For it is by grace you have been saved...

Friday, October 17, 2014

We Are Exiles

Studying the opening words of 1 Peter, I was reminded of a very profound fact.  We are exiles.  We are aliens and strangers in this land.  We don’t belong here.  And if that’s the case, then we ought to live like it.

Here’s just a little excerpt from a message Charles Spurgeon preached from Philippians 3:20 which tells us that our true citizenship is in heaven. 

If our citizenship be in heaven, then WE ARE ALIENS HERE; we are strangers and foreigners, pilgrims and sojourners in the earth, as all our fathers were. In the words of Sacred Writ “Here we have no continuing city,” but “we desire a better country, that is an heavenly.”

I know that men of this world say we must keep up appearances; we must be respectable; we must do as others do; we must swim with the tide; we must move with the crowd; but not so the upright believer: “No,” says he, “Do not expect me to fall in with your ways and customs; I am in Rome, but I shall not do as Rome does. I will let you see that I am an alien, and that I have rights as an alien, even here in this foreign land. I am not to be bound to fight your battles, nor march at the sound of your drums.” Brethren, we are soldiers of Christ; we are enlisted in his army; and as aliens here, we are not to be constrained into the army of evil. Let lords and lands have what masters they will, let us be free, for Christ is our Master still. The seventy thousand whom God has reserved, will not bow the knee to Baal. Be it known unto thee, O world, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the image which thou hast set up. Servants of God we are, and we will not be in bondage unto men.

Christian men, ye must never covet the world’s esteem; the love of this world is not in keeping with the love of God. “If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him.” Treat its smiles as you treat its threats, with quiet contempt. Be willing rather to be sneered at than to be approved, counting the cross of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.

He says much, much more, but you get the general idea.  We are strangers here, and we ought to live like it. Folks ought to see by our lives that we are of another land.  We should walk, talk, act, think, look different than those around us. 

One of my all time favorite songs is by the Christian band AD, led by former Kansas guitarist/songwriter Kerry Livgren.  Called Exiles, it reminds us these very truths.  It goes like this:

Distant home,
Across the Earth we roam,
leaving all that we possess behind us,
Known by name, we make no earthly claim,
Waiting for the one we seek to find us.

Chorus:
Exiles of another kind, with our maker intertwined
Vessels on a sea of love,
Aliens to Mother Earth, waiting for the second birth,
Vessels on a sea of love,
A sea of love.

Out of bounds,
No boundary surrounds,
No one's worldly object of desire,
Nations fade, but this foundation's laid, shaped in the divine refiner's fire.

Chorus

Eyes are fixed on the goal ahead,
So alive, but to the world we're dead,
Inside outside and upside down,
Each man stands on the rock he's found,
Twice removed from the human race,
We found our peace in a hiding place,
Strangers living in a foreign land,
Now we fall, but in the end we'll stand.

Exiles of the world,
Exiles of the world.

Exiles of the world,
Exiles of the world.

No release for prisoners of peace,
Willing to be slaves of our own choosing,
Promising to serve no mortal king,
Gaining so much more than we are losing.

Chorus

We are exiles,
We are exiles.

Lord, forgive us for seeking to fit in and be accepted when you have called us to stand out and be heralds of our True King.  Remind us we are truly exiles here.

Here’s the song.  Great music, classic guitar solo, but it’s really the message I’d encourage you to focus on.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Here, Houston, You Can Have My Sermons, Too

In case you haven't heard, the latest overreaching by a government agency is happening in Houston, TX.  The mayor of that city is a lesbian who has been pushing the homosexual agenda in her city, and when folks pushed back, she got all mad and decided to throw her weight around.  They are actually coming into churches and demanding copies of pastor's sermons!  That's an oversimplification of the mater but you can read the details here.  

I kind of like Russell Moore's response:
Indeed, the courage of John the Baptist is what we need.  And it may actually come to being willing to lose our heads, but the Gospel is non-negotiable.  Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  One way, one truth, leading to life.  We don't get to change it, make it up, play around with it.  And I hope that every true Gospel-preaching pastor holds on to that. 

