Sunday, July 1, 2018

God Is Willing

Many of us have been greatly encouraged in our prayers for lost friends with the words from 2 Peter 3: 9, “God is not willing that any should perish.”
But I think it is important to note that there are a couple of ways in which this verse can be misinterpreted. The two that I have in mind both interpret the will of God here as immutable. But that is not the word used in the original language. The word is “boulomai,’ which is often a weaker term. The ESV translates this as not wishing that any should perish.
In Luke 13: 34 Jesus actually uses Thelo, the stronger Greek word.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, . . .How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
One misinterpretation of this is that since it is the will of God, everyone will eventually be saved. But the fact that God wants everyone to repent does not mean everyone will. God is always willing for people to turn to Him, but He waits for us to be willing.
The other misinterpretation that concerns me is that this cannot apply two lost people we are praying for because if God wills it, they will be saved, and we know everyone will not be saved.
But you need to understand that when you are praying for someone who has not come to Christ, you are not praying against the will of God. And God will be working on them to draw them to himself.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

THE TRAINING OF GRACE

I fear many Christians have the notion that we are saved by grace, but we are trained for righteousness by legalism. This is a serious mistake for Christians and it misses one of the most wonderful truths of scripture. In Titus Chapter 2 Paul tells us the grace of God trains us for Godly living. Look with me at these verses.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
Titus 2:22-14

Let me point out for you several ways that God uses His grace to train us to live Godly lives.

First, We Are Trained In The Gratitude of Grace.
We do not develop self control and godliness so we will be saved. We obey God out of gratitude that He has already saved us. This gratitude brings great devotion. “Look what He has done for me!” It also produces humility in us that is foundational to a changed life. And focusing on His grace frees us defensiveness about our sin. Our sins were paid for on the cross.

We Are Trained In The Hope of Grace.
We are like a bride being adorned for our bridegroom. We love Him. And we are preparing our hearts to be ushered into His presence. We desire God's grace to be worked into our lives more and more because we are looking forward to seeing Jesus face-to-face.

We Are Trained In The Transformation of Grace.
When we begin to follow Christ God brings about a radical change in our desires. But we still have habits of mind and behavior that must be changed on a deep level. Because the penalty for them has been paid we have freedom to deal with the root motivations of our pride, greed, lust, or whatever sin we would avoid dealing with if we were still being defensive. And God is planting more and more of His thinking and His holiness into our lives. The more we read His word, and live in fellowship with Him, the more like Him we become.

We Are Trained In The Fellowship of Grace.
God's Grace has appeared so that He might make us a people who are zealous for good works. We cannot do this, or be this, alone. We stand together. As we are united with Him by God's grace, we are united with others in the family. We love one another and encourage one another every day while it is still called today. (Hebrews 3:13)

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

CALLING MYSELF A FUNDAMENTALIST

Years ago I wrote an article for a state denominational paper beginning with the statement, “I was going to title this article, 'I Call Myself A Fundamentalist.’ But I didn't want to spend the next six months explaining to my friends that I don't own an assault rifle or any plastic explosives.” Even then few pastors in my denomination would call themselves Fundamentalists, although I didn't know one who would reject the basic tenets of the faith. I tried to be careful not to call myself a fundamentalist in places where I was not able to explain what I meant. But I didn't want to give up the term. My reasoning was two fold. First, I did not want to give up the word Fundamentalist to people who whose hearts did not reflect the fruit of the Spirit or the fundamental attitudes of Jesus and the New Testament. And I wanted to resist giving up our language to the barbarians.

My Oxford English Reference Dictionary released in 1996 only has the word as an addendum to “FUNDAMENTALISM,” which they define as, “Strict maintenance of the basic teachings of a religion.” I read a book written earlier that simi-seriously defined a Fundamentalist as a conservative Christian who is angry. Who could read 1 Corinthians 13 and call themselves fundamentalists by that definition? I recently heard someone raise a question about Ephesians 4:31. It reads

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”
He asked, “Does this mean to put these other things away from you with malice toward them?”
Incidentally, that is not a possible interpretation this verse. In the original language the reading is, put these other things away “together with all malice.” Malice is not the attitude of putting the other things out of our lives, but one, and possibly the worst, of the things of which we are to rid ourselves. However you read this verse, its words, the entirety of Ephesians 4, and everything the New Testament says about our attitudes, completely exclude an angry and divisive expression of the Christian faith.

