Friday, March 31, 2006
Note: The following are several random sentences and paragraphs from my manuscript of this Sunday’s sermon (04/02/06).
Title: He prepares our table!
Text: Luke 5:27-32; 14:7-24; 15:1-2; 19:1-10
Except for the passage in Luke 14, these passages share the theme of Jesus eating with sinners - particularly notorious sinners at that! Further, they all relay for us the criticism which Jesus received for coming to the table with sinners! Of course "sinners" had no such scruples, and were themselves, therefore, "unclean." It was a very small step, then, to regard those who ate with such sinners as unclean themselves.
The scandal of Jesus eating with sinners no doubt also stemmed from the way in which people of that day regarded the fellowship of mealtime. Jesus was just not careful enough about his table companions! He was entirely too willing to eat with disreputable people. Why would Luke want to record such embarrassing things as this about Jesus? Jesus has come to bring sinners into fellowship with God, and these dinner scenes are but little pictures of this bigger picture.
Since Jesus himself gives us this interpretation there’s no missing it (Luke 5:31-32; 19:10).
Think in terms of "the big picture." The great announcement which Jesus made is, simply, “the kingdom of God is at hand!” If Jesus were to come to your house to eat, whom would you invite? We forget that it is for just these kinds of people Jesus came! And we forget that when sinners get close to Jesus, they tend to get saved!
Aren’t you glad Jesus wasn’t a religious snob? More personally, where would you be if Jesus associated only with good people? Think of the woman with the issue of blood. Outcast and ceremonially unclean though she was, she didn’t contaminate Jesus. He didn’t contract the defilement - he communicated cleansing and healing grace. So also when Jesus sits to eat with a tax collector - the scum of Jewish society – he’s not dirtied by the association. Levi bows, Zacchaeus repents, and sinners are made whole!
Jesus wants us to see in these scenes of table fellowship, not only a picture of his saving mission. Jesus’ parable in Luke 14:16ff follows an exclamation by a guest, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" This is a common picture of future grace in Scripture. Sinners, brought by grace to a feast – an eternal feast – the supper of the Lamb!
The whole long and short of these scenes lies in that criticism leveled against our Lord in Luke 15:2 - "This man receives sinners!"
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Unfortunately for Rahman, he was originally born a Muslim in Afghanistan-and he has been forced to defend his religious conversion in his home country's court, where he recently faced the death penalty for turning to Jesus.
The Afghan government is desperate to appease its Western allies and wants the apostasy case against Abdul Rahman dropped. Under great pressure, the Courts have returned the case to the prosecutors with the request that Rahman be assessed for mental illness. On Friday 24 March local Muslim leaders warned they would incite people to kill Abdul Rahman themselves if he does not return to Islam, while Mujahadeen leaders from all over Afghanistan met in Kabul to work out a unified strategy should Abdul Rahman be released. Late Monday night Abdul Rahman was released from prison into the custody of his family. His whereabouts are unknown. In Mazar-i-Sharif, clerics and students protested the decision to release Rahman. They marched shouting ‘Death to Christians', 'Death to America' and 'Death to the convert Abdul Rahman'. A Taliban council has issued a fatwa (religious decree) saying Abdul Rahman must be killed.
Michelle Malkin’s web site follows the press accounts of Afghan Christian Abdul Rahman's release and vanishing this morning. Reportedly he is safe for now, but the lynch mob is still thirsting. "If the government forgives him, the people will not. The people will kill him," said tribal elder Shah Baran in the eastern province of Zabul.
There are believed to be some 10,000 Afghan Christians inside Afghanistan, many of whom are recent converts. Compass Direct reports that since Rahman's case became public, two other converts have been arrested, one other convert has been beaten and several more have been harassed and threatened. Rahman's trial is a revealing and defining moment for Afghanistan and for the rest of the Muslim world whose silence reveals volumes. In these days of Taliban resurgence, a cleric-led Muslim uprising against 'Western interference' would have horrific consequences for the Afghan Church. Pray for Abdul Rahman and the seriously threatened Afghan Church.
“Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Pascal’s Wager, developed in the 1800’s by Blaise Pascal, is an argument for God’s existence. This argument is actually quite popular amongst Christians. It may perhaps be one of the most commonly used arguments for believing in God. Yet many Christians use Pascal’s Wager (also known as Pascal's Gambit) without realizing its premises or even being aware that it was created hundreds of years ago.
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, explains Pascal’s argument as follows:
“The founder of probability theory, Pascal argues that when the odds that God exists are even, then the prudent man will gamble that God exists. This is a wager that all men must make- the game is in progress and a bet must be laid. There is no option: you have already joined the game. Which then will you choose- that God exists or that he does not? Pascal argues that since the odds are even reason is not violated in making either choice; therefore, reasons cannot determine which bet to make. Therefore, the choice should be made pragmatically in terms of maximizing one’s happiness. If one wagers that God exists and he does, one has gained eternal life and infinite happiness. If he does not exist, one has lost nothing. On the other hand, if one wagers that God does not exist and he does, then one has suffered infinite loss. If he does not in fact exist, then one has gained nothing. Hence the only prudent choice is to believe that God exists.”Pascal therefore argues that belief in God is a win-win situation, and there is no benefit to believing in atheism.
As I’ve indicated, Pascal’s Wager is a very famous and popular argument for the truth of Christianity. As I see it, the Wager should be used as an argument to investigate religion closely not as a hammer to compel belief by threats or force. Perhaps, once some nonbelievers are convinced of the foolishness of their lackadaisical attitude, they will be opened to the truth of the gospel and by God’s grace eventually discover that Christianity points True North - to the One who is Truth.
The above graphic is Pascal's statue at the Louvre.
Monday, March 27, 2006
You can't exactly check their boarding passes. But you can listen. When your local robins return, the males call dibs on worms, marking their territories with a distinctive song: cheer-up, cheer-up, cheer-a-lee. Robins make all kinds of chirps and calls, but they save this singing for after they've returned to claim a springtime spot. They tend to arrive after the temperature moves consistently above 37 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). That's when worms head back to the surface after tunneling all winter below the frost.
Click here to listen to a variety of Robin songs.
Sunday was a good day to be a Patriot! I love to watch the yearly NCAA basketball tournament and I love the pull for the underdog, especially after my favorite team is knocked off. Your alma mater doesn’t have to be George Mason University to feel proud of what these Patriots have accomplished in the NCAA tournament. I salute their 86-84 overtime win over UConn taking them to the Final Four. It'll be a hard act to follow! Yet in this case, hard work and a never give up attitude have paid off!
Congratulations Patriots everywhere!
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Title: A Better Attitude than Adam!
Text: Philippians 2.1-11
Our text is about Jesus Christ! It’s a great text for showing that Jesus, the new Adam, is both human & divine. But while Paul’s belief in Christ’s humanity & divinity is obvious here, that isn’t the big idea of this passage. His point isn’t just to say that Christ is both true man & true God. Rather, as I see it, his main purpose is to present a proper vision of what true man is & what true God is.
In other words, Paul isn’t merely saying that Christ is human & divine, but what it should mean to be human & what it should mean to be divine. Here’s the question I want us to pursue. As followers of the new Adam, how do we live in the light of Jesus’ humanity & deity while in the shadow of the old Adam’s Fall?
You see the Christian life involves both negative & positive actions - it means avoiding sin (negative) & doing what is right (positive). Actually, since we’re living in the shadow of the old Adam, it means more than that - it means repenting from sin & endeavoring after holy living. And the death & resurrection of Christ, his humiliation & exaltation empower us to both of these activities. Notice how Paul relates Christ’s death & resurrection to his own Christian walk in Philippians 3.7-11.
Here’s the point: As long as we remain in this mortal flesh, our life will have to be a life of self-renunciation & repentance as well as one of righteous living. As J. I. Packer puts it, we must grow down in order to grow up in Christ Jesus.