Of course, this case in Houston is a lot of red flag waving, or sabre rattling, or whatever you want to call it.  At this point, I'm hoping that rational people will see this political ploy for what it is, and the whole thing won't grab any real traction.  Of course, as another recent favorite tweet pointed out.
Well, whatever the case may be, anyone and everyone is welcome to have my sermons.  The most recent are in a feed at the right on this page.  Or you can go to our church "website" and find more here.  (I post that in quotes because I'm just using a free wordpress blog site as our church website, but it works).  

I look at it this way. If someone out there has nothing better to do than want to go through my sermons, and they have enough coffee to make it through them, then have at it.  But seriously, I have never apologized for preaching the Word, no matter how inexpertly I may do it.  And I never will change what I have to say based on that Word because of some political maneuvering.  God says, "Preach the Word in season and out." (2 Timothy 4:2)  No matter the season, I plan to preach the Word.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Who's In Charge?

Just over ten years ago I made this statement.  I said that May 17, 2004 will be a date that will go down in infamy.  We always talk about those dates that mark significant turning points in our nation’s history. You may or may not remember the event, but on that date the state of Massachusetts began issuing official marriage licenses to homosexual couples. At the time it was the only state to do so, joining the Netherlands, Belgium and three provinces of Canada as the only major jurisdictions in the world to recognize such unions.

My how things have changed. Today, there are 17 countries worldwide with legalized gay marriage.  And there are now 19 states along with the District of Columbia that have followed, ten of those in just the last 2 years.  And now the Supreme Court has refused to hear any cases on the subject, all but guaranteeing that more states will quickly join. The downward slide has indeed been rapid.  

And that’s just one area in which our nation has rushed as far away from the principles of our Christian founders as we possibly can. All around us we find moral decline and increasing violence and more dangerous schools.  The more faith is removed from the public sphere, the worse things get.  And yet the irony of it all is that the nation as a whole is still consistently and persistently committed to removing all traces of Christianity from the scene.

Years ago David Limbaugh wrote a book called “Persecution” in which he lists example after example of young people being censored in their schools from talking about Christ.  Employees being censored and even fired for daring to discuss God in public.  City after city where lawsuits are filed and thousands of dollars are spent in legal fees over things like prayers and graduations and displays of the Ten Commandments.  A runaway judiciary that thinks it can legislate from the bench regardless of what the people want or even what the constitution says.

I agree that our courts and schools have erred in their interpretation of the establishment clause of the first amendment.  And I believe that many recent events should serve as a wake up call for Christians everywhere to get off their backsides and get involved in our government process; being salt and light as we’ve been commanded. However, I think we need to keep things in perspective.

People use phrases like "Kicked God out of School", or “kicked God out of the public square” and so on.  Honestly, that offends me in a way. Too much doom and gloom and fist raising against “the man” makes me ask the question "Who's in Charge here?” Yes, we’ve failed to recognize God the way we should as a nation, but the truth is: Can the Supreme Court tell God where He can and cannot go?  Can the ACLU restrain God in His activity?  Do you, for a moment believe that God's Sovereignty is surrendered because an atheist throws a fit or a court makes a ridiculous ruling?  Who's in Charge?

The answer is: God is! He is Lord; He is Sovereign; and He still sits on His throne.  No matter what man may do, God is still God, and that has implications for all of these issues.
Scripture reminds us that all authority comes from God. In Romans 13, Paul writes, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Psalm 22:28 says, “For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.”

As an example of that, we can look at King Nebuchadnezzar.  Speaking to the king about the punishment he would receive from God, the prophet Daniel said, “Seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Dan. 4:25)  I actually like the NIV there which says: “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

God is Sovereign, and men who rule do so under His authority. The authority to rule comes from God. That truth goes all the way back to the very beginning. Now, I’m not saying in any way that all earthly rulers have always ruled justly or rightly.  Obviously they haven’t.  Obviously they aren’t today.  But never forget that God is the one true King, and all these earthly authorities will answer to Him.

Over and over in God’s Word we read words of judgment.  I know it’s not a very popular subject these days; not that I guess it was every really popular.  But in recent years we just don’t hear about God’s wrath anymore.  The best selling books aren’t about judgment, but are about Your Best Life Now, and Love Wins, and all kinds of other tripe. People want to hear about how much God loves them and how graceful and merciful He is; which is all true.  But it’s only part of the truth; a half-truth; and incomplete truth.

