Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Let God Be God

When I think of idolatry I usually think of some sort of sculpture that represents a deity.  After that, I think of something that is worshiped as a deity - even it there is not statue (like money, for example.)

There is another common form of idolatry that I am calling "managing God."

In this form of idolatry we sinful creatures decide that we have higher standards than the God Who has revealed Himself in the Bible.  This is usually right after we read something in the Bible that we don't understand or don't like.  People say things like:
  • "This can't be right."  
  • "I could never believe in a god who would..."  
Then we invent a god who measures up to our standards.  No matter how sincere or cynical the inventor might be, the invented god is an idol.  The God of the Bible is infinite.  If your god can be comprehended (completely understood) by your finite mind, he/she/it is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is holy.  If you think that you have a better idea about how things SHOULD be than those God has revealed in the Bible, you believe you are more holy than God. 

We are troubled by perplexing questions.  Why did an omnipotent and omniscient God allow sin at all?  How can a loving God send people to an eternal hell?  Why would a holy God save ANY sinners?  Why wouldn't an omnipotent and loving God save ALL sinners?

The list of questions is endless.  The answers are not provided.  God only tells us what He wants us to know - He is omnipotent, omniscient, loving, holy, just, merciful and gracious.  But He doesn't tell us how all of these things fit together, other than to say that He "works all things according to the counsel of His will," (Ephesians 1:11)

To believe in the God revealed in the Bible requires faith. 
  • Faith that God is omnipotent - that He can do whatever He determines ought to be done.
  • Faith that God is holy - that He is infinitely good and does what ought to be done.
  • Faith that God is just - that He does those things that ultimately satisfy His holiness.
God is God.  We are but creatures - corrupted by sin and devolved by sin's effects on creation.  We are called upon to TRUST God to be God - and give Him our unconditional praise, glory and gratitude.

Let God Be God!
(Hebrews 11:6 NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people!
For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord!

Whatever you do today.
Whatever traditions you observe.
Whatever gifts you give or receive.
Whatever foods or goodies you eat.
Whatever family you see, or call, or miss.
Whatever you do today, don't miss the main point!

 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Preach The Word

Exegesis is a biblical word.  The Greek word, εξηγεομαι, means to explain, to tell in order or to interpret.  Exegesis - providing an ordered explanation and interpretation - is the basis for expositional preaching in which one gives an exposition of Scripture.

Exegesis is what Jesus does as the one who gives a perfect exposition of God.  (John 1:18 NASB) "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."  So Jesus could say, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9)

Eisegesis is another thing altogether.  You can see the parallel between eisegesis and exegesis.  The difference is the prefix.  Instead of the "Ex" from the Greek word for "Out of," this word has "Eis" from the Greek word for "Into."

The difference in meaning is significant.  Instead of carrying the meaning out of the text and unpacking it in order (as in exegesis), eisegesis means you carry meaning into the text and create a new meaning that was not there.

It has been said that "you can prove anything you want from the Bible."  Well, that is not true if you practice careful exegesis.  In careful exegesis you come up with the meaning that is already there through observing the words in their normal relationships and given their normal definitions and taking into account the bigger picture of the history and context and type of material that is being studied.

But in eisegesis it is true that you can prove anything.  In eisegesis the meaning doesn't really come from the text at all - it comes from the mind of the person who is doing the eisegesis.  That person is reading his or her thoughts and prejudices into the text.  Why should we be surprised that they find their unique doctrine everywhere they look?  One of the telltale indicators of eisegesis is that the interpreter has no problem teaching his point no matter what text he is looking at.  He cannot see a contrary point anywhere - for him everything fits together beautifully!

Exegesis is hard work, partly because of the need to be careful to avoid eisegesis.  As a preacher there is always a temptation to approach a sermon with a desire to make the text support what I want to say.  But the job of expositional preaching is to find out what the text is saying and to preach THAT.
(2 Timothy 4:2–4 ESV) preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Born Again?

One night long ago a religious man approached Jesus of Nazareth with compliments.

(John 3:3 NKJV) Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Why didn't Jesus tell him to believe on Jesus?

Notice that Jesus doesn't tell Nicodemus to DO anything.  He doesn't say to repent, believe, follow, choose, accept, receive or to take any other action.  Jesus tells him that he needs something to happen TO him.   "Being born" is a passive voice verb.

Nicodemus is perplexed.  "How can a man be born when he is old...?  Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb...?"  He has no idea what to DO about it.  And it is interesting to me that Jesus doesn't help him out by making it a simple action that "closes the deal" on eternal salvation.  He doesn't ask him to raise his hand, walk down front, pray a prayer, "pray through," or get baptized.

