Monday, March 02, 2015

Belief in Divine Sovereignty Creates Courage



Three young Jewish men were placed into a fiery pit because they refused to worship a golden image of the king. The men were not persuaded to recant their faith because of the fire. They said "If this be so, our God whom we serve is about to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18)

Their belief in and understanding of God's sovereignty allowed them the courage to resist denying God to save themselves. They believed God had the power to save them from the furnace if it pleased him to do so. Their submission to God's sovereignty also gave them the courage to die in faith if it was his will. Either way, they would faithfully save the sovereign God.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What To Do When Times Get Hard

What to do when times get hard

Psalm 22 is a personal lament, written by King David. A lament is an expresso of grief and suffering. For example, the book of the Bible called Lamentations is Jeremiah's expression of grief over God's destruction of Israel. 

David had many hard times. Before becoming king, he was pursued by Saul, who sought to kill him. He fought many battles with countries opposed to Israel. He suffered through rebellions, including one led by his son Absalom, who actually deposed him and sent him into exile for a while. 

In one of these trying times, He wrote this Psalm as a cry. He is the innocent man suffering persecution from evil men. To make it worse, God has yet to come to his rescue despite his prayers. So, he cried out in verse 1, why have you forsaken me, why are you so far from me? 

David characterized his enemies as those who scorned and despised him. (6) They ridiculed him for trusting in God. (8) They were powerful, like bulls of Bashan (12) Bashan is the area north of Israel, given to Mannassah, which we now call the Golan Heights. It was known for great pasture land that produced large cattle. It became a symbol for powerful enemies from the north. They were aggressive predators, like dogs who encircled a vulnerable person. (16) Dogs in those days were not pets, they were more like jackals or coyotes. They plotted his downfall and how they would divide his possessions, down to his very clothes. (17-18)

David had exhausted his own strength, too. His heart melted, his strength dried out, he had nothing left. He was desperate. (14-16) Yet, David still believed and worshipped God. He declared God as holy. (3) He remembered that God called him into faith and made him trust in him. (9-11) David was suffering, but he expected vindication. He expected deliverance.

Many of us have experienced trials. We cried out to God. And we waited. Some years ago, I experienced a situation that made me identify with David. People conspired against me to take me out of my work position so they could make more money. Ironically, these people claimed to be Christians. They manufactured a lie and sold it to others. I did lose my position, although I kept my job. Ultimately, I was asked to prepare my version of events and present it to my boss, who vindicated me and recognized the falseness of the allegations. 

During that time, I identified with this Psalm, and others, greatly. I resolved to trust in the Lord and not fight back. I opened my Bible to this Psalm and left it on my work desk until the day I had to leave that office. I read those Psalms every day. I asked God to vindicate me. 

This is all to say, in times of trouble, do not give up. Instead, "double down". Pray more, read more Scripture, worship, and most of all, trust. At the end, you will glorify God both in your perseverance and in your praise, as we will see David do in the remainder of the Psalm. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thoughts From Genesis 1 (#2)

Thoughts From Genesis 1 (#2)

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth". (Genesis 1:1 ESV) 

This verse sets the stage for everything that follows in the Bible. God made everything. He made our world, the sky above it, space and every living thing. Why is that important? It is because it speaks to God's right to rule the world he made. He made it and it is his. 

...

If God did not make the universe, his right to rule it may be questioned. That is why naturalists work so hard to find an alternate theory. If the universe came into being on its own, then no one has a right to govern mankind. We may rule ourselves. For example, Stephen Hawking writes:
With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break those laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started - it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start if off. So long as th universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither begging nor end: it would simply be. What place, the for a creator? A Brief History of Time, 1988, p. 140-141. 

Ironically, this thinking has produced a religion rather than atheism. It has created a deity of its own: the Cosmos. Scientists describe it as having no beginning and no end and being worthy of our reverence. It has much in common with pantheism.

The Bible makes clear that it is God who created the universe. The Bible makes clear that God is the master of it. The Old Testament prophets declared this repeatedly. The Book of Revelation resonates with this idea. 

