Saturday, February 26, 2011

Family Bookshelf: The Prince's Poison Cup by R.C Sproul

As I said in my last post, recently a friend of mine had recommended a couple of great books to me that have aided my wife and I in teaching our children the Gospel in ways they can understand and at the same time don't water down deep truth.  That second book is "The Prince's Poison Cup" by Dr. R.C Sproul.  The Prince in the story represents Christ and the story centers around explaining to children that the work of Christ was to take the cup of God's wrath for our sin.  

It paints a beautiful picture of Christ's death and resurrection for the ungodly against the staggering backdrop of our sin.  You can pick this up from Ligonier Ministries or Amazon.  Our children loved it and it really helped them understand and hopefully this will continue to lead them to a deeper love for Jesus.  Of course our hope, as is the hope of every parent, is that one day God will redeem our children and cover them in Christ's blood.

Hope this is helpful to you!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

BookSneeze Review: Voices of the Faithful Book 2 - by Beth Moore

I realize that before I write this I will be assaulting a "golden calf" that is near and dear to many Baptists, namely author/teacher Beth Moore.  That notwithstanding, let me offer up my thoughts on the book "Voices of the Faithful - Book 2".

The book is a collection of stories from missionaries serving, or having served, around the globe.  It is laid out in a one-year devotional style.  For the sake of reviewing this book I didn't read one per day but rather read them all across a few weeks span.  

What I liked about the book: Encouraging stories of how God has provided for missionaries in the field.  It is always humbling and encouraging to hear those testimonies coming from the foreign mission field.  

What troubled me about this book: Well, the worst part of this book was really that Beth Moore has a hand in it.  Beth tends to misinterpret Scripture on a constant basis when dealing with Old Testament passages and promises (but that's another post all-together).  There were multiple translations used for the book.  I realize that the translation used on a given day's reading may have been tied to the person who submitted the story, even still consistency is best.  Not to mention, some of the translations used were not as reliable as others in their handling of the Hebrew and Greek.

The absolute WORST thing about this book that would incline me to not only not recommend it but also to not buy this as a gift for someone is the presentation of the Gospel found in the back of the book on page 433.

The page is titled: "Have you heard God's Voice?".  Moore states plainly that once a person "accepts" God's offer of salvation we begin to experience peace and abundant life.  This phrase needs better explaining.  The peace we enjoy as Christians is not a peaceful or enjoyable life necessarily, but one of soul peace knowing that we have been set free from our sin and born again to a Living Hope in Christ.  Nor are we anywhere guaranteed an "abundant life" in the material sense of the word.

Next, we do not "invite Christ into our hearts".  Ephesians 2 makes it clear we are dead in our sin until God regenerates our hearts.  He initiates salvation and we receive Him gladly.  He doesn't need our acceptance folks, we need His.

She fails to take her readers through the Law to help them see their sin in light of God's truth.  Paul said he would not have known sin had it not been for the Law (Romans 7:7).  Instead she casually says we need to admit we are sinners.  She does not then call for the reader to repent, as Christ would have (Mark 1:15), but rather says we should "Commit to turn from our sins".

The most troubling part of this whole presentation was the last paragraph when she encouraged anyone who had prayed a sinner's prayer but was still not sure they were saved to get involved in church.  Listen, getting involved in church is important, but if someone isn't sure they are saved.  Why not encourage them to do what Scripture has directed and examine themselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) to make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).

No presentation of the Gospel, no matter how well explained, should be without explicit reference to Scripture.  To leave this out is to invite error and misunderstanding.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Family Bookshelf: The Church History ABC's

In addition to Scripture, which should always be first and foremost in our family discipleship, it can also be helpful and valuable to teach your children about "heroes" and "heroines" of the faith.  Teach them about those who have come before them and have given their lives (even unto death in some cases) for the glory of God and the defense of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  One such book aid for our family has been "The Church History ABC's".  It has been helpful in a three fold way for us.  It has helped us teach both our children some key facts about Christians gone before, it is written simply enough that my 5 year old daughter, who is learning to read, is easily able to read most words, and the alphabet structure has been helpful for my 4 year old son in helping him learn his alphabet.

