Monday, February 28, 2011

"I Want To Trust Jesus With All My Heart, but How?"

A reader from the Philippines wrote me with the following: "I have not prayed to receive Christ and I would like to investigate more.  I want to trust Jesus with all my heart but How?"  I post my reply here for your encouragement as you talk with others about Jesus.

Thank you for writing with such an excellent question. I will not only answer your question, but I will also tell you God’s will for your life. First, let’s look at what God says about the heart in the Bible: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). How do we trust Him who is Perfect with something He says is deceitful and sick?

Think for a moment about what is in your heart. We can do this by looking at God’s perfect standard (the Ten Commandments) which acts like a mirror to help us see what He sees—here are a few:

1) How many lies do you think you’ve told?

2) Have you ever hated anyone, or gotten so angry with someone that you wished they were dead?

3) Have you ever looked with lust?

4) Have you always your entire life loved God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength?

We have all lied, and that makes us liars. God’s law says that hatred is murder, and that looking with lust is adultery. God also says that no person seeks after Him with his or her heart (and God does not lie). We must stand before Him on Judgment Day and receive what is coming to us because of our sin, which is eternal death. (Romans 6:23)

Now, here’s the good news: God Himself stepped into time and space in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He kept all of God’s law and was perfect, yet, He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and He came back to life from the grave after three days!

Second, I said I would tell you God’s will for your life, and here it is directly from the Bible: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) God’s will is that you see the sin in your heart and desire to be clean from sin. God does not want you to die in your sin, but see how Jesus’ death on the cross delivers you from the penalty and power of sin, if you will only confess that you are a sinner and desire to have new life in Christ Jesus. We trust Him because He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Read Psalm 51, and please write me back when you have further questions!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Take Back Your Faith From the American Dream

I don't know what book or books you are reading right now and at this point, I really don't care.  Put it down.  Put them all down and pick this one up, open it, read it.  I triple-dog-dare you (that's right, I'm skipping the "triple dare," and am going straight for the throat)!


Buy it.
Borrow it.
Don't steal it (stealing is sin). 
Check it out from the library (and if they don't have it, get it by Inter-library loan). 
Buy a case, give them away. 
Wish-list it. 
Trade for it. 
Have someone read it to you. 
Read it over someone's shoulder (ask, first.  Have some couth).
Read it out loud in Sunday School.
Get it in large print.
Get it in Braille.
Get someone to translate it for you.

It will wreck your life.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Randoms

Are you "Christian Nice?"

Dr. Larkin, resident Faculty and Professor of Bible, Greek and New Testament at CIU's Seminary and School of Missions discussions Missions in the Gospel of Matthew.

"It’s too easy for us to think, 'I get along with God just fine. It’s all those people I can’t stand.' If you aren’t getting along with others, let the Holy Spirit do some serious soul-searching in you."  David Guzik writes about "What God Wants" from Hosea 6.

Vending Machine Attendant Admits B3 Selection Has Changed A Lot Over The Years.

I was going to post this last week . . .

Yes, Tim Challies, I have always wanted one of these:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Living in Wisdom, part 3: Is God being Cruel If He Laughs At Your Calamity?

Proverbs 1:7 prepares us for what the writer was inspired to teach. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7). This is the key verse for the entire book and it is here at the beginning that we must consent that what God has to teach us is complete and sufficient (either that, or He does not know what He is talking about, in which case it would be God’s will verses man’s will—and believe me when I say the struggle is not great for Him). We’ve already seen in 1:8-19 what God has to say to those who cast off instruction (“they lie in wait for their own blood, they ambush their own lives,” 1:18).

Wisdom can be difficult to describe and so that our feeble minds can grasp the concept, here we meet wisdom as a person. Proverbs 1:20 is the first time we meet Lady Wisdom, but this will not be the last time, as the imagery carries over in subsequent chapters. “Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy street she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city, she utters her sayings,” (Proverbs 1:20-21). Now, why would wisdom be causing such a ruckus? What is all this shouting about? Look down into verse 33, “But he who listens to me shall live securely, and shall be at ease from the dread of evil.” Wisdom knows something about unwise men she is desperate for someone to listen, so they will no longer be threatened by evil. Wisdom has seen what men do: “For their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed blood” (Proverbs 1:16). Listening to wisdom will be at peace and will rest securely as with a good friend. Evil brings no rest, no peace, no security, and certainly no friends. In the realm of evil, it is "every man for himself."

What is wisdom crying out, uttering? “How long will scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22) As a parent, you realize that you can only tell a child only so many times about the dangers they face. “Don’t do that because you will hurt yourself.” Then they get older and your warning becomes, "I told you to stop, or you will get hurt!" Then the teenage years hit and all you can say is, “That’s really going to hurt.” There's not much more I can say other than, "how long are you going to keep this up?"

