Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Females: Born this Way

As a father of three girls, brother of three sisters, and husband to yet another female (albeit a wonderful one at that), this video sums up what my life is like.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

More on Adoption

As a follow-up to the previous post on adoption, you may want to listen to my message from Ephesians 1:3-6, In Christ: Chosen & Adopted.

Romans 8:15-17 (ESV)
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!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…

A few summary points to consider:

  • There is no better person to be than a child of God
  • God is your Father
  • You are accepted by God
  • Help is always there
  • Child = Heir

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Adopted by God

For some time, my wife Michelle and I have been praying about adopting a child. It's not that we need more children. Many days we both feel like three crazy (and wonderful) girls are enough to keep us busy for the next 20 years. But we also feel that because God has adopted us into His family, we must consider the practical implications for our life. There are at least 13 million children in the world that have lost both parents. Shouldn't those who have been adopted by the God of the universe at least consider whether or not to extend this same grace to the hurting and fatherless living in our world today? So, we are working through this in prayer and trusting that God will lead us. Perhaps you would consider adoption as well. If so, here are some resources to aid you in understanding the theological and practical aspects of adoption.

Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches
Russell Moore's Adopted for Life is an excellent book that walks you through the theological basis for adoption as well as the many practical aspects. Russell and his wife Maria have adopted two boys from Russia, and Russell is also a theology professor and pastor. This enables him to give sound biblical and practical advice to families on adoption.

Christian Adoption Agencies
All God's Children
Bethany Christian Services

Funding an Adoption
Abba Fund

More Agencies, Funding, Resources

Do you have an adoption story? Share it with us by clicking "Discuss this Post."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not By Works

Two great quotes on the same theme:
Nothing, not even abject contrition, merits the favor of God. The Father's love and acceptance are absolutely free. (Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, p. 24)

"Even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb." So our best works can never earn us one bit of favor with God. Let us then turn our attention from our own performance, whether it seems good or bad to us, and look to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is God's provision for our sin, not only on the day we trusted Christ for our salvation but every day of our Christian lives. (Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace, p. 43)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why Christians (Should) Make Better Environmentalists

From OT Scholar John Walton (The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, p. 145-46),
When the cosmos is viewed in secular terms, it is hard to persuade people to respect it unless they can be convinced that it is in their own best interests to do so. If it is secular, it is easy to think of it only as a resource to be exploited....But when we adopt the biblical perspective of the cosmic temple (that God's dwelling is within the cosmos, Is. 66:1-2), it is no longer possible to look at the world (or space) in secular terms. It is not ours to exploit. We do not have natural resources, we have sacred resources....The cosmos is his place, and our privileged place in it is his gift to us. The blessing he granted was that he gave us the permission and the ability to subdue and rule. We are stewards.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hymn Favorites #3

Does is get any better than verse 3 of this hymn?

The Love of God
Frederick M. Lehman, 1917

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ten Reasons Why Believing in the Sovereignty of God Matters

Ten Reasons Why Believing in the Sovereignty of God Matters from John Piper:

1. The good news of God’s substituting his Son for us on the cross depends on it.

“Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27­-28)

2. The perseverance of the saints in the fear of God depends on it.

“I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.” (Jeremiah 32:40)

3. Progress in holiness now, and the final perfecting of the saints in the end, depends on it.

“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.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

“But you have come to Mount Zion . . . and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:22-23)

4. The assurance of God’s final triumph over all natural and supernatural evil depends on it.

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:9­-10)

5. The comfort that there is a wise and loving purpose in all our calamities and loses, and that God will work all things together for our good, depends on it.

“Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love. . . . Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:32-38)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)

6. The hope that God will give life to the spiritually dead depends on it.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

“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.” (John 3:8)

7. Well-grounded expectation of answered prayer depends on it.

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1)

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. . . . For the promise is for . . . everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

8. Boldness in the face of seeming hopeless defeat depends on it.

“Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” (2 Samuel 10:12)

“Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him.” (2 Chronicles 32:7)

9. Seeing and savoring the revelation of the fullness of God’s glory depends on it.

“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ . . . What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power . . . [acted] in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy?” (Romans 9:20-23)

10. Praise that matches the fullness of God’s power, wisdom, and grace depends on it.

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. . . . We will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 115:3, 18)

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” (Psalm 96:4)

