RSS

Mother’s Day 2017 – The Strong Love

It’s been one year since my mother died.

My mother was sick for a very long time, and so I often thought about what would happen after she died. I thought it would be a heavy blow that would grow lighter as time passed. In reality I felt very little at the time, but the weight of her loss has grown heavier as time has gone on.

Mama was strong. Stubborn, yes, to a fault, but strong. She was willing to sacrifice all she was and all she hoped for (and she had dreams my friend) for her child and her family (and sacrifice she did.)

My father gave me few pointers on love and marriage when I was young, but one thing he said was, “Make sure the woman you marry is strong like your mother. She will need to be strong to raise children. Raising children is the hardest thing in the world, and only the strong can do it.”

I’ve always wanted to be married and raise a family. Since the time I was very small, I dreamed about entering a lifelong covenant with a wonderful woman and raising a household of children. Never did I dream of a life alone – such a life was a nightmare for me.

Now when I was in High School, all I knew was infatuation. It was foolish and emotion based and unwise. I was fortunate that none of the girls I pursued while in High School worked out. Nevertheless, even then my mind said, “Make sure she is strong, strong like mama is strong.” I never met one who was strong.

Then I went to college, and I sobered up some, and started looking for better traits. Traits that go beyond the physical, traits that endure. Still chief among them was “strong.” Describing this kind of strength is nearly impossible. This scene from the Replacements always comes to mind.

My life during this time drifted from Christ to the point the shore was no longer visible to me and in time I forgot about such a thing as the shore and land and believed there was only the sea. But my God is faithful even when I am faithless, and He did not leave me orphaned but crossed the horizon to bring me back.

Once back, I resumed my search for the strong one. In the Church I found there were a handful of strong women for the Lord. Many were already taken, but among those that remained I could not find one who was “strong like mama.”

Then I met Gena.

Strength seemed to be her banner and her song. She was so strong, in fact, that at first I did not like her – so intimidated I was by her strength. Of course in time I learned of her compassion, her laughter, and her warmth which charmed me like nothing else could – to say nothing of her vast intellect and integrity that has challenged me time and again.

And of course, she loved Jesus. She loved Him deeply.

We became friends, and over time I learned more about her strength. She carried her many friends through crisis and peril – she sacrificed for them and considered herself blessed to have laid down herself for a friend. Some never thanked her for it, though others did. She spent long and exhausting hours caring for the elderly and the widows who had been forgotten and abandoned by the world who could not be bothered. She loved children and took a job to care for the least of these – children with developmental disorders who often came from broken homes. This woman literally cared for widows and orphans who were considered unclean and unwanted by the cold and uncaring world.

This is why I fell in love with her. She was strong – the kind of strong that climbs onto a cross to die for the people who hate Him – to save them. Stronger than any woman or any person I’d ever known – save the One.

There could be no doubt that I’d pledge my life to such a woman – I was not worthy of her – but I hoped to spend the rest of my life trying to be.

And yet it was also she who taught me about grace – that God’s love transcends my mistakes and that He is faithful and just to forgive me of my sins – and to come running to embrace me when I turn towards Him.

More precious than rubies? Nay, far more precious. Kingdoms and power I would turn away in exchange for her. I would give away all that I have to keep her with me.

Now she is my wife. Few statements make me prouder to say. She is also the mother of my children and raises them in discipline and wisdom of the Lord. She is called blessed by her family, for we love, cherish, and respect her.

Of course, I now know to what strength my father was referring. It is the strongest of all strengths, it is the power of the cross, and the hope of redemption. It is the power God gives to all humans when we believe in Him – if only we would use it. It is Agape – the Godly love – the sacrificial love – the strong love that sacrifices itself to save others. Is Gena strong like my mama?

No, they are both strong like Jesus.

 

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Q&A Series: Part 4

As some of my readers may know, there are public websites out there which allow subscribers to ask questions on various subject to which other subscribers can then post answers to. I joined on a lark, but found there are a lot of people seeking answers to deep spiritual questions out there. I’ve decided that some of these bear repeating to my readers, so this series will show you a question that a real person has asked on the Internet and my response. Enjoy.

Question. Why were the idolatrous, polytheistic, uncircumcised, pork eating pagan Romans able to crush the circumcised Jews who worshiped the one true God, and desecrate the Holy of Holies?

Image result for sack of jerusalem

Arch of Titus

My Answer. The Bible explains it.

God’s deal with the Jews as His special people was conditional upon their obedience to Him. As long as the Jews obeyed God, God would keep them in their land and protect them. If they fell into disobedience, the deal was off.