Instead Jesus confuses him further:
(John 3:5–6 NKJV) Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

And He explains that it is like when the wind blows... you can't see the wind and you don't know where it is coming from or where it is going.  All you see is the results - things are moved because the wind blew on them.  You can't control it, you can only observe it.

Jesus says again - "you must be born again."
Nicodemus is at a loss.  "How can these things be?"

It seems to me there are some important points in here that we would do well to be reminded of.
1) Salvation is not essentially an action that is in man's hands.
2) Salvation is essentially an action that is in God's hands.
3) Salvation is brought about by the Holy Spirit of God.
4) Salvation is not something you can control, but it brings about results you can see.

Too many would-be-evangelists are in a hurry to give people the magic words to say that will cast the spell that will make them eternally secure.  They would do well to remind themselves of the approach of Jesus the evangelist, who started out by telling Nicodemus that he couldn't save himself - that he needed to look to God to save him.

Faith in Jesus is not a prayer you pray that brings you salvation.  Faith in Jesus is the result of the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration, by which people are born again.

It is as thrilling as a tornado!  You are talking to someone about Jesus - about His sinless life, sacrificial death and resurrection.  You are urging them to repent of their sins and to trust in Jesus for salvation.  You can see that they don't get it.  They don't understand.  They don't believe it.  It isn't registering with them.

Then the wind blows through, their eyes widen, they say something profound like "OH!"  Now they believe!  Now there are tears, laughter, prayers and maybe jumping up and down (that's me.)  They have been born again right in front of your eyes!  WOW!

Don't settle for cheap imitations.  Don't rush to give people something they can DO (especially not something they can do whether or not they are born again.)  Remember, they must be born again.  Tell them all about Jesus and let God do the DO-ING in your evangelism.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jesus Is All In All

Life and ministry involve some dauntingly difficult moments.  This morning as I contemplated some of my challenges, the words of this old hymn were running though my mind.  "Jesus is all the world to me."

It is a great reminder that Jesus is always sufficient.  Let Jesus receive all glory and honor and praise! Let me serve Him faithfully, regardless of the task.
Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go, no other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad, He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me, my Friend in trials sore;
I go to Him for blessings, and He gives them over and o’er.
He sends the sunshine and the rain, He sends the harvest’s golden grain;
Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain, He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me, and true to Him I’ll be;
O how could I this Friend deny, when He’s so true to me?
Following Him I know I’m right, He watches o’er me day and night;
Following Him by day and night, He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me, I want no better Friend;
I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when life’s fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend, beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy, He’s my Friend.

Words & Music: Will L. Thomp­son, New Cen­tu­ry Hymn­al (East Li­ver­pool, Ohio: Will L. Thomp­son Co., 1904)  (I found this on www.cyberhymnal.org)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Nice Thing About Being Sick

(James 5:13 NKJV) ¶ Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 
 I have been struggling with a sinus infection for almost a week now.  It isn't any fun.  My nose is sore.  My head aches.  My ears are ringing (well - they always do - but now it's worse.)  My eyes hurt.  I am having trouble breathing through my nose.

So, what's good about this, you may ask?
  1. It may be unpleasant, but it is not serious.  Many people have worse problems than this.
  2. It may be unpleasant, but it is temporary.  A week from now it will be forgotten - no doubt.  
  3. It is unpleasant, but it is not completely disabling.  I can still make phone calls.  I can still study.  I can still do most of my normal work at almost my normal pace.
  4. Because it is unpleasant, it is an occasion for gratitude that MOST of the time I don't have this problem.  I praise the Lord that most of the time I don't have pain in my sinuses and I can breath through my nose without thinking about it!
  5. Another benefit is that this minor suffering of mine makes me more empathetic about the sufferings of other people - some of whom face much more serious and chronic problems.
  6. Because I didn't feel well yesterday, I avoided some of my normal work by cleaning off my desk and getting rid of various stacks of paper and books in my study.  If I had felt well, I would have probably procrastinated that work for another month or so.

So praise the Lord for everything.  Are you well?  Praise the Lord!  Are you sick?  Praise the Lord! 
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cold and ice...

(Job 38:29–30 NKJV)  From whose womb comes the ice? And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth?
30 The waters harden like stone, And the surface of the deep is frozen. 

This is our fish pond at 21 degrees. They have an ice wreath! I thought about coloring it with food colors, but decided against it.

I love the different seasons!

(Genesis 8:22 NKJV)  “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”

Friday, December 3, 2010

If this is the kingdom...

Amillennialism is the view that what the world is experiencing right now is Christ's Kingdom.  They believe that it came to earth at Pentecost (Acts 2) and continues for an indefinite period of time (so far almost two millennia) until the final judgment and the ultimate eternal state.

