Friday, September 29, 2006

A Strange Encouragement

Philippians 1.14: Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

God is amazing in how He works. We might expect to hear how believers go into hiding or they keep their mouths shut. Instead we read that when Paul had been put in prison because of the gospel the brothers responded with more courage and less fear. The world's threat is nothing compared to God's power. Chains and prison cannot stop the advancement of the gospel and the proclamation of the Word.

A good lesson in our day. Despite opposition, God is able to plant in the believer's heart courage and boldness so that the world may hear the good news of Jesus. And, despite suffering in a believer's life, they still have opportunity to share God's Word.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Read a Good Book Lately?

Proverbs 13:20: He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

Do you want to grow in wisdom? Do you want to grow in your ability to apply God's Word to everyday life? Pick up a good, Godly book and take a walk with the wise. As mentioned in the previous post, I am reading Getting the Gospel Right by a former professor of mine - Dr. Venema. I am really enjoying the book and it is bringing me further understanding on certain issues.

However, Proverbs 13.20 gave me another perspective about how I am spending my time - I am not just reading a book - I am walking with the wise. I am spending my time in the company of the Godly and learning the application of God's Word for my life. The result is growth in wisdom - growth in the understanding and application of God's Word.

We spend enough time being a companion of fools as we easily turn on the TV or sidle up to the computer. Take time to walk with the wise as you pick up a good book - and you will grow in wisdom.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Getting The Gospel Right by Dr. Venema

Dr. Cornelis Venema, a professor from Mid America Reformed Seminary, has written an excellent little book entiltled: Getting the Gospel Right: Assessing the Reformation and New Perspectives on Paul. Before Dr. Venema assesses the New Perspective, he solidly lays the foundation of justification as understood by the Reformers. Of course one of the arguments for those who hold to the New Perspective is that the Reformers never really understood the problem Paul was dealing with in the New Testament. As a result, the view of justification handed down by the Reformers is misleading and distorted.

Following chapter 2 in which Dr. Venema lays out clearly and succinctly the Reformation Perspective on Paul, he writes a chapter briefly outlining the 'New Perspective' on Paul by Sanders, Dunn and Wright. The final chapter offers a critical assessment of the New Perspective.
If you have struggled with understanding this issue or know others who would like to understand further, this book is compact (92 pages), profound, simple, concise, readable and above all Biblical. For Dr. Venema, this book is a condensed version on a much longer book on the subject which will be printed later by Banner of Truth Trust.

Any attack on justification must be taken seriously and understood Biblically. Dr. Venema has put together an excellent book which deals with these matters for everyone to read.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Self Destructive Heart

Revelation 9.5-6: 5They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

In our evening services we are going through the book of Revelation. Revelation 9.1-12 tells us that demonic forces led by Apollyon (Destruction) come up unbelievers and torture them for 5 months. (I hold that the time this happens is between the first and second coming of Jesus and they are not a literal army of locusts). The torture will be so horrible on unbelievers that they will long for death but it will elude them.

What is John saying? Satan will attack his own people, torture them and then bring them to hell with him. Awful. We speak of the natural human heart in many ways - dead, deceived, hard, wicked, sinful - and it is all true. But when we read Revelation 9, we need to add another to the list: self-destructive. The human heart, in its rebellion, destroys itself as it follows its master - Apollyon.

The master unbelievers serve is Satan but this very master they serve seeks to destroy those who serve him - he is the Destroyer after all. And so those who live apart from Christ live thinking they have found life but in reality are destroying themselves. Satan is not kind to his people and all we need to do is look around and see the trouble and turmoil in people's lives.

This leads to two thoughts: First thank God for salvation, His gracious calling and His kindness. Is our God not good to send His Son Jesus to die for sins? We read in comparison to the destructive ways of Satan, Jesus has come so that your joy may be complete. (John 15.11) He is good.

Second the desperate need to be about the business of speaking to others about the goodness of Jesus. Without Jesus people will destroy themselves as they are deceived by empty words (Ephesians 5.6) and enter hell for all eternity. When have you been able to share God's goodness to a "ticking time bomb world" ready to blow itself up?

Friday, September 22, 2006

John 14.1-4: 1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."

This morning I sat at Tim's with a coffee in hand as I read this passage and thought: isn't it amazing that Jesus is preparing a place for His people? I wonder what it will be like? This world is filled with unbelief, rebellion, hurt, pain, trouble. I visited a Christian couple just a little while before and they were telling me of their pain - real pain. I think of my own physical house and how much work needs to be done - and yet Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for us and he will come back and it will be ready - completely perfect in all its splendour and glory. Isn't it amazing to think that he says I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. Jesus wants me to be were he is - he is the bridegroom coming for His people.

As you can tell, meditative thoughts can be rather scrambled but what a blessing to my heart. My Jesus is preparing a place and I am invited. He will bring me to glory and I will be with Him because He desires my presence - a undeserving sinner saved alone by Him. One day this world will pass away and there will be no more tears or pain or sin or sorrow. What a place!

Do you know what was so encouraging? Taking a few moments out of a busy day, forgetting some of the troubles and the surrounding rebellion and simply to focus on my coming life with Jesus in His presence. And I found my heart at rest, ready to serve Him because one day this will all be gone and I will be where Jesus is.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bring The Cloak Please

In 1 Timothy 4:13 we read Paul giving instruction to Timothy When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. I have often heard this passage used as a reminder that Paul, even though he was an apostle and late in his life, wanted to learn and grow spiritually. Good point.

But when I read this passage again, my mind turned to the coat. It would appear that Paul not only desired to learn but at the end of his life he did not have a cloak. He needed his one cloak brought to him. OK, he may already have had a cloak but he needed another one to keep him warm. The point is that at the end of his life, ministry had cost him everything - he was in prison, no possessions, not even enough clothing to keep him warm.

So - we need a life that is balanced - bring me the parchments - and please, bring me my cloak. What a great example as we read that Paul lived out Jesus' words in Matthew 6: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

A good reminder to live our lives so that at the end of our lives we ask for our parchments and a cloak.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Learning To Listen

In Mark 9.38 we read the disciples had a problem - a man was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. How horrible! Well, that was really not the problem. The problem was that this man who was actively serving Jesus, trusting that the power of Jesus could confront the powers of darkness and win - this man was not one of us. That was the problem.

So they take their problem to Jesus and Jesus uses it as an opportunity to explain that they do not need to be one of us, rather they need to be one with HIM.

Jesus explains that concept in verses 39-49 - to be one with Jesus in ministry is to be for Jesus (39-41); it is to not lead others into sin (42); it is to put to death sin in our lives (43-48); and it is to be salty - that is to be actively serving the Lord even though it will come at a cost (49-50). That is Christian ministry.

But there is a temptation and that is to think that we are the only ones doing true, real, vital ministry in the name of Jesus. There is a danger in how we speak about other Christians in becoming to narrow, to critical and to judgmental. We think we stand alone and if we die, truth dies. Jesus' response is do not stop him - there is no middle road. He is either for me or against me.

A good lesson in times when Christianity may seem to be sliding and doctrinal precision is a thing of the past. We are not the only ones serving the Lord. There will be diversity in the way people serve God and there will be true disciples of Jesus who are for Him who are honoring His Name.

How do we protect ourselves against the battle that wages in the disciples heart? There may be lots of ways but I think a beginning point is listen. We speak far too much and too freely. We love to hear our own voices as we articulate truth. But have we listened - understood - searched Scripture - been gracious and kind? Sure, this man may not have been one of the 12 but he was confronting the forces of Jesus in His Name.

Mark 9. 50 concludes with this instruction from Jesus: Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another. Amen. We aim for salt but isolate ourselves because they are not one of us. Have you listened? Have you thought - they may be doing a work uniquely given them by God that we have not been gifted to do? After all, this man was casting out demons and the disciples a few verses before could not cast the demon out of the boy.

If we are to be at peace, humbly listen and graciously pray for your brothers and sisters. And if everyone in the church practiced "peace", much infighting would cease and active Christian service would begin. Amen?