Israel fell into disobedience almost immediately after the Law was given and the contract dried (see Judges). But God did not immediately destroy them for two reasons.

1) He is a gracious God. He wanted to send messengers (see the Prophets) to warn them and perhaps turn them back to Him.

2) He made a promise to Abraham (see Genesis) that was unconditional that through his people He would bring the Messiah (see Hebrews) who would save people from their sins.

Eventually, however, after many centuries of off-again, on-again obedience, the Jews turned away from Him completely (except for a remnant) and God sent the Assyrians to conquer the northern kingdom and the Babylonians later to conquer the southern kingdom. (See 1&2 Chronicles). The Israelites were taken bound into slavery or forced assimilation in these foreign countries.

God, however, told them this would only be a temporary punishment for Judah, the tribe from which He’d promised the Messiah. (See the Prophets) This tribe, captured in Babylon, would return to possess the land once again so that the Messiah could come. God also told them that if they obeyed this Messiah they could remain in the land. Otherwise they’d be dispersed again, this time for good (until the end of days). (see the Prophets)

Well they did return and rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple. (see Ezra, Nehemiah) In due time (around 400 years later) Jesus the Messiah did come to his people, but by and large (except for a few) they did not receive him nor believe in him. (see the Gospels)

Before Jesus died for the sins of the world, he told his disciples that since the Jewish nation by and large rejected him, God would turn against Israel very soon and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. This is when he warns them to “head fer the hills!” when the Romans come, because God won’t deliver his disobedient people again. (See Matthew 24)

Indeed, in 70 A.D. the Romans did invade and did sack Jerusalem and destroyed its Temple, forcing the Jews to flee into the nations, dispersing them to this day (for even though many Jews are in Jerusalem, any Zionist will tell you the work is not done). (see Josephus)

For those Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, they are no longer Jews (as we are no longer barbarians) but all are one in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are one people and one nation in the Lord Christ, and await a heavenly Jerusalem that will come down to us after Jesus has judged the living and the dead. (see Paul’s letters, especially Romans).

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Q&A Series

 

Truth Idols

We need water. Without water, we will die.

This is a simple and straightforward truth. It’s not to be contested except by the very foolish. It’s also true that we need quite a bit of water each day and that most of us aren’t drinking enough of it.

But it is possible to drink too much water. An article in Men’s Health says “Drinking too much fluid can lead to hyponatremia, which is when sodium in blood becomes too diluted,” Sims says. Symptoms include confusion, headaches, nausea and bloating—stuff that’s easily confused with dehydration. In severe cases,hyponatremia can lead to seizures, organ failure and even death.” (Credit: Men’s Health)

So too little or no water will kill you, and too much water can kill you too.

It is possible to have too much of a good thing, and the same can be said of the good and perfect truths found in God’s Word.

Now before you think this preacher has gone insane, let me explain. I do not mean that we should moderate how much of God’s Word we intake, because we really can’t take too much of Him into us. However, what we can do is focus on intaking too much of one aspect of God and His Word, such as salvation by faith alone, to the point we neglect other equally important truths, such as faith without works is dead.

Therefore, it is possible to focus too much on the freedom we have in Christ to the expense of our mandate to love God and others and to spread the Gospel at all costs. It is possible to focus too much on God’s mercy and love to the expense of remembering His justice and holiness. It happens all the time, and it also happens in the pulpit.

There are great men of God who have taken one truth to such extremes that even when you find an equal truth that tempers it, that teacher or preacher will not accept it because he has overemphasised the truth he likes or clings to. For example, God loves mankind, but God is also just. God tempers one with the other and satisfies both in Christ, saving those who believe and punishing those who willingly disbelieve. Some people, however, will focus so much on God’s love they won’t even hear about His justice and reject the idea of Hell altogether.

It is important to embrace God and His Word for all that it is, Genesis to the Revelation, and not to cling to one teaching or truth at the expense of the other. It is this kind of error that leads to the many (often unnecessary) “isms” of the Church which serve more to divide us and weaken us rather than instructing and building up.

In short, when we emphasize one truth about God to the expense of others, we are no longer worshiping God, but an idol. When we pick and choose what we want to believe about God, we are no longer believing in God, but a “god” of our own design. What’s scary is that we probably don’t realize we are doing it.

The good John Piper recently did answered a question that I am sure was tough for him, “Is it possible to focus too much on Christian Hedonism?” If you don’t know what Christian Hedonism is, that’s something to study over the next week or century. It’s a term Piper created for reveling in the joy God brings. Piper loves his pet term and loves teaching about it, but he admits that yes, you can have too much of it. The full article is linked below, but the following list is a great checklist to keep an eye on whenever you get “gung-ho” about any particular doctrine or teaching of the Bible to ensure you are not creating an idol out of a particular doctrine or truth.