Jesus didn’t abandon his deity in his humiliation. On the contrary, he revealed it. That’s the scandal of the cross, that it reveals God - the true God, who serves others & puts their interests before his own.
Scripture texts for further study: Genesis 1-3 (esp., 1.26-28); Psalm 8. 5-6; 1 Corinthians 15.20-28, 44-47 & Romans 6.1-4
Thursday, March 23, 2006
When it came to knowing God's will, George Müller (1805-1898), an English evangelist and philanthropist, was remarkably and humbly gifted. A man of faith and prayer, Müller established orphanages in Bristol and founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad.
Knowing God's will is the key to prayer, spiritual growth and fruitfulness in our individual lives. Here's how George Müller set out to ascertain the will of God on a daily basis:
- I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are over come when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.
- Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
- I seek the Will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.
- Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God's Will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
- I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me aright.
- Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters, and in transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective.
In a nutshell: Because you are God’s will, be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Jesus told his disciples of God's immeasurable love for them just after he warned them that the world in which they would preach his Gospel was a hostile place. They would face persecution, and even death, but they were to have courage: "Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.... beware of men for they will deliver you up to the councils... but fear not them who can kill the body." (Matt.10:16,28)
They were to be secure and courageous in the knowledge of God's intimate and all embracing care. And in order to insure that they understood the all-encompassing nature of Divine love, he told his disciples that even those creatures upon which men placed little value, were loved and watched over by God. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father" (Matthew 10:29)
As things go, sparrows were never worth much. As a youngster, a neighbor would hire me to shoot sparrows with my be be gun in order to rid them from his barn. He paid a penny a sparrow. In biblical times you could buy two for a penny and, according to the parallel passage in Luke's gospel, you could buy five for two pennies (buy four, get one free). But God cares enough about even the sparrows, that not one lights on the ground, even the free one - the one with seemingly no value at all - without divine notice.
God is inviting us, once again, to let our lives fall into place through faith in a loving God who is in control. Not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father's consent; so do not be afraid of anything. Someone has observed that a Gospel text such as this one explains little but changes everything. It does not explain the mystery of God and His great universe, but it does liberate us from fears which can freeze and paralyze the spirit. Daniel Boone, colonial America's most famous pioneer, once was asked if he ever became lost in his long excursions into the wilderness. "No, I never get lost," he replied, "but I was bewildered once for three days." Courage my friend, God is Alive! Accordingly, even though we may feel bewildered from time-to-time, in Christ, we are never lost!
Want to hear His Eye is on the Sparrow?
Click here for a sung version from prairie home radio.
Click here for a trumpet version.
Click here for a piano version.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Note: The following are several closing paragraphs from my manuscript of this Sunday’s sermon (03/19/06).
Title: Victory through Bruising!
Text: Genesis 3.14-15
At one time we were enemies of God, dead in our transgressions and sins, following the ways of this world. We were a captive of the Serpent, the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. We were far off from God’s mercy! But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2.1ff).
Indeed if Jesus has saved you from the condemnation of the Serpent and his seed, then you have been brought near to the heel of the Cross and now stand in victory over the Serpent. God has saved you and you now belong to Him. As such, the promises enumerated to the godly seed in Genesis 3:15 belong to you.
So be not wooed by the dying gasps of an old snake. The enmity between Eve and Satan, between Eve’s seed and the serpent’s, between the Son of God and the prince of darkness has not relented. Yet, the victory has been sealed, and Satan’s power has been crushed by the Cross. Let us not cease to bruise the enemies of God with the gospel of Christ until all of His foes have been vanquished.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The Pilgrim's Progress has been translated into more tongues than any book except the Bible. As a matter of fact, Protestant missionaries commonly translated it as the first thing after the Bible. It is argued that The Pilgrim’s Progress is probably the most extraordinary major work of English literature. Bunyan was an itinerant Baptist preacher. He had a limited education and was constantly in trouble with the authorities for preaching without a license. As mentioned, Bunyan wrote the work during the decade he spent in jail for his preaching activities and with it produced the most astonishingly popular and influential work, second only to the King James Version of the Bible in the Protestant world. And the popularity of the work, reached all sections of the population. In fact, Bunyan's text was, for almost three hundred years, an integral part of the daily life of working class Protestant families throughout the world.