You can pick this up from Amazon fairly reasonably.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Bottom Line: Lame Attempts At Relevance (Part 1)

This is a wonderful article written by my friend and brother in Christ, Cameron Buettel, addressing the foolishness that goes on in most "churches" these days in the name of relevance.

Enjoy!

Soli Deo Gloria,
j

The Bottom Line: Lame Attempts At Relevance (Part 1)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Family Bookshelf: Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt

If you are a parent who is trying to raise their child to love Jesus then you've no doubt faced the obstacles of communicating deep theological truths to your child in a way that will not only be understandable to them, but in a way that will be meaningful to them as they grow and have an impact on their choices in life.

Meg and I are ALWAYS on the lookout for tools and helps to assist us in communicating the truths of the Gospel to our children.  Recently my friend Brian recommended a couple of books to me that I would like to also recommend to you.  One of those books is "Sammy and His Shepherd" by Susan Hunt.  You can pick it up from Amazon.com or Ligonier.org.  This is a fantastic book to help your children understand how God cares for His children.  It is the story of Sammy, a sheep with a good Shepherd.  He meets a friend and throughout the story he is explaining to his friend how Christ redeems and loves us even though we do nothing to merit that love.

The whole story is an exposition of truths found in Psalm 23 and written in a way that young children can understand.  At the end of every chapter there is a discussion section that will help you lead your children in a discussion over the symbols in the book as they relate to Biblical truth.  Absolutely fantastic and absolutely something that every family should have on their bookshelf!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The difference between justice and mercy...

I am so amazed at how, in nearly EVERY realm of life, people mistake mercy and justice.  Justice is what is deserved for a particular act.  That can be positive and negative obviously... Mercy is what is not required to be shown in any given situation.  God is required to show justice.  His own inherent Holiness requires it.  He is never ever obligated to show mercy.  Even in our own human legal system.  We demand that courts bring justice, and we know that they are not obligated to show mercy.  Yet when it is on us that justice is being served, we cry out "That's not fair!" and demand mercy.  But mercy is never ours to demand in any situation.  Justice is what is due for a particular act. 

I am thankful that God showed me mercy for my infinite transgressions against Him, rather than showing me the justice that I so rightly deserved.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is Forgiveness Possible? ER

A friend of mine posted this video to his blog as a challenge to a couple commenters on his blog to watch this video and post how they would respond in this or any similar situation...

So I thought on it and decided I would like to put this on my blog as a question/ challenge not to anyone specifically but to anyone who would like to rise to the challenge.  We live in a day where, sadly, the Gospel in many situations is reduced to something trite.  "Get saved and God will make your life wonderful." Phrases like that.  Phrases that just fail to give the full Gospel (as depicted in Scripture) in all its wonder and beauty.

But a message like "God has a wonderful plan for your life!", would hardly connect and do anything meaningful for a person in a terminal situation... so the challenge.

1.) Watch the video
2.) Put yourself in the woman's shoes and give your response to this man who is more or less asking what he must do to be saved.  What would you say?  Please be thorough as possible and please back up all points with Scripture.

Please don't shy away from this challenge.  Scripture emphatically commands us to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15)... to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).  If you aren't sure how to go about sharing the Gospel Biblically then please email me and I would be more than happy to point you to what Scripture says about it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Christo-centric Marriage - Part 3

Lastly, let’s look at God’s model for the roles in the marriage.

Ephesians 5:1-2 – Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Ephesians 5:22-33 -  Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.  24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;  29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,  30 because we are members of His body.  31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Wives, you are to submit to your husband.  This doesn’t mean he is a slave driver to you.  It means that you submit to his leadership of the family so long as he isn’t leading your family to do anything that goes against the word of the Lord.  I understand that in our feminist society this is not an altogether popular idea, but it is the Godly model nonetheless.  Your submission to your husband is to model your submission to the Lordship of Christ in your life.  Think on that and read Matthew 6:33.