1) We are overemphasizing a truth when our emphasis is not in sync with the way the Scriptures emphasize the truth. And I do mean emphasize the truth, not emphasize the term. Lots of wonderful, historic, theological terms are not very often used in the Bible — like Trinity, substitutionary atonement, beatific vision, deity of Christ — but are pervasive in the Scriptures, even though the terms may not be used. So, the point is not, Does our use of a term occur at a frequency similar to the biblical use of a term? That is not the point. The point is, Does our emphasis on a truth, a reality, correspond to the prevalence of the truth and the reality in the Scriptures — not a frequently used term?

2) We are overemphasizing a truth when we are twisting the meaning of Scriptures to make them say a truth that they are not intended to say or imply. There are many glorious truths in Scripture which are not the point of dozens of texts in Scripture, and we shouldn’t force those texts to make a point that they are not intended to make.

3) We are overemphasizing a truth when our emphasis is causing us to ignore or silence other important biblical and theological truths.

4) We are overemphasizing a truth when it is pressing us to distort other truths so that we can make our point at the expense of other truth — by forcing them to fit in with our truth when they may not fit in. If the truth we are emphasizing does not fit with other clear truths in the Bible, we need to make some adjustments in what we think.

5) We are probably overemphasizing a truth when our people — those who are listening to us — are tempted to use our peculiar terminology in preference to more biblical terminology. So, for example, Christian Hedonism would be overemphasized if our people are inclined to constantly use this phrase instead of the biblical language of joy and contentment and peace and satisfaction and blessedness and reward. The Bible has a wonderfully rich vocabulary, and if we shrink it all down to our little pet phrase, John Piper’s little pet phrase, of Christian Hedonism, then we are probably overemphasizing that truth.

6) Finally, last one, we are probably overemphasizing a truth if we ourselves are becoming so fixated on the truth that we are losing our ability to revel in other glorious truths. This is a sign of something very dangerous happening; namely, we are really loving not the truth of Christian Hedonism — we are loving our possession of the truth of Christian Hedonism, which is a deadly reality.
(Credit: John Piper, Desiring God.)

Full article here.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The Kindness of Joseph of Arimathea

“And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Sanhedrin (but did not consent to the death of Jesus) who was from Arimathea and was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He took it down from the cross and wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock where no one had ever lain.”
Luke 23

We tend to think of the Jewish Elite of Jesus day as all villains, but Joseph was an exception. The key phrase is “he was waiting for the kingdom of God.” Everyone else sought the kingdom of man, not of God, as they claimed. Joseph waited for the city not made by human hands. He took down the body of Jesus, carefully wrapped it, and placed it into his own tomb where no one had laid. Despite the fact Jesus would soon rise and have no use for either, I doubt our Lord would forget this measure of kindness from Joseph, the one who waited for Him.

Today as I reflect on the death of my mama, I want to thank the folks at Sanderson Funeral Homes for taking such good care of my mama’s body. For taking good care of it and laying it in a tomb no one has lain in. For although I know she has no further need of it, I will not forget the care and kindness they have taken with the one so dear to me. I also hope that they all, like our friend Joseph, are waiting for the One who is the Resurrection and the Life and long for His appearing.

I believe in Resurrection.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Cup of Wrath

cup of wrath“Jesus drank a cup of wrath without mercy, that we might drink a cup of mercy without wrath.”
– J. Oswald Sanders

 

Imagine that all of your deeds have been laid bare. Every evil thought, every harsh word, every wicked deed, every selfish desire, and any other thing you have ever done that is wrong. They also list every time someone cried out in need and you ignored it, every good deed that you could have done for someone but refused to do.

As the list is read, a cup nearby fills with the wrath deserved for such crimes. A lifetime of unpunished wrongdoing fills it to the brim and it foams with pain and loss and despair. Pain you deserve for all the evil you have done and all the good you refused to do for others.

Now imagine that God takes the cup and drinks it. All of it.

There is no more evil. There is no more pain. There is no more loss or suffering.

Because he drank it all. It is all gone. He has taken the punishment reserved for you into Himself.

And He has paid it in full.

You do not have to imagine it. He already did it.

