Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Practicing God's Promises

Just a quick word from God's Word. Today I came across 2 Peter 1:4 as I was spending some time in the the Scriptures:

2 Peter 1:1-4 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Peter begins his letter with an exhortation for God's people to enjoy and savor the 'precious and magnificent promises' that are ours from God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. I was struck by how much the writers of Scripture revel in God's promises. They gloried in the promises recieved and presently at work in their lives. They eagerly hoped in the promises to come, "For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised" (Hebrews 10:36). Consider as well that Peter sees our view and enjoyment, perhaps we may even say our practice of God's promises as a source of sanctification and a means to holiness.

I suppose there are several ways that this is true- but I'll just talk about one way that God's promises are a source and means of holiness and sanctification. Coupled with the blessing of deep and abiding joy, the promises of God as instruments of obedience and purification blessed my heart and mind yesterday.

Life in a fallen world is full of struggle. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but we live in an age that denies the patent reality of sin and falleness while desperately seeks to avoid or pass off the struggle. Life is hard, then you die. There is a great deal of truth to this sentence. And it is sheer silliness as a Christian to put on a big vapid grin and pretend the hardness of life and the fight for joy isn't necessary if you're saved (pronounced with a deep southern fried accent: say-ivduh). If anything, believers will face MORE struggle. Our fight will be more treacherous. We are strangers and aliens. "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (1 Tim 3:12). Those who are IN the world but not OF it have real and awful struggles in this life.

In my own life and in my ministry as a shepherd when I face these struggles and hardships I tend to paw and scratch feverishly about for some way to alleviate the pain and remove the struggle. In providing pastoral counsel I rack my mind for ways to minimize the struggle in a couple's marriage, or the minimize the pain of the alienation between a teenager and a father, or get the wife who lost her husband to keep her chin up. We do this through positive thinking: just watch a Joel Osteen broadcast; denial: it'll go away if you just close your eyes, ears, and mouth, or through human endeavor: I'll fix it! I work my way out! I'll make a list and attack the issues one by one! Most of the time we make a creative fusion of all three. In each case we miss out on enjoying the source for hope and joy and an instrument of holiness and growth.

Positive thinking and human endeavor, even denial in a strange way, is making much of yourself as a solution to your problems. It is exalting your mind and your words as a means of victory. It is exalting your power and your acheivements as a way to beat sin and struggle. No matter how great your words are- life is hard, then you die. No matter how hard you work- life is hard and then you die. No matter how much you deny and avoid it- life is hard, then you die.

In considering the promises of God that are ours through Christ and to be enjoyed in the world to come we make much of God and from such a perspective we minimize ourselves. As he increases, we decrease- and our problems and struggles are put into proper perspective.

Do you struggle with ongoing and ever present sin? Consider the promises of God - you have become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21); you have been given the sanctifying work of the Spirit (1 Pet 1:2); greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Fight sin with the promises of God and their reality in your heart!

This can, indeed MUST be done in every arena of our life. In every circumstance, in every problem, in every conflict, we must sink our roots deep down in the promises of God. Let his Word, His promise, and the fulfillment of them (whether present or future) be fuel for joy, for relief, for endurance in our lives.

Yesterday, as I obsessed over a complex of issues that I faced for that day- the Lord said to me, "Son! LOOK AT MY WORD!" As I looked at Peter's letter I decided to drink deep the fountain of God's promises that poured out, and not go away thirsty hoping the world, the flesh, or the devil might offer me a cup.

All those problems are not solved. I have not found complete resolution in each conflict. I did not go through the day with a pristine attitude and total victory over all my sin. But, throughout the day God's promises energized me to take hope in the goodness and greatness of God. His promises were fuel for my weak heart when it tended toward despair or depression. It propelled me to holiness when my flesh enticed me to go down its path.

God has given precious and magnificent promises! As I dwell on his goodness and greatness my problems didn't go away- they were just put in their proper place.