Piper's Conclusion: The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is an anchor for the troubled soul, a hope for the praying heart, a stability for fragile faith, a confidence in pursuing the lost, a guarantee of Christ’s atonement, a high mystery to keep us humble, and a solid ground for all praise. And oh so much more. O Lord, turn this truth for the triumph of your saving and sanctifying grace.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sovereignty and Awe

After all this discussion on the sovereignty of God, my desire is that we would be left with a sense of awe at how great God is. I pray that our hearts would echo that of Paul when he said,

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34"For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?"
35"Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
ROMANS 10:33-36 (ESV)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Questions on the Sovereignty of God, Part 3

Last Sunday I preached another message focusing on God's Sovereignty and Human Freedom. I addressed the two questions below, and have included a brief answer here to provoke your thinking. For more, listen to the message.

When God gives us the gift of faith, is it possible to reject it? Because if we can't reject it once he offers it to us, then we never really had a choice, right?
Is it possible to reject God's gift of faith? Romans 8:29-30 makes it clear that if God predestines you to be saved and calls you to salvation (i.e. gives you the gift of faith), then you will not resist. So, no, it is not possible to reject God's gift of faith. But does this mean we do not have a legitimate choice? You see, in the act of regeneration (Titus 3:5, Eph. 2:4, John 3:3), when God gives us the gift of faith, He changes our hearts to want Him. God helps us to see that Jesus is worth it and that we need Him. So that a heart changed by God will always choose God. This is what God does to us - He changes our heart to want to choose Him. We do make a legitimate choice to trust Christ as our Savior, but it is because God has changed our heart and given us the ability to believe.

Why should I care about my choices if God ultimately decides?
You should care for three reasons. First, God holds us accountable for our choices. He always treats us as morally responsible for every action we make (2 Cor. 5:10). In addition, our family and the people around us also hold us accountable because our decisions affect them. I can't just sit at home every day, all day watching TV and eating Hot Pockets without serious repercussions to myself and my family!

Second, we must realize that God uses our choices to accomplish His will. Or to say it another way, God directs the means as well as the ends. He directs the outcome of all things, but also the way all things will happen. And our choices are a part of the way God makes things happen. Two perfect examples of this are prayer and evangelism. Prayer is the means God uses to accomplish His will on this earth. That is why Paul, the biggest proponent of the sovereignty of God so diligently prayed for all the churches he planted. He prayed that people would be saved. He prayed for God to grant wisdom. God uses your choice to pray to accomplish His good purposes. Evangelism, sharing your faith with others, is the means God uses to bring about salvation in those who hear (Rom. 10:14-17). We can't just say that God is sovereign, so if He wants people saved they will get saved regardless of our actions. No, He uses our choice to share the Gospel as the means of bringing them to faith in Jesus Christ. All this to say, we better care about our choices because they are the means God uses to accomplish His will.

Finally, choosing to follow God and obey Him is just a better way to live. We can think that as finite, limited humans we can figure life out on our own. We can do our own thing, live without accountability (for a time anyway), and act like our choices don't matter. Or, we can look to our Creator and seek to follow His direction for our life. And since He is the One who created life that's always the best way to go.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Questions on the Sovereignty of God, Part 2

If God is sovereign over all things, what is up with evil and suffering?

This is perhaps the most contemplated and debated question in regard to the existence of God. So instead of offering up my own thoughts on this, I turn to a much greater mind: Tim Keller. The following is an explanation of the issue along with Keller's brief response. For more, see his book The Reason for God.
The Question: Christianity teaches the existence of an all-powerful, all-good and loving God. But how can that belief be reconciled with the horrors that occur daily? If there is a God, he must be either all-powerful but not good enough to want an end to evil and suffering, or he's all-good but not powerful enough to bring an end to evil and suffering. Either way the God of the Bible couldn't exist. For many people, this is not only an intellectual conundrum but also an intensely personal problem. Their own personal lives are marred by tragedy, abuse, and injustice.

Brief response: If God himself has suffered our suffering isn't senseless. First, if you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn't stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have to (at the same moment) have a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can't know (You can't have it both ways). Second, though we don't know the reasons why he allows it to continue, he can't be indifferent or un-caring, because the Christian God (unlike the gods of all the other religions) takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he is willing to get involved with it himself. On the cross, Jesus suffered with us.