I first started calling myself a fundamentalist while I was still in seminary. In a Biblical Backgrounds class the teacher presented several lists of hermeneutic principles. Hermeneutics are the underlying principles that determine how you interpret Scripture. One of them was labeled a Fundamentalist Hermeneutic. And as far as I could tell everyone in the class including the teacher agreed with those principles. But the teacher said, “You can hold these without being a Fundamentalist.” I asked, “How?”, and he said “Just because you decide you're not.” I need to say that professor was a great teacher. Even though I'm not giving his name, I don't want to say anything bad about him. But, that didn't make a whole ton of sense to me.

But, I have given you this entire rambling dissertation, because I'm giving up the title, fundamentalist. As much as I hate it, I have to admit that our language has been hijacked. The word no longer means what it should mean to people. It is a little more complicated than that. I recently reread Bodie Thoene’s Zion Chronicles. These are historical novels about the foundation of Israel in the years immediately after millions of Jews were shipped, often in the name of Christianity, to death camps. The refugees of that Holocaust we're trying desperately to reestablish the Jewish state in the face of local and world opposition. I think it may have been in the Gates of Zion, the first book in the series, that a Hebrew archaeologist was explaining to an American friend how he had come to be convinced through the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah. He said “I believe in Him, but I will never call myself a Christian.” I have never understood what this character said as well as I do now.

Steve Brown, the radio preacher on the Key Life broadcast used to say that Jesus was a Pharisee. He was alluding to Acts 23:8 and other passages that indicate that the Pharisees unlike the Sadducees believed in the Spirit, and angels, and the resurrection. Jesus believed in all of these. But Jesus never called himself a Pharisee.

I have recently been exposed to people in several circles in more than one state, who are not only angry, but arrogant, brash, rude, domineering, hateful, and hurtful, all in the name of Scripture. And while I am unhappy about it, I cannot continue to call myself by the term fundamentalist.

However lest everything I write sound so gloomy, I need to add that I do have a solution to my dilemma. From now on I'm going to call myself a Christian. I may even use the term Christ-follower.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

WHEN DID THESE THINGS TAKE PLACE?

Recently I have been memorizing and reveling in some wonderful verses from the book of Revelation. Actually, one of them, Revelation 13:8, has been a favorite of mine for many years. But it is a verse that can confuse and disturb. My dealing with it today may disturb you. There are, in fact, two fairly different ways this verse can be translated into English. I want you to see the emphasis of these two translations as a foundation for what I have to say. We can see one in the English Standard Version of the New Testament that I have been using most recently. I will print verses 7 and 8 to give you the context about the beast rising out of the sea.

“Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
Revelation 13:7,8 e.s.v

The emphasis here is that the only people in the whole world who will not worship the Beast are those whose names were written before the foundation of the Earth in the Lamb's Book of Life.

Now, let me show you the other emphasis from verse 8 in The New International Version which I have used for 40-plus years.

“All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”
Revelation 13:7 n.i.v.

This translation focuses on the Lamb of God being slain from the creation of the world.

It is worth something to try to see which is the correct translation here. Henry A. Sawtelle in the American commentary noted that revisers from England generally focused on the lamb being slain before the foundation of the world. While translators in America focused on names being written in the book of life. Of course the NIV, which was not written when the American commentary was published, is an exception to this. It is also an exception to something I have noted. Translations done in the last 50 or 75 years tend to focus on names being written rather than the Lamb that was slain. I tell you this to make the point that neither of these are good arguments for how it should be translated. I may be more comfortable with one because I'm an American, but I don't think John or the Holy Spirit of God would be impressed.

The same is true of chronological snobbery. The Holy Spirit does not necessarily like what is old simply because it is old, or what is new because it is up to date. And having studied the syntax in Greek has convinced me that John was emphasizing both of these points equally. It does not matter which one of them I am more comfortable with.

This leaves me with a dilemma. When did these two things actually happen? I know very well when I became a child of God. I was there. I remember the monumental struggle, the spiritual war. I knew that my eternal destiny depended on the decision I made. I knew that if I refused God I would be choosing separation from Him, and would spend eternity in hell. To say that my name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life before I agreed that it should be, seems to be saying struggle and my decision did not matter. And I know they did matter.

And while it may not be quite as emotional to me, the same was true of the crucifixion of Jesus. It took place at a moment in time in the middle of History. Ask those eyewitnesses who saw him scourged and nailed to the cross, who heard him cry, “Father, forgive them.” They were there when the sun was blotted out, and the Earth shook, and the veil of the temple was torn in two as Jesus breathed His last and died.