The other half is that God is also a holy and righteous God.  And His very character demands justice and judgment.  Judgment is one of the most talked about themes is all of Scripture.  In fact, the event that is one of the most often repeated and quoted events elsewhere in Scripture is the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Don’t bring that up to the pro-gay lobbyists.  But like it or not, it’s there.  God consistently and continuously wants to remind us of the wrath poured out on those two cities in hopes of warning us of the judgment to come. And never doubt, judgment is coming.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 says “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”  In Joel’s prophecy, God says, “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there.” (Joel 3:2)

Jesus himself repeatedly spoke of the coming Day of Judgment.  Romans 2 speaks of “the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5)  And Romans 14:10 says, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”  I think you get the idea.  The picture of God on His throne as Sovereign Lord reminds us that from the throne also comes judgment. I once read a quote that said, "A time is coming for all men when they will be either born again, or wish they had never been born at all.” Sobering words, but true words.  God will bring all things to justice

I know it’s easy for us to get caught up in all the garbage going on in this world.  It’s easy to get frustrated by all the foolish political decisions and immoral court decisions and reckless ACLU maneuverings and on and on.  And as Christians we ought to be concerned.  We ought to take a stand for the truth of the Word.  If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know I’m not shy about speaking my mind about moral issues and so on.  We ought to make our voice heard and be salt and light in a dark and decaying world.  It’s part of why we’re here. 

But in the midst of all that, let’s never forget who’s in charge?  Let’s never forget that God is God.  Let’s never forget that we serve a Sovereign Lord who still sits on the throne.  And one day, all these earthly judges, and all these politicians, and all these ACLU lawyers and such will all stand before their king and answer for their actions.  They’ll answer for their use and/or abuse of the authority God has given them. 

And not only will they be held accountable, but so will you and I.  We all belong to Him.  We all have been given the responsibility of managing the resources He has blessed us with; whether it be our jobs, our homes, our families, or our very lives.  He is the owner of it all and one day we will stand before Him to give an account. Which is why we need Christ.  Apart from Him, none can stand in that day.  We need His grace and mercy.  We need His sacrifice.  But even those who rest in that grace are told that we will be held accountable for what we've done in that grace.

So be salt and light.  Speak out against injustice.  By all means pray for our nation.  But don't ever forget Who is in charge.  And be sure that we spend at least as much time focusing on our own preparedness to meet Him on that day.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

From the Wire

Well, the world continues out of control.  Supreme Court bails.  Terrorists continue to rise.  Sinful people doing sinful things.  And quite frankly, I haven't had the time or thought process to reflect on it all. 

But seeing that I haven't posted here in a while, I feel compelled to do something.  So I'll just send you off to others who have both time and brain function to address some of these things. 

So then, here are a half dozen of my favorite articles/blogs I've read in the last day or so.  Some political, some theological, some personal and just for fun.  Enjoy.  I'll try to get back with original content in the very near future











Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When Your Daughter Lives in a Foreign Land Near A Russian Spy

Well, that title probably set off some bells somewhere.  I know that the views expressed on this site have probably already put me on every "list" out there, so I guess I shouldn't worry about it. And that's the point...worry. 

I've confessed before the issue of my anxiety.  I know it's sinful.  I know it's from a lack of faith.  I know it's plain disobedient to a God who commands me to "fear not."  But, I struggle. 

Allowing our oldest to spend a year in a foreign country as "au pair" (nanny) to a family we've never met did nothing to help with my little problem.  Of course, "allowing" is a strong word.  She is a 23 year old college graduate.  We didn't really have much say in the matter!  But seriously, an American living abroad these days can be a scary prospect. 

My daughter does nothing to help ease this fear.  She is a writer, with a wonderful gift of imagination.  And she's been writing a travel blog to keep us all updated about her adventures.  Her fanciful writing is great fun when describing the history and architecture and such of the city she lives in.  It was wonderful to read her poetic descriptions of a recent trip to another nearby land.  Made me jealous, actually. 

But her last post....that's another matter.  She spends her time describing some of the folks living in her little apartment community.  With all her artistic flair we get the view from her window and it's quite enjoyable.  (Though I do worry a bit about the stalker tendencies!)  All is good fun until she mentions the Russian spy.  Whether this is real or part of her little world of make believe, she mentions the guy who other residents rumor to be a soviet secret agent of some kind.  Fun character for writing.  Not so fun if you're daughter actually lives near the guy!  Worry!