Husbands, love your wives.  Love them… how?  Just as Christ loved the church and GAVE Himself up for her.  That’s a lofty commitment that is called for from men.  Love the wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.  He died for the salvation of the church, not just a local body of believers obviously but all those who are truly born again, they constitute the true church of God.  The word 'love' there in Ephesians 5:25 there, in Greek, ‘agapao’ (ag-ap-ah-o).  It doesn’t imply perfect love as only God can show, rather it implies a higher love than merely a romantic infatuation type of love.  This is not a casual love that we are called to.  This is an intense love that compared to the world is radical and crazy and absolutely unheard of.  It is a love that is committed regardless of any other factor.  Practically speaking, our love for our spouse should be such that we seek to model that type of devotion towards the brethren.  Men, we are to commit to love our wives period.  Scripture gives no allowance for withholding or reducing that love because they don't do something the way we want.

Then Paul goes on to say that He [Jesus] gave Himself so that He might present the church in all her glory… spotless… blameless… holy… We are to love them above ourselves.  Do whatever it takes to lead her towards Godliness (Matthew 6:33) and away from sin and temptation.  So that we keep her (in as much as it depends on us) spotless, blameless, holy… before the Lord.  That’s a tall order of love.  It involves sacrificing our desires and comforts to love them with all we are.  And again we do so because it is a living illustration of the Gospel.  And God who saved us did not withhold any good thing from us but loved us, adopted us as His children, redeemed and forgave us, sanctified us, and will one day bring us into His presence in Heaven and glorify our sin marred bodies so that they are perfect and we are perfect.

Again we go back to the principle for both the husband and the wife, if God so loved us that He gave Christ, how can we who are not innocent fail to ‘so love’ our spouses knowing that we too are every bit in as much need of God’s grace every moment of every day.

Again, none of this is to be taken in an accusatory way.  I don’t have all the details for your specific situation.  I can’t (nor would I try to) force you to do anything.  You have to decide for yourselves.  I am also not claiming that I am the expert with a perfect marriage.  Marriage (as you well know) is work.  It is a continual journey.  If not for our sin natures that still creep in and tempt us with selfishness, we’d all be able to love one another perfectly.  Then again, if we could do anything perfectly we wouldn’t need Christ.  Since we do need Him, we must also trust Him in all things.  I am absolutely 100% in love with my wife and it probably takes much more forgiveness on her part to love me than it does me to her because I know that I do not always love her as Christ loved the church.  I am selfish and I put myself first far too often.

As I said, I’m not perfect, nor do I claim to be the expert.  I can only relate what Scripture says and tell you that as I've seen these principles for marriage in His Word it has been a convicting time where He has revealed that I don’t always love my wife as I ought to either.

Prayerfully, as Christians, we all can walk together in this and hold one another up and help one another so that we, together, can edify one another in the Lord.  Spurring one another on to healthy marriages and healthy lives that all point back to the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His saving Grace that was displayed on the cross!  The life that is not lived in a Christocentric fashion is the life that is wasted and that applies to all areas of life.  Keep that in mind as you move forward.  Pray and seek the Lord’s strength and wisdom in all things.  Know that I am here for you if needed and will do whatever I can to help.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Christo-centric Marriage - Part 2


The second thing is that love is not an emotion.  Love is not attraction.  Emotion is attraction.  Physicalities are emotion based attraction.  Love… is a choice.  We have to choose to love someone.  You hear people say all the time that the reason they got a divorce was because they simply "fell out of love with that person any more".  At the risk of sounding rude can I just say one word to that?  Poppycock.  Love is not a feeling, it is a choice.  You don't fall out of love any more than you fall in love, you CHOOSE to love.  Again, we find our answer to “How much or how deep should I love?” by looking at Christ.

So let’s examine these things from Scripture.

We’ll begin with love being a choice.  In keeping with our understanding that marriage is a covenental picture of the Gospel we will go to Ephesians 2.

In Ephesians 2, Paul opens with a bleak picture of the human condition… but a true one nonetheless.  Ephesians 2:1-3 - And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,  2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

So that’s us… dead in our sins.  Dead.  Our sins demanding God’s wrath and not deserving God’s mercy.  We are in that state unlovable in the sense that there is no merit in us what so ever that should cause God to set His redeeming love on us.

With that in mind, move on into verse 4 and beyond.

Ephesians 2:4-10 - But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

WOW!  What a picture!  We are unlovable, we are dead, we are helpless to change it.  God is not obligated to help us in any way, yet He chooses to!  He chooses to not only forgive us but lavish His unconditional love on us!  And He does so out of His rich mercy, His great love!  The Greek word used for love when referring to how God loves His children is ‘agape’.  The closest English equivalent is the word ‘love’, but in reality it has no equivalent.  It was a word that the authors of the Bible created to describe the unconditional loving grace of God.  No human can perfectly love anyone in the ‘agape’ sense and so no one else can bear that title.

That’s quite a picture.  We don’t deserve regular love from God, let alone a love that is beyond description!  Yet, He chooses to love us.  There again we see that love is a choice.

As you are choosing whether or not you will proceed in your marriage or walk away, keep in mind.  God chose to love you even when you were unlovable and continues to love you even though you (like me and the rest of us) sin from time to time and do things that should merit His rejection of you, yet He doesn’t…  If our marriages are a picture of Christ and salvation, then we ought to strive to love one another in the same fashion.  Loving one another regardless.  Not because of merit in the other person, but because God so loved us that He gave His only Son… if the Holy perfect God can find it right with Himself to love the unlovable (us), how much more should we be willing to love one another keeping in mind that none of us are perfect and therefore don’t have the right to refuse or reject one another.  Jesus said let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.

We can apply that same exact principle to the issue of forgiveness in marriage.  Think for a moment about your own sins.  Not the sins necessarily that are causing the issues in your marriage.  Open the scope up more widely than that.  Need some help?  Flip over to Exodus 20 and run through the 10 Commandments and see how many of them you’ve broken… In summary, have you always honored God as first in your life?  Have you created an idol in your life, something you devote yourself to or worship more than God?  Have you ever taken God’s Name in vain? That is called blasphemy and God takes it very seriously.  Have you always set aside one day out of seven to honor and worship the Lord… to rest and reflect on His love shown towards you?  Did you always honor and obey your parents growing up?  What about murder?  Jesus said that God sees hate in your heart the same as murder.  Ever commit adultery?  Before you answer quickly, no that Jesus said if you look on someone with lust then you have committed adultery in your heart.  Whether you were married when the lust occurred is immaterial.  Ever stolen anything, even something small?  Ever lied?  Ever coveted or desired something that wasn’t yours?

How did you do?  Have you kept any one of them perfectly?  I hadn’t… I don’t… James 2:10 says that if you’ve broken even one of the commandments then you are guilty of breaking them all because there is a totality to the law.

In salvation, did God… through Christ… not forgive you of every one of your transgressions of His law past, present, and future?  If you are in Christ, then He has removed your sins so far as the East is from the West.  Again remembering that God is perfect and Christ was sinless.   Yet He became sin on your behalf so that you might be redeemed (2 Corinthians 5:21).

If you answer yes that Christ has forgiven you of all your sin.  And you answer yes that He was Himself sinless and you didn’t deserve His forgiveness… then when we withhold forgiveness from our spouses for their sin we are placing ourselves in a higher court that God.

Do you see what I’m saying?  God did not withhold forgiveness to you for your sins against Him and He rightly could have.  But He didn’t, even to the point of the slaughter of His own Son.  Yet we can’t pray and plead with God to help us forgive our spouses for their sins?  Maybe if we were perfect we could withhold forgiveness if we wanted, but we aren’t so we can’t…

Plus, think about the message you send when you give up or walk away or fail to forgive or whatever in your marriage.  You are saying to that other person, I expect you to put up with my sins, my quirks, my wants… but I am not going to put up with yours.  And this doesn’t just apply to the person who leaves the marriage but also to the one who was left.  Regardless of who started it took two people… two sinners… to cause any issue.

Let me just interject that if at this point your mind is dwelling on the sins and shortcomings of your spouse and not your own, you've just discovered one part of your problem...  Listen, you may be innocent in any given situation of any wrong doing that has led to marital conflict, I grant you that.  But you are not innocent of guilt of all situations... that's my point, so in withholding forgiveness or walking away you send a message.

You are sending the message that your sins were deserving of forgiveness from the sinless Son of God, but the other persons sins aren’t deserving of your forgiveness… Ouch, kind of a punch in the gut for me personally for sure.