But both of these statements overlook some things about the complex nature of the Eternal God. Theologians have pointed out that God experiences time differently than we do. The Bible shows Him to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. The latter two of these especially apply here. Saying God is omnipresent means He is present in every when and where. His omniscience means He knows everything and has known all things from before He created time. A good play will follow a timeline. You can know which scene follows which. But the timeline of a play will not tell you there was a play practice last Thursday night. That is beyond the timeline of the play.

It is true that Jesus suffered for our sins at Calvary. In Romans 6:10 and elsewhere the Bible says Jesus died “once for all” for our sins. Hebrews 5:8-9 speaks to His ordeal.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,”

The scripture says, Jesus “learned obedience.” He had always been obedient to his Father. But He had to go through the trial. And being made perfect He became the source of eternal salvation. He was always sinless. How could He have been made perfect? Well, He had to go through the ordeal. You do not judge a perfect football player, by the cut of his uniform before the game. You may see something about how he played by the blood on his uniform at the end.

But God the Father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit had been there before.

I've actually heard people blame God for the sin of man and the condition of the Earth because He, being omniscient, knew beforehand we would sin, and yet He still created us. Long before you, or I, or Adam had sinned, God knew, God had experienced what it would cost him to redeem us.

The same is true of my conversion. Before the foundation of the earth God knew that I would receive Him. Does that mean that God knew that I would receive Him, so he wrote my name in the Lamb's Book of Life? While that is certainly true, I believe that oversimplifies the matter. It misses the wonder and mystery of God's infinite complexity. In John 6:37 Jesus also said all that the Father gives Him would come to Him. In John 6:44 He said no one could come to him without the Father drawing him. The Bible's point is that God, and the things of God, are more complex and more wonderful than we can fully grasp. When we oversimplify them for the sake of our comfort we miss much of what God is saying and doing in history and in our lives.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

THY WORD

What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase, “Thy Word?” Many of you think of the scripture him, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.” others of you have memorized from childhood Psalm 119:11 that begins, “Thy word have I hid in my heart.”

This is what to talk to you about today. I am doing something right now that I would really like to encourage other people to do, starting with you. I am trying to memorize the entire New Testament, verse by verse and chapter by chapter. Here is how I am doing it. I read a chapter and memorize the first verse or verses that go together. The next day I read the same chapter over and memorize the next verses. It takes me about a week, sometimes a week and a half, to get the entire chapter memorized and go on to the next chapter. At that rate it will take me just a little over 3 years to memorize the entire New Testament.

I have been helping adults memorize scripture all of my adult life. I've even helped a few who told me beforehand it was impossible for them to memorize. Let me give you 5 Steps that will help you memorize Scripture.

Memorize in only one translation. Some of you have thought you would understand scripture better if you always looked at multiple translations. There is some truth to that but it never applies to Scripture memory. You might be surprised to hear me say that the easiest version to memorize is King James. It is worth an entire blog post to tell you why. And and I myself do not memorize in the King James.

Memorize out loud. Our educational system for some wonderful reasons teaches us to read silently. But you will never be able to memorize silently. A part of this is emphasizing certain words to stick them in your mind.

Repeat the verses over and over, trying to stick the words in your mind and on your lips. Repetition is the key here.

Think about what you are memorizing. The more you understand it the better it will stick in your mind and heart. One of the good reasons for memorizing Scripture is the amount of insight that you will get after you've memorized a verse. But if you can understand something from the start it will help.

Review what you've memorized. Few organizations know more about scripture Memory then The Navigators. (https://www.navigators.org/) There topical memory system, TMS, teaches those who go through the course to review a verse every day for a month.

I will be honest I am not doing this so that I will be able to witness to people with Scripture. Though I must say Scripture memory helps present the gospel. Nor am I trying to do this to use in sermons or even in my writing. My primary reason for this is for God, planting the Scriptures in my life, to transform my character. I want to be more like Christ. And this helps. This evening I spoke with a friend about this on the phone. He told me he thinks of Scripture memory like the parable Jesus told of the wise and foolish virgins. The wise virgins brought oil with them. He said verses he memorized were the oil he brings with him to meet Christ.

