unalterable holiness will not allow such treason to go unpunished, therefore all sin will be fully paid! This is what makes the love of God to those who believe so amazingly grand, that God orchestrated a way for His enemies to be reconciled to Him, to be saved from HIM, not saved from a place called Hell and it's fury but to be said from the wrath/fury of God who sends men to His Hell. Yes this Jesus, His beloved Son did the unthinkable, he took on human flesh, obeyed the Father perfectly, and gave His life as a ransom for many, Jesus DRANK THE HELL men deserve, so that those who believe, those who turn to God, those who submit to the Lord Most High will be saved and given eternal life (life in and with Christ)!!!!!!
We could even go further and point out that to 'believe' entails much more then simply speaking some words, or agreeing with truth, for what we find in this chapter and confirmed by numerous passages throughout scripture is that a supernatural change must and will take place. A change so dramatic that the title 'born-again' fits perfectly, a change from 'loving darkness' to 'loving light' in otherwords if we truly believe we will LOVE Jesus and HATE our sin, we will come into the 'Light' and walk in the light!

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