The following notes will provide you with some basic helps in reading the Pilgrim’s Progress. Remember it is an allegory. Simply put: Allegory is the reading of documents on several levels.
The verse that the church used to justify this method of interpretation is 2 Corinthians 3:6: “Who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
The early church took this to mean that interpretation of the Bible should be symbolic as well as literal. By dismissing the spiritual sense as a pious fantasy, modern critics have missed the profundity of this verse, and hence of the tradition of spiritual exegesis. The below four points express what the Church has always believed about the Bible. Namely:
- The Bible records God's action in history (the letter), and it is the task of the interpreter to discern the relation between what is written there and what has come about (and will come about) because of what happened.
- The three latter senses show how this is best done, by relating the text to what we believe (allegory),
- to how we are to live (the moral sense),
- and to what we hope for (the anagogical sense)."
So in The Pilgrims Progress we have:
- Literal - journey from the City of Destruction to Celestial City despite great perils.
- Allegorical - the progress of any Christian from Baptism through trials to heaven.
- Moral - courage, trust, effort - to have these there characteristics.
- Anagogic - God’s providence and care for us. Worthiness of goal - to get to city.
As you walked through the wilderness of this world take Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress with you!
Monday, March 13, 2006
Good Monday! Are you ready for some good old time country gospel music? Well, turn up those speakers, limber up your tapping toe and sing along! Take a listen here.
Need something a little mellower? Click here and/or here.
Maybe you feel like buying some blood washed clothing now. If so, click here.
Have you ever found yourself in difficulty when you tried to explain to someone why being "washed in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14 ) should make one "whiter than snow" as that old gospel hymn puts it? Many complain that not only is the concept confusing, but that all the talk about blood is repugnant to the modern mind. Even for one who has been brought up "in the faith" a bit of reflection makes one admit that the shades of difference between propitiation and expiation or between redemption and ransom are rather vague in one's mind. In fact, most of these symbols of salvation, growing out of a different time in history seem rather distant or even irrelevant to us today. Want to find out more? Click here.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Note: The following are several random paragraphs from my manuscript of this Sunday’s sermon (03/12/06).
Title: The First Gospel!
Text: Genesis 3.14-15.
In this sermon, I will examine the curse & judgment of God in Genesis 3.14-15 first from the perspective of the serpent and second from the perspective of Satan.
But before we go to far let me say that for Eve, to be at enmity with the serpent was also to announce the coming of a savior. For Satan, to be at enmity with the woman was to announce his defeat. We need both the good news and the bad to make sense of the good news and the bad news.
Satan, not the literal snake, was himself the principal agent behind the Fall of humankind! He that spoke through the serpent’s mouth is here condemned through the serpent’s curse! It is Satan’s judgment that is chiefly the focus of these verses. Several fascinating insights are contained under the surface of these words.
For example… throughout the Bible, we see the two seeds warring against each other: the godly versus the ungodly, Cain against Abel, Moses against Pharaoh, Jael against Sisera, the prophets against the wanton Israelites, Mary and Joseph against Herod, Jesus against the Pharisees. What’s more, we see that even in their various trials and sufferings, the godly are always in the process of triumphing over sin and the wicked.
Worship & enjoy!
Thursday, March 09, 2006
The following definition comes from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Heresy, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a "theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the Catholic or Orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox.."One of the tasks of apologetics - the branch of theology concerned with the intelligent presentation and defense of the historical Christian faith - is to counter heresy (the opposite of orthodoxy) with sound doctrine.
So specific to the Christian faith heresy is:
Doctrine which is erroneous in such a way that Christians must divide themselves as a church from all who teach or accept it; those adhering to heresy are assumed to be lost, although Christians are unable to make definitive judgments on this matter. The opposite of orthodoxy. Adj.: "heretical."Heretics live off heresy! As a matter of fact, if you are uncertain what to make tonight for dinner, why not try a little heretical help. Simply take down a box of Heresy Helper from the cupboard and mix away! Many are getting hefty servings of it every Sunday in there easy-believe-ism, purpose-driven, seeker-friendly, emergent type post-modern churches, why not you? And keep this phrase in mind: “And I helped!”