While I agree that Christ is the King of King's and Lord of Lord's, I disagree completely with the view that this is or could be His kingdom.  But my disagreement goes deeper.  I don't believe that there is any biblical support for the idea that this should be the kingdom.

For one thing, what we have been experiencing for the past 2000 years in no way conforms to the Biblical portrayal of Christ's Kingdom.  This is a blog, not a book, so I can't go into every detail.  But consider just three examples.
  1. The Lord Himself reigns over the earth with a rod of iron. (Psalm 2:9; Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15) Do the last 2000 years look to you like it has been strictly controlled by Christ?  Pardon me for saying so, but if this is the best He can do, it isn't very impressive.  Just think of the horrible wretched things that have transpired over the past 2000 years! 
  2.  During the Kingdom a person who lives one hundred years will be considered a youngster. (Isa. 65:20)  Certainly it isn't true of our world so far.  People who live to be one hundred right now are considered old everywhere on earth.  This text cannot be talking about the eternal state, because at that point there will be no new births and no more death.
  3. During the Kingdom the world will be free of predation - the lion lays down with the lamb, etc. (Is 11:6; 65:25)  There will be no war - the implements of war will be turned to peaceful purposes, "they will beat their swords into plowshares," etc.  (Is 2:4; Mic 4:3)  Certainly not the world in which we live at this point.
Of course the amillennialists spiritualize the texts I've cited and many others.  They explain them away as hyperbole.  But why?  Do they believe Christ is not ABLE to establish an earthly kingdom?  Do they think that this is IMPOSSIBLE for God?  I think they have their cart before their exegesis.  They first posit that this age IS the kingdom, then they interpret Scripture in whatever fashion is necessary to make it fit the circumstances.

A second problem I have with amillennial teaching is that the Bible makes very plain statements about a MILLENNIAL (1000 year) Kingdom ruled directly by Christ.  Revelation 20 speaks of 1000 years (a millennium) no less than six times in as many verses.  At the beginning of that 1000 years and for its duration, Satan is bound and removed from any influence in the world (vv.2-3).  At the beginning of the 1000 years, the redeemed dead are resurrected and work for Christ in his kingdom (v.4).  The rest of the dead (not redeemed) are not resurrected until after the 1000 year period (v.5).  The resurrected redeemed people reign with Christ for 1000 years (v.6).  At the end of 1000 years Satan is released for a little while (v.7).
  1. Amillennialist would say this is figurative language for a "long time."  But why not just say "a long time?"  Why all the specifics of when it begins, how long it lasts, what happens during the time, and what happens when it is over?  There is no compelling reason to dismiss the 1000 years as figurative.  In fact, it seems to be very specific, to be taken literally.  Repetition is usually a device that emphasizes.
  2. This 1000 year period is completely unlike the period in which we live.  Satan is currently alive and well and is deceiving the nations as I write.  There are no world leaders or government officials who are resurrected from the dead and now are reigning for Christ.
Frankly, if the amillennialists were correct, the whole book of Revelation - with the possible exception of chapter 21 would be pointless.  According to them, chapter 20 is now and all of the judgments, etc. of the previous 19 chapters must have happened before.  Some believe that they are figures for the Roman destruction of Israel that culminated in the destruction of the temple in AD 70.  So what kind of message could it possibly have held for the churches of AD 95 when it was written?  Instead of being a revelation of future events (which it explicitly claims to be) it is just a colorful memory of what has already transpired????

A third reason I reject amillennialism is that it suggests that Christ's rule in His Kingdom is not absolute.  Every Biblical portrayal of Christ's kingdom is that it is absolute - Jesus is the King and the contest is over.  But if this current period is Christ's kingdom, then He shares dominion with Satan.
  1. Individual believers are saved out of Satan's dominion and into the dominion of Christ. If this were Christ's Kingdom, how could Satan still be " the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who NOW works in the sons of disobedience?" (Eph. 2:1-3; Col 1:13)
  2. Believers in this world are "strangers and pilgrims" because their citizenship is in a different kingdom (that is evidently somewhere else.) (Eph 2:12, 19; Heb 11:13; 1 Pet 2:11)
  3. Believers are instructed by the apostles to pray, "Let Thy kingdom come." If the kingdom was already here, it seems strange to suggest that we should still be praying for it to come. (Matt 6:10; Luke 11:2)
No, no, no... I believe that Christ is the King - and that He will literally return to the earth to reign as King - first for a 1000 year period, then for eternity, just like the Bible says in plain language.  That is why the apostles instructed us to keep looking for His coming.  The period we are in is NOT the Kingdom.  We don't know how long this period will last.  All we know is that Jesus is coming and we should keep watching for Him.
(1 Thessalonians 1:9–10 NKJV) For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
(Titus 2:11–13 NKJV) ¶ For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,