Peter tells us in God's Word:
"we have received faith by the rigteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ"
"grace and peace are multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord"
"his divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him"
"we have been called by His glory and excellence"
"he has granted us His preciaous and magnificent promises"
"by these promises we become partakers of the divine nature"
"by them we have escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust"
And, further down in 1:10-11 we find this great promise: Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

So, life is hard and then you die. By the promises of God we can look this reality in the face and say, "God is good and great and his promises are precious and magnificent!" I hope that these truths from God's Word might be fuel for joy and obedience in your life today by God's grace.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In Case You're Tired of Me...

You can buy another pastor here.

Labels: ,

The Word was God.

In this past Sunday's sermon on the Trinity, I spoke briefly regarding John 1:1 as a witness to the deity of Christ and the Jehovah's Witness (JH) mistranslation of this verse. I'd like to recap it here- several of you had asked about it.

A discussion about the JH mistranslation of this passage is simple and difficult. It is simple because the normal, historic, critically and scholarly translation of John 1:1 follows a very basic rule of grammar. To argue with it is rather silly. But, it is always difficult to argue with someone who is unable to accept simple and plain truth. Sometimes arguing with a JH's interpretation of this verse is like debating whether or not the sky is blue.

Here's the deal- in the original Greek this clause reads (transliteration): theos en ho logos. Greek is an inflected language, and word order in translation depends upon case ending. In this verse we find that both 'theos' - God and 'logos'- Word have the nominative, masculine, singular ending. Word- 'logos'- has the article 'ho' before it, while 'theos'- God; does not. The JH translation, the New World Translation, claims that because there is no definite article before 'theos', then it should be translated 'a god' (and so deny the full deity of Christ and assert a sort of Arian, sub-deity, quasi-divinity of Christ).

But, this translation ignores the fundamental rule at work in this clause. In this very simple Greek clause we have two nouns both with the nominative ending (the-os and log-os)connected by the verb 'to be' (eimi or en). We would not know which now stands in the subject position and which stands in the predicate position (the word was God or God was the word?). The rule is that the noun without the article is the predicate and the noun with the article (ho logos) is the subject. We find in this clause that 'theos' is put first, though it is the predicate. John places the predicate in front of the subject as a matter of emphasis. I believe that in the context we can discover plainly that he does this to boldly emphasize the deity of this eternal, preexisting 'logos'.

There are two other interpretive/translation principles that are broken by the JH's on this passage. First, they are fundamentally allowing a theological bias drive translation. Of course, we do recognize that no one is ever without some sort of bias. And, of course, we bring various orthodox convictions to the table whenever we do translation and interpretative (to some degree, us being human and all). But we cannot let it override plain readings of the text. Also, to say that John simply introduces a concept of a created, divine being ('a god') in the face of two thousand years of revealed Jewish monotheism is ludicrous. The JH fundamentally reject the deity of Christ and mistranslate the Scriptures to suit their heresy.

Secondly, the whole context of John 1:1-18 militates against such a denial of the deity of Christ. John is arguing and presenting the whole humanity and the whole deity of Jesus in this passage (indeed, throughout his gospel and his first epistle) while also maintaining the whole counsel of God which reveals his nature as ONE (John 1:1, 18; 8:58; chs. 14-17)! So, the JH mistranslate the Scriptures in the face of the plain contextual force of John's argument.

Here are a couple of resources that might further help in your defense of historic Trinitarian Christianity when reasoning with a Jehovah's Witness or anyone else who denies the biblical teaching on this matter: Christian Research Institute and Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry might be good places to start.

Labels: , ,

The Doctrine of God - Resources

Here are some resources on the doctrine of God (theology proper) and the Trinity that I thought helpful.

Packer's classic work Knowing God is a great primer. Every Christian MUST read this book. His first four chapters are an excellent introduction to theology and the being and Trinity of God.

A harder read (average to super theologian), but great stuff, is found in my seminary profs two works- The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God and The Doctrine of God by John Frame. At the Frame and Poythress website there are a ton of great articles, essays, and resources for the believer's study and sanctification.

Of course, the two main systematic theologies that I am using in my preparation for Theology 101 every week are Grudem and Culver. But a cheap buy, and a classic theological set that would be great to have at your fingertips is Charles Hodge's three volume work (three beautiful books- a classic in protestant theology- for about 20 bucks!).

There is a wealth of resources over at one of my favorite site monergism.com They have a great list of articles on theology, attributes of God, and the Trinity. Check it out.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Aggressive System

I am reading the second volume of Dallimore's now classic biography of the great revival preacher George Whitefield. I commend both volumes to you as you seek out encouragement and learning from the biographies of great saints. (I commend to you the biographical sermons of John Piper- every year he researches and presents a biographical sketch of a giant of the Christian faith at his Pastor's Conference). I came across this great quote from Bishop J.C. Ryle on the life and ministry of Whitefield:

"Whitefield was the very first Englishman who seems to have thoroughly understood what Dr. Chalmers aptly called the aggressive system. He was the first to see that Christ's ministers must do the work of fishermen. They must not wait for souls to come to them, but must go after souls, and 'compel them to come in.' He did not sit tamely by his fire-side...mourning over the wickedness of the land. He went forth to beard the devil in his high places. He attacked sin and wickedness face to face and gave them no peace...In short, he set on foot a system of action, which up to his time, had been comparatively unknown in this country, but a system which, once commenced, has never ceased to be employed..."

I think of Paul's word to Timothy, "do the work of an evangelist". Don't let the ministry get in the way of the 'aggressive system' of being a fisher of men through the preaching of the gospel everywhere, all the time.

I am convicted, as I sit here in a local coffee shop, with the reality that the man dutifully surfing the web across the room will most likely not walk over and ask me my testimony of faith in Christ. But, there is certainly nothing but my pride (and the need to answer emails and put up blog posts and other busy busy ministry things) keeping me from walking over to him.

Labels: ,

The Dreadful Work of Homemaking

Over at Carolyn Mahaney's (along with her daughters) excellent blog you'll find ongoing conversations with women, by women, for women on the joys and struggles of biblical womanhood. They have a few posts with some great quotes from Chesterton from a great little piece he wrote called The Emancipation of Domesticity. Here's a sample that Tori and I thought profound and encouraging:

"[W]hen people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge [at his work]. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean…. I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children [arithmetic], and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness."

Consider Chesterton's words the next time you roll your eyes at a woman who doesn't 'work' but 'stays at home'. Remember this quote at your temptation to think disparagingly of the woman who schools her children at home rather than ply her trade in the marketplace as if this were some ignoble vocation. Or just remember God's Word,

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, anot malicious gossips, nor be enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being bsubject to their own husbands, cthat the word of God may not be dishonored." (Titus 2:3-5)

"So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander." (1 Timothy 5:14)


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Culture of Offendedness

[Guest Blogger: Ryan Oelshlager, Four Oaks Pastor of Student Ministries. Originally written for student ministries newsletter.]

Recently I’ve been especially bothered by a news phenomenon: Whether it’s watching a politician at a rally or listening to an athlete talk about an upcoming game: They all sound the SAME. The person may be different (eg., Barack Obama now attacking John McCain instead of Hillary Clinton) but the talking points are the same. What is it about our culture that prevents a person from saying something original?

Believe it or not, I think the answer to this question has vast implications for parenting...stay tuned.

Albert Mohler, prolific Christian author and president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, aptly addresses this question in a book I’ve been reading called Cultural Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth. Mohler agrees with Christian philosopher Paul Helm who says, “Historically, being offended has been a very serious matter. To be offended is to be caused to stumble so as to fall, to fail, to apostasize.” As evidence Professor Helm utilizes the language of the KJV when Jesus says to his disciples: “And if they right eye offend thee, pluck it out” (Mt. 5:29) and also Jesus’ warning toward those who would “offend” the “little ones” (Mt. 18:6).

This is a very subtle but important change in the usage of offendedness. Now, any emotional distaste is deemed offensive. And public figures apologize not for wrongdoing but “if anyone was offended.”

Mohler goes on to argue: “[We must recognize] that some degree of real or perceived offendedness is the cost society must pay for the right to enjoy the free exchange of ideas and the freedom to speak one’s mind.” Indeed, especially if we are to be salt & light to the world, but even if we are to grow as a society, different and/or unusual ideas must be set forth. And different ideas offend by the very fact that they are different.

I deeply sympathize with parents of teenagers with regard to this issue. On the one hand, if you protect your children from the world and deadly worldviews, they stand a better shot at having a different voice, a salty voice that stands out—but, having been protected, face the risk of not actually letting their voices be heard.

On the other hand, for those who tend to more promptly release their children into the world, while the child is more likely to discover his/her voice, we are left questioning what are the convictions behind that voice and to what degree has my child’s saltiness been lost to the world.

This is no easy dilemma.

Christ calls us to be in the world but with a distinct mission. Both must occur. We must risk our child to be in the world and make mistakes and learn while they are still under our care and guidance. We can reel them back in now—we cannot when they go to college. But we also need to challenge them regarding their mission. What is their mission in being on the football or volleyball team? What is the purpose in going to this party or to befriend Jim? Because their mission isn’t to simply offend, but to put forth the cross of Christ as the offense (1 Cor. 1:23).

I pray for wisdom for you as you train your child for a salty voice in this culture of offendedness.

Rarely offended (except by my own sin),

Ryan Oelschlager

Pray for our High Schoolers!

Our High Schoolers left last Saturday for a week in Taylorsville, N.C. They will be engaged in a variety of things on this mission trip- such as evangelism training, planning and carrying out a Kids Club program, restoring homes and carrying out acts and missions of mercy in the community. I urge you to lift up our brothers and sisters in Christ during this week of service and kingdom building.
I’ll go ahead and post the daily prayer guide through this week for some pointers and helps as you lift the team up in prayer: (you can pray retroactively for the past days!)

Saturday, June 28 – Protection
“For our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:20
-spiritual protection from the deceptions and attempts to divide by the enemy
-physical protection and safety
Pray specifically for: Stephen Scaringe, Zac Howard, David Stewart, Brittany Hill, Mitch Overton

Sunday, June 29 – Unity
“complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love.” Phil. 2:2
-unity of purpose – to share the gospel of grace and call for response of faith alone.
-unity among students of different ages
-unity between Four Oaksters, the youth works leadership, and other churches
Ryan Oelshlager, Ariel Currieo, Taylor Dayton, Porter Watson

Monday, June 30 – Evangelism
“Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…that I may make it clear.” Col. 4:3-4
-God would prepare hearts and quickly provide opportunities to build relationships
-Kids and parents would respond to gospel
-Students would take the faith risk to share when opportunity is present
Rob Pifer, David Fish, Andrew Ferguson

Tuesday, July 1 – Agents of Mercy and Justice to the Poor
“If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noon day.” Isa. 58:10
-God would help us partner with Youthworks and other local churches to restore a sense of dignity and hope in the midst of poverty and great need.
Nancy Duff, Caleb Peters, Colton Dudley, Sarah Casteel

Wednesday, July 2 - Sanctification/Growth
"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make your worthy of
his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by
his power, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thess 1: 11-12
-Pray that ‘resolves’ for good on the part of students would more &
more spring from faith & be prompted by God’s grace in their lives
>> that students would see that temporary compassion & mere
mushiness won’t carry the day <<
-Students & leaders would further conform to the image of Christ as
they serve Him and rely upon Him.
Michael Argersinger, Sarah Crawford, Ryan Crawford,
Daniel Sellinger.

Thursday, July 3 - Leadership & Accountability
"If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall
ask, and God will give him life..."-1 John 5: 16
-Wisdom amongst leaders to balance encouragement and prayer
for sin with gently confronting any student caught up in sin.
-Pray that any confrontations would lead to restoration & growth.
Sarah Duff, Josh Elliot, Sarah Jean Fickett.

Friday, July 4 - Perseverance
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you
may not grow weary or lose heart. -Hebrews 12:3.
-Persevere in recognizing and receiving God’ gracious love
-Persevere in sharing the gospel and loving their neighbor upon
returning home.
-Persevere in a commitment to fellowship during the summer & fall.