And then there is my truck that just broke down, the washer broke down, the bathroom floor is caving in, other plumbing issues, and severe storms are on the way, and, and, and...Worry, worry!

Then, in to the midst of this, I read a post from Paul David Tripp which simply reminds me:  "You will experience a heart at peace when you remember that the God of wisdom, power and grace has already written the final chapter of your story." Thank you, sir.

Of course, I know this.  I repeatedly preach to our church about God's Sovereignty.  I know the truth of it. I just need to actually rest in it.  Trust that God is indeed on the throne, all is in His hands, all is according to His plans and purposes, and all is for His glory.  Nothing is beyond His sight or control. Even if my daughter does live near a Russian spy!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy National Coffee Day!



Such a spree of holidays lately.  Constitution Day.  Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Now, the high point of the September holiday calendar:  National Coffee Day.  How did I not know this thing existed for so long?

Ironically, a friend just posted an article for me on the issue of whether or not coffee comes as the result of natural selection or by divine creation.  Duh?  That’s a no brainer.  Only an intelligent benevolent Creator could come up with something so blessed!

Also recently, I had a friend compose a song parody for me singing the praises of the elixir of life.  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing it with you. 

Coffee

by Gregg Metcalf

(To the tune of “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton)

If you wanna wake up you’ve gotta grab a cup.
Coffee
If you wanna get through the day don’t act like a pup
Coffee


Chorus:
She is so sweet, she is so sweet, she is so sweet

Coffee

When you get those Monday blues she is always good news
Coffee
When you need a clear mind and don’t have much time
Coffee

[Chorus]

If your head is in a spin pour another cup again
Coffee
Don’t forget this fact or you’ll fall off the track
Coffee

[Chorus 2x]

She is so sweet, she is so sweet, she is so sweet
Coffee

Thanks, Gregg. 

I considered celebrating by taking a tour of the best shops in the area, but alas, an empty wallet and a broken down truck have prevented that.  However, for the rest of you, I’ve also heard that some big name chain restaurants are offering free brew to celebrate the day.  Not bad.

So read the articles, enjoy the song, and celebrate the blessed bean.  And though I’ve shared it before, here’s another little favorite ode to coffee.  


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learn To Study the Bible: New Online Tool

I was once told that as a pastor, my job was to work myself out of a job.  Obviously, that's not entirely true.  The sheep always need a shepherd and that's what God has called pastors to do.  But the point is that pastors ought to be training their congregations to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12), and the hope is that they become so effective doing that ministry, that the "doing ministry" part of the pastor's job is being done by the congregation, not just the pastor. 

The hope is also that we train our people is such a way when it comes to Bible Study that they aren't dependent on the pastor alone to get their "meat" from God's Word, but learn to study and meditate and learn for themselves. 

Pastor John Piper is beginning a new project for that very purpose.  "Look at the Book" is an online tool where Pastor Piper takes a text, outlines it, examines it, mines it, and in the process shows us how to do the same thing.  This isn't meant to replace our own study, but teach us how to study.  This is a very promising and exciting project.

Here is the introductory video and one of the first "sessions."  I encourage you to check this resource out.




Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy "International Talk Like a Pirate Day"

As long as we're celebrating holidays this week, let's do this one.  According to one expert resource on holidays: 

Origin of International Talk Like a Pirate Day:
"John Baur and Mark Summers created the concept of International Talk Like a Pirate Day on June 6, 1995. While playing racquetball, they began to talk to each other in Pirate-speak". After leaving the court, they decided that there was a need to create this day. After much thought, Mark Summers selected September 19th as the date. This was his wife's birthday. So, he thought it would be an easy date to remember. And so, International Talk Like a Pirate Day was born."

Our family has enjoyed this over the years for several reasons, not the least of which is this:


So, go celebrate.  Here is even an official website with all kinds of fun (disclaimer: I haven't been through the whole site, so I don't vouch for it's family friendliness in all areas!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Constitution Day

(Yes, I recycled this post from last year.  I lack creativity!)