(Source: A Biblical Guide To Orthodoxy And Heresy Part One: The Case For Doctrinal Discernment" (an article from the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1990, page 28) by Robert M. Bowman)
Note: Thanks to the Sacred Sandwich and its advertisers for providing me with the graphic and the idea for this Heresy Helper post.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
That got me wondering about exactly which subdivision hypocrites do occupy in Hell. I went for an answer to Dante's Inferno, and with the help of fellow blogger, Michael Gilleland, found what I was looking for in Canto 23, lines 58 ff. (tr. Charles S. Singleton):
The hypocrites live in the eighth circle of Hell, known as Malebolge, in ditch number six. apparently it's not "the biggest section in the whole realm," since Dante's Hell is funnel-shaped, and the eighth (or next to last) circle is therefore narrower than the ones above it. It may not
There below we found a painted people who were going round with very slow steps, weeping and looking weary and overcome. They had cloaks with cowls down over their eyes, of the cut that is made for the monks of Cluny, so gilded outside that they were dazzling, but within all lead and so heavy that those Frederick imposed were of straw. O toilsome mantle of eternity!
be a large area but it’s terribly deep down in hell!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23.27).
See biblical references to hypocrite from the ESV Bible online here.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Our Church has received a request from a Ghanaian congregation to join us in the mutual use of our facility beginning in April ‘06. The Ministry Team is prayerfully considering the request in light of our mission statement and other concerns. Preliminarily, our leadership has concluded that a two-congregation mutual ministry is a fit and more information about the relationship will be surfacing over the next several weeks. Keep this in prayer.
March 6 is Independence Day in Ghana; it commemorates Ghana's independence from Great Britain in 1957. The Ghanaian government offers information about the country's culture, geography, and history at the following site.
The President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. John Agyekum Kufour today addressed the 49th anniversary of the nation’s independence parade in Accra and used the occasion to formally announce to the world that Ghana would celebrate the Golden Jubilee of her independence in 2007.
“As we learn from the Bible, Jubilee Year is of great significance spiritually and otherwise”, the President sermonised.
The President pointed out that a Jubilee Year “is proclaimed as a year of the Lord’s favour, a year of good news and freedom. It is a time to practice forgiveness and to do justice by all”, he emphasised.
Church & society 101
Friday, March 03, 2006
The following is the opening two paragraphs of this Sunday’s sermon from Genesis 3.20-24.
What’s in a name? Adam called is wife (Khav-VAH) from the Hebrew which is related to the root word (khai) which means "life". So it is rendered "Eve" in most English translations. The form of the root is one which usually indicates a person's occupation, thus "one who gives life". So while the word that identifies her as "woman" is (Ish-shah), her proper name is (Khav-VAH).
She is given this name because she "was the mother of all living." So, in spite of the rebellion in sin and the guilt of the fallen soul of mankind, God, in his mercy and to exercise his grace toward his chosen ones, would allow humans not only to continue their work of dominion, but also to proceed in multiplying and filling the earth.
Worship & enjoy!
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Inside Higher Ed reports today that the University of Wisconsin system has announced a plan to allow Resident Assistants to conduct Bible studies in their dormitory rooms, reversing an earlier policy. The term "Bible ban," though attention-getting, was never really accurate. The only "ban" was on RAs conducting Bible studies in their dorm rooms. The same RAs were not restricted from conducting Bible studies elsewhere, and students who were not RAs were not restricted from conducting Bible studies in their dormitory rooms.
The prohibition was based on the notion that dormitories are state-owned facilities, and RAs are state employees. According to University of Wisconsin System President Kevin P. Reilly, the proposed policy, which he supports, simply allows RAs to do what any other students are allowed to do.
The debate is not over!
Education & society 101