I would simply add this Scripture for the broken and hurting:

Hebrew 4:14-16 (ESV)
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Questions on the Sovereignty of God, Part 1

Preaching through Ephesians 1 has brought up a number of questions related to the sovereignty of God and human freedom. This is the first of a series of posts on the subject. Listen to the messages here. I would also recommend Tim Keller's, The Reason for God for more on these questions.

Why would God choose to send people to hell?

At first thought, it does seem quite unloving that God would chose some people to enjoy paradise while others suffer in hell for eternity. Many have questioned whether God's love and hell are even compatible concepts. But this question assumes at least two things.

First, it assumes that people are basically good and therefore deserve heaven, or at least a "fair chance." But the Scriptures tell us that "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one" (Romans 3:10-12, ESV). Far from deserving a chance, all people deserve eternal punishment for sinning against God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Every person born into this world rebels against God and is headed for eternal punishment. So we are far from good! We are far from deserving anything from God. And yet, in His mercy, God chooses to pull some people from this future and give them eternal salvation. It is not that God chooses some people to go to hell (we are all headed there to begin with because of our sin), He chooses many people to be saved from it.

Second, this question assumes that we get to decide what is fair, and according to us fairness means a choice. In other words, God is unfair for choosing some and not choosing others. Paul addresses this very question in Romans 9:14-20 (ESV):
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'
At the end of the day God is the Creator, not us. And as the Creator he decides what is fair. Fairness would actually mean that all people suffer eternal punishment. Thankfully, God does not operate according to fairness, but according to mercy and grace. While we cannot always understand the mystery of His ways, we can rejoice that He has provided salvation for many through Jesus Christ.

Finally, no one knows whom God has chosen and whom God has passed over. This is why the invitation to come to Jesus should be offered to all and no one should be labeled a lost cause. Just because God has chosen to pass over some does not mean we know who those people are. Our job is to share the Gospel with everyone and to pray that God might save them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"The Shack" Book Review

If you're thinking about reading "The Shack" by Wm. Paul Young, check out this review first. Trevin Wax begins:
I really didn’t want to read The Shack. I only have so much time in a day.

But a number of people have asked me to make some comments on the popular novel by William Young. And because church members eventually started asking, I decided to give it a go.

I have heard people rave about this book (in a good way), and I have heard others rave about this book (in a bad way). Some described it as the best book in the past 50 years. Others described it as the worst heresy to ever hit the Christian bookstore.

In the end, I found that The Shack wasn’t nearly as good as some had said, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as others had charged. It has everything positive about contemporary evangelicalism, and yet it has all the drawbacks of current evangelical expression too... (read on)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Zaccheus: 4 Quick Observations

The famous story of Jesus and Zaccheus is found in Luke 19:1-10. Zaccheus is a little rich guy totally transformed by a meeting with Jesus. Here are 4 quick reflections about this story.
  1. Jesus rubbed shoulders with the poor, despised, rich, famous - any sinner that would open their heart to him. And he did this not caring very much about what people would think (v. 5).
  2. We all have the tendency (as the crowd did) to see others as sinners while being blinded to our own sinfulness (v. 7).
  3. While it is difficult for a rich person to "enter the kingdom of heaven" it is not impossible as this story illustrates (v. 2, 9).
  4. Generosity is a key evidence of a life changed by Jesus Christ. Stinginess and hording is incompatible with what it means to be a Christian (v. 8).
Are you willing to be like Jesus and engage with all different kinds of people? Regardless of what others think?

Do you humbly recognize our own sinfulness and need of God's grace? Or do you simply judge others as sinners?

Do you acknowledge the power of God to transform lives, even the most difficult cases?

Are you generous, knowing it is a key sign that you belong to Christ?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Who Chose Whom?

This morning I spoke from Ephesians 1.3-14 on the subject of God's Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Here is the basic content (Listen to the Message).

5 Principles from Ephesians 1.3-14
  1. God Chose Us and Predestined Us (v. 4, 5)
  2. God Chose Us According to His Will (v. 5, 9, 11)
  3. God's Purpose is His Glory (v. 6, 12, 14)
  4. God's Will is Comprehensive (v. 11)
  5. We Hear the Gospel and Believe (v. 13)

Some Key Quotes

William Barclay
It would not be so wonderful that we should choose God;
the wonder is that God should choose us.

John Chadwick
I sought the Lord,
And afterwards I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him,
Seeking me!
It was not that I found,

O Savior true;
No, I was found by Thee.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

God's Sovereignty and Human Freedom

As I begin to preach through Ephesians the subject of God's sovereignty and human freedom looms large. Ephesians 1:4 & 5 says that God chooses and predestines people to salvation. So how does God's choosing intersect with our free will? Do we even have free will? If so, how do these two concepts go together?

This begins a series of posts in this subject. Theologian Wayne Grudem does an excellent job of explaining the balance:
It seems better to affirm that God causes all things that happen, but that he does so in such a way that he somehow upholds our ability to make willing, responsible choices, choices that have real and eternal results, and for which we are held accountable. Exactly how God combines his providential control with our willing and significant choices, Scripture does not explain to us. But rather than deny one aspect or the other (simply because we cannot explain how both can be true), we should accept both in an attempt to be faithful to the teaching of all of Scripture (Systematic Theology, p.321).
What do you think?

Is Your Faith too Small?

As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." And he cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, let me recover my sight." And Jesus said to him, "Recover your sight; your faith has made you well." And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
LUKE 18:35-43 (ESV)

How did this blind man have the faith to ask for something so big? He was a career beggar, daily asking for food, money, and stuff to just get him through the day. So why didn't he ask Jesus for food? New clothes? Money? Did he just decide to "shoot for the moon" and see what would happen? Jesus makes it clear why this beggar asked for the impossible, "your faith has made you well." The man believed in Jesus. He recognized that he was talking to the One with the power to overcome his greatest obstacle in life. And so, he went big with the request, trusting that Jesus could do it.

What about us? Are we trusting God to do the impossible? Or are with content with just getting by?

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Biblical Teacher Blog

My brother just launched another blog called The Biblical Teacher. It's a good resource for anyone involved in or looking to get into, you guessed it, teaching the Bible.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Unpacking Forgiveness

My wife's uncle, Chris Brauns, is a pastor in Illinois and author of "Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds. " It's an excellent book on a subject most of us can use help on. He recently wrote an article on forgiveness for Reformation 21 Magazine. The article begins:
I've been thinking recently about something television star Kelsey Grammer said. It's not because I saw a rerun of Cheers. Unfortunately, the context is tragic. Grammer has me thinking about well intentioned people who end up "packing unforgiveness." Where deep wounds are concerned, there are those who try and do what they believe faith requires. Yet, they end up hurting all the more.
Before I write anything more, I want to go on record saying that I have prayed for Kelsey Grammer. I have three lovely sisters and two beautiful daughters, and I simply cannot imagine what he has gone through.

To understand why Grammer is on my mind, you need to know something of the awful tragedies he has endured. When Grammer was only 13 years old, his father was murdered. A shark killed his twin brothers while they were scuba diving. But the most devastating loss for Grammer may have been the murder of his sister, Karen.
Read the full article.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sex Before Marriage?

I just had a college student e-mail me this question: "I've always been told that sex before marriage is wrong, but I can't find in the Bible where it explicitly says it's wrong. Why as Christians do we say it is? I don't doubt that it probably is a sin, but i don't know why."

Here is my response:

We know sex outside of marriage is wrong for a few reasons and probably more I don't have here:

1) In the Genesis account, God established sex within the confines of marriage (Gen 2:24; "one flesh").

2) Read 1 Cor 6:13-20 carefully and notice Paul's argument about having sex with a prostitue (or a woman outside of marriage). He says you become "one flesh" with her. Then he appeals to Genesis 2:24 and how God established sex for the marriage relationship.

3) The biblical terms "sexual immorality" or "fornication" include all manner of sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman. That is how people at that time understood these terms. This would include adultery, homosexuality, or sex before marriage (see 1 Thess 4:3-8; 1 Cor. 6:9, 18-20, ).

4) In 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, Paul says that marriage is the proper place for sexual expression, and that because of the temptation to sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage), each person should get married (in order to biblically express their sexual desires).

5) Why would Jesus say it is a sin to look on a woman and lust after her in your heart if it was permissible to have sex with her? (Matt 5:28)

Another practical argument that I have made is that sex outside of marriage is like asking a girl for the benefits of marriage without the commitment. What happens if you break up? How many girls will you have sex with? God thinks sex is a big deal, and he reserved it for the relationship of deepest commitment and companionship.