Hezekiah, a king of Israel in the Old Testament, gives us a great example. Surrounded by a superior Assyrian army, he cried out to God. Listen to this prayer: "O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven an earth." Hezekiah went on to ask God, as the maker and ruler of all things, to deliver Israel. God answered that prayer and delivered them "for his own sake", or to show that Hezekiah was right to name his as create and ruler.

Believers look at a troubled world and know that God is the master of it. We pray "your kingdom come" because we anxiously await the day he will manifest his kingdom to all.

Ligonier Conference Sermons

Ligonier announced today you can live stream the sermons from the conference at Ligonier.org and YouTube 

Monday, February 23, 2015

THOUGHTS FROM GENESIS 1 (#1)



Genesis 1:1, the first verse in the Bible, begins with "In the beginning, God...". This verse is often passed over quickly to read the story of creation. But it is important. It teaches us a great truth.

God existed before he created the earth. When it says "in the beginning", and "he created", it means God existed before the earth. He is eternal, not beginning or ending. He did not come into being upon the formation of the earth. He was always there, he then created earth. He has always existed, the earth has not.

Christ, the second person of the Trinity, also is eternal. John 1:1 tells us this. John wrote: "In the beginning was the Word". In John 1, "Word" refers to Christ. Jesus declared his eternal existence while praying in John 17:5, "And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed".

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is also eternal. In Genesis 1:2, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. God, in the unity of the Trinity, existed before the earth was created.

Other scriptures declare the eternal existence of God. In Isaiah 44:6, God declared:
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.

God is eternal. He was here before us. He will always be. We did not invent him, he created us. No matter how long our life on earth remains, it will end. He will not. When our flesh releases our spirit, he will be there to receive it. (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

LIGONIER CONFERENCE


I have not been able to write much this week. I have been in Orlando at the Ligonier Conference. This is the organization led by R. C. Sproul. I listened to preaching from early morning until night. I commend it to you. I heard Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Stephen Nichols, Robert Godfrey and others. Ligonier will post some of the videos at Ligonier.org. If you can watch, do so.

I will try to pick up the writing pace this week. God bless and keep you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

THE ROOT CAUSE OF CONFLICT JAMES 4:1-5


The Root Cause of Conflict
James 4:1-5

James begins this discussion simply by asking the question “what causes quarrels and what causes fights to break out among you”? He also answers plainly: it is because our desires\passions are in conflict within us. The ESV says they are “at war” within us. In other words, conflicts on the inside of us result in conflicts on the outside.

The conflict here is between our desire for what the world wants and our desire for what God wants. In Romans 7, Paul discussed this in relation to the lost person. He called it the battle between obeying the law of God and the law of the flesh. We know that the battle continues after salvation.

There is an implied question in verse 2. The question is “why don’t I get what I want”? James answers that question with 2 alternatives.

First, James says you do not ask. He means you do not ask God for what you want. That may mean you do not believe God will give it to you. James has already told us that every good and perfect gift comes from our heavenly Father. (1:17) Yet, we do not always trust him to give us what we need. It may also mean you think you deserve it without asking. Or it may mean you want to take it for yourself without help from God.

Second, James says you ask but do not receive because you want the thing for your own selfish desires. Janis Joplin sang “Oh, Lord, won’t you give me a Mercedes Benz?” And, at least in America, a lot of people pray for things like that. And some preachers preach that you should. But not James. James says instead that this kind of asking is idolatry. He called them “adulterous people”. (4) God used that image of marriage in the Old Testament to describe those who broke his covenant by worshipping idols. Here the idol is money and possessions. We want those things for our own pleasure, status and pride rather than to help others or advance Christ’s kingdom.

So, James sternly reminds us that we can live for the world or we can live for God. He said friendship with the world is enmity with God. Enmity is hostility. For example, God put enmity between the serpent and Eve, between its offspring and her offspring. (Genesis 3:15) That enmity will last until the end of this age when the serpent and his offspring are all removed from earth and thrown into lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

Verse 5 tells us God does not take this lightly. He is jealous for his people. (5) When he made his covenant with Israel, he he told them they could not worship idols (other gods) because he is a jealous God. (Exodus 20:5) That means he demands exclusive loyalty and worship.