Look at verse 32, where wisdom asks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love simplicity? . . . for the waywardness of the simple shall kill them, and the complacency of fools shall destroy them.” She is shouting, “stop running to evil and run to me!” I remember when our granddaughter discovered she could run (and she hasn’t stopped, either). We took her outside to let her explore the yard and she took off like a wind-up toy . . . right for the street! Have you ever noticed how fast toddlers can run—and if they don’t run fast, then why is it so hard for adults to catch them? Can you imagine the scene? Yelling and running and screaming and chasing—and of course she thought it was funny, so she is laughing and running right down the driveway (don’t worry, we caught her—but you have the imagery here). This is wisdom shouting after people running pell mell directly into danger, "Stop, or you will be destroyed!"

The direct connection between the fear of the Lord and gaining wisdom is seen in verse 23, "If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you." There are two beautiful truths here. First, God's Word is amazing in the ways it teaches (shows us what we should be doing) and reproves or rebukes (shows us where we fail); but, it does not leave us stranded there. God's Word also instructs (shows us what we should be doing) and trains in righteousness (gives us a game plan to do what we should be doing). Second, God gives us His Holy Spirit in order for us to BE what we could not or would not be and to DO what we could not or would not do. If you will allow God to do His work of wisdom in you, He gives His Word that He will help us learn about life and living in ways that we did not know before. Not everyone will accept God's counsel and will hate what God is doing because it wrecks their own plans for their own lives (verse 30).

Watch what happens here in the next set of verses. The principles are amazing:

  • God calls out, offering help and He is refused (v. 24);
  • How?  His counsel is neglected and His reproof is unwanted (v. 25);
  • What will happen?  God will laugh and mock at the stormy disaster of your life (v. 26-27);
  • How? You will call for help and God will refuse (v. 28);
  • Why? Knowledge and fear of the Lord are unwanted (v. 29);
Is God being cruel if He laughs?  Let us first ask if a man being cruel to himself when he rejects help being offered?  What kind of laughter is it?  It is not the laughter of pleasure in watching somone suffer; rather, it is the laughter of a father who has nothing left to say other than, "that's really going to hurt."  It's the kind of laugh you give a hobo who declines your offer to buy him something to eat when he asks you for some change.  It's as ridiculous as 2:20 - 2:35 in the video below:



And you KNOW there are people like that!

If a man chooses his own way instead of God’s way, a man will eat of his own fruit and be filled with those things with which he saturates himself (Proverbs 1:31).

Fearing God and being motivated by love for Him is living in wisdom, which is the way of life.  Should a person chose love for himself over love for God, a person destroys himself.

"He who listens to me shall live securely, and shall be at ease from the dread of evil.” (Proverbs 1:33)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Using Incense in Worship

A reader from Nigeria wrote with this question: "I am a catholic, I want to know the significance of incense during worship. Thank you."

The use of incense is found in the Bible, and is symbolic of things we offer to God. There are passages in scripture that describe prayer as being incense before God. The fellowship of God's people (I am summarizing) has been called "a sweet smell" to God. 2 Corinthians 2:15 says that we are the fragance or aroma, an agreeable smell of sacrifice ("incense," if you will) of Christ to God!

There is nothing magical or extra-spiritual about using incense. If you chose to use it, then enjoy God in Christ Jesus as you do so!




Friday, February 18, 2011

Living in Wisdom, part 2

Visiting the library is a regular feature of our family outings on Saturdays. We load up the back of the van with bags packed to near bursting capacity with books and movies checked out on previous visits and leave again with newly discovered blocks of paper. There is this really neat display right when you walk in the door of newly acquired books, but I have to hustle by them because I want to read every single one of them. Of course, it does not help that that is only the first floor of four, and little displays like little islands populated by tomes young and old, each cry out as I walk past, “Read me! Take me home with you!”

Ok, that one looks interesting. I pick it up, survey the cover, note the author. I flip the book over, looking for a reason that will convince me to read. Just a picture of the author on the back? 98% chance I won’t read it. A synopsis? More of a chance than a list of reviews, unless there are names I recognize. I flip the book open looking for something to tell me what the book is about. I look for an introduction, a preface. Now we are getting somewhere because here I am likely to be convinced to spend my time with this author. Give me a reason to read and tell me what it is about.

The author of the Old Testament book of Proverbs was inspired to do much the same thing. We have already noted the first six verses, where the author tells us why we should read Proverbs. Now we are going to look more closely at what the book is about. Verse 7 basically tells us what is going to be covered all the way through the end of Chapter 2. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) The book of Job is the oldest book of the Bible and in Chapter 28 there is an ancient and beautiful discussion that fits perfectly in this place.