But let me tell you the most enjoyable thing about this. When I've memorized a passage I can meditate on it. God feeds my soul, and He feeds my mind. I see things in scripture I had never dreamed were there. And there seems to be no end to what He will show me in His word. It becomes a never ending joy!

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

MEASURING YOUR CHURCH

How do you measure the church? Do you measure it by the beauty and size of the building? Do you measure it by the number of programs and activities? Do you measure it by the number of people who attend or the size of the offerings gathered?

In Revelation 11 John was told to do some measuring. And I think his measurements tell us something about measuring the church.

“Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there.’”

YOU MEASURE A CHURCH BY THE PRESENCE OF GOD.

I do not believe that the temple which John was told to measure was just the temple of God in heaven. I believe it is also the temple of God where he dwells in His church. Ephesians 2:21 says we are being built together as a dwelling for God. You measure the church partly by how its members are bonded together like bricks in a wall. This comes from fellowship, from working together, from facing trials together, from believing together, and most of all from praying together. God’s presence blesses a church whose members are bound together in Him. Is your’s a gathering where God dwells? You can sense the presence of God in a church.

YOU MEASURE A CHURCH BY ITS WORSHIP.

The altar is the place of worship. How important is worship to your church? Do people worship sacrificially, giving everything in their lives to God? Does your church worship joyfully, praising God with all of your hearts? Does service and sacrifice spring up out of love for God?

YOU MEASURE A CHURCH BY THE GROWTH OF ITS MEMBERS.

I think it is telling that John was told to measure the temple and the altar and those who worship there. You do not measure a church simply by the number of people who attend. A church must be measured by the spiritual growth in the lives that God has trusted to it. Are people becoming more Christ-like. Are people becoming more and more faithful, more and more devoted, more and more loving from the ministry of your church?

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Monday, February 19, 2018

THE PROOF OF THE GOSPEL



There is a notion that someone believes the gospel or not, but there can not be any evidence of it. In fact the proof of the gospel is integral to the presentation itself. On the Day of Pentecost Peter stood before the people and reminded them of the miracles Jesus had done among them which they knew.


I recently heard Tim Keller tell about a man who told a pastor he would believe if he could be shown airtight proof. The pastor said, “”Read the New Testament.” “Will that show me an airtight argument?” he asked. “No, but God gave us an air tight person.” It is difficult to read The New Testament without being impressed with Jesus.


Peter went on to declare that God raised Jesus from the dead, “and we are all witnesses.”


You may be familiar with Vince Vitale, now the Director of The Zacharias Institute in Atlanta.Vince has a PHD from The University of Oxford. He went off to college as a secularist, believing all truth claims were equal. But there his thinking was challenged for the first time. Someone gave him a Bible and invited him to read it. For some time he read skeptically, labeling things he thought unscientific with “b.s.” But as he came to the resurrection of Jesus and studied a little, learning that the resurrection was confirmed early, publically, by multiple witnesses. The testimonies of the witnesses went against their culture. It radically transformed their lives. They willingly, even joyfully gave their lives maintaining their testimony.


This was too much. How could he explain these testimonies? He made an appointment with the two leading New Testament scholars at Princeton where he was studying. Neither were believers, so he was sure they would explain away this problem. But one of them half-heartedly posed the theory of mass hallucination, which, incidentally does not exist. There is no such thing as mass hallucination. The other simply said, “As an historian, I'm not interested in the question.” What was he to do? While still at Princeton Vince gave his life to Christ.


In Acts 2:32 Peter declared,


“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all Witnesses.”


Who were the witnesses included in that declaration? Peter was referring to those believers who were present. That included Thomas who would not believe if he could not touch His hands and side pierced by the soldiers. It probably included James, the brother of Jesus who didn't believe until Jesus rose from the dead. It may not have included Stephen who was later martyred asking God not to count the sin of those stoning him against them, and crying out that he saw Jesus seated by the Majesty on High. It did not include Paul who met Him on the road, and it could not have included all 500 people who saw Him at one time.


But there are still others who are witnesses of the living Christ working in their lives. Are you among them? Has He made a radical difference in your life? If so you too are a witness of His resurrection. You know he rose from the dead because of the difference He has made in your life. Others will see that evidence in you. And that means you know that He is Lord.


Acts 2:36 reads,


Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.





This is the last of several blog entries taken from a sermon I preached at Crosspoint Church in


, NV. You can find the recording and other good things on their website. http://crosspoint.org/index.php/2016-06-01-08-45-06/274-now-to-him-who-is-able-listen-carefully
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