September 17, 1787.  A pretty good day in US history.  It was on this date that the U. S. Constitution was completed and signed.  55 men were involved altogether, including the writing and signing. (It's worth noting that nearly all were active members of Christian denominations, for those who say Christians have had nothing to offer...)   That makes today the 227th anniversary of that wonderful day.  So Happy Constitution Day.

You can celebrate in any number of ways.  You can find some of the online resources that give some basic information, fun facts, etc. about our Constitution.  (here or here for example)

You can read the Constitution.  It's one of the suggested ideas in the links above, and would be a good idea for every American.  It would be especially good for those serving in any branch of government, since so many seem to have never seen it before. 

Speaking of which, one way we could celebrate is to look back over the last few years and enumerate the various ways the Federal Government has violated the Constitution.  That would be a fun and educational experience, I'm sure. 

You could also celebrate Constitution Day by going right now and joining the Constitution Party. That way, you're already set for the next election cycle to try and restore our nation to its founding documents (a pipe dream, I know).  

Or you can simply do what the framers and signers of this grand, historical document did on a regular basis.  Get down on your knees and thank God for His generous blessings to this nation and seek His guidance for its future.  While it may be a radical concept to many today, it was common practice (and common sense) to our founding fathers. 

But however you celebrate, you should celebrate.  This document, if you are an American, is why you have the freedoms you have, including the reading of this post right now.  So remind yourself of this important part of our heritage.  Happy Constitution Day!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

Tuesday evening our church has the privilege of again hosting the annual banquet for our local crisis pregnancy center.  And this year the speaker is a comedian named Gordon Douglas.  I know that some folks don’t think those two mix very well.  Abortion is a serious topic, hardly the kind of thing to joke about.  And obviously the jokes won’t be about that topic in particular.  But when done right, it can be very effective for this kind of event.

Besides, humor and laughter most certainly have a place in the life of God’s people, or at least they should.   

Proverbs 17:22  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.


Proverbs 15:13  A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.


Proverbs 15:15  All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.

Charles Spurgeon was often criticized for his use of humor, and he often remarked on the general lack of “mirth” in some congregations.  For example, in this message:

I have noticed with pain the way in which people will get rid, if they can, of happy words out of their hymns. 
The hundredth Psalm for instance, runs thus:
     “All people that on earth do dwell,
      Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice,
      Him serve with — “

What? Well, they modernise it into-
     “Him serve with fear.”

But, as I believe, the older form is-
     “Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell, Come ye before him and rejoice.”

I wonder some other scribe did not cut out the word “cheerful,” and put in
     “Sing to the Lord with doleful voice.”

In this way the Psalm might have been “improved” until there would not have been a grain of worship left in it. I mean to sing it. “Him serve with mirth;” and with a glad and merry heart will I praise my God.

Or how about this one?
There is no one part of a man’s constitution, which is really a part of his manhood, which should not praise God. Ay, even the sense of humor should be sanctified to the service of the Most High! Whatever faculty God has given thee, O my soul, it has its place in the choir! Summon it to praise.
 Sermon #2121

In his collection of essays on Eccentric Preachers, Spurgeon even defends another preacher known for his humorous approach, a certain Edward Taylor:

To the pure mind, none of the powers of our manhood are common or unclean. Humor can be consecrated, and should be. We grant that it is a power difficult to manage; but when it is under proper control, it more than repays for all the labor spent upon it. Children do sad damage with gunpowder; but what a force it is when a wise man directs its energy. Mr. Taylor made men laugh that they might weep. He touched one natural chord, that he might be able to touch another; whereas, some preachers are so unnatural themselves, that the human nature of their hearers refuses to subject itself to their operations. 0 ye who are evermore decorously dull, before ye judge a man whose loving ministry conducted thousands to the skies, think how immeasurably above you all he soared, and remember that with all his violations of your wretched regulations, he was one whom the Lord delighted to honor.

So, to avoid being “decorously dull”, I’m really looking forward to what Mr. Douglas has to share.  I even get the privilege of picking him up at the airport and taking him to dinner.  So maybe I can get a preview of the fun stuff we’ll get to enjoy as we address the serious business of ministering to those who might be considering the deadly serious decision of abortion.  We appreciate your prayers for this ministry.  Here’s a little sample of what we’re looking forward to.