The statement of verse 7 concerning the fear of the Lord as the beginning of knowledge is so important that it appears again Proverbs chapter 9, verse 10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” There is a point of clarification here that explains exactly what the “fear of the Lord” is: it is knowledge of The Holy One. If one desires to even get started with knowledge and how to use it, one must first have intimate acquaintance with the Holy One, the LORD. This means we must recognize Him as awesome. I was reminded recently of how small the word “awesome” has become: we say, “Those shoes are ‘awesome.’” No, they are not. God is awesome. He deserves such extreme and high reverence that everything else pales—He is incomparable and so completely “other” from everything else: He is the Creator. We get an idea of what this awesome fear is like when we look at Moses who “hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:6). If you can’t see what Moses saw, take a look at God’s perfect standard in the Ten Commandments and see how you measure up. “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:13)

Another aspect to consider here is to understand that those who fear the LORD are loyal to Him, bound up with Him, serve Him and walk in His ways, are faithful to Him, being obedient to His commands. (Psalms 33:18; 118:4; Ecclesiastes 12:13, to name a few) Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commands.” (John 14:15). Have you always loved God, every day of your life?

The writer of Proverbs sets up a contrast in verse 7: there are those who fear the LORD and there are fools who despise wisdom and instruction; in other words, there are those who do not fear the LORD. How would you recognize a person like this? Interestingly, the writer makes an appeal to make certain that the one sitting at his feet (as it were) is not a fool (verses 8-9):

  • The not-fool will hear his father’s instruction and will not cast off and walk away from his mother’s teaching. The fool is a quitter, a deserter; 
  • The not-fool is decorated with a garland, a wreath, a trophy, a crown and necklaces. The picture is one who has a “long neck”; in other words, he can hold his head high, not out of pride, but out of a clear conscience from being guilt-free having obeyed.
Charles Bridges (1794 - 1869) observes: "Why then do multitudes around us despise wisdom and instruction?  Because, the beginning of wisdom--'the fear of God'--is not before their eyes (Psalm 36:1).  They know not its value.  They scorn its obligation.  Wise they may be in their own sight.  But surely God here gives them their right name."

Have you always obeyed your parents? Was there ever a time when you felt that your father was full of hot air? Have you ever rolled your eyes when your parents were talking to you?

Remember how we noticed that a “simple” person is one who is easily enticed? Notice verse 10: “my son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” We are all susceptible to temptation, but we don’t have to give in. This is one of the great blessings of being a follower of Christ and a do-er of His Word: we are saved not merely from the penalty of sin (that is, hell) but we are also saved from the power of sin! We don’t have to consent to sin! So if someone comes along with a proposition you can’t refuse, refuse it!

The enticement of sinners in this case is explained in verses 11-14: they want to murder and steal—and they don’t have to have a reason other than their own covetousness! Notice how they say, “Let us lie in wait for blood, let us ambush the innocent without cause.” These people are convinced they can take on hell itself with even more hellish behavior and take whatever they want. Here’s the truth of the matter: fast-forward to verse 18: “they lie in wait for their own blood; the ambush their own lives.” This is self-destruction. Every person who seeks to gain by doing violence loses his life. What profit is there to gain the whole world and lose the soul?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Randoms

Ed Welch writes, "It feels so right – so spiritual – to live with regrets. It means you feel bad for the wrong things you have done or think you have done, and that sounds like a good thing. If you forget those wrongs, you are acting like they were no big deal."  (ht: Tim Challies)

Dr. Walt Kaiser comments on Egypt and Isaiah 19.

Dr. William Larkin asks, "What does the New Testament Have to Do With Missions?"

This is one way to hear "the music of the spheres!"

Knockin' on Heaven's Door.  "Through our Christian lives, we will pass through valleys and low points.  It's not a matter of if, but when."  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Living in Wisdom, part 1

The Old Testament book of Proverbs is a collection of little snippets, sayings, trite words of instruction from an array of sources. Solomon, the son of King David, was the principle collector of proverbial sayings and may have even authored a few. 1 Kings 4:32 says, “He also spoke 3,000 proverbs and his songs were 1,005.” His name is directly attached to those found in the first twenty-two chapters of the book though interestingly, the Psalms only contain just one of his songs. There are “sayings of the wise” (chapters 22-24); proverbs of Solomon as they were copied by Hezekiah’s men (25:1-29:17); the words of Agur (chapter 30); and finally, the words of King Lemuel, as he recalled the teachings of his mother (chapter 31).

What are the Proverbs? What is the purpose of a collection of sayings and quotes, anyway?

To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth--Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.” (1:2-6, ESV)

One cannot read Proverbs and be passive. This would be like keeping a jar of fortune cookies in a jar simply because the words on slips of paper are clever. Proverbs demand action.