For all who believe. It. Is. Finished.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
– Saul of Tarsus to the Church at Rome, circa 57 A.D.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 5, 2015 in Soteriology, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Curtain Call

Hamlet Cast17231The picture you see here is of a curtain call. The curtain call is the moment at the end of a play when all the actors come out from behind the curtain to take a final bow. I chose this particular curtain call as an object lesson, because this curtain call is from the play Hamlet. Why is that significant?

Because just a moment ago, nearly all of these people were dead.

For those familiar with William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, the story ends with a climatic duel that ends up causing the deaths of just about every single character. The very last scene see Hamlet’s friend bursting on the scene to find a castle hall full of the dead. The story ends, everyone dies.

But lo! The curtain call! Everyone is alive again! It turns out this play was just a work of imagination, just a brief lesson in miniature, and everyone is actually OK. Death was not the end for these people.

But real life does not work that way. Or does it? What does the bard say?

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII and Macbeth Act V, Scene V

Even the bard agrees, life is a play. The only thing I would disagree with is that last bit. The tale we are a part of is significant.

The Creator God is our Playwright. He gives us all a part to play and a job to do. A man, as the Bard says, might play many parts in his life. Everyone has entrances and exits onto the stage. The entrance is birth. The exit is death.

And yet, death is not the end. There is the Curtain Call. We call it the Resurrection.

It will be a day when all who belong to Christ who have mourned the dead and felt the sting of its loss will awake to find it was all just a play and that the deaths they suffered did not last. Everyone who was dead is alive once again!

The beloved elder cut down in Act I holds hands with the young man who died in the battle of Act V. Abraham, Paul, William Wilberforce, and Billy Graham will all take a bow and toss their crowns at the feet of the Great Playwright upon the glassy sea.

Then there will be the Cast Party called the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and nothing waiting but endless paradise.

Play your part well. The curtain soon falls.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Soteriology

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Do Not Stop Speaking


jesus.heal_Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 7:31-37

God does not do everything in a public forum. We offer a public invitation to repent and submit to Jesus Christ in churches every Sunday, but in reality people are not required to walk down the aisle to be saved. Some people have very public salvation experiences, and some are very private ones. Some are saved while the preacher is speaking, while others are saved once home and meditating on the things said. There is no one experience that is better than another.

This man was healed privately. Many of Jesus’ miracles, such as His feeding of the 5,000 men, were very public. Others, like this one, were very private. What connects them all is what happened afterwards.

Acts 4:1-22

Peter and John were threatened with prison, violence and death. Their response? “We cannot stop speaking about what we’ve seen and heard.”

They couldn’t stop. They were compelled. They were driven to speak about Jesus.

When Jesus touches someone, they cannot stop speaking about it. Even if Jesus tells them not to speak, they cannot help themselves.

What about you? How often do you speak about His love? How often do you proclaim His good news to others?

No one is stopping us. There are not yet soldiers in the streets to arrest us, beat us, or kill us. And yet we are stopped by sneers and ridicule, or simply indifference.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

We hold back because we want to please men. Even in the Church, a dangerous practice of pleasing men in a thin veneer called “seeker churches.” These people try to be “seeker” sensitive, not being overbearing towards those who come to their church seeking God.

Except, no Lost soul is seeking Him, for it is written:

“No one understands; no one seeks for God.”
Romans 3:11

Men do not seek God. God seeks out men to save them. The world has so blinded itself with sin that it is oblivious to the coming Judgement. We are the watchmen called to sound the trumpet and warn the people.

Ezekiel 33:1-9

We are required to sound the trumpet and warn the Lost. God will hold us accountable for every soul we had a chance to tell but did not. Every soul we tell that does not repent and heed our warning we are guiltless of. We cannot convince people of the truth, for it is also written:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1st Corinthians 2:14

In his natural, sinful state, humans cannot understand, cannot see the beauty of the Gospel. In fact, it’s complete nonsense. Only God can change that heart of stone to a heart of flesh, but He often uses us to do it.

Titus 2:1-10

“Adorn” here means to make alluring or attractive. So in a sense we are to make the Gospel more appealing to the Lost, but not by downplaying sin and Judgement, or by working around penal substitution, but by living according to the teachings of Christ in every way, showing the world that God’s way not only works, but is the best way to live.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
1st Peter 3:13-17

No one is saying go grab a sandwich board and stand on the street screaming at people to “turn or burn.” What the Bible says is to live a godly life and revere Christ as holy. Then, when people inquire as to why you live and love thus, you share the Gospel. We do not do this harshly or in judgement, but as dying men to dying men.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.
Colossians 4:5

Don’t stay silent. Be wise among unbelievers and look for opportunities. If you see one open up, you go for it!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 8, 2015 in Christology

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: