Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Greatest Job in the Whole World!

There is no greater imagery in the New Testament than the leader and caretaker of God’s people than “shepherd.” The job description of the shepherds of the New Testament congregation is close, if not identical to that of the Near Eastern shepherd.

The job description is as follows: -to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep - to defend the sheep from attackers - to heal the wounded and sick sheep - to find and save lost or trapped sheep -to love them, and to make sure the sheep have adequate food and water.

No domesticated animal is as helpless and needy as sheep. Sheep happen to be the one animal that cannot live on its own without the intervening help of a human being.

The problem with most sheep is that they are stubborn, “self-willed” and difficult. There is no doubt that sheep need strong leadership, constant care, and even discipline.

I love this imagery. However, it is tragic when the “sheep” forget to whom their very own Christ and Savior likened them. Today’s “sheep” (read average congregation member) disregard the shepherd/sheep relationship and actually try to usurp the position of the shepherds.

Today’s sheep refuse the leadership and care of the shepherd. More and more we are seeing today’s sheep refuse the “voice” of their shepherd and listen to the voice of “other” or false shepherds. 

Today’s sheep are biting, crowding, and attack both the shepherd and the other sheep in the “flock.”

Just like in the days of David, today’s sheep want to run off into fields with harmful and nutrition less pastures. Today’s sheep run towards harmful water.

God has given a tremendous responsibility and privilege to the leaders of the New Testament congregation. These men are called “under-shepherds,” men who are under the Great and Chief Shepherd, Jesus the Christ. God has charged these men with the feeding, care, and protection of God’s precious sheep and lambs.

Hebrews 13:17 states, “Obey those who rule over you. And be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews admonishes the “sheep” of these various congregations to πειθω (peitho) those who rule over them. Peitho is translated twenty two (22) times as persuade and eight (8) times as trust. It is only translated as obey seven (7) times. It is used some fifty five (55) times in the New Testament.

The writer of Hebrews uses this word, peitho, five (5) times of those fifty five (55) times. It is translated as “trust” or persuaded four (4) of those five times. It is only translated as “obey” one time in the letter to the Hebrews.

I think the writer actually said, “Be persuaded [by their words, actions, position, appointment, and et. Cetera] to be submissive, [why?] for they watch are vigilant and watchful for your souls…”

Shepherds need to be intimately and actively involved in the lives of their sheep. Shepherds need to know everything they can about the sheep in their charge. They need to be able to know how to reach them, correct them, how to teach them [according to their own individual personalities]; they need to know how to help the sheep remain happy, healthy, vibrant, and responsive to the Great Shepherd.

What a great job!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review: Communion With God

Title:  Communion With God

Author:  John Owen

First Copyright:  1850

Type of Book:  Hardback

General Subject Matter:  Theology

Special Features:  None

Price:  $28.00

ISBN:  978-0-85151-14-5

The purpose of the author in writing this book is to explain the nature of the believers communion with God, including all the benefits which are included. Owen believed that our communion with God is the very foundation of the Christian life. It was Owen's purpose to demonstrate from the Scriptures the ways and means by which the believer can enjoy communion with each person of the Trinity. Owen wrote an well organized and documented work in which he used three (3) main divisions to describe the believer's relationship to each member of the Godhead.

The theme of this book is the believer's fellowship with God. Owen's thesis states, "That the saints of God have communion with him."

Owen uses the method of exposition to develop his theme and thesis. He puts forth his main proposition and supporting propositions and then uses explanation an analysis to present is subject. Owen presents the truths and the scripture clearly and impartially. Owen's primary purpose ti to persuade the reader to believe the revelation of our fellowship with God and to act accordingly. Owen is a master at explaining theological doctrine.

I found this book to be very interesting and at the same time to be difficult to read. Most readers of Owens know him to be verbose with long paragraphs, and difficult to read. The effort is well worth it. I find Owen to be a very able exegete of Scripture. He is objective and extremely thorough. 

This book is a scholarly doctrinal treatise. There are a number of footnotes which include passages from the Greek language, Latin, and both the Old and New Testament. Greek and Hebrew words are transliterated and the Latin phrases are translated for the reader. Difficult words an phrases have been footnoted. Numerous headings and subheadings are added to help the reader follow the thoughts of the author. Communion With God is a thrilling piece of writing of great importance.

Owen raises the issue of the value and benefit of the saints full fellowship with each member of the Godhead. Even though there are some distinct disadvantages that this fellowship or communion thrusts upon them from a humanistic standpoint, communion with God Owens states is, "very honorable, glorious, and desirable."

Owen was educated at Queen's College in Oxford. He studied theology and was the ordained. His first church was at Fordham in Essex. From 1649-1651 he was the chaplain to Oliver Cromwell. Owen was appointed the dean of Christ Church in Oxford and then in 1652 became the vice-chancellor. Owen was a prolific writer having written numerous books.

The format of this book is very well done. The type is easy to read and it is full of headings and subheadings making navigation through Owen's points easy to follow. There are no maps, illustrations, or special features. This is a hardback book.

This book contains no index. There are no end-notes. However, there is a short appendix at the back of the book. There is no bibliography.

As with the other Works of John Owen this is a difficult book to summarize. As stated Owen does a masterful exposition and explanation of the believers prized communion or fellowship with each member of the Trinity. His summary includes the fact that if one worships one member of the Trinity then the entire Trinity is being worshipped. In approaching God we are able to approach the entire Trinity.

Communion with God is a very rich and difficult book to read. If one sticks with it, it is well worth the effort. It is a very moving and thrilling book that addresses the soul like no other writing other than the Scriptures. I highly recommend this book for any believer at any level who will commit to working through each paragraph and each page.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's on Your Menu?

Over the last forty (40) years I have written a number of quotes, comments, pithy sayings, and poems in the fly-leafs of my bibles. Each Tuesday I am going to share those various entries from my bibles with you. I hope they will be as much of blessing to you as they have been to me. Sometimes I will be able to give credit where credit is due and sometimes I won’t be able to credit the source. I apologize for this to each one who contributed these gems over the last forty (40) years.


Where will I drink?

From the cisterns of muddy water or from the fountain of living water?

Where will I feast?

On the leaks and garlic of the world, or on the bread of life?

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Wounding Work of Conversion

John Bunyan
“Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think... It is wounding work, this breaking of the hearts, but without wounding there is no saving... Where there is grafting there will always be a cutting, the graft must be let in with a wound; to stick it onto the outside or to tie it on with a string would be of no use. Heart must be set to heart and back to back or there will be no sap from root to branch. And this, I say, must be done by a wound, by a cut.” 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday with the Doctor #7

What is your authority?

First of all, the evangelical is one who is entirely subservient to the Bible. This is true of every evangelical. He is a man of one book; he starts with it; he submits himself to it; this is his authority.
    Topics: Evangelism
Source: What is an Evangelical? The Banner of Truth Trust, 1992, p. 42.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Why Do People Come To Christ?

There is a fundamental question in regards to the doctrine of salvation concerning the reason why individual persons come to Christ. Among the various answers, there seems to be at least four (4) hypothesis offered as a valid answer to this question.

There are some who believe that a man possess the innate ability to come to Christ for salvation on his own without any aid or assistance from either God or the Holy Spirit. This position is known as the Pelagian view and it is heretical. Pelagius believed that a man was fundamentally good and possessed a libertarian free will. This view is referred to as humanistic monergism.

A second position is a modified Pelagian view that states that a man can initiate a desire to be saved and God will help that man in the completion of the process of salvation. Basically this position believes that within man is some type of innate ability and desire to be saved. This results in God through the Holy Spirit helping or assisting him to salvation. This belief includes that fact that it takes both God and man for the man to be saved.  This position is referred to as humanistic/divine synergism.

There is a third position to explain why people come to Christ. It actually is only a modification of view number two (which is a modification of view number one.) This position holds to the fact that God actually makes the first move toward salvation in the life of an individual and the individual then cooperates the rest of the way to salvation. It is believed that there exists a phenomenon known as “prevenient grace” which is a work of the Holy Spirit in all mankind. This “prevenient grace” is believed to give a small amount of spiritual life to every human being and thereby enabling anyone who is willing to respond positively to God’s prompting. This view is unfortunately what most people in evangelical and neo-evangelical circles beileve. It is classic Arminianism and it is referred to as divine/humanistic synergism.

The fourth and biblically correct view understands that it is God and God alone who brings an individual to Christ for salvation. It accepts Ephesians 2:1 which states clearly that all men are dead, possessing absolutely no amount of spiritual life. It accepts John 6 which states that it is God who draws men unto himself. This view is referred to as divine monergism.

Monergism is the position that regeneration or salvation of any individual is a complete work of God through the Holy Spirit alone. This view is opposed to any form of synergism, modified or not, which argues that God can only save an individual with their assistance. In other words, synergism states that the human will activated a spark or initiative of God cooperates with God’s grace and is thereby saved.

Monergists believe that regeneration takes place as a single act in which God regenerates a man from his fleshly state and, thus now enabled, a man can believe, and that he inevitably and invariably will do so. Monergism does not relieve the individual whom God is saving to respond in faith and repentance. Monergism simply believes that the work of God includes enabling the sinner through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit to respond with the gift of faith and repentance.

Understanding these views is crucial. Your view of how a person comes to Christ affects how you present the gospel.  If you believe that man can, either, on his own come to Christ, or that man makes a start toward Christ and God finishes the job, or God moves the man toward Christ but is dependent upon man finishing the job, you will present the gospel in a way that appeals to the man.

This is why the gospel has been both redefined and dumbed-down significantly. It is why emotional manipulation has been utilized in engaging people to make a decision, or as we have said in an earlier post, “sign on the dotted line.”

However, if you believe God when He states in Scripture that man is spiritually dead, totally depraved, unable and unwilling to come to Christ on his own, your presentation will be vastly different. There will be no need for emotional manipulation, gimmicks, watered-down gospel, and ET. Cetera.

How does an individual come to Christ?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

We Will "Sell" No Oil Until We See the "Wound"

“We will sell no wine before its time.” That was the slogan of a famous Paul Masson winery advertising campaign.  However a lot of wine is sold before it's time.

The cost of money is often the root of the problem — wineries and restaurants find it too expensive to properly age fine wines.  Money is nearly free today, however — if you can get it.  It is the limited availability of credit that is the current constraint.  I suspect that we will see lots of product pushed into the wine value chain, using cash flow to compensate for the lack of available credit.  This fact promises opportunity for the few and likely disappointment for the many”. [1]

It is too bad that today’s so called “evangelists” don’t offer the same guarantee! Many times the good news of the gospel is offered well before it is time to do so. Unfortunately the problem lies in the fact most evangelistic evangelicals are driven to get their “target” to “sign on the dotted line” of salvation.

I realize that much of the time the motives of these “evangelistic gun-slingers” are bon-a-fide. When one realizes the brevity of life and the fact “the night is coming when no man can work” urgency becomes paramount. But just as a lot of wine is sold before it has reached its peak, urgency in gospel presentations often leads to expediency. Expediency can breed fatal messages, mistakes and methods.

The Puritan Samuel Bolton once said, When you see that men have been wounded by the law, then it is time to pour in the gospel oil.”

One of the greatest mistakes made in a gospel presentation is failing to confront an individual with their absolute and total sinfulness and their helplessness. Even when a presentation calls for “asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins,” a fatal mistake is made. The focus is not on individual sins, although they need to be acknowledged, but the focus is on the sin nature that the person whom you are witnessing to is imprisoned.

For example, David did not merely confess his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. David confessed that sin and asked forgiveness, “Have mercy on me, O God…blot out my transgressions (sins.) Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin! Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:11, 2, 4, ESV)

David also acknowledged his sin nature that tempted and enticed him to sin against God. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5-6, ESV)

The “oil – the good news” of the gospel cannot be preached to an unbeliever until the unbeliever’s corrupt and sinful nature has been exposed. Why? It is virtually impossible for an individual to completely understand his or her need for the mercy and grace of God, “the oil” until the “wound” has been made by the clear understanding of the abomination of his or her sin.

We must be very careful and we must rely solely on the Holy Spirit to peel back the layers of depravity, darkness, and deception by the use of Gods’ law to create the wound that so desperately needs the oil. We must not rush the “time” the Holy Spirit takes to bring an individual to the full acknowledge of their sin. We don’t need to press for “the signature on the dotted line,” any more than we need to press for a “decision.”

When the wound is made by the accurate presentation of the law of God empowered by the Holy Spirit, God will draw the sinner by his Holy Spirit to himself. He will make the sinner aware of the crushing, burdensome, putrid wound of sin, which will lead the sinner to seek the healing “oil” of the good news of the gospel.

This was Christian’s quest as he headed towards the Celestial City. Christian wanted relief from the burden that was crushing his back. The sinner who has been awakened to his or her sin will (and needs to) experience the crushing weight of his or her sin so that they will truly turn from that sin and turn to the “oil” or the grace of God.

Evangelists and Evangelicals, I plead with you – make the same pledge as the Paul Mason Wineries did, (except keep the pledge.)

Whereas they pledged to sell no wine before its time, pledge that “When you see that men have been wounded by the law, then it is time to pour in the gospel oil.”

We will “sell” no oil until we see the wound!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Are You Saved FROM?

In order to answer the question, “How do you know if you are saved?” the answer begs the question, what are you saved from? Many people can tell you what they are “saved to,” but rarely understand what they are saved from.

The majority of people who claim to be believers can often state with confidence that they have been “saved” for the future and for future benefits. They are saved “to” heaven, a mansion over the hill-top, streets paved with gold, an eternal life in absolute perfection, even the forgiveness of “sins.” Some even have confidence in the fact that they are saved “to” things in the present, i.e. a better life, more money, heavenly blessings on earth, and many temporal goodies.

But, what are you saved from? When the gospel, which is being “peddled” today as consisting of such platitudes as, “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” or “Try God”, or “Do you want to go to heaven when you die, then just ask Jesus into your heart” people “get saved” for the wrong motivation.

Do you realize that you can pray the sinner’s prayer a hundred times and still not be saved? It isn’t the formula of a few words that saves a lost sinner. As unfortunate and tragic as it can be there will be a multitude of people who have “have asked Jesus into their hearts” who will not be saved.

One of the most tragic passages in Scripture is found in Matthew 7 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…on that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21a-22, ESV)

In order to be saved, the Holy Spirit of God must bring an individual (AKA “a sinner”) to the awareness of or the conviction of sin. And it is not merely “sins” that we commit, but the conviction of the guilt of the sin nature with which all human beings are born with.

Christian in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is an excellent example of the conviction of sin. Christian is weighed down by a great burden. That burden is the knowledge of sin, his sin. This burden is so great and unbearable that he must be delivered from it.

The Puritans viewed sin as a most monstrous and odious thing. Ralph Venning wrote, “It cannot but be extremely useful to let men see what sin is; how prodigiously vile, how deadly mischievous and therefore how monstrously ugly and odious a thing sin is.” [1]

Charles Spurgeon held that there were marks of true conversion. He believed that at least three (3) aspects needed to be present in the life of an individual that would give evidence of true salvation. Spurgeon looked for and asked the following questions of those who claimed to be believers: 
  • Did you know you were a sinner, unable to do anything toward saving yourself? Did you turn to God, begging for mercy, and did you entirely trust your soul to God? 

  • Did you enter a newness of life, experiencing a change of affections, and victory over sin? Do you have a love for the Lord and a desire to share him with others? 

  • Did you understand the doctrine of grace, recognizing that salvation did not begin with yourself or your own will, that your salvation was God’s choice, God’s action, and that God saved you and that God will keep you? 

It is crucial that in order to answer the question of “how do you know you are saved? that one can answer the question of “what are you saved from?”

A sinner, in order to become saved must know that they are a sinner. As a sinner they are an affront to God. They must understand that God in angry with them, hates their deeds, has already judged them and condemned them. The sinner must “feel the weight of their sin.” Why? If you do not feel the weight of your sin there would be no reason to be saved.

Hence the question, “what are you saved from?

It is not enough to merely acknowledge an awareness of “problems, mistakes, sins (in the sense of individual acts.) One must experience the crushing weight of the guilt of sin in order to desire to be saved from sin.

I am not saying we need to be an expert on harmartiology nor am I adding any “work” to salvation. If an individual is not driven to seek forgiveness and salvation because of the crushing burden of monstrous and odious sin, then why does an individual need or want salvation in the first place?

Those whom God has called unto himself (I Corinthians 1:2) has called them to repent (Acts 2:38) and be delivered from that crushing burden of sin. He calls sinners to turn from sin and to turn to him.

What are you saved from?

[1]  Ralph Venning, The Plague of Plagues, now published as ‘The Sinfulness of Sin’ (Banner of Truth), p. 18

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Only Means of Overcoming Sin

Over the last forty (40) years I have written a number of quotes, comments, pithy sayings, and poems in the fly-leafs of my bibles. Each Tuesday I am going to share those various entries from my bibles with you. I hope they will be as much of blessing to you as they have been to me. Sometimes I will be able to give credit where credit is due and sometimes I won’t be able to credit the source. I apologize for this to each one who contributed these gems over the last forty (40) years.


To overcome sin, I must have a 
superior satisfaction in Christ.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How Do You Know That You are SAVED?

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29, ESV)

“And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (I Corinthians 15:49, KJV)

“Sanctification is the evidence of reconciliation, proving that faith has truly apprehended Christ.” (Emphasis mine) (Valley of Vision, ed. by Arthur Bennett, p. 57)

Christlikeness is the ultimate aim of God for every person that God reconciles unto himself. This truth is borne out throughout the Scriptures but it particularly stands out in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

How do you know that you are saved? This is probably the second most important question that you will ever need to answer. The most important question of course is, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42, ESV)

How do you know that you are saved?

If you say, “Because I asked Jesus into my heart” or because “I prayed the sinner’s prayer,” you may be relying on the wrong “proof” or “evidence.” The sinner’s prayer is not a guarantee that you have been reconciled to God and that you are saved.

We have absolutely no reason given to us to answer the question of “why did God unconditionally elect a certain number of people to be saved?” The best that we can do is to simply acknowledge his sovereignty and that fact that his decision was free and unfettered by any possible restriction. In other words, God did according to his own counsel, without asking any man, doing exactly as he pleased. (Ephesians 1:11)

We do know however, the purpose of why he unconditionally elected and then ensured their reconciliation. God eternally elected some to be saved, provided a sacrifice for them that appeased him, and then through his Holy Spirit applied that work to the souls of the elect in order to have a company from mankind conformed, συμμορφος (summorphos) – having the same form as another – to his dear son. For reasons unknown to all but God, God wanted a company or congregation of believers having the same form as his son, Jesus Christ.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of human beings are also relying on false “evidence” or proof of salvation. Merely relying on one’s lineage/nationality, church membership, baptism, first communion, good works, denominational ties, morality, and/or ET. Cetera will not result in salvation or reconciliation.

First of all, the idea of “asking Jesus into your heart” has absolutely no biblical basis at all. Today’s version of the so called “Sinner’s Prayer” has no scriptural basis either.

Secondly, much of what is “peddled” today as the gospel is a “gospel” that is fundamentally contrary to the gospel of the New Testament. The gospel has been perverted with the belief that in order to be saved one must “believe in”, “trust in”, “receive”, or “accept” Jesus as a personal savior. The problem with this ideology is that is robs the gospel of its true message of “repent”.

My purpose is not to shake the confidence of any true believer. I believe the above quote from the Valley of Vision is sufficient to offer comfort and confidence to believers. The evidence or proof of your salvation is in the fact that you are being made into the image of Christ.

My desire is to spend some time in the next several posts helping you to understand the importance of this question and how to answer with confident assurance.

How do you know you are saved?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Collecting Confidence Part III

Series:  Profiting From Peter
A Challenge to Joyful Steadfastness


Any good introduction will have at least seven (7) elements that help with interpretation and application. Last week we began with the first of those seven elements, the Authenticity of the epistle.

When we consider the authenticity of any portion of Scripture we have to ask ourselves several key questions:

  • Why was this epistle included in the New Testament Canon?
  • Why did the early church consider this epistle as authentic?
  • What evidence is available that testifies to authenticity?
A.  Authenticity

1.  Traditional Evidence
2.  Internal Evidence
3.  External Attacks

B.  Apparatus

1.  Four (4) Centers of Christianity
  • Antioch
  • Alexandria
  • Africa
  • Rome
2.  Four (4) Manuscript Families
  • Byzantine
  • Alexandrian
  • Western
  • Cesarean
3.  Two Types of Translations
  • Formal Equivalence
  • Dynamic Equivalence
Truth for Today

As we have said any good introduction will have at least seven (7) key elements that aid us in the proper interpretation and application of the Scripture we are studying. We have looked at the first two (2) of those elements, the Authenticity of the Book and the Apparatus from which the text was taken. We now move to ...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday with the Doctor #6

Where Are you Drawing?

The tragedy is that many of us are living desperate Christian life. Sunday comes and we get some strength, and then we lose some on Monday; a good deal is gone by Tuesday and we wonder whether we have anything left. On Wednesday it has all gone and then we exist. Or perhaps refreshment comes in some other way, some meeting we attend, some friends we meet. Now that is the old order of things, that is not the new. He puts a well within us. We are not always drawing from somewhere outside. The well, the spring, goes on springing up from within into everlasting life.
-- Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Religion" In The News

Pope Resigns
Major news broke Monday when the highest ranking officer of the Roman Catholic Church resigned. “Pope” Benedict announced his resignation due to failing health. Apparently his resignation is historic as it is the first resignation of a sitting “Pope” in over six hundred years. The Catholic Church is now “scrambling” to choose his successor by “Easter.” The hope is to have a new “Pope” selected to lead the approximate 1.2 billion worldwide Catholic organization by Palm Sunday. 

How deceptive darkness truly is! My prayer is that the Catholic Church would be scrambling to replace the "Pope" because God removed the darkness from his "eyes" and he truly and solely trusted in the finished work of Christ! Salvation is not in the church, salvation is in the atoning work of Christ.

Obama Nominates Homosexual Judge 

President Obama nominated Justice Department attorney Todd M Hughes to sit on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Hughes if approved by the US Senate Judiciary Committee would be the first openly homosexually oriented Federal Appeals court judge, according to the Christian Post. 

This may be a mile stone for Obama and the homosexual movement, but it is further decline and break down of the morals of our country. However, the greater reality is the continued rejection of God's plan of human relations.

England Endorses “Marriage Equality” 

British lawmakers voted on February 5, 2013 a bill that would “legalize” same-sex (homosexual) marriages. This bill was sponsored by Prime Minister David Cameron. The bill has to pass through parliamentary debates and procedures and approval by the House of Lords before it would become law. Various church leaders and conservative groups have gone on record stating that if the bill becomes law it would bring about  “serious social and cultural ramifications.” The bill, if passed, would become effective in 2015. 

The push for "normalcy" and societal acceptance marches on.

Drive through Ash Wednesday Services 

Northminster Presbyterian Church  (Indianapolis) on Ash Wednesday, February 13 is offering a service to those who are “on the go.” This service is being called “Ashes to Go.” If you drive in their parking lot between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM a “clergyman” will say a brief prayer for you and apply the “ash cross” to your forehead. 

Senior Pastor Teri Thomas was quoted as saying, “Our hope with Ashes to Go is to bring spirit, faith and belonging out to people as a reminder that the need for healing isn’t confined to a church building. It’s a simple event with deep meaning, to place a small blessing of ashes, and we want to make it available to everyone on a busy Wednesday afternoon and evening.” 

This sacramental (not sacrament) activity has no biblical basis. One does not need to be an active or faithful member in order to receive the "sign of the cross" applied to one's forehead in ashes. This symbolic ritual is based on the eastern tradition of throwing ashes over one's head to demonstrate repentance before God. The officiating representative places the ashes on an individuals forehead and says one or both pronouncemnts -
Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.
Repent, and believe the Gospel.
It is my prayer that those who receive this ritual would truly become mindful of their temporary and transient life and would repent of their sins, turn to the living God, and believe the gospel of the bible. 

3,300 Accept NJ Church’s Offer to Read the Bible in the Next 40 Days 

Apparently more than 3,300 people are going to read the bible over a period of 40 days as a result issued by Tim Lucas, lead pastor of Liquid Church in New Jersey. Apparently “Pastor” Lucas was surprised by how many people who wanted to participate in his challenge. 

Lucas stated, “"Although the media often highlights how irrelevant the Bible seems to modern culture, there is a growing hunger among the next generation to open the Scriptures and see what God's Word says for themselves,"  

Liquid Church has given away some 4,800 copies of a customized New Testament published by Biblica.

I applaud various efforts which are expened in order to encourage the people of God to read the Word of God. However, those who do not know God, AKA the "natural man" will not "welcome" or "receive as welcome" the words of God. They are spiritually discerned by those who possess the Holy Spirit. Those who do possess the Holy Spirit need to be encouraged to not only read the Word, but to also "keep" or obey the Word.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Preventing the Problems and Pitfalls of Praise (Part II)

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works.” (Psalm 105:1-2, ESV)
Yesterday, we began with a statement that said, “Many people, including believers, talk about praising God. In reality, very few people actually accomplish it. I think many fail to actually praise God out of ignorance than any other reason.” 

It is my contention that there seems be at least three (3) probabilities that hinder real or true praise to God.  

First – believers have developed a sort of language that is all their own. Some have come to call it “Christianeese.” We acquire or develop pet words or phrases that we repeat easily and almost mindlessly. Simply saying the words, “Praise God,” or "Praise the Lord!" especially from rote habit or mindless repletion does not qualify. 

Second – believers have a tendency to miss the actual meaning of the command to praise God. Praise often times is more about them and what they did than about the works of God.  

Third – we fail to understand exactly what praise really or of what it consist.  

First of all, the word “praise” is used some one hundred and sixty five (165) in the Old Testament. Of those one hundred and sixty five times, it is translated as praise one hundred and seventeen (117) times. 

The Hebrew word “ללה -  halal” means to “shine.” The root word represents the giving off of light by heavenly bodies. It is used in the book of Job to describe the shining of the sun.  

“Halal” also is translated as boast. The root of this word gives the idea of sincerely and/or deeply thankful for or satisfied in speaking well of a superior quality or great acts of an “object.”

The actual idea contained in this word is quite simple. To praise someone or something, whether animate or inanimate, we are “shining light” on our object of praise. We are high-lighting some aspect or quality possessed by our object. The most prevalent way of “shining light” on a particular object or the objects quality is to “boast” of the object or its quality. 

In other words, we speak words that high-light or magnify the individual or an aspect of the individual. We make those qualities known. Another way of saying this is we “exalt” or “laud” a superior person or quality. As a result we “hail,” “acclaim,” “utter a great cry,” or “sing” of a superior entity or quality. 

For example, when we enjoy a great steak and lobster dinner, we typically speak well of the taste and quality of the food. We exalt or magnify the meal by “shining light” or high-lighting the quality of the food. In other words, we offer “praise” concerning the quality of the food. We do not “praise” or speak words regarding our going out to dinner, setting down at the table, or ordering the dinner, or even picking up the available utensils. If we were to do so we would be taking the “light” off of the quality of the food and causing it to rest upon ourselves. 

Unfortunately many believers, albeit unintentionally, do this when they begin to praise God but end up “shinning” the light on themselves.  Unless we think carefully about what we are saying we end up talking about ourselves rather than talking or boasting about God or His qualities. 

For example, Psalm 111:2, (ESV) says, “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.” Psalm 105:2, (ESV) says, “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of his wondrous works!” 

From these passages (and others like them) we find that to praise God is to “shine light” or to “boast” or to speak well of the “works” of God. Rather than our praise focusing on us or what we did, our “praise” focuses on the works or acts of God.  

What are the works of God? The scripture is replete with them. The works of God range from the creative activity of God when he created the universe to the destruction of Egypt, the delivering of Israel, to the redemptive work of Christ on Calvary’s cross. Any act of God is a “work” of God. Of course, all of the attributes or qualities of God and the Godhead are “objects” of praise.

In conclusion, it takes practice in “praising” God. Praising God does not consist of merely offering platitudes such as “praise God” or “praise the Lord.” Praising God does not consist of the telling of events in such a way which emphasizes what we have done or said. 

Praise brings attention or a “shining light” on the character, quality, or works of our God. In the spirit of John the Baptist, we decrease and He increases. Praise is not about us, it is about God. Even when God answers our prayers, showers us with some glorious blessing, or uses us to accomplish his purpose, the focus is on God.  

Let’s drop the “Christianeese” and unintentional self-serving boasting and offer to praise to our God!

What say ye?


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Preventing the Problems and Pitfalls of Prasie (Part I)

Let Everything Praise the LORD 

"Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness? Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150, ESV) 

Many people, including believers, talk about praising God. In reality, very few people actually accomplish it. I think many fail to actually praise God due to ignorance than for any other reason.  

There seems be at least three (3) probabilities that hinder real or true praise to God. It is my personal belief that honest and sincere believers truly desire to praise God. I do not believe that they enter into or become trapped by one of these three (3) probabilities or realities purposefully. I believe we do not edify or educate new believers about what it means to praise God. As new believers are allowed to remain with bad habits, those bad habits continue to grow.  

First – believers have developed a sort of language that is all their own. Some have come to call it “Christianeese.” We acquire or develop pet words or phrases that we repeat easily and almost mindlessly. 

As an example, when we realize a prayer has been answered, or a “good” thing has happened to us, or even when we hear good things from the Word of God our tendency is to say, “Praise God.” This phrase is sometimes accompanied by a “Hallelujah” or two or maybe a “Praise be to God," or "Praise the Lord! 

We even write songs or sing hymns either commanding or cheering us on to praise God. Hymns such as “Praise Him, Praise Him” or “Praise Ye the Lord” and many choruses utilize those exact words. Many people come to believe that if they say, shout, or sing “Praise the Lord” or “Praise God” that they have actually given praise to our glorious and majestic God. 

A number of Psalms begin with the command to Praise God – such as 111, 112, 113, 117, 135, 146, 147, 148, 149, and 150 (just to mention a few) Many other Psalms are riddled from beginning to end with the command to praise God. 

Simply saying the words, “Praise God,” especially from rote habit or mindless repetition does not qualify. 

Second – believers have a tendency to miss the actual meaning of the command to praise God. They do this when their “praise” is more about them and what they did than about the works of God. Believers have a tendency to begin by saying “Praise God,” He did this and I was able to this, that, and the other thing. Unfortunately many times praise for God becomes a praise of us. 

For example, we might begin praising God for an opportunity to share the gospel, but our sharing becomes an accounting of what we thought, said, or did. Our words shift from what God did, or opened, or worked, or caused, or made happen, to “…and then I said this, or I thought of this, or I was able to do this…” We need to be careful when we desire to offer praise to God that it does not end up as a “boasting session” on ourselves. 

Third – we fail to understand exactly what praise really or of what it consist. What actually constitutes “praise” to or of God? What is missing from our praise? 

Hopefully, I can pick this up and somewhat adequately answer this question in part two of our discussion. Join us tomorrow, where, Lord willing, I hope to conclude this two part article on “Preventing the Problems and Pitfalls of Praise.”