Christo-centric Marriage - Part 3

Friday, February 11, 2011

Christo-centric Marriage - Part 1

So this blog series (which will probably be two parts) needs a disclaimer before it.  I am in no way contending that I am perfect.  I am in no way contending that Meg and I have marriage all figured out.  I sin daily,  against my children and against my wife whenever I fail to love them and lead them as God has called me to do.  So please know from the beginning of this article that it is intended only to help you.  From one person figuring this stuff out Biblically to another who is going through the same trials and joys.  Hope that sets a tone that keeps with the way this was all written.

With that in mind I would just like to put forth some things for you to consider as you choose what you will do pertaining to your marriage.

Problems arise in marriage.  That's a given.  Even Christian marriages are not without their issues from time to time.  We should expect no less quite frankly.  Anytime you put a man and a woman together and tell them to fight their sin nature that screams for them to put themselves first and instead to love the other person sacrificially, anytime you do that... you are going to eventually stumble and instead of loving sacrificially you will love yourself more and act on that self-love.

Determining who is "to blame" in each argument is of little to no value.  The blame game isn't going to get you where you need to be in your marriage.  Sometimes arguments and fights stem from or cause distrust.  Every situation is different and I am in no place to diagnose each individual problem, however where the distrust originates is neither here nor there.  

What is important is asking yourself the question:  Do you commit to working this out or do you walk away?  Sadly in our world many turn immediately to walking away without a second thought.  But Christians are called to something different as we'll see as we progress.

Jesus said, in Matthew 19:6, that when two people marry they become “one flesh”.  Regardless of what the local court house and state records may show, God sees marriage as permanent.  Divorce is not optional from His view point.  Not in any scenario. (See Permanence View link below)

Now many would point to the Bible and say that adultery makes it legitimate for divorce.  In reality, Jesus said that MOSES allowed people to divorce for infidelity but it never says that God condoned or approved.  But adultery and infidelity is not the thrust of this post, so let's move on.

Fill in the following sentence with your personal situation:  You are upset with one another because of ____________________.  Insert the issues there.  One issue or a hundred issues… doesn’t matter… fill it in for yourselves.  What I want to communicate will apply the same across the board.

A teaching that really gets neglected by and large in the churches of our day is the fact that marriage is not just the union of a man and woman in matrimony.  It’s a picture of the Gospel.  The reason that marriage is a binding union is because when God regenerates and saves a person (salvation) it is a binding union of that person to Him.  Romans 8:1 – there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

We are eternally secure in Him.  Saved by Him.  Regenerated and forgiven by Him. 
Romans 8:28-35 - And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;  30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.  31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?  32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?  33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;  34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

We are secure in Him.  The meaning of that of course is securely forgiven.  No condemnation for our sins will come upon us.  That’s important because even though Christians are forgiven (saved) we still stumble into sin from time to time because our flesh is weak and none of us are perfect…

Knowing that even though I do sin, sometimes multiple times daily, still God will not reject the covenant of salvation that He has made with me in Jesus Christ.  He will not reject the promise that He made to me through the blood of Jesus Christ that purchased me.  He has adopted me as His child (and any other saved person) and therefore Christ paid the debt for the sins of my past, present, and future.

How does that relate to marriage?  Well, marriage then becomes more than just a union… more than just vows we take and aisles we walk on one day.  It becomes a life long journey.  Marriage is a covenant (another word that is largely lost these days in our teaching of marriage). 

Marriage is a covenant between two people and as we strive to understand how to make it work, we can find our answer.  Not simply by trying to work it out and get over the issue… but by looking first at Christ.  Loving out of the love with which He has loved us.  D. Martin Lloyd Jones said that the logic of our loving out of the love Christ showed us is “quite irresistible”.

Our marriages are a visible picture of the Gospel.  They are a living illustration of what Christ does for us in regeneration.

That’s the first thing I wanted to put out there.  



Christo-centric Marriage - Part 2

Some additional resources that may be helpful:
The Permanence View of Marriage - by Voddie Baucham
The Permanence View of Marriage - notes from the above
There was an error in this gadget