Perhaps along with many of you, if I had to rank which person in the Bible was most influential in my life (besides Jesus himself), I think I would say that it was the apostle Paul. Of course, he does have an unfair advantage in that he wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament books (not to mention his prominent place in the book of Acts). It’s not in how many words he wrote that I find Paul’s influence, however. Rather, it is in what he wrote and how he wrote it that has been used by God to help so many people. Continue Reading
What if I were to say that we should not read the Bible literally? How would you react? What would you say to me? I would hope you’d immediately be on alarm and asking some probing questions. If I was indeed saying we don’t have to read the Bible literally—taking it at face-value, seeking to receive what it says as true, good, and authoritative—from there you should see to it to have me removed from being a pastor!
On the other hand, if I meant that we should not read the Bible literally when the context of a specific passage demands a figurative reading, hopefully then you’d say, “Ok, I get it. Yes, that’s right.” After all, if the person writing or speaking in the Bible wrote or spoke using a metaphor, they’d scratch their head if we took it literally.
Let me give an example: Continue Reading
“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).
We are a forgetful people.
I’m not talking about standing in the grocery store wondering what that fourth item is that you kept repeating to yourself because you didn’t take the time to write it down (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything 🙂 ). I’m talking about living in the present circumstances of life, all the while neglecting to reflect on how God has treated you in the past. And while forgetting that fourth item at the grocery store is frustrating (because you have to go back again and get it!), how much worse off are we when we are not recounting God’s “wonderful deeds” to our souls?
We have much to learn here from what King David writes in the above verse. Or maybe I should say, we have much to apply here. Continue Reading
“Of the making of many Christian congregational songs there is no end” (a “take-off” of Ecclesiastes 12:12). And in many cases, I wish there was an end! Why? Because so many are either doctrinally weak or just plain “off.” Along with that, many are man-centered—lacking a focus on God and what He’s done in and through the glorious gospel of His Son Jesus Christ.
Then along comes a song like we sang this past Sunday, and I totally change my mind. Continue Reading
“The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth.” These two sentences, from John Piper’s book, A Hunger For God, are jolting. I don’t know about you, but I had to reread it several times to first see if I agreed with it, then a couple more times to realize and come to grips with the implications of its truth.
As you perhaps still contemplate whether or not you agree with him, let me add something clarifying to what he wrote; Continue Reading
I want to pick up from last week on how we fight sin in our lives. I emphasized then that it is so important for us to see sin for what it is: that which steals joy, not gives it. It lies to us, telling us that if we choose its pleasures we’ll be happy; but of course we won’t—at least not in any true, deep or lasting way. Like an ox that may be able to taste some good oats while being lured to its slaughter, so too sin may have its pleasures, but those will quickly be forgotten as the consequences of its siren song take effect.
We must keep this truth in front of us. We must tell ourselves that the sin calling to us is seeking to trick us and lure us to our death. It will not—it cannot—be able to deliver what it’s promising.
However, as important as it is to fight sin by recognizing its ill-effects, this is not enough. Continue Reading
There is a lie that is circulating around (and always has been) that says pursuing sin is where we’ll find joy. Have you experienced this? Are you ever tempted to believe that laziness, gluttony, lust, or idolatry (these are but a sampling of sins we could list) will satisfy your desires? Sin comes to us and entices with bold and alluring temptations which appear to offer happiness and satisfaction.
Or will they? Is joy really to be found in pursuing sin? (And to be clear, I’m not talking about a short-term thrill—there may be plenty of that. Rather, I’m thinking of a long-term, soul-satisfying joy.) Is that kind of joy to be found with choosing to listen to temptation?
Clearly, the answer is no. The path of sin is the path of futility, shame, and death. Try as you may, Continue Reading
Happy 4th of July! Today is the day our nation is celebrating Independence Day—the day which represents the birth of the United States of America. No longer would we be dependent on Great Britain, and even more, no longer would we be subject to unfair taxation and rule. Instead, we would have the freedom to govern ourselves under an authority which has our best interests in mind.
And understandably, this was (and is) cause for much celebration. Take note, for example, of the vast importance this day held in the mind one who was a crucial figure at this time: John Adams. He wrote the following to his wife Abigail when thinking of this great occasion (which was about to happen when he wrote this): Continue Reading
How do you think or talk about the good things that you do in life? When you do that extra service at church, when you help your neighbor with that project, when you give money to that charity, when you do any number of good deeds…who gets the credit? If your answer is, “I do,” you’re correct. If your answer is, “God,” your answer is also correct.
If you think I’m contradicting myself, just hang in there a bit. Continue Reading
The Bible gives us complete confidence that God is in control of the unfolding of history. No matter what evil the times bring, or what uncertainty we feel, we have a resting place for our minds and heart. I want pick up this thought again from last week and consider another facet of this truth, which I trust can give us great encouragement: Beloved, we may not always (or even often) be able to fully grasp how history is in God’s hands but this doesn’t mean that we are totally ‘in the dark.’ We can have confidence that no matter how things seem, God is having His way.
How so? Well, the Bible not only teaches God’s sovereignty over history, but it demonstrates it with real examples. As a result, we can look backwards in history and see how things that seemed to be spinning out of control were actually the exact fulfillment of what God had planned. No other example is clearer about this than the plan of God to triumph over sin, death, and the Devil through Jesus Christ. Continue Reading