Proverbs are for wisdom and instruction. These sayings are schemes, or plans for truth. The one who puts these plans into action are brought into line with truth. The student of Proverbs who “gets” truth is moved to think rightly, able to discern or distinguish between things rightly, to “read between the lines” with a certain measure of insight. When one follows the instruction of these words then his behavior will change, there will be goodness and fairness in everything. Interestingly, man thinks he can generate goodness and fairness, righteousness and justice from within himself. The truth is, these are attributes that God shares with His creation. When we are in tune with God’s heart and walk in obedience to His Word, we live out the reality of what it means to be made in His image. If we could generate these qualities without God, then what is the purpose of this instruction? Proverbs and wise sayings would be pointless.

Not too far into the first chapter, Solomon asks a question that demands an answer: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?” (1:22) There are folks out there who are absolutely fed up with being used by others, yet they feel all they do is flit from one disaster to another, easily distracted, persuaded, enticed, exploited. These need direction, confidence. Perhaps one is so open-minded that he or she can’t seem to commit or decide on anything. The book of Proverbs contains the promise that even the simplest person who lives by these words will be the recipient of good judgment and common sense and enough caution to avoid making regrettable decisions. This is good news to the one who is convinced that he or she can do nothing right. This brings to mind the promise of Psalm 1: the one who meditates on God’s Word day and night will be like a tree planted by streams of water, giving fruit in season!

Students and young adults alike have somehow become persuaded they know everything, or at least just enough to go out there and make it on their own. This is God’s way of saying, “No, you don’t. But then, most adults don’t know everything either.” There is no accident that that youth will receive knowledge and discretion from these proverbs because acting on them is acting on God’s unchanging Word! All scripture teaches, rebukes, corrects and trains in righteousness for the purpose of making competent and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

God calls the person who will increase in their learning from these Proverbs “wise.” That’s marvelous, to think that God notices the obedience of one who desires to be pleasing to Him that He can say, “there is a wise person.” The one who consents and agrees to the lessons of Proverbs moves upward in learning! One will then truly “know” as he compares what is before him as he is able to interpret the opportunity before him and decide the right course. His decisions will be grounded on God’s Word and His authority and not made with spontaneity, lacking foundation. What a contrast from the wisdom of the world, where one makes decisions simply because his gut feeling is right and we figure it out along the way.

Sit down and read Proverbs. Learn and understand the words of the wise. Most have observed through simple “horse sense” that there are 31 chapters in the book, one for each day of the month. Read them, read them and read them. When you are finished, read them again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is Jesus a Prophet?

Someone from the Philippines wrote and asked [only spelling errors have been corrected], “One day, I told them about Christ but they don't believe. They ask me ‘Jesus is a prophet. Allah sent Him to us but He is not a prophet because He prayed to the God of Heaven like us. Why do you worship Him?’ What would be the answer?”

First I would ask, “You say first, ‘Jesus is a prophet,’ then you say ‘He is not a prophet.’ What do you mean by ‘prophet’? How can He be a prophet and not be a prophet?” Islam teaches that Jesus is both “nabi” (prophet) and “rasul” (messenger). The Prophet Moses wrote, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15) Jesus is the prophet of whom Moses spoke.

Jesus is the greatest of the prophets, many of whom go unnamed in Islam. Without these prophets, most of the scriptures we call the Old Testament would be missing. Praise God that no one is greater than He, who does not allow His Word to be changed! Jesus’ teachings not only cover a wide range of subjects but contain more prophetic messages than the writings of all previous prophets! His teachings came from God.

Jesus clearly revealed God through His words and His works. The Injil records Him as the eternal source of knowledge, truth, wisdom and light. We worship Him because He revealed God. He is the servant of God, the son of David, the son of man, the Lord, the Savior, the new Adam, our mediator, our payment, our high priest. The Prophet Isaiah called Him “Immanuel, which means, ‘God With Us.’”

Second, I would ask, “The Quran teaches to read the books that came before (Surah 10:94), so of whom was the Prophet David writing in the Zabbur, Psalm 22? Of whom did the Prophet Isaiah write in Isaiah 53?”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Randoms

"Facebook: A New Kind of False Intimacy."

Statistician Cracks Secret Code Behind Lottery Tickets.  "“The tickets are clearly mass-produced, which means there must be some computer program that lays down the numbers . . . . it has to generate the illusion of randomness while actually being carefully determined.”

Painted rooms that require the right perspective.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

"Resisting the Wrong Time" by Claude Alexander

Satan tried to keep the student body at CIU from hearing this message, but Claude Alexander of The Park Ministries was able to deliver "Resisting the Wrong Time" during Tuesday's Chapel.  Don't miss this!

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